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If you can’t go to the Aman, then bring the Aman (or Mandarin, Ritz-Carlton or Sofitel) to you…

Almira Armstrong creative director and founder of Atelier Lumira

As I write this I am at Halcyon House in Carabita Beach, Australia. Not literally as global pandemic will not allow but figuratively as the hotel’s “signature scent” wafts from the lighted candle on my desk. Our sense of smell is a strong memory trigger numerous scientists have found. That appealing fragrance you notice when you arrive at a great hotel is not only an olfactory welcome, it can stay with you (hopefully in a positive way) for years after the trip. 

“A signature scent expresses a venue’s character, it’s an added dimension that becomes an emotive recall of memories of magical times,” says Azzi Glasser a perfume designer who has created scents for hotels including Rosewood Bangkok and Chiltern Firehouse in London.

Azzi Glasser, perfume designer

Increasingly hotels are commissioning perfumers to create custom room scents. Aman has recently launched three candles – Grounding, Purifying and Nourishing – to evoke its famous spas. “The Spa Candles deliver exquisite scents, making it possible to escape the frenzy of daily life and enjoy the serenity of Aman from the comfort of one’s home,” says the brand’s spokeswoman.

Aman Spa Candles

Soho House has a range of scented candles evoking its clubhouses around the world and taking you through the day. Sicilian Thyme “captures the essence of Italian breakfasts on the morning terrace at Soho House Rome”, Bergamot and Mandarin Zest is “inspired by mornings overlooking the terrace in Little Beach House Barcelona”, Rose Water is “an ode to the English rose” at Babington House’s walled garden, Tonka and Florum evokes “long lunches on the terrace at Soho Roc House in Mykonos”, Fig Verde “recalls evening strolls around the courtyard garden at Soho House Istanbul”, Patchouli is “inspired by fragrant evenings overlooking the Arabian Sea at Soho House Mumbai”, Pomelo is “reminiscent of sunset cocktails at our Miami House”, and Leather and Oud is “reminiscent of nightcaps at Soho House Hong Kong”.

Meanwhile the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong was long associated with Ginger Flower by Shanghai Tang but now has its own freesia and osmanthus fragrance. “We wanted to develop something original for the hotel that is only found here,” says head of group spa operations, Andrea Lomas.

Atelier Lumira in Sydney designs bespoke scents for boutique hotels across Australia and Antica Farmacista in Seattle crafts fragrances for The Ritz Carlton among others. They usually begin by checking in to the hotels for inspiration. As well as talking to the hotel owners and general managers, they take in everything: the location to the design, atmosphere, lighting, food, drink, music, art and books on the shelves. “We analyse each and every element and begin our process of creating a scent that embodies the spirit of the hotel,” says Shelley Callaghan creative director and co-founder of Antica Farmacista along with Susanne Pruitt.

Halcyon House scented candles by Atelier Lumira

For Halcyon House, Almira Armstrong creative director and founder of Atelier Lumira says: “I wanted to capture the warmth and carefree nature of this destination. We did this by fusing sunburst citrus notes with warm spices and a signature floral heart of sheer neroli petals.”

In the case of Rosewood Bangkok, Glasser had her boots on the ground before the hotel was even completed. “I visited the site with my hard hat on and learnt about the heritage of the city itself and the materials that would make up the design,” the London based perfumer says. “I wanted to use the finest natural ingredients: the opulent top notes of elemi, rosewood and fresh water; the heart accord of vetivert, moss and amber; and the base notes of oud, cedarwood and labdanum adds a velvety warmth.”

Cheval Blanc Randheli

As Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives is owned by LVMH when it decided to launch a signature scent it naturally turned to the luxury group’s fellow houses. Guerlain and Christian Dior perfumes’ “head nose”, François Demachy, created Island Chic fragrance for the resort. “The idea was to try to translate this feeling of tranquility and beauty specific to the Maldives and to Randheli,” says Demachy. “For this I started with an aroma of black tea accented with the local spices cloves and cardamom and base notes of the marine aroma, seaweed.”

Demachy, the subject of new Netflix film, Nose, has also been enlisted by Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc to create a fragrance including in the form of a scented candle to commemorate the French hotel’s 150th anniversary.

Some hotel chains have a signature scent for all their properties to ensure a reassuringly familiar experience. Essence of Shangri-La – vanilla, sandalwood and musk with top notes of bergamot and ginger spiced tea – will greet you in any of Shangri-La’s lobbies around the world. “The scent is fresh and subtly Asian, to evoke serenity,” says director of marketing Mavis Ko. And Essence du Sofitel – a top note of fresh citrus, a middle note of white rose and base of white sandalwood – was designed by master perfumer Lucien Ferraro in Grasse to remind guests of “an afternoon in the South of France” which ever Sofitel they check in to.

Shelley Callaghan (right) and Susanne Pruitt, founders of Antica Farmacista

Others tailer the aroma for different locations. The Ritz-Carlton has personalised fragrances for some of its properties so a Ritz-Carlton in Miami, for example, will smell differently to the one in New York. The latter hotel is on 50 Central Park hence the name of its signature scent and its inspiration. “We used a botanical map of as well as specific destinations in the park to include quince, elderberry, floribunda rose, and Strawberry Fields.  We created a scent that essentially brings the outdoors in,” says Callaghan.

Where once a luxury hotel with a signature scent could be deemed risky, now it could be missing out without one. “Introducing scent into a hotel environment used to be considered risky, as hotel owners were afraid to offend guests,” says Callaghan. “That is no longer the mentality, we have found that our hotel partners rely on fragrance to help convey their message. In a sense, a hotel feels ‘naked’ without that fine fragrance element.”

Of course most of these scents are available for guests to buy in the form of candles, diffusers and sprays at the gift shop or on line. As Armstrong says, “Scent is such a powerful connector to memory so what better way to remember a wonderful vacation than by returning to the fragrance that surrounded you during your stay.” 

When Two Glamorous Worlds Collide: Fashion and Hotel Collaborations

The Essentials by Aman

Luxury hotels are collaborating with fashion designers on clothing ranges from one off limited editions to ongoing capsule collections or even creating their own brands.

Aman Resorts

Exclusive hotel brand Aman has launched a fashion collection inspired by its philosophy of creating sanctuaries in stunning locations and connecting guests to the spirit of a place. 

The Essentials by Aman, designed and made in Italy, comprises of active, swim, lounge, resort and knit wear plus accessories for men and women. The clean lines and subtle prints are inspired by Aman destinations while the colour palette is also drawn from Aman’s locations. Think warm terracotta for Amanjena, Marrakech; sea blue and deep green for the azure seas and olive groves of Amanzoe, Greece; and warm yellow for the desert landscapes of Amangiri, USA. 

The Essentials by Aman

“Creating The Essentials has allowed us to work with some exceptional artisans to select the very best materials,” says Kristina Romanova, director fo product development at Aman. “We hope our guests will see the expression of the Aman brand in each and every piece.”

The collection is exclusively available at Aman boutiques with the range slated to expand with the addition of leather accessories and fine jewellery this autumn.

Eden Rock-St Barths

One of the world’s coolest clothing brands has collaborated with one of the most iconic hotels in Off-White x Eden Rock-St Barths. “Off-White are huge fans of the island and there was a mutual desire to introduce a unique collection for those staying at Eden Rock – St Barths,” says a spokesperson for the hotel. 

The capsule collection features nine products for men and women and only 30 pieces are made of each. The island’s beach atmosphere is the inspiration for the range with fabrics such as raffia and linen and a colour palette of beige and blues. The label is only available at the Eden Being boutique at Eden Rock.

W Hotels

“Fashion is a fundamental part of W Hotels’ DNA,” says Jacob de Boer Dorrego, director of brand management for W Hotels. “Whenever possible, our hotels continue to support local designers and also sustainable practices.” 

Currently W Suzhou is partnering with fashion label Juma on a capsule collection of jumpsuits and separates which uses fabrics made from the hotel’s recycled water bottles and is available for sale at the hotel’s store. And W Maldives is collaborating with Hong Kong menswear label Mazu Resortwear to create two exclusive swim shorts with each pair made out of 12 salvaged plastic bottles. 

Le Sirenuse  

The exclusive Positano hotel has its own eponymous clothing line, rebranding as Emporio Sirenuse this year, designed by Carla Sersale (who runs Le Sirenuse with her husband) and her niece Viola Parrocchetti. The idea behind the resort brand is to pay homage to the artists and writers who’ve been drawn to the Amalfi Coast since the 19th century. As Viola says, “There’s more depth to the setting than the Vespa and a basket of lemons”. Instead classical cultures and romantic visions are depicted in the prints and embroideries of the sophisticated men’s and women’s wear. 

Three collections – resort, spring/summer and high summer – are designed a year and is sold in the boutique at Le Sirenuse Hotel as well as online and at high end retailers worldwide.

One & Only 

One & Only Heritage by Jay Ahr is a limited edition collection of bespoke, vintage Louis Vuitton travel bags. Jay Ahr designer Jonathan Riss mastered the art of embroidery in Mumbai and specialises in customising pre owned, exclusive designer bags. His approach of incorporating local inspiration in the designs seems a perfect fit for a hotel company with worldwide locations. 

Riss embroiders each LV Keepall duffle bag with motifs inspired by the particular location and culture of each of the group’s ten resorts. Just two bags are designed for each hotel and as such they are only available for purchase from One & Only. 

Mandarin Oriental 

Orlebar Brown, known for its tailored swim shorts, is no stranger to collaborations most recently for the Mandarin Oriental. The London label has designed versions of its mid length Bulldog style for the MO featuring striking photography of the Mandarin Orientals outdoor, coastal pool sides in Dubai, Miami, Canouan, Bodrum, Sanya and Lake Como. An additional style features the hotel group’s famous Fan logo in a geometric jacquard design and is available from the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok.

Cheval Blanc Randheli 

Deluxe resort wear designer Nadine Arton has an on-going collaboration with Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives.

The designer specialises in glamorous kaftans and floaty dresses which are perfect for wafting around the exclusive LVMH owned island resort. Arton creates exclusive pieces for the hotel three to four times a year which are available at the resort’s chic Concept Store. The boutique also carries LVMH labels such as Fendi sunglasses and Hublot watches.

Inside Kamala Harris’ Singapore Hotel Suite

Shangri La Suite Singapore

Visiting dignitaries to Singapore tend to plump for the Shangri-La hotel and its exclusive Valley Wing. And it’s likely Vice President Kamala Harris is staying in the hotel’s best, eponymously named, suite.

Guests arrive at the Valley Wing entrance – more private than the main hotel lobby – where the Shangri-La suite has its own entrance in the form of a private elevator.

Two dressing rooms, a gym and sauna await in the vast suite as well as personalized bathrobes, pillow cases and stationery. Butler service is available around the clock. Want gourmet cuisine or hawker street food served on fine china at the walnut dining table? No problem. As well as the primary bedroom, there’s an ensuite twin – usually utilized by guest’s security detail.


From SG$8,800 plus taxes

https://www.shangri-la.com/en/singapore/shangrila/

The Play’s The Thing – the Love In between Hotels and Theatre

Raffles Hotel Singapore

Last night I went to Raffles again. I didn’t dream it, and thanks to the delayed Hong Kong – Singapore Travel Bubble I wasn’t actually there either, instead, I watched an interactive play set and filmed at the hotel by Singaporean theatre companies, Double Confirm Productions and Sight Lines Entertainment. 

The Curious Case of the Missing Peranakan Treasure, conceived, directed by and featuring Hossan Leong of Double Confirm and written by Jean Tay, was filmed entirely on location at Raffles with 360 degree virtual reality cameras. So I was able to virtually enter the familiar white façade, “check in” in the lobby and revisit the hotel’s bars, suites and courtyards while watching a mystery enfold through a cast of front of house staff and guest characters. 

Leong who has previously filmed one man performances at the Grand Hyatt and W hotels in Singapore says: “From 2020 there was not a lot of work for us in the arts so I decided not to sit around but to create something for actors and crew. I have always wanted to create a production with the beautiful Raffles as a backdrop and they were very supportive of my idea of having a ‘whodunnit’ set in the hotel.“

Hossan Leong (right) with Pavan J Singh on set at Raffles Singapore

Up until June 30th you can watch this entertaining tale online and attempt to solve the mystery yourself – there’s the prize of a real life stay at Raffles in the offing. Those lucky enough to be in Singapore can book a Daycation or Staycation package, watching the play on a tablet in their suite and then explore the hotel for clues (as well as being treated to Singapore Slings and satays). Alternatively, Virtual Play allows guests to buy a ticket from ticket agency SISTIC and watch from anywhere in the world.

“Raffles Singapore always had a connection with literary luminaries in our storied heritage with playwrights and authors being very much a part of who we are,” says managing director Christian Westbeld. Suites named after the likes of Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham attest to this and the former suite appears in the production. The hotel did have its own theatre, Jubilee Hall which opened in 1991, although this was transformed into a ballroom in the most recent refurbishment. Westbeld adds: “The virtual interactive play arose out of a business need to pivot, given the current pandemic.” 

Also in Singapore at Hotel Soloha in Chinatown surreal comedy meets murder mystery, The Bride Always Knocks Twice, was also born out of a need to adapt in the current climate. “Arts and tourism were some of the key industries impacted by the pandemic and this project really shows how creativity and cross-industry collaboration can lead to new possibilities,” says Kuo Jian Hong, artistic director of The Theatre Practice, behind the production which streamed in the first week of June.

The Theatre Practice’s Bride Always Knocks Twice


The fourth floor of the hotel, set in a converted row of shophouses, stood in as the mysterious house in The Bride Always Knocks Twice where seven women from different eras of Singaporean history co exist. Reflective of the Lion City the women variously spoke Mandarin, Indonesian, English, Cantonese and Malay with the multimedia platform allowing for sub titles in Chinese and English. 

Split over several nights, viewers watched the first act of the play then had the chance to interrogate the characters by submitting online questions which they answered live to camera. Originally it was intended that the audiences visit the hotel to hunt for clues in act three though due to the heightened measures this had to be changed into a virtual crime-scene investigation. In the final act the murderer was revealed but not before viewers had an opportunity to submit their theories with a chance to win a stay at Hotel Soloha.

Hotel Soloha

One of the first and still existing theatre and hotel synergies was The Savoy in London. The Savoy theatre actually opened before the legendary hotel which it sits adjacent to. Impressario Richard D’Oyly Carte opened the then state of the art venue in 1881 to stage the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. With the success of the comic operas he segued into hotels eight years later. Famous theatrical actors of the day flocked to stay at The Savoy including Sarah Bernhardt and Lillie Langtry.

While the venue is now owned by The Ambassador Theatre Group which operates several playhouses in London’s West End, there are regularly accommodation or F&B packages in conjunction with the hotel. A themed afternoon tea is currently being planned in homage to the just opened Pretty Woman The Musical, and starring actors often stay at the hotel.

Grand Hotel Timeo in Sicily also has a theatre adjacent, there’s even a secret entrance from the hotel into Teatro Antico. The well preserved amphitheatre was built by the Greeks in the third century for dramatic and musical performances, adapted by the Romans for gladiator games and now once again is used to stage the performing arts. 

La Scala, Milan

Other hotels are embracing opera and ballet as part of their guest offerings. In St Petersburg, Grand Hotel Europe patrons have access to the hotel’s private box at the Mikhailovsky Theatre. And in Milan, Hotel Principe di Savoia will arrange private guided tours of La Scala including behind the scenes access to backstage areas.

Before the pandemic Shangri La The Shard in London held Theatre in the Clouds, partnering with private theatre concept Revels in Hand to stage three actor plays for a small number of guests in one of its suites. Whether this returns remains to be seen but other hotel projects look to continue whatever twist happens next for the arts and hospitality industries. 

“We believe that arts and hospitality is the perfect marriage and with technology, we are able to not only entertain in-house guests but have international reach,” says Derrick Chew, artistic director of Sight Lines who adds the company is looking to collaborate with more hotels following its successful collaboration with Raffles. And Kuo does not rule out The Theatre Practice staging another hotel play saying: “Our works have never been constrained by genre or format, much less specific locations so never say never.”

Where Last Christmas was Filmed in London

Last Christmas ice rink close up
Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding at Alexandra Palace ice rink Credit: UPI

Now showing on HBO, Last Christmas the movie Henry Golding’s new film co starring Emilia Clarke and Michelle Yeoh makes London look wonderful. Director Paul Feig is a huge fan of the British capital and says the film is a love letter to London. The movie was actually filmed last Christmas when all the city’s festive decorations were in place. A lot of scenes took place in the middle of the night for maximum light sparkling and minimum crowds. Here’s where you can find the most scenic locations.

Tom and Kate’s Meet Cute, Apple Market

Last Christmas meet cute
Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke at Apple Market Credit: UPI

Flakey Kate (Emilia Clarke) first spots suave Tom (Henry Golding) through the window of Yuletide Wonderful Christmas shop where she works in Covent Garden Piazza, owned by Michelle Yeoh’s character “Santa”. Alas the shop doesn’t actually exist. IRL the site is a covered walkway cutting through the neo classical buildings of the former fruit and vegetable market. On the plus side it’s flanked rather deliciously by Ladurée tea room and Godiva chocolatier. And you can visit the spot where the two meet outside Yuletide – underneath the blue metal arches in Apple Market where a certain incident involving “looking up” seemingly brings them together.

Meet Cute Part Two, Covent Garden

Last Christmas Brydge's Place
Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding in Brydges Place Credit: UPI

When Kate and Tom run into each other again it’s also in the Covent Garden area. Though it looks like a film set, this quaint lane is real life Cecil Court. Linking Charing Cross Road with St Martin’s Lane, the pedestrianised street is lined with independent stores selling books and artworks. “London’s narrowest alley” where Tom takes Kate as part of his magical mystery tour of London is real too. Keep a close eye out for Brydges Place next to the Coliseum theatre on St Martin’s Lane – the alley measures only 15 inches across. As for Tom’s “secret garden”, it’s The Phoenix Garden an urban retreat hidden away between Soho and Covent Garden (the entrance is on St Giles Passage).

Last Christmas secret garden
Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding in The Phoenix Garden

The two part company at a bus stop on Regent Street which has just turned 200 years old – well worth a visit to see the wonderful illuminated Angels flying above the length of the thoroughfare at this time of year. Tip: the scene was not actually filmed at real bus stop as it’s opposite Hamley’s toy emporium and outside Hackett where no stop exists.

St Mary’s, Marylebone

Emilia Clarke outside St Mary's
Emilia Clarke outside St Mary’s Credit: UPI

The gorgeous honey stoned building depicting the exterior of St Benedict’s homeless shelter in Last Christmas can be found in Marylebone, north of Oxford Street. While the photogenic Georgian columns, festooned with twinkling lights, provide a backdrop for several scenes featuring Tom and Kate, the ornate interior is the setting for the Christmas concert.

The Savoy Buildings

Last Christmas Simpons on the Strand
Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding outside Simpson’s in the Strand Credit: UPI

Kate’s calamitous audition takes place inside the Savoy Theatre, an Art Deco jewel tucked away next to The Savoy hotel’s main entrance on the Strand. It’s worth buying tickets to anything showing here just to see the interiors. Nearby is the spot on the river Thames where Tom gives Kate another pep talk, opposite The Savoy’s riverside entrance on the Embankment. The pair sit on the steps next to Cleopatra’s Needle, where the Thames bends at just the right angle to have the London Eye over on the South Bank appealingly illuminated in the background. Simpson’s, a restaurant owned by The Savoy, outside of which Kate and Tom sit with their skates on (see below) is back up on the Strand. There’s no bench outside Simpson’s but there is a bus stop should you wish to catch a double-decker like Kate.

Alexandra Palace

Last Christmas Alexandra Palace
Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding at Alexandra Palace ice rink Credit: UPI

While the ice rink where the couple have an illicit late night skate appears in the movie to be a short skip from the Embankment, you’ll need to visit far flung north London. Alexandra Palace is a vast Victorian era building known to locals as “Ally Pally” which houses a huge indoor ice rink among other venues. The rink is in a stunning high ceilinged space lined with French windows and it’s open all year round not just for Christmas.

Tom’s Flat, East London

Tom’s tiny, ultra neat flat is located on the corner of Brick Lane and Cheshire Street in East London. Brick Lane has long been famous for its curry houses and more recently for cafes, shops and street art. By coincidence Henry Golding actually used to live in a flat here, just around the corner from his character’s fictitious one. How’s that for a twist of fate.

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