Ian Schrager believes design can transform hotels—whether micro or mass
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
The arbiter of hotel hip, Ian Schrager has reinvented himself. Again. In a career about-face, Schrager is switching from one-off elite projects to mainstream appeal: He's joining forces with Marriott International on a venture entailing a worldwide rollout of hotels called Edition. But wait a minute. Closer examination shows that he's not straying too far from his fabled story line. He's still devoted to the cult of the designer, just as he was in the heady days of Studio 54 and Palladium—by Ron Doud and Arata Isozaki, respectively. Those New York clubs were famously followed by superchic hotels by superstar names: Andrée Putman's Morgans and Philippe Starck's Royalton, Paramount, Delano, Mondrian, Hudson, Clift, St Martins Lane, and Sanderson. Most recently, Schrager teamed up with two longtime collaborators, Anda Andrei and Michael Overington, and a new one, artist-director Julian Schnabel, to design the Gramercy Park Hotel.
Schrager launches into the pitch: "Edition is a new lifestyle hotel. Great visuals will be layered on top of Marriott service." Of the first projects planned worldwide, each will be different, and each will have its own designer. Precisely who is not yet final—not even for the first, Paris, which is slated to open in 2010. (The other locations are Madrid, Costa Rica, Chicago, Scottsdale, Arizona, and two in Los Angeles.) Schrager does, however, give vague clues. "I'm not going to work with the same kind of designers I did in the past," he says. "They didn't have an infrastructure like there will be with Marriott, so I had to play producer, hand-holder, cheerleader, and mother." This time around, the hotelier is seeking an all-in-one operation, incorporating production. "But the design won't be dumbed down," he promises. "It'll be just as original, though maybe not as quirky." A pause and then: "OK, a little quirky. It's in my DNA."
With Marriott taking charge of management and acquisitions, Edition's business model frees up Schrager to concentrate more on marketing and design. "I can do more pushing to get better work out of the designers," he notes. "And I can allow them to take more risks." After much pushing of our own, Schrager acquiesced and named two potential candidates, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Yabu Pushelberg.
Then there's the inevitable Why Marriott? "The scale is sexy for me," Schrager responds. "It gives me muscle and reach I never had on my own." With Marriott doing the research and individual developers handling the financing, Schrager says he looks forward to playing in the big-board leagues of Apple, Sony Corporation, and Target Brands: "I'll be able to communicate design to anyone." Anyone, that is, who can drop $400 to $500 a night in New York or rates comparable to those at each city's four- or five-star competitors.
Edition is not all about money, however. Schrager is aiming at the same vertical market he claims to have captured previously. "It's not all about youth, either," he adds. (He's 61.) So, tapping into his lifelong prescience in identifying the collective unconscious, has he figured out what people will want before they know they want it? "Individualization—no more domination by brands, no more monotony."
Will this Marriott marriage allow him time to play around on the side? Following the dazzling commercial success of 40 Bond, his New York condominium by Herzog & de Meuron, more residential real estate is on his docket, too—but that's eventual. In the meantime, mustn't he be itching for what he calls another "private label?" The answer is definitely yes. He's currently scouting sites in New York and Miami.