Karl Lagerfield has launched Karl Lagerfeld Hospitality under a long-term licensing deal with Brandmark Collective.
The company is the latest in a series of brand extensions from the fashion world, which have met with varying success at a time when the hotel sector itself is rapidly expanding its brand stables.
Lagerfeld had previously announced plans for a hotel in Macau, which will open in 2017.
The relationship between Karl Lagerfeld and BMC stems from the days when BMC CEO Tony Kurz built the Tommy Hilfiger Hospitality brand. At that time, Tommy Hilfiger Corporation owned the Karl Lagerfeld trademarks.
Under the terms of the deal, BMC will operate the hotels following an asset-light model, and said that it had relationships with large asset managers and family offices to own or joint venture on properties, the identities of which it would not be drawn on.
Kurz told Hotel Analyst that the relationships were a combination of existing relationships as well as new partners. He added: “Just as Karl has touched the absolute top of luxury, to accessible luxe and everything in between, we will get the woman who wears Chanel suits every day in the lobby as well as the guy who saved up all week to buy a cappuccino and savour the atmosphere. It is this breadth, and nontraditional approach, that attracts owners.”
BMC said that it had “a robust pipeline of projects in varying stages of negotiation in both urban and resort locations” and that KLH was targeting first- and second-tier city and resort destinations, with a particular strategy of focusing on markets that were brand aspirational first, such as Asia, the Gulf region and India and opportunistically looking at more mature markets.
Kurz added: “We inherently understand the unique needs of hospitality owners and developers and will collectively deliver the Karl Lagerfeld brand offering in a way that celebrates the designer's unique talent and approach to fashion and lifestyle.”
The group said that KLH would “translate Karl Lagerfeld's vision and unique aesthetic into bespoke projects including hotels, residential properties, restaurants and private clubs. Each property will reflect Karl's renowned, cutting-edge approach to style and signature touch that surpasses the boundaries of fashion alone.”
In answer to the question of whether it was another fashion hotel like Armani and Missoni, the group said: “Not at all. The key is to intelligently translate the brand into a series of experiences. That is about much more than fashion, and about much more than design. With so much more time being spent in a hotel than in a retail store, this is not about just placing the name up on a building”.
Discussing the designer’s role in the project, the company said: “Karl has a small team that will work with each interior design firm to specify each concept. In the future, BMC will likely take interior design in house as the brand grows.”
"Expanding our brand into the hospitality sector reflects our greater vision to broaden Karl Lagerfeld comprehensive lifestyle experience," said Pier Paolo Righi, CEO & president of Karl Lagerfeld. "Developing the Karl Lagerfeld six-star hotel in Macau, which is scheduled to open in 2017, has been an exciting process for our whole team, and we look forward to further expanding in this field."
The Macau hotel is not the first venture into hotels for the designer, who has has been commissioned to design two suites for Hôtel de Crillon, which is currently closed until 2017 for extensive renovations. He has also worked at the Sofitel So Singapore.
Commenting on the announcement, Gerard J. Inzerillo, CEO, Forbes Travel Guide, told us: “We welcome high-end fashion-led brands to the luxury hospitality industry. Karl Lagerfeld and other fashion designers will shine with their legendary commitment to style—predicated by the fact that it is backed up by guest service. Today’s luxury travellers expect impeccable aesthetics at a property, but gracious, anticipatory service is the key defining feature of the hotel experience.
He added: “One successful fashion-led foray into hospitality is Bulgari. Forbes Travel Guide Four-Stars Bulgari Hotel & Residences, London and Bulgari Hotel Milan bring chic, stunning interiors as well as top-notch service. In Florence, the Ferragamo family has achieved a similar balance with its Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star beauty Portrait Firenze.”
Bulgari has proved one of the more successful of the luxury fashion brands. Earlier this year it announced a site in Russia, the fourth since Marriott International launched its joint venture with the luxury brand in 2001. The group said that it expected to open five sites in the next decade and would eventually have between 15 to 20.
Armani currently has two hotels, in Dubai and Milan. Armani Hotels & Resorts was established in 2005 under an agreement between Giorgio Armani and Emaar Properties, with plans to open 10 hotels within 10 years.
In contrast, Rezidor Hotel Group and Missoni mutually agreed to terminate their master licence agreement for the development and operation of the brand Hotel Missoni at the end of 2013.Alberto Piantoni, CEO of Missoni, said that the “adventure” had been “a positive and important experience”, but that the company had developed “new strategic visions in the field of interior design and hospitality”.
Rezidor had previously attempted a similar exercise with Italian fashion house Cerruti to develop and operate Cerruti Hotels, with the agreement terminated in 2005, the same year it signed Missoni.
Now KLH must prove itself. Mark McCulloch, founder & CEO of branding and marketing agency WE ARE Spectacular, told Hotel Analyst: “I would be positive about it and say that as long as the market is right, it is targeted well and the promotion around it is executed well then, it should do great. Opening in China is a stroke of genius as the market is Western-brand obsessed and with the money that is going around there, there is a big enough audience to make it work.
“It's the operations part of things that could let us all down. How does Lagerfeld's creative vision work across every guest touchpoint such as toilet messaging to presentation of food to how you are welcomed to what the booking experience is like to what does it smell like? It's that attention to detail that can be the difference between Lagerfeld interiors to the full Lagerfeld experience which is a much bigger win and story.”
Katherine Doggrell is an editor at UK-based news analysis service Hotel Analyst.