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Who are you?

A partnership with InSchoolWear helped Newton’s Grove School answer that question.

Contact:

Kirstin Broatch
905-334-4545
[email protected]Send email
inschoolwear.com

Writer/Editor: Glen Herbert

Glen Herbert
Editor/Writer, Our Kids Media


“You know, Kirsten’s got a lot of enthusiasm for everything,” says Glenn Zederayko, head of school at Newton’s Grove. “And she just brought that enthusiasm to them. She listened and asked questions and engaged them. They felt like they were important, being listened to, that someone cared about them. Her trademark enthusiasm was there, with all her attention and empathy.”

The “they” in this instance are students at Newton’s Grove, and he’s talking about Kirsten Broatch, owner of InSchoolWear. In 2020, Zederayko brought her on board to redesign the school’s uniform in part because of the experience he had with InSchoolWear when he was head at TMS in North York. “We found that they were very responsive,” he says of that time, “a little bit more innovative, more willing to try different things.”

Customer service was important, too. Zederayko recalled a time when there was an issue with a fabric that parents brought forward, and the response of InSchoolWear was immediate. “They had a track record of being good listeners, being creative, and coming up with ideas for making the clothing comfortable, look good, and maybe a little bit cool.” They were also quick to pick up the phone, keeping the school and parents informed of delivery. “I was already conditioned to know that InSchoolWear could deliver what we want, and so when the opportunity of refreshing the uniform came up, we looked at a variety of options, but again, InSchoolWear was very responsive.”

I ask Zederayko what the first call was like, what kinds of questions Kirsten asked. He says she didn’t ask any questions at all. Rather, “what she did is she came in to see the school, to get a sense of the school, to see what we had, see what we were doing.” Newton’s Grove wasn’t young, having been founded in 1977, but had recently gone through a period of growth and a significant evolution of the school’s identity. Founded as Mississauga Private School, in the mid ‘2000s the school was renamed at the same time that it moved to a new location on Goreway Drive in Mississauga. As Zederayko says, “we were taking what in essence was a derelict building and giving it an amazing reno, with windows, openness, all the things you’d want.”

How the world sees the school

The result is stunning, bold, and the building signalled a new era in the life of the program as well as the neighbourhood it sat within. Still, “the Newton’s Grove brand wasn't necessarily front and centre or jumping off the page.” The uniform was part of the problem. In many ways, the school was new. The identity it presented to the world wasn't.

Zederayko says that when Kirsten arrived for that first visit, she was conversant in all of that back story. “She already had a sense of what we were about philosophically, what we were trying to deliver. [She was aware of] the aesthetics that went with the building. And she came in and talked to us, presenting options of what we could do, and how they would fit with the mission and what we were trying to do with our students.”

Broatch spoke as much about identity as she did fabric, cuts, or elements. She spoke with students as much as she did teachers and administration. “She was very willing to work with us as a group to evolve something that everybody would be proud of and comfortable with.” Ecology and climate change were part of the discussion. (“Some of the uniform items are made out of recycled water bottles,” says Zederayko.) Price was part of the discussion as well, knowing that the costs would be passed along to parents. “There’s that attention to the families, to the individual customers.”

“The kids really do think of it as their school. And we just want people to know where that really nice kid was from.”
—Glenn Zederayko, head of school, Newton’s Grove

How the students see themselves

The reps brought in a wealth of mannequins and samples. Zederayko notes this wasn’t just a question of picking option A, B, or C. It was a process toward building the right identity. “The other thing that we did is we spent a lot of time working with Kirsten and our athletic director and the rest of the leadership team to really nail down how we wanted to communicate our brand. They brought in something like 40 mock-ups of our brand, different photos and things.”

There was some disruption—a lot of “have you thought about this” type of comments—which the school welcomed. The fact is that they hadn’t thought of many things, and were glad to learn what they were missing. The result, in place since 2021, is fresh, new, and comfortable. The innovations within the uniforms don’t announce themselves, but they are there in the fabrics, the cuts. There are more sizes on offer than just S, M, and L. There is also a bit of spark, and the students clearly like wearing the various pieces. They’re cool, both in terms of temperature and style.

That kind of result is only possible through deliberation, through a series of conversations with all the stakeholders, and an ability, on all sides, to both listen and be heard. Broatch once told me of her work that, “it’s nothing about school uniforms. Absolutely nothing.” Rather, it’s about allowing students to feel special, to become part of something bigger than themselves. “It’s all to do with people.” Ultimately, uniforms communicate what the school is, how others see the students, and how the students see themselves. “They think this is their school,” says Zederayko of students. “They want to look after each other, they want to make it better.”

When they wear the uniforms with pride in the hallways, in the streets, at sports events, they broadcast that identity. The idea that, “we’re all part of the Newton’s Grove community, we’re all part of the same team.” Since 2020, Kirsten Broatch and the staff at InSchoolWear have been part of that team, too.


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Contact:

Kirstin Broatch
905-334-4545
[email protected]Send email
inschoolwear.com