PARIS — One evening in 2015, Hugo Matha was having a drink at a café, telling a friend that he wanted to design uniforms. A man sitting nearby overheard the conversation and came over to ask him who he was.
They exchanged details — the other man, Jacques Oudinot, was already tapped to be the director in charge of operations of the Hôtel de Crillon, owned by the Rosewood hotelier group, whose renovation was well under way but many months away from completion. The deal was sealed not long after.
At the time, Matha was already making a name for himself in accessories, thanks to his treatment of the clutch as an objet d’art, mixing Plexiglas with exotic leathers, flexible stone or precious woods. The son of winemakers from the Aveyron region in central France, he studied women’s wear design at the Duperré school in Paris before friends convinced him to launch a brand based on the accessories he’d presented alongside his graduate collection.
Soon, a cadre of influential wearers were carrying them. Retailers were supportive: Colette stocked him from his first season and Moda Operandi selected him for a trunk show. Matha was nominated for the ANDAM awards in 2015 and 2016, as well as moonlighting as an accessories consultant for several well-known brands.
His selection coincided not only with his desire to design clothes again, but also with the hotel’s ambition to become a true hub of Parisian life. “[The hotel] is part of Paris and embodies Paris in a way, too,” Oudinot said. “It made sense to highlight French design talents, like Hugo.”
Matha has designed 90 garment variations — including tuxedos for women, the blue worker’s jacket made famous by late photographer Bill Cunningham and a never-seen-before belt-bag — for the 400-strong staff who will be on hand from July 5, when the Hôtel de Crillon reopens after its four-year renovation.
“The hotel is such an iconic landmark in Paris that I wanted to do an homage to French style,” Matha said in early June, amid racks upon racks of new garments freshly delivered by French high-end uniform manufacturers Chic at Work.
More often seen a simple black T-shirt and impeccably cut denim, the designer was wearing black wool trousers, a crisp white shirt and a bow tie designed in collaboration with Parisian neckwear brand Cinabre — the uniform of the brasserie’s servers.
Oudinot couldn’t resist trying on a sleeveless double-breasted seersucker jacket that will be seen on the bartenders. Both looked ready to step out for a night on the town.
“The clothes were designed as elegant everyday Parisian fare, not just uniforms,” Matha explained.