Itís not every day that one gets to meet a true style-legend, so for the times when it happens my advice is to make the very best of the occasion and choose the venue very, very carefully. Of course this decision is sometimes made so much easier, as it was when Menís Passion met international fashion house doyenne Rosita Missoni. Where else to meet, and what better to talk about, than the newly opened Missoni Hotel in Salmiya, Kuwait.
There can be fewer more glamorous and stylish ladies than the delightfully engaging Rosita Missoni. Glamorous and stylish for sure, and excitingly so in a wonderfully unconventional manner. But thatís the whole essence of Missoni perhaps - daring to be different. Whilst well known for their eponymous fashion line which was launched out of Lombardy in Italy (from where else could such style emanate?) in 1953, they are rather less well known for their growing group of luxury hotels.
The first of the group opened in Scotlandís capital city, Edinburgh, in 2009. This month Kuwait becomes the second Missoni Hotel to open. There are plans for more in selected, and lucky, cities.
The decision to move into this new business sector is perhaps not quite the huge leap that it might appear at first glance. From a purely commercial point of view these elite hotels provide the perfect Ďshop-windowí for Missoniís home furnishing collection. And, anyway, increasing brand awareness and re-affirming Missoniís place amongst the most exclusive of brands will not do their clothing line any harm at all.
But hospitality? Thereís something new to be learned there, surely? Rosita doesnít agree with me entirely; ďWe know the values we appreciate in hospitality, coming as we do from a very hospitable family which lies within a very hospitable culture, and having travelled all our lives. But when it comes to making a hotel of course things do become a little differentĒ.
When the opportunity arose, however, it was one that Rosita embraced without hesitation. She was excited at the thought of seeing the hotels as a showcase for the current collection of Ďhomeí products, but more so when she realized that it would give an opportunity to test new products, and to extend the range.
I put it to her that itís one thing to run a store and to keep it looking Ďfashionableí, but quite another to keep a hotel looking quite the same. Itís easier to re-merchandise a store than it is to re-decorate a hotel. And hereís where Missoniís mission of daring to be different really pays off - by not slavishly following fashion they are aiming to create a lifestyle rather than pander to the vagaries of societyís fashion-whims.
ďThis is about a lifestyleĒ, Rosita says, ďitís like my home. In my home I have things that are twenty-five years old, and theyíve become a part of my life and represent my idea of the aestheticĒ.
Looking around the hotel it is possible to spot many Ďtimelessí design-classics that have been specially selected by Rosita not because they represent todayís contemporary style, but in fact for the completely opposite reason: that they donít.
For the rooms she selected a chair by Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner. The same chairs she has in her own home, and for the same reasons, ďit is a classic, itís easy to move, and itís a chair which really invites you to stay in and it encourages good conversationĒ.
Missoni Hotels reflect Rosita in many ways. Perhaps chief amongst these is that they are far less about pretention than they are about practicality. This might surprise some people. For many travelers a Ďluxuryí hotel should be synonymous with pretention. For Rosita a luxury hotel is about doing things right, and presenting travelers with the well-loved feeling of Ďhomeí.
ďI donít like luxury that relies on the ĎWOWí effectĒ, she says. ďI think good service is key. Of course itís important that when you look around you see nice things, but certainly ostentation is not something I welcomeĒ.
The Missoni Hotel, Kuwait, is already making its mark on the regional hospitality scene. It is at once beautiful, remarkably beautifully actually, and at the same time understated. It is perhaps the Keira Knightley of hotels.
You can discover more about the Missoni Hotel, Kuwait at www.hotelmissoni.com
To find out more visit www.thegulfrun.com
First published in Men's Passion issue #29 March 2011