Weaving 20 years of wellness industry insights into the changing landscape of the healthcare industry.
From a young age, Noel Asmar had a unique window into the healthcare industry, glimpsing the ripple effect of influence professionals within the field held through her mom’s occupation as a psychiatric nurse. However, her perspective on the healthcare industry and its far-reaching impact was sharpened when her mother transitioned from caregiver to patient in 2018, further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Noel described the experience of visiting her mom at her care home during this time, “We would sit outside of a glass wall, rain or shine, and Mum would be inside, available for visitation by appointment only.”
“What that did for me, and the family members of people in similar circumstances, was make us realize the only person who had physical contact, who could have a regular and emotional impact on my mom and the small, confined world she now occupied, was her nurse & care aids.”
“What that did for me, and the family members of people in similar circumstances, was make us realize the only person who had physical contact, who could have a regular impact on my mom and the small world she now occupied, was her nurse.”
Noel Asmar on the impact of nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic
Noel witnessed the profound impact of the professionals tasked with so much more than the line items on their job description, and felt the seeds of gratitude and a call to give back being planted in her psyche.
Bringing a new perspective to the status quo of medical wear
These seeds born from Noel’s visitations with her mom continued to grow as the pandemic stretched on – a length of time made only more poignant for her and her team by the hospitality industry’s screeching halt. Not knowing the immediate future of her industry, she and her team shifted their focus to present impact and began crafting “Hope” fabric facemasks – a product she recognizes as symbolic of her approach to design and business.
The double-layered fabric featured elegant and inspiring lines of words; words like “joy, love, renew, restore, invigorate, and thrive.” Noel explained, “We used all the words that could help create a connection with somebody at a time when others couldn’t see your mouth move.” Like all Noel Asmar designs, it was a touch of thoughtfulness on top of function-forward design.
Continuing their design-centered problem solving, the Noel Asmar team turned their attention to the industry’s then-lack of functional scrubs – particularly PPE that didn’t require pull-over removal. The existing styles required a staff member to pull off their used uniforms over their head and face, at a time when we didn’t yet know how COVID-19 spread. Noel was concerned that healthcare professionals’ uniforms were increasing their risk of contracting the virus, every time they finished for the day. It felt like a seemingly glaring problem, and she promptly donated tunic-style uniforms to her local hospital in response.
Noel explained, “It’s in those moments that seem counterintuitive that we discover opportunities to help. Every business I’ve started began with seeing a problem. There was something not quite right about the status quo of scrubs at the time, and in starting to provide PPE to hospitals, and receiving positive feedback, we knew we were on to something. The seed planted with a desire to give back flourished when presented as a design problem waiting to be solved by uniform experts.”
“The seed planted with a desire to give back flourished when presented as a design problem waiting to be solved by uniform experts.”
Noel Asmar on starting the Scrubs line.
Implementing a design-expert strategy when exploring the scrubs landscape.
Noel was inspired to pursue scrub design in earnest, taking the project back to her team and feeling uniquely qualified to bring a fresh approach to outfitting medical industry professionals. They aimed to innovate rather than duplicate existing market offerings, drawing inspiration from their extensive knowledge of the wellness industry to craft something new.
Noel and the team’s background in designing for both the spa industry and equestrian sport informed much of their design choices, applying the same understanding of ergonomic, and functional fit principles that they apply to all their collections (the real secret behind why customers love the way NAU fabrics feel).
Noel described the process, “We asked ourselves, ‘What sets the current industry leaders apart, and how can we exceed those standards?’ We recognized the need to go beyond simply adding another scrub brand to the market.”
So, the Noel Asmar team started where they always start in a new design: the fabric, which from their perspective is the foundation of any quality uniform. They approached developing their technical fabric with a laundry list of requirements for a uniform that catered to the needs of healthcare professionals.
“We knew it should match expectations of high-performance wear, much like what you’d look for in athletic wear. We wanted it to accommodate a range of movements, to be functional in the workplace, to incorporate much-needed pockets, be easy to wash, and be crisply professional,” Noel shared.
“And then we went to work, bringing our insights to this new and unique challenge. From there, Noel Asmar Scrubs really came to life.”
Today, we are taking feedback on our small collection of scrubs, to learn from our medical professionals, and start the next round of scrub innovation.
…We have an exciting new collection in our design lab that we can’t wait to share.
Leaning Into The Identity-Defining Nature of Scrubs
From the inception of the endeavor, Noel believed scrubs could transcend mere functionality; becoming an emblem of identity and a symbol worthy of the accomplishment they represented – just like all the wellness spa, hospitality, and skin care uniforms she had crafted in decades past.
The first nurses’ uniforms prioritized aesthetics, not accommodating practicality – with skirts and starched fabrics dominating the scene. Later, scrubs swung to the far side of functionality, with disposable materials and utilitarian designs. But Noel aspired to scrap the pendulum altogether, instead creating comprehensive designs worthy of the people wearing them.
“I remember my mom telling me throughout her career that she earned the ‘starched whites’ and wore them with pride’ People knew what she did for a living, what they could expect from her, and her level of professionalism based on her uniform alone. That’s the power of a good design.”
This ethos that uniforms can make a person’s job easier, can make them feel good about themselves and their appearance, and especially with professionals, help them snap into the mindset required on their role – is reflected in every detail of Noel Asmar scrubs.
But, beyond just contributing to self-confidence within the wearer, Noel believes a well-designed uniform can instill confidence in patients as well.
Patient trust is built on a clear understanding – of the role of the health care professional and of the professionalism they exude through their appearance. The starchy, stiff white nurse dress and cap used to be a clear identifier for the patient, but the industry has strayed from such distinct position-signaling. Doctors are wearing the same scrubs as technicians and nurses, making it increasingly difficult for patients to know who’s who at the hospital.
Noel calls for a return to position signaling through distinct uniform styles and selections, describing,
“The power of a uniform can’t be overlooked. How you present yourself communicates so much more than the surface details. Your uniform tells others what you do and how much care you take in doing it.”
She continues, “Uniforms should be a visual cue that communicates professionalism, competence, and a commitment to patient care – all essential components for building trust between healthcare providers and their patients.”
“Uniforms should be a visual cue that communicates professionalism, competence, and a commitment to patient care – all essential components for building trust between healthcare providers and their patients.”
Noel Asmar on the power of a uniform
Being uniquely positioned at the Intersection of Wellness and Healthcare
When prompted to reflect on her company’s long history with wellness uniforms, and its current expansion in the medical scrubs space, Noel looked toward the future, sharing, “I think it’s my role to help slowly redefine the scrubs category – something we are uniquely positioned to do, and at a time when health care roles matter more than ever. Right now, it's very easy to determine ‘What is a scrub?’ And for us, ‘What is a tunic?’
“But there is something to be learned from examining both styles, especially as the two industries they serve – the health and wellness industries – are speaking more and more to each other.”
She envisions a not-so-distant future in which private practices offering CT scans and facials, with on-staff dietitians, massage therapists, nurse practitioners, and estheticians become the rule, not the exception. And her uniforms – designed to accommodate all roles within that space – are uniquely positioned to support the new paradigm.
“We're not just addressing medical on one side and wellness on the other. We are positioned to support the growth of the health and wellness industry and the current and future convergence of the two,” Noel shares.
“We're not just addressing medical on one side and wellness on the other. We are positioned to support the growth of the health and wellness industry, and the current and future convergence of the two.”
Noel Asmar on the future of the health and wellness industry.
Joined in continuity through color selection and custom branding, Noel considers the blend of tunics and scrubs the perfect solution for the health and wellness spaces with expanding offerings and ever-blurring lines.
She reflects, “I’ve been on this journey for 21 years and I'm excited to see the medical professionals and wellness professionals want to work together. I think that's the future of healthcare, and I’m ready and excited to design what that looks like.”