What’s the meaning of “boutique” anyway?

Boutique hotels have once been something special. And not just something special, but something that only certain (special) people even knew about.

Jason Q. Freed wrote about how it all started:

the late Steve Rubell and partner Ian Schrager in 1984 were gearing up for the opening the first Morgans Hotel in New York City. As interest was drumming for the opening of the hotel, Rubell was being interviewed by local press and the reporter began asking questions about the hotel, wanting Rubell to describe it or compare it to a similar hotel in the area. Rubell couldn’t find the right words to describe what the first Morgans Hotel would represent but instead was able to paint a picture for the inquisitive journalist.

“You can go clothes shopping at Macy’s or you can go clothes shopping at one of these small boutiques in New York City,” Rubell reportedly said. “This hotel is going to be like the boutique of hotels.”

Over time, smart people in the hospitality industry figured out that just using the word boutique in their hotel descriptions had a nearly magical pull on people, and it also justified a heftly increased price tag.

So over time, there was a kind of inflation of the word “boutique”.

(Which is also one reason why we’re calling the website luxury boutique hotels, because it reflects the original spirit of the term a bit better).

Jason Q. Freed continues to talk about how the term boutique got kind of devalued, and what he think of the term branded boutique. It’s well worth reading his thoughts on the subject, whether you agree with him or not.

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