We might know Renzo Rosso for his jean brand, Diesel, which is very rock and roll. The brand was founded in 1978, but really made waves in the 1990s for its edgy style, European flair, and stylish textures. Diesel also introduced a technique called “devoré denim,” a type of distressed denim that has become their trademark. Today, Diesel is led by design director Glenn Martens, and their latest runway show was a buzzy hit at the recent Milan Fashion Week.
Today, Rosso is a fashion mogul as the president of the OTB Group, which is the parent company of brands like Viktor & Rolf, Jil Sander, Maison Margiela and Marni. Fashion is the name of his game. Now, Rosso and his son Andrea collaborated on the renovation of the Pelican hotel in Miami, which is the city’s most fashion-forward beachside destination.
According to Rosso, it was one of the first fashion boutique hotels, when he first opened it 30 years ago. “I fell in love with the Art Deco district,” Rosso tells me. “The beautiful contrast between a decaying neighborhood and the glamour of fashion shoots in the Miami light—I decided I had to open something important.”
The Pelican Hotel is an exercise in fashion branding. Walk into this Ocean Drive hotspot to see hotel reception decked out head to toe in Diesel—from socks to hoodies. And the rooms showcase different fragments of the brand, from the Old Glory room, which is inspired by the brand’s buzzy 1992 denim collection. “It was a collection inspired by 1950’s Americana denim workwear,” said Andrea Russo. “The room is covered with denim fabric to give guests a feeling of a full immersion in a denim world.”
No wonder it’s referred to as the “Diesel hotel.” The lobby features a display case with Diesel bags, watches, and luggage tags. And the stairwell to the rooms features an archive of over 100 framed photographs of Diesel’s advertising history, from their billboards to their Vogue ads from the 1990s. “The hotel was originally designed by the Diesel Creative Team, and the people who work there were brand ambassadors since the beginning,” said Renzo Rosso. “Today, they are proud to wear Diesel as the brand is living an exciting moment with celebrities all over the world asking to wear Diesel.”
It’s timely, too. Rosso says that a new Diesel boutique is opening soon in Miami’s Design District, and he’s thinking of opening a smaller Diesel store inside the Pelican Hotel, too. All these lowkey tidbits make you want to learn more about the brand. It took Rosso and his son Andrea two years to transform the 32-room hotel into the masterpiece it is today, which recently re-opened in December as a destination for the fashion set. Not because of its Instagram-worthy rooms, but it’s because fashion history has strutted down these halls.
Rosso bought the historic hotel, which was built in 1948, in 1990, and opened it in 1994. It was a time when Versace brand founder Gianni Versace, lived down the street. Rosso and Versace were friends. “I miss the time when we were both in town to look after the restoration of our respective properties, and we would meet for breakfast at the News Café on Ocean Drive, to talk about so many different things,” recalls Rosso.
Once Rosso turned this Art Deco hotel into the Pelican, it quickly gained the reputation of being South Beach’s go-to hotel for fashion insiders, like Naomi Campbell and Helena Christensen. Ford modeling agency insiders would stay here, too, and many fashion shoots were held in these halls.
The rooms have an anti-corporate feel, likely because they feature touches of high-end vintage furniture from the 1930s to the 1980s. In one room called Go Bananas, the walls are covered in a retro banana leaf print, while the Big Bamboo room is covered in retro glamor inspired by old Hollywood film sets. “Each room has references to Hollywood, Las Vegas, Western movies, 1960s space films and Tiki Island vibes,” said Andrea Russo.
To Rosso, Miami is becoming more of a destination for the fashion set each year. “Since the 1990s, the city has been evolving and growing,” he said. “Over the past decade, Miami has become a great stop for the fashion and design world. From Art Basel to the Design District and Wynwood, it is a place where the mix of cultures fuse together. Miami is a creative engine to be inspired by.”
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