Electrical contractor putting on an FR jacket on the way to work.


women at work: redefining women’s workwear & ppe

Women at Work: Redefining Women’s Workwear & PPE

26 Mar 2024

Over the years, the industrial sector has undergone a profound transformation, marked not only by advancements in technology and operations but also by a notable shift in demographics. Today, more than ever, women are breaking barriers and making significant strides in traditionally male-dominated industries. Yet more than 4 in 5 women have trouble finding correctly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) regularly.

Interview with Kelly Franko, owner of Seraphina Safety Apparel

How did you get started in the flame resistant (FR) industry?

While attending PRI, a performance racing industry trade show, a customer and I chatted about the undergarment and post-mastectomy business I owned, and I was asked if I could create an FR bra. After researching the existing problem and reaching out to other industry professionals for more information, I decided to make a move and bring a new product to life.

What trends are you seeing in the industry?

Each day, more women are entering the industrial workforce, which requires flame-resistant clothing, and taking a stand for appropriately fitting personal protective equipment (PPE). For more than a decade, there have been so many conversations around the need for women to have PPE that fits and the hazard risks associated with ill-fitting apparel.

I am a strong advocate for changing the narrative. Instead of simply identifying the need for women’s FR garments, we as garment manufacturers need to increase accessibility to have garments that truly fit women and are not just labeled “womens.” Companies are beginning to recognize this difference and change their approaches to supplying PPE.

How are you using these trends to innovate new styles?

So, what do women want? Using feedback from my ongoing conversations with women in the workplace, comfort, fit, and true sizing are at the top of their list. For my product line, this means fitting all the shapes of women with products that have an intentional design that functions comfortably throughout the workday while keeping them cool, dry, and protected. These conversations also direct our product development, so we are focused on creating safety apparel differently, disrupting the status quo, and bringing athleisure-inspired designs to the market.

I love being onsite with clients in their workplace to see and feel the work environment, the body movements taking place during the activity, and how the clothing needs to move with them rather than hold them back. Throw in some anthropometric data, and we go to work on our next designs.

What fabric features do you look for when designing women’s wear?

Comfort is queen! Women’s bodies change size throughout the day due to stress, hormones, and fluid retention, and they need clothing that accommodates this. Stretch in FR fabrics is becoming a real necessity.

There are more options today than when I started on this journey. Progressive fabric manufacturers are reading the scene and changing things up to stay relevant with their offerings to accommodate what women (and men) want. If fabric can be protective and comfy at the same time, that’s what people want and what they will wear. I look for these manufacturers and have conversations with them to know what they have and where they are going with their offerings so we can match the fabric with our designs.

What does creating PPE for women mean to you?

The “why” behind what I do comes from a space of advocacy for women in the workplace. I create products specifically designed for women that offer superior protection so they can safely return home to their families. Women are actively recruited into the trades and STEM careers, and they deserve appropriate protection with all the PPE they wear.

We are mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, nieces, and friends who have others who are excited to see us when we come home. Women should not have to be disadvantaged at work because of ill-fitted PPE. It is my intention that Seraphina Safety Apparel will be known as the brand supporting them. There are many niche women’s safety apparel manufacturers dedicated to protecting women whose voices have not always been heard. Change is inevitable, and specialty manufacturers are making a difference for women in the workplace. I am proud to be among them.

Westex is proud to supply certified flame-resistant and arc-rated (FR/AR) fabrics to businesses like Seraphina Safety Apparel and be part of the journey towards better PPE for women. From options like Westex DH Air™ that provide a lightweight feel to our breathable Polartec Power Dry® FR knits, we deliver fabrics that meet every apparel need.

Explore our full FR/AR offering to see which fabrics suit your goals and hazard requirements.

What to Look For in FR/AR Apparel: Balancing Comfort, Value, Versatility, and Protection
The Value of Daily Wear PPE Programs for Industrial and Alternative Energy Sectors