Forget that intimidating corporate look. Push it to the back of the closet. Approachability is the buzzword of the season for hotel apparel programs. Hoteliers want their guests to feel welcome, after all, which is why the latest trends convey a more relaxed sensibility.
“A lot of times our clients and brands we’re selling to at the moment want that more approachable look, but it still has to be somewhat professional and put together,” says Michelle Dortch, senior product designer for Cintas.
Cintas and its team of designers correlate catalog items with what consumers are currently seeing in retail stores. Runway fashions provide a glimpse into what’s coming next, but the uniform supplier assesses the overall picture and determines what will have mass-market appeal. “We want to make sure that jacket or collection is going to sell bazillions,” Dortch says.
Properties that want to maximize value often look to supplier catalogs instead of requesting custom designs. Home2 Suites by Hilton partnered with Lands’ End Business Outfitters for its apparel program. To signify the brand, upper sleeves, shirt backs, and jean pockets feature the “2” from the logo.
“We want to be really conscious about cost not only for our owners but the brand as well,” says Dawn Koenig, vice president of brand performance support for Home2 Suites. “Being able to pick items from a current line versus having custom items made was a win-win.”
Like many other hotel industry veterans, Koenig recalls the itchy days of wearing polyester, so the brand wanted to offer uniforms that employees would be proud to wear and feel comfortable in.
“We really wanted to find something that if for some reason you did leave work and had to go somewhere right after, it wouldn’t be obvious that it’s a uniform,” she says. “We try to refer to it as wardrobe.”
Dortch hears that instead of complaining about uniforms, many employees are adapting them for after hours. For instance, an employee may throw on a pair of jeans with his dress shirt and jacket instead of changing completely. “It’s nice when people want to wear it outside of the job function,” she says.
At B Ocean Fort Lauderdale, the housekeeping uniform looks especially comfy and versatile. The two-piece set from Cintas features a three-quarter-length-sleeve tunic with drawstrings at the waist, and trimmed slacks, both with soil-release and moisture-management properties. “They can wear the uniforms here at the hotel, and then go out, take off their name badges, and feel comfortable in them,” says Veronica Miranda, the B experience manager. “It’s very similar to a jog or tracksuit.” In fact, one of the housekeepers said whenever she leaves for work, her neighbor thinks she is headed for the gym.
Instead of the usual black suiting and white dress shirt options, dramatic colors allow for differentiation. Dortch says her favorite new hue is curry, a mustardy yellow that pairs well with black, charcoal, and brown. “We added some new shirts to our line in curry,” she says. “It’s a great color pop for hospitality and gaming.”
Sophisticated Caribbean blue can be worn with charcoal and brown suiting, and shades of steel and charcoal are also in style. “It’s really about mixing and matching or color blocking within the garment,” Dortch says, “not just one shade head to toe.”
Cintas’ new Oyster suiting collection plays on the popularity of stone colors. “I think it’s good for the resort market, and you can dress it up in a way with darker color accessories, shirts, and ties that it could be urban as well,” Dortch says.
Home2 Suites incorporated 12 colors and multiple uniform options for front desk, breakfast, suitekeeping, and maintenance staff into its apparel program. For front desk employees, teaberry is among the bold hues for women’s button down shirts, while men’s oxford options include charcoal and cordovan. Khaki blazers and black and navy sweaters and cardigans are among the layering options. Breakfast and housekeeping employees may be seen walking around in blue radiance, charcoal heather or pale emerald mesh polo shirts.
Perhaps the most distinct aspect of Home2 Suite’s program is that it offers denim selections, such as jeans rinsed in deep indigo, jean jackets, and aprons.
Dortch says women’s sleeveless blazers create a softer look for a jacket but still have the great tailoring details in the lapel, pocket flaps, and colors. Longer blazers with traditional notched collars are still popular this season but are more tailored and cutaway to reveal the details of an untucked blouse or pair of pants underneath.
Men’s blazers are more fitted with slimmer collars and lapels, and cutaways reveal pant details such as extended tabs, flat fronts, and stitching on the fly or waistband. Men’s pants are also slimmer with different fits, such as modern flat front, classic flat front, and classic pleated.
For an updated take on the preppy trend, Dortch says men can wear lightweight sweaters and sweater vests with a dress shirt and tie underneath, and either suit pants or casual khaki bottoms. This is an alternative for properties that want to look professional without relying on suits.
For women, Dortch says she is seeing a lot of pencil skirts, which fall right at the knee or a little below and provide a leaner look. Pant sales are typically far greater, but she hopes to see skirt sales pick up this fall season. “This is also something more approachable as opposed to being all suited up,” she says.
Accessory-wise, scarves are back and Dortch couldn’t be happier. Whether long or square, floral or plaid, scarves add a small dose of print, texture, and depth.
Once properties narrow down their selections, they can achieve a branded look within their wardrobe lines.