W is for Wow
By Scott Huver
“There are very few hotels I would leave Hawaii to come to—or cities for that matter—and this was it,” says Ren Hirose, general manager of the W Los Angeles-Westwood. “This has always been one of my dream hotels.”
That’s no small statement, considering the Maui native’s résumé. Over a 28-year career with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Hirose has helmed prestigious destinations, including the W Honolulu and all of Starwood’s French Polynesian resorts, but he couldn’t resist hitting the mainland for the W’s chic oasis in Westwood. “It was a perfect match,” he says. “A wonderful city, a great hotel, newly renovated, wonderful talent—that’s what drew me here.”
Arriving a year ago, Hirose and his team swiftly brainstormed ways to make the great hotel even greater. The first wellspring of ideas began, appropriately, at the pool. “This hotel has always dealt with entertainment, fashion and beauty, but I felt there was a great opportunity in our swimming-pool area,” he says. “To me it was about how we could elevate the pool experience, so we created Wet Weekends.”
Designed for corporate clients who needed a way to wind down at the end of a busy week of traveling, Hirose launched Saturday-night poolside soirées, complete with cocktails, tapas and bonfires, which in turn inspired Sunday-morning hangover brunches, as well as a few family-centered events around the pool.
The theme was then extended to include Wet Wednesdays, which gave the W brand’s general manager-hosted cocktail receptions a poolside spin: Guests gather by the cabanas for mixing, mingling, massages and mojitos—and, most importantly for Hirose, an opportunity to tell management exactly how they think the hotel is doing.
More fresh twists are on the way: NineThirty’s menu will be revamped for the fall with kickier cocktail selections, and seating is going cozier and more communal.
Meanwhile Hirose is savoring those magic moments that make an LA hotel as uniquely exotic as a Polynesian getaway. “Just a couple of [months] ago, the producers of the new Melrose Place said, ‘We want to film in Whiskey Blue and in your suite and at your welcome desk.’ In less than seven days they were filming here,” says Hirose. “To be a part of that really made me think, Yes, I’m here in LA. This is what LA is about.”
Ren Hirose’s LA Faves
SPORTS TEAM: Dodgers
HAPPY HOUR: Outdoors at the W—you can’t beat that.
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.