Employee uniforms can speak volumes about a hotel’s image and can even contribute to the guest experience.
GLOBAL REPORT—When Joie de Vivre Hospitality got ready to open its newest boutique property in downtown Palo Alto, California, in March, one of the biggest sales points for The Epiphany Hotel was the custom employee uniforms by Taylor Stitch.
The uniforms, with their clean lines, speak volumes about the hotel’s image, according to Lorenz Maurer, GM of the hotel.
“Taylor Stitch’s uniforms represent a modern take on classic staples … (and) complement the hotel’s friendly service and casual spirit,” Maurer said.
Furthermore, staff gets to choose the uniform that best suits them, with some tailoring to individual taste. Men don slim or classic-fitting dark denim jeans and a slim-fit Oxford button-down shirt in white, light blue, sand or pale gray. The laid-back look is jazzed up by a navy Japanese floral tie with hints of red, olive and white and smartened with an olive green twill blazer—matching the hotel’s décor.
Female staff sport tailored Oxford shirts with darting and shaping and can customize uniforms using a floral scarf that can be worn traditionally or as a headband or ponytail wrap.
“This look represents the casual vibe of Palo Alto with the highest attention to detail regarding tailoring and materials,” Maurer said. “Every staff member was measured, and the shirts and jeans were custom made. It's important for us that the staff looks and feels great. For us this is validating our most precious resource, our staff.”
A brand’s mirror
Uniforms have become a key selling point for global brands and independent hotels alike. Overhauling and investing in staff dress is a major part of creating an image as much as building upgrades, according to sources.
Matching dress to brand image is a key consideration. According to a news release, Australian group QT Hotels seeks to infuse sophistication and relaxation into everything from décor to uniforms.
Staff at its Sydney hotel dons burlesque outfits fitting to the building’s theatrical past. The attire was dreamt up by dance costume designer Janet Hine. Porters wear braces and blue t-shirts, and female door staff wears red bobbed wigs and black leather body suits.
The dress exudes “a truckload of Sydney savvy,” the group said in a news release. “From housekeeping to concierges, their outfits are a quasi-couture style with an artistic edge.”
Likewise, Sofitel is identified with French luxury flair, and uniforms are part of that savoir-faire, according to Sirinate Meenakul, regional director of marketing and communication for Sofitel Southeast Asia and India.
That style is being notched up with the growing trend of calling on luxury couturiers for uniform design.
At Sofitel So Mauritius guests are greeted by female staff clad in flowing white robes from fashion designer Kenzo Takada, while Christian Lacroix puts his mark on both the lobby and dress style at Sofitel So Bangkok.
In the competitive hotel world, uniforms can help a brand stay a cut above the rest, and Meenakul said guests expect such refinery.
“Using iconic designers with a strong link to France allows us to provide a unique experience for guests and strengthen our positioning and differentiation point,” she said. “The collaboration also enhances Sofitel So’s position as a collection of design hotels.”
The local look
For some hotel companies, uniforms are all about providing guests with an authentic local experience, according to sources.
“Uniforms at most of the Aman resorts are influenced by the local dress habits of the people, while keeping in mind comfort and safety at the work place,” said Anand Singh Shekhawat, executive assistant manager of Amanbagh, near Jaipur, India.
He said gardeners and other staff who work in the sun wear a green kurta, which is a traditional tunic. They also wear a Dhoti, which is a waist sash, as well as a traditional red turban to protect their head from the sun. Chauffeurs wear khaki hunting shirts and trousers with a saffron colored turban, reminiscent of those worn by royals when out on hunting expeditions.
“Front-office staff wears a white kurta and mogul-style pajamas. Women wear saffron-colored saris tied in the same way as Rajasthani women from the Ajabgarh Valley, while the saris’ color is influenced by the beautiful Flame of the Forest flowers which bloom in April and make the entire valley look like it is on fire,” Shekhawat added.
When Traders Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar, was rebranded to the Sule Shangri-La Yangon in April, custom-made uniforms were at the crux of the rebranding. The uniform is based on the traditional longyi, a large sheet of cloth folded to form a cylindrical shape. Doormen wear uniforms representing the seven states of the country.
In keeping with Shangri-La’s credo, the look reflects the city’s mix of colonial airs and Chinese culture, according to Phillip Couvaras, area GM of Sule Shangri-La, Yangon, in a news release. “We make it our business to provide guests with personal experiences and immerse them in the local culture.”
When the Shangri-La Toronto unveiled a new look last year, it was referring not to refurbished interiors but the new custom-designed wardrobe of its lobby lounge staff by red-carpet couturiers VAWK.
The knee-length purple and white dress with side splits and a kimono-like waist borrows from traditional Asian design and architecture, said communications director Kerry Connelly in a news release. “Its shoulders are reminiscent of pagodas found in Chinese gardens. The silhouette is a sleeker version of the traditional qipao dress with a mandarin collar.”
In 2012, a redesigned uniform was launched at all Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces’ high-end hotels. The use of handloom saris fits with the group’s philosophy of luxury and that of feeding into local communities, said Rakhee Lalvani, Taj’s public relations director.
Taj wanted to help save the dying tradition of the master weavers of Banaras, Lalvani said.
“It is part of our initiatives for providing sustainable livelihoods. Taj believes luxury like tradition needs to be preserved and nurtured,” she said.