As if fashion designers didn't have their imprints on everything these days, they have become hoteliers as well.
In a growing trend on the luxury hotel circuit, the world's best-known design names - Missoni, Ralph Lauren, Christian Lacroix - are bringing their creative processes to the hospitality world, endowing hotel rooms and lobbies with a signature designer sensibility, be that in the brightly patterned bedspreads at the Hotel Missoni in Edinburgh or the gilded formality of the Palazzo Versace in Australia.
Bangkok's newest hotel, the Sofitel So, was styled by Lacroix, whose legendary affinity with colour and luxe touches are everywhere: some of the 238 rooms have dramatic amethyst-hued walls and a single fuchsia pink rose on a table top as an accent. Lacroix worked with noted local architect Smith Obayawat to create individual floors inspired by the elements of water, earth, metal, food and fire.
The project was not the first Sofitel to benefit from a designer's touch; its Mauritius property, Sofitel So Mauritius Bel Ombre, features one-off designs from Paris-based Japanese designer Kenzo Takada. Missoni, the Milanese fashion family whose name is synonymous with zig-zag prints, own hotels under their name in Edinburgh and Kuwait. Three more are expected to open in the next couple of years in Brazil, Turkey and Oman. The family also created a special suite at the Villa Marie hotel in Saint-Tropez, throwing colourful rugs and vividly printed upholstery around black-lacquered bed rests.
Just as the Missoni interiors are about prints and patterns, the Armani Hotels in Dubai and Milan are an exercise in understated elegance. In the Milan property, which opened late last year, every detail of the 95-room hotel was overseen by Giorgio Armani. His signature is everywhere: the sleek couches in shades of clotted cream, the plush silvery rugs, the curved white lounge chairs in the spa area. He managed to maintain the same aesthete in Dubai. For many A-list designers, constructing their own hotels allows them to entertain fellow A-listers in peace and privacy. Alberta Ferretti's Palazzo Viviani in Montegridolfo, less than an hour's drive from Florence, is a magnificent 13th-century hilltop castle that Ferretti restored from a crumbling mess. She was among the first of the designer-turned-hotelier breed, having acquired the palace with some co-investors in 1988; it reopened as a hotel in 1994. The designer infused the eight rooms with her resolutely feminine and delicate aesthete, where many of the traditional frescoes remain.
There's a reason that the likes of Anna Wintour and Michael Kors like to vacation at Round Hill in Jamaica; their friend and fellow fashionista Ralph Lauren has brought his signature American chic leitmotif to the surroundings. Lauren was brought in to renovate the Pineapple House on Round Hill, a series of oceanfront villas with views of the Caribbean. Think high ceilings with louvred windows and pristine furnishings. It helps that Lauren owns a couple of villas at Round Hill for his personal use.
Certainly, most designers are not just lingering in their backyards any more when diversifying into hotels. While the people at luxury jewellery brand Bulgari have a hotel in Milan, they also own the Bulgari Resort in Bali, where the rooms have the bespoke feel of the line - interior walls are made from hand-cut volcanic stone, window and door frames shaped from an exotic Javanese mahogany. And the Palazzo Versace on Australia's Gold Coast is every bit as richly imagined as the name might suggest, all gilt and monumental chandeliers and poufy furniture. Other designer labels are staying closer to home. Cheval Blanc, the ski resort in Courchevel, France, was built by LVMH chief Bernard Arnault and has hosted the likes of Tom Ford and Naomi Campbell.
Karl Lagerfeld was tapped to redesign the Hotel Metropole in Monte Carlo, including the venue's ultra-pricey Joel Robuchon restaurant. Years ago, Lagerfeld redesigned the Schlosshotel im Grunewald in Berlin, plus there's talk of him creating a razzmatazz of a place on a private island in Dubai.
He was given 10 tonnes of Belgian chocolate by the Magnum ice cream people to create a room entirely made of the delicacy. Not surprisingly, the location is a closely guarded secret.
RELAX IN LAP OF LUXURY
Sofitel So Bangkok
This 238-room hotel is located 25km from Suvarnabhumi airport and is close to central areas, including Lumpini Park and the business and entertainment districts. Facilities include a hammam spa, solarium and outdoor pool.
2 North Sathorn Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
Tel: +66 2624 0000, www.sofitel.com
Sofitel So Mauritius
This 92-room hotel is only 1.5km from the city centre and about 40km from the airport. It is like an oasis, with a flowing stream and turquoise lagoon. Some rooms also have private hotels and children's alcoves.
Beau Champs, 0 Bel Ombre, Mauritius
Tel: +230 605 5800, www.sofitel.com
Villa Marie, Saint-Tropez
About 100km from Nice Airport, this hotel features a luxury spa, while surrounded by palm trees and a gym that opens to a sundeck. The Orange lounge features arches and Florentine painted furniture.
Villa Marie, Beaches Route, Road to Val Rian, 83350 Ramatuelle, Saint-Tropez, France
Tel: +33 04 94974022, www.villamarie.fr
Armani Hotel, Dubai
Housed over 11 storeys in the striking Burj Khalifa (more recently known as the 'Mission: Impossible building'), guests are close to Jumeirah Beach and also can enjoy soundproofed rooms, a tennis court and a Turkish bath.
Armani Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, UAE
Tel: +97 04 888 3888, www.dubai.armanihotels.com
Located on the border of the Romagna and Marche regions in Italy, and just a few kilometres away from the Adriatic Sea, this hotel can be reached by flying into Rimini, Forli, Ancona or Bologna, all 35km to 150km away. Guests don't have to venture far to experience ancient Italian architecture; the grounds are surrounded by abandoned fortresses and turrets.
Palazzo Viviani, Castello di Montegridolfo, via Roma 38, 47837 Montegridolfo, Rimini, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Tel: +39 0541 855350, www.montegridolfo.com
Round Hill, Jamaica
A 20-minute drive from the airport, this oceanfront property offers a host of resort activities, such as water skiing, sailing in glass-bottom boats and sunset cruises.
Round Hill, John Pringle Drive, PO Box 64, Montego Bay, Jamaica, West Indies
Tel: +1 876 956 7050, www.roundhill.com
Bulgari Hotel, Bali
About 20km from the airport and a 40-minute car ride to Kuta, this resort on what was once the hunting grounds of the Balinese royal family offers a collection of exclusive private villas with private gardens and a cliffside infinity pool.
Bulgari Hotel, Jalan Goa Lempeh, Banjar Dinas Kangin, Uluwatu, Bali 80364, Indonesia
Tel: +62 361 8471000, www.bulgarihotels.com
Hotel Missoni, Edinburgh
Less than a half-hour drive from the airport, this relative newcomer to the Edinburgh hotel scene is close to historic attractions and shopping. The hotel offers master cooking classes and well-priced 30-minute facials.
Hotel Missoni, 1 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland
Tel: +44 0 131 220 6666, www.hotelmissoni.com