The era of Hotel Merch is upon us
Legendary hotels offer glimpses of unlived lives. Check into the Ritz Paris, for example, and you’re a French anti-heroine – the Marquise de Merteuil, perhaps, or Madame Bovary has made it. Stay at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles and you’re a sleazy ingenue, recovering from a wave of publicity while chain-smoking like it’s 1999. At the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, you become Talitha Getty. And posted to the Carlyle? You are one of Truman Capote’s swans, going to meet him for lunch – and an eternal skewer – at La Côte Basque.
Like the best novels, the best hotels are portals for fantasy and escape. Is it any wonder, then, that fashion designers, another group of professional dreamers, are also followers of the world’s most iconic hotels? Whether finding inspiration in remote locations or finishing a collection with a bang in the days leading up to a runway show, designers have long pledged allegiance to the power of controlling shots to turn creative potential into reality.
And now many have the chance to show their devotion. When the pandemic closed hotels around the world in 2020, throwing many of their futures into question, one solution to the existential crisis of zero visitors was for the hospitality industry to enter its era of merchandising. And who better to help a hotel release limited-edition tracksuits than the designers who love them the most?
One of the prime examples of this interdisciplinary lemonade made from lemons was LA-based label Frame’s collaboration with The Carlyle and Ritz Paris. “The idea for our collaboration was born at the start of the pandemic, when we couldn’t visit our favorite places, like the Carlyle,” explains Erik Torstensson, co-founder and creative director of Frame. “We’ve always emphasized classic, timeless style, which is exactly what The Carlyle stands for.” Thus, they released a capsule made up of two sweatshirts and a baseball cap bearing the hotel crest. The drop was so successful that an extended second line soon followed, including t-shirts, shorts and joggers. Maybe not exactly what Slim Keith would have worn to meet Capote, but the collab is perfectly in line with the timeless and clean aesthetic of the Upper East Side, not to mention the avant-garde athleisure spirit of Bemelmans’ New Generation Z Fans.
A European iteration of the Frame collaboration soon followed, featuring the newly renovated Ritz Paris. The 22-piece collection was inspired by the hotel’s past and present clientele, an illustrious list including Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It includes a Ritz-emblazoned cream tracksuit (very Coco), a varsity jacket (a la Fitzgerald), and a water bottle (for Hemingway’s scotch and soda, maybe?). The collaboration has been doing great business since its launch in 2021, with devotees ordering a piece of Place Vendôme on their doorstep from across the ocean.
Other designers also throw their trademark hats into the ring. Hollywood, the world’s largest dream factory, owns several properties that are now moonlighting as fashion brands. Among these is the Sunset Tower, an Art Deco masterpiece famous for its ice-cold martinis and the pairings made on them, which has collaborated with sportswear line Sporty & Rich on tracksuits, t -shirts and hats. Sporty & Rich founder Emily Oberg has loved the hotel since her early days in Los Angeles and created the line as a tribute. “The jazz band, the candlelit tables, the palm trees, the way the pool glows at night against the Los Angeles skyline — to me, Sunset Tower is quintessential LA,” says Oberg. And now that the hotel is open again, it’s easy to imagine even the most glamorous guests throwing on one of the matching sets (with a few diamonds and a tan, of course) for exactly the kind of dinner you want. Oberg remembers so well.
Far from the city centers too, the designers are putting their talents to work for their favorite properties. At Rosewood Le Dix Little Bay in the British Virgin Islands, Edie Parker has created a collection of bespoke games inspired by the flora and fauna surrounding the property, as well as the hotel’s ethos of disconnecting from technology in order to reconnect with his traveling companions. (If you can’t bond over a game of technicolor Tic Tac Toe in a Caribbean shack, where can you?) cheery swimsuits, cover-ups and matching sets, all hand-crafted. handmade in Brazil by craftsmen friends of the designer.
It’s telling that many of these collabs feature the tracksuits and household accessories that have become hallmarks of years of home confinement. Only time will tell if designers and hotels will continue to produce collections now that hotel doors have largely reopened and their restaurants have restocked. Will Gucci join forces with Château Marmont to offer its ingenues a minidress and platforms for late evenings on the terrace? Would the Ritz Paris one day work with Chanel to create a prom dress? In the meantime, these partnerships have already given us what suits them best: comfortable clothes to put on before falling asleep with your own life, temporarily within the walls of another.