When the first W Hotel opened on Lexington Avenue in midtown Manhattan in 1998, it became as popular as a New York City nightclub. That’s because its lobby looked and felt like one, with people jostling each other to get past the velvet ropes and paparazzi.
W’s popularity grew so much that developers wanted in just as much as the party-goers. They too lined up, but in their case it was to open more W hotels, which was created by Starwood Hotels and Resorts. The brand grew exponentially in just a few years, first in the United States and then throughout the world. Over the years, other hoteliers created brands to rival them. Ian Schrager, famous for his celebrity magnet Studio 54 nightclub, created the Edition and Public hotels. Sam Nazarian, founder of SBE Entertainment Group, collaborated with French designer Philippe Starck to introduce the SLS brand. And so on and so on.
At 21 years old, the W brand is now considered dated, not even the grand dame of lifestyle hotels. Marriott International, which inherited the brand when it acquired Starwood in 2016, has now made it one of its priorities to re-invent the W hotel. One reason for buying Starwood was to complement its portfolio of brands. Marriott was known for its reliability and efficiency but wanted to become more prominent in the lifestyle space. Starwood had exactly what it needed.