Palazzo Versace: Inside story of Coast’s famed hotel

 

 

IT was during a simple father-son trip to the shops that the idea was hatched to build Australia's first fashion-themed hotel.

The year was 1997 when Soheil and Sahba Abedian were at Marina Mirage.

The father and son, the team behind publicly listed development firm Sunland Group were mulling over what the company's next project would be.

Palazzo Versace. Picture: Jerad Williams
Palazzo Versace. Picture: Jerad Williams

As the pair walked through the Christopher Skase-built centre, they looked through the window of a boutique clothing shop, taking in the details of the high-end fashion on the racks.

It was at that moment that the older Mr Abedian had a lightbulb moment - a hotel themed around one of the world's greatest fashion houses.

There was just one logical option - Italy's House of Versace.

Soheil Abedian on the day he met with the House of Versace.
Soheil Abedian on the day he met with the House of Versace.

"The fashion industry had grown rapidly in the 1980s and one of those geniuses was Gianni Versace," Soheil Abedian said.

"Versace was the only fashion house in the world at the time which was not just concentrating on clothing but home wear too.

"Gianni always made a statement, saying he did not want to dress people, he wanted to dress the environment they live in."

Santo Versace signed the deal with Sunland.
Santo Versace signed the deal with Sunland.

The Abedians wrote to the Versace family requesting a meeting which was granted, but hopes of meeting with Gianni Versace himself were dashed by the designer's murder at the hands of spree killer Andrew Cunanan in July 1997.

After 14 months of negotiations, the Abedians flew to Milan in August 1998 where they met with Santo Versace, the fashion house's new president.

An early artist impression of the hotel.
An early artist impression of the hotel.

"We went to Milan to see Santo and came to an agreement to build the first hotel of its kind on the Gold Coast," Mr Abedian said.

"The meeting began at 9am and by 5pm we had a memorandum of understanding agreement signed."

The site of the hotel was settled on - the Fisherman's Wharf site which neighboured Marina Mirage, where the idea had been hatched.

The former Fisherman’s Wharf site being redeveloped to create Palazzo Versace in 1999.
The former Fisherman’s Wharf site being redeveloped to create Palazzo Versace in 1999.

Fisherman's Wharf was a famous venue, but was deeply financially unsuccessful.

It closed at the beginning of 1998 and was immediately demolished to make way for the high-end hotel.

Members of the Versace family flew to the Gold Coast on multiple occasions to check on the project's progress.

Mr Abedian this week reminisced about the project and revealed three things not widely known about the Palazzo Versace.

Sunland’s Sabha Abedian opening Palazzo Versace on September 15, 2000.
Sunland’s Sabha Abedian opening Palazzo Versace on September 15, 2000.

• One of its chandeliers was an antique which came from state library of Milan and was purchased when the Italian building was undergoing a refurbishment. The chandelier in the main foyer was previously owned by Gianni Versace himself.

• The carpet in the ballroom is made up of a single 400 sqm piece which has a unique design without any repetition in its pattern.

• The pattern on the floors of the hotel rooms was inspired by those of Italian palaces.

Designed by Desmond Brooks' DBI Design, the hotel took shape through the end of the 1990s and into 2000.

Its opening, on Friday September 15, 2000, coincided with the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games.

Since its opening, 20 years ago next week, it has played home to some of the world's best-known celebrities, including Johnny Depp, rock band U2 and The Rolling Stones.

Dr Santo Versace with Soheil Abedian.
Dr Santo Versace with Soheil Abedian.

Originally published as Palazzo Versace: Inside story of Coast's famed hotel

A later concept proposal.
A later concept proposal.

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