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Des Garçons de Café: Bringing Fashion to Restaurants

23 September, 2015

Joan Camacho, founder and CEO of Des Garçons de Café

Joining cuisine with fashion is the goal of Des Garçons de Café, a company that  has been designing and producing restaurant uniforms across Spain since 2008.

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Creating pieces that everyone wants but are designed to be worn by restaurant personnel is the idea that has guided Joan Camacho’s work since the early days of Des Garçons de Café, the company he founded seven years ago and which is going from strength to strength after renowned restaurateurs and chefs have turned to him to design the uniforms for their waiting staff.

El Celler de Can Roca, twice chosen the world’s best restaurant by British magazine Restaurant and the recipient of three Michelin stars, is one of his latest customers. “We are working on a design based on materials with a strong link to the restaurant’s history, which we aim to convey through the clothes. I am very excited about it. I put love and a  great deal of energy into all of my client’s projects, but when they are locally based I get especially excited,” Camacho explains.

This is not his first collaboration with the renowned Roca brothers, having worked with Josep, Joan and Jordi Roca before, when he designed and produced the uniforms for  the waiting staff at Mas Marroch, a private events venue the family firm runs. “For that project we created djellaba-style long coats because we needed something highly practical the young catering staff could wear and thought of a single three-quarter-length piece for male and female staff alike with very straight, clean lines. The material used was polyester, because it is very practical and doesn’t wrinkle. The waiting staff  looks impeccable. The personnel are very happy with their uniforms,” he says.

Camacho places just as much importance on the opinión of the people who will ultimately wear his designs as he does on what the customer thinks. “We all want to be well-dressed and waiting staff are no exception. We want people to think we look good and when it comes to putting on your work clothes it is very important that you like them. This is the concept we are trying to change and it’s why I am so keen to talk to the staff. They have a 50% say in the decision about the design I propose, because they know whether the clothes will work or not. Of course I’m not talking about costumes here,” he says, in reference to the lines that define his work.

The designer’s proposal is for ‘restaurant’ and ‘fashion’ to trip off people’s lips together. “I want the fashion concept and image to be transferred to the restaurant sector. When I design, I’m not thinking about the tray or the plate. The clients have to see the   catalogue and find the clothes that have a wow factor for them,” explains the founder of Des Garçons de Café. Camacho chose the name to convey the essence of traditional French cafés and the country’s gastronomic roots. Parisian chic and the importance  placed on image are part of the customer’s experience in a restaurant establishment. “Our idea is to innovate constantly and underline the fashion component in the clothing. But our first priority is to ensure that the personnel who have to wear our uniforms feel comfortable and think they look good, because this not only shores up the restaurant  but also the people who work there. If you feel good about yourself, you’ll feel good with the people around you, too,” he says.

Camacho’s designs were first commissioned by the owners of high-end restaurants. “That doesn’t mean they’re the only people we work with, but we did focus on these  clients as they see themselves as providing something in addition to their service and food offering. They have a vision of the whole of the project they are running”. In short, the firm’s clients are characterised by making a strong commitment to image and taking care of every brand detail. With menus running to more than €150, Camacho says, “it is very important to provide added value to the customer experience beyond the product  and to consider the environment in which the meeting occurs.

“We were worried the designs wouldn’t go down well if we did anything too creative and unusual for the sector,” he confesses. However, the reality proved very different. The enthusiastic response to Camacho’s creations boosted demand among other restaurateurs to unite fashion and culinary experiences. One good example is the restaurant DiverXo, run by the well-known Madrid-based chef Dabiz Muñoz, with three Michelin stars. For this company, Camacho designed uniforms inspired by a straightjacket. “He was after something outlandish and we threw ourselves into delivering what the client wanted. It certainly got people talking!” he says.

Now Des Garçons de Café is setting its cap at reaching “all the customers of medium- and top-end restaurants” and therefore expanding its list of potential clients. “It’s true that our designs, which we weren’t sure would do very well, firstly attracted Michelin-star clients. That took us by surprise and marked the road we had to follow,” he says. The future involves continuing to shore up the concept of fashion he proposes with his  designs. “I am keen to innovate in the fashion sector. Even though my designs aren’t  made for the public at large, I want them to have an impact on the fashion sector. That’s why it’s important to become more and more creative and to deliver apparel that  verybody would like to have, not just people who work in the restaurant trade,” he says with passion.

Camacho has been involved with the sector for 10 years. Before founding Des Garçons de Café, he worked for a fashion firm that sold its designs to multibrand stores. “That was when I saw the need to include the trend concept into restaurant work clothing, which led to the current project,” he explains. But Camacho was going into a sector he knew nothing about. “It’s true, I’d never worked in it but I told myself ‘it’s still clothes’”. From that point on he began to study the sector’s needs and the type of textiles he could use. He says given the function of uniforms, they have to be practical and easy to clean.

‘Creative Reasoning’ was the name of the first collection, which Comacho describes as “very minimalistic and pared down in terms of design”. This successful starting point encouraged him to continue to ramp up the creative and trend factor in restaurant-wear. Today, Des Garçons de Café, which has an exhibition room in Barcelona, comprises a team of four people and has a workroom in Montigalà. “We produce and design everything here, of course,” he says.

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