The Dorchester: Reframing Future Heritage

type - big idea
Big Idea
sector - retail
sector - travel & hospitality
London’s The Dorchester has undergone a significant rebranding, rooted in its 1930s inception. We speak exclusively to creative agency Construct about its careful engineering of a precious luxury brand.

London’s The Dorchester has undergone a significant rebranding, honouring its 1930s inception but with a refreshed view on the future of luxury. We speak exclusively to creative agency Construct about its careful engineering of a precious luxury brand.

By the time Dorchester Collection approached Construct to work on its namesake property, it had already asked itself challenging questions about engagement, placemaking and the shifting needs of a luxury and UHNW audience. Founded 18 years ago by Georgia Fendley, a self-effacing and self-described ‘old-fashioned, craft-focused graphic designer’, London-based Construct is the go-to agency for both heritage and modern brands, including Aman resorts, linen company Frette and department stores Harvey Nichols and Harrods.

‘They were challenging themselves to really deliver to their target audience,’ says Fendley of The Dorchester team. Placemaking was crucial to this as the hotel looked to rethink its relationship with London – as well as its old-fashioned idea of the luxury customer. To put it simply, Construct’s remit was to relate visually to where the brand would like to be: ‘It’s a good opportunity to look at everything a brand represents – what is inauthentic and to be challenged, but also what the rest of the world allows this brand to be.’

Updating a heritage moment

Key for Fendley in leading this project, which coincides with the first major renovation of the property in over 30 years, has been understanding the mood and era during which the hotel was originally conceived – the 1930s – and how to translate that to a moment almost 100 years later in order to capture the new luxury customer. ‘The myth can often be bigger than the brand you experience. We needed to make the dream and the reality align in order to reach new audiences,’ she explains.

‘We’re often creating something on a 50-year trajectory where we have to imagine what the brand architecture might need to be in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. It's not: ‘How do we tell our story this year in order to attract that group?’’

The hotel was initially created for the influencers, creatives, movers and shakers of the 1930s – the people who ‘made the world turn’. The Construct team challenged themselves to create a brand identity for a hotel that’s still worthy of the people who make the world turn today. But who are they? ‘They’re not a demographic. They’re from all walks of life and move all over the world. And they care less about heritage than [the hotel’s] traditional customer groups,’ says Fendley, adding that ‘truth, transparency and trust are at the core of their modern mindset.’

Published by:

18 April 2023

Author: Fiona Harkin

Image: The Dorchester


The Dorchester Collection

Placemaking and people

‘To embrace heritage fully you have to stop talking about it – and carry the signals lightly,’ she explains further, noting that in 1931, The Dorchester was the equivalent of today’s boutique hotels catering for the era’s crazy young things. ‘We don’t want to return to a vision of the past but an attitude to the past that reverberates with the future.’

Considering the hotel as a platform into the city, placemaking has been essential to the rebranding, and to capturing the energy and spirit of London. ‘But it’s also about the sophistication and sensibility that reflect you; what really matters is the people.’

Fendley highlights the hotel’s new lobby and The Promenade, which now feels like the vibrant heart of the hotel with varied bars and restaurants, each offering, at a glance, many different and tempting experiences for both residents and non-residents. ‘It’s not just for guests staying at the hotel,’ insists Fendley. ‘It’s a place where you’re welcomed warmly, not judged, and where you can be yourself. An egalitarian experience doesn’t mean it can’t be special. It’s a place where you can suspend reality for an hour.’ This idea of comfortable, welcoming indulgence – offering the hotel’s target audience permission to embrace pleasure – echoes Fendley’s laudable belief that: ‘Life is very short. Here are the treats. Let’s enjoy them.’

‘We needed to make the dream and the reality align in order to reach new audiences’
Georgia Fendley, founder, Construct

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