When Hotel Missoni opens its doors in Edinburgh, Scotland, in early 2009, lovers of the Italian fashion house's signature zigzag prints will be afforded the chance to sleep on Missoni-initialed sheets, eat off of Missoni plates and even swig a cocktail at the Missoni bar.
Talk about branding. Missoni is just the latest fashion company to jump into the hotel business. Since 2000, more than a dozen designers have either partnered with a hospitality company to co-brand a new property or signed on to redesign the interiors of an existing hotel.
"In the last five or 10 years, fashion designers have begun to understand that the best way they can increase business is by recreating themselves as lifestyles brands," says Lucian James, founder of Paris-based brand consultancy Agenda. "They have to find other ways to build revenue in an increasingly competitive global marketplace."
Belgium-based Rezidor Hotel Group, which inked a licensing deal with Missoni in 2006, plans on opening a second hotel in Kuwait City around the same time that the Edinburgh property opens its doors. All in all, the partners aim to open 30 hotels within the next decade.
Rezidor won't reveal the fiscal details of the licensing agreement, but it's safe to say the Missoni brand wasn't cheap. For instance, when Giorgio Armani S.p.A. announced in 2005 that the lifestyle brand would extend into a chain of luxury hotels, resorts and condominiums, it also announced that the venture would be backed by a $1 billion investment from Dubai-based property developers Emaar. The first hotel will be in the Burj Dubai skyscraper, which is set to be the world's largest tower once it's completed in September 2009.
Gordon McKinnon, executive vice president of brands at Rezidor Hotel Group, says the hospitality group sought out a deal with Missoni because this particular fashion brand comes with an established amount of customer loyalty—and because of the glamour, of course. Those who want to live the Missoni lifestyle can now do so, even if it's just for the weekend—they don't have to spend thousands of dollars redecorating their own homes to do it.
McKinnon also says it's easier to woo investors when they're already familiar with the brand. "It takes you to market so much quicker," he says. "Because they know what the Missoni label looks like, it's easier to envision what the hotel will look like."
The executive says that it also cuts down on the "fermentation" period, or the time when customers get to know and trust a hospitality chain. If the guest loves Missoni's famous prints before entering the hotel, there's a chance they'll love them when they leave—as long as the service is good, which is where Rezidor's experience comes into play. Established in 1960, the company operates 320 hotels in 50 countries, and has been awarded everything from AAA five diamonds to Michelin stars.
Catching on quickly
It seems that every month another designer or fashion house enters the hotel business. Just this past July, fashion czar Karl Lagerfeld signed up with Dubai-based investment company Dubai Infinity to design a hotel and 80 residential villas as a part of Isla Moda in Dubai, dubbed the "world's first fashion island." Targeting the world's creative community, Isla Moda will also feature design studios and spaces created for large-scale fashion events.
But unlike Lagerfeld (whose versatile, timeless tweed jackets and little black dresses for Chanel please all walks of fashionista), some designers are more polarizing. If wearing gold lame Versace leggings doesn't appeal, how would sleeping in a gold brocade-covered Versace bed?
James says that the impermanence is what makes these experiences attractive. "If you're on holiday, it might be more exciting and fun to be in a [flamboyantly designed] hotel. It gives it personality," he says. "I'd probably want to live in the [understated] Armani hotel, but visit the Versace Palazzo."
© 2012 Forbes.com