In Focus: Why luxury hotels are tapping into tie-ups with high-end fashion brands

This summer, sun loungers were given a makeover. After years of languishing in practical mushroom or plain white, 2023 saw a rainbow explosion of colours and patterns. This was the season when high fashion went to the seaside. Valentino turned the beach club at Palazzo Avino, on the Amalfi Coast, its signature shade of scarlet, with loungers and parasols by the fashion house.

The Fendi logo adorned items from table linen to golf carts, as the brand took over Puente Romano Beach Club in Marbella. Around the pool at San Domenico Palace in Taormina, everything was bedecked in Dolce & Gabbana’s Blu Mediterraneo pattern, as the Italian fashionistas collaborated with the Four Seasons hotel – even down to a customised granita trolley, serving ices in classic Sicilian lemon, coffee and almond flavours. It wasn’t just in Europe; The Beverley Hills Hotel had a Dioriviera pop-up at the pool and Missoni’s iconic zigzags appeared at the beach club at One&Only Reethi Rah.

Travel meets fashion

Collaborations between fashion houses and luxury hotels are springing up all over the place. Where resort-style properties have been giving their beach clubs and pool areas the haute couture treatment, city hotels have unveiled suites dressed to the nines by designers. In London alone, you’ll find the Sir Paul Smith Suite at Brown’s Hotel, the Piano Suite at Claridge’s by Diane Von Furstenberg and the Gucci Royal Suite at The Savoy – reflecting a shared history that began with founder Guccio Gucci working there as a luggage porter.

And then, of course, there are the fashion brand hotels: properties from Versace, Armani and Fendi, Christian Louboutin’s Vermelho Hotel (which opened this year in Portugal’s Alentejo), and an ever-growing portfolio from Bulgari – with a Tokyo outpost opening this year, Rome next, and the Maldives, Miami and LA to come later. Louis Vuitton plans to turn its Paris HQ into a hotel in the next five years, a D&G property is slated in the Maldives and luxury goods behemoth LVMH has not only its own Cheval Blanc properties but also bought Belmond in 2019.

This coming together of fashion and travel is one of seven trends identified by Elegant Resorts’ Luxury Travel Trends Report, produced in conjunction with Kerzner International and Globetrender. Jenny Southan, editor, founder and chief executive of the travel trend forecasting agency, explains the motivation behind the movement: “The fusion is opening up new opportunities for curated interiors and highly desirable concept mash-ups that appeal to brand-hungry consumers.

As aspirational consumption compels people at every income level to spend – or at least desire – lifestyle enhancements and material signifiers of wealth, travel companies and hotels are realising that aligning themselves with elite brands in other verticals can have magnetic appeal.” Simon Thompson, chief executive of brand partnership agency Raddleman, believes collaborations are highly effective. He explains: “A carefully selected partnership can elevate the guest experience, unlock new revenue streams, provide a low-cost route to acquiring new customers, increase occupancy and yield, boost return on marketing spend, generate new, interesting and differentiated narratives and offer opportunities to reduce operating costs.”

Mutually beneficial

With the right partnership, everyone benefits. Luxury hotels offer fashion brands access to high-net-worth guests and alternative revenue streams: the Sir Paul Smith Suite has ‘shoppable’ pieces; there was a pop-up Valentino boutique in the Palazzo Avino grounds; and at the METT Hotel and Beach Resort in Bodrum, a QR code on each sunbed this summer allowed guests to buy from a curated range by luxury retailer Farfetch while they tanned. In return, fashion houses bring an alignment with a glamorous brand and help create newsworthy points of difference from competing hotels in a crowded marketplace where the hunger for fresh content is driven to fever pitch by social media.

At the top end of the market, exclusivity is key, so the opportunity to enjoy a time-limited experience or purchase a one-off piece as part of a stay is a compelling selling point. Elegant Resorts’ head of product Rebecca Turner expects the trend to grow. “Having a famous brand collaboration is becoming a key factor in some clients opting for one resort over another, and adds kudos for clients who appreciate these added luxury touches, not to mention the additional shopping opportunities.”

The future of collaborations

By Simon Thompson, chief executive of Raddleman, a brand partnership agency that brings together luxury hotel and premium brands.

“Partnerships are becoming ever-more innovative, as the bar keeps getting raised. It used to be impressive to have a Bentley outside the hotel; now some hotels are offering driving experiences as standard. And tomorrow? Maybe a self-drive solar-powered Bentley will turn up at my house, to glide me on a personalised tour to the hotel and back. “Sustainability has rocketed up the checklist when identifying partners, with brands also looking for partnerships to support their sustainability initiatives. “Technology will also be key; partners to help adopt, adapt and integrate elements such as AI, keyless entry and digital concierges.

“Wellness is ever popular and there’s inevitably going to be a rise in more interesting, engaging partnerships. “Luxury travellers are increasingly expecting personalised experiences. These include tailored stays and immersive experiences, customised room settings, personalised dining options, targeted communications and a general sense of being understood and cared for. Partners that can help deliver this will be very attractive. “Whatever the partnership idea, great consideration should go into finding the right partner. There’s an art and a science to doing this, but it’s vital to ensure mutual goals, values and benefits align.”

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