“Uniforms are everyone’s business! Everyone is a designer in hotels. Everyone knows how to dress, knows the fabric, knows how to make a dress, and everyone has an opinion. From owners and Head Offices to GMs and their wives – everyone wants their say. Some brands do have very clear brand standards and guidelines to follow, but as a designer you still have to go through everyone who doesn’t have anything to do with uniforms but wants everything to do with the uniforms.”
Wimintra Jangnin has created the staff uniforms for a number of Thailand’s leading hotel brands, including Anantara, Aloft, Renaissance, and Maikhao Dream, so she’s perfectly placed to take us through the design process and share a few tips and secrets along the way.
“Uniforms aren’t just clothes – they say a lot more than that. Walking into a nice hotel and spotting a tired, old uniform? That says a lot about the management, right? Loose and unfitted uniforms? That also says a lot about the management. The design represents your brand, but how it looks on your staff represents you as a hotelier – it says how much you care about your staff, and how much you know about the brand.”
The uniform journey typically begins with the sudden realization that a new property is about to open its doors, and the staff have absolutely nothing to wear!
“Uniforms are the last thing hotels think of. I’ve never had one client, NOT ONE, that hasn’t said, ‘we want it urgently – like right now!’ I understand you may not yet have all the staff on board, but the design process can be done in advance. Mostly, though, everyone leaves it to the very last minute.”
According to Wimintra, the best time to get started is when the hotel’s interior design is done, so it’s possible to get a feel for the property which can be incorporated into the design.
“Everything starts from the style. I need to know the type of the property and to see the brand guidelines first, then talk to the GM and come up with a concept. He or she may show me some preferences and then we present our first design. If it’s something they like then we produce it. If not, we present another design – in our terms and conditions we will present two designs – in line with their recommendation.”
There are three simple rules to remember during this initial consultation and design phase.
“First, show me your brand guidelines and mood board. Second, know what you want, or show me some preferences and be sure about it. Don’t go, ‘I like this,’ ‘hmm…maybe not,’ ‘Oh wait, I like it.’ If you are unsure, stick with your brand guidelines and nobody gets hurt. Finally, treat the uniform making process like any other business process: you hire someone to do it, so let them do the job. If the job isn’t done well, hold them accountable for it.”
It’s also important to have a little confidence in your staff, and your designer.
“One thing I always hear is, ‘my staff won’t look good in that.’ I’ve heard this more times than I can remember. Well first you’re insulting your staff, and second, how would you know that she/he won’t pull it off? For clothes, it’s about cutting and pattern, and fitting. For your staff, it’s about how they carry themselves – not the shape, not the face – it’s the confidence, and most importantly your grooming standard. You can hire a world-famous designer to create your uniforms but if your staff don’t wear it with confidence, you have low grooming standards, or even worse, your uniform isn’t on brand – then you’re just wasting your money.”
Within the brand guidelines there might be some flexibility to use different fabrics – satin makes a great alternative to silk – or even to experiment with traditional national designs. It’s also not unusual to see a single resort encompassing many different F&B outlets, all of which need their own design which fits in with the common theme to represent the brand. Ultimately, however, the final say is with the GM or owner.
“We’ve done some Thai style uniforms. I actually enjoy it, and I like how we can be creative about the fabric. There was this one international brand that asked for a Thai element for their ‘funky’ F&B outlet. The F&B Director loved our idea, as we incorporated Pa Kao Ma into a design and it looked great. Unfortunately, the DOSM then came back (he wasn’t in the initial meeting) and said no, because Pa Kao Ma is used by farmers.”
Once the design has finally met with approval though, the final step is to actually make the uniforms.
“We don’t do industrial production – everything we make is handmade so it’s all about craftsmanship. My staff not only make uniforms for clients, but they make my own dresses too. To me, design and cutting have to align. You can have great design with bad cutting, and that will ruin it.”
And you remember that idea about getting creative with the fabrics?
“We’ve started making uniforms from recycled plastic bottles now. We can blend it with other fabrics and you wouldn’t even know it’s made out of plastic. I’ve had shirts made out of PET before and it feels fine. It is not cheaper but it’s a good initiative and also a good PR story. I try to get CEOs to buy it first – sometimes you just have to start from the facts.”
“When you’re handling large orders, you can really start to make a difference by using materials like these. It gets rid of waste and regenerates new resources at the same time. It lowers the carbon dioxide output, cuts down on landfill, and maybe helps out future generations.”
Finally, there was time to ask Wimintra one last thing. How can we sum up the ideal client?
“Easy – most of our problems with uniforms are from female staff. Men on the other hand don’t care – they’re very easy to work with.”
For more information please visit https://www.wimintra.com/uniforms