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Esther Freud

1. Morocco, 1967

 

My first big journey was when I was four, to Morocco, where I lived until I was six, and wrote about [in Hideous Kinky]. For the rest of my childhood I felt I had a secret, exotic, colorful Moroccan life inside me that nobody else in gray, rainy England understood. It affected me in another way: I spoke a muddle of English, French and Arabic, but couldn’t write until I was 10. I thought that stories and tales I’d heard in Morocco were more magical than putting letters in a certain order. I think they politely called me “vague”.

 

2. New York, 1979

 

When I was 16 I went to visit an American friend who lived in New York for Christmas. I couldn’t believe there was a city like it. They were a wonderful arty Jewish family on the Upper East Side; for Christmas morning we went to a diner for pancakes. It seemed so exotic. I took my sister Susie once, when our plane made an emergency landing; we ended up at a place called The Happy Donut. We still talk about it.

 

3. Italy, 1980

I’d just spent a year in London, at 17, getting to know my dad [the painter Lucian Freud], as I’d never lived in the same city before, and he invited me to go to Italy by train. We spent two weeks together, which was so precious. In Florence, he was wonderfully playful and badly behaved. Then there was the unbelievable beauty of Italy. And I fell in love. So it was a blissful adventure
 

4. India, 1984

 
In my early twenties, with tips I’d made from waitressing in a pizza restaurant, I went to India for three months with a friend and her father. We were naive and ill-prepared, so it was terrifying. My friend’s father was appalled by the rats and beggars; to him we’d entered a Bruegel painting of hell. It got better when we went south to Kerala and Kochi beach, which was paradise, and Jaipur and Rajasthan, where we had a magical time. I’ve been back often; it’s become an important part of my life.
 

5. Suffolk, England, 1985

 

Because I missed the English countryside, my father suggested I rented an old family cottage by the sea. Often seaside towns are barren, and the countryside overly cute, but Walberswick is so gentle that I immediately felt I belonged. The house was cold and bare, with terribly uncomfortable beds. But my architect grandfather lived there after they left Germany, and he renovated many of the houses in the village, so even now it feels like part of who I am.

 

6. South Africa, 1995

 

Three months after our son was born, my husband [actor David Morrissey] got a job in a tiny town called Upington, several hours from Johannesburg, in the desert, and persuaded me to come with Albie. It was dismal; really lonely and dreadful. But the director’s wife had a small child too, and she and her friends, and now their children, have become my most important of friends.

 

7. Germany, 2000

 

I knew, for my book The Sea House, that I needed to go back to a house in Hiddensee, off the Baltic coast, where my grandparents had taken my father and his brothers for their summer holidays. It was lovely: a sandy flat island with a lovely cold sea, beautiful old houses and bicycles, but no cars. A fishing family who remembered my grandfather invited me in, and cooked me eels: oily and pretty disgusting.

Esther Freud's latest novel, Mr Mac and Me, set in Walberswick, is published by Bloomsbury

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‘We want to encourage a woman to dream. We’re playful, fun and unexpected’

The typical super-busy, fashion-savvy woman from New York, what does she do when it comes to buying clothes?” asks Lauren Santo Domingo. “Is she going to walk around Bergdorf Goodman and throw things over her arm, then drag them to a fitting room? This woman doesn’t go to the supermarket, so why would she be expected to do the same thing at a department store?” Why indeed? If anyone knows about shopping, it’s Santo Domingo. The perfectly polished brains behind the luxury shopping e-tailer Moda Operandi is very good at it, too. So good, in fact, she has perfected the experience to a fine art. Her latest boutique opened on Madison Avenue and 64th Street in 2016, an appointment-only, luxury-shopping experience that is entirely tailored around each individual woman who shops there. And trust her, there will be no carrying clothes over your arm as you peruse the rails. Your every wish will be taken care of, before you’ve even made the wish.

 

Santo Domingo calls it “hi-tech, high touch”. Before a client even walks through the door, her personal shopping advisor will know her shopping habits: what she likes, what she’s returned, her size, her wish list, what she’s put in her shopping cart and taken out. “We cater the experience around her,” says Santo Domingo. “So when she comes in and says, ‘I’m looking for an evening gown for my son’s bar mitzvah,’ we say OK. Then we put in a pair of earrings or a jacket in the changing room when she arrives, so although she’s there for the dress, the coat she’s been looking at for two weeks is there too.”

 

Although around 80 per cent of Moda Operandi’s business is done online (the average transaction is $1,200, with customers ordering an average of seven to eight times a year), the experience of actually touching the clothes, trying them on, and interacting with a salesperson is still important. Santo Domingo set up her new model of shopping in 2010 to allow members of the public to shop the runways as soon as the fashion show was over (a privilege open only to the elite fashion insiders who were allowed to pre-order items at showroom appointments the day after the show). “When we shop online, clothes are laid out as still life images; you are seeing it from the front, and when you’re in a shop, all you are seeing is the arm. Shops haven’t evolved or changed the way women buy.” The experience at Moda Operandi is much more intimate. The clothes all hang face-out like they do when you view them online. “If we can figure out a way to get all the most perfect things you can get online – and you can touch and feel it – that’s the perfect shopping experience. That’s our goal.”

 

The first MO boutique opened in London, tucked away in a mews at the back of Hyde Park Corner. But in New York, Santo Domingo says, there is a lot more snobbery about location. “We opened in London first because it just felt right, but in New York it can’t just feel right, it has to be right. You can’t expect a woman who lives in the perfect building on 5th avenue to come to 73rd between 2nd and 3rd. It’s just not going to work. So we are East 64th right off Madison, between Madison and 5th. It took us a little longer to find the perfect spot.”

 

And while the London mews attracts a lot of foreigners, VIPs and Middle Eastern royalty, New York is much more local. As well as the women who live and shop the city, Santo Domingo is keen to attract women traveling through – other Americans, as well as foreign visitors. “When a woman comes to New York, what’s she doing? She’s shopping, looking in museums, and going out to dinners.” What the private Madison Avenue salon can offer is hand-picked eveningwear, a real insider’s edit of high-end fashion (and not just the usual suspects; Santo Domingo has a keen eye for the up-and-coming designers), exquisite jewelry, together with an entrée into the often impenetrable world of fashion that she so loves.

 

Clients are invited to meet the designers at trunk shows (Santo Domingo’s star trunk-show host is Giambattista Valli, who she says can read a woman immediately and knows exactly what she wants out of life and her clothes – and, she adds, he’s always right). “There are a lot of women who are creative and want a creative outlet and are drawn to fashion.” With Moda Operandi it’s possible for them to gain access to that world, to sit front row at a show, to be immersed as well as to shop.

 

Santo Domingo, 40, grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, in the 1980s. Her father, Ronald V Davis, was CEO of Perrier in America, so he traveled to France a lot. “As I got older, my father started to take me and I’d see glimpses of what life could be. Then we’d go back to Greenwich. It was such a small, conservative, don’t-raise-any-eyebrows place. Everything had to be perfect. I’d do all my back-to-school shopping in Paris with my father. You’d get the little French notebooks and pens and that would be as crazy as you could be.” Her mother, Judy Davis, is a mosaic artist and visually very creative. Her father was, she says, the complete opposite: “Very business oriented. I got a bit of both of them, which is quite lucky.”

 

While she says she wasn’t interested in clothes as a child, Santo Domingo started her career as a fashion assistant at Vogue in New York. “I learned to have this confidence. You have all these importantly connected women in the office and we were expected to come up with ideas and pitch things and I was shy and embarrassed to speak up. Someone told me once, ‘Don’t overthink things so much. You’re out and about; if you’re interested in it and think it’s cool, then maybe everyone else will too.’ ” Now she doesn’t question her instincts. New finds like the Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz (a family friend of her Colombian husband, Andrés Santo Domingo) have been a runaway success. “It’s about confidence to go, ‘This is how women want to shop. If they don’t today, they will tomorrow.’ ”

 

Moda Operandi has ambitious plans. While building the exclusivity and choice of the online experience, the salons will continue to open around the world. As well as San Francisco, LA and Miami, there will be openings in the Middle East and Asia. “If you stay in one place, your mindset and business will stay local. The more you move, the more you spread it,” she says. Her belief that fashion and the right accessory can change your outlook is infectious. “Sometimes I’ll go to a party and see someone buttoned up in the perfect dress and barely holding it together. You just want to go up to them and mess up their hair and trade bags and say, ‘I know if you were carrying this crazy Inés Figaredo clutch, you’d have so much more fun tonight.’ We’d have a dance. Come on! It can be life-changing if you just let it.’ ”

 

Fashion should be fun, she says. “We want to encourage a woman to dream. We try to take a conservative approach to the most far-fetched fashion and that strikes the right balance. Our point of view is playful and fun and unexpected. But it’s considered.”

 

Santo Domingo understands well the life of her wealthy clients. She lives with her husband and their children, Nicholas, 5, and Beatrice, 4, in Gramercy Park, her favorite New York neighborhood. She has great teams supporting her both at work and at home, where she loves to entertain – usually with an informal buffet. But she also loves being out and about in her city. She and her husband are regulars on Citi Bikes. If it’s a day out with the kids, she’ll go to the High Line, the Whitney, the park in Tribeca, and for lunch at Balthazar or Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. “The Children’s Museum of New York on the Upper West Side is probably the greatest place for children in the world – more of a playhouse.”

 

If she had a day without kids, she says, it would begin with coffee at Via Quadronno on the Upper East Side. Then the bookshop at the Met. She would then go to Moda to look at the jewelry. Lunch would be at Sant Ambroeus in SoHo, followed by a visit to the new Whitney. Then a beauty treatment (“I have a whole list of facials; it depends on my mood, but maybe a Georgia Louise facial”). Then a snack of grilled corn at Café Habana and a browse around De Vera gallery and Opening Ceremony. Cocktails would be on the back terrace of the Bowery Hotel, with dinner at Momofuku Ko. A late night with friends would involve the new Socialista at Cipriani. “I’d go home at 4am and sleep until 3!” she says, with a mischievous laugh.

 

It really does sound perfect (and perhaps not so far from her own life). “I always wanted my own business, to travel, to make my place in the world,” she says. “I wanted a family, so this is the life I always dreamed of. It would be ridiculous to complain for a second, for even a moment.”

 

 

Lauren Santo Domingo is co-founder and creative director of Moda Operandi: modaoperandi.com.
Your address: The St. Regis New York

 

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Your wish list is her command

Lauren Santo Domingo: “I learned to have this confidence. Someone once told me, ‘If you’re interested in something, and think it’s cool, then maybe everyone else will too."

 

 

 

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Heeling power

A display at Lauren’s new Madison Avenue boutique –
where an appointment-only luxury-shopping experience awaits 

(photo: Matthew Williams)

 

 

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Life in the Fast Lane

Whisper it, but while Richard Mille founded the most revolutionary watch brand of recent years – with boutiques near numerous St. Regis hotels in cities from Jakarta to Beijing – his first passion has always been cars, as the extraordinary garage at his French château attests.

 

Crunching up the driveway towards Mille’s private residence near Rennes in France, I’m reminded of a scene from the pages of a Tintin comic book: in particular, Marlinspike Hall, home of the doughty Captain Haddock.

 

Like Marlinspike, perfect symmetry, manicured grandiosity and Louis XIII style are all present and correct at Monsieur Mille’s own château in northern France – right down to the surrounding lawns and sprawling parkland. The only difference between my cartoon fantasy and real life seems to be the owners themselves: one, a cartoon seadog; the other, a swarthy, urbane genius of modern watchmaking, who single-handedly breathed hi-tech life into a fusty old craft at the turn of the millennium.

 

On this visit, though, it isn’t the house I’ve come to see, nor the mind-bendingly complex tourbillon ticking away on his wrist; it’s the building just to the right of the sweeping driveway, just within the moat (yes, there’s a moat). Outwardly, it’s built in keeping with the château’s light brickwork and slate tiles. Inwardly, it’s packed to the brim with pure motorsport nirvana, with a few classic coupés thrown in for good measure.

 

When we enter, the first car crouched by our feet is Bruce McLaren’s original Formula One car of 1966 – one of only three “M2B” chassis models ever built. “If, when I created the company 15 years ago,” Mille says, “someone had told me that my watch brand would one day partner with McLaren, I wouldn’t have believed it. This car paved the way for 50 years of racing. I’m used to saying my main business is automobiles, and watchmaking is to help me pass the time!” he chuckles, as we venture inside, classic racer after classic racer revealing itself beneath the low oak beams – a Lotus 49B here, Matra MS5 there, a BRM P115 next to that. “For me, the racing machines always came first,” Mille explains.

 

But which car came first? When did his collection start to snowball? “My first-ever car was a rusty old Peugeot,” he says, with trademark gusto. “I was a student at the time, full of dreams and testosterone. The car didn’t really fit my ideals nor my lifestyle! But a ‘collection’? Does it start when you have two or three cars?” he ponders out loud. “I really don’t know, to be honest. I suppose it became serious when I started paying big money for some cars, like my ’67 BRM.”

 

His collection is not all F1, though. Picking our way around the heart of his artfully cluttered man-cave, it’s clear that Mille’s favorite era is what he refers to as the “golden period” of Le Mans: the heyday of the 24-hour endurance race, from the mid-1960s to ’70s. (A preference underscored by his Porsche 907 and 908/3, not to mention an original Ford GT40 – the famed American “Ferrari Killer” that occupies every petrolhead’s fantasy collection – all squeezed into his garage’s workshop area.)

 

“Squeezed” being the operative word. Without building another annex and further upsetting Marlinspike’s symmetry, surely something has to give? “I wouldn’t sell anything in my collection now,” he says. “I’d rather perform hara-kiri!”

 

And his next purchase? “I’d rather not say,” he grins, sliding the doors home emphatically, “because if I do, and you publish it, the price will be even higher when I find it!”

 

richardmille.com

 

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Wedding Belles

Nobody wants a bare hall in a country club any more,” says Sylvia Weinstock, the cake-maker of choice for three presidential clans (the Trumps, Kennedys and Clintons). No, rather than standard décor, staid group photos, cookie-cutter sponges and restrained bouquets of roses, she says today her clients want to make a “standout visual statement” with unusual touches that capture the imagination and provide guests with that all-important “wow” factor. All four wedding tastemakers Beyond talked to agreed that modern couples want a personalized occasion that takes into account their style, quirks, dreams and tastes to create something truly unique.

 

If it all feels less formal, stiff and regimented than in previous eras, there’s a reason. “Most brides are not 18 years old any more,” says Weinstock. “They are career women and some are paying their way.” Which means greater bridal autonomy? “Yes,” says Sydney-based super-florist Saskia Havekes, adding that directives “rarely come from the family any more”.

 

Which may also be why weddings have become smaller and more intimate, offering the few guests who are invited a higher-quality experience. “I’m from Texas,” laughs Rebecca Gardner, go-to wedding planner for Hollywood and fashion royalty, “so I know all about huge blow-out receptions, but it definitely feels like they’re on their way out of style.” Yet some things remain the same. “The bride wants to look beautiful,” says Christian Oth, the No 1 lensman for the style cognoscenti. “The guests need a drink!” adds Rebecca. “And the cake needs to taste delicious!” laughs Sylvia. No change there, then.

 

The Next Gen Photographer

 

“So much has changed in wedding photography,” says Christian Oth. The globetrotting lensman, who started photographing brides 15 years ago and counts Sean Parker and Alexandra Lenas and Amanda Peet and David Benioff as clients, laughs when he says, “It used to be so bad. It was full of formal, staged line-ups that felt stiff and self-conscious.”

 

Oth was at the forefront of a new style of nuptials photography, more candid pictures with a photojournalism feel. But there was a problem. “The bride still wanted to look beautiful,” smiles Oth, “and lots of photographers doing this new style didn’t know how to photograph a woman so she’d look good. How she should cross her legs, how to get a bride into a pose without her looking stiff.”

 

So his style was born. Authentic, but still flattering, softer without being syrupy. And Oth sees it as his mission to “add to the energy of the wedding, not disrupt it”. So what are his tried-and-tested tricks for loosening up a nervous bride? “I’ll always ask her to twirl around once or twice.”

 

What’s changed? In the past few years, says Oth, “brides have become much more visually savvy; they’re really into the photos.” To that end, “they’re all in search of the next beautiful venue. Now I’m doing a lot more destination weddings.”

 

And with that, Oth heads off to catch his flight to the Maldives…

 

christianothstudio.com

 

The Coveted Cake Maker

 

Sylvia Weinstock’s cakes have a fairytale quality that elicits an involuntary intake of breath from even the most hardened wedding-goers. All her creations showcase impeccable taste and artistry, which is surely what attracts her star-studded clientele (she counts heavyweights Oprah, Robert De Niro, Ralph Lauren and Jennifer Lopez among them).

 

What’s her trademark? Spellbinding sugar flowers, from blowsy roses to whimsical lilacs to heart-stoppingly gorgeous peonies. Perhaps the ultimate example of her talent was the 10ft-tall, 13-layer cake (it had different-flavored sponges and fillings) for Ivanka Trump’s marriage to Jared Kushner, which had cascades of handcrafted lisianthus, roses, lily of the valley and baby’s breath in beautiful creams and white.

 

Sylvia doesn’t just decorate with flowers, though; she can create galloping horses, dogs, shoes and houses from her ingredients, adapting her cakes to suit each culture: “In Japan they want more fruit, in the Middle East they like sugar. The English like fruit cake, Americans prefer sponges, often chocolate.” So popular are her cakes that Sylvia has been traveling the world, teaching cooks how to recreate her masterpieces. Her brand is now licensed in countries like Japan and Kuwait, with more collaborations planned. Which means soon brides all over the world will be able to enjoy a slice of heaven.

 

sylviaweinstock.com

 

The Star Scene Setter

 

“All brides I know want a non-wedding,” laughs Rebecca Gardner, the go-to event/wedding planner for ultra-chic It Girls like Margherita Missoni and Lauren Santo Domingo. “They all want a great party with a jolt of whimsy and delight.”

 

And providing this is Gardner’s specialty. “Brides have seen everything now,” she smiles, so she goes the extra mile to conjure up breathtaking “visual installations” that create a memorable talking point. Examples? She has suspended hand-painted butterflies over tables, constructed magical woodland scenes under centuries-old oak trees and delivered Bacchanalian tablescapes with an excess of sugared fruits (“so outdated, they’re funky”).

 

There’s always something magical, ethereal and irreverent underpinning her work. And all her weddings are highly personalized. “You want to reflect the bride’s style,” she says. Gardner is adamant that guests’ enjoyment should be key. Hence, she’s a stickler for maintaining a free flow of drink, and for flattering lighting (often provided by hundreds of twinkling candles) because “that way everyone feels pretty”.

 

So what’s the secret to her success? “For me, it’s about making the whole process joyous.” she laughs. “After all, it’s often a year-long relationship with the bride.” Anything else? “I never say no,” she adds with pride. “My job is to create a dream!”

 

rebecca-gardner.com

 

The Fantasy Florist

 

“Luxurious blooms in large quantities,” says Grandiflora’s Saskia Havekes when asked to describe her company’s signature wedding style. The Sydney-based florist, who works for clients such as Elle Macpherson, Cate Blanchett and Miranda Kerr, adds that her arrangements are “less structured, more as if they were just picked from the garden”.

 

Her flowers are luscious, sensuously full and gloriously real. And often her arrangements are given “an elegant twist with fresh greens, berries and herbs” to create a “rustic earthy feel”.

 

After years of minimalist white, Saskia’s love of riotous colors feels modern and refreshing. “Color is huge,” she says, adding that “jewel-toned” blooms create a “lovely party atmosphere”. And for the ceremony and bride’s bouquet, where white or pale is often a requirement, Saskia introduces a sophisticated “dusty nude tone”.

 

Riotous colors? Loose, thrown-together arrangements? Do such looks rattle family members who might be footing the bill? “Traditionally, the groom’s family would pay for the flowers,” says Saskia, “but now most bride and grooms pay the bill together. This means there’s a much stronger sense of style and personality coming from the bride.”

 

What’s the bride’s No 1 request? “There’s a strong desire for the flowers to be a conversation piece,” she says. And in this Instagram age, who would expect less?

 

grandiflora.net

 

 

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Snappy days

Leading lensman Christian Oth has introduced a more candid, spontaneous feel to wedding photography

 

 

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Immaculate confections

Sylvia Weinstock (top) is a cake designer to the stars, including Robert De Niro and J-Lo. She adapts her extravagant creations to suit each culture; some cakes are 10ft tall

 

 

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Dream big

The wedding planner Rebecca Gardner is a stickler for free-flowing drink and flattering lighting. “That way everyone feels pretty,” she says

 

 

 

 

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East Meets Best

At last year’s Salone del Mobile, the highly influential design fair in Milan, one of the star attractions was an exhibition that showcased Asian design. Walking through a series of coolly chic white rooms, the world’s designerati gazed upon some of the most exciting work coming out of Asia today. However, there were no glossy lacquered pots or bamboo screens, no metal teapots or hand-painted wallpaper. Instead, Chinese designer Naihan Li displayed her striking wardrobe made from rosewood and steel, its angular shape resembling two skyscrapers fused together. Gunjan Gupta from New Delhi presented her Gada Cycle Throne, a beautiful armchair with a seat made from bicycle saddles, the back of a series of rolled-up silk mattresses held in place by leather straps. And hanging sculpturally from the ceiling was the work of Filipino designer Gabriel Lichauco, who took oyster shell and scorched it to make a set of pendant lights that are as unusual as they are lovely.

 

The exhibition, called alamak!, has big ambitions. At a time when Asia is turning itself into an economic powerhouse, alamak!, which after Venice and Berlin can be seen in New York and LA, aims to be a driving force for innovative modern Asian design. “Alamak! is a southeast Asian expression that means ‘Surprise!’, and that underlines the spirit of the exhibition,” says Yoichi Nakamuta, the Japanese-born, Singapore-based co-curator. “Through the show we hope to change the perception of what design in Asia is, when seen from the West. Its ambition is to be the creative movement from Asia, much like Memphis and post-modernism were creative movements of ’80s Italy, and Droog was of ’90s Holland.”

 

The exhibition features the work of ten designers from across the region, and while the products are wide-ranging. there’s a common theme: the exploration of traditional craftsmanship. However, it’s no longer just about replicating what has been done for thousands of years, but applying these ideas to create objects that are very much of the 21st century. “Traditions are what have informed the here and now, and have shaped the artists and designers working in these regions. But the designers have given them a new twist,” says Nakamuta. For instance, Jo Nagasaka has taken a traditional Japanese idea of repairing broken porcelain but used 3D printing not only to repair the break, but also to give birth to two vessels from one broken one.

 

Award-winning Filipino designer Kenneth Cobonpue is not featured in alamak!, but he, too, champions this new thinking. The clientele for his elegantly curving pieces of furniture, made mainly from rattan and palm, includes royalty (Queen Sofia of Spain, Queen Rania of Jordan) and celebrity (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought Cobonpue’s Voyage Bed for their son Maddox). “Today, designers like myself are using modern forms, traditional craftsmanship and natural materials to reshape and change the definition of Asian design,” he says. While Cobonpue made his name with natural materials – Time magazine called him “rattan’s first virtuoso” – he has begun working with carbon fiber and resins, and these modern materials are coming into play across Asia. “The fusion of natural materials and synthetics, and the fusion of the machine-made and the handmade, is the future,” he says. “Natural materials have issues regarding strength and durability, and these issues can be offset with synthetics.”

 

Coponpue’s change in direction has in part been inspired by his work with some of the West’s most on-trend designers, such as Britain’s Tom Dixon and The Netherlands’ Marcel Wanders. For Wanders, Cobonpue helped produce the Carbon chair, the seat and frame hand-woven using black strands of epoxy-soaked carbon fiber around a mold to create a design that’s both visually and physically light. “When it comes to weaving, we’re second-to-none,” says Coponpue. “We’ve been doing it for a long time, and have experience in weaving almost anything from bamboo to carbon fiber and composite materials.”

 

Like Coponpue, who studied in New York and worked in Europe before returning to the Philippines, André Fu, one of the region’s most celebrated designers, was born in Hong Kong and schooled in the UK. The pair’s fusion of East and West is another component of contemporary Asian design. Fu’s work is pared back; wood and polished stone are teamed with a palette of quietly rich shades, such as warm gray, green tea and deep purple. “An appreciation of the different cultures remains core to what I do,” he says. “It’s not so much the stylistic adaptation of things that are visually Asian that speaks to my heritage, but of giving a space a sense of balance and calm. Key to this is the sense of relaxed luxury that’s effortless and solid, not superficial and driven by style or a high level of ornateness.”

 

Fu believes that the surge in hotels in the East – St. Regis will open an additional ten hotels in this part of the world in the next few years – is seeing a commensurate burst of creativity in interior design. “The volume of hotels, combined with increasingly sophisticated global travelers, means designers are doing things differently, experimenting with stronger personalities to create better and more interesting products,” he says.

 

Bensley, the Bangkok-based design studio behind the landscape architecture of The St. Regis Bali, certainly took an unusual approach, using the famous Japanese-American designer Isamu Noguchi as their inspiration. “We designed 300-plus original pieces of art, many carved from black marble, while some were cast in bronze,” says founder Bill Bensley. “All the sculpture has one underlying DNA that helps keeps unity among the tropical garden ‘rooms’, and that is. ‘What if Isamu Noguchi had lived in Bali in the 1950s? How would things Bali have influenced him?’ Noguchi has a pared-down, Japanese way of creating modern forms – I thought if I used his way of looking at Balinese forms, we might be able to create a fresh body of work.”

 

Similarly, the penthouse of The St. Regis Bangkok contains a mix of old and new Thai design. Along with a striking glass wall of beautifully colored traditional Benjarong pottery are a number of modern pieces that include a sculpture of stylized lotus leaves by the artist Mongkol, and, on the balcony with stunning city views, a 5ft elephant, painted with Thai letters and numbers and symbols in an abstract pattern by Manop Suwanpinta. “Modern Thai design is coming out of the box,” says Kathy Heinecke – the wife of William Heinecke, CEO of Minor International, which owns the St. Regis Bangkok – who designed the luxe penthouse interior. “It’s embracing its heritage, but also expanding on it with a fresh aspect.” In Thailand, and across Asia, it makes for exciting times.

 

Your address: The St. Regis Bangkok;  The St. Regis Bali

 

High life

The penthouse at The St. Regis Bangkok (above) contains a stunning mix of old and new styles

 

 

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Lights fantastic

Pescador pendant lights, made from oyster shells, by Gabriel Lichauco (above left); detail of an ornament in The St. Regis Bangkok penthouse (above right)

 

 

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All in the detail

A door handle by André Fu (above left); a Nebbia Interactive wall light, made by nbt.Studio from recycled electronic waste (above right)

 

 

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Jewels in the Crown

From the slums of Mumbai to the palaces of Rajasthan; from the technology hubs of Bangalore to the spiritual mecca of Varanasi, one common thread weaves its way through India: an enduring love of jewelry. No one sub-continent’s cultural, geological and historical makeup is so entwined in the sourcing, manufacturing and self-adorning as this great land mass – from the excesses of Mughal royalty to the traditional nose-rings, hand jewelry and stacked gold bracelets worn by millions. Characterized by yellow gold, strings of beads, carved emeralds and bold color-combinations, its influence in varying degrees has crept into Western jewelry design, a process that can be traced back to the early 20th century.

 

As the great jewelry houses of Paris – Cartier, Van Cleef and Boucheron – made stone-buying trips to India in the early 1900s, their paths inevitably crossed with the maharajas of the time who, seeking a more Western, refined aesthetic, commissioned the maisons to re-make their jewels, replacing the traditional yellow gold with finer, less visible, platinum settings. One of Cartier’s biggest ever commissions occurred in 1925, when the Maharaja of Patiala handed over his crown jewels for total re-modeling, a job that took several years to complete and proved key to an East/West cross-pollination of styles. The Indian tradition of long, beaded necklaces that covered the chest morphed into the fashionable sautoirs of the 1920s, while engraved emeralds (carved in Jaipur and often the centerpiece of ceremonial jewels) became a staple of the art-deco style running concurrent at the time.

 

Cartier incorporated these stones into a genre that’s still firmly part of their house style: Tutti-Frutti has carved, unfaceted emeralds, rubies and sapphires in leaf and fruit motifs set against the sparkle of white diamonds – a combination considered daring and avant-garde at the time. (Cartier has never stopped making Tutti-Frutti pieces; last year the house showed the largest piece in this style it had ever made: the aptly named Rajasthan, featuring a central carved emerald of 136.97 carats.)

 

Boucheron’s love affair with the Subcontinent started in much the same way. Its recent Bleu de Jodhpur high jewelry collection is a riff on the “Blue city”, mixing Indian motifs and materials (such as marble from the same quarry used for the Taj Mahal) with Indian jewelry styles, underlined with the ever-present sharp execution of a Place Vendôme jeweler. East meets West in a mix of ancient custom and contemporary savvy.

 

While Surat in Gujarat is famed for diamond cutting and the mines of Golkonda have produced some of the world’s most legendary diamonds, it is Jaipur in Rajasthan where the cutting of colored stones and the centuries-old techniques of enameling are still practiced.

 

Western jewelers such as Bulgari source many of their signature candy-bright gems from the ancient city, with creative director Lucia Silvestri making frequent trips to oversee the process. She concedes that these visits have informed the house’s rainbow palette. “I love the colors of the saris the women wear in Jaipur,” she says, “and how they clash orange and pink, blue and red, in unexpected combinations. It gives me fresh ideas for designs.”

 

Less mainstream jewelers are also harnessing the centuries-old expertise of Indian workmen. Alice Cicolini, for instance, uses their enamel workshops to create exquisite hand-painted rings, and cult jeweler Noor Fares created her Navratna collection after a trip to Varanasi. Hanut Singh, great-grandson of the Maharaja of Kapurthala, who was a famous patron of Cartier, has spent ten years honing his signature fusion of old and new. Singh shows at private trunk shows and attracts a cult following from the likes of Madonna, Beyoncé and Diane Von Furstenberg.

 

Although India’s influence has always been present in the West, one development from a particular jeweler marks a significant change. Nirav Modi is the first Indian jeweler to combine Eastern motifs and themes in a thoroughly Western way. Unlike Indian brands like Amrapali, whose core designs are dominated by yellow gold and large colored stones that resonate with its Indian clientele, Modi has expanded his modern designs, attracting high-profile fans like Kate Winslet and Naomi Watts. Although his designs are Western, his Indian inspiration is still there. His Mughal range features diamonds cut to mimic petals, the shape inspired by 18th-century paintings of Mughal gardens. And his Maharani necklace with strings of emerald beads owes everything to its ancestral roots yet looks entirely at home in the window of his New York store.

 

Progression is everything; from an aesthetic that originated in the coffers of the maharajas to a style now gently disseminated throughout Western jewelry, India’s influence continues to dazzle, a century on.

 

Your address: The St. Regis Mumbai

 

Romancing the stone
Haut diamantaire Nirav Modi (niravmodi.com) blends Indian and Western influences to create exquisite pieces like his “Emerald Maharani” necklace (above) and his “Flamingo Embrace” bangle (below)

 

 

Fit for a Maharaja
Below, left and middle: “Gothikas” earrings and “Ebony Triangles”, both by Hanut Singh (hanutsingh.com). Below, right: Indian-made enameled pieces from Alice Cicolini (alicecicolini.com)

 

 

 

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Speedy Returns

Anyone who remembers how the classic car boom of the late 1980s ended in a dramatic bust might be inclined to steer clear of sinking their life savings into a collection of old automobiles. But perhaps they should think again. A cursory look at the prices being achieved for the most sought-after models shows that the market is currently at an all-time high.

 
A prime example of its buoyancy was seen in February of this year when French house Artcurial set a new record price in Euros for any car sold at auction by hammering down a 1957 Ferrari 335S Spider Scaglietti for €32.1 million (about $35.7 million). Two years ago, the highest price ever achieved for a car in dollars was reached at Bonhams for a 1962 Ferrari GTO: $38.1 million. The message is clear: classic cars are now officially regarded as blue-chip investments, with their value increasing at a higher rate than the stock market, property and even gold. In the 2015 passion investment index by the private wealth managers Coutts, certain classic cars showed an increase of 40 per cent in 2014 and a 400 per cent increase since 2005.
 
Not that the appeal of old cars is purely financial. For most buyers, the real pull lies in the fact that they are rolling works of art that not only look great and evoke a golden era but offer the potential for a huge amount of fun, too. In recent years, the number of events being staged for veteran, vintage and classic automobiles has grown exponentially. Today, instead of just polishing your pride and joy and taking it for an occasional weekend jaunt, you can actually use it for anything from an organized tour with a group of like-minded enthusiasts to a road rally, hill climb or all-out circuit race. In May, for example, the biennial Monaco Historic Grand Prix saw hundreds of vintage and classic cars racing around the legendary circuit in seven different classes catering for everything from 1930s Bugattis to the wildest Formula One cars of the 1970s. So, if you fancy owning a classic, which should you buy? The choice is, of course, myriad, but here are five that are on the wish lists of most lovers of historical cars.

 

Jaguar E-Type

Created by former aircraft designer Malcolm Sayer, Jaguar’s E-Type was the fastest production car on the market when it was unveiled in March 1961. With a top speed of 150mph, a 3.8-liter, 265-horsepower engine and jaw-dropping looks, it was declared by Enzo Ferrari to be “the most beautiful car in the world”. More than 72,000 were built during a 14-year production run. The most popular, however, are the “Series 1” models, with the best open-top “roadsters” currently commanding around $250,000, and fixed-head coupés only half as much. Jaguar recently built a series of six “continuation” cars to finally finish the Lightweight E-Type project which, 51 years ago, resulted in the creation of a series of highly-focused racing versions of the car. Only 12 of the intended 18 cars were ever made, leaving the remaining half-dozen allocated chassis numbers on file. These were used by Jaguar’s Special Operations division to build the “missing” Lightweights, which sold for more than $1.5 million each.

 

Ferrari 250 GTO

Said by many to be the most beautiful car ever created, a mere 39 examples of the legendary 250 GT “Omologato” were produced between 1962 and 1963, originally to contest the FIA GT World Championship series in the three-liter class – the “250” in the title referring to the 250cc capacity of each of the engine’s 12 cylinders. Although designed as a pure racing machine, the GTO is renowned for its ease of use as a road car. The most paid at auction to date is $38.1 million, although one example is rumored to have changed hands in a private deal for closer to $50 million.

 

Porsche 911 Carrera RS

The Carrera 2.7 RS of 1973 was intended purely for racing, but Porsche had to build 500 road-going examples to qualify the car for inclusion in the Group 4 GT category. It proved so popular as a high-performance street machine, however, that production only stopped after 1,508 had rolled off the line. Much of the appeal of the RS lies in the fact that it combines 150mph performance with reliability and surprising economy. The best examples now fetch between $1 million and $1.5 million, but beware: early 911s are notoriously dangerous in the hands of the uninitiated. When cornering, the golden rule is “slow in, fast out”, because if you lift off the throttle on the apex of a bend, there’s a good chance it will spin off the road.

Bentley "Blower"

“The world’s fastest lorries” is how Ettore Bugatti rather rudely described the pre-war Bentleys that dominated the Le Mans 24-Hour races during the late 1920s and early 1930s. The “blown” 4.5-liter Bentley was unveiled at the London motor show in 1929 having been privately developed by “Bentley Boy” Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin as a higher-performance version of the standard four-liter. Just 50 production cars were built, all of which could top 100mph, making them among the world’s first supercars. Examples rarely appear for sale, but those that do command sums in the region of $1.5 million. Four years ago, however, the 1932 single-seater, record-breaking Blower that originally belonged to Birkin fetched a record $7 million at Bonhams.

 

Lamborghini Miura

Made famous in the opening scenes of The Italian Job, in which a bright-red example can be seen driving along an alpine road to the strains of crooner Matt Monro’s On Days Like These before being pushed off a cliff by a Mafia bulldozer, the Miura was the first ever mid-engined, road-going supercar when it was launched in 1966. According to legend, it was designed by Lamborghini engineers in their spare time, as company boss Ferruccio Lamborghini was more interested in grand tourers. Featuring a 12-cylinder, four-liter engine, Miuras are known for their brutal power, weighty gearshift and over-light front end. But on a challenging back road with a good driver behind the wheel, thrills are guaranteed. Add to that a range of wild color options and past owners ranging from Frank Sinatra to the Shah of Iran, and you can see why values have risen from $800,000 five years ago to more than $2 million today.

 

Images: Getty Images, Alamy

 

Jaguar E-Type

 

Ferrari 250 GTO

 

Porsche 911 Carrera RS

 

Bentley "Blower"

 

Lamborghini Miura

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King of the Red Carpet

Seated at the rustic boardroom table of his studio in the heart of New York’s Garment District, Jason Wu appears calm and relaxed, not at all like someone who has just shown two collections at New York fashion week: a ready-to-wear line for Hugo Boss and his eponymous line, Jason Wu. But don’t let the calm exterior deceive you. This is a man whose drive and ambition saw him designing dresses for dolls as a child in his native Taiwan, a hobby that led to the creation of the Fashion Royalty doll collection, right through to designing the dress that Michelle Obama wore to the 2009 Inauguration Ball, and to his current heady heights as one of the world’s leading designers. That inauguration dress is now in the Smithsonian Museum, which to Wu sums up the scale of his achievement. “When I moved to America to be a fashion designer, I never imagined I’d become part of American history,” he said last year.

 

Making clothes for dolls gave Wu a grounding not only in the creative side of fashion but also in manufacturing, marketing, intellectual property, business – the many pieces of the jigsaw that make up a successful brand. It was only a matter of time before he would graduate to full-scale frocks. In 2007, at the age of 25, the designer – who had moved to New York seven years previously to attend Parsons School of Fashion – launched his first ready-to-wear collection, instantly catching the eye of the most powerful woman in the fashion industry, U.S. Vogue editor Anna Wintour. “At the time I was starting out there was a lot of streetwear around,” he recalls. “It was a lot edgier than what I do, which is uptown and polished. But Anna and the team were very supportive. It helped me embrace my aesthetic and gain the self-confidence to be different.”

 

Wu’s description of his signature style as “uptown and polished” certainly hits the mark – no wonder Michelle Obama became a fan. “Having anyone in the public eye support you is instrumental to a brand,” he says, “but when it’s someone like the First Lady, it’s an incredible honor.” 

 

Wu credits his mother, a bestselling author in Taiwan, with teaching him about style and the profound empathy he feels towards women. “I really care about the way a woman feels in my clothes,” he says. “I think that’s very important, because if a dress isn’t about the woman wearing it, what is it about?” Women, in turn, respond to the wearability and femininity of his clothes. Actresses Lupita Nyong’o, Jessica Chastain, Michelle Williams and longtime muse Diane Kruger all wear Jason Wu on the red carpet, and these relationships mean a lot to him. “The idea of red carpet dressing has become so commercialized but we are an independent brand, so for us the relationship is meaningful, not just an endorsement.” 

 

Part of the appeal is that Wu’s clothes are not too aggressively trend-led, which gives them a more lasting appeal. He’s also a firm believer in the value of luxury, talking at length about this much-debated concept. “Luxury isn’t something that only lasts for one season,” he says. “It’s timeless and it takes time to create. I believe we should move away from trying to be the fastest or first – it should be things of substance we invest in.” 

Since 2013, while creating his own line, Wu has been a creative director at Hugo Boss, overseeing the entire womenswear range. The appointment was greeted with a certain amount of surprise: after all, Wu’s gowns are all old-school glamour and femininity whereas Hugo Boss has a reputation for streamlined womenswear with a masculine edge. Yet it was that contrast that drew Wu to the project in the first place. “I like the fact that it’s not somewhere people would have placed me,” he declares. 

 

Luxury and elegance, always interpreted with a contemporary sensibility, run through both collections, which is why Wu is drawn to show in spaces that embody these qualities. In the past, he has chosen to show his collections at The St. Regis New York, which reminds him of the 1950s: the era he would most like to return to. “I love it,” he says. “The shape, the clothes: it was a really glamorous time. Not just the fashion, but refrigerators, cars, furniture; the whole thing to me is irresistible.” In fact, after showing at the hotel in 2010 (“It’s so refined – I loved showing my collection in such a landmark”), Wu became an ambassador for the brand – a St. Regis Connoisseur – and has, to date, designed a bag and scarf for St. Regis. 

 

His creative ambitions don’t end there: in addition to designing four collections a year for his own line and four for Hugo Boss, he wants to expand the Jason Wu line, “to really establish a lifestyle brand”. Despite his hectic schedule, Wu did recently manage to squeeze in a family reunion holiday at The St. Regis Bali Resort. “It was great,” he sighs. “The first time we’d all been together in a decade; everyone is just so busy.” Sadly, it may be some time before the next get-together. When asked about his work-life balance, he lets out a rueful laugh. “I don’t have one! But then, I’m not sure any designer would say they do. I’m not too upset about it. My work is my life, it’s my passion. So for now the work-life balance will have to wait.”

 

Images: Getty Images, Dan Lecca

 

Old-school glamour 

Jason Wu (above) says that wearability is key to his collections – women love the femininity and glamour of his designs