W Hotels is a brand of up-market design hotels that is rapidly expanding. What’s more, this not only includes an increasing the number of hotels and resorts, but now the brand has expanded its activities into the realm of fashion.
W Hotels is one of those lifestyle brands that has done well over the last decade by shaping a strong identity and sticking to some fairly precise principles: focus on vibrant city centres and alluring tropical resorts. In August 2010 it will open an additional New York hotel in the downtown Wall Street district. In 2011 it will open a flagship hotel in central London’s Leicester Square area and one in Paris’ fashionable Opéra district. Add to these hotels also opening in St. Petersburg, Guangzhou, Taipei and Bangkok in 2011 and it’s fairly evident that W Hotels means to replicate its earlier success with American cities and financial districts in the international arena. Similarly, the resort offer will be expanded to include Bali, Vieques Island, Koh Samui, and Verbier.
The success of the W Hotels brand is, in part, ensuring that its design identity is well managed. In effect, W Hotels’ clientele obviously favour the non-fuss sleek lines that are part of the identity. So, when its particular style of luxurious simplicity, with directional nods to modernism, futurism or minimalism, have proved successful, it’s a fine balance to ensure that each destination is unique without losing the core appeal. On the other hand the W Hotels approach appears to be one in which blunted brand globalisation is avoided and in which responding to local context is important. For example, the new Paris hotel is being designed by Rockwell Group Europe and in their preliminary designs, it’s already evident that the approach for the elegant 1870s Haussman-era building has a relevant approach to an historic building.
Furthermore, W Hotels have also announced the “W Hotels Designers of the Future Award”. A special collaboration with the prestigious Design Miami/Basel fairs, 2010 will see W Hotels throwing its support behind this important design award first awarded by Design Miami/Basel in 2006.
But, if all of these activities are somewhat expected for a hotel brand that connects its success with strong design values in more directly relevant disciplines such as interior architecture or furniture design, one of the more unusual aspects of W Hotels’ current activities is its forays into fashion.
Going beyond the lucrative merchandising activities deployed by numerous design hotels, W Hotels have developed an exclusive range of clothing for sale exclusively through the hotel boutiques and via their online store. As part of their Global Glam concept, the commissioned designers are asked to take their inspiration from the various locations of the hotels themselves. Collections will be updated in much the way that more traditional fashion producers bring out new collections seasonally and are priced from the very affordable to luxury market brackets.
In fact, one begins to wonder if there is something that W Hotels isn’t designing: the fashion collection is part of a broader lifestyle offer that now includes accessories, jewellery and home wares.