For the Waikiki Edition’s restaurant, the hotel tapped Hiroshima-born Masaharu Morimoto, known not only for his appearances on Iron Chef but also for his establishments in Manhattan, Philadelphia, Boca Raton, and Napa. In addition to Morimoto Waikiki, which was designed by Thomas Schoos—Morimoto’s choice—the Waikiki Edition’s first-rate food services are overseen by Kaleo Adams, the hotel’s bright-eyed young executive chef.
As for the critical landscaping of the hotel, Schrager invited SoHo-based Deborah Nevins & Associates to take charge. “I want a beach,” Nevins recalls Schrager saying, and she gave him one, Sunset Beach, on the site of a former tennis court, up a flight of Brazilian ipe stairs from the Sunrise Pool, which is lined by a ficus hedge and rows of indigenous autograph trees. To soften the base of the massive masonry building, Nevins surrounded it with walls of greenery that act like a verdant plinth for the 17-story tower (built in 1964 as part of a condo/hotel/time-share complex called the Ilikai). There are also arbors of bougainvillea adjacent to the pool, which provide shade for a bar that services both picnic tables and acid-green café tables. “I wanted it to be elegant in that way that is so Ian,” says Nevins, who has already visited the site of the Barcelona Edition.
In addition to “cool kids from California,” as Schrager says, the 353-room hotel courts business travelers and garden-variety vacationers, small-, medium-, and large-scale business meetings, and wedding parties, all looking for a Hawaiian experience that is not riddled with such clichés as leis and luaus, hula girls and Hawaiian shirts.
The original plan, when the Marriott-Schrager collaboration was announced, was for 100 Editions during the next 10 years, but, according to “Mr. Marriott,” the economy has had an impact. Nonetheless, the Istanbul Edition is set to open in the first half of 2011. Schrager chose New York City–based partners Michael Gabellini, Kimberly Sheppard, and Daniel Garbowit, best known for their unrepentant minimalism. There are other Editions under development in London, Mexico City, Barcelona, Bangkok, and Miami Beach, the last of which Schrager is designing in house. “In house” means the hotelier’s office, where designer Kirstin Bailey and architect Paul Haslhofer work away under the watchful eye of Schrager and his architecture and design director, Andrei, who has been at Schrager’s side since 1983.
Asked to name Edition’s competition, or at least hoteliers whose work he respects, Schrager lists “André Balazs, the Thompson guys, and the Viceroy guys.” And as for W? “I don’t think that my customers go to W,” Schrager says, leaving it at that.
Is Schrager at all nervous about introducing a relatively quiet hotel into what is now a very noisy marketplace? “We never did a hotel based on the cycle we’re in,” he says. “There is a little wit, a little irreverence at the Waikiki Edition, but it is a whole lot less self-conscious. It doesn’t overwhelm you with ‘personal style.’” What it does overwhelm you with is the warm self-assuredness of its luxe, low-decibel design, the range of its amenities, and the smiling, can-do confidence of its service. “But not obsequious,” Schrager adds. “Service should never be obsequious.” Oddly enough—especially considering the proximity of Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head—once you check in, you feel no need to leave what Schrager alternately calls “the quintessential urban resort” and “the next generation Hawaiian resort.”
It is a new day for Schrager, a man who has successfully reinvented himself as the changing times demand. It is also a new day for Marriott, decidedly in the “lifestyle” game at last. The word lifestyle has seamlessly replaced the word boutique on Edition’s website. Why? “Because everybody is now using the word boutique,” explains Schrager, who knows nothing so much as when it is time to jettison the past and move on.
Waikiki Edition, doubles from $345.
Charles Gandee is a contributing editor to Travel + Leisure.