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Wednesday 26 September 2018

SO/ far, SO/ much hype. New hotel brand for Auckland

International luxury lifestyle hotel brand SO/ will open its first hotel in New Zealand in the former Reserve Bank building in Auckland - and the pre-opening hype is impressive.

SO/ Auckland, an offshoot of Accor brand Sofitel, opening in November, will join a portfolio of just seven individual design hotels worldwide.

“The arrival of SO/ brings a new level of design audacity and boldness to the Auckland hotel scene,” said SO/ Auckland general manager Stephen Gould, who is clearly not backwards in coming forwards.

“The decision to launch SO/ in Auckland comes at a time when tourism in New Zealand is booming and reinforces that this stunning natural beauty is also a bustling metropolis and the must-visit destination of the South Pacific.”

Each SO/ hotel is brought to life by celebrated names from the world of fashion and design. In Mauritius there is Kenzo Takada; in Bangkok it is Christian Lacroix. In Singapore, Karl Lagerfeld is the main man.

“We needed a designer with an approach as bold and enterprising as the SO/ brand; energetic, social, bursting with individual character but also inherently a reflection of Auckland," says Gould in a frenzy of hyperbole.

"WORLD (so important that they capitalise their own name) is a playful mix of sophistication and dynamic style and therefore was an obvious choice. SO/ Auckland is an avant-garde masterpiece imaginatively inspired by WORLD.”

Benny Castles of WORLD with the logo
The hotel emblem reflects the volcanic history of Auckland, the natural beauty of New Zealand and the history of the building itself. 

The orgy of pre-opening self congratulation puts the hotel staff under immediate pressure.

Benny Castles, designer and director for WORLD, a Kiwi fashion group, talks up the concept. “We created a stylised topographical map of Auckland and over-inflated the role of volcanoes. The emblem needed to be both nostalgic and futuristic, appealing to Auckland’s mythical past but setting itself in the future of what this city will become.

"The swirling, hypnotic effect feels as though you’re looking directly into the eye of a volcano, reflecting that feeling of stepping into a boutique hotel; a hypnotic experience where the outside world is left behind and a new experience begins.”

The ground floor of the hotel has been fitted out by Dutch design house, Moooi and is inspired by founder and renowned creative, Marcel Wanders who is famous for creating multi-layered sensory experiences.

The press release says: "Challenging traditional hotel concepts, the GM says guests can 'expect service excellence with contemporary flair'." But will they get a cold beer to you quickly?

"There is no dull lobby but rather a bar that looks like it might be the meeting spot for celebrities, the fashion elite and rock stars,” Gould said. Because, of course, Auckland is just chock-a-block with rock stars.

SO/ Auckland will offer a taste of French inspiration at Harbour Society restaurant on the 15th floor, helmed by French Chef Marc de Passorio, former owner of Michelin-starred restaurant, L’Esprit de la Violette in Aix-en-Provence.

“In 2012 I visited New Zealand for the first time and fell in love with the country," the chef says."It offers so many things, from fantastic produce and wine to amazing scenery wherever you go, fresh air and generous, friendly people.

“When Stephen invited me to join SO/ Auckland as the Head Culinary Designer [ouch, the pretentiousness is too much]. I felt it was fate and an offer impossible to refuse. I am excited to start this culinary adventure."

The 130-room hotel will also feature a cafĂ©, Club Signature lounge, SO Spa, SO Fit and indoor heated pool. 

SO/ Auckland,  67 Customs St, Auckland 1010, New Zealand. +64 9-365 0000

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