If you can imagine someone as the personification of a gentleman, the name of that someone would be Olivier Lapidus. As an entrepreneur, I know that my conversation with this inspirational man will inspire me for a long time to come. I also hope by the time you’re done reading this story, you’ll have a better sense of where digital and social business is headed. When names like these begin to congregate grand designs tend to become reality.

Olivier Lapidus and the author

Most of us are simply not touched by genius in the every day, nor do we see fashion and interactive technology intertwined  to create the perfect social experience in hospitality every day. Many of us, who heard of a Twitter hotel, may expect to find more, but very few can imagine the world of Hotel Felicien, designed by Olivier Lapidus.

Lapidus is a man who looks and acts as if he just stepped out from a classic Hollywood film. One of the world’s most talented fashion designers has now vectored off slightly to create a hotel guest experience for a new generation of traveler. By the end of my meetup with Lapidus, I was amazed to catch a glimpse of the space where all our digital conversation meets a new marketing and customer experience. There's a buzz all about this new Paris hotel, a buzz that brings apps, people, and talent close at hand.

Branding mobile

Start of Something Big

The rue Felicien is a little street I didn’t even know of before. Close to Radio France, looking to find the distinctive new façade, I just knew this new designer hotel was going to surprise me. Stressed and busy with 1000 last minute Christmas loose ends, meeting Lapidus and seeing the talked about Felicien, was simply an opportunity I didn't want to miss.

I was invited to meet with Olivier Lapidus during a social-digital SnapTraveller blogger event at Felicien, one sponsored by Microsoft Bing, Elegancia Hotels, and World Independent Hotels Promotions (WIHP) . In a rush as I said, I was keen to see the end result of Elegancia’s Felicien project, ever since  I’d heard about it from Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis (with fellow SMT contributor Phil Butler below) last year. As Brian had iterated then, “Elegancia is one of those rare businesses that embraced creating guest experiences early on. “ As I found out, Olivier Lapidus ended up being the emissary of “next hotels” for this and other brands too.

Olivier greeted me just as I arrived late for the main SnapTraveller event. At first I could not decide which was more elegant, the wonderful hotel around me, or the man whose avant-garde creations had been so much in vogue in the past. As it occurred to me, this place in Paris is a part of Lapidus himself, pleasing to the eye and comfortable to be around. As you can tell from the pictures I’ve provided, there’s an unmistakable masculinity to the design choices, with more than a hint of beauty and cutting edge shape. It is here in the shapes of this creation too, that technology like LED color altering drapes and smart device remote panels assist the guest. You see here Haute Couture French design intersects the childhood of a genius too.

The son of the legendary Ted Lapidus, Olivier recalled his mother and father as inspiration for his many projects past, present and future. The older Lapidus, best friends with the likes of John Lennon, created the 70’s ier reflects mistily on starting working at his father’s shop as early as 5 years old or younger. But Lapidus is not simply (if that’s the term) a fashion genius, he’s possessed of immutable technological sense as well. 

Phil Butler and Brian Solis in Paris

A Generation “Connected” Idea

Located on a corner along Rue Félicien David, Hotel Felicien is another of Paris’ themed and stylish boutique affairs along the lines of the now legendary Seven, the Five, and others of the Elegancia brand of Phillip Vaurs, good friend of Lapidus. And as I said so near from Radio France and Trocadero. I remember first reading about Felicien and Lapidus in an article by Mihaela Lica Butler, one of the organisers of the Brian Solis, Elegancia, WIHP event on the Seine I mentioned. She suggested back then, the “Timeless Couture” Olivier and his famous father Ted have stood for, is there for the enjoying at Felicien too. As for Solis' "experience justified" marketing of the future, here we are.

Olivier LapidusOlivier (at left) gave me a very personal tour of the seven floors of color themed hospitality the hotel is clad in. To be honest here, I was honored by such attention, Olivier explained to me the fabrics, the selection of the colors, “it was like chosing a dress !”, he explained. This “dressing up experience” Is what I felt as we visited each floor, the sensation making me feel special and unique. Then it hit me, “this is what Solis and digital practitioners were referring to,“giving people a complete experience, a memorable one.”

Set inside a 1930s building in in the 16th arrondissement, Felicien reveals a somewhat subdued version of Lapidus’ famous avant-garde fashion sense. Greeted by Olivier in the signature Black Bar, each successive floor of Felicien, all the 32 exquisite rooms carry the same luxurious flavor, and the unmistakable gentleness of the person who designed them. And it’s easy to tell the designer imbued a lot of love into his latest creation. Unique in so many respects, the hotel is part art and style gallery, part luxurious Paris home for tourists of one of our city’s most chic neighborhoods.

As fascinating and charming as Hotel Felicien is though, what’s most interesting for those of us in the business of social and digital is the departure into next generation engagement Elegancia and Lapidus are leveraging for their efforts. Not many know, but the son of one of Paris most famous ever fashion persons, Olivier’s own genius extends far past wearable high fashion and into advanced material design. As Olivier related to me over lunch after our tour, his patented smart fabrics designs predated Google Glass by decades.

The designer employed cutting-edge fabrics like the LED translucent curtains in room on the "Black" floor (below), and even smart device remote control into the creation of this colorful hotel too. But I was here to discuss the emergence of Lapidus and these news hotels into digital reality, as much as I was enjoying the shimmering, colorful style of Felicien.

Felicien's Black Floor

The event which had just adjourned before I arrived, a SnapTraveller hookup in between Olivier, key fashion bloggers, and with the support of Microsoft Bing was for me the “full circle” reality of something Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis spoke of in the aforementioned meetups with this same group. The author of “What’s the Future of Business” met with back then with some who were present on Friday, to speak about “guest experience” and his so-called “Generation C” – or connected people.

Now enter Bing, blogger networks of a different kind, and something called Photosynth (see below). The significant of these latest moves seem to point to Microsoft being poised for a sort of “experience” power play of significance. When I asked Oliver (a technical design guru too) about how 3D virtual experience might play into new age hotel or even store design, here’s what he had to say about the intersection speaking of Photosynth;

“Photosynth is a revolution for our perception of images: that of being alive from within a space, an innovation that makes parallel images in the spirit of Second Life.”

Ceiling of Palau de la Musica Catalania by David on Photosynth

We are the innovation...

To sum up my visit with Olivier Lapidus, the connections with new media initiatives and especially Microsoft “experiential” engagement, these are significant. I’d have to say, more big things are brewing where tourism meets digital business sense here. While most of those interviewing Olivier last week seemed enamored only with his obvious charm and maybe notoriety, a few clearly had their mind set on how business plays out for the future. Situated perfectly near  our Bois de Boulogne, the Eiffel Tower, and Trocadéro, a stone’s throw the Musée Marmottan Monet here in Paris, the photo“synth”esis of all these “connected” people suggests something fascinating and important for business and consumers.

Hotel Felicien is one of those places that pleases people in a very individualistic way. Ladies may be completely charmed to gleeful levity; the gentleman may find a comfortable and kind friend, for others some kinship may be formed with the texture or beauty of the place. In the end, the experience of Hotel Felicien is a bit like meeting its creator, Olivier Lapidus is at once many things to whomever he meets – and all of them kind and beautiful. Now that’s what I call truly social ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you again Olivier for such an inspiring moment, and for making every lady feeling so special, Un grand couturier! I think people like this new all along that "we are the innovation."

Photo Credits: Main image from the author, Phil Butler and Brian Solis - courtesy Pamil Visions PR, Olivier Lapidus - courtesy Creatioins Olivier Lapidus, Black Floor room image - courtesy Hotel Felicien and Serge Ramelli 2013