Big Interview18 / CONFERENCE & MEETINGS WORLD / ISSUE 65Schrager's new design for livingTHE MUCH COPIED HOTEL DESIGNER IAN SCHRAGER INTENDS TO RAMP UP HIS NEW EDITION WHILE KEEPING CLOSE CONTROL OF HIS MAGIC RECIPEounder of US-based Morgans Hotel Group, Ian Schrager, says: "Everything you see in hotels today - whether it's white beds or no patterned carpets - we did that. "When somebody has a good idea, everybody runs to do it. This time, I want to ramp up quickly, so all my ideas don't get taken again." You can't blame Schrager for feeling ripped off. He's the most copied hotelier ever. He invented the design hotel. Without him, there would be no WORDS JOHN ARLIDGE, PAUL COLSTON PICTURES COURTESY OF STREAMRight, top: Waikiki view. Below: the new Edition's lobby in the Honolulu propertylobby 'scene', no go-to bars and restaurants, no bespoke scents, no hot staff or cool nightclubs, no urban resorts and no baffling taps in the bathrooms. Today, you find these everywhere. Hyatt, Starwood, InterContinental and Hilton, and just about every small operator from Sao Paolo to Sidcup have all 'borrowed' his ideas and in the process have killed what he created. "Whenever I hear the phrase 'design hotel' these days, I cringe," Schrager frowns. "The idea has been so copied, it's perverted. Every hotelier jumped on the bandwagon even though they didn't understand a thing about it. It's become all about getting lots of expensive finishes and flourishes, even though there is no vision behind it. I hate it."Well, now it's time not just to get mad - but to get even. In the biggest, boldest risk of his career, the man who has spent a lifetime creating small but perfectly formed properties - the Royalton in New York, the Delano in Miami, and St Martin's Lane and the Sanderson in London - has signed a £2bn joint venture with the world's biggest hotel chain, Marriott, to create a fashionable but affordable hotel chain. "I want to move on to do something that appeals to a much larger audience on a much larger scale than I've ever attempted before," he says. Chain hotels represented everything Schrager was rebelling against when he created the design hotel two decades ago but he insists the big-name copycats have created an opportunity for a second act in American hotel life. "What's happening in the hotel industry now is what happened 30-40 years ago. All the hotels are beginning to look monotonously similar - over-designed. That's exactly what gave me my opportunity to do something different 25 years ago when my partner Steve Rubell and I started out. Then, all hotels were dully similar - under-designed. We created something very different, very exciting and the market flocked to us. It's time to do it again."The 'it' he's talking about is Edition. That's the name of the new brand he has created with J W 'Bill' F
Big InterviewISSUE 65 / CONFERENCE & MEETINGS WORLD / 19Whenever I hear the phrase 'design hotel' these days, I cringe. The idea has been so copied, it's perverted IAN SCHRAGERFACT FILEBorn and raised in Brooklyn, Schrager started his career in the early '70s as a real-estate lawyer. He soon quit the legal profession, teaming up with college pal Steve Rubell. With $400,000 of borrowed money, they took over a decaying theatre in Manhattan and opened the hugely successful Studio 54 club in September 1977. In 1984 they moved into the hotel business, converting the Executive Hotel on East 37th Street into Morgans - generally considered the fi rst boutique hotel.With the help of design guru Philippe Starck, they turned their early properties into showcases of everything cool, with dimly-lit hallways, living room-style lobbies, fashionable music and an equally fashionable staff in designer uniforms.Rubell died in 1989 and Schrager continued to expand the hotel empire throughout the 1990s, establishing more than a dozen properties before moving on to property development and his new Edition hotel chain.Schrager has long had a reputation for obsessing over the smallest details at his properties. He's been known to fly into a rage if the bouquets in the guest rooms at his Gramercy Park Hotel don't contain precisely 10 pink carnations.Ian SchragerMarriott Jr, Chairman and Chief Executive of Marriott hotels.The first opened last year in Honolulu. It will be followed by Istanbul, Barcelona, Mexico City, London, Paris, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Naples and Mumbai, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Manchester and Edinburgh. Two dozen are planned by 2020. Under the deal, Schrager designs every detail from the room to the food and drink. Developers build and own the buildings; Marriott runs everything; Schrager and Marriott are paid a fee and a share of the profits.Schrager and Marriott are, by any standards, an odd couple. It's hard to imagine the two men having anything in common other than the fact that they both spend a lot of time in hotels - more than 300 nights a year, in Marriott's case. Brooklyn-born Schrager co-founded the hedonistic nightclub Studio 54. He was jailed for tax evasion, before moving into designer hotels.