The luxury specialty of branded residences

Currently, the name that seems to stick out like a sore thumb is YOO

By LYDIA NATHAN

THE opening of the first branded residence, the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, in Manhattan in 1927 was an immediate hit and the place became a favourite among the New York’s elite at that time.

The rooftop pool at YOO2 in Rio de Janeiro

Despite its success, the market did not really see the residence as an established product until the mid-1980 when Four Seasons successfully sold out its Boston hotel condominiums.

Years later, more branded residences began to make their names. One good example is the wellness brand Aman which launched the Amanpuri name in Thailand with 30 branded villas.

Progressively, the concept and formula have continued to be part of the burgeoning property market, as well as the holiday and leisure world, with more global brands making their presence in different segments.

According to Knight Frank’s Branded Residence Report 2019, the concept of well-known hotel operators moving into residences has sparked diversification and expansion of international brands like Armani, Porsche and Versace that are seeing bigger opportunities by lending their names to developments.

The report stated that the products, benefitted from the hotel management and its services, offer flexibility across locations.

Quality control over every design and feature is a promise to buyers across the globe

However, according to Savills World Research 2018 on branded residences, non-hotel players have overtaken hoteliers in becoming the single-largest brand of any type by number of projects.

Currently, the name that seems to stick out like a sore thumb is YOO.

“YOO is a brand built on design credentials and is the largest individual brand by number of schemes,” the report stated.

The Malaysian Reserve recently managed to catch up with Richard William Millar, YOO Asia-Pacific VP (business development for YOO Worldwide).

Millar said the company’s core business has always been branded residences, right from Day 1.

He said the international brand has so far completed about 84 projects in 57 countries, while an additional 100 projects are targeted to be completed within four years.

Dwell 95, New York was conceived by Starck

“I believe we are well ahead of our competitors. About 95% of the brand’s revenue is contributed by residences. Our hotel segment is still relatively new, but in the future, we hope to see it contributing an equal amount,” he told TMR.

 

YOO was founded by property entrepreneur John Hitchcox and the ubiquitous designer Philippe Starck in 1999. The company has since worked with international developers around the globe.

Millar said quality control over every design and feature is approved by Starck as a promise to buyers across the globe. The team then progressed to hiring talented designers in collaborations to develop different projects.

“YOO then hired creative directors to sit on different projects. The main thing to look for is talent, but of course, it does not hurt if these directors are famous too.

“For instance, Jade Jagger, daughter of music icon Mick Jagger, joined YOO in 2005 to design chic apartments internationally with design partner Thomas Bartlett.

The Mira Moon Hotel, Hong Kong

“Another famous face on YOO is Sussanne Khan, wife of Bollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan.

“She has practised the art of design for 15 years and is the founder of India’s leading conceptual interior design store The Charcoal Project. Her projects with YOO include private residences, retail spaces and destination villas,” Millar said.

Other designers are Marcel Wanders, who rose to fame in 1996 with the design of the iconic Knotted Chair; supermodel Kate Moss, who is all about her own personal style and cultural awareness; and Asian design star Steven Leung.

“There are different reasons for having different designers on board, because everyone is so unique in terms of diversity,” he said.

Another interesting feature that YOO has set up for its buyers is the creation of a sales gallery that is conceptualised like a palette so that buyers get the exact ideas of what the available units may look like.

Millar said everything — from the colour, surfaces to materials used — is showcased in the gallery, which is also seen as the first step to getting attention from potential buyers.

“The palette includes concepts like classic, minimal, nature and culture. The designers take on the approach of what a buyer chooses and customise it to the highest degree possible.

One of the master bedrooms in 8 Conlay — YOO’s 1st project in KL

“We sit with the developer and help each other dictate the cross value chain and design scopes. The starting point is always the budget, which is decided by the developer on how much they want to spend and then charge,” Millar said.

 

He added that the right way to build is from within as it would ensure that mistakes do not happen. The technique would also maximise space for any other amenities the developers may require.

“We may have a developer that would tell us whether they want a cinema or a game room or library. We are able to create all that for them,” Millar said.

As for YOO’s future expansion, he said the brand recently launched its hotel version — YOO2 in 2015, followed by a second brand named YOO Collection.

He said YOO2 has also garnered much attention and is proven to be the right fit for Asian countries.

“The rooms are designed to be edgy, cool and young. YOO2 has the flexibility to move across locations, whether at the centre of a city or a beachfront hotel,” he said.

Lodha Fiorenza Residence in Mumbai, India. The designs at the residence are created by designer Jade Jagger

Meanwhile, Millar said YOO’s first project in Kuala Lumpur (KL) is the 8 Conlay which includes two towers situated in the heart of the city. The development is also known as YOO8 and is serviced by Kempinsky Hotels SA, a hotelier that has been established since 1897.

Millar said Leung’s vision for Tower A of the project has an exuberant interior that combines a modern outlook with Asian accents, while Tower B offers suites of various sizes.

“We do not want to compete with 8 Conlay. That’s why the next project will be a hotel in KL and another in Cherating, Pahang — for now.

“We will hopefully sign the letters of intent by year-end. The plan is to have more hotels across South-East Asia within three to five years,” he said.

Millar said Malaysia has great potentials due to its bustling cities, a hub for industrial sectors across the region and its tropical climate.

“I find Malaysians to be much switched on, especially the younger generation. They see and view things differently from having cultural or educational experiences abroad and they bring that back home when they return.

“YOO’s products are a right fit for anyone regardless of age, but young at heart,” Millar said.