When is fashion not fashion? And when is a hotel not a hotel? To answer that first one, it’s when the fashion is inflatable to such a size that you could never possibly get through a door let alone sit on a seat. Fashion that has motors so that huge tentacles can rotate making you look like a giant octopus. Nothing you could wear down the supermarket, as Lorraine Kelly would no doubt say. In short, the fashion of hot new designer Jack Irving, whose recent show started with a model standing stock-still on the catwalk in what looked like a layered leather coat until a secret button was pushed and the whole outfit turned into a dinosaur-size sea-urchin with spikes that grazed the ceiling.
Moving on to the second question, when is a hotel not a hotel: when said hotel comes off like a nightclub – or IS a nightclub – albeit with fully-functioning hotel rooms, cool ones, upstairs. In short, the W in Leicester Square, which, even from the outside, looks like Friday night feels.
And why are we putting these two questions together? Because of a collaboration between perhaps the most out-there designer operating today (ask Lady Gaga, a big fan) and the West End’s main party hotel, which not only sponsored Jack’s recent London Fashion Week Show but hosted the after-show party in their biggest suite, the WOW Suite (and it certainly doesn’t skimp on ‘wow factor’), the one with the sofa on a turntable so you can see all of the room from the comfort of your seat.
There was also a party in his honour in the Leicester Square-facing nightclub, the one with the rotating bleachers seating, the hideaway bar, DJ booth and – on that night – the most eye-poppingly ‘out there’ crowd of fashionistas and happy party people, the one they call The Perception Bar with the biggest disco ball in captivity dominating the room. Oh, and every room currently features one of Jack Irving’s large spiky cushions – well, we say cushion, you couldn’t actually lie your head on it – taking over the bed.
The fact that the W can still cut it to this extent years after it first opened is testament to its ability to reinvent, keep what works, move on when the time is right. And as party hotels go, you really can’t touch it, from the huge installation of glitter balls as you walk in to the indoor fire pit just before you get to the main bar to the long, skinny restaurant with its walls of quirky ceramics right there so you can be clubbing and dining almost at the same time. We managed it but then we’ve put the work in.
Upstairs the rooms also lend themselves to big nights out. The open design means you can be getting ready and playing music and chatting and drinking all at the same time. The stand-alone counter has mirrors for the application of make-up and an area for cocktails to be shaken and if that’s not good planning, then we don’t know what is. The style is also very ‘Friday night up West’, with quirky Union Jack touches, a mood wheel so you can change the colour of the lighting to suit your vibe and pretty good soundproofing so you’re not bothering anyone and they’re not bothering you.
Even the location couldn’t be more perfect for a party night out: right on Wardour Street, the bars of Soho are a two-minute walk away, the restaurants of Chinatown literally on the doorstep and the huge cinemas of Leicester Square visible from the bar, making it the perfect movie premiere hub.
What W Hotels set out to prove all those years ago when the brand was first invented was that hotels don’t have to be just hotels. They don’t have to be quiet or well-behaved or suited more to businesspeople than party people. They can be fun and quirky and still deliver the levels of service you’d expect from a major hotel. They can include clubs and not just libraries and business centres. And, as with the fashion of Jack Irving, whose show brought gasps and giggles, hotels can be a flight of fantasy, somewhere that can take your breath away and put a smile on your face.