Waldorf Astoria and Aston Martin Lagonda are in the midst of a renaissance, with both brands expanding into new destinations and categories. Waldorf Astoria recently opened new hotels in Dubai, the Maldives and Los Cabos, while Aston Martin is branching out with its first SUV and even launching a submarine.
Together, the companies are in the midst of a four-year global partnership that enables customers to experience Waldorf Astoria’s hotels and Aston Martin’s vehicles in exciting ways, from unforgettable driving experiences to exclusive access to some of the world’s most sought-after events.
Dino Michael, global brand head of Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, sat down with Aston Martin Lagonda’s Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman, the designer of some beautiful cars, including the One-77, DBS and DBX, to discuss the meaning of luxury today.
Dino: What would you say is the biggest thrill in being a designer today?
Marek: You have a great responsibility when you are a designer at a luxury brand such as Aston Martin. Design has to change the visual landscape but represent, wholeheartedly, the brand. One of the greatest joys of design is seeing your work come to life.
Dino: Both of our brands have a common story. Both started around the early 1900s. Both are really known for one icon. For us, of course, that’s Waldorf Astoria New York. You became famous for the DB5. How do you make sure your brand stays relevant?
Marek: More than ever, luxury is not identified by conspicuous consumption; it’s more and more intangible. With the democratization of luxury, having ‘the thing’ is now not as important as how ‘it’ makes you feel, whether that’s a product, a service or an experience.
Dino: You’re touching on something very important there: experiences and emotion. For us, luxury isn’t about accumulating possessions but about collecting experiences and memories. You’re in an interesting role where you’re designing vehicles that create memories by providing amazing driving experiences. That’s something key to what our guests increasingly seek out and is one of the reasons we developed the partnership that we did.
Marek: Knowing that the luxury landscape and our customers are evolving to be more experience-driven, we needed to create a partnership grounded in a deep understanding of the modern traveler’s expectations. As new players enter the luxury market, we felt compelled to develop a partnership that allowed us to create meaningful experiences for our customers who seek out the best there is—whether that is a hotel, a car or an unforgettable travel moment.
Dino: What luxury trends can Waldorf Astoria and Aston Martin Lagonda lean into together?
Marek: In the coming years, as the luxury space continues to evolve, a great user experience will become more luxurious than rarity. Whether designing a car or a resort, companies will need to carefully prioritize their visceral strategy as much as their physical one.
Dino: What’s the most exciting part about working with a luxe brand like Waldorf Astoria?
Marek: Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts has a global footprint in some of the most exotic, exciting and cosmopolitan locations around the world. Aligning Aston Martin with Waldorf Astoria has allowed us to extend our reach and name recognition with new customers. The opportunity to share learnings and best practices that come with working with these discerning clients—and learning their habits—means that both brands can establish a new zenith within the luxury industry, delivering the best products and best experiences possible.
As the Director of Design for Aston Martin Lagonda, Miles Nurnberger’s job is to make sure that the character of a car is visible in its design, like putting a feeling into shape. He describes the raised nose and crisp lines of his favorite creation, the DB11, as a finely dressed British gentleman.
He likes to say he was “doomed” to become a car designer thanks to his name, imparted by his father who was an avid auto enthusiast, and the fact that creativity runs in the family. His parents were professional photographers, while his sisters have art degrees. His grandparents socialized with Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus school of design.
Nurnberger recently shared his mission to always make something as pure and beautiful as possible with Dino Michael, global brand head of Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.
Dino: Our brands are so synonymous with luxury travel: You enable the journey, while we provide the destination. How do you see our brands’ roles in elevating the luxury experience?
Miles: In my view, beauty is what defines the luxury experience. What do I mean by that? It’s the small details that make the difference between ‘like’ and love. What we look for is a beautiful experience. Our customers have an innate ability to feel that difference, to feel the passion that goes into our product.
Dino: In hospitality, luxury is all about feeling looked after. We can build the greatest hotel in the world in the greatest location, but if guests don’t feel special and have a ‘Live Unforgettable’ experience, we’ve failed. What’s the equivalent in the automobile industry?
Miles: To live in the luxury world means excellence in everything that you do. But two points stand clear: We are emotional beings, and our world is a visual one first and foremost. So, the feeling you get when you first see an Aston Martin is commanding. We don’t want a score out of 10—we want you to be lost for words! ‘Consummated’ by the first time you drive a car. It must connect and feel alive.
Dino: Attention to detail and quality is as important to our guests as it is to your customers. Every Aston Martin is designed with such precision—they’re moving sculptures—but you make it look so effortless. That’s a true definition of artistry. How would you describe the look of an Aston Martin today?
Miles: We made a concerted effort a few years ago to ensure all new Aston Martins were progressive in their design. We have an incredible past, but we wanted to make new history! It’s a fusion of purity and drama. We don’t want something contrived or applied. It must have a real sense of character and sculpture that is intrinsic and fundamental. You could simplify this to ‘form follows function,’ but for me, that lacks the depth of emotion inherent in our designs.
Dino: Travel impacts us in so many different ways and often inspires us with new ideas. How has travel influenced your designs? Did it help influence the look of a particular model?
Miles: I wouldn’t pinpoint a single piece of design to travel, but I’m a firm believer in the creativity you find from travel and discovery. As I get older, I’ve definitely noticed and started to understand how new experiences help feed your brain and develop new connections. I’ve been lucky to travel with my parents from an early age, but only now do I truly appreciate everything associated with it. I count it as one of the sources of my creativity.
Dino: In today’s climate, you always have to be mindful of what your consumers want, and never stand still. But you can never lose sight of where you came from. How do you keep that British heritage alive and not make it feel cliché?
Miles: It’s fundamentally about understanding the values and ideas of old, and not just what it looked like. We have a phrase: ‘We can be romantic but never retro.’ You need to understand the approach that artisans of the past took, to see how modern techniques can be reinterpreted and grown in new directions. We have fantastic examples of this hidden in our cars. One of my favorite examples came from One-77 where the saddle leather armrest was developed with one member of a very experienced trim team and our 5 axis milling expert. We had a back-and-forth development cycle between a robot and a master craftsman. It’s not everywhere you can see that happen in harmony.