Jun 14, 2023
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Karl Lagerfeld CEO Pier Paolo Righi on the new Macau hotel and beyond

Jun 14, 2023

Pier Paolo Righi rarely needs to ask himself, "What would Karl do?" as he leads the late designer's namesake brand into the future sans the multi-disciplinary creative force. As its CEO since 2011, Righi worked alongside the German designer leading his fashion and beauty brand while realizing projects encompassing Lagerfeld's artistic and intellectual pursuits, including photography, literature, and architecture collaborations.

Pier Paolo Righi at the new Macau hotel - Courtesy

The opening of The Karl Lagerfeld Macau in the Grand Lisboa Palace Resort marks a project years in the making. It sets the tone for several more hospitality and residential projects bearing the prolific artistic director's name. Righi spoke with FashionNetwork.com following the hotel's opening festivities as the group met with partners for more projects in the area.
While in a car to Kuala Lumpur, Righi was elated despite the late hour. "It's definitely one of the most exciting weekends that I ever had. It's beautiful to see the finished project that we started to work on with Karl ten years ago," he said.
While in Southeast Asia, the executive and his team were meeting their Malaysian partner Sheng Tai International.

"The past week has been dedicated to hospitality developments. The project in Malacca is part of a bigger development serving different purposes and future consumer behaviors. The project will entail a bespoke Karl Lagerfeld hotel and serviced apartments concept," he said, offering FashionNetwork.com the exclusive news.

The development called 'The Sail' will consist of nine towers and will open in 2030. "The Sail is part of a broader vision of the owner Dato Leong to develop a unique reference point in Southeast Asia, bringing arts, culture, music, fashion, and well-being together and fusing them into one experience," Righi continued.
He also spoke of one closer to home in Marbella, Spain. "It has five bespoke luxury villas currently open for sale that will be the first sustainable luxury property, opening in 2024. We will soon launch another residential project," he furthered, adding, "More coming, but that depends on the developer and how inspiring the opportunity is, and if the partner is in sync with our vision and strategy."

Outside the new Karl Lagerfeld Macau hotel - Courtesy

The alignment was close to perfect with the Macau property that Daisy Ho of SJM Resorts, S.A. led. "We don't go for a cookie-cutter approach. It's bespoke based on what we find there and a combination of blending it with our vision," Righi said. "Karl was in love with Chinese culture and art, and pairing European influence with this inspiration was very inspiring."
Executing the vision also needed to align. "The other important element was the developer giving us almost carte blanche in making Karl's vision come true without taking shortcuts. When you walk into the hotel, you see the clear realization of this vision and spirit. It is amazing to see because that only happens if you have a developer partner equally a visionary which is the case with SJM," he said.
Righi noted that while the Macau project is the first branded property, it wasn't a new genre. Karl Lagerfeld not only designed his apartments but co-designed Chanel boutiques, Monaco's Hôtel Métropole, a group of suites in the Hôtel de Crillon, and aspects of a luxury development in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, during his career.
SJM Resorts, S.A., a family-run development firm, did not disappoint when it came to realizing the vision. The 271 rooms and suites include endless meters of marble, Chinoiserie details, gold and brass accents, a lace sculpture by Dutch artist Marcel Wander, a steel ball sculpture by Jean-Michel Othoniel, a tea salon with 4,000 hand-selected books to mimic Lagerfeld's library and giant likeness of him behind reception and even a Choupette statue. Guests such as Michelle Yeoh, Lou Doillon, and several Chinese government and political figures attended the grand opening event.

Inside the new Karl Lagerfeld Macau hotel - Courtesy

"There wasn't a make-or-break moment, element, or situation. Once Karl explained his vision and level of detail involved, SJM understood whether to go forward or not," he said, recalling an example of an idea for a small jade ornament to be given at the spa. "This had to be developed, and it became a 400-kilo, 2.1-meter jade art piece that took four years to make. It was a big ask; other companies might take some shortcuts," he said.
Despite the push into this new arena, Righi assures that fashion is still critical to the house. He referenced The One Atelier architecture firm in Milan that helps translate the KL DNA into design projects like Marbella development and the brand's luxury furniture collection recently launched at Salone de Mobile. Additionally, the brand set up the Karl Lagerfeld Hospitality B. V. company to support the additional branch. Typically, the KL brand receives a fixed design fee and brand license fee based on the project's revenue. Righi declined to disclose any specific financial information.
"As Karl's house and legacy, we align with and reflect how Karl ideated and presented through his many areas of interest. We will further develop the fashion collection, especially the gowns made for The Met Gala that have a couture perspective. It shows what we are able to do and are serious about, but at the same time, we are serious about hospitality and residential."

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