Designer Branded Hotels

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about fashion brands entering the hospitality business, particularly in Dubai. The Emirate is already home to an Armani Hotel; next spring Palazzo Versace is set to open and Roberto Cavalli and Gucci hotels are in the planning stages. What are we to make of this alliance between popular fashion brands and Five-Star hotels? Is this brand alignment merely a gimmick or is there something profoundly brilliant about the concept?

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When it comes to fashion designers putting their stamp on hotels, we are of two minds. There’s the cynical view that sees this as further proof of the Kardashian-ization of our culture. While we hear people do fly to Dubai just to go shopping, for us it’s not enough; you can buy Versace anywhere. And the hotel is still in Dubai. We find it strange that Versace would override the defining attributes of this desert oasis. At the end of the day wouldn’t you know you were still in Dubai? If you’re in the hospitality industry you have to offer something about your locale to your clientele. It has to be an adventure. Someone is going there.

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But, then, we can see great potential in giving a designer the license to do something outside of their field; unconstrained by the conventional models of the industry affords them the creative licence to apply new and innovative approaches to time worn practices, services, and products. One such example of an innovative organization applying their creative wares to another industry is Porsche. The luxury performance car company now designs a range of consumer goods, including kitchen cabinets – “Porsche Design Kitchen by PoggenPohl. That might seem alarming at first but think about it. Industrial designers have a really good grasp of materials. If you can design a Porsche you can design a kitchen. And if you are Porsche you have earned the right to also abandon the usual rules, Porsche can decide if the rules don’t apply to them, they have clout. Porsche’s cabinets wouldn’t satisfy the needs of most consumers in North America, who prefer fitted kitchens. Porsche’s are very minimal and there’s not a whole lot of kitchen storage for most people. But Porsche has nothing to prove. They have their freedom, which really works in their favour. It brings innovation, a fresh perspective. Whereas traditional kitchen cabinet makers can’t abandon the rules or they’d go out of business.

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The Maserati luxury car company recently partnered with Italian furniture brand Zanotta to create a home furnishings brand collaboration.

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So allowing Versace to come in and design just might foster new thought. What’s interesting to us as architects and interior designers is we are not generally consumer product oriented. We are not against brand alignment but we do see pitfalls against brand alignment being the only thing. We think fashion designers could have interesting things to say, or bring fresh perspectives about designing a hotel.

Categories: Business of Design

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