A slew of hotels and clubs have opened up, bearing the name of fashion moguls. The Armani Hotel Dubai, the Cavalli Club, Hotel Missoni Kuwait, and the Palazzo Versace are just a few of the names that the Middle East has seen in recent times.
With the latest news of Al Habtoor Group signing a deal to build the world’s first Fashion Hotel, branded by Fashion TV, in Dubai, fashion and interior design just got even more entwined.
Giovannangelo de Angelis, president, Italy-based Premio Internazionale Ischia di architettura (PIDA) award, said fashion meeting design is an interesting mix because it puts the element of change into the industry.
“Fashion means rapid change, but interior design has a completely different speed altogether; it moves slower than fashion does,” said de Angelis.
He admits, while the design industry is moving faster than it used to, implying a positive turn in the market, he warns against its ecological implications.
“When we have faster design changes, we also face the problem of reuse. If you change the interior design of something, for example, every year, there is the problem of wastage and whether we can re-use things or not. If design takes this path, then sustainable materials need to be used,” he added.
Mike Scully, managing director, Seven Tides, agreed with de Angelis’ concerns on sustainability.
“There are two sides to it. You have got to ensure the fashion coming into your hotel is sustainable. It’s all very well to create modern hotels and new lifestyle hotels, but we need to make sure the fashion hotel is sustainable and will continue to be sustainable in the future.”
However, Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, interior designer and founder, Martyn Lawrence-Bullard Designs, said fashion helps him with his design projects.
“I am often very inspired by fashion in my interior design; whether a current colour palette combination, or a shape that inspires me for a furniture detail, or some embroidery on a shirt that I can use to border a chair. I think that fashion and interiors go hand-in-hand, and as such are inspirational to both industries,” he said.
Christian Merieau, managing director, Samuel Creations said boundaries between interior design and fashion design are blurring rapidly, which he considers to be a natural and healthy process.
“I can see two reasons for that: One, the design process of both is based on coordinated usage of material, structure and shapes, to enhance the basic necessities that are clothing and shelter.
Two, under the influence of fashion and technology, everything is becoming a short lived consumable, delivering rapidly a sense of well being, belonging or social identity. Creating spaces to socially interact, interior design is deeply enrooted in our modern civilisation, and it is therefore natural that it follows its trends.”
The dark side of this marriage could be, with fashion designers getting their brand stamped on the property, the interior designers of the project may not get as much recognition as they’d like.
According to Italo Rota, the architect who is currently working on The Chameleon nightclub at the Byblos Hotel, TECOM, Dubai, and previously did the interiors for the Cavalli nightclub in Dubai, it’s not unusual for these sorts of venues, which open under a fashion brand, to overshadow the interior designer.
“It’s normal procedure for the business world. It’s a different metropolis here. If you are a creative person, you use it as an avenue to move onto something which will get you recognition in your own right,” he said.
Bullard doesn’t agree with the idea of interior designers being overshadowed by the fashion brand.
“I believe designers are needed to help shape these properties and give them a soul. Indeed, a project built from the ground up, works best when designed hand-in-hand by the architect as well as the interior designer. Fashion goes out of style so fast, as does its designers, but good interior design is timeless,” he added.
Merieau takes a different view and said interior designers are now moving to fashion and getting due recognition.
“Fashion designers such as Giorgio Armani, Versace, Kenzo, Missoni, Elie Saab and even Jean Paul Gaultier are free to design for our industry, because they are brands and icons recognised by the general public, but we now see the reverse happening with well known interior and industrial designers.
Philippe Starck, Ross Lovegrove, Karim Rashid, Zaha Hadid and Marcel Wanders, are some designers who are being hired to create fashion accessories and apparels.
True talent knows no boundaries and I believe that it is our profession’s duty to generate and promote its own icons that will influence other industries,” said Merieau.
Scully sits on the fence regarding this topic, adding in some cases it is possible for interior designers to not get as much recognition, but thinks established fashion brands are a better bet to work for, as they will still be around for many more years.
“Armani was here decades back, and he will still be here in 10-20 years,” he said.
Longevity is important for any fad to become a trend, and whether good or bad, the trend of designer properties seems to be staying for a while.
“I think the number of these properties will increase; since they’ve just started, they have to go through a growth process of sorts for the next five to 10 years,” said de Angelis.
“Like any other trend, the trend of designer properties will slowly fade to be replaced by new and more appealing influences. In most hotel properties that Samuel Creations has designed recently, an expectation seems to be recurrent: the desire for more than just comfort or functionality, the craving for a unique life style experience. Right now, properties branded by fashion designers seem to provide just that,” said Merieau.
Bullard is enthusiastic about fashion properties, and said: “I think designer hotels are definitely here to stay. People love the freedom to express themselves not only by the way they dress, but also by their surroundings.
A hotel choice can say so much about a person. As such, the different taste level that exists in the designer hotels is a reflection on the guest and becomes an integral part of a guest’s experience. I love the individuality of a designer boutique hotel, and always check out the latest additions to cities when I travel,” he added.
Scully agreed and said there will always be designer hotels in the world. However, he reiterates the sustainability factor.
“Before I sign a long term contract with boutique or fashion hotels, I’d like to make sure they have a sustainable long-term growth plan for the brand. I don’t want to go through a whole new refurbishment plan in the next few years,” he added.
De Angelis thinks the trend is a positive thing for the industry and said it’s an added vision and stimulates the market, allowing designers to compare what’s happening in all ranges of mental proposal. He added that the world of fashion is dynamic, and has produced quality items. It can only stimulate people to experiment with materials and colours.
On reflecting on the financial aspect, Scully added it’s all about return-on-investment, which is changing all the time. Part of it is because interest rates are increasing and market supply on average is dropping.
“Owners have to make sure they are getting the right revenue for these places. They do it because of a financial model; it’s not to look after a person’s ego, you have to conform with what the public wants,” he said.
Bullard supports the trend. “Designer properties are fun, and have a designer’s stamp upon them; it’s just not a personal reflection on the client buyers style. It’s the difference between buying a suit off the rack, and having one custom made by a tailor. The custom suit will always be the perfect fit.”
Merieau said: “Frank Alvah Parsons, who became in 1910 the president of the Parsons School for Design, was already anticipating a new wave of the industrial revolution, and predicted art and design would soon be inexorably linked to the engines of industry. Socio-economical events such as the industrial revolution have always heavily influenced history of interior design. Why would today be any different?
“The trend of fashion designer properties is neither good nor bad. It is one of the new responses that some of clients are looking for, and as such is serving interior design to move forward.
Do we question the value of the Louis XV style or of the arts and craft movement? No, because it has been a step toward what interior design is today. Fashion designer properties will surely have the same influence.”