By Anil Bhoyrul and Andrew White www.arabianbusiness.com
1.20pm BB: Okay, the press briefing has just finished – my new pal Giorgio spoke in Italian but thankfully had a great translator.
Giorgio explained the was surprised when Mohammed Alabbar asked him to do this hotel project in Dubai. “My thinking is less is more, and Dubai was being called the Las Vegas of the desert. I couldn’t understand why he wanted this hotel in Dubai.” Alabbar himself told me it took “two years” to persuade him to sign up!
Giorgio admits that he is “difficult to work with”. He says his team has “suffered a lot” putting this together. Alabbar agrees admitting that many drawings were changed and changed and changed again “but the end result was worth it.”
So how do they both feel?
“Yesterday I saw this hotel come to life and I felt very emotional. It was marvelous to see this come to life” says Giorgio. Mohammed Alabbar says it is a “dream come true.”
And what next? Both are a bit cagey saying there will be a hotel in Milan next, and then they will see. “There is a lot of interest from a lot of cities but we are being meticulous in who we choose,” says Alabbar.
Quick work from Alabbar on the financial crisis. He says projects like this are built to last 100 years. “Cycles come and go, this hotel is here to stay.”
It’s time to go and sample the lunch on the first floor.
1.05pm BB: Our photographers have just filed more photos of their tour around the Armani suites. See them here.
12.45pm BB: Giorgio Armani has just spoken at the press conference. Check out the photos here.
12.25pm BB: Just checked out the nightclub, Armani/Privé. Now we’re talking. This is super, super cool. It is over two floors including an outdoor area, and the concept is that there’s no specified dance floor – you just dance wherever you feel like it. Very cleverly laid out in my opinion, and this is where Dubai’s party people will want to be seen. In fact, 300 of them are invited for tonight’s celebrity bash being led by Giorgio Armani and Mohammed Alabbar. It’s the hottest ticket in this part of the world tonight, and I’ve got one. But guess what – I can’t even go!
12.16am AW: If that’s not enough to tempt you inside, there’s also the 150-room Armani Residences, intended to complement the Armani Hotel and provide a “complete lifestyle experience”, according to the blurb. The one- and two-bedroom luxurious residences, located on levels nine through 16 of Burj Khalifa, have been personally designed by Giorgio Armani himself and will be furnished with a special collection of furnishing from Armani/Casa. That’s pretty sweet…
12.12pm AW: We’ve been having technical problems with email and internet [who hasn’t in the UAE recently] but we’ve just received our first photos which will be added to throughout the afternoon.
11.40am BB: Just below us on the ground floor is what’s known as ‘Armani Peck’. This is a selection of cold cuts, basically lots of fancy cheese you can taste as well as buy. It has a much more relaxed, café-style feel to it, and I think I’ll be back here for a cheese toastie later on.
On the subject of food, the concourse level has a gigantic Japanese restaurant called Hashi. Lot’s of open cooking areas and a really nice outdoor bit. I have a sneaky feeling this is going to be one of Dubai’s hottest spots in the months ahead, especially from October onwards when you’ll have to wait a few weeks, or be very well-connected, to get an outdoor table.
11.30am AW: Back to business, and we’re told the Armani Hotel Dubai will be home to eight unique dining experiences. As well as Armani/Privé, a hip and upscale lounge, and the world’s first in-hotel Armani/Spa. The hotel will also be home to the Armani/Dolci chocolates and sweets store, an Armani/Fiori, a floral shop, and an Armani/Galleria. Bruno’s having a nose around…
11.22am BB: We’re now in the first floor lounge, which is pretty classy – again, the photos will do it better justice than my description. There’s a cool view of the Dubai Fountain, as well as the Souq Al Bahar. I’ve just bumped into Emaar boss Mohammed Alabbar, preparing for the official launch in about an hour’s time. He tells me that it’s all systems go. But is he happy with the outcome? “I’ll tell you tonight when the party’s over and the money starts rolling in,” he smiles. I think he looks pretty happy.
11.05am AW: Okay, like you say, let’s wait for the pictures. In the meantime, I’ve had an ask around the office but fashion jokes seem to be a little thin on the ground. Example: “Did you hear about the man who put on a pair of clean socks every day? By the end of the week he couldn’t get his shoes on!” Sigh… see what I’m working with here?!
All this was originally scheduled to take place last week, but the volcanic ash could saw to it that none of the major players could get over here: no models, no media frenzy, and no Man Himself. Still, I’m guessing Mr A didn’t mind too much – the delay meant that the lifelong Inter Milan fan was in his home town to watch his side beat Barcelona in their Champions League fixture last week. Score!
10.46am BB: I’m now on the fifth floor and the first thing that strikes you when you walk out of the lift is the incredibly narrow corridors and low ceilings. There’s about 1.5 metres between the walls – it’s a bit like being on a brown and black cruise ship. We’re told Giorgio Armani personally decided upon this, and will explain why later on this morning. It is classy, but to be honest it’s also very strange.
Into one of the Ambassadors’ suites on the fifth floor. The first thing to point out is that of all the rooms, only three have terraces on the fifth floor, and three on the seventh floor. I’m told that this is the third largest suite size available, but it’s a bit of a squeeze. Excluding the (admittedly fantastic) balcony it must be about 150 square metres, and the four-poster bed takes up almost the entire bedroom.
There’s obviously a lounge and fancy bathroom and all that, and you’d need a lot of friends to fill the amazing balcony – I’m just not sure how you’d get everybody through the room itself. Pictures on their way soon, so judge for yourself – I’d say 10/10 for style, but a much lower score on practicality…
10.37 AW: Good luck, Bruno. The Italians are here because the star of the show today is Giorgio Armani, who at the ripe age of 75 is almost twice as old as the UAE… We’re told he doesn’t speak a word of English – bit of a surprise for a man who must have spent most of his life hopping from continent to continent!
Bit of background for you: born into a humble family, Giorgio Armani took a job at the Milan department store La Rinascente. He worked briefly as an assistant photographer, before accepting a promotion to its style office, where he imported products from India, Japan, and the US.
In 1964, without any formal training, Armani designed a line of men’s wear for Nino Cerruti. Encouraged by his partner Sergio Galeotti, Armani left Cerruti and, in 1970, became a freelance fashion designer and consultant.
In 1973-1974, at the prestigious Sala Bianca fashion show in Florence, he presented, to great acclaim, bomber jackets that treated leather as an everyday fabric. This penchant for using materials in unexpected contexts and combinations came to be known as a defining characteristic of his style, and in 1975 Armani and Galeotti started their own company and founded the Armani label. His trademark designs were re-interpretations of the traditional business suit, unstructured, relaxed designs for men, and masculine styles for women – aka the Armani ‘power suit’.
Armani was also one of the first designers to approach celebrities to wear his designs – the 1980 Richard Gere movie ‘American Gigolo’ made the Italian a household name – and in 1982, Armani became the first fashion designer to appear on the cover of Time magazine since Christian Dior in the 1940s.
Since then, it’s been impossible to find a stretch of red carpet anywhere in the world untouched by Armani – the Academy Awards might as well be sponsored by the stylish septuagenarian.
10.32am BB: A quick race around the lobby suggests that there’s no actual check-in desk. There’s a very small registration area – apparently the ‘Armani style’ is to minimise the typical trappings of your average hotel.
Also in the lobby appears to be the entire Italian media, all of them ridiculously good-looking. Good job I dyed my hair black; I’m off to try a bit of Italian…
10.28am AW: Danke, Bruno. So what’s all the fuss about? Let me tell you: exclusively located in the world’s tallest building , the Armani Hotel Dubai at the Burj Khalifa boasts 160 rooms and suites. It is spread across floors five to eight of the tower, with suites on floors 38 and 39 – just the ticket for those who believe one walk-in wardrobe just ain’t enough.
Of course, as far as we know it’s called the Armani Hotel… but then you never know with this place. Last minute change, anyone?
For those of you who have been stuck on another planet for the last few months, the Burj Khalifa stands over 828 metres high and is named in honour of HH Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE, and ruler of the neighboring Emirate of Abu Dhabi. In fact, even if you have been on another planet, you could probably still see the spire… and you DEFINITELY couldn’t have missed the opening night fireworks .
10.22am Anil ‘Bruno’ Bhoyrul (BB): Vassup! I’m feeling very out of place because every single person including the valets is dressed in a black T-shirt and black trousers. A couple of Maseratis are parked outside the entrance, and now the Bruno jeep has joined them. Inside the first thing you see is a gigantic brown and black artwork. It’s matched by the walls and the floors – the theme is black, brown, or nothing.
My proper tour of the hotel will get away soon after 10.30 and Giorgio Armani and Mohammed Alabbar are expected to arrive about 11.15, so for now it’s time to get some Armani croissants, Armani coffee and ideally some new clothes… Even the photographers (who normally pride themselves on looking appalling – and that’s just the ITP ones) have made an effort. Have I been stitched up here?
10am Andrew White (AW): Morning fashionistas, and welcome to our live blog from the Burj Khalifa. We’re back here for what should be a fascinating glimpse inside one of the world’s most exclusive hotels – the one, the only, Armani Hotel Dubai.
I’ve got the bad end of the deal this time around, stuck in front of a laptop with the Burj looming over me – guess that serves me right for having been a lifelong Marks & Spencer’s man… My colleagues, however, are laughing – Anil ‘Bruno’ Bhoyrul and Mona Ibellini are inside the Burj and getting ready to look around the hippest hotel on the planet.
More than that, we’re going to have a host of photos to show you, as well as the first moving pictures from inside the hotel – that’s right, Arabian Business TV is going to bring you a whole load of footage from the new hotel, which has been designed and decorated from top to bottom by fashion legend Giorgio Armani.
Moving swiftly from the sublime to the ridiculous, Bruno Bhoyrul’s now arrived – let’s hear from him.