The Royal Automobile Club

It was evident from the very beginning that JSD had a clear understanding of the Club’s heritage and ethos,”  – Daniel Pereira, Chief Operating Officer.

The brief to Jermyn Street Design from the Royal Automobile Club was clear: “Design us a staff uniform that captures 120 years of luxury and tradition and reflects the distinguished heritage of this world famous private members’ club – a history that mirrors that of motoring itself. Create a smart, fairly formal dress code for the staff who ensure that our members receive unparalleled service in the two magnificent Clubhouses – at Pall Mall in the heart of London and at Woodcote Park, set in 350 acres of Surrey parkland.”

Introducing this corporate clothing coincided with the arrival of a new COO at the Royal Automobile Club and an upgrade of its famous Pall Mall Clubhouse. There was also a rebrand of the historic badge logo, although the colours – deep red, Club blue and white – did not change. “The client wanted to reflect those colours and also add to them,” says JSD Designer, Lisa Cunningham-Sherret. “We met with the Club Board and senior management, who explained that it was essential their staff did not blend in with Club members, especially in the Pall Mall Clubhouse where formal suit attire for gentlemen is almost de rigueur. They also favoured military elements in the new uniform design.”

There was to be one look for staff across both clubhouse locations – that’s from the moment Club members walk in the door, through to the front of house staff, restaurants, numerous sporting and fitness facilities, spas and housekeeping. That was quite a challenge because the Pall Mall Clubhouse is formal and immensely traditional, whereas Woodcote Park (with two 18 hole golf courses) has a relaxed, casual feel. The two locations are entirely different, each with its own intrinsic and very special ambience.

 JSD met that challenge by designing a stylish wardrobe look that incorporates 28 different styles. This enables staff to select the uniform items that work best for them and for their specific job role and Clubhouse location, and gives them clear dress guidelines. In creating that vital ‘stand-out’ effect between staff and Club members, the design team explored subtle combinations of navy blue against black. That contrast effect is incorporated across all of the ladies’ and men’s tailored items: suit jackets, skirts and trousers, a dress, choice of waistcoats and coats. “Add the gold braid, hand woven badges with silver wiring and bespoke branded gold buttons we have introduced on the formal tailored items – especially for the doormen, hall porters and concierge staff who welcome guests to the Clubhouse in Pall Mall – and there are definite hints of the military running throughout,” confirms Lisa Cunningham-Sherret.

Accessories have a subtle but vital role to play in introducing the Royal Automobile Club brand colours to the new uniform. The luxury silk woven tie and ladies’ printed silk chiffon scarf both capture a representation of the original Club logo in a tonal blue. There is a soft bow blouse, worn by reception staff, in a white with blue print that was chosen to match the architectural detail of the glass ceiling in the Pall Mall reception hall. And the JSD design team specified crisp classic white shirts for men and ladies to contrast with the tailored navy and black corporatewear.

With 11 banqueting rooms over the two clubhouses, the Royal Automobile Club is famed for its impeccable standards of dining and service. The staff uniforms need to uphold that reputation. For the banqueting staff waiting at table, JSD designed a short ‘Bell Boy’ style banqueting jacket in black with a navy mandarin collar and gold bespoke buttons. In the formal dining areas and cocktail bars, staff now wear crisp white ladies’ and men’s dress shirts with winged collar and pintuck detail, a black waistcoat with contrast navy shawl collar and back panel and embossed buttons, and a long white bistro apron with the Club logo embroidered at the hem. In other less formal restaurants, especially at Woodcote Park, the white twill weave shirt or blouse is teamed with a more relaxed optional waistcoat and a bespoke navy bib apron embroidered with the Club logo.

“We went into a competitive tender process with six other companies and made it to the shortlist of two,” explains JSD Sales Director, Ann Dowdeswell. “At each stage we presented to a steering committee: Board members, the Resident Managers of both Clubhouses and the COO. It was our design concepts that really captured the Club’s vision for its new uniforms and won us the two-year contract – backed by our ability to manufacture all the bespoke items in our UK factory, to source on-brand stock items where low staff numbers demanded economies of scale, and to manage the logistics of the roll-out and ongoing orders.”

Design concepts were presented to staff focus groups and there were two rounds of sampling. “There were only minimal changes, although the base tailoring fabric did change,” remembers the JSD designer. “The first sampling was in a formal weight stiff tailoring cloth, to reflect the client’s request for a military feel. But it was too heavy and lost the softness and subtlety of the design, so we identified a wonderful Italian poly/wool/Lycra fabric with a smooth, draping handle.”

This was a time-divided launch: bespoke items in the range launched in February 2016, with stock products for small headcount roles to follow in April. For the manufactured items – phase one – the JSD team went through a full measuring exercise at both Clubhouse locations. Club staff tried on the sample uniform items and placed their orders for manufacture. Subsequent delivery was on a swap-shop basis.

“We hand delivered all the uniforms – on average 10 items to each individual staff member – in JSD carrier bags, to both Clubhouse locations,” says Georgia Thompson, the JSD Account Manager assigned to this contract. “As well as the orders, we had spare stock at both sites and supplied pop-up cubicles. Staff tried on their uniforms and signed for their order if the items fitted. If not, they requested a swap, the order was changed and they walked away with their correctly fitting uniform. This saved time and ensured we could meet the COO’s request for a step-out in full uniform by all staff at both sites on the same day!”

“It was evident from the very beginning that JSD had a clear understanding of the Club’s heritage and ethos,” says Daniel Pereira, Chief Operating Officer. “The designs presented to us, although mildly adapted over the two years in which this project was undertaken, were equally as functional as they were elegant. The rich colours, crisp lines and bespoke trimmings have been a pleasing addition to the Clubhouses and well-received by both members and staff alike. I am delighted with the result and we look forward to maintaining an effective working relationship with JSD. It certainly is a talented company.”