B2B Streetwear — A fashion line for an enterprise software company

Ryan Donahue
Oct 19, 2018 · 4 min read
Zendesk, a software company, designed a fashion collection for employees. Photo by Marta Dymek.

The ugly, screen printed t-shirt — it’s been the sartorial mainstay of software companies since the beginning. Yes, you know the one. With it’s horrendously large logo emblazoned on the front and the unflattering, sloppy fit — the ugly t-shirt has been a part of software company culture for the past thirty years. Recently my team and I fell in love with the idea of taking a fresh look at what the modern uniform for a software company could look like.

Scandinavian cool

Rooted in the Danish background of our three co-founders, Scandinavian street wear was a fashion trend where we knew we could find inspiration. We loved the minimalism, the comfort and monochromatic colors. Forget about doing a t-shirt, we needed to think bigger.

Is this the uniform for a modern software company? Photo by Marta Dymek.

Rooted in service

Since Zendesk makes customer service software, the inspiration for our collection came from the world of service industry garments. We started with a denim chore coat. Classic and synonymous with craft work, we added ample pockets to hold ones tech gear along with room for some printed marketing materials. We love to provide great food and drink at our events so next up was an apron. We love the way aprons communicate hospitality and let you be a bit messy.

For our sales and success team, we decided to do a silk scarf that could be accessorized into the chest pocket of a blazer or around the neck with a blouse. Rounding things out we cut a great denim cap out of the same denim as our chore coat and did a buttery soft sweat shirt with custom artwork by the illustrator Marcus Oakley. Everything was made to work together or stand alone.

For everything, when it came to logos, our attitude was less is more. The branding is so subtle that you wouldn’t feel like wearing logo wear if you wear one of these pieces out on a Saturday night.

Ethically made and good for all

We designed the collection ourselves and opted to run our own manufacturing — making everything across a series of factories in downtown Los Angeles. It was also important to us for all the pieces to be gender neutral and able to compliment a wide spectrum of body types, too.

Minimal branding on the Zendesk denim chore coat. Photo by Marta Dymek

Things we overlooked

Of course, in all the excitement of putting out our own fashion project, we managed to overlook some critical logistics, a few of which are pretty funny. The first mistake was my choice to call our collection a uniform. As we would later find out, people had a bad reaction to the word uniform because they associated it with losing their individuality. When we reframed the project as a new form of ultra premium “schwag” people were much more excited about it. Remember — align your language with the incentives of your audience.

A Zendesk nordic-inspired apron. Photo by Marta Dymek

Our second big oversight became painfully clear when the finished product arrived at our offices. There were thousands of units of clothing in giant cardboard boxes. Where were we gonna store this stuff? In the end, we were able to get creative and find some un-used closet space around the office but it was pretty tight. Make sure you think realistically about where to keep your inventory. As a software company, you’re probably not setup to store a lot of dry goods around the office.

Seeing them in action

We’ve slowly begun to introduce this collection at our events over the past several months, with a big debut scheduled for Relate, the Zendesk user conference which will in November here in San Francisco. Branding your people is a delicate business and there’s still a lot for us to learn. For the moment, we’re just happy to be wearing less of those sloppy t-shirts around the office.

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Thanks for taking a scroll with us. Check out design.zendesk.com for more thought leadership, design process, and other creative musings.

Ryan Donahue

Written by

VP of Global Design at Zendesk. Trying hard to ask the right questions. http://t.co/ldxEHHnbec

Zendesk Creative Collection

We're a blend of art, copy, video, and product design. We come from different backgrounds, but we share one passion as the Creative team—making compelling work for Zendesk.

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