Arbiter of cool questions brand proliferation

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Where Ian Schrager builds, people follow. And when he talks, people pay heed. In the Aug. 7 Time magazine, Schrager reaffirms his own branding prowess by generating an article about his Gramercy Park Hotel, a $200-million, 185-room property with an adjacent condominium project. The website, www.gramercyparkhotel.com, calls the Gramercy "Bohemia reinvented for the 21st century." Like other things Schrager, it's a cool website.

"There's going to be a backlash against all this branding," Schrager told Time. "Everything hip is now immediately co-opted by the mainstream. I wanted to make something very individualized and unique." With an interior designed by artist Julian Schnabel and an emphasis on artful comfort, the Gramercy, which opens this week, will no doubt fulfill that mission, as Schrager's Delano did years ago in South Beach.

God knows hotel companies have taken cues from Schrager: Starwood's full-strength W and its low-calorie relative, aloft, bank on style and ambience to make their lifestyle statements, and Kimpton and Joie de Vivre have incorporated some of Schrager̢ۉ㢠s notions into their successful boutique brands.

Schrager, too, is jumping on the mixed-use bandwagon; his blend of hotel and condo embodies a trend that began nearly two years ago, and he intends to expand it with a planned 10,000-unit mixed residential, retail and hotel complex in Las Vegas that, Time suggests, will blend the ambience of rural Italy with that of New Yorkâ€â„¢s Central Park. Heâ€â„¢s eager, the magazine indicates, to try out new forms and styles.

Whether his moves and comments cool the branding fever remains to be seen. My bet is it heats up. Thatâ€â„¢s what happens in an up cycle. Schragerâ€â„¢s proving it himself.

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