How hotels are capturing a new designer dream
by Lois Avery
When the Versace Hotel opened in 2001 on Australia’s Gold Coast, it was billed as ‘the world’s first fully fashion-brand hotel’. Everything from the soap to the swimming pool carried the Versace stamp and it signaled the start of a travel trend: fashion conscious globetrotters paid a premium to immerse themselves in the world and wardrobes of the catwalk’s greatest visionaries.
Bulgari, Armani, Missoni and Louis Vuitton followed suit. Their exclusive properties serve as 24-hour shop windows with everything from the furniture to the fine dining carrying their ubiquitous logos.
“Hotels that bear the name of top-of-the-line fashion houses such as Armani or Bulgari are normally priced at the top end of the luxury hotel segment. ,” said Tasos Kousloglou, Senior Vice President of JLL’s Hotels and Hospitality Group. “The thinking behind it is that this type of lifestyle product can command a premium price and weather financial crisis. However, the ultimate success of such ventures long-term has yet to be proven.”
For fashion designers it’s a profitable partnership. “It’s like when designers branch out into watches or fragrances; it’s expanding their reach and it’s about brand awareness, diversification and an additional income stream hey ultimately benefit,” he adds.
“For developers, a designer collaboration requires substantial investment when every fixture and fitting of the hotel is branded. Their experimental nature often creates design, maintenance and operational challenges” says Kousloglou. And this may result in high capital, labor and fees that hinder profitability.
“Hotel developers and operators are finding it harder to differentiate themselves and such a financial commitment needs a return.”
Designed to be different
The international tourism market is more competitive than ever. The hotel industry has been racing to keep up with the demand, introducing a range of new brands to bolster travelers’ choice.
With such massive supply, differentiation becomes key.
“It used to be all about the star rating, three, four, five, but that’s not widely used anymore, particularly in China. Now it’s segmented by budget – economy, mid-scale and luxury.”
The increasing number of upscale and boutique brands competing for market share must balance the cost-efficiency of their collaborations in the face of rising competition.
Rather than a full-branded partnership, American designer Oscar de la Renta, for example, teamed up with The Peninsula Hotel group to create bathroom amenities, including a bespoke fragrance. Diane Von Furstenberg, Karl Lagerfeld and Vivienne Tam have also put their names to carefully selected corners of the hotel market, ranging from a single suite to artwork.
“What we are seeing is the lifestyle brand branch out – from fashion to more design-lead collaborations.”
Even developers are taking lessons from designers at the planning stage. Renowned architect Zaha Hadid has put her name to showpiece properties in Macau and Dubai.
The changing attitudes of millennials will drive the trend for personalization.
Haute couture may have dictated design ten years ago and fashion followers will continue to seek out designer dreams. But a new trend is transforming the hospitality industry and one thing is certain: it’s personal.