NEW YORK — Service with style is the soup du jour in a flurry of new clubs, restaurants and at least one hotel.
Knowing the fashion savviness of their employees can register with patrons as much as their decor does, some nightlife establishments are latching on to well-known or up-and-coming designers to assure that employees look their best.
“Above all, the design of a restaurant determines the look and feel that we want to portray, but the way in which we present our staff is extremely important,’’ said Sasha Alexandre Tcherevkoff, co-owner of Pop Burger and the new Pizza Bar here. “They are sometimes the first impression that we give our guests, and in New York, first impressions can determine whether or not we fill seats.”
Tcherevkoff has been lobbying some big names to suit up the staff at Pizza Bar when it bows at 48 Ninth Avenue in Manhattan in a month or two, though he declined to identify them.
Dressing up the help is a proven tactic. Stan Herman, who just redesigned uniforms for FedEx and FAO Schwarz, has been at it for decades. In 1972, he first freed Avis employees from wearing more red than Santa Claus. “I really felt a uniform should be more like clothing than a billboard,” he said.
When Herman went to work on TWA’s uniforms in the Seventies, he took over duties previously handled by Valentino who went so far as to put a “V” on the buttons. At that time, the airlines had clout with designers like Bill Blass, who designed stewardess outfits for American Airlines. Emilio Pucci was also on the circuit, designing six hostess uniforms for Braniff International Airways from 1965 to 1974.
There has been a bit of a designer resurgence with the airlines. Richard Tyler is giving Delta flight attendants a makeover, Julien MacDonald has done the same for British Airways and Kate Spade dresses Song staffers.
For lesser-known talent, collaborating with smaller operations helps get their names out there among some of the city’s more discriminating style mavens.
Here are six designers who have spiffed up uniforms on the nightlife scene.Aer Lounge, 409 West 13th Street Opening: December 2004 Designer: Carlos Miele The Look: Sexy, sleeveless black dresses made from microfiber with lots of Lycra spandex. Claim to Fame: With Naomi Campbell on his runway, celebs like Lil’ Kim and Serena Williams often turn out. Connections: The designer’s West 14th Street store is a neighbor of Aer. Modus Operandi: “I used a dark color because I didn’t want the uniforms to compete with the space or the public. I also wanted to do something very functional, because they would be worn every day and washed regularly,” Miele said. Compensation: “Any table,” free membership and fashion week party in February. Game Plan: “I would never do this uptown or in a different city.’’ Miele said. “I never thought about doing something like this. The Meatpacking District is the most exciting neighborhood in the world. I just bought a place.’’
Frederick’s, private club at 8 West 58th Street Opening: November 2004 Designer: Juliette Longuet The Look: Antique pink and nude-colored sequined skirts that double as tunics Claim to Fame: Helped launch L’oréal’s Biotherm while living in Miami. Women there routinely asked the Parisian-born Longuet where she bought her French-made skirts so she decided to give fashion design a whirl. She started selling her signature pieces to private clients like Catherine Zeta-Jones, whom she met at a fund-raiser. Connections: “I came to New York with two suitcases. I would go out a lot and meet people, and do private sales,” Longuet said. Modus Operandi: “I don’t want people who buy my collection to get bored with it after a while,” Longuet said. Compensation: Frederick’s membership, hostesses hand out her business cards, logo is on the menu. Game Plan: Find a financial backer in order to show at the Coterie in March.Dream Hotel, 210 West 55th Street Opening: November 2004 Designer: FIT student Julia Corey Burns The Look: Clean lines and modern silhouettes inspired by Indian government officials’ uniforms. Claim to Fame: Interned at Alice Roi, Rebecca Taylor. Connections: Friends with Dream Hotel staffers Christopher Mallon and Brendan McNamara. Modus Operandi: “I tried to look at it not so much as a uniform but as great-looking clothes that applied to the hotel,” Burns said. Compensation: “Pretty much on par” with her freelancing gig for the Federated Merchandising Group, Burns said. Game Plan: To launch a signature eveningwear or special occasion collection that can be mixed with casual pieces.
Cain, nightclub at 544 West 27th Street Opening: November 2004 Designer: Robert McKinley The Look: The space is a “takeoff on an African gaming lodge without being too theme parky,” where waitresses sport safari dresses and bartenders wear chocolate brown shirts with tucked-in burnt orange ties. Claim to Fame: Unlike other uniform designers interviewed, he designed the space as well. Logged time at Donna Karan and Giorgio Armani specializing in window displays and event design. His company, Robert McKinley Creative Services, lists Yves Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen among its clients. Connections: Friend of Cain owner Jamie Mulholland. Modus Operandi: “Basically, I blatantly knocked off an old Yves Saint Laurent safari dress from the Seventies that I saw a picture of,” McKinley said. Compensation: “Just money, but I didn’t charge what I usually charge. Jamie is also a friend,” McKinley said. Game Plan: Designing a private beach club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, and plans to open his own yet-to-be-named bar on the Lower East Side in fall 2005.
Bombay Talkie, Indian tea and street food house at 189 Ninth Avenue Opening: Early January 2005 Designers: Monica and Barbara Abbatemaggio The Look: Cotton and silk slim dresses with tunic collars and side slits. Claim to Fame: Sisters and owners of Sorelle Firenze, a seven-year-old TriBeCa store that specializes in customized wedding dresses, eveningwear and suits. Connections: Friends of owner Sunitha Ramaiah Modus Operandi: “An Indian feeling in a modern time,” Monica Abbatemaggio said. Compensation: A good old-fashioned check and free publicity. Game Plan: Will outfit the wait staff at Saravanaas, a south Indian vegetarian restaurant that bows in January at 81 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.Duvet, “dining boudoir” at 45 West 21st Street Opening: December 2004 Designer: Club Monaco The Look: Sleek, stylish and practical black sateen shirts with black trousers. Claim to Fame: Club Monaco is owned by Ralph Lauren. Connections: Diners can find the items waitresses wear at Club Monaco’s Fifth Avenue store around the corner. Modus Operandi: “Duvet’s upscale design is a perfect match for Club Monaco’s sleek, modern style. Partnering with Duvet is a natural fit, bringing the Club Monaco brand to life outside our store,” a Club Monaco spokeswoman said. Compensation: Clothes were sold with a discount with the understanding Club Monaco and Duvet would have a lengthy partnership. Game Plan: “People wear Club Monaco for our great design and current sensibility, so why not lend our aspirational aesthetic to a cutting edge restaurant and lounge?” said the Club Monaco spokeswoman.
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