beirut architect nadim karam
Installation by Nadim Karam, Japan

The Three Magic Flowers Of Jitchu, Kagami Lake, Todai Ji Temple in Nara, Japan by Nadim Karam

Born in Senegal, and raised in Lebanon, Nadim Karam is an architect, painter, sculptor, writer and designer. With his Beirut-based multidisciplinary design studio, Atelier Hapsitus, Karam has created large-scale urban art projects in Paris, Prague, Dubai, London, Melbourne, Tokyo and Chicago. His work has been exhibited at several Venice Architecture Biennales, and his first major exhibition in the UK is currently on display at The Fine Art Society. Millie Walton speaks to the creative polymath about urban toys, artistic challenges and the importance of fun.

LUX: Your sculptures and paintings are often quite fantastical. Where does your inspiration come from?
Nadim Karam: Life! I believe, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, that an element of fantasy in a serious context or with a serious message can transport an idea or story, and help it catch alight. A judicious dose of fantasy is one of our antidotes to apathy, ugliness, and pessimism.

Inspiration, I suppose, comes from our experience of life and the way we look at the world… I am lucky to come from Lebanon, with its wonderful, chaotic energy and endless contradictions, and I spent ten years absorbing Japanese cultural philosophy, which is now very much a part of me. I have so many ideas; I just need to find the quiet in-between-work moments to put them down in my sketchbook.

Genesis Diptych 2016 by Nadim Karam

Genesis Diptych 2016 by Nadim Karam

LUX: At Atelier Hapsitus, you combine several different creative disciplines – art, architecture and design – is there an over-arching theme or vision that ties these altogether?
NK: Probably that would be absurdity, memories and stories, which constantly feed into each other. Their meeting point is the public art projects that I create for cities or public contexts.

LUX: You often describe your sculptures as ‘Urban Toys’ – what do you mean by that?
NK: My work is whimsical; I make toys to the scale of the city to create question marks, open a dialogue and introduce moments of delight, or fantasy to urban contexts.

Read next: Why you should invest in a modern classic car

LUX: How do you persuade clients that spending money to make their urban environments ‘playful’ is important?
NK: I believe in it. I believe in it so much that I invest years and years working with communities, municipalities and bureaucrats to persuade them to introduce playfulness to their cities. Urban environments can be lonely places, dominated by real estate, communication and transportation systems and the business of making money. Adults need dreams, fantasy and moments of wonder just as much as they did when they were children, but at a certain point they were required to put their toys away and get on with the serious business of living. If we can introduce organic flexibility within rigid systems through interactive works, we can help reinforce a sense of belonging to a community, and celebrate enjoyment for its own sake.

This will never work if you just cut and paste an artwork into a context – that is not the kind of public art I am talking about. Before proposing a project to a city, I study, with my office, the history and culture, the geography and built context, because I want to create works that feel like they have grown out of the place or in contrast with it, and are adopted by the people who live there.

beirut architect nadim karam

Urban Stories by Nadim Karam

LUX: What’s been your most challenging project to date?
NK: In different ways, many have been challenging; Prague because I had to negotiate through a tense post-communist social climate, Nara (Japan) because it took twenty years to get the Buddhist monks’ acceptance and Melbourne because I had to create ten kinetic three-story high sculptures on the other side of the world in just 9 months.

The scale of my work is getting bigger, though, and this is providing fresh challenges. For Dubai I want to create “The Cloud”, a public garden 300m above ground, and for Lagos I am working on an Elephant City, a dynamic urban system within a giant sculpture. Currently, I am working on projects for Shenzhen, Dilijan and Singapore. They might be far from realisation, but I never stop to think about whether I can do these projects or not. If I don’t stop working, at some point opportunity and encounters will create a window in time to make a project work.

LUX: Do you believe urban environments should be inclusive for everyone and, if so, how do you ensure this is possible in your art/architecture?
Nadim Karam: When you create an artwork, like a painting or a sculpture, and you hang it in a gallery or institution, the context is purposefully neutral and the focus is on the dialogue between the work and the viewer. In the urban environment, the placement of an artwork becomes politicised because the context has its history, memories, sights, sounds and moods. Public spaces are necessarily democratic arenas where opinions are challenged and it is not easy to reach consensus. So a public art project will not happen if people don’t believe in it. But if we can enrich our public spaces with stories, beauty, absurdity, fantasy or questions, we are enriching the community as a whole and enhancing the quality of their shared experiences.

Dreams and Journeys 2017 by Nadim Karam

Dreams and Journeys 2017 by Nadim Karam

LUX: What’s your creative process like?
NK: All my projects grow from my sketchbooks, where I record my raw ideas. A series of these sketches will form a significant part of my new exhibition at The Fine Art Society. I use lapses of time while travelling from one place to another to generate ideas, and when I get back to my office, I work with ten to fifteen people to transform these ideas into workable projects or sculptures. Otherwise, they might become paintings when I reach my studio.

Read next: Modern interpretations of the body at Past Skin, MoMa PS1

LUX: What’s it like to be an artist in Lebanon?
NK: It is challenging, because there is no support from cultural institutions. At the same time, we live with uncertainty; at any time, bombs can explode and we have to close the office. You have to be sufficiently independent to be an artist in Lebanon, because you cannot live from it otherwise. My projects are all over the world, so I spend a lot of time travelling, but I generate all my work from Lebanon – it is a place of continuous energy and inspiration.

LUX: Where are your favourite urban environments in the world and why?
NK: I love the richness of all urban environments and their different cultures. They are a collision of so many factors; each city has a completely different aura and way of being despite all our globalisation efforts. The projects I have created all came from the serendipity of encountering a city and being inspired to interact with it. I celebrate the identity of each place by first trying to understand it, then offering it a bouquet of stories.

Large scale urban art project by Nadim Karam, Prague 1997

T-Race’s PCB 13 General View, Public Art, Prague 1997 by Nadim Karam

LUX: What’s next?
NK: Currently, I have an exhibition entitled ‘Urban Stories’ at The Fine Art Society in London, which showcases over twenty years of my practice. The exhibition came about through the shared motivation of The Fine Art Society and myself to draw a connecting line from my early sketches to my latest works. Meanwhile, I am designing and building my own art studio, “The Muse” in the Lebanese mountains, and the Pavilion of the Whole World.

‘Urban Stories’ runs until 19 May 2017 at The Fine Art Society, Mayfair, London

Reading time: 6 min
Modern classic cars
Modern classic cars

The 1997 Ferrari F50, of which only 349 were made. Image courtesy of Ferrari S.p.A.

Classic cars are, for a new generation of luxury collectors, something of a conundrum. On the one hand, they are perhaps the ultimate ‘investment of passion’, objects which you can cherish and use, and which nonetheless gain value over time. On the other hand, for some people the idea of a classic car conjures up an unappetising image of an ancient, uncomfortable contraption sitting broken down by the roadside, leaking unidentified fluid, while people of today breeze past in Teslas or in the back of their Uber.

And I sympathise with both sides. With all the opportunities afforded by digitization, internationalisation, and a connected world – developments I see as almost entirely positive – who now has time to spend their Sunday mornings trying to fiddle around with a vehicle that, even when running properly, has no air conditioning, no connectivity, and is slower and noisier than the average contemporary people carrier?

And yet…the greatest cars are a combination of art, engineering, and, for those who enjoy driving, enjoyment beyond what many of the hi-tech vehicles of today can offer. Today’s new car market offers dozens of cars that can exceed 150 mph, and post breathtaking times on racetracks, but most do this so competently that the joy of driving has turned into something akin to a dull feeling of being driven. And this will only accentuate as people increasingly are driven, by self-driving machines.

Read next: Danish model, Rianne ten Haken on the fashion industry and teaching yoga 

All of this has been postulated as a reason behind the rise of what has been dubbed the ‘modern classic’ collector’s car market, a term that your author helped bring into the mainstream back when this development was in its nascence a few years ago. The term encompasses cars that are as rapid, comfortable and reliable as most contemporary cars, but, through either quirks of engineering or having been manufactured at the point where the old classic car era turned into the new, are as enjoyable as the older ones.

Ferrari modern classic car

The 1995 Ferrari F512M, of which only 501 were made. Image courtesy of Ferrari S.p.A.

A word of warning though. The ‘modern classic’ has been adopted by marketeers and average car dealers, to the extent that it is now turning meaningless and being used as a cover for almost any used car of the past two decades. Most of the ‘modern classics’ so dubbed at today’s auctions are nothing of the kind. To have collectability, the criteria for a modern classic are the same as for anything collectable: they have to have been made in limited numbers, be special in some way (via brand, or history), and be genuinely desirable. A Ferrari F50 (349 made) or F512M (501 made) from the 1990s is a modern classic; a Ferrari 360 (more than 15,000 made) is likely not. (Full disclosure: there is a F512M in my stable). Production numbers are partly, but not wholly, responsible for this distinction.

Does all of this signal the end of the era of the traditional ‘classic car’, with its quirky, hand-beaten body panels, tiny production quantities, and 1950s and 60s design quirks? The obvious answer is of course not: assuming you could find them, you could buy seven or eight of my 1995 Ferrari F512Ms for the price of a single 1969 Ferrari Daytona Spider, or 365 GTS/4 to give it its correct nomenclature. (I use Ferraris as a reference partly because they are the most significant brand in car collecting, and partly because I am most familiar with them.) The most expensive cars ever sold are still those (mainly Ferraris) from the 1950s and 1960s.

But real modern classics are gaining in value fast. Certain Porsches of the 1990s have overtaken the prices of all but the rarest of their siblings from the 1960s, and some 1990s cars, like the McLaren F1, are now selling for more than ten million (pounds, euros, or dollars). Even relatively common but collectible Ferraris, like the 1997 550 Maranello (around 3000 made), have trebled in price over the past four years.

Investment classic cars

McLaren F1 GTR

Whether they will continue to make ground is a question in the mind of collectors – although it tends to get blown out of my mind when I am driving at full speed in any of my Ferraris, as they are of the era when total concentration is required of a driver at any speed, which is a key part of their appeal. One the one hand, there is plenty of evidence that Millennials and Generation Y are less interested in cars: as LUX Contributing Editor and columnist Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of LVMH Watch & Jewellery told me, “teenagers do not wear watches and they do not buy cars”. (Biver is himself a significant collector of what he would call ‘real classics from the pre-electronic era’, including a gorgeous 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/4, worth multimillions). There is also an argument to say that the younger generation of purchaser is only interested in the newest, most connected cars. I broadly call these the obsolescence argument and the antiques argument: either collectible cars will become like fax machines, entirely redundant; or they will become like antique furniture, out of fashion.

Read next: A futuristic world of modern bodies at Past Skin, MoMa PS1, New York

There is also the view that the current spike in prices for all these cars is due to money chasing after investments in an era of low interest rates, which will inevitably change.

I don’t know. These are probably correct for the vast majority of self-proclaimed ‘modern classics’ which are neither as cool as the real classics which preceded them, or as good as the cars of today. But when I am out in my cars, there is no shortage of young people taking selfies or videoing the car, and many of my spectators are, in time-honoured tradition, small boys dreaming of fast cars who one day will grow up to be purchasers of the car they admired in their youth. Uber, Tesla, and regulations restricting the use of cars in cities can only do so much. And while fax machines and 19th century desk bureaux may be worthless today, try telling your art dealer that a Da Vinci or a Monet is now worthless because of the demand for Jeff Koons.

Which is why I am continuing to acquire modern classic cars – the right ones. And why you will be reading, in LUX, some detailed articles on this most exciting of ‘investments of passion’.

Reading time: 5 min
Exhibition of the month
Exhibition of the month

Installation view of Past Skin. Image courtesy of MoMA PS1. Photo by Studio LHOOQ.

Exhibition of the month

Look around you. How many screens do you see? How many of us are living in the virtual realm? Our world is being continually altered, shaped and scripted by technology and our bodies along with it. Social media allows us to curate our identity whilst virtual reality gives us the opportunity to step into another’s body and experience a different perspective. It sounds terrifyingly futuristic, but it’s increasingly the reality of our day to day lives. Using science historian and cyber-feminist Donna Haraway’s provocation “Why should our body end at the skin?”‘, as a stimulus, Past Skin at MoMa PS1 invites six contemporary artists – Cui Jie, Jordan Kasey, Hannah Levy, Abigail Lucien, Jillian Mayer, MSHR, and Madelon Vriesendorp – to explore modern constructions of the body using their chosen mediums. Limbs are detached and refashioned into perverse and sometimes grotesque sculptures, alongside sound and video performances and paintings. It’s an appalling glimpse into how dehumanised our society has become and forces us to seriously consider not only the future effects of technology, but our future as humans.

Millie Walton

Past Skin runs until 10th September 2017 at MoMa PS1, Queens, New York

Reading time: 1 min
Rianne Ten Haken

Unique design title model of the month

Rianne Ten Haken

Dutch model and yoga teacher, Rianne Ten Haken

LUX contributing editor and Storm model, Sydney Lima continues her online exclusive series, interviewing her peers about modelling life and business.

Sydney Lima

THIS MONTH: Dutch model, Rianne ten Haken was discovered at the tender of age of 14 by Elite models, making her debut on the runway alongside Gisele Bündchen for Marc Jacobs spring 2004. In between, shooting campaigns for the likes Chanel, Versace and Givenchy and starring in Lenny Kravitz‘s music video for “The Chamber”, ten Haken teaches yoga on retreats across the globe.

Sydney Lima: How did you get in to modelling?
Rianne ten Haken: I got discovered on the street in Amsterdam by Jeroen van der Mast, who was then at Elite Amsterdam. He asked me if I wanted to compete in the Elite Model Look (contest) that year and I did. I won the international final and have been working non-stop pretty much since then.

SL: What has been your favourite shoot to work on?
RTH: My favorite shoot was the Jean Paul Gaultier ‘le classique’ fragrance. I have been working for Cartier for many years and they have become like family to me. So shooting this beautiful project with them was truly an honor and a very memorable experience that I will treasure for life.

SL: What has been your proudest working moment?
RTH: Having two Italian Vogue covers in a row has definitely been my proudest moment!

SL: How did you get in to yoga and why did you decide to train as a teacher?
RTH: I got into yoga when I was really stressed out with work, life and traveling. I took some time off and I emersed myself in yoga. I discovered what it did for me and how good it made me feel. It became a mild obsession and a big passion for me. When I did the teacher training, my goal wasn’t to become a teacher I just wanted to learn more about it but during the training I discovered that I really loved teaching and sharing what I had learned.

Read next: Paris in Springtime at Hôtel Plaza Athénée

SL: How did you find the time to train as a yoga teacher alongside modelling?
RTH: Where there is a will there is a way, my grandmother used to say. It’s about prioritizing what’s important to you and what makes you happy.

Model of the month Rianne Ten Haken

Sydney Lima: Where has been your favourite place to teach?
Rianne ten Haken: The retreat I did in Nicaragua with Surf Yoga Beer was definitely one of my favorite spots to teach, the location the people, the sunset, everything was on point!

Read next: Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst on the future of PACE London

SL: Did modelling have any influence over your decision to become a yoga teacher?
RTH: Modelling and the fashion industry can be very creative and inspiring. I met so many talented, interesting people that I realized I had and wanted to be more than just a pretty face. I understood that to have longevity in your career you need to grow as a person and develop your skill set. And seeing all these people around me being daring and exploring their potential really motivated me to do the same.

SL: What plans do you have for 2017?
RTH: So many plans, so little time! I’m doing some research now to find new places to do my next retreat. On my way to Africa at this moment to find a great location. I want to teach a lot, want to share my light with many people that cross my path! In my wildest dreams I want to find a location for my first yoga studio!

Reading time: 3 min
Massimo Bottura
Massimo Bottura chef

The crunchy part of lasagne. Massimo Bottura at Geneva Motor Show 2017

Massimo Bottura has the world at his feet: his three Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, achieved the ultimate award in 2016, being voted best restaurant in the world in the prestigious San Pellegrino awards. And yet, rather than open multiple clones in parts of the world where wealthy foodies cluster, he is focusing on helping the needy – and cutting down food waste. Starting at the EXPO World Fair in Milan in 2015, Bottura has been setting up mini-gastro temples using ‘recovered food’ – ingredients that other food operations would otherwise throw away – with the proceeds going to charity.

His next, and most ambitious, cultural-social project using ‘recovered food’ will be the Refettorio Felix in London in June, with the collaboration of Alain Ducasse, Angela Hartnett, Daniel Boulud, Giorgio Locatelli, Jason Atherton, Michel Roux Jr, Nuno Mendes, and numerous other star names from in and around the capital. Darius Sanai spoke to the super-chef and brand ambassador for Maserati (the luxury car company also hailing from Modena) about his passions and plans.

LUX: Your original inspiration for these projects came from a childhood recipe for food that would otherwise be thrown away..
Massimo Bottura: The one that I developed specially for the project in Milan is called ‘Bread is Gold’. It’s what I thought as a child, the best bite before going to bed was a big cup of milk with breadcrumbs, sugar and a bit of chocolate or coffee (depending on what was left). For me it was the best meal as a kid. So we developed this beautiful dessert about bread, milk and sugar that we presented.

Another very simple example that we created (in Milan) was the breadcrumb pesto. All these people were passing through and they needed energy. And they were asking for pasta. So I said okay – tomorrow I am going to cook pasta for you. And because I saw some basil, I was thinking of making pesto.

I went to the kitchen the next day, and there wasn’t a lot left, only one case, which for 100 people is nothing. So I started thinking…I took out all of the herbs thyme and mint which matched perfectly with basil, and I start putting in some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some extra virgin olive oil. But I was missing the pine nuts, and I couldn’t go and buy them because they were too expensive [for the project]! So, I had an idea – I put everything in the blender, with a little bit of garlic and then I started adding very cold still water. If I keep the mixer at low temperature there is no oxidation with the extra virgin olive oil. Then, instead of putting pine nuts, I used breadcrumbs by grating the leftover bread from two days before. Then I strained with a strainer, got all the impurities out, and then I re-grated it. It got very creamy but extremely light because the only fat was the extra virgin olive oil and it came out as an amazingly creamy basil pesto with breadcrumbs! Then I rescued all the herbs we had, and the mint (it was summer) gave the freshness. We served it to 100 people. It was one of the biggest hits of the summer.

Osteria Francescana

“Oops I dropped the lemon tart”. Dessert at Osteria Francescana. Image by Callo Albanese & Sueo

Read next: Spring in the world’s most romantic city at Hôtel Plaza Athénée

LUX: As a chef, you like to be innovative. Is that the right word?
Massimo Bottura: Contemporary. I think it’s more contemporary. Osteria Francescana is the place where we develop ideas. It’s like the bottega del rinascimento: the renaissance story where the master gives the ideas to develop and to the guys who are working together as a family and we create culture everyday. We develop, and we bring tradition to the future.

We are also ambassadors of agriculture. And you know in Italy we are crazy and obsessed about the quality of the ingredients. And then we also train people: we have thousands of CVs from people waiting to come and learn from Osteria. And then tourism – we developed tourism for the first time in history in Modena, tourists from all over the world. They speak English, Japanese, Chinese and Spanish. People come to see where Osteria is, matching with the people coming to see Maserati and Ferrari [in nearby Maranello]!

Massimo Bottura at Geneva Motor Show 2017

LUX: You haven’t tried to create copies of Osteria around the world. Why is that?
Massimo Bottura: Because I believe in it. Because excellence and quality is one. And when I am in Modena I have to be there and be respectful of all the people who come from all over. Of course I have to travel because I have to spread ideas and explain the word and my point of view. Yesterday at my conference in Milan there were around 5,000 people, listening to me. People like the CEO of Gucci to the Mayor of Milan from the Minister of Agriculture to the most important journalists. It’s about that too. It’s not just about the quality of the ingredients, it’s about the quality of the ideas that’s the most important thing.

Osteria Francescana

Osteria Francescana. Image by Callo Albanese & Sueo

Developing different restaurants is all about making money, and we have enough. We don’t need a private jet or a helicopter on a big boat. To me personally, it is much more satisfying to give joy to people and because I am a chef you cook for others to give joy and transfer emotion. Even in this social project, it is all about culture. Knowledge consciousness and sense of responsibility. The sense of responsibility is not about to getting rich but to give back after having all of the success that I’ve had.

LUX: Tell us more about your ‘Soup Kitchen’ projects.
Massimo Bottura: They are are not a charity project, they are a cultural project because I involve all the best chefs in the world to cook the waste from supermarkets and other restaurants. It is enormous. The mayor of Tokyo said he would love a project like that in place for the Tokyo Olympics. The United Nations, hospitals in New York..we are working on all these things. The next one will be the Reffertorio Felix in London in June.

We involve artists, designers, architects to build beautiful spaces and to rebuild the dignity of the people. It’s not about serving just some hot food – that’s fine and beautiful. But this is a different project. I am doing different things, with a different perspective. For me, inside a beautiful space I can rebuild something. Dignity of people, or give pride to the food that has been considered waste for 99.99% of people. Through my knowledge, and through our knowledge, because it’s a project that involves all of the best chefs in the world.

I can see the reaction of people around the world which is so interesting. Numbers are numbers. 160 million people are starving. 1.4 billion are overweight and 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year. 33% of food production is wasted. It’s 50% in Brazil. Every single day in Rio de Janeiro 10 food trucks full of food are burnt. Vegetables and fruit. Why? Because…I don’t know. There is no explanation. It’s not about producing more, it’s about wasting less.

Massimo Bottura

Refettorio Gastromotiva. Image by Angelo Dal Bo

LUX: Is the Soup Kitchen business sustainable? Do you need support? How does that work?
Massimo Bottura: We need local partners like we had in Rio, Gastromotiva; in Milan Caritas. We need a local partner that takes care of everyday life, so that every single one is sustainable. In Rio de Janeiro they are selling the space for companies to hold meetings. They donate money to sustain the dinners. Caritas too is doing that.

There is zero food waste in Osteria and we develop ideas in our everyday life and project these ideas into the soup kitchen all over the world. Now there is a beautiful movie that is coming out from the experience in Milan. There is another one that is in production for the experience in Rio. There’s Anthony Bourdain supported by the Rockefeller Foundation that is going to presented at the Tribeca film festival. There is book; we signed yesterday with Phaidon. A beautiful book about 150 recipes on waste – what you can do with an over ripe banana with some breadcrumbs or some ugly tomatoes – you can do beautiful, beautiful things. And these are ideas that have to be spread everywhere.

Read next: William Fan on the androgynous future of fashion

LUX: What is your idea of achievement? What are you satisfied with?
Massimo Bottura: Next, I want to build a university. I want to build a university in the most amazing villa outside of Modena. It’s abandoned. Now we have started restoring it with Emilia Romagna’s regional government and the Minster of Agriculture. It was an old villa with a full circle of life. There is small place to make two different wheels of parmigiano every day. There is a vineyard for the balsamic vinegar. There is the land all around for pasture.

LUX: What will the future bring for food?
Massimo Bottura: I think in the future the most important ingredient is culture. The chef will know more about soil, and the farmers of the future will know more about taste. Growing up together, studying together.

Donate to Food for Soul at
Our thanks to Maserati for the interview

Reading time: 8 min
The Royal Suite
Eiffel suite Hotel Plaza Athenee

The view from one of the Eiffel Suites

Why should I go now?

Paris in the spring; summer fashions adorning the Parisiennes and their offspring and canines; do you have no romance? The Avenue Montaigne, upon which Hôtel Plaza Athénée sits like a palace, is the most sophisticated retail street in the world, with the river and view across to the Eiffel Tower at one end, and the ‘rond-point’ floral circle of the Champs-Elysées at the other.

Hôtel Plaza Athénée Dining paris

Alain Ducasse at Hôtel Plaza Athénée. Interiors by Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku.

What’s the lowdown?

Hôtel Plaza Athénée is the ultimate Paris ‘establishment’ hotel. Republics are created and Prime Ministers deposed in its art-deco Relais restaurant. Unions (romantic, corporate and both) are created in the three-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse restaurant, the centrepiece of the chef’s empire. A recent complete refurbishment has transformed the hotel. The long gallery through its heart still has classic Paris in its soul but the lighting and ambience are gently contemporary; it now feels like a place for a 21st century couple, rather than the deposed Count of Montauban and his dowager companion. Service, by the Dorchester Collection, is typically attentive; as flourishing as you could possibly expect over tea at the Gallery. The bar is a place to propose over a Black Forest Gin Martini. The bar staff seemed slightly in two minds whether they needed to be cucumber-cool to match the new style bar décor, or Dorchester-attentive to the numerous couples paying attention to each other in the dim crannies overlooking the Avenue Montaigne.

The Royal Suite

The Royal Suite

Getting horizontal

Our room had the best view in Paris, across Place l’Alma to the Eiffel Tower; a Disney movie couldn’t have made it better. Rooms have also had a complete refurb, although the style is a little different from Bruno Monaird’s ultra-sophisticated public areas; more classical, with less subtle lighting, and plenty of trad luxury, reds and golds.


There really isn’t anything to dislike about Hôtel Plaza Athénée. The palace hotels of Paris are still in a league of their own in Europe, and possibly the world, for grandeur backed up by depth of product and service, and of course location; and Hôtel Plaza Athénée is one of the very greatest. If you’re wedded to all-white design hotel boxes with all their signage in lower case sans serif, then perhaps it’s not the place for you, but then Paris probably is not, either.

Rates: From €850 excluding breakfast (approx. USD $900/£700)
Darius Sanai

Paris in the spring: every year, from April to June

Reading time: 2 min
TeamLab Transcending Boundaries
Pace, one of the big five leading contemporary art galleries in the world represents more than 80 artists and estates, in New York, London, and Beijing. Their latest exhibition in London ‘The Critical Edge’ explores Richard Tuttle’s use of fabric to explore materiality, space and three-dimensionality. Kitty Harris talks with Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst, the director of Future\Pace, about the their recent teamLab exhibition, her previous role as director of the gallery and future plans.
PACE gallery director

Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst

LUX: Why did you choose teamLab, the interdisciplinary group of ultra-technologists, exhibition ‘Transcending Boundaries’ for Pace London?
Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst: We started working with teamLab a couple of years ago and we first showed their work in New York. It was this great kind of phenomenon in a way – we didn’t know what was going to come out of it but we were very excited about the group. So, the next thing we did, in our gallery in Palo Alto, San Francisco, where we had taken the old Tesla garage (a huge space!) was this massive teamLab intervention. There were about 10 or 12 environments and a whole teamLab kids program on the other side of the building. It was supposed to be up for three months but we ended up keeping for almost a year. We sold tickets, it was a visitor attraction and it was hugely successful. Off the back of that people were clamouring for us to bring it here. This is their first big exhibition in Europe, they had shown in Istanbul but not on this scale, so it had been in the pipe lines for a while. They had been in demand by everybody that we know.

TeamLab Transcending Boundaries

TeamLab Transcending Boundaries

LUX: What was your vision for Pace London when it opened in 2012?
MDB: We are sort of formulating as we go along in London. I think that having thought through different business models we’ve decided that it should be a “Pace” gallery. We want to have a Pace gallery in London that shows the Pace gallery artists. Because they didn’t have a space here some of the artists who are hugely well known in America are less known here. We feel by showing them and introducing people to the work that is really the best thing we can do. There is a beautiful kind of poetry to the programme of Pace and it’s a sort of jigsaw puzzle that fits everything together. And actually, this new group of artists we’ve been working with, in art and technology, has always been something Pace has been interested in. James Turrell was very much involved in the art and technology program in California in the 1960s and so this tradition has come through – there is a link. We are fascinated by the idea of coding as an art form – all of the myriad of the possibilities to come.

Read next: Emerging designer, William Fan on the future of fashion

LUX: You’re bringing your American artists to London, such as your latest exhibition with Richard Tuttle. What about the European artists?
MDB: We’ve done some wonderful shows with European artists – Kevin Francis Gray who we showed a few years ago and who now has a show in New York and Adrian Ghenie is somebody we generated through this gallery and has a show on in New York. So certainly the gallery isn’t adverse European artists. There is a lovely feedback.

Flowers Bloom on People, PACE gallery London

Flowers Bloom on People

LUX: What has been your greatest challenge in establishing Pace in London?
Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst: It’s been a great pleasure it’s such a great gallery and organisation. Making it tick. It’s an ongoing challenge for Elliot McDonald and Tamara Corm.

LUX: Having worked at the Gagosian in New York City, then at Garage in Moscow and of course, Pace London, how did your role as director differ in each of the countries?
MDB: Each role has been an older and more experienced version of me. So I don’t know if you can directly compare them. It’s been a really interesting journey being involved with two such important galleries and the different way they do things. But it’s really about the artists; you are here to serve the artists. To try and get inside their body of work and understand, promote and sell it. Whereas, Garage was a very different project – it was about communication and setting something up that would have a flavour of what the contemporary art world was doing but also speak to a Russian audience (who hadn’t seen much of what we were doing at the time). I guess the two gallery projects are comparable but Garage in Moscow was a very different thing.

Read next: The man who makes dream fragrances, Rami Mekdachi

Richard Tuttle at PACE

Richard Tuttle

LUX: Tell us about your exciting new role as director of Future\Pace.
MDB: Yes! It’s a collaboration that I put together with a company called Future/City and the owner, Mark Davy, has been very instrumental in art place making in London over the last ten years. He is the most influential person in London, also now in Sydney and other places around the world. His company has been working closely with major developments and infrastructure projects to develop a public art program – and a really interesting one at that. They did Heathrow Terminal Two, the Crossrail and they are doing The Shard. We got together and put a group of artists, mostly Pace artists, into this kind of bubble and were going out and looking for specific projects for them. We won Lumiere’s ‘Illuminated River’ project with our artist Leo Villareal and various other projects are on the way.

Richard Tuttle, ‘The Critical Edge’ runs until 13th May at Pace London,

Reading time: 4 min
Fashion designer william fan
Following his debut runway show at the 2015 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin, William Fan has emerged as one of the most exciting new talents in the fashion world and was recently selected as this year’s winner of the prestigious Mercedes-Benz International Designer Exchange Program. Here the German designer talks to Kitty Harris about working for Alexander McQueen, fusing traditional Asian materials with contemporary design and the androgynous future of fashion.
William Fan fashion designer

William Fan

LUX: How did you get into fashion design?
William Fan: I started to be interested in fashion at a very young age. The moment I could walk, I was always headed towards my mum and dad’s wardrobe. I loved styling. Then I started learning to sew and created my first wardrobe pieces when I was a teenager. After my high school degree, I wanted to perfect my art, so I went to the Netherlands to start my Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design.

LUX: What was it like working for Alexander McQueen’s couture house in London?
WF: It was a unique experience. During the time I was working there, Lee was still alive and I could observe his power in every single detail he created. I learned to be a perfectionist and to tell stories with my collections.

LUX: You merge Asian materials, like cashmere and silk, with tecnhopolysether and bast fibre creating your own Euro-Asian dynamic. How does your Asian heritage influence your designs? And can you explain your process of sourcing fabric?
WF: I travel to Hong Kong and China four times a year. I go to the local markets and get inspired by the huge offerings. You can find everything there. From standard cottons and silks to crazy 3D PVC materials. I love the clash and the play-fullness when combining different materials.

I’m proud to have Chinese origins. I like to show this in a very quiet way, by putting Asian elements into my work. I like to analyse Chinese costumes, Kung Fu uniforms and I love watching old Bruce Lee movies.

William Fan new collection

Backstage: William Fan A/W Collection 17/18

Read next: The man who turns memories into fragrances 

LUX: You were chosen as one of the designers by Mercedes-Benz’ International Designer Exchange Programme with your works debuting in Berlin in 2015. What did this achievement mean to you?
WF: I’m happy to show my work on an international platform. Mercedes Benz has been a big supporter since day one. They gave me my first runway show in Berlin in January 2015. I’m very thankful!

LUX: Your designs were used in the MB Collective video with M.I.A. at the start of 2017. How would you describe this experience?
WF: Exciting, surreal and happy. The moment I saw M.I.A. in a total WILLIAM FAN look it was truly smashing.

William Fan

Backstage A/W Collection 17/18

LUX: What do you enjoy most about your work?
WF: I love to create an emotion, image and world you can dip into. My collections always tell a story and I like to see my work as a movie. Every season there is another chapter, different scene or topic. But it always connects to the last one, which is really fun to play with. And of course I love to see my garments on random people on the streets. This is the most uplifting compliment.

LUX: You seem to be an international citizen moving between Germany, London, Hong Kong… how does travelling influence the way you design?
WF: Traveling makes my work more dynamic and diverse. I like to combine opposite energies.

Read next: Marsden Hartley’s Maine at the Met Breuer, New York 

LUX: What does the term “stylish” mean to you?
WF: I don’t like that term. It feels very old fashioned.

William Fan autumn/winter collection

Willam Fan A/W Collection 2017/18

LUX: Your clothes are designed to be unisex. Do you think that this is a direction fashion is moving towards?
William Fan: I think so. Take the phenomenon of sneakers. It doesn’t matter if you are a kid or grandma. Everyone is sharing a similarly styled sneaker. I think it will be the future… also in terms of ready to wear. Don’t give any borders or stamps to your clothes. If they fit and look good, who cares about the branding for women or men. I like to describe my wardrobe as ageless, universal and timeless. It’s meant to be open for everyone who wants to explore WILLIAM FAN.

LUX: What’s next for your brand?
WF: I’m trying to build up a solid base in terms of strong season-less wardrobe pieces. Those items will be sold on my online shop, which will be launching soon and I hope to grow my business internationally.,

Reading time: 4 min
Jared Leto stars in new gucci fragrance campaign

One of Hollywood’s great mysteries, Jared Leto has spent his career defying its received wisdom that you can only fit one niche. Below the radar of gossip columnists, he flits from Oscar-winning performances and eye-catching red carpet appearances – green Gucci frock coat with candyfloss pink cropped trousers recently – to rock climbing and headlining with his rock band, Thirty Seconds to Mars. He fits the role of doe-eyed sweetheart, psychopathic killer and fashion frontrunner all in one.

Raised by his mother, Leto spent his childhood moving from city to city around America, learning to love the nomadic life. He studied cinema, moved to LA and was cast as the sensitive teenage love interest in the cult TV series, My So-Called Life. But Leto was more than a pretty face. A committed method actor, he has lived with homeless heroin junkies for the role of Harry Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream and dramatically lost and gained weight playing the overweight killer of John Lennon, Mark David Chapman, in Chapter 27 and the transgender drug-addict, Rayon in Dallas Buyer’s Club. Winning an academy award for his work, Leto never breaks from his character on set. After years of art house, Leto recently went for blockbuster as the Joker in Suicide Squad, taking on the role left by the late Heath Ledger. All this while he has been fronting his rock band alongside his brother, with record sales in the millions. Now he has taken another turn on his alternative Hollywood path, working with Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele as the new face of Gucci Guilty. He spoke to Caroline Davies about commitment, guilt and never quite letting go of the joker.

Jared Leto stars in new gucci fragrance campaign

Jared Leto in the Gucci Guilty campaign

LUX: What scents do you associate with your childhood?
Jared Leto: The smell of a campfire is always pretty powerful. It brings back certain times and adventures.

LUX: What was the first scent you wore?
JL: I think one of my grandfathers got me and my brother Old Spice and Brut soap-on-a-rope.

LUX: Acting, directing, music. Are they different parts of your personality? How do they inform one
JL: It’s been challenging to make them all work. They take a lot of time, which has always been the
biggest challenge for me. How do you find the time to make room for several lovers, I suppose?

LUX: You spent much of your childhood moving around America. Has it given you a wanderlust?
JL: I would say that I like new experiences so that’s sometimes the part than can keep you travelling.

LUX: Where is your favourite place in the world? What would you do there?
JL: There are so many places around the world that I really love. The national parks in America have to be some of my favourites.

LUX: You’re known for your commitment to roles. What has been the most difficult part to play? Why?
Jared Leto: The Joker was probably one of the most difficult, that and Dallas Buyers Club. It’s just very dark and emotional. There was a physical component – I had to lose a lot of weight, so it was really challenging.

LUX: Have you ever scared yourself with a character? When?
JL: I was more concerned with the work that I needed to do in order to try and do my best.

Guilty Gucci fragrance

Behind the scenes shot from the Guilty Gucci campaign by Alessandro Michele

LUX: Which character was the hardest to let go of?
JL: The Joker still visits from time to time. So be careful.

LUX: Why Gucci? Why now?
JL: Alessandro drew me to the collaboration and we had met and become friends. And so when he asked me to do it, I was so excited. I thought it would be really fun to join him in this great adventure.

Read next: Gorden Wagener on creative intelligence

LUX: Tell me about creating the footage for the Guilty campaign. You filmed in Venice in December; what was the atmosphere like?
JL: It was improvisational. It was very creative. It was a unique story of this guy and two women on an adventure, and it’s magical but it’s good. It was a lot of fun to make, and a great group of people to work with.

LUX: What do you think of when you think about guilt?
JL: Guilty is a frightful way to mean taking some chances and not always playing things safe.

LUX: How would you describe your choice of clothes?
JL: I don’t really put very much time and variation into fashion to tell you the truth. Maybe that’s a good explanation for a lot of things. I have fun with it and I’m not worried about being too safe with it because at the end of the day, it’s really not big a deal. So I just have a bit of fun with it.

Jared Leto in the gucci guilty campaign

A still from the Gucci Guilty campaign, filmed in Venice

LUX: Do you think that fashion can feel limiting for men?
JL: I think most men’s fashion is pretty boring, utilitarian, safe, and there is something to the
unpredictability of what Alessandro does that’s really compelling.

LUX: How do you view Hollywood?
JL: Well, I’m glad that I am where I am now. I think you sometimes have to throw a bit of caution to the wind. I have taken long breaks from acting. And that’s okay.

LUX: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard about life and acting?
JL: Commitment, to commit

Reading time: 4 min
Lola James Harper shop
Rami Mekdachi has worked as a perfumer for over twenty years, collaborating with some of the world’s best known brands, such as L’Oréal, Colette, Lacoste and Chloé. And now, he’s created his own high-concept brand, Lola James Harper, bringing together his passion for music, film, design and fragrance with his friends and family. Millie Walton speaks to the Frenchman about curing perfectionism, capturing memories and bringing creativity to the hospitality industry.
Rami Mekdachi fragrance

Rami Mekdachi

LUX: When did you decide to master perfumery?
Rami Mekdachi: I never decided really. Encounters and opportunities make things happen in our lives. In 1996 I met Catherine Raiser, Head of CCB/L’Oréal. We decided to work together and I joined as a Perfume Developer. That same year, I met Pierre Bourdon and Benoist Lapouza, two amazing perfumers, and now two friends. That’s when I realised how grand the perfume world is. How playing with scents, images, poetry, myth and design can be powerful and generous. How wide and touching it can be…

LUX: Do you have a favourite scent?
RM: I have so many!

LUX: Have you ever struggled to capture a certain smell?
RM: Anything I do, I do it for the term. I do not struggle, I just take my time. I have 100 projects going on at the same time. I am way too much of a perfectionist and when I was 20 years old, I spent too much time on little things, struggling to get what I wanted and trying to get it as fast as possible. Now I have found the cure: 100 projects at a time, no time to lose, when it comes, it comes, when it does not come I change the project. My days are super diverse, every two hours I change fields and projects. That is my cure to perfectionism.

Read next: Marsden Hartley’s Maine at The Met Breuer 

LUX: You’ve had a very successful career as a perfumer, what led you to create Lola James Harper?
RM: For twenty five years, I have been playing music with great singers around the world and I would take pictures for music and travel magazines. Music and photography were in my blood even before perfume. My work as a perfumer was inspired by those experiences. I was lucky enough to have the chance to work with great people and big brands: Colette, Ines de le Fressange, Costes, Lacoste, Chloé, Roger Vivier, Dinh Van. Lola James Harper was a way to gather all the people I love and the three fields I enjoy: music, photography and perfumery.

LUX: Is there a central concept that ties all of your products together?
RM: Good and touching memories of places and people we love, generous and elevating mind sets.

LUX: The names of your candles suggest that their scent evokes a particular memory for their creator. Is it important that the customer realises the story behind the scent or is it more for the purpose of your inspiration?
RM: The point of it all is to share a life and moments that could be touching and evocative for everyone, to transport and make everyone dream. We are all dreaming machines. With Lola James Harper pictures, movies, music and fragrances I want to give to everyone the opportunity to feel free to dream and to do it.

Lola James Harper candle

Lola James Harper scented candle

LUX: How does your experience in perfumery inform your other creative pursuits? Music and film, for example?
RM: In music, film and perfumery, I have to compose ingredients together to create a new evocative world. In music I mix sounds, in perfume I mix fragrance notes, in film I mix pictures, motion pictures and sounds. Music helped me to get into the perfume field much faster in 1996, then working with amazing perfumers helped me to enhance my comprehension of a sound mix. Trying to imagine what a fragrance note evokes to people, what colour, what mind set, just opened my consciousness to what immaterial things provoke in our apprehension of the world and gave me so many clues about how to edit pictures, sounds and colours in a film. Life is a huge place to learn and now I know that when I am looking for any answer it always lies somewhere else.

Read next: Fraser sets the standard for ethical and adventurous yachting 

LUX: What’s the most difficult part of your job?
Rami Mekdachi: The logistic and legal part of it! Legislation shifts so often in the perfume world that we have to change our fragrance composition and stickers every year.

LUX: Where do you go to escape?
RM: The basket-ball court with my son. Movie theatres with my daughter. Walking the town, any town, with my wife, son and daughter. Road tripping the world, renting a car with my family and cruising for days. And when I want to be alone, I like to go to any good coffee shop with good music and tasteful coffee where I know no one.

Lola James Harper shop

Lola James Harper Shop in Le Bon Marché department store, Paris

LUX: What lies ahead for Lola James Harper?
RM: Lola James Harper is a magical project. It gathers my family and all my friends and my encounters for over two decades. It brings together my three fields, music, photo and perfumery. I love to see people passing by our places and just feeling happy looking at our pictures, listening to our music and testing our fragrance memories. I am really proud to have achieved all that in one successful project.

Now we are working on opening full Lola James Harper destinations, hotels! Hotels with basketball courts, music studios, TV basements, vinyl shops, coffee shops, full of travel and music pictures, full of good fragrances and our way of life. This should happen in 2018. And just for now, we are finalising our first movie, 85 minutes about the last two decades, globe-trotting the world, discovering music, pictures, friendship and family.

Reading time: 5 min