Hilton New York/ Fashion District
Updated: Jun 14, 2016
id: boutique chain hotel with a fashion theme
‘hood: east 20s/garment district
cool detail: mannequins in the lobby windows
By Terry Trucco
At a glance: Fashionably dressed mannequins in the window. A colorful Mondrianesque “painting” created from artfully arranged spools of thread.
We get it -- Hilton New York/Fashion District is a themed boutique hotel. But this Spring 2010 newcomer situated in the heart of the aforementioned Garment District -- and originally called Fashion 26-- is cut from a different cloth and strives to go beyond one size fits all. And it succeeds.
The theme, albeit contrived, is a plus and fits a hotel billeted in this fashion-savvy-but-scraggly neighborhood like a pair of slim-cut Rag + Bones jeans. Though not inherently fashionable like parts of Madison Avenue, West 26th Street, with its mess of lofts, storefronts and warehouses, is where clothing is designed and constructed. What better way to turn a ho-hum locale into a selling point?
The theme also helps warm this bland, no-nonsense high-rise hotel and differentiate it from the other, high-rise sliver hotels that have popped up like daisies throughout Midtown in recent years. True, certain cookie cutter traits persist, like identically dressed rooms, boxy public spaces and the sterile feel of a slim, glass-fronted mini-skyscraper.
But witty touches like side tables shaped like gigantic spools of thread make me smile whenever I enter, and I like the lobby's plenteous seating on charcoal leather banquettes, brightened by silky throw pillows. (I also like the stools dressed like mens'suits in pinstripe flannel.) And the staff seems amused by their surroundings. “Check out our desk,” enthused an attendant. From the front, you see a brute black granite slab. But the sides are cast iron grates, reminiscent of those found on vintage Singer sewing machines. Sweet!
Rooms: As befits a newish hotel, the standard queen room I saw looked like the rooms pictured on the web site -- only smaller. Though big enough for two people who don’t plan to occupy it for endless hours, it reminded me of a Container Store ad: there was a place for everything with not an inch wasted.
White with a wallpapered accent wall (the jaunty dotted pattern reminded us of buttons), the room featured a queen-size bed with a rectangular dark wood headboard, a flatpanel TV above the generous desk/dresser combo, a wheeled leather desk chair and a white-curtained, floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the boring office buildings across the street (the views improve as you go up). The room, though spotless, was more conventional than the lobby with one cool detail: the sleek black and silver sausage bolster that leaned against the whipped-cream white pillows.
I also liked the smart square of a bathroom, which, despite extremely close quarters, managed to serve up a generous stall shower and stylish sink. Clever, too, was the dark wood hallway tower with stacked shelves holding the minibar, coffee maker and coffee cups.
Food and drink: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at Rare Bar & Grill, a gourmet burger chainlet with a link in Greenwich Village and another at the Affinia Shelburne hotel in the East 30s.
Dressed in red, black and gold, spacious, split-level Rare features a bar adjoining the lobby and a sky-lighted subterranean restaurant reached by a curving, wrought iron staircase. The restaurant is oddly glamorous, if you don’t mind the lack of windows and the noise (the place was earsplitting when I late-lunched in a room that was less than half full).
The décor is Steak House Lite – red leather banquettes, huge wood-framed mirrors and dark wood tables sans tablecloths, with cheeky touches like the chicken-wire patterned wallpaper covering the cylindrical lampshades.
Food is Steak House Lite, too. Red meat, ie steaks and burgers, rules, but mindful of the hotel’s fashion-consciousness, slimmed down offerings appear, like a 6-ounce hamburger on toast. I lunched on a plump, juicy 8-ounce burger ($9) topped with caramelized onions for an additional $1.50 (delicious) and a $5 side of cole slaw (so-so).
Rare also operates the spacious roof bar. Open year-round rain or shine, the deck is walled in knotty pine, studded with big windows overlooking the Empire State Buildings (and numerous less distinctive structures)and features two roofed-in seating areas with cushioned black wicker lounge chairs and sofas, a big bar and minimal air-conditioning. Burgers ($9.50) are grilled on the deck's open-air stretch on summer Sunday afternoons. (Mine, topped with grilled onions, took forever to arrive but was juicy and thick).
Amenities: Free WiFi. The concierge keeps a list of the day’s sample sales. Complimentary overnight shoeshine. ATM in the lobby. Dream Kits available with sleep masks and earplugs. The basement fitness center is large and well equipped, with a personal trainer available. Business center open 24 hours. Gilchrist and Soames bath products. A keycard is required to operate the elevator. Guests receive Crumbs mini cupcakes at check-in, and they are quite fetching.
Surroundings: The hotel is in the heart of New York’s Garment District, surrounded by retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers of handbags, hats, belts and trimmings. It’s also a block away from the Fashion Institute of Technology, a leading design school. But if you’re not a garmento, this is an in-between neighborhood, a mish-mash of small businesses, office buildings and delis. Fortunately, good things are not too far away. The Empire State Building, Macy’s and a slew of mall-type stores, like H & M and Gap, are nearby. Times Square (and the Theater District) is just two stops on the subway, while Lincoln Center is four. Downtown Manhattan, including Greenwich Village and the Meatpacking District, SoHo, Tribeca and the Financial District, is also easy to reach by subway, bus or taxi. The subway station is two blocks away, and bus stops are nearby as well.
Back story: This 22-floor high rise was built from scratch for a reported $90 million. The hotel opened as part of the Wyndham group -- and the original plan called for a conventional Wyndham hotel. But during its two years on the drawing board, Fashion 26 evolved, right down to the name, which put fashion – and all the boutique hotel originality that implies -- before Wyndham. “As we got into the development process we realized we wanted something a little more unique,” Wyndham president Jeff Wagoner told an interviewer a while back.
But Fashion 26 is no longer part of Wyndham. Some time during the summer of 2010 the hotel and the large hotel group parted ways, and Fashion 26 became independent, managed by Highgate Hospitality. Independence ended on February 15, 2010 when the hotel came under the Hilton umbrella and changed its name. The changes mean the hotel now affords itself of Hilton's formidable reservations system. And guests receive Hilton points for their stay.
Keep in mind: Despite multiple elevators, going up or down can be slow in the evening when an elevator is dedicated to ferrying guests to the rooftop bar.
What We Saw: