André Balazs: Prepared for Takeoff
BY MATT TYRNAUER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ABBEY DRUCKER
|Suit jacket ($258) and pants ($128), J.Crew. 14 Main St., East Hampton; jcrew.com. Dress shirt, Ralph Lauren Black Label ($275). 41 Jobs Lane, Southampton; ralphlauren.com. Shoes, Tod’s ($425). 650 Madison Ave., NYC; tods.com|
Hotelier and real estate developer André Balazs is constantly extending the boundaries of his empire with a collection of hotels and landmark architectural properties around the world. It all began with the Chateau Marmont almost 20 years ago, followed by The Mercer, a game-changing boutique hotel in Soho. The family of Standard Hotels redefined cost-conscious luxury and seduced an emerging global tribe of fashionable and cutting edge travelers. Balazs’s reach now extends to the East End with Sunset Beach, a hotel-restaurant-beachwear boutique inspired by the south of France and nestled on what was once a very sleepy cove on Crescent Beach.
To go with the island ambience, Balazs created his own signature rosé with Sagaponack vintner Wölffer Estate Vineyard. This summer the father of two launched a new project, StndAir, a private plane set to transport stylish travelers from Manhattan to the Hamptons and other posh resort communities in Balazs’s trademark retro-chic style. Here, Balazs talks about his plans for expansion, not only in the air but also overseas.
HAMPTONS: You started an airline…
ANDRÉ BALAZS: That would be a stretch, but we bought an airplane, put it that way—a Cessna Caravan. Painted it red; I thought it had to be red. It seemed like there was nothing commercial out there flying in red. It’s like the Swiss army emergency planes. I wanted to stand out, like the old Braniff International Airways. I guess it’s been on my mind for a while, since I tried to buy the Pan Am logo right after the airline folded.
H: What gave you the motivation to launch StndAir?
AB: Years ago I started flying the seaplane to the Hamptons, and to me, it was never convenient enough. There were never enough flights, and it was never fun. I wanted to make it very easy, accessible and in keeping with the Standard brand of hotels, of which I consider Sunset Beach to be a part. The same idea we try to get across at the Standards is at play here: that unique experience, a certain carefree style and the euphoria of travel. What’s luxurious is often very simple. That’s very much Sunset Beach—like that perfect French bistro you stumble on in Provence. What’s luxe about the StndAir plane is the concept of time and ease. It’s a wonderfully charming, oldfashioned seaplane, but you don’t have to have billions to partake.
H: Do you think this is going to catch on in a big way?
AB: Once you’ve flown out to the Hamptons, you simply can’t take the car again if you can afford the few extra hundred dollars. The speed, ease and comfort with which you can go from the East River at 23rd Street to any place in the Hamptons is so great. It changes your whole perception of the weekend—or a day. I have literally flown out for lunch, gone waterskiing and gone back the same day. You can go surfing in Montauk in the morning and go back to the office to work for the day. It’s dabbling in that consumer psychology of when does one realize that spending an extra few dollars to get on a seaplane is more worth it than sitting on the LIE for three hours? By what measurement of your own life and your own time and the value of your time do you say, It’s worth it?
Styling by Rebecca Malinsky; Grooming by Daniela Klein for Dior at The Wall Group; SPECIAL THANKS TO THOMAS LOOF, DAVID EPSTEIN AND PATRICK BELLANGER FOR A SELECTION OF ARCHIVAL PHOTOGRAPHS.