Sometimes a spot of fashion comes in pretty handy in the world of luxury travel. One of the cleverest things in today’s hotel activity is Sofitel’s idea not to align its SO brand with any one designer but with a different name for each hotel. In Singapore, the forthcoming Sofitel SO has logos and features by that pony-tailed wonder Karl Lagerfeld. At Sofitel SO they partner with Christian Lacroix, who has designed the Tree Of Life logo. As soon as you arrive at this luxury hotel you are aware of the association. There are mannequins standing in the lobby – the front half of which is French, the rear of the lobby being Thai. The gal had to get in on the act.
Lacroix has designed 15 different outfits for the people who work in this 238-room hotel, and each can choose any three, wearing whichever one they like. This means that every day there will be a different combination of the 15 outfits floating around the hotel – you can do this in Thailand as all the chic youngsters who work here glide like models. It would be more difficult to in England where the girth of Average Girl is expanding at such a rate that it would literally stretch Lacroix to its limits. Lacroix’s Sorbonne dissertation was on dress in French 18th century art, and it helps me understand the philosophy of his so-distinctive designs.
Up in the reception lobby I am welcomed with a butterfly flower drink. Test tubes of the blue liquid – as used at The Regent Phuket – are brought over, together with test tubes of lime juice. They are blended in a glass and, as I now know, the drink slowly turns pink. This evokes the kind of childhood delight that makes anyone, of any age, smile (I watched Arianna Huffington on BBC World the other talking about happiness, pointing out that kids can be naturally happy, which fades away to a stressed adult life until, sometime after the 40s, you say hang it all, and start being happy again, and get happier and happier until you are gaga, and happy-happy the whole time…).
But there is so much to be happy about, here, in this elements-themed hotel. There are five different designers, Pongthep Sagulku, designer of the dark and mysterious Water-themed floors; Vitoon Kunalungkarn, who has done my least-favourite blue Earth floors; Nithi Sthapitanonda, designer of calming Wood floors; Somchai Jongsaeng, conceptor of my favourite, sleek Metal floors; and, the only female designer, Rujirapong Wanglee, who has done Fire floors. One of the upper-floor spaces by elevators has a display of inner-lit colour boxes, whose colour changes continually. Yes, this place is lots of fun, or as the guys and girls here say, SO much fun (everything is SO in SO-speak, which actually grates a bit when overdone).
Rujirapong Wanglee has also designed the main all-day restaurant Red Oven, named for its central 15-foot Molteni range. Robbie Bargh, the London-based food wizard who runs Gorgeous Group, came up with the idea for the restaurant concepts here (there are also an evening-only rooftop bar HI-SO, with food, and an all-day glass-walled Chocolab chocolate factory). Red Oven is L-shaped, with the range in the short leg. Follow the area around, past several cook stations and buffet set ups, and at the far end of the long leg you come to full Japanese. There is something for everyone, including wine lovers as the ‘bar’ in this restaurant is actually a retail store run by an outside company.
Of course there is a pool, seemingly cantilevered over Lumphini Park, just across the road from the hotel. And on the same level there is the SO Fit gym, and the SO Spa – it is surprising they have not called the pool SO Wet. Have you guessed, by the way, what HI-SO stands for (High Society)? Bangkok is very SOciety, for which read celebrity, conscious, as you quickly find out by looking at the pages of any of the glossy magazines here – its 24-foot high ballroom is often turned into a fashion venue. There is always SOmething going on here.