The Confluence of Fashion and Hospitality: A Primer on the Legal Considerations
By Theodore C. Max Partner, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP | December 06, 2015
Coco Chanel said that "Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening." Social media and the Internet have put global fashion at consumers' fingertips. Fashion is no longer an industry of just brands, but also one of lifestyle choices and luxury experiences.
Fashion can be food and dining experiences. One can now enjoy a Ralph Lauren hamburger in Paris at Ralph's, drink a Cavalli vodka martini at the Cavalli Club in Dubai, or feast on Scottish oysters on Alfred Dunhill's "Oyster Night at Alfie's" in Shanghai. Chanel, Dsquared 2, Ralph Lauren, Bulgari, Armani, and Cavalli all have luxury restaurants at hot spots around the world.
Fashion can offer unique experiences and brand appeal for hotel guests, and this confluence between fashion and luxury hotels is not a new story. Salvatore Ferragamo started the trend in 1995 in Florence with its partnership with Lungarno Alberghi S.p.A. Gianni Versace S.p.A. licensed Sunland Group which built the Palazzo Versace on Australia's Gold Coast in 2000. In 2012, the Sunland Group reportedly sold the Palazzo Versace Hotel for $68.5 million. The Versace brand was licensed again for the development of the Palazzo Versace Dubai and Palazzo Versace Macau, with Donatella Versace designing the hotels and interiors. But the tectonic shift in the luxury industry from brand to more encompassing lifestyle experiences, which create a total brand experience for the consumer, has accelerated and intensified the confluence of fashion and hospitality. This article will explore the different approaches to affect a marriage between fashion and hospitality, and articulate best practices for establishing a solid foundation upon which to build a strong brand and culture for a luxury hotel franchise.
Essential First Step Considerations: Building Brand DNA and Deal Synergy
In order to be successful, the marriage between fashion and hospitality needs to be founded upon a strong brand and a unique brand promise. The fashion brand needs to be well-established in the relevant territory and market, and should have a brand culture and fashion point of view that lends itself to the hospitality industry. The fashion brand's differentiating concept should translate into unique brand experiences for each guest. Fashion house brands that have differentiated themselves by creating a well-known and identifiable brand DNA through branding, marketing, advertising, and licensing should use that body of work to mold and define the visitor's hotel environment and imbue their brand values into each aspect of the guest's stay. If the brand has developed elements of the experience, either directly or through licensing, this extension of brand awareness can be a way to ensure a total fashion experience for the visitor.
Essential to this basic foundation is the protection of all meaningful intellectual property, including trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights. The greater the extent to which the designer has identified and protected its branding and good will, the more likely the consumer will be able to enjoy a total brand experience in the design of the hotel and its branding. The intellectual property should be carefully identified and the scope of the protection should be made clear. If a design house is seriously considering expansion into the hospitality realm, care should be taken to protect the brand equity with trademark filings in advance. To the extent that the designer is involved in the design of the hotel and its branding directly as part of a services agreement, such proceeds and the intellectual property should be owned by the designer and licensed to the hospitality company.