Fashion-branded hotels are the ultimate indulgence for brand conscious people who have no qualms to embrace their designers’ vision-not just by wearing their clothes but to live, breathe and dream in their creations. Australia’s Palazzo Versace Queensland was the world’s first fashion-branded hotel, which opened in 2000. Opulent, glamorous and over the top, it is true to the brand and a testimony that fashion can dabble into the hospitality world.
Since then, many have popped up in the major cities of the world with Armani hotels in Milan and Dubai, Bulgari in Milan, Tokyo, Bali and London, Louis Vuitton Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives and Missoni in Edinburgh. Now in its ninth year of construction, Donatella Versace’s Palazzo Dubai is one of the most anticipated hotel openings of 2014 promising its fans a complete Versace Lifestyle. Boasting 169 condominium units and 214 hotel rooms, the designer promises a complete Versace experience that “expresses the exuberance of the Versace soul.”
Ferragamo is also no stranger to the hotel industry having opened six hotels in succession since 1995 in Florence and one in Rome but under a different name - Lugarno Hotels. Their latest hotel is the Continentale in Florence. Despite this subtle approach, people still refer to them as the, “Ferragamo Hotels.” Other hotels have joined the bandwagon albeit on a smaller scale, with Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Dior and Diane von Furstenberg creating designer suites for large hotels.
Bottega Veneta has taken a different approach by creating one branded suite in top luxury hotel operators such as the St Regis Florence and Rome without the hassle of tying exclusively with one hotel chain. By doing so, they have successfully created a niche and most significantly, made their suites highly exclusive and desirable. Loyal patrons of Bottega would not be disappointed as the suites mirror the brand’s style of “quiet luxury.” The furniture is in neutral or soft-colored and the signature intrecciato nappa is evident in the leather covered frames and desktop accessories. The furniture, fabrics and accessories in the suites are from the brand’s collections while the carpets, television console and mini bar are handpicked and specially designed for it.
Bulgari and Armani in contrast, are more adventurous and ambitious in their foray into the hotel industry. Silvio Ursini, the executive vice president of Bulgari Resorts and Hotels said that, “Hotels are a great way to showcase the design identity of a brand, and to project a lifestyle that goes beyond products.” This is hardly surprising as luxury brands need to reposition themselves, find new customers and move away from their historical product and geographical boundaries. The challenge is to find a delicate balance between being true to their brand and creating something new. Armani and Bulgari have the perfect solution - they claim that their hotels are managed by outside professional managers, and they are only in charge of making the hotels beautiful. Armani has tied up with the Emirates-based Emaar Properties for their flagship hotel in Dubai at the Burg Khalifa while Bulgari Hotels and Resorts is a joint venture between Bulgari and the luxury division of Marriott International.
While it makes sense for a fashion brand to tie up with a hotelier, one also must be aware that consumers these days are highly educated and cultured. After all, in the service industry, “everyone knows you are only as good as your last customer thinks you are.” Thus, if a hotel merely exudes a brand’s superficial characteristics, especially in its visual aspects, consumers will see through it easily, more so when they are paying a premium above other top hotels.