Luxury hotels regularly throw out their used linen – should we wear it instead?


Sam Rice

Sun, 16 October 2022 at 6:30 am

Saving the planet in your sleep: a pyjama set made from recycled bedsheets (Hermit London)
Saving the planet in your sleep: a pyjama set made from recycled bedsheets (Hermit London)

Every nine months or so, five-star hotels throw away their crisp, ultra-high thread count Egyptian cotton bedsheets. Aside from small blemishes or a slight tear here and there, they’re almost pristine. But they’ve also been slept in by probably hundreds of other people by the time they get thrown out. Would you wear them to bed?

“I’ve had people come up to me and be like, ‘eugh, I’m not sure about that’,” says Ella Campion, a 26-year-old designer who uses second-hand bed linen from London’s most luxurious hotels and transforms them into pyjamas and nightdresses. The majority of people she’s talked to have embraced the idea. “I didn’t really know what the feedback was going to be, but mostly it’s been unbelievable.”

We’re sitting in a café in a quiet part of Paddington, around the corner from her parents’ house. Campion is currently squatting with them while she does her master’s degree in sustainable textile design. She practices what she preaches when it comes to sustainability, dressed in a cosy white wool cardigan that her mum used to own.

Sustainability is also the reason she set up her company, Hermit London, in July last year. She wanted to make clothes that didn’t contribute to the relentless cycle of fast fashion, and thought about different ways to upcycle materials. “How I make something out of cotton that’s already in existence”, she tells me. “I thought more about our relationship to domestic textiles … What’s the turnover of bedlinen and table linen in the hospitality industry? What happens with that? Is that another industry that’s being super wasteful?”

She was right. Robert Lancaster, a supplier to luxury hotels, told her that the industry has a big problem when it comes to sustainability – the problem being that if someone is paying through the nose for a perfect night’s sleep, chances are they’d expect a pristine bed. As such, bedsheets in top London hotels have a lifespan of less than a year. “Then they get thrown out because standards are so high and hotel rooms are expensive,” she says. That means any minor pull, fray or stain is enough to warrant its binning.

So far, Campion has no horror stories of sheets stained with blood – or worse. “I haven’t actually received any really, really bad sheets. That’s what’s been amazing. I was expecting them to have fake tan all over them. Blood or something. Actually I’ll get them [sent to me] and open them and be like, ‘What’s wrong with this? I can’t see anything.’ [It’s] like one tiny thing in the corner.”

Reassuringly, she has a rigorous quality control process, with all fabric personally inspected by her. Once she receives the sheets she maps out any imperfections – perhaps a droplet of coffee – and attacks them with bleach. Any spot that can’t be scrubbed or mended simply gets cut around.

The finished products are gorgeous sets of pyjamas and nightdresses. They’re trendy in a vintage kind of way, designed as they are with big collars, puffy sleeves and scalloping on the collar. Campion’s nightdress design, in particular, would not look out of place among the grasses and wildflowers of the American prairie. For the record, they’re also spotless, and their softness truly does conjure up nights at the Ritz.

It’s hard not to get caught up in her enthusiasm. Every step of the way she is thinking about how to produce her clothes more ethically, how to improve her process. So far, the sheets are stitched in Somerset, while even her labels are made in Leeds using recycled materials.

She’s also right in that we could all make more of an effort to be less reliant on fast fashion: it’s responsible for nearly 10 per cent of carbon emissions, 20 per cent of global wastewater and 10 per cent of micro plastics – not to mention the tens of millions of tonnes of clothing which end up in landfill every single year. The industry also has a high social cost, which Campion saw for herself when visiting textile factories in Mumbai. They were often the very same factories supplying clothes to some of our most familiar high street brands.

“Seeing the conditions – like, one loo, the smell, the temperature – was excruciating,” she recalls. “The only person who had a fan was the manager in his office. He kept lying to us… Nothing was adding up.”

Designer and Hermit London founder Ella Campion (Hermit London)
Designer and Hermit London founder Ella Campion (Hermit London)

She wants to make a difference in the world. “It’s about building a healthy system, which in turn feeds into a better made product. And it is better environmentally and socially, obviously.” She’s not the only one. A growing army of designers are putting ethically conscious fashion at the heart of their brands. Some have scientists in their design teams, such as Pangaia, a company which creates entirely new materials for its clothes. Another company, Paynter, makes jackets that have a wholly transparent production process, meaning you can be sure of no nasty or unethical surprises.

“I’ve got friends who work recycling duvets, recycling old shirts,” Campion adds. “It’s just so cool. There are so many different ideas [happening] and I think Covid just gave everyone the time to explore [them]. Something like a simple jacket can have such an amazing story behind it, and [that] means you want to keep it.”

So maybe it’s time to put a new spin on a familiar phrase: you mustn’t judge a bed by its cover. The idea of reusing materials may take some getting used to, but it makes complete sense once you think about it. Thanks to Campion, we can now do planet-saving work literally in our sleep.

Published by anthonyhayble

I AM A PROFESSIONAL BLOGGER WHO BLOGS ON EVENTS, NEWS AND CELEBRITY ACTIVITIES. YOU WILL GET THE LATEST BLOGGING UPDATES WITH UP TO DATE NEWS AND EVENTS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU. COMMENTS AND LIKES ARE ALSO WELCOMED. I AM STILL IN THE PROCESS OF BUILDING AND UPDATING MY BLOGS AND IT WOULD BE UP AND RUNNING SHORTLY. THIS IS STILL A NEW SITE AND WILL GREATLY IMPROVE WITH TIME

%d bloggers like this: