3 posts tagged "Dubai"
Dubai’s bottomless appetite for superlatives—biggest this, best that—makes it an entirely appropriate venue for a significant first from Giorgio Armani. On Tuesday night, the designer cut the ribbon on his first hotel. It takes up ten floors of the Burj Khalifa, at 2,717 feet the tallest building in the world. To make sense of a numeral like that, simply note that the offices of Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties, the developer behind the numbingly massive Downtown Dubai project, are on the 158th floor. Vertiginists can still their cold sweat, however. The Armani Hotel—and the residences that make up the rest of the Armani real estate—are at the base of the building (although, on this scale, 39 floors feels down to earth).
Armani admitted he was unsure when Alabbar first approached him five years ago how his less-is-more ethos would gel with what he saw as Dubai’s more-is-never-enough thrust, but the hotel leaves you feeling that the designer’s sensibility was actually quite compatible with local traditions. His own love of the private and the discreet is reflected in public spaces that seem to unfold endlessly like a labyrinthine souk. And if the curving walls in the rooms mirror his own unstructured fashion ideal, they’re also very typical of Islamic architecture. Armani claimed his own favorite detail was the arch in the lobby, with its echoes of a mosque’s dome. “You know right away where you are,” he said. If I had to pick one thing, I might opt for the shoehorn hanging in my closet. Sure, every hotel room has one, but the chocolaty, textured luxury of this particular one announced that there wasn’t a detail—however small and hidden away in the dark—in the whole place that hadn’t been scrutinized and transfigured by the designer himself. His always-obsessive attention to detail took on added urgency last year when he staved off a serious illness. Now, he says the hotel represents “a way of being remembered beyond the present.” Bricks and mortar leave a more substantial legacy than fashion’s six-month cycles. So there’ll soon be Armani hotels scattered across the globe, with the next one opening in Milan next year.
In the meantime, the man himself arrived in Dubai with niece Roberta and a handful of his ever-present intimates, but significantly without any of the celebrities who are often flown in for such events. Armani wanted the spotlight to stay on the building itself. Anyway, he was his own best ambassador, tirelessly working the crowd at lunches and dinners that emphasized the range of the hotel’s eight restaurants, from Indian to truly spectacular Italian alta cucina. There was also a presentation of Armani haute couture (Mrs. Alabbar looked suitably chuffed when the gown she was wearing made its stately way down the catwalk) and an after-party at Prive, the dark, glossy night spot with a 120-square-meter LED screen that is “the biggest in the Middle East.” Guests at the hotel will find they have been assigned a “lifestyle manager” to facilitate their stay, but anyone watching Armani’s palpable delight in the heaving Prive crowd might conclude that what it really takes to manage the lifestyle he’s proposing is a prodigious amount of energy and a boundless sense of the possible. A small fortune, and a staff of 12 or so, would probably help, too. In fact, that kind of describes Dubai itself.
Come February 2010, shoppers in Dubai will be able to peruse the racks at the first Bloomingdale’s outside the United States. The iconic New York department store is slated to anchor the world’s largest indoor shopping center, the Dubai Mall, which clocks in at 12.1 million square feet—and which boasts the world’s largest aquarium. (You should know by now that Dubai is land of the superlative.) The woman behind it all is Shireen El Khatib, the CEO of luxury fashion powerhouse Al Tayer Insignia, which has been instrumental in bringing the likes of Giorgio Armani, Stella McCartney, and Gucci to the Middle East. In fact, Armani was the first high-end fashion designer to set up shop thanks to El Khatib convincing him to do so in 1994 after the city was getting back on its feet after the Gulf War. (Bulgari beat Mr. Armani by a year, building its Dubai outpost in 1993—also El Khatib’s doing.) At that time, she and her team had their work cut out for them in educating the clientele on international luxury standards—like the concept of not haggling for merch. But that has since changed dramatically. “There’s a young customer who watches Sex and the City and was college-educated in the U.S.,” said El Khatib of the Dubai fashion customer, on a recent visit to New York. “They want everything that’s new and trendy. And they have an interest in American fashion over European.” Bloomie’s Dubai will echo the U.S. store, particularly Bloomie’s Soho. With 146,000 square feet over stories, the department store will feature a Diane von Furstenberg shop-in-shop and a heavy presence of contemporary and denim labels, along with jewelry from Judith Ripka and Faraone Mennella and bags from Nancy Gonzalez. (There will also be a 40 Carrots restaurant, complete with its cult-favorite frozen yogurt—sure to be a hit in the desert heat.) And in addition to apparel will be a 50,000-square-foot home store, which might seem like a strange import, until El Khatib explains. “People in Dubai know that Bloomingdale’s is strong on home,” she says. “And home is very important. Just look at all the new construction. You need to decorate.”
It’s finally here. Election Day has arrived after two years of “he said, she wore” raillery, so celebrate tonight with help from a course-by-course guide to watching the returns from the comfort of your couch. Everyone who’s anyone will be glued to the tube, anyway.
If you voted absentee, head to Dubai for the opening of the world’s largest mall today. It’s nice to know somebody’s not feeling the crunch of the credit crisis.