Jean Nouvel. Christian Lacroix. Kenzo Takada. And now, Karl Lagerfeld. Over the last half-decade, a star-studded cast of designers and architects has helped transform the half-century-old French Sofitel brand from a random collection of dusty hotels—some elegant, some forgettable—into a serious player among international luxury hotels.
This is all thanks to a new direction from CEO Robert Gaymer-Jones, who over the last six years whittled down 81 sub-par properties from a group of more than 200 into a collection of 120 hotels that have been upgraded and reflagged into distinct brands. They include the Sofitel flagship (the Nouvel-designed Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, for one), Sofitel Legend for historic properties (the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi and the soon-to-open Sofitel Montevideo among others), and So, a line of new style-conscious boutiques. (Recent openings include So Bangkok, where Lacroix did the lobby and staff uniforms, and So Mauritius, where Takada designed eight light-filled villas.)
Back to Lagerfeld: Sofitel So Singapore, opening this summer in a 19th-Century building, has snagged the Paris-based fashion icon to design the interiors. Details are still under wraps, but we hear Lagerfeld will be blending the property’s neoclassical details with a contemporary touch. (And perhaps some of his stunning fashion photography? Fingers crossed.)
To my fellow hotel junkies: keep your ears to the ground. With Sofitel’s goal to expand to 150 hotels by 2015, there’s a lot more to come from this rising star in hospitality.
Jennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @JennFlowers.