The name Armani is full of the unexpected. Walk into the luxury hotel in Milan, above Spazi Armani, and the brightest colour in the lobby may well be miniature cocktail handbags in a vitrine – by that the gal means that, these days, the bigger and the more outrageous the cocktail someone is drinking, the tinier that person’s jewelled evening bag, just big enough for a small dab of perfume atomiser rather than an iPad. Walk in to Armani Hotel Dubai and you are greeted by a giant, like 20-foot high, Philippe Starck ‘mama’ sculpture, a modernised and outsized lemon squeezer. But this is Armani, of course, rather than Starck.
The corridors are unexpected. They are dark, dark, funereal and full of mystery. The only light comes from a back-lit mushroom and the door number and, when you put it on, the please don’t disturb me sign, showing the hotel’s logo (obviously taken from the lemon squeezer). The corridors on both floors of rooms, that is to say floor 38 and 39 of the 2,717-foot Burj al Khalifa, extend in three wings from a central hub, where stands a circular wood table with metal legs in the shape of the said squeezer. On top, today, is a round bowl of flowers with one single protrusion, about two feet long, as if deliberately showing that GA can successfully confront G(ravity).
The 160-room hotel is actually much softer than on my first visit, exactly three years ago. Then I remember a colour palette of grey and silver and copper and zebrawood panels, and striped Eramosa limestone from Canada, the drapes that are deliberately too long so they flop on the floor like a wedding train. Now there are flowers, discreet lily arrangements but then you would not expect anything too bling, would you – there are other places in Dubai for that, no names mentioned of course.
It is also lovely to find some flowers in the bathroom, where shiny black boxes, plastic but intended to look like polished ebony, hold toiletries and other necessities. Boxes have pebble-shaped lid handles. On one box sits a dull orange pebble, tightly clingwrapped. This is the soap, made for Armani by L’Oréal. Wonder how GA feels, sharing L’Oréal’s attention with, in alphabetical but no other particular order, Body Shop, Garnier, Kiehl’s, Lancôme, Maybelline, Pureology and more..
And what a surprise. After an excellent Laurent-Perrier networking cocktail out on one of the Armani terraces, I head back up to room 3906 for a scrumptious-sybaritic dinner all by myself, alone. The meal is rolled in in a vertical trolley, one part of which is hot. This is such a good idea as it is easier to manoeuvre than the standard supposedly-mobile collapsible table which invariably gets stuck on a door ledge. And just to show that Armani can do simplicity, my meal starts with a simple salad, on a Limoges porcelain plate, of course.
Armani is, after all, simplicity. Look at his frocks on the Milan catwalk and there is nothing unnecessary. Just as here, as one might expect, there is nothing unnecessary. Necessary work gear, for GA, is black, top to toe.