Celebrity designer Juli Grbac glances up from a steaming iron, beaming with pleasure. Around her, a flock of fashion artisans is cutting and primping, applying make-up and preparing to model the latest R.M. Williams-inspired staff uniforms for Great Southern Rail.
This has all the hallmarks of a high-end fashion shoot … but for staff uniforms?
“The trains are taking guests on a journey and we are doing the same with the new uniform,” explains Juli, who rose to prominence as the inaugural winner of Project Runway Australia.
“Bringing together GSR and R.M. Williams was a match made in heaven. We have mixed customised fashion with many elements from the R.M. collection and made it our own.
“What could be more Australian?”
Juli’s fashions have been showcased around the globe and in recent years she captured headlines with her head-turning uniform design for Virgin Australia’s flight attendants. However, after spending time on the trains speaking with staff and guests, she discovered a new reality.
“I didn’t realise how involved their jobs are,” she said. “It can be very hands on, staff might be away from home for six days and moving through a range of weather conditions.
“The uniform has to look good, breathe well and work in both hot and cold climates. I had sketched out ideas and we were getting closer to making a decision when one of the managers walked in wearing an R.M. Williams shirt. It was an “Ah – ha!” moment.
“From there the entire collection fell into place and staff love it.”
During her research, Juli asked staff: “What would make you feel good?”
“Ladies wanted the introduction of a skirt, as well as the option of pants. Men wanted to be able to grow a beard,” she explained. “We’ve added all of this into our style manual and it’s great for morale when the company listens to you and responds.”
Check out the behind the scenes Uniform Photo Shoot here: