Sotogrande Grand Prix

Over the course of five days from Wednesday 24 May to Sunday 28 May 2017, southern Spain from Seville to Sotogrande welcomes the automobile elite for rallies, exhibitions, sales and displays of an eclectic selection of classic cars. The Andalucian route, weaving through picturesque cities and pine forests, ends each year with the legendary three-day Grand Prix festival of speed trials and Concours d’Elegance held in the stunning setting of La Reserva Club at Sotogrande alongside star-studded cocktail evenings and garden parties. Here LUX recounts this year’s weekend in pictures


Reading time: 1 min
The Excelsior hotel Hong Kong
Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental The Excelsior

The Excelsior is a cathedral to modern tourism and business travel

Luxury hotels are not all about marble bathrooms and art in the corridors: without perfect service and functionality, a luxury hotel is not worth the title. Darius Sanai holds up Mandarin Oriental’s Hong Kong behemoth as a case study – technically, it’s not a luxury hotel, but the experience should be an example for all hoteliers on how it’s done.

The idea of staying at a Mandarin Oriental hotel conjures up a dreamy vision, a blend of eastern exoticism and richness of service. And this dream is generally an accurate predictor of what you’ll receive in the only luxury city hotel group that, for me, perfectly combines the style and individuality of a boutique private resort group with the functionality of a major luxury chain.

‘Functionality’ is probably not a word that appears in Mandarin’s, or any group’s staff manual, but it’s a key element of a top hotel and one that is overlooked too easily. I have stayed in boutique hotels whose bar staff don’t know what a cigar cutter is; design hotels where room service breakfast looks like something on a second-class train carriage; style hotels where the concierge forgets your restaurant reservation and today’s front office staff have no idea about the detailed conversation you had about your needs with yesterday’s front office staff. An adaptor for your European plug? Sorry, the guest who borrowed it last week didn’t bring ours back.

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I’m ok with having an orange sofa in the shape of a banana in my room; I’m delighted to find an oxygen machine and green juice in my minibar, it’s fine that the person showing me to my room is an easy-on-the-eye Instagram star, but when I travel, and I suspect I speak for a fair number of LUX readers here, what I need is functionality.

This is different to being able to process eccentric requests, or to having a fleet of Teslas to show your green credentials. Functionality is boring, and it makes the world go round. If I call on my way in from the airport and order dim sum in my room at precisely 6.30pm that night, it needs to be there; I don’t need to have to call at 6.45pm to be told, oh sorry, there’s no dim sum today, would you like anything else from the room service menu? The adaptor – already in the socket. Housekeeping needs to speak English and know the answer to a question about dry cleaning delicates without promising to call me back – I’m talking to you now, I don’t need to talk to you again. Room service should remember my breakfast order from yesterday so I don’t need ask all over again about gluten-free toast and no lemon in the water and do you have any sliced grapefruit, no, not juice, sliced actual grapefruit. The person who answers the ‘At Your Service’ function on the phone really does need to know everything about the hotel – it’s not at my service if you have to be a broker between me and the rest of the hotel.

Read next: Searching for serenity in the Nepalese Himalayas

Staff need, in general, to know not just about what you are asking them, but every element of the hotel, so the host in the French restaurant on Floor 2 is clued-in that you have a car for the airport at 9.30pm and the staff there already know to serve dinner in time, while the concierge has already had the bell boy pick up your bags (and return the adaptor to reception so they don’t add a charge to your bill).

Which brings me back to Mandarin Oriental hotels. All the ones I have stayed at, from Hong Kong to New York, score high marks in this kind of functionality. Not unusual – a minimum requirement for a luxury hotel, and one which is shared by competitors like Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton.

There is a hotel that appears in the Mandarin Oriental portfolio, though, that doesn’t bear the brand name. The Excelsior in Hong Kong is part of the group, but not; it’s just called The Excelsior, and doesn’t share the luxury status or accoutrements of its more illustrious sisters. It’s a good bit cheaper, as well.

The Excelsior, Hong Kong

A Deluxe Double Room at The Excelsior

I have just bid The Excelsior farewell for the last time. I had a three-year advisory contract with a Hong Kong-based client, whose company booked me into the Excelsior for all of my four-to-six-time-a-year stays. Having, on previous trips to Hong Kong, stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, its sister hotel the Landmark, and other luxury citadels like the Four Seasons and Upper House, I have found myself staying in The Excelsior for something like 15 times over the last three years, for nearly a week at a time; that’s more than 90 nights, enough to get to know a place, or get weary of it.

The sole sub-luxury hotel of my global itineraries for LUX, my luxury consultancy Quartet Consulting, and my other employer Condé Nast, the 848-room monolith, at the ‘wrong end’ of Hong Kong to the financial bustle of Central, with its plethora of groups from mainland China, should have stood out as a step down, a place to be endured, perhaps even complained about to my client. One colleague did complain: a creative director who travelled with me once took one look and instantly changed addresses to a boutique hotel, which turned out to have paper-thin walls and chaotic service, but which had Tom Dixon light fittings.

Read next: Fine artist and model, Orla Carolin on modelling’s need for greater equality 

The Excelsior is a cathedral to modern tourism and business travel. Thousands seem to flow through its two facades every day. Its rooms are homage to the era when hotel rooms weren’t really designed; the bathroom’s on your right (with a shower in the bath), the safe’s in the cupboard on your left, the desk is in front if you, and the bed’s over there. To walk into my room (2422, usually) after the 12 hour flight from London should have been to be hit with a wave of mundane gloom: my functional home for the next six days.

But I rather loved the Excelsior. My room, like most others (I never received special treatment there) looked out over the harbour to Kowloon, and past to the mountains in China, with that spectacular and unique mix of commerciality, romance, urban ugliness, urban beauty, noise, light and possibility that Hong Kong epitomises.

My flight would touch down at 5pm on a Sunday night, and, arriving at the hotel around 7, I would get changed (a shower in a bath is fine) and walk outside into the neon-lit streets. The crazy signs and lights of the Laforet stall, the crowds of shoppers at any hour, the shops on the Lockhart road selling Chinese roots and beauty products and barbecued chicken and technicolour drinks; these were an instant hit of Hong Kong, unlike anything you will receive in the sanitised central business area a mile or so away.

I would then walk back to hotel for dinner at Yee Tung Heen, the Cantonese restaurant on the second floor. A formal, sophisticated, old-fashioned place with white glove service and tablecloths and a vast menu of traditional Cantonese dishes, it is apparently a favourite place for a treat for local families – and appears absolutely nowhere on the fashionable tourism agenda. Bare sharing tables, fusion offerings, Cantonese cocktails – all are on offer elsewhere in Hong Kong, but Yee Tung Heen has extreme comfort, peace, an excellent wine list, and superb food. From the boiled peanuts which I dipped into the homemade XO sauce as a pre-starter, to the steamed garoupa with ginger and lime, to the citadel of Chinese mushrooms, this was the best food I had in three years of being shuttled around Michelin-starred restaurants in Hong Kong.

The Excelsior, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong

ToTT’s bar has the best views of Hong Kong from the roof terrace

After dinner, jet lagged, knowing this would be my only night “in” during my stay, I’d ask for the rest of the bottle of Riesling to meet me at the rooftop bar, ToTT’s. It inevitably got there before I did, a table would be waiting and I would sip a glass and marvel at the best view of Hong Kong from anywhere: 34th floor, with a precipitous view of both the city and Kowloon across the water, and the canyon of lights leading away through anonymous forests of blocks into the eastern distance.

“Room Service, Wendy speaking, how can I help you Mr Sanai, would you like the same as usual?” – how did Wendy remember, or care, among 848 rooms, with my several week period of absence each time, about the jug of American coffee, empty bowl with spoon, sliced apple and orange, and Welsh sparkling water (not the revolting San Pellegrino)? How did the entire concierge and front desk staff always know exactly when my limo for the return to the airport was booked? How did it all link up in such a vast hotel with its streams of bemused and voluble first-time tourists?

My theory, though I can’t be sure, is that the Excelsior is a kind of test-bed for Mandarin Oriental’s staff: if they can operate at peak standard at the Excelsior, they can do it anywhere.

It’s a rare anomaly of a hotel where the service is super-luxury and the rooms are barely above three-star (a recent refurbishment stripped them of their most attractive element, 1990s-retro oak panelling and desks that ran the length of the walls, replacing them with forgettable florals and whites). And I’ll take it that way anytime. The Excelsior may never be a LUX Hotel of the Month – not unless it is knocked down and rebuilt, as the old Intourist in Moscow gave way to the new Ritz Carlton – but every luxury hotelier should pay a visit to see how hotels ought to operate.

Reading time: 8 min
Himalayas Nepal
Nepalese Mountain retreat

Dwarika’s Dhulikhel is designed like a village, nestled into the hillside overlooking the Himalayas

Since the devasting 2015 earthquake, Nepal has slowly been rebuilding itself as a travel destination. Until now, visitors tended to be Everest summiteers and those seeking other, though slightly less extreme, high altitude adventures, but slowly luxury is finding a place in the Himalayan foothills for travellers who seek to immerse themselves in mountain life without the hike. In the second part of her Himalayan journey, Digital Editor Millie Walton crosses the border from North East India to the remote Nepalese mountain retreat, Dwarika’s Dhulikhel in search of a slower pace of life.

Unsurprisingly, the Himalayas are difficult to navigate. It’s not until you’re actually eye to eye with the mountains that you can even begin to appreciate their enormity, not just in terms of height, but length too. The range stretches through Nepal, India, Bhutan, China and Pakistan with over fifty mountains exceeding 7,200 metres (including ten of the fourteen 8000 metre peaks). So making the journey from Darjeeling to Kathmandu isn’t impossible, but it’s not easy. Firstly there’s the drive to the border, which even in one of Glenburn Tea Estate‘s hardy Land Rovers is likely to make the strongest of stomachs queasy. The land border itself is a breeze, the Nepalese border control are easily the most friendly security officials I’ve ever met, but then there’s the flight. The weather systems over the mountains are unpredictable – on a good day it’s a bumpy ride – that said, the views of the world’s highest peaks rising majestically through the clouds makes it more than worth it.

Dwarika's Dhulikhel, Nepal

Day beds dotted round the resort provide a perfect viewpoint of the Himalayas

Sitting in the Zero Gravity lounge at Dwarika’s Dhulikhel that’s all far behind us. We’re here for the sunset, which, we’ve been told, illuminates a view of panoramic peaks in soft pinks and golds. The lounge is a rectangular glass box with an alfresco roof top seating area, but the winds are blowing and it looks dangerously like rain so we’re nestled into one of the day beds, playing Bagh-Chal (Nepal’s national game, also known as tigers and goats), hoping that nature will change its mind. Of course, it doesn’t. The storm when it hits is fast and ferocious. Sheets of rain slice into the glass, forks of lightning stab the ground and the wind shakes the sides so violently, we almost expect it to shatter. It’s over in less than ten minutes. The clouds have been ripped apart leaving smudgy outlines of the giants that surround us. There’s no rosy tint, but even these sultry shadows are impressive.

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Mountain retreat in Nepalese Himalayas

Homely touches in the suites

An hour’s drive outside of Kathmandu, Dhulikhel is an ancient Newari hillside town where tourists flock in the promise of panoramic views from Langtang Lirung in the east, through Dorje Lakpa to the huge bulk of Gauri Shankar and as far as Numbur. Of course, for the true thrill seekers, you can venture by foot into the depths of the Himalayas to a base camp or perhaps even to a peak, but if its luxury you’re after, you won’t find any beyond this point. Just outside of town, Dwarika’s sprawls up the side of a slope, hidden behind thick forest. Built in 2013, as the more subdued sister of the Dwarika’s hotel in the city, its a place of indulgent solitude, where guests are invited to embrace a slower pace of life in search of a more mindful and creative existence. There’s a daily schedule of complimentary activities led by resident gurus and artists including yoga, meditation, pottery and painting all held within little mud huts tucked into the dense foliage. Most beautiful is the Himalayan pink salt room, with walls and floors made from glistening rock crystals. It’s the purest form of salt on earth and is thought to be beneficial for the respiratory system – sitting on the arm chairs with a soundtrack of spiritual chanting, it feels almost otherworldly. Time within these walls loses all meaning.

Himalayan retreat, Nepal

The resort’s infinity pool

We begin our stay with an Ayurvedic consultation with an enthusiastic doctor who asks us to fill out a form to determine our body type. Most of the Ayurvedic teachings are based on common sense, and whilst sceptics may be turning away at this point, at the very least its an important reminder to prioritise health and mental wellbeing with early nights, mindful eating and exercise. Essentially it’s about learning or re-learning to listen to your body. In urban landscapes, every space is filled with sound (traffic, voices, building sites) – even when we get home, there’s rarely a moment of true silence – and so somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten how to listen to our bodies. The mountain setting of Dwarika’s then isn’t just about pretty views, but about reconnecting to a more traditional way of living, a way of life which still exists within the Himalayan villages.

Read next: British model, Orla Carolin on her art collective NINE8

Mountain retreat in Nepal

The Art Studio at Dwarika’s Dhulikhel. Image by James Houston

The resort takes its inspiration from that simplicity and whilst it is certainly luxurious, it is designed to blend seamlessly in with the natural surroundings. The suites are all bright and spacious with rustic furnishings, cream linens, smooth natural woods and pebble stoned bathroom floor. To be truly of nature, there probably shouldn’t be wifi access or televisions, but since most guests fill their days with chakra meditation or ink painting, there’s really very little opportunity to pull out a device. Our junior suite is centred around the views with floor to ceiling windows allowing the space to fill with natural light and a large terrace where we curl up on the daybed in the afternoons with a cup of herbal tea and homemade cookies, gazing out at the mountains. There are homely touches like a bowl of walnuts for cracking, a pot of honey as a natural sweetener for tea, homemade soaps and a ceramic pot of lemongrass bath salts on the edge of the tub. Each evening coloured cotton scarves are placed on the bedside table, to wear on the following day reflecting a certain energy along with a small silver dish of soaked almonds to promote peace of mind. It’s a world of indulgence, in which every detail has been carefully considered to create an atmosphere of complete calm, and it’s not long before we feel ourselves unraveling.

Read next: Summertime in Moscow at the Four Seasons

Nepalese mountain retreat

The Spa. Image by James Houston

The food adheres to Ayurvedic principles too; ingredients are locally sourced, and vegetables are plucked straight from Dwarika’s own organic farm. At Mako’s Zen, the Japanese restaurant, which offers set menus of six or eight courses, the cuisine is based on the diet that was originally followed by monks in training (it’s not nearly as intensive as it sounds) and dishes are all vegetarian and light on sodium, designed specifically for easy digestion. The vegetable tempura and maki are the highlights, and although we leave craving a little something more, it is refreshing to go to bed feeling light. For Nepalese traditional cuisine, Nature’s Flavours restaurant serves up by far the best momos (dumplings) I’ve ever tasted, and they look pretty too, dyed (naturally, of course) in bright colours.

Himalayas Nepal

Sunset over the mountains. Image by James Houston

On our last morning, before sunrise, we wander to the top of the hill – it’s quite a breathless climb for those unused to altitude (at 1,550metres it’s well above the UK’s highest peak) – to the meditation maze, a winding walled path of sculptures on the grass with hidden speakers playing a continuous track of OM chanting, which has an almost soporific effect as we drift from side to side. The air is fresh and light, not yet saturated with the heavy heat of the day, the grass is damp beneath our feet and the birds are only just beginning to sing. The Himalayas surround us, rising like giant waves into the ice blue sky. It’s a powerful image of stillness and stability, that’s more poignantly therapeutic than any level of luxury ever will be.

Reading time: 7 min
Model and artist, Orla Carolin
Unique design title model of the month
Orla Carolin model and artist

Model and artist, Orla Carolin. Image by Mollie Dendle.

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: Orla Carolin has been signed to London’s Storm Model agency for less than a year and has already been making waves on both the fashion and art circuits. Born and based in South-East London, the 18-year-old works as both a model and fine artist as one of the founding members of South London Art and Music Collective NINE8. So far, she has shot editorials for Wonderland, Pylot and graced the cover of cult magazine ‘Zodiac‘.

Sydney Lima: What first made you want to get into modelling?
Orla Carolin: I’d be lying if I said modelling was something I was pursuing when I first started – it more got sprung upon me – but i’m grateful it did!

SL: What do you enjoy about modelling?
OC: You just witness a lot from other people’s creative processes and by watching the way they present their artistic vision/identity, you learn a lot about your own.

SL: Is there anything you don’t like about modelling?
OC: Like any industry there’s definitely room for development. In modelling the representation of people of colour needs to be improved. When I first started modelling I was shocked in the realisation that whilst on the surface of the fashion world, progression has been made, the type of people who are in power to make changes remain the same – and a lot of them still don’t get it.

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SL: How did NINE8 collective form?
OC: NINE8 started out as a group of kids in their second year of college who were kind of drawn together because they had such strange but unifying ideals on art, music and life in general. We realised early on that – in the city specifically – it can be very hard as a young creative to get recognition when you don’t already have the connections or funding to do so. My partner (the founder) Lava , began to officially bring the group together to put on little DIY nights to showcase our artwork, bedroom cyphers in her flat and saved up to create little recording set ups so we could start making music together. It quickly developed to wider friendships and people online who reached out to us as a group because they had similar creative views on non-exclusiveness and positivity. Next thing we knew we had a board of people doing all kinds of things – photographers, artists, musicians, producers, film-makers – we were swapping creative currency making clothes, cover art, music for each other and Lava coined it to put it under the name “NINE8.”

Read next: Grayson Perry at the Serpentine Gallery, London

We really started striving to put the underground scene of DIY London artists on a platform to create and collaborate and the more we worked together the more our merging of styles came together to create this matching sound/aesthetic that we’re always trying to develop.

Constantly creating and pushing yourself to explore new ways of working is so important, and for me the collective encourages that.

Model Orla Carolin

Orla Carolin for Nabil Nayal

Sydney Lima: How would you describe your artistic style?
Orla Carolin: Dreamy, illustrative, lyrical, emotional. Poems have always been mixed into my sketchbooks and journals – in my works they become an aspect of an entire scape that usually alludes to an emotion or situation that I’ve attempted to physicalize through personal symbolism and colour. I recently finished my foundation course where I specialised in sculpture, I love creating scenes and scapes physically, too. I think my overall desire when making is to create objects and two dimensional images which in some bizarre and surreal way drag the viewer into my mind as though it were a physical space.

SL: What inspires you?
OC: Other people just totally doing their thing and going for it (whatever it may be), people being vocal about how they feel – regardless of who’s listening. Definitely people who are emotional responders like myself. I am encouraged, for example, by the way artist Louise Bourgeois’ portrays and physicalizes her emotions. However, an admiration like that is only a reminder of an element of what I want to achieve through my work, the execution of something like that has to come naturally in relation to my own experiences, emotions and desires. I’m inspired of the idea of developing this, the more I grow. It keeps me going.

Reading time: 3 min
Four Seasons moscow spa
The Four Seasons hotel in Moscow

Russia’s grandest hotel: The Four Seasons Moscow

Why should I go now?

Moscow in summer is vibrant, unexpected. In the warm, dry, continental sun, the city’s streets and parks have a Mediterranean vibe. The Four Seasons has the best location in the city bar none, next to the Kremlin; you can watch Russian tourists wander in and out of Red Square, eating their marozhonye (ice cream) from your balcony.

What’s the lowdown?

The Four Seasons is an edifice and a historical artefact. Those interested in Soviet history will be fascinated to know it was formerly the Hotel Moscow, a pet project of Joseph Stalin, opened in 1935 – the Lubyanka, headquarters of Stalin’s NKVD security police, is a five minute walk. Those interested in cocktails will know its façade from the labels of Stolichnaya vodka. Transformed after many years of work into a luxury hotel, it is now the grandest hotel in Russia.

Four Seasons moscow spa

The 25 metre indoor pool at Amnis Spa

Its 25 metre indoor pool, occupying the internal courtyard, with a glass roof, and surrounding ultra-luxurious spa, are the central symbols of the transformation. We balanced out the yin of exercising and spa purifying with the yang of hanging out in the Moscovsky bar on the ground floor, where immensely strong cocktails are served in an atmosphere more New Orleans than Moscow; the Moscovsky Mule is the hotel’s take on the classic Moscow Mule, and has a moreish kick.


Bar at Four Seasons Moscow

The Moscovsky bar

Getting horizontal

Our suite (bedroom, living area by the bedroom, and living/reception room) had balconies facing out onto Red Square, with the Kremlin to the right – you don’t realise exactly how much of a castle the Kremlin is until you have a chance to examine it at night and wonder at what has happened there over the centuries. Furnishings were plush, light and contemporary, while thick carpets and swathes of marble in the bathrooms will ensure that traditional Four Seasons fans (and visiting dignitaries) are not upset. It’s worth upgrading to a room with a view of, and balcony onto, Red Square; one of the most momentuous city views in the world.

Premier Room Four Seasons Moscow

Some of the hotel’s Premier Rooms have balconies onto the Red Square


This is a Four Seasons, so an element of grandeur and formality go with the deal, from the moment you walk into the immense lobby and stride down the marble corridors. Service is impressive at every touchpoint, as is security; the lobby areas are probably more suited to those with an entourage of bodyguards than a casual cabal.

Rates: From RUB 28,000 excluding breakfast (approx. USD $500/€400/£300)

Darius Sanai

Reading time: 2 min
London poetry muse
Jawdance poetry spoken word

Jawdance is a powerful blend of poetry and protest at a venue in east London. Image courtesy of Apples and Snakes

LUX’s Contributing Poet Rhiannon Williams discovers street poetry and protest is alive and thriving on the fringes of the international urban art scene.

As a young poet living in London, I have come to know the many hidden faces of our contemporary poetry landscape well. But nothing has struck home in the way that Jawdance has.

In the heart of Shoreditch, in East London, there is a dark stage. Feel an insistent bass, which picks up pace to keep time with an energy that builds and builds and doesn’t stop building. From the stage comes a spiky, eclectic hybrid between music, hip hop, art and poetry – and a rare glimpse into the soul of an arts scene which is uninhibited and so, so alive. Unseen, and yet bursting at the seams from a small room with a small stage full of big voices.

This is spoken word poetry, a poetic hybrid that speaks of and to people who are otherwise unheard. The talent of the poets you’ll find here is home-grown, full of heart, and iridescently free. Free from the dust of astringent commerciality which can so often choke artists. Free from the inhibitions of so-called ‘sensible society’; day jobs are all forgotten for tonight. As free as the rhymes which are so full of life they seem to transcend their meanings to reach a vivid corporeality. Oh, and it’s free to enter too, which leads to the creation of a rare welcoming charm, something lacking in a world where so many precious things are valued primarily by their marketability and not originality.

Jawdance, spoken word poetry

Always passionate, spoken word can be personal or political. Image courtesy of Apples and Snakes

It strikes you as reminiscent of the kind of golden poetry you would have found in San Francisco during its sixties scene, or Harlem during the Revival time of Langston Hughes; the real beauty is in the spontaneity. Spoken word as an art form has evolved since its first explosion onto the scene in the early 20th century primarily through the prisms of political change. Since then, its use as a form of protest and experimentation as well as just for a riot of a good time, bringing together a collective consciousness and feeling, has been a powerful influence over young creatives all over the world. And this characteristic of the genre is just as potent today. More than ever, the urgency is palpable, getting bigger and louder often in forgotten corners of our urban landscapes, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Read next: Grayson Perry’s political pots at the Sepertine Gallery

At Jawdance, presenter and poet Yomi Sode MCs the evening’s electricity. The creative mastermind behind the evening is an event in himself in the way he merges stand-up comedy continuity with his mastery of the at times very profound issues being laid bare. He calls up act after act to the microphone to infuse the air with a poetry that bites, that shocks, that electrifies. Whether the act is the whip-smart all-female poetry collective Octavia or an open-mic first-timer who has wandered in from the humdrum of the city, the quality of performance is staggeringly high – and what they have to say is important. Because in the poetry at Jawdance there is a sense, from a social and cultural perspective, of something moving. Raw at moments, hilarious at others, a common theme is for a poetry that is plugged in and almost cruelly receptive to the times. You are left breathless from listening, but enthralled to be so, as the candle is held up to the intimacies of life, the social and political issues that trouble so many refracted into words. It is thanks to platforms like Jawdance that there is still a space for this passionate, immediate self-expression in cities where those who may feel themselves to be voiceless can soar.

So if there’s one thing you take away from Jawdance, it is that poetry is willing itself to be heard every day. So grab a craft beer from the bar, let yourself be absorbed into the crowd and lie back for the ride, because to quote from the night, if the true Prime Minister of London is gigs then Jawdance is without a doubt the Woodstock in the cabinet.

Jawdance, every last Wednesday of the month at Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Road, London

Reading time: 3 min
British artist grayson perry london exhibition
British Artist Grayson Perry at Serpentin

Grayson Perry, Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London. Photograph: Robert Glowacki.

British artist Grayson Perry refers to himself as a “communicator”, one who is aiming to “communicate to as wide an audience as possible”, which means, at this time, bridging the gap in Britain between a divided society. As such, the centrepiece of “The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!”, at the Serpentine Gallery, are the Brexit pots (provocatively titled “The Matching Pair”), which were created with the help of the British public who were invited, through social media, to contribute ideas, images and phrases. From across the room, these huge blue vases look remarkably similar; look closer and the images reveal not only two opposing view-points, but the artist’s own political sway. The Leave pot has Nigel Farage, Big Ben, Winston Churchill and ketchup, whilst the Remain pot is a collage of romance and literature, with a portrait of Shakespeare and kissing couples.

Grayson Perry

‘King of Nowhere’, 2015, Cast iron and mixed media, Photography: Stephen White.

Elsewhere, Grayson pokes fun at fat cat art collectors with one liner quips scrawled across his ceramics, such as “flat whites against racism”, and “luxury brands for social justice”. The bronze sculptures are perhaps the most striking, delving deep into the modern psyche and issues of identity: “King of Nowhere” is a wide legged, cap-wearing drunk with scissors and knifes plunged into his skin, surrounded by miniature bottles of whisky. It’s an overwhelming and chaotic insight into Grayson’s mind, a whirlwind of contrasting words and images that confront the viewer from even the most mundane of objects. Amusing on the surface with ominously aggressive undertones, it seems to me, to be a fairly accurate reflection of the current state of British society.

Millie Walton

Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!” runs until 10th September 2017 at The Serpentine Gallery, London 

Reading time: 1 min
Sake No Hana Sakura celebrations
Japanese, Sake No Hana cherry blossoms

Rebecca Louise Law’s cherry blossom canopy at Sake No Hana

Mayfair’s Sake No Hana restaurant by the Hakkasan Group celebrates the Japanese ‘sakura’ season with an installation of intertwining cherry blossom branches and a limited-edition menu. LUX enjoys Hideki Hiwatashi’s contemporary take on hanami – the Japanese feast that celebrates cherry blossom season and the start of spring – beneath the seasonal blooms.

Cherry blossoms at Sake No HanaSakura begins in the south of Japan around February and finishes in the north at the end of May. Fortunately, the 24,000 flowers carefully installed by East-London artist Rebecca Louise Law at Mayfair’s Sake No Hana are hand-dried and preserved to last forever. However, they’ll only be visible on the restaurant’s wooden beamed ceiling until the end of June, providing the ideal backdrop for a contemporary hanami feast.

Read next: Tailoring for the modern gentleman 

Traditionally served at a Japanese cherry blossom picnic, Head Chef, Hideki Hiwatashi has dreamt up a new take on the traditional feast; a culinary reflection of the season’s celebrations and the transient beauty of the blossoms.  The special hanami cocktail blends lavender bitters and Akashi-tai honjozo, whilst the culinary offerings are typically innovative of the brand.

Sake No Hana cherry blossom menu

The sakura sushi platter


Our highlights were the bamboo leaf wrapped sea bass nigiri, tied prettily with a golden wire (it looks almost too good to eat), and the char-grilled rib eye beef with chilli ponzu. The most decadent option is the salmon served with a reach champagne yuzu miso sauce and pickled carrot and celery, which resemble pink blossoms. And for desert, a bitter chocolate, cherry delice that melts in the mouth. Enjoy the transient tastes while they last.

The sakura menu and art installation will be available at Sake No Hana until 18th June

Reading time: 1 min
Labassa Wolfe
Labassa wolfe tailors

Labassa Woolfe’s Fitzrovia boutique

Fitzrovia’s latest opening, Labassa Woolfe is the brainchild of Johan Labassa, an antiques dealer, and Joe Woolfe, previously Retail Director at Savile Row tailor Spencer Hart, and a celebrity stylist in his own right. The boutique melds their passions to create the ultimate retail experience for men, with a collection of curated antiques, a bespoke tailoring service and a menu of Armagnac and foie gras sourced from Johan’s family farm in the southwest of France. Kitty Harris speaks to the duo about styling the stars, what makes perfect tailoring and the modern gentleman.

LUX: How do antiques and tailoring relate? Or are they mutually exclusive?
Joe Woolfe: I think this is a concept people aren’t used to. They’re not used to a tailoring business with an antiques element; they didn’t understand what it was about. They thought the back of the shop was our private salon. It’s just about letting people know what it’s all about. We try to communicate across our media platforms and in interviews and slowly people are getting it.

LUX: How is your shop different to Savile Row tailors, independent of the fact you sell antiques and fois gras?
Joe Woolfe: I think on the tailoring side I am different. My other business, or my day job if you like, dressing iconic men, and having to sort and source perfect outfits, I always try to find something a bit different. Hence the buttons (all sourced in Paris) and the cufflinks and the extra bits we can do to an outfit. I don’t know if there is another brand on Savile Row that does what we do. I’ve worked with them all, because obviously not all of my clients are going to wear Labassa Woolfe. Benedict Cumberbatch wears Thom Sweeney, he wears Richard James, Kilgour, all kinds of products. Someone came in the other day and said they needed a top hot so I worked with Lock Hatters to get them one. My styling side really works well with this.

LUX: Joe, you mentioned being Benedict Cumberbatch’s stylist? Is there more pressure working with a celebrity?
JW: I think all clients are demanding especially when they are spending a lot of money. I think from my Spencer Hart days there was a mistake in how we ran the business whereby we concentrated far too much on the celebrities and it didn’t go down very well with our other clients. They felt the celebrities were more important than them so now I am aware not to go on and on about celebrities. I like to keep that discreetly on the side and concentrate on the person I’m with.

Labassa Wolfe tailoring

Joe Wolfe, Benedict Cumberbatch and Johan Labassa

LUX: Why did you decide to set up shop on your own?
JW: I think it was an inevitable step. I work in menswear and I love tailoring and I’ve never been able to get quite what I want out of other brands. I was reluctant to set up a tailoring business. But when me and Johan started talking about what we could do together it really excited me. It was obvious we were going to produce something that was unique and made a lot of sense to me. I couldn’t of done this without Johan and vice versa and it’s worked out really well.

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LUX: Joe, what makes good tailoring?
JW: Fabric, fabric is really important. I’ve learnt a lot about fabrics because after I left Spencer Hart I went and work with Scabal who are probably one of the best cloth manufacturers in the world, alongside Loro Piana, and they do have an amazing business. They have a £60 million cloth business and 5,000 cloths. It was like going into a kitchen with the best ingredients in the world and being able to use them. Cloth is really important and the people who make the suits. I know a lot about tailoring and the construction of a suit and how that translates onto a person. It’s all about the architecture in a garment and how the garment is built. Anybody who has worn good tailoring, and you then try and put something on them that isn’t well built or manufactured they’re not going to feel good in it. It’s about education, about what people expect. It’s like once you’ve been in an AMG Mercedes you don’t want to go back in a cheap one. Fabric, cut, manufacturing, details. Sometimes less is more. I don’t like people looking like peacocks or like clowns. I like my guys to be really sophisticated, really cool and elegant. Quite often it’s about textures rather than lots of different colours or lots of loud things. We have a few contradictions in the shop, like the black jacket with the coloured Sophie Hallette lace. But there aren’t many people who would wear that.

LUX: How do you think the world of tailoring has evolved in recent years?
JW: Guys know so much more about tailoring than they did. You can walk into Topman now and get a made to measure suit, or into Massimo Dutti. All of the highstreet brands have followed what was going on on Savile Row fifteen years ago. We’re really up against it. There are incredible online tailoring businesses that produce a really good product for a couple of hundred quid. It’s crazy. I know a lot of the cutters on Savile Row who have gone and worked with huge Chinese manufactures and they’ve brought their expertise over to China and over to India. They are producing really good product at a really good price. I’ve felt I’ve had to work harder. Haute couture is always copied onto the highstreet even with womenswear, so it was inevitable that it was going to happen with men’s tailoring as well and it has. But I think the people who are at the forefront of men’s tailoring are always going to be producing better product than highstreet brands.

LUX: How would you describe the modern gentleman?
JW: The modern guy is more educated, they read magazines that inform them on what they need to wear and how they need to wear it. You’ve got iconic men like Oliver Chesire, Jack Guinness, David Gandy who inform every guy on what’s cool and what’s not. GQ is a big supporter. We’ve got men’s fashion week that has a huge visibility so I think most guys know what they’re looking for a lot more than they used to. They have staples in their wardrobe. They often come and know exactly what they want. Some don’t get it quite right. What is a modern guy? A modern guy wants to look cool and sexy…but is that just a modern guy? I think all guys have always wanted that. Even back to the 1850s, everyone says that the One Button Narrow Notch Suit is a new thing, but it’s not. It was around 150 years ago.

Labassa Wolfe

Oliver Cheshire and Jack Guinness

LUX: What’s the ultimate men’s accessory?
JW: I think watches are really important which surprises me in this digital age, that guys are so into having something mechanical on their wrist. The amount of money that people spend on watches just blows my mind, it’s phenomenal.

LUX: Johan, your speciality is antiques – is there a particular period you prefer? Which has been your most exciting discovery and where did you find it?
Johan Labassa: Yes, mostly Louis XV, Regency, Directory. But I don’t really have a favourite period. It depends on the furniture and what I find. As for my favourite piece I’ve found…I like them all but I found a great desk from a French family near Paris. It was very hard to get because they were not ready to sell so I had to deal with it long term but at the end of the day I got it and I love it.

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Labassa Wolfe tailorsLUX: Do you think there’s an increasing demand in luxury to offer the client more than just the product?
JW: I’m actually bored with retail, because with what I do on the branding and styling side I have to spend a lot of time in luxury stores. There are very few retail experiences that I enjoy. They all have this mono brand feel to the and the staff are quite controlled in what they can and can’t do. We don’t have a huge online presence, you can’t get our candle online or our fragrance or Fois Gras. It’s pointless because unless you come here, see, touch and feel and get looked after by us you’re not going to experience what this brand is about. I think what this brand is about is proper old school retailing experience. All the little things that are bespoke to this business even down to the packaging, the bags and the covers; we’ve worked hard to get unique pieces. We want people to come here and experience us.

LUX: What are the “quintessential elements of French and English style” that are the fundamentals of the brand?
JW: It’s just a bit decadent.

JL: It’s just not normal. We’ve done something that isn’t done, it’s different.

JW: If we serve you a glass of Champagne, A) it’s French, B) We’ll add a little something to it, armagnac, syrup, orange, vanilla and coffee – it’s something Johan has manufactured. C) the foie gras is beautiful, the shoes are beautiful (all custom made in Italy), the art deco chairs are beautiful. It’s all an extension of our home, of who we are.

Reading time: 8 min
Glenburn Tea Estate himalayas
Tea Estate himalayas

Breakfast is served alfresco at Glenburn Tea Estate on the terrace. Image by James Houston

The Himalayas are one of the few corners of the earth that remain unconquerable by humans. Many of the world’s highest peaks are yet to be summitted and much of the range is still a mystery. In the first leg of a journey from North East India to Nepal, Digital Editor Millie Walton ascends to the colonial city of Darjeeling to experience life at high altitude from the luxurious view point of Glenburn Tea Estate.

Life on the mountains begins at sunrise. The curtains of our suite are drawn at 6am with the delivery of “bed tea” ( a china teapot of the estate’s finest brew) and biscuits. The room glows pale yellow, a light which will soon turn bright and icy. We have been told that this is when the Himalayas are at their most magnificent as the sun slides down the edges of the mountains, and the snow blushes pink, then gold. This morning, however, nature won’t oblige voyeuristic eyes and the mountains are concealed by layers of puffy, white clouds. Set against, the vibrant green of Glenburn’s surrounding tea plantations, it’s still beautiful, but not quite Kanchenjunga.

Glenburn Tea Estate

Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, sits opposite Glenburn

“You may need umbrellas. It rains almost every day here,” Jemima, our Scottish hostess warns us as we set off on a morning walk down to the Sikkim river. In the hot sun, it’s hard to believe, but the weather at high altitude is volatile and necessarily so for the healthy growth of tea. “Most people don’t realise that there are only two types of tea: Chinese and Assam. We grow both here at Glenburn,” our guide explains to us, as we stroll through the neatly combed lines of tea plants. Today is Sunday so there are no pickers at work, but there are over 1,000 employees on the estate who contribute in some way to the production of the tea. The estate, originally established by a Scottish family hence the Celtic name, is now owned and run by one of the most respected tea families in India, The Prakashesnot just as a business, but as a community. There are five villages, five schools, shops, hospitals, mosques, churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples on Glenburn’s hillsides. Lives are created and lived on the same soil from which the tea grows. It’s not something you tend to think about when you sit down for a cup of afternoon tea, but of course, most of the brands we are familiar with don’t have that kind of heritage, in fact, we’re told, a large percentage of the tea bags we dip into boiling water are stuffed with the leftover scrapings of leaves, the bad, cheap stuff. Unwittingly, our tastebuds have been dulled into acceptance of mediocre.

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The Glenburn estate isn’t actually in the town of Darjeeling, and whilst it’s only 6 km away (as the crow flies), it’s a painful hour’s jeep ride along mountain roads and down dirt tracks to reach the pretty green and white cottages that sit on a well kept, mountainside shelf (each morning the postman makes the journey to deliver the daily newspaper). So it’s remote enough not to see or hear the deafening horns of India’s jostling traffic, which somehow still manages to infiltrate the lower parts of Darjeeling. Walking down an increasingly steep track to the river, the only sound is the singing of birds. The lower we descend, the more jungle like the landscape becomes – the mountains here are so vast that they support multiple ecosystems – and we arrive at the riverside campsite glistening. Here more adventurous guests can camp for a night in the basic, comfortable lodge, but compared to the four poster bed in our bright and spacious floral suite, we decide lunch will suffice.

Glenburn himalayan luxury

Tea pickers on the estate

The river, flowing fast with ice cold, glacial mountain water, is the border between West Bengal and Sikkim, and whilst Indians can move freely between the two states (we meet two men returning to a Glenburn village later on with baskets of beer hanging from their foreheads, as alcohol is cheaper across the water), foreigners require a permit to cross the bridge so all we can do is peer through the distant trees. The journey back is by jeep – luxury travel gives guests the option to choose the intensity of their adventure – and the clouds are still stubbornly blocking our view, smouldering with coming rain. Come nightfall though, the mountains around us are blinking with thousands of lights revealing the isolated communities that are hidden during the day. At a higher level, the sky seems even more black and endless filled with the vibrations of cicadas.

Himalayan Luxury

The Singalila Suite

Glenburn Tea Estate

Views from the bathtub. Image by James Houston

Dinner is served formally at 8pm, following colonial tradition, round a communal dining table after drinks in the drawing room. On the first night, guests timidly trot round the edge to find their place name, smiling shyly at their neighbour, but conversation flows freely after a few glasses of wine; the remoteness of Glenburn appears to attract a more worldly and relaxed type of traveller in comparison to city smart hotels. The menu is themed each night according to the produce the estate has been able to source, and whilst it’s not quite Michelin star quality gastronomy, the chefs do well with the limited resources, often incorporating tea into dishes in innovative ways. It’s a languid, indulgent and homely evening. The very charm of Glenburn lies in its unpretentiousness and eccentricity; each room is furnished with beautiful, “lived-in” antiques, battered board games are stuffed onto shelves amongst well read books, there are no locks on any doors and guests are free to wander without butlers pouncing on them to ask if they’d like another drink. It’s a nostalgic world that could not exist anywhere else, but the foothills of the Himalayas.

Read next: Haute cuisine at high altitude in Zermatt

That night, I’m awoken by the reverberating drumming of an insect calling out hopelessly into the darkness for a female. It’s almost 2am, hours from sunrise and yet… I draw back the curtains and in the silvery light of the moon glimpse the jagged edge of a luminous mountain, just visible for a moment before a shadow moves across the sky. There’s something reassuringly calming though, just knowing that the mountains are and always will be there.

Reading time: 5 min