c.2014 New York Times News Service
c.2014 New York Times News Service
With the next round of European fashion shows quickly approaching, some of fashion’s biggest names are facing a dilemma: Should they boycott their favorite hotels in Milan and Paris because they are owned by the sultan of Brunei?
The Dorchester Collection hotels, a group that includes the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan and Le Meurice in Paris (as well as the Beverly Hills Hotel in California), are owned by an investment fund led by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, whose country is implementing a new penal code that will include, among other things, harsh punishments for gay sex and adultery.
In the past month, notable entertainment figures have been vocal about their intention not to patronize the Beverly Hills Hotel. The designers Brian Atwood and Peter Som had already taken up the cause for the fashion industry, using Instagram to advocate a boycott of the Dorchester hotels. That movement gained momentum on May 9 when François-Henri Pinault, the chief executive of Kering (the owner of Gucci, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen), said he would “join the boycott of his hotel properties.”
The company’s brands are expected to follow suit. A statement for one of the brands, Saint Laurent, was issued via social media, saying its employees would not be allowed to stay at Dorchester hotels and that the new Brunei laws “have no place in a civilized society.”
Next month, editors and retailers go to Milan and Paris for the seasonal menswear and couture collections. For many, the Dorchester’s hotels there have been a destination for 10 years or more, hosting enough industry insiders to seem like fashion-world dorms.
In particular, Le Meurice in Paris has been a preferred choice by several top editors, all the more so because two other fashion-favorite hotels, the Ritz and the Crillon, are closed for renovations.
But many of those editors are now looking elsewhere.
“While I am sensitive to the potential impact that this issue may have on the wonderful staff at Le Meurice, I cannot in all good conscience stay there, nor can Vogue’s editors,” Anna Wintour, the Vogue editor and Condé Nast artistic director, said through a spokeswoman.
In Milan, the Principe di Savoia is the hotel of choice for large swathes of the fashion community, including representatives from Calvin Klein, Salvatore Ferragamo and a number of magazines. A Condé Nast spokeswoman said that lodging choices were “left up to the individual brands, all of which have decided not to stay at Dorchester properties for the upcoming shows,” as has Miguel Enamorado, the fashion director of Brant Publications’ Interview. (Representatives for Calvin Klein and Salvatore Ferragamo declined to comment.)
Even for those who prefer to stay at other hotels in Milan, the Principe’s lobby bar had been the unofficial clubhouse for unwinding after the shows.
“For 20 years it’s been just about the only place I can think of,” said Nick Sullivan, fashion director of Esquire. He described the hotel bar’s draw on the incoming caravan of international fashion types as having “the same sort of gravitational tractor beam as the Death Star in ‘Star Wars.’ Once you’re about 3 miles away, there’s no fighting it.”
Nevertheless, there are those who are fighting that fight. “I have no intention of drinking in the Principe this season,” said Grant Woolhead, fashion director of Out Magazine.
The boycott’s potential impact is significant: The published rate for a room at the Principe di Savoia during June’s menswear shows starts about 300 euros a night; at Le Meurice, during the couture shows in July, the rate is more than 1,000 euros a night (about $1,370).
Christopher Cowdray, chief executive of the Dorchester Collection, has tried to deflect the boycott by citing the ripple effect it would have. “The economic impact of this not only affects our loyal team members but extends to the local community, our valued partners and suppliers,” he said in a recent statement.
Regardless, prominent former Dorchester guests have committed to staying elsewhere until the matter is resolved.
“I don’t think this is a political issue,” said Cindi Leive, the editor of Glamour, who said her staff members would not stay at a Dorchester property at the ready-to-wear shows in the fall. “This is about basic human rights. No hotel is nice enough for that.”