by Hunter R. Slaton | December 01, 2007

Sofitel Berlin Gendarmenmarkt
Sofitel Berlin Gendarmenmarkt,
a hip, high-end boutique hotel,
mixes Teutonic minimalism
with bracing blasts of color.

Like every generation before them, today’s twenty- and thirty-somethings are creating their own standards of what’s cool, setting new trends in food, fashion and music that will sustain them on their journey to becoming the next Old Guard. And just as today’s Generation Y goes its own way when it comes to luxury goods -- think Prada sunglasses, Eames chairs and Thom Browne suits -- so, too, do Gen Y-ers seek their own brand of luxe accommodations, which has little to do with a formal ambience of exquisite antiques and period reproductions.

In fact, according to Tracie Domino, a 26-year-old sales executive for Tiffany & Co. business sales who also serves as the vice president of communications for Florida’s Tampa Bay Area Chapter of Meeting Professionals International, “You kind of feel like you don’t belong in those more traditional luxury hotels; you don’t feel like you can wear jeans in the lobby.” Domino, speaking for her age group as a whole, goes on to assert that “we prefer boutique hotels.”

The boutique concept -- which over the years has edged increasingly toward luxury territory -- was pioneered by former nightclub entrepreneur Ian Schrager in the mid-1980s. From the first property Schrager opened, Morgans, to his most recent, the “post-hip” Gramercy Park Hotel, both of which are in New York City, the man has loomed large over the cool side of the luxe hotel market, as has his frequent collaborator, the world-renowned designer Philippe Starck. In fact, these two men have had a hand, whether directly or by influence, in the vision and design of the following five jeans-friendly luxury hotels, in five of the world’s coolest cities.

The definite article:
THEhotel’s The Lounge

Las Vegas
(877) 632-7800;

Late 20th-century Las Vegas went into a decline as it struggled to shed its mobbed-up image and reinvent itself as a family-friendly entertainment destination. This trend was reversed in the early 2000s, as the gaming mecca took on an edgier mantle by making visitors complicit in its promised hedonism: “What happens here, stays here.”

THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, an MGM Mirage property, is a great symbol of this new, cool Vegas: It’s more The Killers, a popular rock band, than Ol’ Blue Eyes; more Cirque du Soleil than Wayne Newton.

THEhotel opened in December 2003, featuring 1,117 suites -- boutique by Vegas standards -- each spanning at least 750 square feet. With its gold-sheened skin, the 43-story tower resembles its sister property, Mandalay Bay, to which it is connected. Inside, though, THEhotel couldn’t be more different: Here the ambience is expressed in clean, dark lines; subdued, nightclubby lighting; and bright contemporary art. One highlight is the lobby chandelier, a glass sculpture that brings to mind a mass of illuminated sea anemones.

Scott Voeller, vice president of marketing and advertising for Mandalay Bay, recalls that when the design teams sat down to brainstorm what THEhotel would be, “some people began to see the value of properties that were doing well in that hip, cool space; they saw the Ian Schragers of the world having success in that space.”

And THEhotel has been successful -- not just with the “Hollywood types” Voeller cites as being particularly enamored with the property, but also with conventioneers. Mandalay Bay features a 1.5 million-square-foot convention center, the Strip’s largest, while THEhotel has a unique arrangement on floors 3, 4, 5 and 6, with a mix of suites and meeting space (5,000 square feet on each floor), thus allowing gatherings to have their sleeping rooms, hospitality suites and meeting rooms all in one place.