Folowing the opening of the first Versace hotel, Palazzo Versace on Australia’s Gold Coast more than a decade ago, an increasing number of luxury fashion brands have ventured into hotels – Armani, in a joint venture with a UAE based developer; Missoni, in a licensing agreement with Rezidor Group (Radisson Hotels); Maison Martin Margiela with a signature interior design of an entire hotel.
In 2010, LVMH, the owner of Louis Vuitton, announced the development of a hotel chain, bearing the name of Cheval Blanc, the group’s first hotel, in Courchevel. The second Cheval Blanc Hotel is scheduled to open in Paris later this year, but it remains to be seen whether LVMH will implement the same strategy to vividly involve several of its fashion brands either through a retail presence at the hotel or through marketing, mostly catwalk shows and events. In 2012, luxury crystal and glass specialist house of Baccarat announced the opening in New York of its first hotel.
While in the case of fashion brands with dedicated home collections (Armani, Versace), the diversification into hotels seemed more sensible as it would promote their products, for other brands such as Moschino or Maison Martin Margiella, hotels are more a design statement, aiming for increased awareness from a creative point of view. In many cases, fashion houses did not realize that by opening hotels they would kindle the highest expectations for consumers, not only from an aesthetic point of view but also from a service point of view due to the ”automatic” luxury positioning, because, afterall, hotels cannot be showrooms of furniture or artistic installations. Therefore, luxury travellers stepping into an Armani or a Versace hotel expect the same service they would encounter at a Four Seasons or a Ritz Carlton. That is why, I find Fendi‘s approach most feasible, only providing furniture and interior design furnishings for various hotel chains, without branding any hotel as Fendi.
The real opportunity for luxury brands from other sectors to diversify into hotels lies in reflecting and thus, reinforcing, the lifestyle component of the brand. That is why, I appreciate the approach of luxury brands such as Bottega Veneta which has been creating one branded suite in a luxury hotel, without tying up exclusively with one hotel chain (there are 3 such suites in St Regis Hotels and one in a Park Hyatt Hotel). With only one such suite in a hotel, the highest level of desirability and exclusivity is achieved. But mention should be made that Bottega Veneta’s venture has also been secured by opting for top luxury hotel operators.
In May 2004, Bvlgari became the first jeweller and watchmaker by opening its first hotel in Milan, under a partnership with the Marriott Group, which would be responsible for the operations of the hotels. A second Bvlgari Hotel followed suit in Bali and the first Bvlgari Restaurants opened in Tokyo and Osaka. Until the recent opening of the Bvlgari Hotel in London, the Bulgari Hotel brand had been lacking a clear identity and the reasoning behind a jewellery house opening a hotel.
The Bvlgari Hotel in London is the first Bvlgari Hotel which truly captures the lifestyle DNA of the Bvlgari brand, providing an authentic experience, both in design and service. From my recent stay at the Bvlgari Hotel in London, I have felt and experienced the defining of the Bvlgari brand which the hotel successfully captures.
Creativity through audacity: the hotel boasts a contemporary style, ahead of its time – sleek black and grey marble, rife with stainless steel elements, including the staircase leading to the restaurant and an entire bar
Innovation: the hotel boasts a luxurious private cinema, with the most advanced technology (4k) among any private cinemas in London; a cigar lounge (unique among luxury hotels in central London); geo-thermal technology for power generation, in addition to other sustainable efforts such as a “green roof” and electric car charging points
Personal and intimate: much like a shopping experience at an exclusive jewellery store, the entire hotel has a deep residential feel – there are no revolving doors at the entrance like at most hotels; butlers provide a most discreet and efficient service, with a very personal touch; the very location of the hotel inspires a residential feel (in the heart of London, steps from Harrods – the Bvlgari is on a small street, virtually behind Knightsbridge)
Timelessness through solidity: it is the first newly built luxury hotel in London in over 30 years- the engineering and construction are impressive, with a most solid structure, which includes a 2.000 sqm SPA with swimming pool at a -5 level
Quality of materials and finishes: the best quality marble, exceptional steel finishes and the finest textures (linen, carpets, curtains etc)
Italian heritage: interior design elements including an in-room minibar resembling a suit trunk; food & beverage features – pastry, main restaurant menu, gourmet delicacies in the mini-bar; lacquered-wood on walls, resembling the interior of a yacht; hand made Italian leather interior furnishings (business desks in rooms; all furniture by B&B Italia
Glamorous moments: tasting some of the world’s finest spirits at the hotel’s Bar (most of the brands discountinued); savouring an Italian cappuccino with Italian pastry at the loobby lounge by the fireplace; taking an aromatherapy green tea scented bath in the privacy of your room or suite (Bvlgari signature green tea scented candles, incense and bath salts as a tea infusion; walking through Hyde Park (steps from the hotel), watching your favourite movie at the private cinema of the hotel or endulging in the thermal experience of the huge vitality pool
Oliver Petcu in London
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