By  on April 12, 2010

MILAN — Despite the economy and the travel industry’s recent doldrums, a number of designer houses and luxury brands are forging ahead with their hotel businesses. Fashion executives see the opportunity as means for brand extension, as well as a way to promote their home lines to worldly consumers.

Late last week alone, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton revealed it will open two more Cheval Blanc hotels as part of a new division called LVMH Hotel Management. The two hotels, in Oman and Aswan, Egypt, won’t be owned by LVMH, but it will collect management fees.

Meanwhile, Moschino inaugurated its first hotel here in February during fashion week, and since has opened a new home store within the venue offering made-to-order furniture and design pieces. Creative director Rossella Jardini said she has been surprised by early results.

“I didn’t expect anything like this,” she said. “I thought perhaps people would want a pillow or a lamp from the hotel, but we are receiving orders for everything — from beds to armchairs.”

Moschino partnered with Hotelphilosophy SpA, of the Mobygest Group, and refurbished a neoclassical train station that dates back to 1840. The hotel comprises 65 rooms, a restaurant by two-star Michelin chef Moreno Cedroni, a bar and a spa managed by Culti.

The hotel is called Maison Moschino, and rooms have a fairy-tale theme, with names such as “Little Red Riding Hood.” They’re accessorized with built-in mock forests, chandeliers dripping with miniature cakes or oversize evening gowns sprouting beds.

Jardini said the hotel has been fully booked for the Salone del Mobile for a while.

“There is a lot of curiosity surrounding this project and people from the design world are even more eager to experiment,” said Jardini, whose surreal and tongue-incheek interior pieces are in sync with the brand’s ironic and whimsical style.

Giorgio Armani’s design aesthetics and lifestyle concept also have been applied to his first hotel, which will be unveiled April 22 in Dubai.

“My hotels will aim to bring to life my vision of hospitality,” said Armani, whose hotel business is a joint venture with Dubai-based real estate firm Emaar Properties PJSC.

Known for his meticulous attention to detail, it is not surprising for the designer to note that “every aspect of the Armani hotel experience will bear the Armani signature.” The 432,000-square-foot hotel, located in the Burj Khalifa tower, is furnished with the Armani Casa line. The project comprises 160 guest rooms and suites and 144 private residences. The designer’s second hotel is expected to open in Milan next year.

Five years ago, Missoni’s colorful weaves and patterns caught the attention of the Belgian Rezidor Hotel Group, which signed a licensing agreement to translate the fashion brand’s heritage and highly identifiable look into the world of hotellerie. Last year, Missoni opened its first hotel in Edinburgh, and in September it plans to open its second venue in Kuwait City, Kuwait.

Similarities in concept exist between the locales, despite the obvious differences in geography and cultural traditions of the two countries.

Rosita Missoni, creative director of the brand’s home division, insisted, for example, on full views from all the rooms. Each room in Edinburgh looks onto the city’s majestic castle, and each room in Kuwait City faces the Arabian Sea.

“I like to wake up, look out and be aware of where I am when I travel,” said Missoni.

Just as several furnishings in Scotland drew from that country’s heritage, Missoni’s second hotel reflects elements from Kuwait, without becoming too ethnic. Details include gold details, favored in Middle Eastern countries, pepper curtains, patterns and bed rests. Floors are sand colored, inspired by the desert, while turquoise, reminiscent of the sea, is one of the hotel’s main hues. Discreet waterfalls decorate common areas.

Rather than forcing a garden to bloom near the pool, the designer opted for a more natural expanse of cacti and aloe, indigenous to the area. Just as she uses only seasonal ingredients when she cooks, Missoni wanted a more local look for the garden.

Missoni incorporated floral patterns in her designs for the hotel’s upholstery and ceramics, such as a combination of green, brown and beige dahlias, or turquoise, green, red and fuchsia passionflowers. Outdoors, equally colorful designs of stylized cacti embellish seats, chaise longues and sunshades.

The hotel covers all floors in an 18-story building, which Missoni describes as a “violin key” or a “curl.” There are 169 rooms (including 63 suites), and three restaurants in the resort: the Choco Café, the Moka Bar and the Luna, which serves Italian cuisine by Giorgio Locatelli, who hails from the island of Sardinia. Missoni also has been asked to oversee the design of an 8,640-square-foot ballroom for weddings and formal events. Besides the linens and tableware, Missoni said she’s even been asked to design wedding cakes.

Missoni is already at work on the brand’s South African hotel in Cape Town, which is slated to open in spring 2011. The designer is spinning the protea, the country’s national flower, into one of Missoni’s colorful textile patterns.

Other designer hotel projects in the pipeline include a Palazzo Versace opening next year in Dubai, the brand’s second resort in collaboration with Australian property developer Sunland Group Ltd. In 2000, a Palazzo Versace opened on Australia’s exclusive Gold Coast tourist strip of Queensland.

A group of 16 penthouses by Salvatore Ferragamo also will open sometime after 2012 in Dubai, and Bulgari’s third hotel, after Milan and Bali, is in the works, located in Castagneto Carducci, Italy, in partnership with former Calvin Klein licensee Fingen SpA and its real estate division RDM

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