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New Schrager Brand Public Focuses on ‘Essential Service’

June 3, 2011 By: Meagan Drillinger

Hotelier Explains New Aesthetic, Addresses Edition Lawsuit

New YorkIan Schrager  had enough with today’s “design hotels,” so he created a new brand in defiance of it. The Public  brand is confident, self-assured, genuine and free of tricks and gimmicks, according to Schrager.

Schrager, who is known for such endeavors as the Morgans Hotel Group and Studio 54, is chairman and CEO of Ian Schrager Co.

“I think that in terms of the design world I created Frankenstein’s monster,” Schrager said. “People who do not understand design come in with the latest and the greatest and the public has been anesthetized to design. All hotels look alike. There is no charm or originality. I am rejecting that.”

The first Public is a renovation of Chicago's Ambassador East hotel.

“We’re done with that iconic over-the-top, overwhelm-the-customer design,” he said. “We are going back to our roots. We want really reduced and simple, and really good taste, which is a rarity.”

Schrager’s back-to-reality concept, he said, is part of a larger shift. People want and expect great value going forward, which, while it may have been precipitated by the recession, has been in the works for many years.

“Guests don’t want to pay $5 for chocolate in the minibar or a charge for roomservice. They want great value,” he said. “This does not mean less service or fewer visuals. It means great service and comfort, but all offered at a value.”

Look and Feel

According to Schrager, Public's design is self-assured, not self-conscious, comfortable and easy.

“That doesn’t mean it doesn’t look good or isn’t glamorous,” Schrager said. “We are trying to reduce things down to what is important.”

He said he won't define the hotel in terms of luxury. “I’ll let everyone else define it,” he said. “We aren’t calling it ‘full’ or ‘luxury service.’ We are calling it ‘essential service.’”

Great customer service is at the forefront of the design. Schrager gives the example of Apple’s Genius Bar. The employees are young, casual and passionate and knowledgeable about the product.

“They make it easy to buy and easy to understand,” Schrager said. “That’s great customer service and that’s the basic idea.”

The first project will transform the 285-room Ambassador East in Chicago into a space evoking warm and personal style. The guestrooms, suites and public areas will exemplify a “sincere chic” aesthetic. For example, positioning the desks in the guestrooms to face either the window or the interior of the room rather than the wall to create a more fulfilling work environment. Public Chicago is expected to open in October.

Schrager is looking to open other Public properties in New York, Los Angeles and London.

In December Schrager sold his stake in New York City’s Gramercy Park Hotel to start his current company, also announcing plans for two new brand launches.


Schrager said he will continue his involvement with the Edition brand he launched in conjunction with Marriott International last year.

“I’m there as a creative consultant,” he said. “Edition is Marriott’s brand. They make the decisions with developers and I try to have as big an impact as I possibly can. I’m very happy with my partnership.”

In late May the owner of the Waikiki Edition filed a lawsuit against Marriott and Schrager, claiming "failure due to gross mismanagement and Marriott's inability to successfully launch the Edition brand."

Schrager responded in a statement that he would "let the hotel, media and customer reviews speak for themselves," and called the lawsuit "completely transparent and frivolous."

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About the Author

Meagan Drillinger
Meagan Drillinger has been with Luxury Travel Advisor and Travel Agent since 2009, covering both Asia and Mexico. A fan of both fabulous hotels and culturally immersive...

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By Meagan Drillinger | June 3, 2011
Ian Schrager had enough with today’s “design hotels,” so he created a new brand in defiance of it.
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