The London Edition opened its doors during London Fashion Week, and 10 Berners Street instantly became the place to be. Petra Dokken sat down with legendary hotelier Ian Schrager’s to ask about Edition, his collaboration with Marriott International, and the secret formula for creating the buzziest hot spot. (Hint: It doesn’t exist.)
The London Edition is intimate and sexy (not a word I throw around often, especially to describe hotels). After a wonderful night with a perfect gentleman and great cocktails, walking into the lobby at midnight simply made me happy. Beautiful staff, no rules, all sorts of people, and a sense of authenticity that’s impossible to categorize. The Punch Room (a lounge with craft cocktails and moody lighting) and the Berners Tavern restaurant top it off. The cool bedrooms are exactly what a contemporary world traveller wants — six different pillows in the bed, full-length mirror, earthy colors with fresh pops of white, quiet enough for a good night’s sleep, a fluffy bathrobe with a hood (I bought mine), and carefully selected mini bar goodies.
Perhaps there’s only one man who can do this hotel magic over and over again: Ian Schrager, who practically invented the boutique hotel concept when he launched the Morgans Hotel in 1984. A departure from his club days as the co-creator of Studio 54, the Morgans Hotel Group has since grown into an global industry leader and hosspitality trendsetter. Schrager has since left the company and is launching his newest project: Edition Hotels with Marriott International, a brand not traditionally known for boutique offerings. They may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but this is what Schrager does: He takes buzz and Zeitgeist, turns it into a concept, and makes that sweet magic happen. He talked to us about how he does it.
Fathom: The hotel blends old and new. How do you walk that line and why does it create such a buzz?
Schrager: We live in a society that loves to categorize, loves to put things in a box. Anytime you can do something outside the box, take people by surprise, and stimulate their imagination, you have an opportunity to do something truly original. When you mix diverse details in unexpected ways, it creates a kind of chemistry between the different elements. And if you’re fortunate to be able to do that, as we were, you wind up with a unique experience, a distinct product. That’s where we captured the buzz.
Fathom: How would you define the term “boutique hotel”?
Schrager: “Boutique hotel” is a term that we coined over 25 years ago that has now become a part of the English language. We don’t own it anymore, but to me it means having a particular point of view. It has nothing to do with size. Edition is distinct because it emanates from this specific vision rather than replicating someone else’s idea or simply recreating it in a different color. That originality resonates with people.
Fathom: Would you say that the Edition concept represents a new era of hotels?
Schrager: It represents the evolution of the boutique hotel. Edition combines everything I am known for — visuals, experience, exciting dining concepts, a very personalized approach, and superb execution — with the global reach and excellent service that Marriott is capable of. It’s a case where 1+1=3.
Fathom: How did you research the city?
Schrager: Funny enough, it only takes me a few hours or a day at the most to get my arms around the ethos of a city. I can feel it, and I can see the signs that may be meaningless to other people. I get my inspiration from the street. So far, this intuition has served me well.
Fathom: The first Edition hotels are in Istanbul and London. Miami is up next. How did you select the order?
Schrager: We’re in an opportunistic business, and we take opportunities in the order they present themselves. Of course, I would love to do hotels in cities that I particularly love and admire. I want them to be in sophisticated, international gateway cities that have a unique charm. Even though each Edition hotel will look different and manifest the place that it’s in, they all have a common attitude and approach.
Fathom: What characterizes the unique touch that you bring to all your hotels?
Schrager: When all the elements that go into a product come together, it’s magical. They become something special and unique that is greater than the sum of its parts. It happened with Steve Jobs’ Apple products and with Walt Disney’s animation. While I don’t compare myself to Jobs or Disney, I’m out to accomplish the same thing they did. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what that is. It all just comes together.
Fathom: What is luxury in the hospitality business today? What has changed?
Schrager: To me, luxury is about having great taste and providing a unique experience. It’s not about wealth or money. Being in the know conveys status and luxury. There is no formula anymore. It’s more appealing to subvert the status quo and to be unafraid to go out and break the rules.
Fathom: How do you renew yourself creatively?
Schrager: By constantly staying hungry, curious, and passionate about life and the world I live in. That makes the possibilities limitless.
Fathom: Do you envision your guests as you create?
Schrager: When I do a project, I do it for myself, as I believe all creative people do. I do what I like, and then I’m hopeful that there are a lot of other people out there that feel the same way.
Fathom: What should a hotel experience deliver?
Schrager: Comfort, great service, and gracious hospitality.