All Dressed Up: The Newbury Wardrobe and a Conversation with Barbara Bell

Founder and Creative Director Barbara Bell shares the design journey of creating The Newbury Boston’s wardrobe from inspirations from Boston’s rich history to the modern heritage of The Newbury.

March 17, 2021

When Barbara Bell, founder and creative director of Bell Uniform Design, walked through Boston’s storied streets and through The Newbury’s bronze doors and Portoro marble frame, she knew the design of The Newbury wardrobe must embody the city and hotel’s history with a contemporary twist. Working with long-time collaborator, Mario Carbone, this custom wardrobe features comfortable and durable designs that associates truly want to wear. Through intricate style and design choices from textiles to stitching, modern heritage is infused into every piece.


With appreciation for your years of artistry in fashion design, specifically in the hospitality industry, what were your thoughts when first approaching The Newbury Boston’s uniform designs? What about the hotel’s architecture, legendary history, color palate and overall feel inspired you?

After visiting Boston, the property, and talking with the team, it was clear that we needed to create a program that celebrates the hotel and Boston’s history while incorporating contemporary style. We focused on classic silhouettes and neutral base colors, but worked in pops of color, through patterns and accessories. Throughout the program you will see how we use pinstripes, plaids, bows on blouses and elbow patches which were inspired by Boston’s collegiate nature. 

Thoughtful design is a beautiful process from start to finish. What contributes to a completed hotel’s fashion design from the initial sketches to final fittings? What did the process specifically entail for The Newbury Boston?

The process of developing a design program for an entire hotel is time intensive. It requires multiple rounds of design deck review before we move into the sampling. We had multiple in person presentations to review samples on models until every detail of the program is finalized. Finally, once the order is placed and produced we install the program at the property, ensuring every employee is fitted in the right uniform. 

One of the most important aspects of a successful program is the relationship we have with our clients. 

The entire Newbury/Highgate team has been a delight to work with. They have been extremely collaborative, which always makes projects more successful and enjoyable. From the executives down to the employees, their passion for this renovation and reopening has been evident from the very beginning.

We’ve also had the pleasure of working with Mario Carbone on a number of his projects. Mario has a vision for each of his venues and is passionate about design and every detail for the stories he creates, which includes the hotel uniform designs. He played a large role in bringing this program to life. 

What is your approach on choosing the perfect textiles for each individual brand you work with? How did you determine what fabrics, colors, stitching were the best fit for The Newbury’s wardrobe?

First and foremost, we talk to our clients about their vision, we review the details of the interior of the space like colors, textures, upholstery. We then design a program using fabrics, textures, colors that blend seamlessly into the overall vision, but are also durable and functional for the jobs the employees have to do. We don’t want the uniforms to clash or make such a big statement that it overshadows the space. The space and the hotel uniforms designs should be perfect complements. 

First impressions are everything - and these designs undoubtedly will be the first for many guests of The Newbury. What do you wish for these uniforms to convey to The Newbury’s guests?

When guests first see the employees, we hope that hotel uniform is not the first word that comes to mind. Rather, we want guests to see employees in well-tailored, high quality clothing. Suiting that is elegant, classic and beautiful. Something that they would want to wear themselves. The garments are an extension of the modern luxury guests will experience during their stay. 

The Newbury adores calling Boston its home. I have to ask - if Boston were a style, how would you describe it? 

Timeless. Boston is a city with one of the richest histories and that history has been preserved so well overtime. From the cobblestone streets, to the Victorian architecture, to The Boston Public Garden across from the hotel, every corner you turn you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time. My design aesthetic is heavily focused on creating programs that are classic, custom, elevated and timeless.  

Every little touch contributes to a story. - the devil’s in the details, as they say. Could you explain to us the importance of a hotel uniform to completing this story, and specifically for The Newbury’s story?

Each associate from bellmen, to front desk, to servers and room attendants interacts with the guest in some way or another. Many of these associates have been with the property since it was The Ritz. They are passionate about providing guests with the best experience and need to look their best when doing so. As you mentioned, details are such an important part of The Newbury Boston story so we made a special point to incorporate some small, but unique details into the uniforms: Epaulettes on The Street Bar bartender jackets, custom Newbury “N” buttons on the suiting, a custom branded label inside suit jackets, and a classic bellhop hat. We want employees to feel comfortable in their uniforms, but we also want them to feel proud to wear them.

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