How will COVID-19 affect uniform designs in hospitality?

How will COVID-19 affect uniform designs in hospitality?

HN asked this question to Laurent Guinci, founder of Lolo Creative, who has been part of some of the most popular immersive experiences in the world – from working with various restaurants including Mourad Mazouz’s MOMO to global brands like Universal.


Laurent Guinci

Guinci specializes in extending brand identities through custom uniforms and has been revolutionizing the approach for years – winning multiple awards. With COVID-19 having a huge impact on the hospitality industry globally, Guinci delves into what expected changes this will pose on staff uniforms. 

Immersion

Due to recent events, many of us have reached ‘gloom’ fatigue, therefore, customers will likely be looking for more immersive experiences than ever, with the feeling of being brought into an entirely new world and ‘escaping’ reality – whether that’s dining, holidaying, or staying in a beautiful hotel. A well-designed uniform can be a very powerful tool for immersion, helping affirm brand identity and create a memorable statement.

Staff are regularly seen by all visitors, so it’s important they represent the brand and enhance the customer experience. This means thinking about how the garments work with the surroundings whilst ensuring they reflect the brand and location. From the moment they walk in, you want guests to be swept away and for that feeling to continue with every point of interaction. Uniforms need to feel that they belong to the place, as much as the interior design. As a designer, I not only add quirky details to create differentiation, but I also look at the decors and design the outfits accordingly, it’s a very important collaboration.  

Empowering staff 

Design for Momo

“My background in costume, working in the film industry on major projects such as Harry Potter to James Bond, means when I work on uniforms now, from waiters to slicker outfits for management, to back of house people, no matter the role, I treat the staff as ‘actors on a set’ and give them the same level of detail,” he stated. They are not themselves anymore, they are becoming a character and brand ambassador, almost acting differently to serve a purpose and entertain the crowds – ultimately, providing an immersive experience. The uniform is a key element to making that shift, allowing the staff to be someone else for a few hours, playing a part in this new environment.

Designing the entire operational wardrobe for the brand-new Universal Resort in Beijing, we created what we call a “multi-functional wardrobe,” he said. They have several pieces to choose from, for a certain position. They can mix and match as they wish, creating the persona they want to be on the day and then choose something else the next day to incarnate another character. Beyond designing a garment that looks great, most importantly you want the staff to feel good and be proud to wear their uniform.

Cuts and fabrics

Coronavirus has no doubt made us all germaphobes, so there will likely be a big emphasis on hygiene whilst still balancing style with practicality. For hospitality, we have to think about longevity. For that reason, a lot of the vendors love polyester, because you can wash it a million times without fading. But personally, I’m not a fan, I love breathable natural fibers instead. Also, cottons are better for this climate, as they can be washed at higher temperatures to kill bacteria, germs and viruses. 

A lot of ‘techno fabrics’ have been developed over the years, tackling various issues from sweat marks, regulating temperatures, UV protection, and some are even anti-bacterial. I am sure that soon we will see ‘antivirus’ fabrics. That said, use of more sterile materials would be dependent on budget restrictions. Other alternative practical solutions include the use of more fitted shapes, which for example, can stop the likes of sleeve fabrics dragging and touching all surfaces. Also, strict hygiene practices such as wearing garments once and washing it efficiently should solve these issues.

Recently, with face masks now being a requirement for many public spaces, we’ve also seen a rise in mask designs matching wardrobes. My team had already designed this for Universal Beijing, way before the pandemic, because of the pollution in China. We designed masks to fit every single IP (Intellectual Property) in the park and match the designed uniforms. This demonstrates the increasing trend for marrying practicality with style.

Costumes designed for Volcano Bay resort, California

Overall, comfort should still remain a top priority, especially for a uniform worn during a whole eight hours shift. Therefore, nicely designed garments with the right fit are always a must. But in light of the pandemic, it’s important to factor in increased hygiene requirements as well as the growing demand for immersive experiences. Hotels and restaurants should look to put the same level of detail into uniforms as their interiors.

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