Hotels Welcome Apparel Alliances

Giorgio Armani, Bulgari and Versace have gotten into the hotel business, but designers at other brands are collaborating with hotels on smaller scales.

Giorgio Armani, Bulgari and Versace have gotten into the hotel business, but designers at other brands are collaborating with hotels on smaller scales.

This story first appeared in the December 4, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

French designer Pascal Humbert has worked with architect Philippe Starck to design 80 uniforms for the first SLS Hotel, which is slated to open in Beverly Hills in July. The collection includes a dress with a surrealist design for a receptionist and a waiter’s uniform with a built-in apron. Humbert has created more approachable pieces in line with his philosophy that “the hotel staff are a real family, while the customer is like a cousin coming to pay a visit.”

Not wanting to be involved with anything that is remotely “tacky” in terms of hotels, Nicole Miller has figured out a way of addressing the segment through its licensing deal with suit maker Bagir, said Bud Konheim, Miller’s president and chief executive officer. Bagir plans to sell the designer’s suits to Cintas, a powerhouse in the uniform business for hotels and restaurants. Bagir’s washable suits should be a natural fit for the hotel industry, Konheim said.

“We only want to do something if it is high-end. That rules out a lot. We’re not interested in the Red Roof Inn,” he said. “We have just moved into higher ground,” Konheim said, referring to the designer’s emphasis on her signature collection.

The Luxury Brand Group, which consists of W Hotels, the St. Regis Hotel and the Luxury Collection, recently appointed an advisory board of apparel industry insiders and notable tastemakers. Together they will help with LBG’s creative programming and strategic marketing. Aside from providing the prerequisite feedback about marketing and programming, each brand ambassador will meet quarterly with LBG’s president and chief experience officer Ross Klein to discuss trend forecasting, potential partnerships and luxury service standards.

Yeohlee Teng; Michael Kors’ fashion director Anne Waterman; makeup artist Bobbi Brown, and Breitling USA president Marie Bodman will represent the fashion crowd on the board. Other advisory board members include art consultant Joyce Varvatos, Epic Records president Charlie Walk, architect David Rockwell, interior designer Clodagh, event designers Antony Todd and Preston Bailey, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Academy Award-nominated set designer Lilly Kilvert, “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio and LBG’s Klein.

Reem Acra also went the hotel route when courting Argentinian media last month. She chose to set up a makeshift showroom stay at the Alvear Palace, a hotel known for its ties to the local fashion community. The Buenos Aires property offers a personal shopper service where fashion insiders take guests to hard-to-find boutiques, galleries and suit makers around town. In addition, the “Alvear Luxury Shopping” catalogue offers exclusive benefits in world-famous shops.

In an interesting twist on the designer-hotel collaboration, interior designer Kelly Wearstler, whose handiwork can be seen at The Tides’ newly remodeled South Beach, Fla., resort and at Bergdorf Goodman’s cafe, is turning her design talent to apparel. Los Angeles-based manufacturer DDA is developing her first signature collection, which will be unveiled this fall and hit stores for spring 2009. Wearstler said she is tapping into the huge library of prints and colors she uses for her interior designs.

Wearstler’s own personal style is a mixed bag of Marc Jacobs, Marni, Doo.Ri, Derek Lam and vintage. Having friends and clients who are fashion designers has given her a good view of what goes into designing clothes, but she doesn’t plan to sit and struggle as some do. Wearstler said she has made a practice of following her instincts.

“When I see it, I know, I commit and I move on. I have a great team as well,” she said.