Glamour galore at Versace Macau hotel

Italian luxury fashion brand stays true to its signature ornate style in its Cotai project with SJM despite the overall economic slowdown

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 7:06pm

"Versace cannot be discreet," says the Italian fashion house's chief executive Gian Giacomo Ferraris.

Ferraris is in a Grand Lisboa hotel suite plopped on the sofa next to three of the brand's elaborately embroidered satin cushions. Along with designer Donatella Versace, Ferraris is in Macau for the announcement that the luxury fashion brand will be joining hands with casino operator SJM to build a Palazzo Versace hotel in Cotai.

True to the brand's signature ornate style, nothing about the day's events has been subtle. Press gathered at SJM's flagship hotel, bypassing the mainland tourists posing for photos in front of intricate gold sculptures in the lobby, and were led up a winding marble staircase.

On the second-floor ballroom, creative director Versace, wrapped tightly in a shocking lime-green outfit, toasted the partnership with champagne. Construction will begin in a few months on the 270-room hotel, which is set to open at the end of 2017.

When the South China Morning Post caught up one on one with Ferraris after the ceremony, he brushed off any ideas about cutting back on glitz and glam in this new project, the brand's first hotel in Asia.

Amid the mainland's anti-corruption drive and an overall economic slowdown, many luxury companies' bottom lines have been hurting. But the vagaries of the market will not affect Versace in the hotel venture.

"In all the partnerships for [hotels on the] Gold Coast and in Dubai and Macau, we are not sharing in any day-by-day performance," he said, referring to the Palazzo Versace hotels in Australia, which opened in 2000, and Dubai, which is due to open next year.

"We are doing the concept. In the licence agreement, we are defining and regulating the standard of the services and we receive royalties. It's profitable from the beginning," Ferraris said.

Details of the design were few but the company said it would be designed by Donatella herself and would incorporate some local flair.

Macau's gaming sector seems to be immune to any economic slowdown. Gross gaming revenue pulled in 30,737 million patacas in August, a robust 17.6 per cent increase on the year before. June and July numbers were even better, hovering at around 20 per cent.

Both sides declined to reveal budget details. But SJM chairman Ambrose So Shu-fai said the entire Cotai project, of which Palazzo Versace would take up 34,000 square metres, would cost HK$25 billion. SJM had applied for 700 gaming tables for the complex and a handful of VIP ones would be allocated within the Palazzo hotel, he said.

The hotel is not the only expansion plan Versace has for Asia's Las Vegas. The brand will add a third Versace boutique to its existing five Macau stores before the opening of Palazzo Versace. An e-commerce site for mainland customers is also set to launch in the middle of next year.

From 2010 to last year, the size of Versace's business doubled to HK$546.2 million. While its largest market is still Europe with 42 per cent and its fastest-growing market is the United States, Asia-Pacific contributed 37 per cent.

"In the first eight months, we had double-digit growth in Asia-Pacific. The strongest percentage growth in Asia-Pacific was here in Macau," the region's managing director Giuseppe Oliveri said.