A Conversation with Christian Louboutin about his hotel Vermelho Melides

June 29, 2023

Vermelho Melides is the brainchild of Christian Louboutin, an extraordinary five-star boutique hotel nestled in a small Alentejo village.

A Conversation with Christian Louboutin about his hotel Vermelho Melides

“I truly think you can’t love a place without loving the people who live there, and I’m deeply in love with Portuguese people.”
– Christian Louboutin, French designer and owner of Vermelho Melides

First of all congratulations on creating Vermelho, we think it's incredible. How did the idea of opening your first hotel come about?

Thank you, thank you! I didn’t plan to open a hotel. In a way, I’m someone who likes to have a routine. When there is a place I like to go for dinner, for example, I don’t need to change, I’m not craving for novelty. I used to have this dinner place when I lived in Comporta - O Dinis – but when I moved to Melides I didn’t find any place where I could go every night by myself or with friends and set it as my HQ.

I thought, if I don’t find one, let’s build one. So I purchased this piece of land in the centre of the village, and a few weeks later the mayor came to me and said “What a big plot of land just for a restaurant, why don’t you create a hotel?”

And surprisingly, without thinking about it, I said “Yes, great idea”. And that’s how Vermelho is born.

Can you tell us a bit about your connection with Portugal?

I discovered Portugal as a teenager while touring the country with some friends. But my love for Alentejo started a few years later with Luis, a friend of mine who owned a family house in Comporta. We used to go there in the summer with Larissa, an older friend of ours living in NY. And I haven’t stopped visiting the country since then until I bought a place in Comporta almost 20 years ago.

I’m originally from Brittany, in the very far west of France and I found in Portugal something like the Breton people: this curiosity for what’s located over the seas. I truly think you can’t love a place without loving the people who live there, and I’m deeply in love with Portuguese people.

Was the process of creating a hotel in line with your initial expectations? What aspects did you find the most enjoyable or rewarding?

I didn’t really know what to expect when I started. I had already worked with the Portuguese architect Madalena Caiado on a previous house in Lisbon. The only brief I gave her was an Indian bangle of mine, totally sober from the outside, just a plain bangle of gold, but looking at the inside, it’s completely chiselled and ornated with semi-precious gems.

I wanted the same for Vermelho: very simple from the outside, perfectly integrated with its environment, respectful of the traditional Alentejo architecture, but when you pass through the entrance door, you dive into a completely different world, richly decorated, mixing influences and eras. Having the possibility to work and offer carte blanche to artists and artisans I truly admire was a bliss.

Vermelho Melides, a boutique hotel in Alentejo by Christian Louboutin
Vermelho Melides is the first hospitality project of French designer Christian Louboutin.
“Having the possibility to work and offer carte blanche to artists and artisans I truly admire was a bliss.”
– Christian Louboutin, French designer and owner of Vermelho Melides

When we visit hotels, even the ones we highly rate, we always find a thing or two we would change. Vermelho was an exception, the attention to detail is perfect. How do you bring this level of focus to every aspect of the experience and how much personal oversight do you have?

I would say it’s because we took the right time to make things the right way. Thanks to the confinement, I had the chance to spend a lot of time in Melides, to look at the way the light evolves over the hours and the days for example. But also we respected the time artists and artisans need to make beautiful works.

We visited their workshops and looked for the best ways to obtain the right colours and the right finishes. Most of the elements of the hotel have been made to measure for Vermelho, and I think that’s something you can feel when you spend time at the hotel.

What's your favourite piece or object in the hotel, and why does it hold such significance for you?

It’s like favour one of your children, I can’t choose. But I’ve got to say I’m particularly proud of the work done by Italian artist Giuseppe Ducrot on the façades and the frescos painted in the second-floor suites by my longtime friend Greek illustrator Konstantin Kakanias.

Facade by Giuseppe Ducrot at Vermelho Melides Hotel by Christian Louboutin
Merging Greek, Roman, and exuberant Baroque influences, Giuseppe Ducrot brings his flair for historical artistic techniques to the façade of Vermelho.
Greek artist Konstantin Kakanias has painted the Matinha and Bagas suites at Vermelho Melides hotel by Christian Louboutin
Greek artist Konstantin Kakanias has painted the Matinha and Bagas suites at Vermelho Melides, infusing them with his contemporary artistic flair. Having drawn inspiration from classical Portuguese design, he has blended influences from worldwide and throughout history.

We are intrigued by the many wonderful objects from other cultures at Vermelho. We would love to know more about the Bollywood posters. Can you share the story behind them?

I’ve had a passion for India since I was a child. I grew up in Paris, and next to my parents’ apartment there was a cinema named L'Athéna that screened only Egyptian and Indian movies. Since then, I’m mesmerised by the country, all the colours, the mix of different cultures, and the energy of the people.

I’ve been collecting Bollywood posters since my first trip to India when I was 16. So it was very natural for me to find them a place at Vermelho. It’s in a way a part of who I am.

Bollywood posters at Xtian restaurant,  at Vermelho Melides hotel by Christian Louboutin
Some of the wonderful Bollywood posters collected by Louboutin are on display at the Xtian Restaurant.
Bollywood poster at Vermelho hotel Bar
Vermelho Melides features the exquisite craftsmanship of Orfebrería Villarreal, a renowned goldsmith's workshop in Seville. Christian Louboutin has previously collaborated with them, and for Vermelho Melides, they have created a stunning bar adorned with hammered silver leaf.

What's your favourite hotel worldwide and why? 

I would say the National Hotel in La Havane, for its old-fashioned atmosphere. And the people there are so sympathetic. I think it's not the standing of a place what’s the most important to me but really the love people put into the place, the quality of the service and the sympathy of the people making the place alive. That’s really something I tried to implement at Vermelho and look at all the people working here, they’re all smiling. It’s very rewarding to me!

Thank you very much for this interview Mr. Louboutin.

Here's hoping you create new memories here in Portugal. Tag us on Instagram (we would love it if you do!) and let us know how it goes. 🤗

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Joana and Sofia

Check out our full report on Vermelho Melides

© Cover portrait of Christian Louboutin and photos of the rooms courtesy of Vermelho Melides. Other photos by JO&SO.

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