NEW YORK—Jenny Goodman and Alex McCrery saw a major problem in hospitality apparel. Not only were uniforms uncomfortable, but they were also unflattering. As co-founders of Tilit—a custom uniform supplier based here—the husband and wife team made it their mission to change this, offering outfits that provide both function and fashion.
“People want to look and feel great in their workwear, but it needs to perform with the rigors of the hospitality industry,” Goodman said.
Tilit dresses those in food and beverage, from chefs to servers to in-room dining teams to bartenders, as well as bellmen, spa and engineering departments, and front desk workers.
“Alex was a chef for 20 years and felt like the job was so cool, but the clothes for chefs on the market were missing the mark,” Goodman said. “We started the line with two aprons, a work shirt and utility pant that could translate from the kitchen to the street. Six years later, we have a full-blown fashion line for all segments of the hospitality industry.”
The pair set out to solve all kinds of industry apparel problems, the first being with the aprons.
“When we were first starting six years ago, we often heard about how the apron creeps up and tugs on the back of the neck, which can be super uncomfortable, so we incorporated a tab on the back of all our chef shirts and coats, which holds the apron in place to stop the chafing and distribute the weight of the apron evenly,” McCrery said.
Aprons are a pivotal piece, too, with the couple seeing more employees opt for these and work shirts over traditional chef coats. Goodman said that in hotels there’s also more gender fluidity in the clothing choices; however, Tilit doesn’t follow a one-size-fits-all model for workwear.
“It’s all about fit,” McCrery said. “Women want something that looks professional but is also cut for the female form and not 10 sizes too big. That’s why we make a men’s and women’s cut in many of our styles.”
Goodman added that feedback often included women having to fold their aprons to make the waist hit at the right spot.
“Traditional aprons have straps at the hip, so we took inspiration from the wrap dress and moved the waist up, giving the apron a wrapping effect to tie at the natural waist instead of the hips. We also added darts at the bust, so the apron lies flat,” she said.
Tilit saw a push for pants, too, with hospitality employees wanting more versatile options.
“We worked for years to get our pants right,” McCrery said. He explained that this amount of time was needed to get the fabric weight just right to ensure durability without being too heavy, along with the amount of stretch to provide optimum movement in the kitchen. “We ended up working directly with the mill to make our own custom fabric. This fabric is now found in our bestselling Flex pants and the Sunday pant,” he said.
Tilit also spent more than a year to develop its jumpsuit, ensuring its fit and functional details were on point for employees.
“We rigorously develop and test all new products. On the women’s version, the waist hits in the right spot, and we included a sleeve pocket and hidden welted leg pocket to ensure there were enough pockets without adding bulk,” Goodman said.
The jumpsuits are a hit with Tilit, providing not only a comfortable way to work, but a versatile way as well.
“We started the brand with the idea that the clothes would seamlessly transition from work to dinner or meetings, while always looking great and professional; we’re really seeing that hold true now,” Goodman said. “For example, with our jumpsuits, we have seen chefs wear them in their kitchen and then also wear them to speak on a panel at a conference. You would not see a chef do that in a traditional chef coat.”
Of course, employees working in different departments have specific needs, requiring new sets of functions.
According to McCrery, the greatest difference in these needs came in food and beverage operations, with both bartenders and chefs requiring a bag to carry tools to and from work on a daily basis.
“Until our bartender backpack came out recently, there wasn’t an option to neatly pack all the tins, mixing glasses, tinctures and spoons along with the cutting boards and even laptops they may need for the day,” McCrery said. “And for the chefs, many were lugging around a knife roll and backpack with a change of clothes and notebooks or laptops. Both of our chef backpacks and bartender backpacks have sleek designs that incorporate all of these elements.”
For whatever hospitality employees require, they don’t need to settle—function and fashion, design and durability, comfort and convenience—with Tilit they don’t need to choose one or the other.
“We think you can have it all with our products,” Goodman said. “We believe good design should be functional and comfortable.” HB
Cintas’ Design Collective focuses on flexibility
CINCINNATI—Launched earlier this year, the Cintas 2019 Design Collective is all about flexibility. From luxury properties to service-focused hotels, Cintas provides outfits for all areas and positions.
“From custom-designed suiting created for a specific hotel to safety apparel, we offer it all. We also work with our clients to determine the best way for us to service them, whether it’s selling to them directly, or renting the garments,” said Kristin Sharp, director of design and merchandising, Cintas.
While it’s a challenge for Cintas to continuously refresh wardrobe options while still keeping programs easy to manage for operators, the company finds ways to evolve.
“It’s a balancing act of delivering innovation, quality and contemporary fashion silhouettes for the best price,” Sharp said.
Offering flexible options means supporting a fast-paced lifestyle, with employees demanding uniforms that are easily transferred from time of day and location.
“In years past, most clients have wanted a well-defined apparel program for their associates,” Sharp said. “In today’s world, employees want to wear clothes they would wear outside of work. We’re now providing flexible wardrobe collections that give employees the ability to choose their preferences within a collection. This allows an element of consistency to be woven throughout each employee’s garments, but gives them the flexibility to make it their own.”
According to Sharp, hospitality apparel is taking on a more polished look, with garments reflecting retail fashion trends and pieces that employees would purchase personally.
On this front, Cintas has recently collaborated with brands such as Chef Works, Under Armour, Express and Carhartt, giving employees options from brands they know and love.
“We’re able to build collections that incorporate our Design Collective apparel but also include some of these retail brands where needed,” Sharp said. “The end result is a collection that hotel employees can truly feel good about which, of course, impacts their engagement.”