How Luxury Fashion Brands Are Creating Real Estate Gold
Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Architecture stimulates fashion.” But the former creative director of Fendi and Chanel—and the founder of his own namesake company—might have had the order mixed up, as real estate developers from Arizona to Dubai are nurturing a slew of hotly anticipated projects that take design cues from leading fashion houses.
The Miami area is the de facto capital of such hybrids, home to Fendi Château and the upcoming Missoni Baia and Residences by Armani/Casa. It’s also where Lagerfeld himself envisioned his first interiors project in the U.S.: a pair of elegant lobbies for the Estates at Acqualina, a 245-unit seaside development in Sunny Isles Beach that is slated to be completed in 2021.
Conceived entirely by Lagerfeld, the spaces evoke his highly embellished flair with such artful touches as walls covered with handcrafted stainless-steel swans, ceilings sheathed in silver leaf, and custom glass etchings by artist Gerhard Steidl that are based on the designer’s photographs of Roman arches. “I took great pride in knowing that the lobbies I create will be such important spaces in the building,” Lagerfeld said in a statement prior to his death in February.
Designer Giorgio Armani has similarly branched out, having founded an interior design arm of his self-titled home goods brand in 2004. “It’s something that really excites me, in terms of creativity even before business, because it allows me to be involved at every level: with materials, aesthetics, and a holistic approach to lifestyle,” says the Italian style icon, who has crafted interiors and furnishings for major projects in Dubai, Istanbul, Mumbai, and London.
He recently unveiled plans to completely reimagine the Giorgio Armani Manhattan flagship on Madison Avenue, including kitting out 19 new apartments directly above it. “With this project, I would like to offer a full view of my world, from fashion to my vision of interior design,” he says of the refined units that are executed in the neutral palette synonymous with his brand. “I want to surprise and gratify the public.”
Meanwhile, work is under way on London’s Damac Tower, a 50-story condominium near Vauxhall that features 360 residences with interiors and amenity spaces by Versace Home. Recalling the label’s sense of glamour are doorways inlaid with the signature Greek key pattern and the spa’s mosaic walls, inspired by its ubiquitous palm tree motif.
Bulgari, too, incorporated a residential portion (15 mansions, 168 apartments, and six penthouses) when conceiving its ritzy new Dubai resort, which features coral-esque brise-soleils that recall the company’s sculptural jewelry. “Developers here have a need to differentiate,” says Leigh Williamson of Gulf Sotheby’s International Realty, which is handling sales. “When you get inside the residences, having a brand gives an instant advantage.”
Perhaps the most surprising place such projects are cropping up is in the affluent city of Scottsdale, Arizona, which will soon welcome the Palmeraie, a 122-acre, mixed-use development that will feature 41 homes designed by architect Marco Costanzi under the Fendi name. “These residences will have Fendi DNA head to toe,” says developer Jerry Ayoub, noting that the design celebrates the unexpectedly lush Sonoran Desert setting. “There is nothing that currently exists at this level.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2019 Fall Issue under the headline “Address Label.” Subscribe to the magazine.