Palm Heights was never going to be like any other hotel in the Carribbean. When it opened in 2019 on Grand Cayman (the largest of the three Cayman Islands), it boasted a luxurious, design-forward space led by Courtney Applebaum and Sarita Posada, with 52 guest suites that looked out onto the ocean. It also had plenty on-site to entertain its visitors, from a spa to a book shop (Library Fetish), who've included a revolving door of celebrities and fashion people. (Chloë Sevigny, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkoski have been spotted there.) Still, Dolores changed the game.
The newly-opened boutique entices shoppers with energetic music drawing them to the airy, 3,000-square-foot space, where they're greeted by ancient Greek-looking busts draped in the latest garbs. Inside are bursts of color and texture, courtesy of merchandise that ranges from apparel to home decor. There's also a café from chef Jake Brodsky. According to Palm Heights Creative Director Gabriella Khalil, the goal was to create an "eclectic feeling of discovery."
"We've taken this different approach from day one: What's hospitality? What's staying at a hotel now? What are people into? What do we want our guests to feel? Through that lens, we've been able to create this really unique experience where people come down, and they're also exploring and feel inspired," she says. "There's a huge creative element to the space."
Khalil wanted to give Palm Heights guests a place to shop for what she feels is authentically contemporary resortwear pushing the category ahead, versus the typical hotel boutique fare of caftans, straw hats and sunscreen. She asked, "How do we approach it in a different way, so it's not just the little shop where you can get your SPF and maybe something random?"
That meant an emphasis on collaboration and inspiration, "putting a big focus on incorporating regional and international designers — mixing the two so that when guests come, they can discover incredible designers that are based in the Caribbean, as well as others from around the world," she says.
Since opening in 2019, Palm Heights has established itself as a must-visit for fashion insiders. It's even served as the backdrop for a handful of campaigns, like Pamela Anderson for Frankie's Bikinis in May and Paloma Elsesser for Marni Spring 2023.
"Because of this relationship with fashion, it's not just a space where people come down and wear a caftan — even though lots of people do, including myself, and that's totally fab," Khalil says. "But I see guests, and they want to be dressed up. They throw on a look. They see someone wearing something and think, 'Oh my God, I want to get that.'"
Visitors can't escape fashion at Palm Heights, anyway. Emily Adams Bode Auijla designed the inaugural hotel staff uniforms (made with upcycled beach towels); enough guests inquired about them, that it led to a Bode x Palm Heights collaboration — and an epiphany for Khalil.
"We really started to understand this connection with fashion," she says. "Having these ongoing, consistent fashion moments within that space lends itself to so many different things."
Since Dolores opened its doors this summer, it has also released an exclusive $350 sarong with Christopher John Rogers. Jamaican Central Saint Martins alum Jawara Alleyne will drop a capsule for the boutique this fall.
Khalil isn't building out Dolores alone: She worked with fashion editor and consultant Marjon Carlos to curate the brands on its shelves, and credits her with helping recruit names like Christopher John Rogers and 2023 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist Diotima. Together, they'll find "brands that are taking a different approach to resortwear in general," Khalil says.
With so much momentum gathered in such a short time, Khalil understands what's working for Dolores and has her eyes peeled for more fashion crossovers and collaborations: Jacquemus would be a fun one, she says.