At The Sail Melaka, an ambitious RM6.5 billion-gross development value (GDV) project by developer Sheng Tai International, the project’s latest reveal bears the immortal imprint of the most famous person to wear fingerless gloves. At a star-studded gala night held at the 360-degree performance theatre Encore Melaka located at the City of Hope – adjacent only to The Sail Melaka – Sheng Tai International’s founder Dato’ Leong Sir Ley, together with Pier Paolo Righi, CEO of Karl Lagerfeld and a long-time collaborator with the legendary designer, inaugurated the Karl Lagerfeld Tower.
“It’s been amazing for the house of Karl Lagerfeld to formalise this vision which we share with Sheng Tai International,” Righi says. The Karl Lagerfeld Tower – with an expected completion date of 2030 – will function as the fashion component among the nine towers of The Sail. This integrated development will offer spaces dedicated to retail, commercial, residential and beyond. Its other towers, which have been announced, will also possess various components tailored towards art, wellness, artificial intelligence and culture. “The Karl Lagerfeld Tower at The Sail Melaka is not just a fashion project,” Righi says. “It is a clear part of Karl’s vision and legacy of embracing the present and, at the same time, to invent the future.”
“With this partnership, I am sure we will see hospitality in another way – through the lens of an international fashion house such as Karl Lagerfeld,” says Dato’ Leong. “Why Lagerfeld? I’ve always loved their designs and their sense of fun that cuts through the often-times staid corporate atmosphere that most of us experience on a daily basis.”
For both of parties, the consensus and agreement which led to this announcement was derived from both the parties’ shared vision in creating a new international point of reference for Karl Lagerfeld – a fashion house primarily with over 300 stores worldwide. This tower becomes the first-ever Karl Lagerfeld-branded hotel and residential development project in Southeast Asia. Just last month, the first Karl Lagerfeld hotel opened in Macau’s Grand Lisboa Palace.
Righi emphasises that Karl Lagerfeld has always considered itself as an international fashion house, unencumbered by national and regional boundaries. “Our house, based on Karl’s beliefs – means we are very vested in culture, music, history, literature, photography, arts which formed his worldview that informed his work,” he says. “In a place like Melaka, we are also able to build on the city’s beautiful living heritage, shaped by the crossroads of civilisations and history.” What the Karl Lagerfel brand will deliver, according to Righi, is its unique one-off approach to the upcoming hotel and branded residences. He adds that the maison of Karl Lagerfeld eschews the ‘cookie-cutter’ approach. “How we make people feel unique, that is our DNA,” he affirms.
On a related note, the recent announcement in May of Dato’ Leong’s purchase of 30 per cent stake in public-listed developer Yong Tai Berhad and being appointed as its CEO and Managing Director by virtue of being its largest stakeholder, has resulted in a combined land bank measuring165.5 acres on which The Sail Melaka sits upon. This entire development – the combined acreage of both Yong Tai’s and Sheng Tai’s land – has also been given the moniker “City of Hope”. As Dato’ Leong articulates: “here you can hope, dream and achieve anything you want with our multi-disciplinary offerings from artificial intelligence and wellness, to arts and fashion.”
Within the City of Hope, one also finds the impressive Encore theatre, designed by China’s state-owned Beijing Institute of Architectural Design’s Chief Architect, Wang Ge and constructed by the experts of Hangzhou’s Joinus. The 2,000-seat theatre’s geometric façade is composed of 400,000 pieces of aluminium composite panels – combined with hundreds of thousands of fish scale-like LED panels that reflect the ever-changing skylight.
This impressive venue served as the evening’s venue for the official announcement ceremony of the Karl Lagerfeld tower at The Sail Melaka. In his speech, Righi referenced the late Karl Lagerfeld’s long-standing fascination with architecture, having also undertaken commissions to design private residences and mansions during his time. “In my conversations with Dato’ Leong, the house of Karl Lagerfeld and Sheng Tai are creating and contributing towards a special place which the world will know about and be attracted to visit,” he says. “Karl was always driven by curiosity – and his fashion was influenced by all his interests – and this drives us,” he says, adding, “because people came here hundreds of years ago to build a beautiful multi-cultural city, and we hope in our own way, to amplify this with the Karl Lagerfeld development.”
Also in attendance at the announcement event was the Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Ab Rauf Yusoh who states: ““I am pleased to hear that Sheng Tai International is actively enhancing the state’s profile as a travel and investment destination. This project is important not only for Sheng Tai, Yong Tai Berhad or Karl Lagerfeld, but also for this historical state, its property and tourism industries and the community at large.”
Then came the extravaganza of performances, with traditional Gamelan giving way to the warbling of chanteuse Noryn Aziz and the virtuosity of celebrity violinist Dennis Lau among constantly changing scenescapes reflecting Melaka’s past, present and future. A combination of holograms, drones and the rhythmic drumming of a full percussion ensemble was then capped by a solo performance by Dato’ Leong herself on the piano. As the night drew to a close, a spectacular fireworks display lit up the Melaka night sky.