When the subject of how people dress in restaurants is raised, it’s almost always focused on patrons. But this narrow focus leaves out a key part of the hospitality experience—the staff.
“I have a passion for food and for restaurants,” says the Los Angeles-based designer Denis Frison, whose family in Italy is active in the hotel business. “Every time I went to these big restaurants, I always felt that there was something wrong.”
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He realized that restaurants that spent lavishly on interiors would skimp on employee clothing, downgrading the overall experience. To address this disparity, Frison began pitching himself to design staff uniforms, landing the Italian fine dining chain Langosteria as his first client in 2014.
Restaurant uniforms have since become a side business for Frison, who has partnered with Brooklyn’s Saraghina Caffè and the reopened La Dolce Vita in Beverley Hills. He’s currently developing new uniforms for all locations of Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant.
Frison, whose own label takes a contemporary approach to bespoke and made-to-measure clothing, says he approaches restaurant uniforms much as he would a new collection, complete with mood boards. “I just try to catch the spirit,” he tells Robb Report. “For me, it’s like designing a collection every time for these restaurants.”
This individualized approach has yielded uniforms tailored to each eatery’s environment and aesthetic. For the more casual Saraghina Caffè, Frison drew inspiration from the clothing worn by Italian waiters in the 1930s and ‘40s, complete with cropped vests, poplin shirts with short collars, pleated aprons, and handknit ties.
For glitzy La Dolce Vita—which first opened in 1966 with Frank Sinatra as an investor—Frison recreated the peak lapel jackets that were worn by its staff