On the fourth floor of Firmdale Hotel Group’s flagship location, sits the leafy roof terrace of the Ham Yard Hotel. Nestled in the heart of London's Soho, the rooftop is complete with a working garden which is home to two beehives, each tended to by an in-house beekeeper. Offering a tranquil break from the busy streets below, it's the perfect place to catch up with friend and Trunk customer, Craig Markham. Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Craig joined the hotel group two years after it was founded in 1985, and has remained with them ever since. For our latest instalment of Trunk Talks, we asked Craig about his experience with the hotel group, the challenges facing the hospitality industry in 2022 and, of course, what he looks for in his clothes.
You have been with Firmdale since 1987, what was it that initially drew you to work with the hotel group?
Growing up in Australia it was always my dream to live in London and travel through Europe. I arrived in February during one the coldest winters on record and immediately got a job working for Firmdale. They had just opened the Dorset Square Hotel, a beautiful English country townhouse in Marylebone, and there were plans for more. I had never really considered a career in hospitality but the time was right and I was fortunate to be there from the beginning and able to play a central role in its development. Within a couple of years, we were off and running; opening new hotels and restaurants with my responsibility being the sales, marketing and PR. Our founders Tim and Kit Kemp quickly became globally recognised trailblazers in the London townhouse market breathing new life into rundown locations. I would travel all over the world promoting them mainly in the US which is our biggest market still to this day.
Firmdale has grown considerably since you joined, what have been some of the biggest changes that you have seen in your time there?
One of the biggest changes was moving into the West End and opening the Covent Garden Hotel in 1996, which was formerly a French hospital and as we were getting a name for attracting the Hollywood A-list, a state-of-the-art cinema was included. From then on four more hotels followed in central London. The next big change was in 2009 when we took the brand to New York and opened Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo which was a great success. So much so that another beckoned and in 2017 we opened The Whitby on 56th Street in Midtown Manhattan.
What about some stand-out moments?
The opening of Ham Yard Hotel in London’s Soho in 2014 changed things up a few gears. We took a deserted one-acre site in the heart of Soho, creating a luxury hotel with extensive public spaces, a roof terrace, a 1950s bowling alley, 24 exclusive residences and 12 retail stores all centred on a leafy public thoroughfare. It soon became our flagship property.
With so many unique locations under the Firmdale umbrella, is it fair to ask which is your favourite?
I always feel close to the newest property although I do have a soft spot for the Covent Garden Hotel.
Given the challenges the industry has faced over the last few years, how do you see the future of hospitality?
During my career, we have had several significant barriers placed in our way including two gulf wars, the global financial crisis of 2008 and Covid. The hospitality industry is always moving and changing and the best way to survive its many hurdles is to be clever, stay true to the brand, always evolve and keep customers close to you.
As a friend and customer of Trunk, we know that style is important to you. What informs how you dress and what you look for in your clothes?
Fit is important to me and investing in clothes that will last. I generally like to keep it simple wearing a basic palette of navy, grey, olive and neutrals from a few favourite brands including Boglioli, Incotex and Trunk.
What is next for Firmdale? Is anything exciting in the pipeline?
Next up is Warren Street Hotel opening September 2023 in New York’s Tribeca neighbourhood.
Thank you, Craig!