CERNOBBIO, Italy — Long before George Clooney brought Lake Como back into the limelight, the area’s luxury hotel Villa d’Este lured celebrity guests like Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Woody Allen, Madonna, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Gianfranco Ferré, Winston Churchill and Gianni Agnelli.
This story first appeared in the December 31, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Built directly on the lake’s shore in 1568 as a private lodging, Villa d’Este became a hotel in 1873. Now, leveraging its history and glamour, the hotel aims to turn itself into a luxury brand.
Villa d’Este has unveiled a major program of product extensions, ranging from ceramics, vases and other home accessories to bed and bath linens, wellness products, leisurewear, scarves and leather accessories. The products will be licensed to specialist manufacturers in each category and will be available in high-end department stores beginning next fall.
The first products will be unveiled during Milan’s international furniture and design show, the Salone del Mobile, in April. The first confirmed supplier is Iltex, based in Como, which provides superfine cashmere for top fashion brands worldwide.
“Despite the bombardment of pessimistic forecasts, we have decided to go against stream and react to all this negativity,” said Villa d’Este chief executive officer Jean-Marc Droulers. “The world of brands is very crowded, but we can differentiate ourselves through superior, excellent products in line with our core activities.”
Droulers said that as far as he was aware this is the first such comprehensive project for any hotel around the world.
Bruno Massa, former general director at the British brand Daks Simpson and previously brand manager at Valentino and general manager at Krizia, has been tapped to spearhead the project. “Despite various attempts, a definition of luxury hasn’t really been found,” said Massa. “It’s all very subjective, but we believe it’s a global experience, not only material, it’s about beautiful products, excellent manufacture, with the addition of intangible elements, such as history and comfort.”
In 2007, Villa d’Este reported sales of 48 million euros, or $65.7 million at average exchange rates. Massa said he expected the brand extension project to generate wholesale revenues of about 10 million euros, or $14 million at current exchange rates, in the first year.