St.James’ Court, A Taj Hotel

“JSD has created a bespoke uniform design that echoes the distinction of our hotel group and this historic building, and given us extraordinary levels of personal service from its dedicated Account Management team.”

St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel

A hotel of distinction – one that caters for some of the world’s most discerning travellers, for whom luxury is a way of life – must have a corporate uniform for its management and staff that exudes opulence and style.

And that was why St James Court, a Taj Hotel, London (part of the renowned international hotel group Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces) picked up the phone to Jermyn Street Design one Friday afternoon in September 2013. Taj had seen our bespoke uniform designs for other leading hotel brands and also knew of JSD’s reputation for managing tight turnarounds. By the following week, an agreement was in place. JSD would create an exclusive uniform range for St James’ Court that encompasses a distinctive ladies’ dress, jacket and skirt, waistcoat blouse and scarf, in sizes 6 to 16; a men’s jacket, trousers and waistcoat and tie; and a distinctive apron for the food and beverage team.

When the legendary Tata Group opened its flagship hotel The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai in 1903, The Times described it as ‘a resplendent debut’. More than 100 years on, the brand has more than 110 hotels across India and internationally – the Taj brand stepped offshore from India for the first time in 1980 when it acquired the St James Court in London. This is a discreet Victorian masterpiece with concealed charm, located close to the capital’s best known landmarks, especially Buckingham Palace. Today St James’ Court captures the sophistication of yesteryear in a refreshingly modern way, and retains many architectural details that are redolent of its illustrious past.

“We learned very quickly that the important thing with the Taj Group is for each individual hotel to encapsulate something of its identity and heritage into the uniform design,” explains JSD Designer, Rebecca Rhoades. “Our starting point was to visit St James’ Court and photograph the historic detailing and to identify architectural elements that could be incorporated into the staff uniforms, in a way that would make them truly bespoke.” In particular, the JSD team identified the iconic scallop shell design –¬ the emblem of St James of Compostela – which adorns the hotel gates to this day and inspired the coat of Arms that forms the logo of St James’ Court. It was these architectural details that became a key part of the overall bespoke design, incorporated into the luxury 100% silk scarf and ties. The peacock feather motif of the Taj hotels resorts and palaces was embroidered – subtle pale grey on dark grey – on to the aprons designed by JSD for the food and beverage team.

‘From Taj there was no compromise: they wanted the new uniform to exude quality, to be the very best they could have,” explains Vanessa Robertson, JSD Account Manager throughout the project. “There was also a client requirement for the colours and fabrics that were used ‘not to look like a standard corporate uniform’. And they asked us to incorporate gold as a colour wherever possible – on buttons, and for highlights on the scarf and ties.”

The Taj brand guidelines that had led a recent rework of the interiors at St James’ Court gave our JSD design team a steer on primary and secondary colour palettes. We worked with a supplier well known to us to create a bespoke subtle check design, and then had it woven into a hard-wearing wool and polyester blend. The client loved the fact that it was very different to standard uniform fabrics – and that the checks gave our designers the chance to create garment designs that were immensely stylish and far less pedestrian than much of the corporate wear coming off the peg elsewhere today.

We gave them a draped dress with avant-garde asymmetric detailing, and seams and folds at the neckline that pushes the boundaries for hotel corporate wear. Crisp, confident and ambitious, the contemporary styling continues for the jackets – both for ladies and men – where the fabric is cut on the bias to create visual contrast effects. This is dapper tailoring, evocative of the quintessential Savile Row look, balancing the best of traditional and contemporary. The ladies’ suit has a jacket with cinch waist and peplum, and a pencil skirt above the knee. But for designer Rebecca Rhoades it is the geometric shell designs of the scarf and tie in opulent shades of gold, teal and grey that are the scene-stealer and really lift the outfits.

A series of design choices were presented to the clients in London; once they had selected, details were amended – but with no dramatic changes, given how distinctive the designs are – and garments were put into sampling in the bespoke fabric. It was the Taj international board that gave the final sign-off. Uniforms are delivered to the hotel, which handles distribution on site, supported by JSD.

“This may be a relatively small contract for us in terms of unit size,” says MD and founder of JSD, Susanne Malim “but it is one of the most prestigious as we have sought to capture the Taj group’s passion for perfection.”