Chat room hotel

Miss Sixty’s new hotel, in an Italian seaside town, is set to blur the line between retail and resort as never before, targeting a young, clubby audience. Sara Manuelli talks to its founder, Wichy Hassan, about the ideas behind the project

From Bulgari hotels to Gucci cafés, fashion brands are increasingly extending their kudos into the hospitality and leisure sector. But, while most of the brands foraying into the hotel world promote an exclusive, de luxe experience, Miss Sixty is entering the game by targeting a clubby, youth culture and its disposable income.

From 19 June, the under-30s crowd will be able to sample the delights of Miss Sixty’s first hotel in the Italian seaside resort of Riccione. Its publicity suggests it will be restricted to the under-30s, but the company is coy about how, or if, this will be enforced. ‘The clientele will be the one that is normally attracted to this place, with its hedonistic lifestyle, its nightlife, the lights and the vibrations,’ says Wichy Hassan, founder of the Sixty Group. The hotel is on the main town’s strip, full of bars, shops and cafés, while a nearby beach will be available for the hotel guests.

‘Creating a hotel was a challenge that amused me,’ says Hassan (pictured right). ‘It’s a new sort of project, a hotel intended not for those who use it for conventional things such as having a shower, sleeping and eating breakfast. I wanted a hotel that creates an experience, a place to meet other people, get to know them, spy upon each other.’ A webcam in each room further reinforces Hassan’s idea of a hotel ‘as a chat room’, while a Miss Sixty shop on the premises confirms the blurring between retail and leisure.

In terms of design, the hotel is a collaboration between Hassan and Sixty 63, the Florence-based architecture and design group that has designed all Miss Sixty retail centres over the past years. ‘The main traits are a clash of 1970s styles, colours and shapes, with materials such as plastic and glass. The façade is made of stainless steel, upon which there will be video projections, just like in an open-air night club. Each room will bear the signature of a young artist, making that space individual,’ says Hassan. A smattering of design classics, such as Bertoia chairs and Eames tables, adorn the public areas.

The Miss Sixty brand is the brainchild of Hassan, an energetic entrepreneur and designer who is also behind the casual menswear label Energie. Established together with Renato Rossi in 1991, Miss Sixty has fast become something of a cult label among young fashionistas and models around the world, no doubt thanks to its eclectic selection of natty, vintage 1970s-like accessories and slim-fit jeans and trousers collection. When controversial actress Asia Argento became Miss Sixty’s poster girl, epitomizing the ‘retro chic persona’ of the advertising campaign by Mario Sorrenti, it only added sultry allure to the brand.

Since its beginnings in 1989, Sixty SpA has become one of the most important fashion industry groups worldwide, with a turnover of €650m in 2005. The group has a portfolio of seven brands, including Refrigiwear, Murphy&NYE and Killah, as well as other youthware spin-offs, and has more than 200 flagship stores all over the world.

Inevitably, Miss Sixty’s success story has led to brand extension. The first fragrance line was launched in 2005 in key European countries, in partnership with Coty Beauty Europe. Sunglasses, eyeware, bags and shoes soon followed. Now that Armani, Bulgari, Salvatore Ferragamo and Versace are jumping on the hospitality bandwagon, Miss Sixty has joined the pack. But, unlike the other brands, says Hassan, ‘we have intervened in a radical way, redesigning a space and coming up with a new concept’.

‘For me, fashion and design have been intertwined in an exciting way since my earliest fashion collections,’ says Hassan. ‘Art, design and fashion inspire each other, and you can clearly see, in my shops, the 1960s and 1970s Pop Art and design references.’ Like the collection, the look of the Miss Sixty shops is a careful mix of old and new, with glossy bespoke interiors creating a backdrop for modern period furniture pieces.

The nod to the 1970s is carried out in the design with shiny surfaces, heavy velvet drapes in rich saturated colours and accent lighting. The overall look is one of a thrift shop, an ironic, Hypermodernist pastiche aimed at the younger style-conscious generations. Hassan himself has, over the years, fashioned himself into an art collector (of contemporary art and Pop Art, such as works by Keith Haring), as well as a patron and sponsor of art and music events.

After Riccione, which has ‘provoked immense curiosity and interest around the world’, says Hassan, Miss Sixty plans to open more holiday resorts in Rome (on the main shopping strip of Via del Corso), in Dubai and in New York. ‘All buzzing cities, with an intense cultural life and a modern rhythm of life,’ as Hassan describes them. And, if the hotel learns the service and experience lessons of its retail sister, it could easily be a success.

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