By  on April 27, 2007

MILAN — The recent Salone del Mobile exhibition here was further proof that more and more designers see home products as an avenue for growth.

To test the waters of the hotel business, which needs a solid network of suppliers and a dedicated commercial structure, a number of companies are opting to design suites in luxury hotels. Etro will unveil three suites at Milan's Principe di Savoia Hotel this summer.

"The request to design rooms comes directly from the hotels, which are reaching out to those customers who are attracted by fashion, or simply want to provide a more exciting room, compared to a basic, anonymous one," said Jacopo Etro, who runs the brand's textile and home collections, during Salone del Mobile here, the international furniture and design show, which ran April 18 to 23.

Last week, Bottega Veneta said it was furnishing a suite at the St. Regis hotel in Rome — its second such venture, after working with the St. Regis in New York.

"I believe these projects help strengthen one's brand, providing a comprehensive idea of lifestyle," said Etro. The designer said working with the hotel industry is forcing the company to develop a line of furniture and lamps, thus expanding the brand's core home business centered on home furnishings, beds, armchairs and ceramics. At Salone del Mobile, Etro showed tables and screens made with digitally photographed paisley shawls, which are then laminated. "You can't print a lacquered surface, so we opted for this highly technological craft," said Etro.

Working with different industries may affect the way fashion companies operate. Giancarlo Di Risio, chief executive officer at Versace, said designing the interior of planes proved to be a source of inspiration for the company's Jet Seat, which is produced with a highly technological ceramic structure and retails for 38,000 euros, or $52,000 at current exchange rate.

In addition to a collaboration with the Italian group Agusta Westland to design interiors of helicopters, Versace has linked with Techniques d'Avant Gard to personalize private jets and with Lamborghini to decorate cars. Di Risio said Versace was also working on a yacht for an unnamed Irish customer. Next year, the company plans to open a store here dedicated to the division, its first under the Di Risio management. In addition to the Versace Dubai Hotel, scheduled to open in 2009 under an agreement with Australian real estate developer Sunland Group, the company is working on fully furnishing 32 apartments at the new Plaza private residences in New York.

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