A new ad­di­tion to his Chi­nese Edi­tion

China Daily (USA) - - SHANGHAI FOCUS - By XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai xu­jun­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

Ren­o­vated from a du­plex of his­tor­i­cal build­ings by the Bund, of which one used to be a power sta­tion built in 1929, the new Shang­hai Edi­tion Ho­tel is the lat­est ad­di­tion to real es­tate mogul and hote­lier Ian Schrager’s port­fo­lio of prop­er­ties around the world.

The 145 rooms in this new es­tab­lish­ment sport the same aes­thet­ics as the other Edi­tion ho­tels, with high ceil­ings and min­i­mal­is­tic fur­ni­ture adding to the sense of spa­cious­ness. The only dec­o­ra­tion found in the pri­vate spa­ces are black and white works of Wing Shya, di­rec­tor Wong Kar-wai’s ex­clu­sive set pho­tog­ra­pher.

True to Schrager’s be­lief that ho­tels should al­ways be a fun and so­cial en­vi­ron­ment, the Shang­hai out­post comes with nine restau­rants and bars, among which are din­ing es­tab­lish­ments by Miche­lin­star chef Ja­son Ather­ton.

De­spite his rep­u­ta­tion as a hip hote­lier, the 72-year-old New Yorker says that his ho­tels aren’t built solely for the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion, or any gen­er­a­tion in par­tic­u­lar. In­stead, this new ho­tel in Shang­hai, which fea­tures a part­ner­ship with Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional, sim­ply ex­em­pli­fies his pas­sion to grow Edi­tion into “the best life­style ho­tel brand” in the world.

Schrager spoke to China Daily USA dur­ing his re­cent trip to Shang­hai for the open­ing of the ho­tel.

This was an op­por­tu­nity that came from Mar­riott. This build­ing has an un­usual ar­chi­tec­ture and I was drawn to the chal­lenge of turn­ing it into a ho­tel.

Shang­hai is a city that is boom­ing with en­ergy. What has hap­pened here over the past 20 years is just mind-bog­gling. There is noth­ing you can read in the United States that pre­pares you for this. You have to come and see it your­self.

This city may be­come the world cap­i­tal one day. New York has had this ti­tle for a long time, and Shang­hai may be the next. It’s a place that any­body can come and achieve a marvelous ac­com­plish­ment, no ob­sta­cle, wide open, while it is now more dif­fi­cult in New York. I don’t find in­spi­ra­tion from ho­tels. We sim­ply come here to do a ho­tel that is a mi­cro­cosm of the city. We want to make sub­tle ref­er­ences to the lo­cal cul­ture. It is al­most as if some­one comes to your house, and you give him a cup of tea and he knows where you come from.

It’s like when we do a ho­tel in Lon­don, I don’t have to have a man in a big black furry hat and red coat stand­ing out­side greet­ing peo­ple. If I am do­ing a ho­tel in New York, I don’t have to sell Em­pire State Build­ing stat­ues in gift shops.

There are other sub­tle and so­phis­ti­cated ways of be­ing gra­cious to lo­cal cul­ture, and stay­ing true to who we are.

I think there is a uni­ver­sal stan­dard to good taste and stylish­ness. Not ev­ery­one has to get it. But when they do, they fall in love and res­onate with it.

I don’t re­fer to de­mo­graph­ics. I use sen­si­bil­ity. I think de­mo­graph­ics is a mar­ket­ing re­search term, like when peo­ple of­ten ask me about mil­len­ni­als. I don’t do ho­tels for mil­len­ni­als, just like how Steve Jobs doesn’t do tele­phones for mil­len­ni­als. The iPhone is used by peo­ple who are 15 and also 80.

If the sen­si­bil­ity and so­phis­ti­ca­tion are right and good, the ho­tel ap­peals to every­body, just like the way a good meal, a good movie or a good song does.

It’s one that makes you feel good. Guests should feel that there are peo­ple who care whether they have a good sleep, a good shower, or a good break­fast. It’s not rocket science. It’s what your par­ents teach you about treat­ing some­one who comes to visit your home.

We be­lieve in sim­plic­ity. Real sim­plic­ity. In­vis­i­ble de­sign. It’s hard to do some­thing sim­ple, just like it’s hard to write a short story.

Be­ing sim­ple also shows a kind of con­fi­dence. You don’t have to throw every idea out there. It takes more ef­forts to choose one out of a mil­lion than to show­case ev­ery­thing you have.

They do have cer­tain tastes that are unique to the cul­ture. Like when Chi­nese par­ents are on va­ca­tion, they don’t leave their chil­dren alone like the Amer­i­cans. So you just have to in­clude fa­cil­i­ties by the kid’s play area that make the par­ents feel com­fort­able. Every cul­ture is dif­fer­ent. Peo­ple in Spain don’t eat din­ner till 10 o’clock.

There are dif­fer­ences be­tween peo­ple. I am not in­tim­i­dated by those dif­fer­ences. It’s just a ques­tion of how and whether you fig­ure them out.

It’s not re­ally dif­fi­cult. That’s part of the puz­zle, and it’s fun. It also makes sense to have dif­fer­ent ho­tels in dif­fer­ent cities in­stead of copy­ing and past­ing the same lobby and same menu.

Essen­tially, ev­ery­one is still hu­man. We all share the same hu­man con­di­tion and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for smiles and care, for fine touches of phys­i­cal ob­jects, and for the beau­ti­ful things in life.

It’s not only be­cause of the pop­u­la­tion here, but also be­cause of the num­ber and po­ten­tial num­ber of trav­el­ers com­ing to the coun­try.

I would like it to dom­i­nate the life­style ho­tel space. I am never in­ter­ested in hav­ing the big­gest ho­tel com­pany in the world. I am driven by an ideal. Money is just a con­se­quence.

I want to be the best. I want to do lots of ho­tels, with every new one be­ing bet­ter than the last. And I want to say that these in­di­vid­u­al­ized ho­tels are what peo­ple want. They don’t want the same, generic, in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized ho­tels all over the world. It’s not only the young peo­ple — ev­ery­one wishes for this.

Bei­jing, which would be much trick­ier than Shang­hai. Shang­hai is an in­ter­na­tional city and more fa­mil­iar to me. Bei­jing, on the other hand, is more dif­fer­ent and I would have to tone down a lit­tle bit to make sure my cre­ativ­ity would not be of­fen­sive. But Bei­jing is not yet on the timetable. We now have Shen­zhen and Wuhan in the pipe­line.

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