By  on August 25, 2005

RIO DE JANEIRO — Top Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch, branching out in many directions, has inked a deal with McDonald's to redesign the uniforms of its employees in Brazil — the first such contract the multinational corporation has ever signed.

In addition, Herchcovitch will design a collection of T-shirts to be sold in Brazil and abroad using McDonald's characters. Part of the profits from the sale of the shirts will go to McDonald's institute for children with cancer in Brazil, he said.

McDonald's in Brazil handpicked Herchcovitch for the task, rather than ask for Brazilian designers to submit competitive bids. "We wanted Herchcovitch from the start because his clothes have the young, modern look that appeals to us and our employees," said Flávia Vigio, corporate communications officer for McDonald's in Brazil. "Herchcovitch is the first designer McDonald's in any country has hired to design its employee uniforms."  

None of the McDonald's headquarters in the other 119 countries, except for the United States, is planning such a uniform redesign, said Vigio. In June, a month after Herchcovitch signed his contract, McDonald's USA "coincidentally," said Vigio, had a similar idea and asked designers there to submit bids to redesign its uniforms. The designers who were approached ranged from Tommy Hilfiger to Sean Combs.

Vigio added that hiring Herchcovitch is in line with the chain's international "I'm lovin it" campaign aimed at making the McDonald's experience a positive one for customers and employees.

"We want the Herchcovitch-designed uniforms to create a youthful, modern identity so that our employees, whose average age is between 18 and 21, will like wearing them," he said. "We also want the uniforms to be more comfortable and practical than our current ones."

Until now, the uniforms for most of the 34,000 employees in McDonald's 1,100 outlets in Brazil, mainly servers-cashiers, have been three different-sized, unisex, button-down shirts in either blue check or burgundy, along with black trousers and caps. Different items are currently provided by three suppliers.

Herchcovitch's job is to design uniforms for all 15 McDonald's workstation positions, from manager (a three-tiered position) and cashier-server, to grill and maintenance workers. The overhaul will require designing 60 items, ranging from managers' ties and tailored jackets to maintenance-workers' overalls to belts, caps and costumes for employees to wear during McParties — in-house parties for kids.Herchcovitch, whom McDonald's has given total design freedom, has already met with a group of 30 McDonald's employees to get their feedback. He has already decided the uniforms will all feature the same colors, the cuts will be different for men and women to reflect their body shapes, and that all uniforms will be united by the same stylistic concept and will skew young, modern and casual.

"I'm leaning toward a light-colored, polo-shirt look for the basic cashiers-servers uniform that will come in four sizes for men and five sizes for women," said the designer. "What I know for sure is that the tie and button-downed, long-sleeve look is not an option."

Because Brazil's climate varies from temperate to rain-forest tropical, Herchcovitch will develop a uniform material with textile manufacturers — he's already met with Rhodia and DuPont — that will be a mix of cotton and polyamide. He wants the material to breathe better and be more wear resistant than the current McDonald's uniforms, a mix of cotton and polyester.

Herchcovitch plans to have the designs ready by the end of September and McDonald's will hire a manufacturer to begin turning them out by December. The uniforms are expected to last six years before they are redesigned again.

The McDonald's contract is just one new area in which Herchcovitch is dabbling. In 2002, he became the creative director for Cori, an older-women's brand that doesn't compete with his own younger label. Also in that year, he signed a five-year contract with Grendene, Brazil's biggest plastic shoemaker, to make footwear for its Melissa brand. Since 2003, he has designed Melissa low- and high-wedged sandals, boots and high-heeled pumps that have sold 600,000 pairs.

In 2004, Herchcovitch signed a contract with Olimpykus, a Brazilian sneaker maker, to design the uniforms that all the Brazilian athletes, expect for soccer players, wore to the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. 

And this year he signed a deal with Tok & Stok, a furniture and housewares chain, to design a collection of porcelain dishware (plates, bowls, mugs and crystal glasses), as well as sofas and ottomans, all using print designs from his past collections. He also signed a deal this year with Motorola to design an Alexandre Herchcovitch-label mobile phone and  cover and expects to sell 12,000 such units by the end of 2006."I just feel that if you're a fashion designer, as I am, it's a challenge to expand your styling horizons, whether it means designing Olympic and McDonald's uniform or dishwares and mobile phones," said Herchcovitch. "After all, it's all design."

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