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Creative Mind; Business Brain: Valéry Grégo

Les Roches Rouges in Cannes

Les Roches Rouges

If you have even a passing interest in beautiful spaces, chances are at some stage this summer, shots of a dramatic, rock-hewed pool jutting out over a dark blue sea will have popped up on your Instagram feed. And if they did, were more than likely followed by a scattering of photographs depicting gorgeous Mediterranean vista punctuated by identical burnt orange chairs.

Instagram’s destination of choice this summer was a hotel called Les Roches Rouges on the Cote d’Azur, and everyone wanted to be there.

Valéry Grégo, an intense entrepreneur with an eye for detail, is the man behind Les Roches Rouges, and I tracked him down in Ibiza to try to pin down the equation behind his little slice of design heaven.

Within minutes of my conversation with Valéry starting, I find myself discussing bakeries rather than hotel spaces – a swerve in topic that’s indicative of someone passionate about explaining the importance of vision and creativity.

Les Roches Rouges isn’t Valery’s only hotel; there are four other properties under his Les Hôtels d’en Haut umbrella, and another stand-alone hotel in Paris, Le Pigalle.

All are unmistakably ‘Valery’ while being utterly unique. And yet this is a man who doesn’t count himself as working in the hotel business at all. Which is how we found ourselves talking about bread.

“I deliver my belief and vision on life,” he told me.

“I could be a baker, a hotelier, anything. I just happened to choose hotels. I don’t do this because I love hotels. If I was interested in bakeries, it would have been the same… it’s about creating the best possible experience.”

He certainly isn’t a hotelier in the traditional sense, talking about the vision rather than the product, with a starting point that’s as simple as wanting to bring people together, and an ambition to create “a space in which we can drink, eat, sleep, dance and talk to each other. Or not!”

“I love this industry because we have a space,” Valery elaborated, “but that’s not necessarily about a building. It could be a boat or a plane. I want to make people feel happy and good about themselves.”

As all those Instagram snaps can attest, the design of Les Roches Rouges and its sister properties are their calling card. There are spas, of course, and delectable restaurants, but it’s the interiors that are the draw for a cosmopolitan crowd.

Yet, despite the laser-focus on ensuring every picture, every chair and every basket looks just right, Valéry maintains that the interiors are simply “an answer to the way I want people to feel”.

It all comes back to an overarching mission to deliver a vision, even though Valéry happily admits that what he’s created won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

“I’m not saying it’s right or a nice vision. It’s my vision,” he explained.

“A vision is subjective. Not everyone will like it. In fact, I love that some people won’t like it.”

And that starts right at the very steps of the property. When I visited Les Roches Rouges back in June, I had what at the time was a somewhat bizarre conversation with a member of staff about the front doors, which I was busily photographing for my own Instagram feed. They were trying to explain why they looked the way they do, a baton Valery picks up:

“The front door is not see-through,” he explains. “So, when it opens you are blown away by the view. It’s not because it’s beautiful to have that door.

“Everything from the colours to the materials are a means to an end. And the end is always the vision.”

From all this, you might expect Valery’s expertise to come from a career honed in the creative arts, but it was actually a 15-year career in finance that acted as the launch pad for his current vocation. Mind you, he says many creative could learn something from his former peers.

“I know accountants who are more creative than some painters.

“Bring something new to a setting. That’s creativity.”

And he’s taking a creative view to the future of his business, talking about creating a company where the focus is split equally between employees and guests. In fact, when I ask him about his long-term vision, the hotels don’t even come into his answer. Instead, he talks about his social responsibility starting with how the people who work for him feel.

“If employees are happy, their families are happy, which is good for locals, good for those that travel and good for suppliers.

“It took me far too long to realise that there is no difference between staff and clients,” he elaborates. “It’s easy to say, but requires many changes to the organisation.”

Having been a guest at one of his hotels, I’d say whatever those changes are, they’ve had the right effect. And while I am more than happy to be waited on hand and food, suffice to say, if Valéry ever does open a bakery, I’d be first in line for a job.

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