The man behind the magic
Ian Schrager, co-founder of the “magical” Studio 54 nightclub, talks about the rocket of success he rode until launching his new venture into hospitality.
As one of the founders of the dynasty that is now Studio 54, is there one word you could give us that describes this particular moment in time?
I would have to say that there are a couple of one-words that might be suitable. I might use the words electrify, spectacular and transformative!
Are there any myths about Studio 54 that you can clear up for us?
There are no myths that I can clear up. Myths seem to take on a life of their own. All I can say is that it was an absolutely unique place. The reason that people were having such a wonderful time was because people were able to achieve a level of absolute freedom. They could do whatever they wanted and there was no law against it. There wasn’t anything you couldn’t do at night that you weren’t able to walk away from the next day. I think achieving that level of freedom is a human condition. We all strive for it and people were able to have that at Studio 54.
Was Studio 54 the best and worst thing that ever happened to you?
Studio 54 was one of the best and one of the worst things that happened to me. Both. It was a double edge sword.
Where did the idea to open Studio 54 come from?
It was my idea to go into the nightlife business as you did not really have to know a lot – there was no barrier to entry. It was just emerging; it was in the very beginning of the nightclub movement and it was something that both me and Steve [Rubell] embraced and it did not take much convincing. I saw that there was an opportunity to do something really special.
There have been some amazing moments at Studio 54 that have been heavily documented. Is it surreal knowing you were responsible for creating the ultra glamourous and iconic idea that we all have of the disco era?
When you worked on it the way I personally did, you have a different view of it than most people looking in from the outside. They were having fun. To me it was just a lot of blood, sweat, toil and tears that went into it and I’m just happy that I was involved in something that was such a huge success.
Studio 54 has become such an amazing moment in time. What made it different to every other nightclub?
There was a level of excellence, production quality and theatricality about it. It was magical and there was a certain kind of alchemy that happened. And that’s what Studio 54 had, which differentiated it from any other place.
You have moved your talents to property development and have become a hotelier. How did your career evolve and do you feel your new venture with EDITION hotel represents your evolution?
Well the hotel business has a lot of similarities to nightclubs. They both have the same goal: to be a good host, look after people, make sure that they have a good time and have a unique experience. So to that extent, because the business had the same goal, it was a logical move from one to the other. I think hotels are a much more complex endeavor and they are more difficult to pull off and it involves a lot more capital but it’s still in the pursuit of excellence and magic making.
You are launching the beautiful EDITION hotel in Abu Dhabi. What made you choose this region?
We are in an opportunistic business: we respond to where the opportunities are and this great opportunity became available to us in Abu Dhabi.
What is different about the EDITION hotel that sets you apart from other hotels?
I think a level of sophistication. It’s the one lifestyle hotel in the world that I think combines sophisticated visuals with great design, exciting food and beverage concepts and a glamorous atmosphere with a level of really great, personalised, one-size-does-not-fit-all service.
Why would you say an EDITION hotel is the place to stay?
When you are able to put all of these elements together under one roof, there is a spark. There is no rulebook. It just comes together and everything works. It’s when the total of what you have done is more than the sum of each individual part. And when you are able to do that, that’s when you create magic. And everybody wants to be in a magical place.