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Travel trends: Why lifestyle brands like Muji are opening hotels and how they’re doing things differently

Consider this the ultimate brand experience.

The world’s first Muji hotel opened earlier this year in Shenzhen, an oasis of warm wood and Zen minimalism, as one would expect of the much-adored Japanese lifestyle brand. Hot on its heels was a second hotel overlooking Tiananmen in Beijing, and a third is slated to open in Tokyo’s Ginza district in the spring. One might say Muji’s move into hospitality is a natural one; since it already sells every single imaginable household product, why not create a space in which people can also use them? As it says: “The Muji Hotel seeks to provide a physical experience of the Muji philosophy through the texture of the towels, the placement of outlets and light switches, the menu and venue of the restaurant, and more.”

  • Muji Hotel exterior

    LOOK OF ZEN

    The wood-panelled exterior and reception of Muji Hotel Shenzhen.

Muji is not the first lifestyle brand to branch out into the hotel business, and it certainly won’t be the last. Around the world, companies of all shades –  from French gourmet food purveyor Fauchon to bathroom specialist Kohler – are opening hospitality projects that effectively double as multi-sensorial, immersive brand stories. Any day now, Detroit-based watch and bicycle brand Shinola will be opening a hotel on its home turf. A space for the local community and a paean to the city it was born in, this major new project affirms, in a high-profile way, one of Shinola’s key brand promises (and marketing messages) – that of reinvigorating the once-thriving manufacturing city of Detroit.

Even gym chains are jumping on the bandwagon. Fitness giant Equinox will be launching its first property in New York’s Hudson Yards early next year. Aside from a 5,574 sq m gym – the largest the brand has built – the hotel will also focus on bringing the wellness experience full circle, with specially created restaurants and in-room menus. After all, there’s little point sweating up a storm on an elliptical machine, if you conclude your evening with a room-service deluxe burger and fries.

These brands aren’t simply opening hotels to peddle their wares, their visions are even grander: bringing people together and offering them more customised brand experiences on levels they don’t encounter in brick-and-mortar stores. Having said that, Shenzhen’s Muji Hotel does boast one of the largest Muji stores in China, spread over two floors and covering over 1,700 sq m. As if we would expect anything less from this up-and-coming megalopolis.

(RELATED: What’s in a Muji hotel? Impressions from the Shenzhen branch)

 

ONE FINE STAY

These hotels owned by lifestyle brands play to their strengths to offer guests that little somethin’ somethin’.

  • Lodge Kohler pool

    01 LODGE KOHLER

    The newest property to come from bathroom fixtures company Kohler is located in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Besides a Kohler Waters Spa offering top-class treatments, the suites feature custom-designed bathrooms, including rain showers that can be programmed to a specific temperature and set on timer.

(RELATED: 5 unusual luxury hotels to discover in 2018)