Words Charlotte Davies
Designer hotels are popping up all over the world; no longer is it enough to just dress the elite. Now fashion houses furnish their homes, dress their children and pets and provide luxury accommodation when they holiday.
Of all the places in the world primed for a fashion takeover, none can compare to Dubai. It’s a playground for hoteliers looking to push the limits of design, taste, luxury and size. With hotels opening across the city on a monthly basis, the sky is literally the limit in this Arab Emirate city.
Palazzo Versace Dubai is the fashion house’s second hotel, opening sixteen years after Versace’s inaugural hotel on Australia’s Golden Coast. However, the younger hotel definitely isn’t playing second fiddle to its elder sibling. The hotel opened in November 2016 with one of the most glamorous and fashionable launches the city, or indeed the hotel world, had ever seen. With Versace models flanking her either side, Donatella Versace herself was there to open the hotel.
Entering Palazzo Versace is a sensory overload. One of the first things you’ll notice is, unusually, the smell of the hotel. The divine scent is an adaptation of one of Versace’s signature fragrances. It wafts through the vents and fills the hotel.
The hotel is spacious inside and out. Each wing of the hotel has its own outdoor pool (three in total) and lounge area with elegant recliners and canopied day beds. Shaded walkways connect the three areas, passing through beautifully landscaped gardens. From here you can enjoy unobstructed views of the Dubai Creek and skyline.
Palazzo Versace’s lobby is magnificent and reflects a 16th-century Italian palazzo. The space is ostentatious with huge amounts of detail and a rainbow of rich colours. It remains a beautiful, exemplary model of Italian grandeur. Hanging from the high ceiling is a Golden Breeze Lighting Sculpture. This is a chandelier from the Czech Republic that take inspiration from Versace’s floral pattern. Its clever design gives the allusion of movement in a soft breeze. It lends a real sense of delicacy to 3000kg of hand-blown glass.
One of the hotel’s grandest mosaics lies beyond the lobby, down a set of white Carrera marble steps, in the lounge area. Beneath plush, Baroque-esque seats with Versace upholstery, is a 1.5 million piece. It’s a handmade mosaic replicating one of Gianni Versace’s original designs for the illustrious fashion house. Each piece of the mosaic has been hand cut from naturally coloured stone by Italian mosaic company, Fantini. The same workshop that created many of the mosaics in Gianni’s homes, including all of those in his Miami residence.
This aspect of the grand mosaic encapsulates the overall design-theme of the hotel. It is a space in which Versace’s illustrious heritage is honoured and its future as a leading fashion house celebrated. The hotel’s décor showcases a mix of Gianni Versace’s original designs and Donatella’s flamboyant and grand aesthetics. Drawings of both designers’ dresses line the hallways of the hotel. If ever you need outfit inspiration, simply step outside your bedroom and borrow one of Donatella’s dress designs for Rihanna or Kate Moss.
What is a Versace hotel without a couple of Versace stores from which to fill your suitcases? Palazzo Versace has two shops, one selling their home collection and another selling their fashion collections. If your airline loses your luggage, pop in and re-kit your wardrobe with head-to-toe Versace.
The hotel has 215 rooms, 69 of which are suites. Additionally, there are an extra 169 residences for sale should you find it hard to leave.
The hotel’s branding is tastefully handled; yes it still screams Versace, but in a good way. No opportunity was passed to put the Versace mark on the bedrooms. To say the design team paid attention to detail is an understatement. Obvious instances are the Medusa’s heads on the bath robes and towels, but there are many more subtle inclusions. These include the Italian Carrera marble flooring in the bathrooms and the Greek key-patterned cornices in the bedrooms.
Each piece of furniture has been tailor-made by the House of Versace exclusively for Palazzo Versace Dubai. Every chair and bed-head is done in a Versace fabric; the curtains are Versace, the carpets match the fabrics and the beds feature Versace linen. Designs take inspiration from the trompe l’oeil wall mouldings that decorate 16th-century palazzos of Italy’s elite (some things never change). Made in either turquoise, blue or salmon with gold details, they are exquisite, both to view and sleep under.
Similarly the rooms have impeccable design – both aesthetically and practically. When designing the hotel, Donatella insisted on having exceptional vanity mirrors in every room. Incredibly-well back-lit mirrors are found in each room, making them perfectly for getting ready for a night in the hotel’s restaurants and bars.
Eat Italian and Al Fresco
Of the four restaurants at Palazzo Versace, two are Italian. The first is Amalfi, an outdoor poolside eatery on the west wing of the hotel. The chefs here use traditional, rustic cooking techniques to prepare authentic Mediterranean dishes. These include healthy salads and crispy thin Italian pizzas. This restaurant has a large outdoor terrace in a reflection of Italy’s traditional palazzos. But of course it also makes the most of Dubai’s hot climate. What could possibly beat taking breakfast outside in over 20°C heat in February?
The second – Vanitas – is a more formal restaurant. It serves classic Italian fare made with specially sourced ingredients. The fish here is a must during your visit. Like in the rest of the hotel, no cost has been spared to decorate the space. Versace collaborated with Rosenthal to create exceptional porcelain ware that is both elegant and undeniably Versace. This room is perhaps the most successful at recreating a 16th-century Italian palazzo. A gold Medusa head stares boldly from the centre of the stylish blue and white platters. Delicate trompe l’oeil motifs adorn the ceiling and walls, and a hand-painted fresco covers the entire far wall. It depicts a rural idyll painted by Enrico Frangi Company from Milan.
Giardino is a buffet-style restaurant which is open all day. It features several interactive live cooking stations serving everything from Indian cuisine to freshly made sushi. One of the highlights of this restaurant is the staff’s uniform. Few waiters and waitresses can boast that their uniform is Versace, even less can claim that their Versace uniform was inspired by Jennifer Lopez’s ‘jungle’ dress for the Grammy’s. They look impeccable and oh-so-chic.
Fine Wining and Dining
Finally, there’s Enigma which, to use one of fashion’s favourite words, is ephemeral. Every three months a different Michelin-starred chef takes charge of the kitchens to create an entirely new menu and dining experience.
The hotel also has four bars, the best of which is Q’s. Q’s is music legend Quincy Jones’ first ever bar, it serves a wonderful selection of cocktails with wonderfully witty names in an intimate, seductive setting that plays host to an ever-changing schedule of musicians featuring next generation stars, all chosen by Quincy himself.
The Palazzo Versace Spa
I would happily take the seven-hour flight from London to Dubai, solely to come to Palazzo Versace’s spa. It is a beautiful space and the staff are exceptionally friendly, helpful and, most importantly, expertly trained. This is the first spa operated by the fashion house, and hopefully the first of many.
The spa features dedicated male and female thermal suites each containing a spa pool, sauna, steam room, relaxation lounge, spacious changing facilities and a Moroccan hammam sanctuary. What’s more, there are seven luxurious treatment rooms and one exquisite spa suite complete with private Jacuzzi and monsoon rain shower.
Their treatment list is extensive. It includes facials, massages, wraps, reflexology, manicures and more. For something out of the ordinary, try one of their four hammam therapies. These aim to “refresh your mind and soften your skin.” The rituals involve steaming, scrubbing and massaging the skin until it glows.
While following the same general aesthetic of the rest of the hotel, the spa’s interior is considerably more refined and subtle. It creates a relaxing and calming space. Dark lighting and black Italian marble floors in the corridors and pool area juxtapose the elegantly simple, cream panelled walls of the changing area.
The Palazzo is, or will be, in the centre of Dubai’s Culture Village on Dubai Creek. Although it is one of the oldest quarters of Dubai, it is one of the last areas waiting for development. Versace is one of the first buildings in the area. This means it has a vast amount of space in comparison to many other hotels in the city.
Within a year or two the Culture Village will house the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library and the Dubai Museum of Middle East Modern Art (MOMEMA). Additionally, numerous other smaller galleries, restaurants and bars. It will be a vibrant area, at the heart of which will stand Palazzo Versace.
Rooms start from around £399 per night, based on the current AED to British pound exchange rate.