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Comment: Reimagining the Lifestyle Hotel

In this comment piece, James Huntly – founder and creative director of AboundStudio – considers the meaning of really ‘sleeping with the brand.’

Comment: Reimagining the Lifestyle Hotel

Evolving from a luxury fashion brand into a truly holistic lifestyle brand isn’t something that happens by chance but by design.

The convergence of retail and hospitality is accelerating, with iconic fashion brands pioneering immersive experiences. Simultaneously, hospitality brands continue to collaborate with luxury retailers to create one-of-a-kind pop-ups and ‘live the brand’ experiences. As bricks-and-mortar retail experiments with engaging spaces, the leap to hotels and hospitality services allows brands to embed themselves deeper into customers’ lifestyles.

But beyond this ongoing trend, a rising wave of new hotel brands are consciously crafting concepts around specific lifestyles, bringing together a community of like minds. Authentic local experiences are no longer enough for this more discerning tribe. They’re seeking access to highly curated experiences that respond to and enrich the lifestyle they live or aspire to.

Whether it be pro-led Yoga retreats in India, where professional instructors guide guests through serene landscapes, fostering inner peace and holistic wellness; or boutique surf hotels in South America, situated along vibrant coastlines, offering expert-led surf sessions and a laidback beach lifestyle experience; or experiencing high-performance living at Equinox’s hotel, where luxury meets ambition and every detail is designed to maximise your potential, performance and pleasure – these brands are bringing alive a highly crafted and focussed offering to reimagine the next generation of lifestyle hotels.

That’s why it works so well for fashion brands; it’s almost akin to haute couture for the world of hospitality. For these brands who own and love their craft, it offers a lucrative opportunity to grow the brand beyond its original imagining. Set against the rise of the digital economy, for some time now many have looked to the world of hospitality for inspiration in an effort to make their bricks and mortar work harder. Layering in concierge-like services, curated events programming and activated social spaces more like those found in a buzzing hotel lobby than a traditional flagship store.

For those that have established a loyal following, moving from simply wearing the brand to sleeping with it takes time and careful consideration. But by taking a purpose- and values-led approach, brands can navigate this journey ensuring it enriches rather than dilutes the brand. It means all design consideration and experience programming not only act as a beacon to their ethos and story, but meet the quality standards that they’re known for and form the very foundations of their brand.

But what allows a brand to authentically transition to the cult status of becoming a lifestyle brand? Well, it can only happen with a deep understanding of people. Not mere demographics, but the mindset of your guests, your customers, your diners. What are their needs, behaviours and aspirations across the day? This is where brands must master the art of scaling the brand beyond their core positioning, adding not just commercial but cultural value to the world around them.

Related: W Hotels VP on luxury and hospitality

For luxury fashion brands who have been beta testing their hotel propositions for years through immersive pop-up galleries, coffee stores, artistic collaborations and homeware ranges, it should be an effortless transition. It’s no surprise then, that the ‘Futur Hôtel Louis Vuitton’ is on the way. The Maison’s ‘ode to spirit of travel’ and recent expansion into the ‘art of living’ with their homewares range makes a move into hospitality a natural next step.

Imagine a world where you can wake up in consciously crafted suites inspired by the upcoming summer collection by Pharrell Williams. Glide upstairs to the private rooftop to indulge in freshly roasted coffee and patisseries from the open-air boulangerie, before moving to an appointment with the in-house atelier for custom-tailored garments or a deep dive into the craftsmanship and skills behind their latest collections. Moving on to sip bubbles in the lobby’s ‘Voyage’ champagne bar followed by a private viewing of the latest ‘Artycapucines’ exhibit or their latest collaborations with renowned artists such as Yayoi Kusama. You would be living the LV dream.

However, in a world where trends and early adopters often start at the more affluent end of the market, the opportunity has got to live beyond that of luxury fashion. For instance, what if the evocative UK-based restaurant brand Dishoom, synonymous with reimagining the Irani cafes of Bombay, were to open a hotel? Translating the soulful sounds, fragrant food and experiences into a hotel. It brings new meaning to their line ‘From Bombay with love’.

Similarly, Aesop, known for their commitment to botanical ingredients and minimalist design in skincare, could venture into the hospitality sector with a wellness hotel. Their recent pop-up ‘Kronos: a Skin Odyssey’, saw the brand transform spaces in Singapore’s iconic park to highlight the impact that a balanced lifestyle can have on the health of our skin. Experiences could mirror the brand’s ethos of being slow and deliberate with programming and services that provide a lifestyle MOT. These could incorporate sessions with expert nutritionists, bespoke skincare consultations and fitness regimes that are tailored to individual needs.

By tapping into specific niches and offering experiences that resonate deeply with their audiences, brands can push the boundaries of the ubiquitous lifestyle hotel. An understanding of the mindset, motivations, needs and aspirations of this new generation of travellers can enable brands to scale beyond their core positioning, adding both commercial and cultural value. The future of lifestyle hotels lies in this fusion of luxury, culture, and personalised experiences, where guests don’t just stay at a hotel but immerse themselves in the brand’s story and ethos.

AboundStudio
abound.studio

Photography
Equinox Hotels

More hotel design: InterContinental Sydney by Woods Bagot

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