​unlikely obsessions: christopher shannon and alex polizzi from the hotel inspector

In an ongoing series of interviews, i-D talks to all manner of creative and interesting folks about specific things they love which you somehow wouldn't expect them to love.

by James Anderson
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Apr 15 2015, 12:03pm

Designer Chris Shannon has achieved considerable success with his eponymous, London-based menswear label, launched at the end of the last decade. His confident use of print, color and texture - underpinned by keen-eyed references to popular culture's better bits - ensures commerciality and credibility in equal measure. He is also known for his appreciation of influential individuals whom - in decades past and present, in different ways - have expanded the possibilities of style: the designer Helmut Lang, stylist Judy Blame, model Leslie Winer and singer Neneh Cherry, for example.

Chris now reveals to i-D another much less 'fashiony' person who nonetheless fascinates and inspires him, prime time television presenter, Alex Polizzi: the famously firm-but-fair overhauler of awful hotels and ailing businesses, in Channel 5's The Hotel Inspector and BBC2's The Fixer.

Do you watch a lot of telly, Chris?
No, not really. I used to in my last relationship. I find TV quite depressing and it was one of the reasons I didn't want to be in a relationship anymore. My parents also always hated the TV, my mum got rid of ours when we were about 13, then I just started listening to music and going out. I also always mute the adverts, I can't stand the thought of all that shit going into your head. The only things I watch now are anything with Alex Polizzi, and also First Dates, also any David Attenborough and I'm also prone to a little bit of Judge Judy.

When did you first become aware of Alex Polizzi?
I can't remember now. I remember the old Hotel Inspector [Ruth Watson] and not really being that into her. I think my first impression of Alex was when she'd arrive at a hotel and have dinner and she always seemed to be a bit pissed, in a nice way. I just remember thinking she knows what she's doing and she looks like a good laugh. She also had that hilarious oversized Birkin bag. She has a no nonsense approach, which I love. I'm constantly amazed at what people think good decisions are, or people's idea of a nice time.

Off the top of your head, what do you know about Alex's background and off-screen life?
I know she's Italian, from the Forte family, and her husband and her have a bread company and that her parents still own hotels. I'd think she really enjoys a drink but still gets up for a run the next day, which has been something I've been aiming towards for a while.

In the past you have enthused about certain stylish women like Neneh Cherry, or Lesley Winer... Alex seems so different from them. What's her appeal to you?
I'm not sure she is that different. I suppose the person she is closest to in a way is Louise Wilson. It was amazing to see Louise try and explain the simplest common sense to someone and them be completely baffled by it, and watching Alex I get a similar feeling. I love anyone that enjoys moving things forward and making them better - I'm always better at editing and re-shaping my friends' work than I am with my own. I think its really rewarding to help develop a business, or a collection, and to push people to achieve more than they think they can.

How would you describe her sense of style?
Oh, I think she's really hot - it's a confidence and a wit, isn't it? Someone enjoying their work and their life and not taking the TV thing so seriously. Also, she can flirt with anyone, not in a tacky way but in a really endearing way. I think that's always appealing. And let's face it, it really helps get the job done.

If you were styling her, how would she look?
I think she looks great, although it would be ace to shoot her - I think she'd look super in that last Miu Miu collection or some vintage Alaïa.

Alex has been described as a sex symbol and people seem to interpret her as some sort of tongue in cheek dominatrix. What do you think about that?
I think it's a bit annoying, that for a woman to be in her position on TV makes her into a dominatrix... isn't that quite dated thinking?

Have you ever invited her to one of your shows?
I think I have invited her, yes, but she's yet to rock up.

I read there was once a fire at her hotel, early in the morning. She called the fire brigade then cracked open a bottle of champagne while waiting for them to arrive. Discuss….
I'd be the same, backstage at a show. I can't stand hysteria when you could be drinking.

Have you got a favorite episode of The Hotel Inspector or The Fixer? One in which Alex is really tested to the max?
I liked the recent one on The Fixer, with the tea shop. I share her sense of frustration. It's similar to a lot of things I have to deal with - when someone shows you a prototype and you're thinking, "Do you think that looks good? Then why are you showing it to me?" The work is not really the problem, it's the people that fuck it all up.

Any favorite one liners or catchphrases of hers?
I watched, "Well, the decorator needs bitch slapping!" quite a few times. And I do love an exhausted, "Reeallly Darling?"

She seems quite bossy and posh. Do you think you'd get on with her if you two met?
I don't think of her as either. I think she's direct, bright and really witty. I think we'd have a scream, I'd love to work with her on a hotel project. I love people skilled at editing through all the shit and getting the work done. 

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Text James Anderson