Bulgari Hotel Milan's chic lobby

“An interior is the natural projection of one’s soul, and Balzac was right in giving it the same importance as to dress.” — Coco Chanel 

How the top names in fashion are putting their touch on hotels and restaurants.

Judging the style savvy of your friends, colleagues, and peers used to be a simple matter of stealing a glance at the label on their suit, the logo on their shoes, or the monogram on their belt or handbag. Top designer brands just seem to be equated with style, quality, and — let’s face it — a certain level of affluence. Now you might want to add hotels and restaurants to the growing list of fashionable “accessories” to don a designer label.

A bath suite at Bulgari Hotel Bali
No longer content to put their signatures on everything from coasters and corsets to fragrances and home furnishings, fashion designers now want to envelop you in luxury hotel suites and posh dining rooms that literally have Armani or Bulgari written all over them. In 2010 alone, nearly a dozen new hotels were autographed by top designers, from the surrealist sensibility of the late Franco Moschino, whose fashion house recently introduced the quirky Maison Moschino in a renovated train station in Milan, Italy; to the stark minimalism of Giorgio Armani’s ambitious new Armani Hotel Dubai within the multi-billion-dollar Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest freestanding building. Others checking into their own homes-away-from-home include the Missonis, the Ferragamos, the Bulgaris, and the Versaces, all of whom have put their family monikers on hotels from Scotland to Auckland in an effort to brand their labels to a wider audience outside the realms of fashion.

By targeting the ephemeral hotel or dining experience and filling these spaces with their own signature fabrics, furnishings, and other decorative objects, most designers say they are finally able to create a kind of synergy between their labels and the luxury lifestyle they want to project. “By operating a luxury-hotel business, we have found an innovative way of leveraging our brand and enhancing brand awareness with a complete lifestyle experience,” explains Attilio Marro, director of operations for Bulgari Hotels & Resorts. The aim is to encourage guests “to form an emotional connection with the hotel,” and hence a similar attachment to other products carrying the Bulgari brand, he says.

For the Bulgari Hotels in Milan and Bali, that meant creating a “refined but never opulent” environment focused on rich materials and superior Italian craftsmanship — signatures that define the company’s jewelry, watches, and leather goods — while carefully avoiding all of the classic signs (uniforms, luggage carts, grand pianos) of the typical luxury-hotel experience, Marro explains. Moreover, he adds, “all of the hotels’ services and amenities are crafted with the same attention to quality and detail that has always distinguished Bulgari creations.”