Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Diamond Head is seen from the bathroom of the Vera Wang Suite at the Halekulani in Waikiki. The 2,135-square-foot, one-bedroom suite costs $4,000 per night.

Too suite!

Vera Wang's posh designer
room opens at Halekulani

Many brides dream of slipping into a Vera Wang gown on their wedding day. Now, they can spend a Hawaiian honeymoon her hotel suite.

Tomorrow, the Halekulani resort in Waikiki formally opens the posh Vera Wang Suite, the first fashion designer-branded suite in Hawaii.

Sleeping in Wang-designed splendor isn't cheap. The 2,135-square-foot, one-bedroom suite costs $4,000 -- per night. It is one of the priciest hotel rooms in a state that boasts the highest average room rates in the nation. State hotel and excise taxes for the suite alone are about $450 a night.

"It's for a very worldly, sophisticated consumer where quality, taste, originality and comfort are the most important criteria for which they base a hospitality experience," said Peter Shaindlin, chief operating officer of Halekulani Corp. "For those consumers, the only time something is expensive is when something goes wrong."

Wang is among the growing list of big-name designers and fashion brands to enter the hotel industry. Giorgio Armani is teaming up with a Dubai-based company to launch a collection of luxury hotels around the world. Spanish clothing chain Camper has a hotel in Barcelona. Bulgari has hotel in Milan and plans to open another next year in Bali.

Shaindlin said the difference is that the Vera Wang Suite is rare and provides a personal experience.

"This is one (room) and one alone," he said. "They're doing hundreds." Wang also has a personal connection to the islands. She was engaged here.

"It is one of the most beautiful places on earth, a dream filled with romance and natural beauty," Wang said. "I feel that Hawaii represents everything that is romantic and sensual."

Celebrities and the world's wealthy have already stayed in the chic, oceanfront suite, which first opened, unofficially, in February.

Wang said she wanted to create a "sensual, sophisticated world in which every last detail is attended to and carefully considered."

Touches of the designer, known for her luxurious bridal wear and red-carpet gowns, can be sensed throughout the room. All meals are served on Vera Wang china, crystal and flatware. The decorative pillows use fabric from Wang's apparel. The DVD collection is composed of her favorite films including "The King and I," "When Harry Met Sally" and "Lost in Translation."

Wang even added some of her favorite comfort foods to the menu.

Among the lavish complementary services and goods included in the price tag are a bottle of champagne, a 24-hour butler, limousine transportation to and from the airport and a full bar.

Hotel executives first approached Wang a few years ago.

"For us, there was no second choice," Shaindlin said. "We saw her as the absolute epitome of taste, style, design, fashion and romance."

Guests of the Wang suite are escorted on two separate elevator rides to the private second-floor room overlooking the Pacific.

The suite's simple, sophisticated decor matches the laid-back, island surroundings.

A serene stone statue of Quan Yin, a feminine incarnation of Buddha, greets visitors. Entering the room, the senses are immediately awakened with sweeping views of Diamond Head, Hawaii's most famous landmark, sounds of the rolling waves outside and the scent of tropical flowers arranged around the room.

Contrasting textures and colors resonate from the walls, floors and furniture, keeping with the Asian, tropical theme.

Floors of smooth, dark African wenge wood are covered with coarse, khaki-colored hemp rugs.

The art and furniture was collected from around the world. Wang's favorite piece is a Chinese desk and chair set from the 19th century Qing Dynasty.

The spacious bathroom features an electronically opening toilet lid and heated seat. Guests opting for a soak in the 16-airjet tub for two can open a sliding panel to watch the moon over Diamond Head.

The bathroom is stocked with Vera Wang candles, soaps, shampoo, lotions and perfumes. Even rich people can't resist taking home these toiletries.

"There's not too many that remain," said Gerald Glennon, Halekulani's executive assistant manager.

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