Is your hotel chic? Check the label

Published 10:13 PM EDT, Wed June 11, 2014

Story highlights

Tommy Hilfiger and Karl Lagerfeld are the latest fashion icons to turn hotelier

Lately, hotels and fashion houses are becoming more aligned

Many hotels offer designer suites and experiences to bring in customers

(CNN) —  

These days, no fashion house portfolio is complete without a hotel – or at the very least, a luxuriously designed suite.

Tommy Hilfiger and Karl Lagerfeld are the latest fashion icons to try their hands at hoteling, with Hilfiger recently purchasing Miami’s The Raleigh Hotel and Lagerfeld set to open his first branded property in Macau (albeit not until 2017).

They join the ranks of many of the fashion industry’s most iconic members, including Bulgari, Armani, Versace, and – until recently – Missoni (the Hotel Missoni brand, alas, is calling it quits).

“From a designer’s perspective, a hotel gives you complete latitude to bring their way of thinking to everything, from the draperies to the textures and colors, that’s what you sign up for,” says Nikhil Bhalla, vice president of equity research in lodging at FBR Capital Markets.

In many cases, a hotel acts as a sort of large-scale designer showroom. Armani Hotels, for instance, are outfitted with furnishings from Armani Home, ball gowns accentuate the décor at Milan’s Maison Moschino, and no suite at Bulgari Hotel is complete without the brand’s signature silver.

“Hotels are a great way to showcase the design identity of a brand, and to project a lifestyle that goes beyond products,” notes Silvio Ursini, the executive vice president of Bulgari Hotels & Resorts.

Or, as Bhalla puts it, “the handbag experience has extended itself into a lifestyle experience.”

Hotel brands are just as eager to align themselves with a fashion brand (even if they don’t hand over the reins completely). When they’re not tapping big-name designers to decorate their suites, hotels are conjuring up fashion-led experiences to entice customers, be it a Burberry trench coat-loan program or same-day delivery from Net-a-Porter.

“For the consumer, who probably already likes the brand, these experiences are an opportunity to experience it at a higher level; it helps them bond with brand a little bit more than they would have before,” explains Bhalla.

It also offers the customers a consistency that they might not otherwise expect from a hotel room.

“When a woman comes to us for a dress, she knows she’s going to look gorgeous and glamorous – that’s what we do. When she stays in our suite, she’ll know the same design levels went into making the space,” notes James Mischka, half of the design label Badgley Mischka, which designed a 1,700-square foot suite at The Breakers Palm Beach.

Branding a hotel suite with a fashion label also helps it attain an extra level of exclusivity. Bulgari Hotels, for instance, mimics the exclusivity of its design brand by limiting its room count.

“There’s always a scarcity value attached to these types of offerings, and at no point does a brand want to dilute that,” explains Bhalla.

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