Designer estates: niche novelty or a new direction?



I’ve always been fascinated by interiors, architecture and the way developments shape cities and the culture around them. So it was with great interest that I read about the new Versace property development in London when I stumbled across it this week. The complex, called Aykon Nine Elms, is located in Vauxhall and will be completed in 2020.

Aykon Nine Elms might be London’s first major residential development branded by a fashion house, but the trend for designer estates, interiors and properties is far from a new one. I’ve also started to think it puts quite an interesting spin on the anxieties of fast-paced production increasingly plaguing top-end creatives.

It’s no secret that almost all premium markets – from dining to clothing – are moving towards the experiential. There’s increasing pressure on designer brands to up their bespoke offerings and provide a transporting luxury experience. Yet this pressure is paired with constantly tightening deadlines and constantly expanding markets. Finding the balance can be difficult, and I believe that something like the Aykon Nine Elms development offers a unique way out. Buyers opting for two or more bedrooms will receive flights to Milan to meet the design team, who will bespoke their interior, and the whole package demands a consumer investment that necessarily lasts longer than a season. The permanency of real estate must have an appeal to designers – that of lasting creation – alongside its seeming opposition to the reinvention and rejuvenation that keeps fashion exciting and innovative.

The risks and potential of designer real estate have more traditionally emerged through hotels. Brands from Bulgari to Armani have created entire establishments featuring the label’s quintessential touches. Even more frequent are one-off hotel suites created by designers to showcase their unique aesthetic. Diane Von Fustenberg, for instance, designed the opulent grand piano suite for London’s Claridge’s Hotel, and more offbeat examples can be found the world over. Alice Temperley, for example, created a  series of tipi’s for luxury Mauritian resort Le Saint Geran.

What is particularly intriguing about Versace, however, is that the legacy of interior curation has a far more personal origin. It would be possible to credit Gianni Versace with pioneering fashion label branded interiors when he commissioned his Miami villa to feature a mosaic poolside medusa head and Versace’s greek key logo, amongst other unmistakably Versace-themed elements. The villa was actually re-opened as a hotel last year, and the designer’s almost-finished Mayfair home – radically overhauled Versace-style – went on the market this year, 18 years after his death.

This history makes the Aykon Nine Elms development feel particularly unique, but designer-branded homes have been gaining traction across the globe over the last few years. There are lots of reasons to think branded residences might take-off, but the apprehensions of logo fatigue have far from abated. It is equally possible that the popularity of fashion-house-homes, particularly in emerging markets, will prove to be of transitory interest rather than materialising into sustainably valuable investments.

Nevertheless, Versace has an almost unrivalled reputation for opulence that moves like this serve to cement, and it could well be that major fashion houses will start working even more competitively within the designer property space. I’ll certainly be intrigued to see how it develops! Particularly if it really does offer an alternative to the constraints of fast fashion, and perhaps a breath of fresh air for truly extravagant luxury design.

Will we see more developments like Aykon Nine Elms in Europe, and will the industry ever evolve into a substantial sector? I’d love to hear your thoughts at moirab@thembsgroup.co.uk. Wishing everybody as stress-free a Black Friday as possible!