Brought to you by SPRING Singapore

THERE is nothing uniform about Neptune Work Wear's vocational clothing. The company, which started as a tailoring shop in 1974, is setting out to transform the work wear culture.

It offers mix-and-match aprons, vests, skirts, pants, scarves and ties that are easy to care for, cost-effective, stylish and comfortable.

Mr Jason Koh, 44, took over his late mother's shop in the 1990s and learnt to sew and cut.

In 2005, he started a ready-to- wear line, which he refers to as "thinking" clothes. These uniforms have underarm eyelets, mesh vent inserts and set-in sleeves to keep employees feeling comfortable and cool. At the same time, they are smart and fashionable to allow a company to increase its brand reach and impact, as well as improve staff morale.

However, Mr Koh felt he was not communicating his vision and passion to the marketplace, and engaged Spring in late 2011 to help with the firm's brand management.

Tapping Spring's Capability Development Grant, Neptune hired consultants to advise on its branding. The consultants conducted market research, which included a competitor analysis to help Neptune understand market trends.

A brand communication plan and training was developed to help Neptune's 25 employees understand the brand message.

Mr Koh says the programme involved simple processes such as the manner in which staff answer clients' calls and the language used when writing to potential customers. "If everybody in the company is able to communicate the brand in a consistent manner on a daily basis, it gives us a very strong identity," says Mr Koh.

The consultants also recommended that the company establish a new retail concept serving the business-to-business markets for its ready-to-wear line.

Following the advice, Neptune created a retail shop-cum-showroom for its Wiz brand of uniforms, which businesses could buy off the rack.

The shop displayed corporate work wear with smart solutions such as adjustable waistband buckles and wrinkle-free fabrics.

The branding process lasted 11/2 years, and last year Neptune doubled its sales.

"The programme is very effective because, internally, staff are clear about what they are doing and where we are heading," says Neptune's accountant Teng Siew Lin, who is also Mr Koh's wife.