- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2005

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

The Halekulani resort in Waikiki on June 1 formally opened 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, making it one of the priciest hotel rooms in Hawaii. 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,” says Peter Shaindlin, chief operating officer of Halekulani Corp. “For those consumers, the only time something is expensive is when something goes wrong.”

Vera Wang is among a growing number of big-name designers to enter the hotel industry. Giorgio Armani is teaming up with a Dubai-based company to introduce a collection of luxury hotels around the world. The Spanish clothing chain Camper has a hotel in Barcelona.

Bulgari has hotels in Milan and plans to open one next year in Bali. The Versace name is on an Australian hotel, and the Ferragamo designers own hotels in Italy.

Mr. Shaindlin says the difference is that there is only one Vera Wang Suite. “This is one and one alone,” he says. “They’re doing hundreds.”

Miss Wang also has a personal connection to Hawaii — she was engaged here.

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

The second-floor oceanfront suite offers sweeping views of Diamond Head, an extinct volcano that is Hawaii’s most famous landmark. Guests can hear the sound of rolling waves outside.

One of the highlights is the 642-foot lanai, a Hawaiian-style veranda, which overlooks palm trees and Waikiki Beach and is larger than many apartments in Honolulu.

Miss Wang says she wanted to create a “sensual, sophisticated world in which every last detail is attended to and carefully considered.”

All meals are served with Vera Wang china, crystal and flatware, and the menu includes some of the designer’s favorite comfort foods.

The decorative pillows use Wang fabric; the DVD collection is composed of her favorite films, including “The King and I,” “When Harry Met Sally” and “Lost in Translation.”

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

Hotel executives first approached Miss Wang a few years ago.

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

The decor has contrasting textures and colors and an Asian, tropical theme.

The room is scented with arrangements of tropical flowers, and visitors are greeted by a serene stone statue of Quan Yin, a feminine incarnation of Buddha.

Floors of smooth, dark African wenge wood are covered with coarse, khaki-colored hemp rugs. Miss Wang’s favorite piece is a Chinese desk and chair set from the 19th century Qing dynasty.

The spacious bathroom features a toilet lid that opens electronically and a heated seat. Guests taking a nighttime 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 the rich can’t resist taking home these toiletries.

“There’s not too many that remain,” says Gerald Glennon, Halekulani’s executive assistant manager.

Celebrities and a few other wealthy guests have already stayed in the suite, which opened unofficially in February.

There are two big-screen plasma televisions, one in a TV lounge and the other in the bedroom.

The hotel has a deal with Sony to outfit the room with electronics that aren’t on the U.S. market yet, such as a portable 12-inch touch-screen wireless television that can access the Internet.

Mr. Shaindlin would not say how much it cost to construct and design the suite, other than to say, “it’s certainly a formidable financial undertaking.”

He says the hotel promised Miss Wang it would spare no expense in creating her vision.

“I really see it as an investment,” Mr. Shaindlin says.

“It wasn’t strictly an investment from a business-strategy standpoint; it was an investment in the hotel’s future.”

The Halekulani also plans to open a Vera Wang boutique that will sell the designer’s lines of jewelry, home products, sunglasses and resort attire.

• • •

The Vera Wang Suite is in the Halekulani resort on the beach at Waikiki, 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu; www.halekulani.com/accommodations/vera_wang_suite/ or 800/367-2343.

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