What do Versace, Christian Lacroix and Ralph Lauren have in common (besides presumably impressive walk-in closets)? They all have hotels—and they’re in good company. The Italian fashion houses of Missoni and Moschino will both open fashion/hospitality hybrids this year in Milan. Giorgio Armani recently announced ambitious plans to build branded hotels in New York, Dubai and London. And Versace will add a second resort to its empire this year in Dubai (naturally).
From the whimsical styles of LaCroix to the classic lines of Lauren, how does the spirit of fashion translate to the guest experience? We went to several industry experts for their thoughts on the parallels between these design worlds and the growing presence of fashion hotels.
Style guru Todd Oldham believes that clothiers have a sensitivity to the body that is often overlooked in interiors. “Fashion designers are more sensual in their approach as to how to ‘wear’ a room,” said Oldham. “They’ll design rooms that people look good in, as opposed to rooms people litter by being in.”
A crossover designer himself, Oldham transitioned from the runway to the reception desk when he designed The Hotel in South Beach in 1999, which he describes as both conservative and bawdy: “The tenets of design come from the same place,” he said. “I like to ask myself: Who's joining me here? How can I make this the most lovely experience possible?”
Buick Audra concurs. A New York-based designer and stylist whose clients include Joss Stone, Alison Krauss and Rachel Hunter, Audra is also a strong proponent of the holistic approach: “I am of the mind that all art is related,” she said. “Especially when you get into visuals that all break down to balance, color, texture and structure.”
Her taste runs towards the “modern funhouse effect” of Christian Lacroix’s Hotel du Petit Moulin. “I would absolutely choose a hotel based on its fashion influence,” said Audra. “Design of a space contributes so greatly to how you feel in that space. To be able to express a vision on such a huge scale has to be thrilling for such visionaries.”
Fashion is business, of course, and a well-designed hotel can act as a live-in portfolio. “A designer hotel acts as a great branding tool for a major brand that seeks a new audience,” said Brandusa Niro, Editor in chief of TheFashionWeekDaily.com. “A hotel is a great way to open up an old-school brand to the new and the young.”
A guest at the Palazzo Versace, for example, will be immersed from floor to ceiling in the Versace lifestyle—linens, rugs, cutlery and toiletries are not only part of the experience but of course also available for purchase at the on-premise Versace boutique.
Fusion of new and old elements is a recurring motif with fashion designers, who often give classic silhouettes new twists in a clothing collection. John Rocha’s Morrison Hotel in Dublin is an exercise in sleek reserve in every way that The G is not, using mostly neutral tones and organic shapes (despite being set within the façade of an 18th-century mansion).
“A hotel by a fashion designer is a great way of expressing the brand philosophy and the lifestyle that a designer sees behind the clothes,” said Pia Catton, a seasoned fashion reporter and author of the book “White Shirt.” “The Ralph Lauren sense of interiors is very comfortable and what you want in a hotel is to feel comfortable and at home.” Lauren has been visiting Round Hill Hotel in Jamaica for over 20 years and is a partial owner. A recent $6-million renovation was largely dedicated to redesigning the guest rooms under Lauren’s direction.
Another modern classic, Oscar de la Renta, brought a casual version of his couture elegance to the villas and rooms at Tortuga Bay in Punta Cana on the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic. Tortuga Bay is the first Dominican hotel to be included among the elite Leading Small Hotels of the World. “The de la Renta home line is elegantly tropical,” said Catton. “I think it would give you a wonderful feeling of being in Cuba in the ’50s.”
The only question left: what on Earth to pack? Read on to enjoy a list of 10 hotels brought to life by leading fashion designers.