This Week I’m Wearing
Paris’ Best-Dressed Hotelier Checks Into His Favourite Spots
Mr Cyril Aouizerate takes us on a sartorial tour of the city
The hotel industry as we know it is dead. So says the Parisian hotelier Mr Cyril Aouizerate, with an echo of that other philosopher who famously declared the death of God.
“It’s over for the big, old, industrial hotel chains,” says Mr Aouizerate, who has twice changed the face of the hotel industry in his native France, first with Mama Shelter and now with MOB Hotel, his new venture based in a converted factory in Paris’ inner northern suburb of Saint-Ouen. He compares the likes of the Hyatt and the Hilton to the old armies of empire – too large and unwieldy to respond to changing terrain. “I’m more Viet Cong, an urban guerrilla,” he says.
A guerrilla he may be, but Mr Aouizerate never set out to go to war with the hotel industry. He was primed for the life of the academics, working as a lecturer after completing his doctorate on Dutch philosopher Mr Baruch Spinoza and teaching night classes to private students to help make ends meet. That’s until one such student, French real-estate giant Mr Alain Taravella, invited him to join his company.
Mr Aouizerate was able to spend a successful five years at Mr Taravella’s right hand, before deciding to start something new. He had his eye on hotels, with philosophy to the fore. “The hotel is like a microstate where you can realise your own rules: how you want to create a place, what the vibe will be, what the culture will be inside,” he says.
He co-founded Mama Shelter, the wildly popular mini-chain that offers affordable rooms in designer surroundings, based in formerly working-class neighbourhoods – eastern Paris, downtown Marseille, the old silk district of Lyon. Soon enough, the big chains came calling. When French megalith AccorHotels made an approach to buy into Mama Shelter, Mr Aouizerate decided that it was time for him to leave. He didn’t want his microstate to become a vassal state.
So, he took one of his side projects, an organic vegetarian restaurant in Brooklyn by the name of MOB, and turned it into a hotel or, as he likes to call it, an “ethical and cultural embassy”. He built it next to the sprawling Marché aux Puces flea market.
Based around a huge open courtyard, with 90 rooms and two restaurants, MOB hotel hosts regular yoga, live music and film nights, as well as a fashion school for students from the neighbourhood. One thing it doesn’t have: TVs in the rooms. That just doesn’t fit with Mr Aouizerate’s philosophy. “It’s not because I’m a Stalin-type guy – I hate Stalin – but I think being a slave to television destroys desire,” he says. “You have two days in Paris: turn off the television, go to the bar and meet people.”
Decades after leaving the academic world, it seems Mr Aouizerate has found the spirit of Mr Spinoza in his hotel “for the people”. It’s a philosophical standpoint, but it’s also a proposition for how to succeed in an industry threatened by external forces such as the rise of Airbnb.
“When you have something to share, when your background and your philosophy is real and not a fake marketing pitch, you have the chance to seduce the guest,” he says. “That guest will come back and talk about you everywhere in the world.”
“For the MOB hotel, I wanted to find a location where you can smell the vibe of Brooklyn, but in a Parisian way. For me, Les Puces was the perfect place. The neighbourhood is very artistic and cultural, hosting the biggest flea market in the world. We are not a hipster hotel. We are place for the people, by the people, with the people. We don’t care if you have a tattoo or a nose piercing, we just want to have good people, and a connection with the neighbourhood. That’s why neighbours are always invited here. With this Oliver Spencer jacket, like with the hotel, I wanted to create a worker vibe, and still be super elegant. My father was a typographer, and I was very impressed when I went to the factory – the workers looked fantastic. It was very chic.”
“I love Miznon because it’s like the food that I eat at home – Mediterranean with a zest of Israel. It’s very underground. Everything is served on paper, so some people don’t know how to eat when they get here. The service is not like in America, with a server saying, ‘Hello, how are you?’ You won’t get that at Miznon, but it’s real and raw. I’m vegan, so there are a lot of options for me here: whole roasted cauliflower, beans and sweet potatoes. I eat too much, but that’s life. This hat from Lock & Co Hatters is like a farmer’s panama hat. It’s a ridiculous dream for an urban guy, but sometimes at night I dream I’m a farmer.”
Welcome Bio Bazar
“My office is right next to this place, and I come here to find inspiration. It’s a lifestyle bazaar filled with hand-made products from France. When you come here you want to stay all day. I come and find items I don’t need, items that I will never use but I want to buy them anyway. The team are all environmental activists, they have a lot of passion. In France, when you look like me – not very slim and with a beard – and you wear a Hawaiian shirt, you look like a famous French singer from the 1970s named Carlos. It’s a constant problem for me to wear a Hawaiian shirt because everyone says I look like Carlos, but I love this one by Officine Generale, it looks great.”
“This bar was created by a friend of mine, Camille Fourmont. It’s a super tiny place to drink wine, and the atmosphere is totally unique. Camille is the incarnation of a real Parisian woman from the 1960s – she’s that girl behind the bar with a very French attitude. She’s got strong knowledge of wine, with a great selection of natural wine in particular. She’s obsessed with discovering small wineries with great stories and natural processes. I love to wear Converse because they’re so iconic. You can wear them with a chic suit or something more casual. I like this look; it’s very me.”
“I’ve been friends with owner Jean-Philippe for 25 years. We opened a live music venue together. He’s a partner, a friend, a brother. I love everything he creates, like this place with its magical view of Paris. To get to the top, you have to know the right person. There’s no entrance – even if you have the address, you can’t find this restaurant, you basically need to have Jean-Philippe’s number. When you find it, you have a 360-degree view of Paris, but you’re in the middle of the Marais. I’m usually quite casual, but to go and see my friend Jean-Philippe, I needed a suit. I found this lovely blue one by Lardini and kept my Converse on.”