Kering chairman and chief executive officer François-Henri Pinault has joined the widening call for a boycott of the Sultan of Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection of hotels over the country’s impending introduction of strict Sharia law.
Pinault posted via the Kering Foundation’s Twitter account Friday, “As president of Kering Foundation, which combats violence against women, I firmly condemn the Sultan of Brunei’s decision and join the boycott of his hotel properties.”
This story first appeared in the May 12, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
It is understood Kering management will request that all group brands — which include Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Boucheron and Puma — also not stay at such hotels as the Meurice and Plaza Athénée in Paris, the Principe di Savoia in Milan, the Dorchester in London and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.
On Thursday, Hedi Slimane and Yves Saint Laurent also decried the implementation of Sharia law in Brunei and said no employee of the house would stay at the sultan’s properties until he repeals “such laws and positions that have no place in a civilized society.”
The new penal code will eventually include death by stoning for homosexuality and adultery, and dismemberments as punishment for theft.
Asked for comment Friday, Christopher Cowdray, ceo of the Dorchester Collection, issued the following statement: “While we recognize people’s concerns, we believe this boycott should not be directed to our hotels and dedicated employees. The economic impact of this not only affects our loyal team members but extends to the local community, our valued partners and suppliers.”
He continued, “Today’s global economy needs to be placed in a broader perspective. Most of us are not aware of the investors behind the brands that have become an integral part of our everyday life, from the gas we put in our cars, to the clothes we wear, to the way we use social media and to the hotels we frequent. American companies across the board are funded by foreign investment, including sovereign wealth funds.
“During this challenging time, we have been deeply touched by the tremendous support received from our loyal guests and long-standing business partners who recognize that Dorchester Collection hotels are part of the fabric of their local communities. We will continue to honor their iconic heritage and remain committed to our core values of integrity, equality and diversity.”
But the controversy only seems to have become more intense in recent days for the Dorchester Collection, which has 10 five-star locales in London, Paris, Milan, Rome, Geneva and Los Angeles. A spokeswoman for La Prairie, which operates spas in select Dorchester properties, said Friday, “La Prairie has strong core values as a brand, and looks to partner with brands that share those same values. We are in the process of assessing how we move forward in the future.”
The Virgin Group’s Richard Branson has vowed to keep his employees away from Dorchester properties. Among the increasing number of events to have been relocated from the Beverly Hills Hotel are the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s pre-Oscar “Night Before” event, the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Global Women’s Rights Awards and The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment breakfast. Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Fry and Jay Leno have also lent their support.
What appears to be turning into a publicity firestorm for Dorchester executives started two weeks ago when designers Brian Atwood and Peter Som and Decades co-owner Cameron Silver asked their Instagram and Twitter followers to stay away from the hotels. Silver, who also organized a protest outside of the Beverly Hills Hotel, was unfazed by the speed in which the situation has escalated. “In a world of social media, it happens so fast,” Silver said Friday, adding that the Feminist Majority’s support and the City of Beverly Hills’ recent proclamation were other key pieces. “Most everyone I know is avoiding the properties,” he said. “The Dorchester’s leadership has been a real failure in handling this crisis.
“We may appear to be very apathetic, but when you have a hotel company that has built its company on the backs of the fashion industry, those backs can get real rigid, really quickly, and change course,” Silver said. “It will be interesting to see what will happen if the Dorchester doesn’t have designers showing or staying at Le Meurice in Paris or the Hotel Principe in Milan.”
This week alone, the company has reportedly lost $2 million in revenue, due to 20 canceled events. Silver said, “All my sympathy is for the workers. Should it lead to layoffs, my hope is that the properties that have benefited [from the recent rescheduling] will absorb them.”
Executives at Creative Artists Agency and the William Morris Endeavor are said to have advised their clients and employees to not patronize the Beverly Hills Hotel or the Hotel Bel-Air. CAA did not respond to requests for comment. WME declined to comment. IMG had no comment. One Hollywood insider said, “We don’t have to issue an e-mail banning people from going there — no one wants to go there.”
The Council of Fashion Designers of America will not advise its members in any way. Executive director Steven Kolb said Friday, “We have no plans to communicate with members on this. It is their decision to do business or not with Dorchester, although I am sure most support a boycott.”
As a group, the CFDA, which represents 450 leading women’s wear, men’s wear, jewelry and accessory designers, will continue to steer clear of the Dorchester. “The CFDA as an organization has no business relationship with the Dorchester group and is not interested in developing one,” Kolb said.
In recent years, the Dorchester Collection has made a concerted effort to appeal to the fashion pack, many of whom are repeat customers at its two properties in Paris, Le Meurice and Hôtel Plaza Athénée, as well as the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan. In 2010, the annual Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize was created to discover emerging fashion talent. Thomas Tait, Anndra Neen, Augustin Teboul and Huishan Zhang each won the prize, which as of last year was $42,000. Fashion historian and consultant Bronwyn Cosgrave said Friday that she presented the idea of the fashion prize to the Dorchester Collection but parted ways with the company in 2012. Manolo Blahnik, Daphne Guinness, Stephen Jones, Kenzo Takada, Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, Francisco Costa, Rupert Sanderson and Elizabeth Saltzman are among those who have served as judges for the prize. And Cosgrave arranged for the selection process to be featured on an episode of “America’s Next Top Model.”