Dr Alice Dallabona
University of Leeds, UK
Be Italian! Aesthetic employees and the embodiment of national traits in luxury fashion flagship hotels
This paper focuses on the aesthetic employees associated with the new spaces of luxury fashion brands in the hospitality industry, i.e. luxury fashion flagship hotels. These are defined as hotels that are opened as a function of brand extension by luxury fashion labels, and are primarily associated with Italian luxury brands. Luxury fashion flagship hotels hold a very close relationship with their respective parent brands and they can also employ strategies that see the deployment of characteristic traits associated with Italy and its culture as a way to augment their offerings, maximising the brand extension potential. Traits of Italianicity can also be employed in luxury fashion flagship hotels to provide a coherent setting that is in line with the philosophy of the brands, and that involves not only interior design and services but also the appearance and performance of staff in a situation where fashion and cultural values are strictly intertwined. Through different case studies, it will be argued that the use of Italian national identity traits and strategies of cultural opportunism involve a double form of commodification of embodied dispositions of staff, who are expected to personify both the brand’s values and some Italian national characteristics. In this sense luxury fashion flagship hotels are posited as sites where cultural processes and business practices coexist, and where composite, complex and, at times, contrasting identities are showcased and negotiated.