Ian Schrager creates that elusive blend of the romance of the foreign, and the details which make us feel at home, wherever we are.
article by OPHELIA WU
This week Ian Schrager and New York celebrate the grand opening of The Times Square Edition Hotel – a new destination for those who appreciate stylish entertainment. Situated in the heart of the city that never sleeps, the venue is a true testament to Ian’s grand vision. With performances by Diana Ross, Lauryn Hill, Charlie XCX and an on-going collaboration with the House of Yes, the Times Square Edition is an experience like no other.
Ian, a true visionary, always wants to bring people to new experiences, and give them something that they didn’t think they even needed. “I just want to completely blow them away, I want to overwhelm them but in a kind of sophisticated and refined way, in a subtle way. I want to create a thought in them that they are in a special place. They’re not sure why but they can feel the excitement in the air and know that they’re in a special place.”
Those who are familiar with Studio54 must have heard many stories about how celebrities had the time of their life there. Co-founder Ian Schrager created a paradise for all kinds of guests from Donald Trump to mega stars like Diana Ross. There was no specific rule at the door as to who got in or not; it was a place for literally anybody and everybody. Moving on to hospitality and working on countless hotel projects, Ian remained true to his belief that a hotel should cater to all, and it is also the diversity of guests’ preferences and needs that make a hotel interesting.
“Hotels should be focused on how they make you feel, rather than how it looks, with many personal touches“.
When hotels were mainly used for business travel, or or a luxury experience only the wealthy could afford, most of the chains available were cold and impersonal. What makes a hotel remarkable is that personal touch and attention to detail. As much as travelers nowadays crave a more “local” experience, they also need space to lounge around. Mr. Schrager has managed to create a great hotel by integrating both.
A premier innovator in the industry, Ian offered something unique to the market at that time by creating some of the first wave of boutique hotels, an idea which has expanded into what we are accustomed to now. It changed what travelers expect from a hotel, and the experience they want to have when they visit a new place. We are now attuned to look for something more special, some talking point or history of the building, perhaps something personal and more intimate; a hotel with a reputation of good service, design, and dining excellence. Ian got it just right. To some, his hotel projects might still be slightly more expensive, but many are willing to indulge themselves.
The Edition hotels are a refined example of what Ian calls “not one size fits all”. The boutique hotel chain is opening in cities around the world, with more in the pipeline. It is a hotel for the rich, hipsters, locals, tourists, business travelers; an amazing range of guests, all treated with a personal touch. You don’t even have to be a guest to to be a part of the scene and are more than welcome to lounge in their lobby bar, absorbing the chill vibe and gorgeous cocktails. Or play some pool while you’re waiting for your table at the restaurants, or have a business meeting in the Punch room, which has a casual luxury. Mr Shrager’s other recent project the PUBLIC Hotel, it is yet another disruption, boasting “luxury for all”. With ample open space and nature-inspired interior decoration, the hotel is true to its name: all public spaces created for social activities.
Why do we desire something which feels bespoke? Could it be the rise of technology and social media? It opened a world on a screen but it surely made us more isolated. The whole point of traveling is to experience different cultures, trying to understand a country, history, art and other things and of course communicating to locals. When was the last time you visited a new place, sat at a local café and started talking to the person next to you? Mr Shrager states, “ We like 24 hour international gateway cities with a drive in cultural, fashion and nightlight scene and great restaurants. Everybody knows which cities we are are talking about. There are also other cities that are quite nice where we always find opportunities”. Ian and his team often pick interesting locations for his projects, and he will take into consideration how to bring locals and tourists together in a place where both want to hang out.
A hotel is supposed to be a gathering place for everyone, and can be seen as a grown up version of a youth hostel, where you chat and meet with different travelers, exchange tips and maybe make some new friends. Ian has managed to to make his hotels places where the guests wish to linger just a little longer. Mr Schrager foresaw the coming of this cultural moment; the inward desire of holding on to the feeling of “home”, and the growing desire to be global citizens. The coexistence of these two currents is precisely what he created in his hotels’ public spaces.
Traveling has become more accessible and affordable. When you arrive a new place, feeling at home already takes the stress out of being in an unfamiliar place. A “home away from home” is exactly what Ian has created, and his hotels around the world strive to be that. It is also becoming increasing popular among travelers to mingle with the locals, wanting a more authentic experience – where the locals hang out, where the locals go, places off the beaten track. As travelers become more sophisticated, they are more conscious of what they are looking for versus being served a tourist experience. The measurement of how good a hotel now involves design, other traveler’s feedback and they feel about the experience. “Hotels should be focused on how they make you feel, rather than how they look; they should have a lot of unique personal punches,” says Ian.
“ I just want to completely blow them away, I want to overwhelm them but in a kind of sophisticated and refined way, in a subtle way.”
When looking into future trends of hotel design, Mr Schrager is hoping that they will be simpler, and more refined. In the end it is all about the guests’ experience while staying somewhere. Anything that enhances one’s stay adds to the value of the stay. And what about catering to all? Ian believes that it is precisely the diversity of the guests which make his hotels successful. To him, the diversity motivates him to make his hotels even more inviting.