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NIGHT LIFE

Where the service is uniformly fashionable

January 10, 2008|Enid Portuguez

FASHIONABLE attire is usually found at the bar, not behind it, but L.A. night life proprietors are raising the style quotient when it comes to wait staff uniforms. The rule of thumb for many after-dark establishments has traditionally been skimpy or all-black, but new bars like Santa Monica's Chloe and SBE's upcoming Foxtail are moving into contemporary fashion territory.

Chloe owners Laurie Mulstay and Ron Marino tapped L.A.-based designer Rami Kashou to design the uniforms for the waitresses and female bartenders.

"It's a great way for designers to showcase their work," Mulstay says. "The clothing we chose is what Rami's collection is about."

For the waitresses, Kashou created a charcoal tank bubble dress with a bright red sash. If it weren't for the tray topped with cocktails on their arms, they could easily blend in with the stylish patrons.

The female bartenders got an equally chic treatment with short-sleeved fitted trench blouses.

"There is a uniform feel to the overall look yet it has style and flair," says Kashou, who is currently a contestant on "Project Runway," via e-mail. "Los Angeles is a pretty hip and stylish city that should promote fashion in different areas of work."

SBE Entertainment's latest night life project, Foxtail, set to open in West Hollywood later this month, went with the British line Biba for its wait staff attire. Known for being London's "It" brand in the 1960s, Biba's gold knit mini dresses, long coats and retro prints were the perfect match for Foxtail's swinging '60s vibe.

"The decor is very rich and opulent -- Art Nouveau meets Bloomsbury -- and Biba historically and currently represents that," SBE chief creative officer Theresa Fatino says. "We wanted to have fun with it, and we wanted to take uniforms to a more fashionable level."

The trend certainly isn't new. New York City paved the way in the 1990s when hot spots Chez es Saada and Gramercy Tavern outfitted their staff in Badgley Mischka and Giorgio Armani, respectively. Most recently in L.A., Diane von Furstenberg graced the backs of waitresses at Teddy's while "Project Runway" winner Jeffrey Sebelia lent his expertise to One Sunset.

Not everyone, however, goes with an established name. After meeting with several designers, Goa co-owner Adolfo Suaya appointed Rita Burns, a stylist who had recently launched the uniform design company Mist, to construct the Indian-inspired supper club's sexy outfits. "Nobody understood what I wanted," Suaya says. "She didn't have that much experience, but she was excited. And that got me excited about it."

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-- Enid.Portuguez@latimes.com

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