One of the pleasures of staying at a luxury hotel is enveloping oneself in the comfort of a cushy, fluffy bathrobe. In fact, a bathrobe is a key touch point that can embody a hotel’s location, design, and point of differentiation.
“We make a decision on how thoughtful an experience is through our senses. With textiles as a whole, whether we are conscious or not, we judge how intentioned the experience is based on how we feel. Intention is a key element in the selection of a robe,” said Simon Marxer, director of spa and programming for Miraval Group.
Many credit Kimpton Hotels with pushing the hotel bathrobe forward fashion-wise. Prior to the introduction of the Hotel Monaco brand’s leopard-print design in the early 2000s, bathrobes tended to be pretty traditional.
“Hotel robes were white terry and that’s all you found. One size and style fit all. But Kimpton never had a one-fits-all mentality,” said Diana Martinez, Kimpton’s senior design director.
During the past 15 years, Kimpton has added other styles and designs to its growing portfolio of hotels. First came the introduction of zebra and giraffe prints, all in terry cloth. Soon thereafter, according to Martinez, Kimpton started experimenting with different cuts and materials.
“We use a hand-dyed shibori print at Kimpton The Buchanan in San Francisco’s Japantown as a nod to the local community’s artistic heritage. At our resorts, we have Turkish bath-inspired robes, with lighter, breathable material,” said Martinez.
Where it fits the design aesthetic, like at the Kimpton Gray Hotel in Chicago, unisex robes in herringbone reference menswear. In its North Carolina hotels, seersucker robes pay homage to the traditional summer Southern suit. In Philadelphia, the inspiration is Rocky. A boxing-style robe, sporting grey sweatshirt material with a terry lining, and topped by a hood, is knocking out guests at the Hotel Monaco.
While Kimpton was the first to experiment with fabric, others are now following suit.
“In the last four to five years, the trend is going against the terry robe. Hotels that don’t have facilities in-house pay by weight for laundry. And since terry robes are bulky, it takes 40 minutes to dry them. That’s compared to 15 to 19 minutes for microfiber robes, which are plusher and elegant and hold up to commercial laundering,” said Larry Egbert, national director for spa and wellness for robe supplier Urbana.
Another advantage of using microfiber is that it washes at a lower temperature and doesn’t wrinkle.
For Miraval, the energy savings involved with low temperature washing and quick drying play a big role in robe choice.
“In practicing thoughtful sustainability, we look at the energy consumption involved with laundering,” Marxer said,
He added that robes also have to be durable, as they are washed at higher temperatures than sheets. As a result, robes undergo endurance testing to ensure they retain “a soft and appealing appearance and feel,” even after months of washing.
Changing up from the traditional white terry robe is also a matter of enhancing the brand. Matching robes to a hotel’s aesthetic is becoming increasingly important.
“We are a design-led brand, so we need to make sure the touch points the guests have reflect that,” said Kimpton’s Martinez.
It’s also smart publicity in the Instagram age. “Robes are one of our top five buzzed-about amenities (others are décor, wine hour, bikes and pools). The majority of robe mentions come with a picture, which is a big differentiator. When guests post something about the robes, they almost always take the time to stage a shot that showcases them in a great playful way,” said a Kimpton spokesperson,
Another advantage to jazzing things up revenue. “If you can sell robes at retail, you are off-setting the robe budget,” said Egbert.
So, adding interesting elements like piping, hoods or embroidery can increase the chances of a souvenir sale, which means the brand experience can continue after the stay.
No matter how fashionable they are, why is it that hotel and spa bathrobes seem made for giants?
According to Egbert, hotels opt for a one-size approach to make restocking “simple, fast and easy. [And since] they feel like America is getting bigger,” that one size is usually large. However, he noted that women rather than men tend to more frequently wear bathrobes, assuming the average user wears a large size may be misguided.
Miraval is on top of that fact, with robe ordering done in a more customer-centric fashion. “We try to do a bit of a bell curve when it comes to ordering sizes.” said Marxer. “In our setting, we see a lot of women, so the midpoint of our bell curve is more likely to be medium rather than large.”