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New York’s Fasano is understated, eye-wateringly expensive and members-only. Photo: Fasano Fifth Avenue

Accommodation so exclusive, you might not know it’s there: why the Fasano in New York is nothing like the original in São Paulo

  • The flagship Fasano hotel in São Paulo is bright, shimmery and unforgettable. The New York Fasano is so exclusive and discreet, you wouldn’t know it was there
  • With zoning rules strict it bills itself a members-only club – not that there are any yet. But the rooms don’t look suited to the long-term residency it offers

The Fasano flagship in São Paulo is an unforgettable hotel. Its entryway, just off the luxury retail corridor of Rua Oscar Freire, is sheathed in up-lit wood panelling that shimmers like gold. Inside, masculine leather chairs and a geometric lattice ceiling create a uniquely Brazilian expression of mid-century design. Bossa Nova plays in the bar, where dressed-up mixologists shake caipirinhas with stylish swagger.

It’s no wonder that decades into its existence, Fasano’s glamorous reputation remains untouchable in Brazil.

Now all of that is coming to New York, where the brand has opened its first North American outpost. But chances are, you won’t be able to see any of it for yourself.

There, in a genteel mid-rise on Fifth Avenue between 62nd and 63rd streets, Fasano is ditching its winning formula. There are no towering golden letters proclaiming that you have arrived. Silent is any chatter from executives striking deals and shoppers comparing their five-figure hauls. Gone are the passers-by waltzing in for a quick drink before dinner. And no, it’s not because of Covid-19.
Fasano’s glamorous reputation remains untouchable in Brazil. Photo: Shutterstock

Instead, the entryway bears a discreet numeric address on a traditional residential awning (815 Fifth Avenue), blending in with the luxury co-ops on either side.

The lobby is minimalist, with space for just two tobacco-leather armchairs across from a marble-topped check-in desk. And the only people allowed in are members of an exclusive new Fasano club, hand-picked by the brand’s corporate team and an army of public relations experts.

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Fasano Fifth Avenue is such a radical departure from the brand’s roots, it might not even be considered a hotel at all. The 14-storey building’s certificate of occupancy allows for residential condominiums and non-transient hotel use, limiting Fasano’s legal ability to make its accommodation available for bookings of less than 30 days.

“We are seeing that more and more, our clients want to stay in boutique and small properties and also ones that are very exclusive,” says José Auriemo Neto, chairman of Fasano’s parent company, JHSF Participações, which operates high-end retail and restaurants throughout Brazil.

To stay in any of the hotel’s seven clubhouse suites and four flat-like duplexes, all designed by French architect Thierry Despont, you have to either be a Fasano club member or be invited by one.

Fasano Fifth Avenue is such a radical departure from the brand’s roots, it might not even be considered a hotel at all. Photo: Fasano Fifth Avenue

Fasano has listed on sites such as StreetEasy and Christie’s Real Estate for “both long- and short-term stays starting at 30 days”.

Prices are listed “by request” online. Pressed for a figure, Fasano reps quoted a soft opening rate of US$100,000 a month for a duplex. 

That same eye-watering price can buy you monthly rights to a furnished five-bedroom penthouse in the city’s Chelsea neighbourhood with full concierge and floristry service – and budget to spare. It doesn’t even cost six figures to get a sprawling top-floor unit a few blocks further up Fifth with a wraparound terrace and personal sauna. 

In duplex dining rooms, a custom green-textured wallpaper is intended to evoke the lush, green foliage of the Amazon region. Photo: Fasano Fifth Avenue

For what it’s worth, the rooms are sumptuous. The duplexes make for beautiful three-bedroom flats of around 3,600 square feet (334 square metres) and even have a washer/dryer.

Ten-foot (three metre) walls are sheathed in taupe Loro Piana cashmere, oak floors feature a wide herringbone detail, and the furnishings – which vary from room to room and include mid-century pieces from owner Rogerio Fasano’s personal collection – are mostly made of wood as a subtle nod to the Amazon region.

West-facing rooms have views into the Central Park Zoo (you can view the sea lions while sipping coffee) while eastern exposures mostly peer onto tony Upper East side streets. (A few overlook a modest, as-of-yet lacklustre courtyard.)

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Still, none of the clubhouse suites are designed as long-term residences. Each is a single room. Kitchenettes include a minibar fridge with little space to deposit personal purchases; a two-burner electric stove means guests could conceivably make quick meals and enjoy them on a coffee table or in bed.

Without even a door to separate sleeping from the sitting area, the larger ones are glorified studios; the smaller ones are your typical New York hotel room, with little space to lay out your luggage.

Beyond the 11 suites at Fasano Fifth Avenue, there’s not much to see. On the fifth floor, a fitness centre with two treadmills and a stationery bike connects to a small outdoor terrace where Andrea Natal, the general manager, intends to add a gazebo for outdoor spa treatments. And downstairs, the all-day dining concept Baretto New York – where the menu will skew Italian – offers seven lounge-like tables hidden behind an inconspicuous, jet-black door. A private owner’s triplex fills the top floors.

West-facing rooms have views into the Central Park Zoo. Photo: Fasano Fifth Avenue

It’s a confusing business plan, given the hospitality and private club landscape in New York. Never mind the other problem: the US$150 million new-build project is finished and ready to go, but lacking in members to fill it.

“Everyone is suggesting names” of people to invite, says Natal, including owner Rogerio Fasano and a number of public relations agencies. Membership is expected to be one-third Brazilian, one-third from New York, and one-third that’s otherwise American. Among the latter two groups, there will be a focus on Brazilian expats. 

“Brazilians will love to come here, and they will be most our clientele,” says Natal. Beyond that, the company hasn’t been able to identify a clear demographic or target audience it’s seeking.

Beyond the 11 suites at Fasano Fifth Avenue, there’s not much to see. Photo: Fasano Fifth Avenue

Membership clubs have become a smart business strategy, given that dues generate stable income and provide resiliency in tumultuous times. But for at least the first year, Fasano Fifth Avenue membership will be extended free-of-charge – and it may never cost a penny. 

“We are not looking for membership fees,” says Neto, adding that the hotel will drive revenues.

It’s unclear what the annual dues will be at Aman New York when it opens with its own membership club this spring. Members there will be allowed into a range of common spaces, including a 25,000-square foot spa and jazz club. (Aman will also make money from condo sales and hotel rooms that are available to the general public.) At Fasano, however, there don’t seem to be many membership perks beyond access to the rooms or the small restaurant.

Whatever Fasano Fifth Avenue ultimately turns out to be, Neto is bullish on wanting to extend it well beyond New York, “in cities like London, Paris, Miami or Los Angeles”.

In the meantime, Natal says that by starting slow, the venture will have “time to make sure everything is in order”.