Exploring the visual wonderland of Vermelho Melides, the debut hotel imagined by French designer Christian Louboutin, we sat down with the fashionista himself to discuss the inspiration behind the project.
Fashion royalty Christian Louboutin never intended to become a hotelier. But this year he flung open the glamorous doors of Vermelho (‘red’) in the sleepy Portuguese village of Melides — at the same time, announcing plans for more accommodation along the coast.
“It’s quite an accident that it came about,” says Louboutin of the property’s conception. “I used to visit Melides a few weeks a year to design my winter shoe collections and to spend time with friends and family.
“But I missed a restaurant where we could go for dinner. There was a piece of land in the centre of the village with a crumbling house on it and I thought: ‘If I can’t find a nice restaurant, let’s build one.’ So, I bought the land. A few weeks later the mayor came to me and said: ‘It’s a big piece of land you purchased here; why don’t you build a hotel instead of a restaurant?’ And I said, ‘Yes, that’s a good idea!’”
In the coming years, Louboutin collaborated with architect Madalena Caiado, and his friend Carolina Irving, to bring Vermelho to life, in a part of the world that remains very dear to his heart — he first purchased a home here 12 years ago.
“Melides is one of the most beautiful places I know. The light on the lagoon and the rice fields is absolutely stunning; the umbrella pines look like they’ve been sculpted; the sand forest is very peaceful. It’s very well preserved.
“But I truly think you can’t love a place without loving the people living here. And I really love the people from Melides and from Portugal in general. Life here is very different to that which you accept and embrace when you come from the hecticness of the city. But when you’ve accepted it, it’s delightful.”
Louboutin says that designing a shoe collection and a hotel have a lot in common. “It’s all about inspiration and working with people I love,” he says. “That said, Vermelho, for me, has been a blank page with no boundaries, and it’s also an opportunity to work with artists and artisans I respect and admire that I’ve not been able to collaborate with on previous fashion projects.” Among them is Madalena Caiado.
“It was very clear to both of us that the hotel had to be perfectly integrated in its environment,” says Louboutin. “I showed Madalena a gold Indian bangle of mine. It’s completely sober on the outside, but when you look at the inside, it’s paved with precious stones and is very precisely chiselled.
That’s exactly what I wanted for Vermelho: a building that feels like it always had been here, like a village home. But when you pass the entrance porch, every single corner is ornated with exceptional craftmanship and pieces of art.”
Think maximalism, eclecticism, a mix of cultures and eras … and everything in abundance. “I’m an impulsive gatherer. I think you only regret what you don’t buy, so every week I purchase artworks, furniture and objects, mostly at auction houses,” says Louboutin. Today, many of his personal pieces adorn Vermelho, from Spanish bargueño chests to an embroidered red velvet sofa designed by Henri Samuel.
Red, naturally, is everywhere, including the floor tiles and window shutters as well as the linen banquettes.
But there are other colours as well: the inky blue of azulejos, Portugal’s famous glazed-ceramic tiles; the walls of one junior suite are an ocean-hued fresco by Louboutin’s long-time friend, Greek artist Konstantin Kakanias; and the exterior dazzles with enormous Baroque ceramic appliqués by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Ducrot.
While Louboutin was determined to leave a minimal footprint on the land when building his hotel, he wanted it to have a big impact on the community.
“Portugal, and more specifically Alentejo, is a region where unemployment, especially for the younger generations, is very high,” says Louboutin.
“We tried as much as possible to recruit young people from the surrounding areas — they’re the ones with the best knowledge of the area and being able to anchor Vermelho in its territory.”
“I hope Vermelho will help create an ecosystem fostering tourism in Melides, and I hope new initiatives will flourish and open up new job opportunities for people living here.”
Vermelho is located in the small town of Melides, an agricultural community on the Atlantic coast, a 1.5-hour drive south of the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.
Each of the 13 rooms at the property has a different design aesthetic — follow the lead of the man himself and check in to number 17. “It’s my favourite — I call it the kinky room as there is a bathtub on the terrace where no one can see you,” says Louboutin. “The décor is very rich, with pieces of furniture from Mexico, wood and floor tiles from Spain, a blackwood cabinet from Portugal.”
Rates start from AUD$630 per night.
Luxury Exclusive News / Heart & Sole: inside Christian Louboutin’s First Hotel / By Natasha Dragun / luxurytravelmag.com.au/ Luxury Travel Exclusive / Sedat Karagoz / Istanbul,New York Travel,Tourism News Office / Janbolat Khanat / Almaty Travel,Tourism News Office
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