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For those establishments wishing to impress guests with a first-class experience throughout their stay the tick list goes well beyond the fluffiest towels and pristine bed linen and tableware. They want every aspect to be perfect – and that includes the appearance of staff from reception through to housekeeping. Janice Raycroft reports.
The world of bespoke fashion and expert designers has reached the housekeeping world, with outfits perfect for a range of settings, from the glamorous to those epitomising heritage and elegance. Among those leading the way is London-based author and entrepreneur Katie Young, who founded Bespoke Textiles 10 years ago.
It’s now a multi award-winning design and supply consultancy in London where unique uniforms, luxury clothing and merchandise collections for high-end hospitality and heritage brands are designed and delivered.
Young recalls: “My journey in fashion began at the age of 11, as I struggled to find something to wear to my parents’ wedding. A passion for vintage clothes and textiles evolved from discovering unique pieces in charity shops in the Somerset town that I grew up in. I developed a skill for customising and recreating from my vintage finds.
“After working with luxury fashion for most of my career, I launched my clothing range Forever Young, specialising in occasion-wear dresses, and then built up a consultancy helping new brands to develop their collections. “A friend approached me to design and supply a bespoke check napkin for PizzaEast restaurant as part of the Soho House Group.
That’s when we started working with hospitality. Word soon spread, and we started to get involved with redesigning bespoke uniforms such as Bills and, more recently, the housekeepers of Buckingham Palace.” With Bespoke Textiles she oversees designs for clients including Soho House, The Ivy Collection, The Ace Hotel, The Honourable Society of Middle Temple, the Hospital Club and Royal Palaces.
While passionate about creating unique and timeless designs that are bespoke to a brand’s style, Young is passionate about supporting a sustainable and tailored supply chain that saves waste.
“One of our proudest client moments last year was recreating the Suffragettes’ signatures onto a limited-edition collection of napkins. The napkins are to commemorate 100 years since the Suffragettes won women the right to vote, in conjunction with the Gillian Waring statue of Millicent Fawcett – and the first ever statue of a woman to stand in Parliament Square.
“Our most prestigious ongoing project to date is redesigning and developing a unique uniform for the housekeepers of the Royal Households to the Queen. It has been an extraordinary and humbling process getting to know the women behind the scenes who needed a design solution that would honour their practical needs, their professional roles and make them look and feel great to perform at their best. The challenge was embracing the diversity of body shapes and coming up with a solution that serves everyone fully.”
They ended up creating one dress that housekeepers could wear for all occasions, instead of the two different dresses they currently had to wear. The design features a simple, elegant bolero style jacket and more practical and elegant cardigan. There’s more to come as Bespoke Textiles are developing other attire for more senior roles and a matching bag for staff to carry their housekeeping essentials around the palaces.
Also based in London is Fashionizer Couture Uniforms, which has been providing bespoke uniforms to luxury hotels since 1993. Director Debbie Leon and the team offer a 360-degree service including design, consultancy, manufacture and onsite delivery. It’s a market leader with 25 years of experience in new hotel openings and numerous awards.
Leon says that the company develops many exclusive fabrics and offers a full audit trail with high ethical and environmental standards. Manufacturing is in Europe and Fashionizer operates with an Ethical Sourcing Code of Practice on working practice. When it comes to fabrics themselves, everything is scrutinised, from how natural fibres are grown and replaced, carbon footprint and the chemicals used in production to the supply chain and lifespan of the garments and eventual disposal methods.
The aim is to tick all the boxes on sustainability and ethical practice while providing a fantastic choice of uniforms for clients sharing their concerns. Leon explains: “We work closely with each of our clients to ensure that their uniforms are fashionable and unique, in tune with their interiors, and delivered to deadline and to budget. Our passion is to deliver beautiful and practical uniforms that create outstanding first impressions.”
Services include full bespoke uniforms from design through to manufacture, fitting and delivery. Sustainable spa uniforms are made from natural and sustainable fabrics including materials made from organic cotton, linen, bamboo, viscose, Tencel and P.E.T Newlife™, a yarn made from recycled plastic bottles.
Treatments include antibacterial finishes which restrict the development of odours. The range includes an online catalogue, a mix and match solution and bespoke solutions.
In 2018 they launched a new website, offering classic and fashionable styles for housekeeping, doorman and hospitality staff, including accessories. This means clients can receive ready to wear uniforms of high quality within 48 hours, along with a customised service for accessories, with a smooth and intuitive shopping experience.
Studio 104 create stunning bespoke uniform design and garments that enhance the guest experience and get people talking. Housekeeping Today UK featured this London-based workwear designer in the January issue.
Their founder, Jane Porter, told us how they have carved out a niche in the bespoke uniform industry by delivering a professional uniform service with a creative twist on designs that encompass the values and heritage of each client, as well as being fit for purpose.
Their impressive portfolio of clients includes some of the world’s best known and loved hotels – the Savoy, the Dorchester, Gleneagles, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Shangri-La at the Shard, the Mondrian and many more.
Also based in the heart of London, Studio 104 is a team of 10 that includes designers, garment technologists, fabric sourcing specialists, pattern cutters, project managers and merchandisers Most of the team have backgrounds working either in high-end fashion or the uniform industry.
Porter shared with us her thoughts when designing for housekeeping teams:
- The weight of the fabric – not too heavy, not see through, but comfortable for bending and stretching.
- The fabric must be breathable and comfortable against the skin.
- The construction and design has to allow for operational duties – the cross back has to be wide enough to allow for large stretching movements such as making beds, but must also look good when relaxed. When making the prototypes we ask models to carry out many of the daily duties of the housekeeping team so we can test the designs and alter as we go.
- The fabric must be easy care, drip dry and crease resistant.
At Studio 104 they pick fabrics knowing the rigorous laundry cycles they’ll go through. This means designs can’t be complicated and that the fabrics can be washed at 60 degrees. Porter concludes: “Housekeeping is highly visible to guests so it’s important that they feel good and look good when working. Having a specially designed uniform gives people pride in the work they do. At Studio 104 we take as much care when designing for housekeeping as we do for front of house.”
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