Tucked away on a quiet street behind the renowned “Marché aux Puces” flea market of Saint-Ouen, a new avant-garde hotel is reshaping the neighborhood on the northern periphery of Paris. But, more than just a chic place to sleep, Mob Hotel of the People sees itself as a movement, a utopia serving as an ethical and cultural embassy, welcoming all who pass through its doors to engage in meaningful exchanges and unique experiences.
INSPIRELLE spoke to its founder Cyril Aouizerate as Mob prepares to host its first American Thanksgiving dinner for the benefit of refugees and underage mothers in Paris.
Upon entering the Mob Hotel, you feel like you’ve arrived in an eclectic, urban oasis. An expansive, outdoor courtyard is at the heart of the premises, whose community potager (vegetable garden) is tended to by neighborhood residents. The eco-friendly lifestyle hotel features 92 colorful, minimalist rooms with Air Beds for extra guests and organic amenities. A large foosball table and long zinc bar preside in its organic, farm-to-table restaurant, made cozy by a fireplace, comfy sofas, and walls lined with thousands of books.
Since opening a year ago, this iconoclastic hotel has been a hive of activity for a confluence of global travelers and Parisians. A regular roster of live concerts, movie screenings and fitness classes, a boutique for ethical and ethnic art, fashion and jewelry, organic markets, free workshops, a co-working space for startups, and more give the place a dynamic community vibe. Mob even houses Casa 93, a fashion school for local residents.
Mob Hotel is the brainchild of philosopher-turned-entrepreneur Cyril Aouizerate, who also co-founded the hugely successful Mama Shelter hotels. Far-flung Saint-Ouen may not seem an obvious location for a new Paris hotel. But, having lived for many years in the United States, where he first discovered hip-hop and counter-culture, this urbanist sees parallels between the up-and-coming Saint-Ouen quartier (neighborhood) and Brooklyn 15 years ago.
“In the 90s, if you were in Manhattan, no cab wanted to take you to Brooklyn. Today, in New York, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island – all of those neighborhoods are on fire. This has given me a strong vision of what we can do in Paris,” he says.
“When you travel, you should have a chance to meet the people who live in the city you’re visiting,” says Aouizerate. “You don’t travel to stay in your room and watch TV.”
The challenge, says the hotelier, is to seduce guests, which he aims to do by creating a community, facilitating intense exchanges and unique experiences.
A Thanksgiving Event to Benefit Refugees and Underage Mothers
True to its spirit of community collaboration and the sharing of cultures, Mob Hotel is partnering with Every Child is a GEM, a non-profit which aids refugees, vulnerable children and widows, to host a special Thanksgiving charity event on November 22nd.
INSPIRELLE spoke with Kelly Dailey Vinoche, the American founder of Every Child is a Gem and the Dailey Method Paris, and Aline Afanoukoé, French radio and TV personality and Artistic Director for Mob Hotel, about this collaboration.
TELL US ABOUT HOW THIS COLLABORATION BETWEEN MOB HOTEL AND EVERY CHILD IS A GEM ORIGINATED AND WHAT IT WILL ENTAIL.
Kelly: It originated like everything I do, out of relationships. Aline and I became friends when she was invited to a charity class Dailey Method did with Tommy Hilfiger for Breast Health International. We then organized a charity class at the Mob Hotel to raise funds for victims of the 2017 earthquake in Mexico. During one of the classes I now teach at the Mob Hotel, Aline and I just started dreaming about changing the world together.
“For me, Thanksgiving is the most beautiful of American traditions. So we want to recreate the spirit of Thanksgiving by showing gratitude, by sharing and giving back out of our abundance.”
Guests can take a Dailey Method class at Mob and invite friends and family for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. We’re also involving local teenage international baccalaureate students as volunteers, allowing them to earn community service hours through Every Child is a GEM.
Aline: Yes, this collaboration evolved out of our friendship. As a French woman originally from Africa, all of these elements — gratitude, sharing, giving back to the community, even if it’s not much — mean a lot to me.
For every Thanksgiving Day class and dinner purchased, one Christmas Day meal will be donated to displaced friends of Every Child is a GEM and young mothers from the Colette Coulon Maternity Center for Minors at the Mob Hotel.
ALINE, TELL US ABOUT YOUR DESIGNATED CHARITY, THE COLETTE COULON MATERNITY CENTER, AND HOW MOB IS HELPING YOUNG MOTHERS THERE.
Aline: Each year, part of my job is to identify a local charity to help during Christmas. We invite these people in need to share a warm dinner around a table and make them feel at home. We provide a welcoming place for those who need kindness and support, to ensure they will not be alone during Christmas. The Colette Coulon Association protects young mothers rejected by their families.
In these difficult times, with all the challenges that women are facing today, we can’t ignore this kind of injustice. A woman who has just given birth needs support, love, consideration. As a mother myself, who has been lucky and blessed to have had the support of my family, I am particularly touched by this issue.
KELLY, WHAT’S YOUR IMPRESSION OF MOB HOTEL AND ITS CONCEPT OF BEING A COMMUNITY, RATHER THAN JUST A HOTEL?
Kelly: It feels like a dream well-being incubator. The walls and foundations are all there to foster dreams to become reality: organic food, community gardens, pop-up stores, music launches… it’s an “everything is possible” kind of place!
A Utopian Vision of Hospitality
And that’s exactly what Cyril Aouizerate wants to hear. He believes the days of hoteliers expecting huge returns without trying to create a real connection with their guests are over.
“My obsession is to create different moments where guests from around the world can have a chance to meet people from Paris, from France. We are trying to create a new paradigm, to be at the forefront of the challenges facing our society. The only way for hotels to exist is to create a unique experience.”
That’s where Aline Afanoukoé, the vivacious journalist, radio and television personality comes in. As Artistic Director, it’s her job to orchestrate memorable experiences in the Mob universe. She’s brought in an eclectic line-up of exclusive “unplugged” performances, including Neneh Cherry, Wyclef (the Fugees), Dee Dee Bridgewater, China Moses, Keziah Jones, Joey Starr, Osunlade, Bilal, Oxmo Puccino, Rossy De Palma, Zuco 103, and Gary Dourdan.
Afanoukoé says: “Our cultural programming is eclectic and rare, because Mob Hotel is not a place where people come just to sleep! They kind of live here, and they can experience things that they don’t see elsewhere.”
An Urban Living Space With a Conscience
From locally-sourced organic produce to a no plastics policy, a community garden, and holiday meals for displaced persons, Mob is committed to being an ecological and sustainable hotel that also gives back to the community.
Even if it‘s more costly and complex to fulfill this commitment, Aouizerate believes it’s essential for businesses and entrepreneurs to operate ethically and responsibly. For this philosopher-entrepreneur, it’s not just a marketing tactic, it’s part of the Mob ideology to offer guests visiting this collaborative urban living space a radically different and authentic Parisian encounter.