MILAN — Two more fashion brands have jumped into the hotel business: Missoni and Byblos.
Missoni, which has a successful home furnishings collection, has signed a worldwide licensing agreement with Rezidor SAS Hospitality, a Belgian hotel chain. The plan is to develop and operate 30 small- to medium-sized venues called Hotel Missoni by 2010.
Rezidor SAS is currently negotiating sites in the U.K., Continental Europe, Russia, Asia Minor and the Middle East.
The first three Hotel Missonis are slated to open in 2007 and are expected to include units on Palm Island in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and in Edinburgh. Other target destinations include London, Paris, Amsterdam, St. Petersburg, Milan and Istanbul.
By 2010, Vittorio Missoni, the fashion house's marketing manager, forecasts sales for the project to be more than $350 million.
"We were approached by Rezidor SAS some time ago and jumped at the opportunity because the home collection, whose sales will exceed $23 million this year, is an important segment for the brand," said Missoni. "We are protective of what our parents built and will never sacrifice the values of that business at the expense of short-term growth, but we found the right partners in Rezidor SAS."
He added that hotels are a natural extension of Missoni's core business and a perfect complement to its fashion, home collections and fragrances.
The interiors, naturally, will be decorated in colorful patterns similar to those that catapulted Missoni to fame. Rosita Missoni, co-founder of the colorful knits, with her husband, Tai Missoni, designs Missoni Casa. Besides Rosita Missoni and Rezidor SAS, the design of the hotels will be developed with Studio Thun, the Milan-based design studio headed by Matteo Thun.
"Rosita is ecstatic about this project. She can't wait to start designing more sheets and tabletops," said Vittorio Missoni.
"The deal with Missoni has grown into a relationship, and that's the only way that a brand like this can develop," said Kurt Ritter, president and chief executive officer of Rezidor SAS. "It's a unique brand with a great heritage, a very identifiable look and real family values. I'm sure that when we launch the first hotel, in 2007, it will make quite an impact on the market."Meanwhile, Byblos owner Dino Facchini is going for the art of surprise with his new five-star Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amistà and Chenot spa, located on the hills surrounding Verona, Italy.
"I've always loved the patrician villas that dot the Veneto region, but, for Villa Amistà, I did not want the usual dusty style, dark and full of tapestry, where you know what to expect and what you'll see before you walk in," said Facchini in an interview at the hotel. "I want to provide new emotions and surprise the visitors."
As a result, the 15th-century frescoed and stuccoed vaults are adorned with Vanessa Beecroft's portraits of naked women, and the perfectly tended Italian garden opens on a futuristic Arnaldo Pomodoro bronze globe. The hotel was designed with the help of architect and designer Alessandro Mendini.
While the facade's only concession to modernity are the Mod glass-blown lamps, the hall of the hotel is a study in contrasts: A spiral-shaped bright red sofa by Dedra stands out against concave mirrors by Anish Kapoor, which reflect images upside down, and mock-antique armchairs and a sculpture of a stiff gold jacket by Mendini offset futuristic lamps by Philippe Starck.
The hotel, which was restored over the past three years, counts 350 pieces of contemporary art owned by Facchini. Among them are works by Peter Halley and Sol LeWitt, Beatriz Millar and Jean Michel Othoniel.
"I must confess I didn't expect such an overwhelming and fast response to the hotel," said Facchini, whose family company, Swinger International, controls the Byblos brand. "We will reach breakeven in the first year," he said, declining to disclose the investment in the hotel project.
The opening in October of the two-story, 6,500-square-foot Byblos Art Gallery in the center of Verona also marks the synergy between Facchini's passion of a lifetime — art — and his business.
"The gallery is a way to converge art, design and fashion in the same space," said Facchini's daughter, Masha, who is in charge of the gallery. The first exhibition, "Neo-Baroque," runs until mid-January, displaying works by Emilio Perez, Kehinde Wiley, Fred Tomaselli, Petah Coyne and Robert Longo, among others."['Neo-Baroque'] is about what we feel is the most prominent emerging sensibility and a major change in the way contemporary art is evolving," said New York-based co-curator Joyce Korotkin of Tema Celeste Contemporary Art. "Over the last 100 years, one movement of style followed another, but over the past few years, sensibilities have changed and art is very eclectic with no specific style. Neo-baroque is not a style, but [a union of] sensibilities."
Missoni and Byblos enter the hotel industry following Armani, Versace, Ferragamo and Bulgari, all of whom have put their stamps on luxury hotels.
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