Karl Lagerfield (C) with Vogue China editor Angelica Cheung (L) and Vogue Italia's Franca Sozzani (R). (Karl Lagerfeld)
Karl Lagerfeld will soon add “hotel” to his list of design conquests now that he has signed a deal to design a 270-room signature hotel in Macau. The location of the new hotel, reported yesterday in Women's Wear Daily, isn't surprising: the Chanel designer joins a growing number of luxury brands making their foray into Asia's hospitality industry in hopes of earning the Chinese tourism money being spent less on traditional luxury goods.
Lagerfeld describes his hotel as “kind of 19th-century style,” but he also wants it to be modern. As a self-professed fan of hotel living, he tells WWD that his personal preferences certainly would come to bear on the Macau project.
“You know, Gabrielle Chanel always said, ‘I only make dresses I would wear.’ And I make only rooms where I would like to sleep,” says Lagerfeld. “It’s as simple as that.”
Lagerfeld isn’t alone in his foray into the hotel business—at least two others, Versace and Bulgari, have also opened signature hotels in Asia popular with Chinese tourists.
Luxury jeweler Bulgari has been inviting Chinese celebrities to its resort hotel in Bali and showing their visits on Sina Weibo. Recently, Tiny Times star Yang Mi and Hong Kong actor Hawick Lau held their nuptials there. The hotel has been such a success with Chinese customers that the brand is opening another one in Shanghai in 2015.
Fashion brand Versace has also been eyeing a piece of the hotel industry in China, especially after seeing the spending power the Chinese have in Gold Coast, Australia, where the brand also has a hotel. In 2017, Versace plans to open Palazzo Versace Macau, a five-star hotel, which is to comprise Michelin-starred restaurants, a shopping mall, and a multi-purpose theater. Incidentally, Lagerfeld’s partner in his venture, gaming concessionaire Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM), is also building Versace’s Macau resort.
With luxury sales growth in China slowing due to the country’s crackdown on corruption, luxury brands need to diversify their portfolio, and the tourism industry seems to be the “it” thing. That is hardly surprising, given that the number of outbound tourists from China increasing and shows no sign of slowing. If luxury brand hotels can keep some of these numbers in the country and toward their resorts in Asia, they might very well weather this period of austerity.