Guests are just as likely to be wearing Adidas and Lululemon as custom-tailored evening wear when they check in to finer establishments and its changed how we design boutique hotels.
It’s been nearly a decade since athleisure – casual, comfortable clothing suitable for both exercise and everyday wear – has been a leading fashion trend. It makes up almost a quarter of apparel industry sales, and upscale customers today are just as apt to check in to a high-end hotel wearing Adidas and yoga pants as they are to be dressed in Armani.
Even five-star hotels have had to loosen their dress codes to adapt, according to etiquette expert and author William. “We have become a lot more informal, so you get a range of outfits at five-star hotels upon check-in,” he recent told Hanson recently told the U.K. Daily.”
How has this influenced hotel décor and atmosphere?
The rise of laid-back luxury
Hotel Management magazine observes that what we consider as a luxury hotel experience is no longer rigid and austere, much the same way that a three-piece suit in the hotel dining room is no longer required attire.
Does this mean luxury is fading from hotel lobbies and guestrooms? Absolutely not. The focus has shifted to draw attention to a heightening of the experience of locality and culture. Guests still want a luxury experience, but they prefer to wear comfortable clothing while doing so.
The luxury consumer who stays in boutique hotels now includes millennials who tend to favor authentic local experiences. Boutique hotels have responded with menus, art, entertainment and spaces designed to immerse guests in the tastes, sights and sounds that make their neighborhood or destination special.
Lobbies and guestrooms are designed to facilitate not just comfort and safety, but a sense of belonging and connectedness. The kind of comfort that says, “wear your favorite jeans, please.”
Simon Westcott, owner of the Hong Kong-based LUXE City Guides, tells Traveler magazine that the idea of what counts as luxurious today is broad. "Travel is too democratized nowadays to cling to a 'red rope' mentality. Instead of being limited to experiences with high price tags attached, luxury can take many forms.”
Westcott was part of a panel of seasoned travelers the magazine assembled to explore how perceptions of luxury are changing. The consensus that emerged was that that luxury is becoming more about, as panelist Lou Tandy puts it, “the rarity of the experience and the emotional impact delivered. It is about privileged access to a person, place or experience and the transformative effect it may have.”
Ramifications for design
These travelers tend to prefer a more laid-back and understated version of luxury over opulence.
In this context, luxury boutique hotel designers are compelled to capture the individuality of the location of a property. Successful designs say, “I represent what is unique about the location of this hotel.” They provide a unique vicarious experience quests can enjoy whether they are wearing a tux or a tracksuit - or a combination of the two.
Hospitality executive John Graham tells Inc. magazine that this is the impetus of laid-back luxury and it’s a state of mind that hotel design can reflect.
So many of our connections today have become virtual, and Graham observes that guests want to see their quest for comfort reflected in ways that reward them with a sensory experience. They want experiences that are genuinely memorable, which doesn’t include being told what to wear. Dress codes are seen as an intrusion that drives a wedge between the traveler and the authentic connection they are trying to make with locale. Their exclusionary nature is antithetical to the traveler’s quest. They make it harder to blend into the local scene.
Author Deidre Clemente tells Time magazine that that casual clothing represents freedom, and it undermines the distinction between luxury couture for the rich and functioning work clothes for the poor.
“To dress casual,” she writes, “is quintessentially to dress as an American and to live, or to dream of living, fast and loose and carefree.” Besides, she says, casual clothes feel good.
And what about the design elements of our guestroom? Do they make us feel good, too?
Armani track suits
“Our society has changed, and now the mood is more casual than past generations,” writes Forbes Travel Guide editor DeMarco Williams in a piece discussing how the notion of “proper attire” has dissolved at finer hotels and bars.
And he has an interesting point. The names of high fashion once dictated what was worn while staying at a five-star hotel or dining at its restaurant. Today, Chanel makes leggings. Armani makes tracksuits and hoodies. Adidas has sneakers that’ll set you back thousands of dollars.
No one ever said that laid-back luxury was inexpensive.
Beachwood Custom has specialized in global sourcing of customer furniture and finishes for boutique and premiere hotels since 1992. Contact us today to see how we can help you create a memorable guest experience.