Hôtel Vetements: Upcycling at its best


By Flor and Cesta

This week’s inspirational story comes by way of an interview with the founder of French brand Hôtel Vetements, Alexandra Hartmann. Hôtel Vetements is upcycling at its best; Hartmann creates handmade clothing from discarded curtains, mainly from hotels in Paris, to create unique and timeless pieces in true Parisian style. The whole philosophy behind Hôtel is to embrace the imperfections of the curtains; every fabric and every piece is unique and is hand made in the same studio in Paris Belleville.

alexandra hartman-hotel vetement

Upcycling is becoming an increasingly popular past time among those concerned about climate change.  Recycling is great but it requires energy and resources to collect, sort and process unwanted items and waste.  Upcycling is an even greener way of recycling; you find a new purpose for your unwanted items and reduce your waste output.  It’s all about taking what would ordinarily be disposed and creating something new and useful. 

Hartmann says, there is an inherent poetry to the collection; each garment containing so many stories. You cannot help but imagine what these former curtains have seen and heard. We interviewed the creative mind behind the brand to understand her inspirations as well as get her take on the fast fashion industry.

What was the inspiration for Hôtel Vetements?

I studied film and later fashion design. I soon realised that I had chosen to work in an industry that was one of the most polluting worldwide. For me, it´s not just about designing and making apparel; the world really doesn’t need more clothes. Today you can’t just be a fashion designer, it’s imperative to think about the impact you have on your surroundings. So, for me, being a designer also means coming up with solutions. I like that kind of challenge. 

I retrieved the first set of curtains from a hotel in Paris that was throwing them out; that’s also how the name for the brand came about. The fabric and the pattern were unique and I made a reversible, light weight jacket from them. From the same set of curtains, I also made another jacket for a friend.

I guess it’s fair to say I’ve always had a small obsession with curtains. HÔTEL transforms high quality curtain fabrics into uniquely crafted statement pieces. There is a kind of poetry in the fabrics that I try to reuse. I often think of everything that these curtains must have seen and heard. I always imagine that these conversations and stories are still there somewhere in the curtains.

I like the improvisation imposed by a recovered fabric. Some are worn out, imperfect and that’s what makes them interesting to work with. Each of our designs adapts to these imperfections; either by circumventing them or by highlighting them. I like to offer products that look a bit like humans; imperfect yet beautiful nonetheless.

Going back to the “solutions” part that I believe is part of my role as a designer; I thought this was a nice way to, on the one hand, keep something unique and on the other making something completely new.

What does the future look like for Hôtel Vetements?

I want “HÔTEL” to travel to different cities and to have different themes but for the production to stay local in the same studio in Paris. Mass production has never been part of the idea. The entire production is local from start to finish, from the fabric to the buttons (some of which date all the way back to the 1940’s). Every curtain is handpicked with the intention of creating something special. I want it to stay that way.

hotel vestments pic of curtain coat

What is your take on the fast fashion industry?

For a long time, we’ve been so used to getting everything we want, when we want and for the cheapest price possible, never thinking about who is paying the price for these low-cost garments. Nobody thinks about who is at the other end of the supply chain. You buy something cheap to get an instant fix, like fast food, and then you quickly get bored of it, see something else and buy that, get bored of it, and so on. Manufacturers know how consumers’ brains work; therefore, they always push you to by the latest and greatest even though what you already have is working just fine. This is what’s called perceived obsolescence. There is of course an alternative to this way of thinking and these days, more and more, people are looking for uniqueness and authenticity. For items that you can use for many years. 

If you could say one thing to all the CEO’s of fast fashion retail brands what would it be?

The fashion industry can’t continue to function like it has previously; it needs to become transparent. I think that’s the most important concept; transparency. I would say to them that people need to know where the clothes they buy come from, where they’re made and how they’re made. Consumers also need to adopt a less is more attitude.

A more concerned industry with less focus on capital gains and more on value and authenticity with a sustainable transparent approach is the only viable long term way forward.  

Thank you so much for talking to us Alexandra, your collection is gorgeous and the story behind it beautiful. It truly is an inspiration for would be up cyclers and fashion lovers alike. We can’t wait to see how Hôtel grows. 

Take a look at the Hôtel Vetement collection

If you’re interested in  upcycling, you may also be interested in this article

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