Allison Leach works as a costume designer in Los Angeles. She dresses actors, characters and now restaurant servers.
Leach created the uniforms worn at Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas. It might seem like a departure from what she's used to doing, but it turned out to be surprisingly similar.
"The goal is the same," she says. "We're trying to transport an audience. We're trying to create an experience for them."
Celebrity Chef Ramsay wanted guests of his restaurant to feel like they just stepped off the train in London. Once Leach heard the concept, she was off and running. For her, simply designing clothes according to what's pretty or hot that season has never been enough. She needs to know precisely who will wear the clothes before she can get inspired to dress them.
That explains why she assigned "characters" to the faceless hostesses and servers for whom she was designing uniforms. The former would be known as "proper greeting, exciting seating" as demonstrated with turtlenecklines and a red zipper down the back of her dress. The latter became referred to as "gentleman at your service," which cuff links, adjustable suspenders, sleeve garters and a pen on a chain, instead of a pocketwatch, reflected.
"So they can take your order and be available right way," says Leach. "It's a very High Street British look."
One of the first things that comes to mind when she thinks of London is the tiles in the subway stations. She kept with that thinking for the cocktail waitress uniforms that feature a light-reflecting fabric unlike sequins, Leach says, and more like those shiny tiles. Mesh sleeves and a line down the back of sheer stockings make for very little exposed skin, but the overall look exudes sex appeal, something Leach sees as a personal design triumph.
Her love for dressing characters started at an early age. She studied drama at the University of Washington and pursued a master's degree in fashion and textile design in the Netherlands and Paris.
Her work as a costume designer has taken her from assistant designing on the set of "Mad Men" for three seasons to designing the opening act of the Glee Live tours to working on the digital series "LXD: The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers."
The creative fulfillment she gets from film and stage productions happens just before the camera starts rolling or seconds before the curtain opens. When directors and stagehands are bustling about, getting final details prepared for the lights, camera and action, she's trying to decide whether this hat or that hat is the perfect topper for the scene.
"Because that's the collaborative part," she says. "Watching on screen is the lonely part, the self-criticism part."
For her uniforms at Gordon Ramsay Steak she's getting fulfillment knowing they will last far longer than just one take. That, she says, is largely thanks to the manufacturing company, Los Angeles-based Mandel Enterprises, and the tailors who work in Paris' wardrobe department.
Normally, Leach's production work doesn't get much interior attention. It's the outside that matters. Since these uniforms would be worn for many years to come by many different Gordon Ramsay Steak employees, the quality had to be pristine, inside and out. The wardrobe department, she says, made beautiful seams that in turn will make for simple alterations.
When she made her final presentation to Ramsay himself, Leach was pleased that he found a strong Bond quality throughout, referring to the navy pinstripes and the women's uniforms as very "007."
"I wish I could remember everything he said that day," she says. "I was just glad he was smiling and nodding."
Contact Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.