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When people find a great new restaurant, they rave about the food, wine and decor. Rarely do they go away and say the uniforms worn by the staff were just as impressive. Chef Gordon Ramsay and L.A. movie designer Allison Leach are changing that, and diners at his new Gordon Ramsay Steak in the Paris are giving great reviews to the sexy outfits worn by the waiters and waitresses.
Allison is not my ex-wife, nor a sister or cousin -- pure coincidence that she’s also British and came from the same area of England as my father. But she does have the same eye for the sleek, sexy look.
“I was approached by the hotel and restaurant team as a Hollywood costume designer,” Allison told me. “Jeffrey Fredrick and Terrence O’Donnell wanted to execute their vision of unique, conceptual uniforms. They wanted a custom approach to push Las Vegas uniform design to a new level of fit, detail and mood -- to achieve a visual spectacle within a functional uniform, a look worthy of the food.
We approached the uniforms like a chef approaches good food ... classic and fresh elements, all from scratch. It turned out to be a very unique project, so much so that Mandel Enterprises in Los Angeles manufactured all the designs with enthusiasm for this project that felt more like a fashion collection than a traditional uniform order.”
The assignment for the “Hell’s Kitchen” chef didn’t scare Allison. She was determined that he’d love them without any savage criticism: “I am always most inspired by the past and historical Hollywood and trend-setting cult shows. I call my ruling aesthetic ‘Innovative Nostalgic.’
“We were inspired by British TV and films from the late ’60s and early ’70s, like the original ‘Avengers,’ ‘The Prisoner,’ ‘The Sting’ and 007 himself. Contemporary British fashion icons like Kate Middleton, David Beckham and, yes, I’m referring to her as quasi-British, Madonna inspired us.”
You get a good idea of Allison’s look with this YouTube video of the designs she executed for The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers.
Allison, who is credited for the retro designs of AMC’s award-winning “Mad Men,” the new First and Hope supper club in downtown L.A. and The LXD, added: “My forte and love is designing for dance. I’m always thinking, ‘Can they move their arm? Can they lift their leg?’ And the same approach went into the Gordon Ramsay outfits. They need to be functional but also exquisite. All through college, I waited tables, so I know what would work and wouldn’t. Even pockets and waistbands are perfectly sized to help them with wine openers, notepads and more.”
I asked Allison to run down the six outfits she created for Gordon:
The male server at GRS is “a gentleman at your service. The silhouette is meant to evoke a three-piece bespoke suit from Savile Row in classic British banker navy pinstripes. We strictly enforce the double Windsor knot on a full-bodied tie a la 1970s Robert Redford or contemporary Tom Ford. The two-toned, satin-faced cotton shirt feels high-class British and welcome in Vegas by the likes of Robert De Niro in “Casino.” All uniform patterns are inspired by historical silhouettes from the 1920s through the 1970s.
The female server vest is basically a man-styled version of an under-bust bustier. The women’s high-waisted, flared pants are inspired by the sexy, powerful lines of the 1940s and 1970s. This design emphasizes the feminine form within the frame of classic masculine suiting.
The angular apron that buttons directly onto the shirt is based on a 1910s British butler apron that you see in the British hit TV series “Downtown Abbey.”
We call this “Proper Greeting, Exciting Seating.” It has a Money Penny propriety and a provocative reverse side ... with the featured red zipper and red French-heeled shoes to match the chunnel entryway of the restaurant in candy apple red. The hostesses wear a pocket watch pendant engraved with Gordon’s knife pirate logo to remind us that the trains and tables run on time.
Oxblood satin elastic suspenders, metal sleeve garters and wallet chain beer openers finish this look with class -- plus, muscle.
The fabric of this dress is inspired by the high gloss subway tiles of the London Underground. We call it the wet look because it feels like a lustrous wet suit with a superhero-like, painted-on fit. The effect is demure, chic like Kate Middleton and sexy, powerful like a Bond girl. The seamed stockings and seamed net sleeves evoke historical lingerie.
Over dinner with Gordon at GRS, he told me: “It turned out to be exactly what we wanted. It’s the perfect complement to the overall vision of food and service that can’t be beaten.” My full interview with Gordon will be posted soon.
Allison summed up: “We worked hard to achieve a look that was wrapped in high-class sex appeal without being a skin parade. It’s titillating but contained -- and thus perfect for Las Vegas. We wanted to leave the audience/clientele wanting to see more, not less. It commands respect, yet still inspires desire. These ladies look like they might pack a dagger in their garter belts. I like to emphasize the power and danger in the feminine. This works with the spirit of chef Gordon Ramsay: Genius, craftsmanship and perfection can come with teeth and bite.”
It’s a winning mix of fabulous food, dazzling decor and creative costumes. Little wonder Gordon Ramsay Steak has been a smash hit from the day it opened, with people booking three weeks in advance and lining up nightly in hopes of securing a last-minute table.
Watch for Gordon to officially announce his second Las Vegas restaurant very shortly -- just across the Strip from the first.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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