In Paris, fashion designer Christian Lacroix turns his eye on the travel world.
"I'm not attracted to hotels just to make a design statement," veteran couturier Christian Lacroix explains as he sits on one of the beds in his newest creation, the 34-room Hôtel Bellechasse, in Paris's Faubourg St.-Germain. "Remember, in French, the word mode means not just fashion, but a way of life."
Over the past five years, Lacroix—who would have become a theater designer if he hadn't gotten a job at Hermès in the 70's—has had a case of wanderlust, lending his signature colorful, haute whimsy to several you-are-here endeavors, including the 17-room Hôtel du Petit Moulin, which opened last year in the Marais, and the TGV, France's high-speed rail, which he reimagined with acid-toned upholstery and streamlined seats. The jet-setting visionary even redesigned Air France's crew uniforms.
Though Lacroix certainly isn't the first designer to enter the hospitality arena, it suits his genius, which lies in organically connecting his projects to their surroundings. "A hotel should give its own interpretation of the city, the district, and the street onto which it opens," he says. Lacroix realized this imperative at the Petit Moulin by looking to the bohemian neighborhood's numerous art galleries for inspiration, plastering the walls with fanciful paintings, photographs, and even blowups of his own couture sketches.
Appropriate to the genteel Faubourg St.-Germain, the Bellechasse is more high-fashion, with nods to antiquity and sumptuous furnishings and fabrics. "The area is so elegant, and connected to museums," he says of the hotel's proximity to cultural institutions like the Musée d'Orsay. "And the antiques shops around the neighborhood are the best." Thus some of the photo-transfer collages use snippets of old engravings, while others incorporate motifs from ancient sculpture. The interiors depicted in paintings by early Modern masters like Pierre Bonnard inspired Lacroix's decision to use rich colors and textures, from the silk-jacquard–upholstered desk chairs and macassar-wood doors with gleaming brass number plates to the jewel-toned faux leather that covers the hallway walls. "It's my version of the spirit of the city."
Air France Direct flights to Paris from many major cities. 800-237/2747; airfrance.com.
Christian Lacroix The designer's flagship store. 73 Rue du Faubourg-St.-Honoré; 33-1/42-68-79-04; christian-lacroix.fr.
Hôtel Du Petit Moulin 29/31 Rue du Poitou; 33-1/42-74-10-10; paris-hotel-petitmoulin.com; doubles from $247.
Hôtel Bellechasse 8 Rue de Bellechasse; 33-1/45-50-22-31; lebellechasse.com; doubles from $398.
Musée de la Mode et du Textile Lacroix curates the museum's fashion collections in "Christian Lacroix, Histoires de Mode" (Nov. 8–Apr. 6), showcasing 480 garments—bejeweled 1930's Mainbocher dresses, Victorian tea gowns, ethereal Schiaparelli shifts—alongside 80 of his own couture pieces. 107 Rue de Rivoli; 33-1/44-55-57-50; lesartsdecoratifs.fr.
TGV High-speed rail connecting Paris with the rest of France. 877/257-2887; tgv.com.
Who: Moschino What The Milanese fashion line is staying close to home with its first hotel, a 72-room property launching in Milan's fashionable Corso Como district late next year. Creative director Rossella Jardini is overseeing the project, along with a new interiors line pegged to the opening.
Who: Versace What The supersexy brand already has one over-the-top hotel, the opulent Palazzo Versace on Australia's Gold Coast, and is currently constructing another in Dubai, slated to open in 2009. Expect 215 rooms overflowing with gold and marble; a man-made, temperature-controlled beach; even a recording studio for Donatella's musician friends—like Mariah, J.Lo, and Elton John.
Who: Armani What Having made a splash in the world of interiors with Armani Casa, the arbiter of Italian style is now turning his hand to the world of hotels with the opening of his first property in Dubai next year, set in the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building. Armani is personally overseeing all of the hotel's design elements, including its 140 rooms, its restaurants, and the spa, as well as outfitting 144 condos. At least 10 more properties are planned, in such cities as Milan, London, and New York.
Who: Missoni What Known for its striking patterns and colors, Missoni recently announced plans to develop more than 30 outposts in partnership with megabuilder Rezidor SAS. Starting with the Kuwait City opening in mid-2008, each Hotel Missoni will be designed by Italian architect Matteo Thun, and will showcase the fashion house's signature look. Next up: Edinburgh, then Dubai.