The luxury Interview of...

Emmanuel SAUVAGE
Managing Director / Co-founder - Evok Hotels Collection

Luxury is a combination of quality, brand and service

Co-founder and Managing Director of the Evok Hotels Collection group, Emmanuel SAUVAGE, 42, has always worked in the luxury hotel sector. With a BTS in hotel management, he quickly climbed the ladder: receptionist then director, at 23 years old, within the Les Hôtels de Paris group. In 2010, he was entrusted with the opening of the Burgundy, a five-star hotel, still in Paris.  

In 2014, he co-founded the Evok Hotels Collection group with Romain Yzerman and investor Pierre Bastid. Today, Evok brings together five addresses designed to become true living spaces. Open to their neighborhood and their immediate environment, each establishment is immersed in the air of the times and offers exceptional, inspired places, tailor-made by leading French interior designers.

Inauguration in June 2015 of a starred table at the Palais Royal restaurant, as well as four hotels in Paris (the Nolinski, between the Opera and the Louvre, the Brach, in the 16th arrondissement with a view of the Eiffel Tower, the Sinner, in the Marais, and the Cour des Vosges in the Montbrun hotel on the historic Place Royale), and a 5th establishment in Courchevel: the Hameau de la Volière in Courchevel.

Next step: the international development of the Brand. Starting with the opening of a first hotel in Venice, scheduled for the end of 2021. This will be followed by other establishments such as the Brach Madrid and the Brach Rome. Within 10 years, the ambition is to have five more in more distant destinations, such as New York, China, and South America.

Bureau d’Image: How would you define luxury?
Emmanuel Sauvage: Luxury should not be abused. In my opinion, a luxury product is characterized by the conjunction of three phenomena: quality, the brand and the service that accompanies it. At the same level of quality, a luxury product is distinguished by the ceremonial that sublimates it: something intense must happen when a luxury product is passed on. The human element is therefore essential in every respect: from design to customer experience and production.

BI: Does French luxury exist and what would its characteristics be?
ES: It still stands out, even today, for its refinement, its traditions, and its know-how. France has a strong history and has been able to perpetuate its traditions through the transmission and quality of our crafts and French know-how. Safeguarding this heritage is essential, but it should sometimes be accompanied by a greater adaptation to the rejuvenation of the clientele.

BI: What have been the major developments in luxury hotels in recent decades?
ES: In the luxury hotel business in France, we are still very much rooted in savoir-vivre and traditions: extremely classic codes. This is a valid observation in most of our Palaces. Internationally, on the other hand, the approach is much simpler with many luxury hotels that have adopted new methods with a relaxed atmosphere and more contemporary attitudes. We have to make sure that luxury is not considered dusty in France, as we often fail to break free from our shackles. It is, admittedly, very difficult to change our methods because of our history and traditions. In the hotel business, luxury consists in making life easier for our clients, without being stale. Living in luxury in the 21st century is an approach, a way of thinking and being that goes beyond materialism. At a time when everything is moving very fast, we are seeing a return to certain values that put the individual and his environment at the centre of his concerns: family, health, sport, quality of life... We are above all looking for a space where it is good to live. Known throughout the world for its savoir-vivre, the beauty of its landscapes and its culture, France remains the emblematic country of luxury.

BI: How are luxury hotels stand out?
ES: Through respect for authenticity and raw material. It is inconceivable to fake and hide things because our customers are all experts in luxury. Luxury hotels still use noble materials such as marble, bronze, or brass. It is with these fundamentals, to which they add marketing and service ceremonial, that luxury hotels stand out.

BI: Which leader are you? What principles guide your professional life?
ES: I start from the principle, and apply it on a daily basis, that it is up to the director to set the tempo for his teams and to create a family spirit that is not artificial. In a team, we are nothing without the others and we all have to help and train each other. It's a give-and-take. We all have to learn from each other. This requires not being distant but on the contrary to be as close as possible to the managers on the field.

BI: What requirements does the management of a luxury hotel require?
ES: One of the most crucial aspects for me is recruitment. If we want our teams to take ownership of an institution's project and strategy, it is essential to give time and thought to this recruitment. My credo: that the personality of each of Evok's employees is expressed on a daily basis. It must not be hidden because we would put our employees in a mould. To create an authentic bond and relationship with clients, our teams must feel at ease and offer impeccable service with their own specificities. With, naturally, professionalism and adaptability as a common thread.

BI: What quality do we require from teams?
ES: Benevolence and empathy. This can make you forget 90% of a possible service problem.

BI: What fault inspires you the most leniency?
ES: Any fault if the person concerned honestly acknowledges it. With transparency, everything is forgivable and understandable.

BI: How important is it to train your teams to service excellence?
ES: When new employees join our teams, they have already acquired the basics of the service. To achieve the excellence we seek, in harmony with the DNA of our establishments, it is then up to us - the managers - to develop them. It is up to us, as recruiters, to solve this problem. One of my greatest pleasures, in fact, is to see the positive development of those around me. Our role is to support, develop and help our teams to achieve excellence.

BI: Even as Managing Director, do we continue to learn a little more about luxury, its codes and its many ways to embody it?
ES: I am constantly on the lookout for new horizons and ways to embody luxury. So, I travel a lot to see and understand what is happening elsewhere. But beware, it is not a question of copying but of being inspired by new visions or methods. This allows - while maintaining a guideline - to progress.

BI: What advice would you give to young professionals?
ES: Be open-minded, learn from all your experiences and adapt to your environment.

BI: What do you recommend for men: neat beard or close shave?
ES: Ten years ago, I was quite strict. I had a whistle when a hair from one of my employees went out! (laughs) But today, as I explained a little earlier, it is important for me that everyone's personality stands out. And to do that, you have to be comfortable and comfortable in your own skin. My only veto is the piercing. On the other hand, I have nothing against wearing a neat beard, earrings, or a bracelet. For tattoos too, I was against it a few years ago: I even made up those of my collaborators. To sum up: before, it was no and today it is yes but... (smile) It all depends on the place or the position. It is therefore more difficult to manage than the outright ban! This is an inevitable evolution to adapt to the job market, to the new generations and the fashions that come with them.

BI: For women: for or against red polish?
ES: Same answer as the previous one! No prohibitions.

BI: If luxury hotels were a color, what would it be?
ES: Blue, a color that comes in infinite variations and evokes travel.

BI: An animal?
ES: The cat.

BI: An adjective?
ES: Useful.

BI: An emotion?
ES: Not just one, but rather an alchemy of all emotions.

BI: An object?
ES: A bronze, a pledge of solidity.

BI: A motto?
ES: Luxury is the art of entertaining.

BI: A virtue?
ES: Happiness, luxury being a dream merchant.

BI: A historical figure?
ES: I have two, very emblematic and with very different characters: Conrad Hilton, who answered "Rental, rental, rental!" when asked the main criterion for the success of his hotels, and Caesar Ritz, who evokes a lot of emotions in me.

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