If you’ve grown weary of the high-end boutiques and celebrity fitness centers in West Hollywood, visit Schaeffer’s Garment Hotel, a custom retail and repair shop on Sunset Boulevard for connoisseurs of denim and vintage apparel. Its owner, onetime motorcycle racer Robert Schaeffer, opened for business in 2009. “I grew up in motorcycle racing, and all the racers used vintage leathers and bikes,” Schaeffer said. “Throughout my teens to adulthood, I had started buying and selling vintage items, mostly 1940s to 1960s motorcycle jackets, leathers, and boots. Vintage denim was always too expensive for me to buy and wear, so that was always a piece of the puzzle that was missing for me.”
While working as a denim repairman at a friend’s shop in Los Angeles, he decided to venture out on his own. “I came to the conclusion that I wanted to start a denim brand that had denim from Japan, which is where I saw the best quality come from, and create the fit for the everyday guy who wants to wear his jeans daily. In designing my store, I chose a Victorian Texas style aesthetic, from furniture to wall color. I wanted people to feel like they were in a private family store where they could hang out and be at ease.”
It wasn’t easy to start a new business in the middle of a recession. “I had no backing money and no credit card,” Schaeffer said. “I trusted the man above and went for it. It was very scary my first few years, but I kept tight and only used extra money to grow the manufacturing repair area, along with more fixtures and inventory for the store. I had to be specific on what I bought, from denim to vintage, ’cause I could not afford to buy junk.”
Using heavy, raw denim from a mill in Japan, Schaeffer’s Garment Hotel denim jeans, which cost from $245 to $295 a pair, are made on-site, right above the shop. And if you bring in a beloved old pair of blue jeans or a leather garment, you can get it repaired or altered any way you like. The store also carries hats made by Hollywood haberdasher Gunner Foxx.
Schaeffer is very serious about denim. He suggests washing your jeans with Dr. Bronner’s castile soap with the machine set to delicate. “Pull from the washer before it does the spin cycle,” he advised, “and then shake out and hang. When the jeans are 90 percent dry, grab them and put them on to allow them to re-fit back to your body.”
Asked to choose his ideal client, living or dead, Schaeffer replied, “Dead would be Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Heath Ledger, Steve McQueen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Paycheck, Levi Strauss. Living would be anyone who appreciates what we do.”