Don’t call Milan’s new luxury hotel an extension of the Ferragamo brand

Skift grip

Conventional wisdom is that it’s easy for fashion brands to create explicit brand extensions with luxury hotels. But that’s not true, according to the Ferragamo family’s hotel group. The debate is fascinating.

Leslie Barrie

The Portrait of Milan debuts on December 1 in the heart of Milan’s fashion district. The location makes sense, considering the 73-room property is owned by the Lungarno-Collection — a group of Italian boutique hotels founded by the family of the king of Italian moccasins, Salvatore Ferragamo.

“The real city center is the fashion district where we are now, one of the most expensive real estate areas in Europe,” said the CEO of Lungarno. Valeriano Antonioli. Just another luxury hotel, Four Seasons Milanois located in this neighborhood, and Antonioli aims to capitalize on this exclusivity.

Yet despite the group’s heritage, he doesn’t call Portrait Milano an extension of the Ferragamo brand.

“We think it’s very difficult to use a hotel to be a direct extension of a fashion brand,” Antonioli said. “Fashion is very volatile. If you want to be really into fashion, you have to change your shoes or clothes every six months, but in the hospitality world, you have to keep the curtains on for 20 years.

A rendering of the reception of Portrait Milano, a boutique hotel that will open in Milan on December 1. Source: Lungarno Collection.

While other luxury brands, such as Bulgari and Armani, use their brands prominently in their hotels, the Ferragamo family has taken a different approach. First he went with Lungarno, the name of his first property in Florence. The name translates to “going along the Arno River”.

Then, with its Portrait hotel brand, the group is playing the long game: capitalizing on the notoriety of the shoemaker and interpreting its style without pushing it.

“So far, no one in fashion has succeeded [as a direct brand extension] in the hotel world,” said Antonioli.

This statement will be news for Bulgari, which intends – through a partnership with Marriott – to double its footprint of luxury hotels to a dozen by 2026 and explicitly links its eponymous jewelry brand through details. Design. Giorgio Armani said this year that he plans to expand his hotels in Saudi Arabia. This year, Elle Magazine announced its first hotels.

Still, Salvatore Ferragamo’s take is worth trying for size, and it echoes what LVMH did with the Cheval Blanc hotel brand inspired by the famous winemaker. Lungarno thinks Ferragamo’s imprint should be subtle. The concept of the Portrait brand, for example, is to create “ultra-tailored hospitality”.

The company has translated “tailor-made” into a highly personalized service rather than a large number of product placements. Ferragamo’s time in Florence – when the shoe designer hosted celebrities while he made their shoes – inspired the concept.

“Our reception team is asking why you came to Milan,” Antonioli said. “We’ll find out if you’re interested in art, architecture, fashion or design, and we’ll help you design your vacation in that personal way.”

The main square of the new Milano Portrait. Source: © Lungarno Collection.

Another possible distinctive advantage for the hotel is its extensive event space in Milan, a city that loves to see and be seen. Portrait Milano is located inside a former seminary dating from 1564 which its last owner has sumptuously restored. The property includes a plaza, which can attract neighborhood fashion for events and parties.

“We always hoped it would become the ‘piazza of the fashion district’,” Antonioli said. “We have already organized a fashion show and an exhibition for the furniture fair, so we are on our way.”

While the Lungarno collection now has three hotels in the Portrait series – Milan, Florence and Rome – Antonioli has a soft spot for this latest launch.

“For me, it’s a personal baby because we’ve been working on this project since 2013,” he said.

Closing the yard during the pandemic was a huge undertaking – from a legal and financial point of view for the company – as was its resumption a year later.

So what’s the next step? Antonioli is looking for locations for the next Portrait.

“Portrait’s limitations are that the location must be within walking distance to many of a city’s attractions,” Antonioli said. “The center of the city is what makes it a Portrait.”

Antonioli said he was ready to watch other major European capitals.

However, he wants the brand to keep a link with its fashion and its Italian roots.

“The DNA is Italian – growing up with a sense of beauty is innate, and you feel like you’re enjoying life here,” Antonioli said.

Don’t call Portrait a brand extension.

About Brad S. Fulton

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