Hotel industry trends Interviews

Why smart staff are always in fashion

Lebanese firm Emile Rassam has been making hotel uniforms for 70 years. Currently under the helm of the founder’s son, Elie Rassam, it designs and produces outfits for the likes of Four Seasons, Marriott, Accor and Sheraton and exports to 38 countries

Click. sat down with Elie Rassam to find out what makes a successful uniform, whether functionality should trump style, and where smaller properties can find inspiration if they want their staff to stand out.

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Elie Rassam
Elie Rassam, CEO of Emile Rassam

Click.: What is the most-common mistake a hotel can make when it comes to uniforms?

Rassam: It all comes down to budget. If budgets are set insufficiently, things can fall down and the hotel suffers. You need to spend enough to ensure there’s a certain par level - a set number of inventory items that a hotel has on hand at any given time - that should be secured to make sure you maintain the garment’s quality: you need to take care of the clothes and make sure they look as beautiful as they can, which includes things like how often they are washed. There’s a certain level of savoir-faire too because anyone can make a garment, but not everyone can make an amazingly-beautiful garment.  

Click.: What are the trends in hotel uniforms and what are properties doing now that they weren’t ten years ago?

Rassam: We’re seeing an amazing and beautiful evolution. The industry used to be one of mail-order catalogues, where you just picked what you wanted off the shelf, and then a few weeks later the clothes were at your door.

Today it’s totally different. Everyone is looking for a fashion-forward wardrobe and something that is elegant, highly stylish, completely out of the box and that is harmonious and compliments the interior colours and hotel themes. There’s also been an evolution in fabrics themselves, which are now better performing, more breathable, have better colour fastness, are able to stand more washes and are lighter weight.

Click.: When it comes to uniforms, what are some of the most important factors for hotels to be able to stand out from their competitors?

Rassam: I think there are two main angles to this. Firstly, I would concentrate on the par level – if that is sufficient then the frequency of wash can be moderate and the uniform will age nicely and perform better. Secondly, the design has to be really well researched and very powerful. When the design is powerful and the garment is well made, then you’ve got a success.

A hotel needs to look at the process as an entire program. There needs to be consistency, a theme and an inspiration behind it. You need to have harmony throughout the wardrobe and this is where the strength of it all lies.

Click.: For you, which is more important, style or functionality? How can hotels successfully marry the two?

Rassam: Style, once you’ve got it, is timeless and will help you stand out. But you have to consider the architecture of the garment too. I focus on that a lot because if it’s well constructed then you’ve got an outfit that is very stylish in itself.

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Uniforms
'Get inspiration from watching old movies, they can be very stylish.' Photo: credit to Clay Banks, Unsplash

 

Look at any high street window and look at a plain white shirt. A $10 shirt is very different fron a more expensive one. If the construction of the product is well thought out and well designed, married with good fabrics and material, then you’ve got something that is outstanding and will definitely be timeless.

Click.: When you stay in a hotel, can you switch off or are you always looking at uniforms? Are there ever occasions when you think, wow, these people have got it really wrong?

Rassam: Yes. So many! I can never switch off. But it’s not just in hotels, it’s when I’m in theatres, at the movies or just watching people on the streets. I’m always looking around me. I think any passionate business person is the same in their profession. 

And of course, on my travels there are lots of hotels which I think get it wrong but I’m not going to name them!

Click.: What would your advice be to a small hotel for achieving a smart look with limited resources?

Rassam: Get inspiration from watching old movies, they can be very stylish. Have a checklist to follow with perfect accessories, like an up-to-date suit with a good tie, belt and pocket handkerchief. And great grooming too, whether that’s smart hair or clean nails. Simple is important. Just be neat, clean and tidy.

I always give advice to the client: the puzzle has to be complete. The puzzle is that every element has to be there, whether that’s the style, the fashion, the elegance, the simplicity, the fabric and the construction. If you complete all the pieces of the puzzle, you’ll get it right.

 

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Takeaway
  • The most common mistake a hotel can make when it comes to staff uniforms is lack of budget. You get what you pay for.
  • Make sure you get par levels right: it stands to reason uniforms will age better if they’re not washed so often
  • Hotel uniforms used to come out of mail-order catalogues. Now they are bespoke and fashion forward and have to be in harmony with a hotel’s themes and colour schemes
  • Old movies can prove to be a great source of style inspiration

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