James Chen standing in front of plants
James Chen standing in front of plants

James Chen, Chairman, Chen Yet Sen Family Foundation and ‘Vision for a Nation’

‘Moonshot Philanthropist’ James Chen speaks to LUX about the importance of risking capital for a mission that matters

James Chen is on a mission to tackle a major problem that most of humankind doesn’t even realise exists. There are more than two billion people worldwide who suffer from debilitatingly poor vision, with no recourse to help. And yet all it would take to transform their lives is a simple pair of prescription glasses. Poor vision is a life sentence that could easily be lifted, with just a little help. In what he refers to as ‘moonshot philanthropy’, Chen – softly spoken, thoughtful and himself a wearer of prescription glasses – set out to change the world.

During his eighteen-year philanthropic journey, Chen has pioneered developments in optical technology through his company Adlens and overseen its implementation in the developing world through his NGO, Vision For A Nation. In July this year, largely due to pressure from his campaign Clearly, the UN adopted a Vision for Everyone resolution, which was unanimously agreed upon by all 193 member states. By recognising vision as a basic human right, the resolution will kickstart a global effort to help 1.1 billion people with poor vision by 2030. Here, Chen speaks to LUX about his mission.

LUX: You were influenced by your father to become involved in philanthropy. Tell us about that.
James Chen: When my father retired from business, he devoted himself to philanthropy in his hometown. I think a lot of people at that time were very generous, [but] they [only] wrote cheques. The difference with my dad was that he actually went there himself, a few times a year: he made that seven-hour trip [to his hometown], got to know the people and their needs. He set up schools, hospitals, town halls, and everything in between. Later, when he got old and stepped back from it, [I used it as] impetus for setting up the family foundation. Personally it was very gratifying to work with the family, and to build on his legacy, in China. But I wanted do dig into something meaningful globally. I had no idea what it would be.

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LUX: So how did the problem of vision come onto your radar?
Jame Chen: I came across this Oxford professor [Dr. Rob Stevens] who invented adjustable-powered lenses, and it immediately clicked with me. I grew up in Nigeria, where our family business still is, and for most of my career I’ve also been in developing Asia. The thing that struck me was that very few people wore glasses there – either because they don’t need them, or they don’t have access to them. When I met this professor, I could see how I could help solve the problem.

people trying glasses in Rwanda

Thanks to Chen’s campaign Clearly, the UN is aiming to help 1.1 billion people with poor vision by 2030. Image by Sarah Day

LUX: Adlens is the vehicle you created to tackle this. What was that journey like?
James Chen: I formed Adlens with [Dr. Stevens]. We wanted to develop the technology and apply it commercially in the developed world, and socially in the developing world. My team spent two years knocking on the door of the World Bank, which ultimately rejected us. The industry and professionals said that it couldn’t be solved, but their model of delivery of glasses is to high resource environments: that model falls over in the developing world. That’s why we set up Vision For A Nation, an NGO, to test our model in a low-resource environment. We picked Rwanda, and developed a protocol to train nurses in three days to do a good enough eye test, and to dispense glasses. In five years, we screened 2.5 million of the 12 million population in Rwanda and dispensed 300,000 pairs of glasses. We left at the end of 2017, [having] done the thing that the policymakers said couldn’t be done.

LUX:  How did you scale that model?
James Chen: Instead of replicating the program one country at a time, I knew that this was a global problem: we had to think differently. That’s where I applied my risk capital to start the Clearly Campaign. Our target was to get policymakers to understand what we called ‘the problem that the world forgot’. We said, ‘if you have uncorrected poor vision, how are you going to achieve your sustainable development goals?’. For someone who has poor vision, it’s probably going to affect their educational outcome, their productivity; even gender equality is affected by poor vision. That’s the crux of our campaign.

LUX:  This concept of philanthropy and vision, had anyone done that before you?
James Chen: No one [has] thought of it in terms of a bigger scale. That’s why I had a brick wall when I first started looking into this. People do these programs [where they] go to a village and take glasses, but that doesn’t, to me, solve the problem. Poor vision is always put into the health silo: in the priorities of what governments have to tackle in developing countries, there’s a whole list of things that are perceived as higher priority than blurry vision. But there are 2.2 billion people in the world who have poor vision, of which, for at least 1 billion people, all they need is a pair of glasses to correct it.

Read more: Gaggenau’s Jörg Neuner on embodying the traditional avant-garde

LUX: Why do you think it took a philanthropist with no prior knowledge of the sector, instead of scientists and governments, to solve the issue?
James Chen: A key problem in the world of aid is there is very little risk capital available. As a philanthropist, I am in the privileged position of being able to take risk with my capital. If it’s successful, it’s hugely impactful. If it fails, I can absorb that loss. It’s now my prime mission [to incentivise] the high net-worth community to do the same. I coined this phrase ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’, and I came up with a tagline: ‘privatise failure, socialise success’.

James Chen giving a speech

Chen delivering a speech at a Sightgeist event in London

LUX: What would you say to people to encourage them to do ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’?
James Chen: Recognise the superpower that we have as ultra-high net worth individuals: we can deploy our own capital, and we can take as much risk as we want. Most of the high net-worth community do not deploy that superpower.

LUX: Do you think there is enough dialogue between philanthropists?
James Chen: No. There’s still a lot of scope [for that]. There’s all this noise around impact, investing, and social enterprise, and lots of donors have become confused. Most people who call themselves philanthropists are really doing charity or patronage. With the ‘Moonshot Philanthropy’ idea I want to plant that seed so that there is a model for people to use. I think I’m in a unique position to reframe this, to help people to grasp it. That’s the good thing about philanthropy: it’s different from business. In business you’ve got a great idea and then you try to maximise the value. In philanthropy, if you think you have a great idea, share it, and let people run with it. That’s the best way to scale it.

LUX: What’s next?
James Chen: I’m very focused on proving the link between vision correction and its impact on things like productivity and education outcome. We need to provide the evidence base so that governments will invest. It’s not just helping me by doing all this; I’m bringing more awareness, and capital, and support to the whole sector.

Find out more: jameschen.vision

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woman sitting on wall

Portia Antonia Alexis is a leading consumer business analyst, neuroeconomist and mathematician

Portia Antonia Alexis is a consumer goods analyst and researcher specialising in the realm of neuroeconomics, where she uses advanced analytics to determine the thought processes of consumers and how best to appeal to them. Here, the McKinsey alumnus speaks to LUX about the impact of the pandemic on consumer habits and the future of hard luxury

LUX: How do you define hard luxury?
Portia Antonia Alexis: Hard luxury is simply a term that refers to timeless products such as watches and jewellery, while soft luxury refers to products such as leather accessories, bags, and designer clothing. While this may sound a little basic, an easy way to remember the difference is that hard luxury refers to pieces that are physically harder to break, while soft luxury refers to pieces that are soft to the touch.

LUX: What was the relationship between hard luxury and e-commerce pre-pandemic?
Portia Antonia Alexis: Pre-pandemic, hard luxury goods were very rarely sold online. After all, while major hard luxury retailers such as Tiffany & Co., Longines, and Rolex consistently advertised through online channels, the idea behind these advertisements would be to drive people to their in-person stores rather than try to drive online purchases.

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The reasons behind this can mostly be attributed to the price of hard luxury brands. Generally speaking, a high-quality piece of jewellery or a luxury watch will cost over $1,000, and in an online setting, many people were uncomfortable with spending such a large sum of money. Online shopping was also much less conducive to driving sales, as while an in-person salesperson could use sales tactics to condition the brain into making a purchase, the nature of an online shop made it much harder to do so. As a final note, many people enjoyed the experience of shopping for hard luxury in-person, as they get a psychological ‘high’ of sorts due to the increase in perceived status that they felt when shopping for an expensive item in person; however, when online, this reaction was greatly muted.

LUX: How has the hard luxury sector been affected by COVID-19?
Portia Antonia Alexis: As with many industries, hard luxury sales plummeted during the first few months of the pandemic, but by the third quarter of 2020, there was a large resurgence in sales. For example, in the third quarter of 2020, the luxury conglomerate Richemont had a 5% increase in sales that was largely bolstered by its jewellery assets and during that same time period, Maisons had a 13.3% increase in sales, which was largely thanks to a strong performance by its hard luxury brands Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. I expect to see this positive momentum continue in 2022, and I would not be surprised if hard luxury revenues meet 2019 levels this year.

LUX: From a neuroeconomic standpoint, why do you believe this rise in sales occurred?
Portia Antonia Alexis: Given that most hard luxury brands were reliant on in-person traffic to drive sales, the pandemic necessitated a complete revamping of the online experience so that these brands could replicate the same psychological triggers that shoppers felt when they were in-store.

One of the biggest innovations in this field was the advent of personalised online appointments. These appointments involve a salesperson booking a time with a client and then having a video conference where they have their entire collection on offer, and these were great substitutes for in-person appointments for two main reasons. The first was that the salespeople were able to use many of the same sales tactics that they used in store, and from a neuroeconomic standpoint, this generated a more positive response in the brain of the client that then led to a higher conversion rate than a simple online store would have. The second major difference was that the salesperson could physically try on a piece of jewellery, and this was important because it not only allowed the client to analyse the fit of a piece using a real person as a point of reference, but made the client more comfortable with shelling out large sums of cash for an item.

Read more: Prince Robert de Luxembourg on Art & Fine Wine

Another major innovation was the increased emphasis on customer service. On a basic level, this was done by having more people on hand to answer questions and do sales calls and by making the waiting time for answers either online or on the phone much shorter. This helped give clients peace of mind while shopping, alleviating a lot of the unknowns that come with purchasing while only having a picture as a frame of reference. This customer service also extended to details such as warranties and returns. In the past, many hard luxury companies had strict return policies, but in light of the pandemic, many made it so that you could try a piece on and then return it if necessary. This was crucial as it made people much more comfortable with making a large online purchase. However, since it is generally a bit of a hassle to return something, this barrier would cause many clients to mentally accept sub-par items, leading to items that would have been rejected in store still getting sold so long as they looked good online.

In tandem, these two factors made online shopping far more similar to in-person shopping than it was pre-pandemic, and as a result, sales were able to remain relatively high despite the fact that there were very few physical stores that were open.

LUX: Are there any other major factors that you feel were important?
Portia Antonia Alexis: I’d say that the influence of geographic variation cannot be overstated. While business in the United States was lacklustre, China and Japan, which are the second and third largest luxury markets by annual sales respectively, became especially influential after removing their COVID-19 restrictions earlier than most. That’s because there was a marked rise in ‘revenge buying’, which were shopping sprees driven by a feeling of having missed out during the lockdown, and ‘reunion dressing’, which were surges in demand driven by re-uniting with people after large periods of time in lockdown, and in tandem, this led to a massive growth in sales in these countries. In fact, mainland China was the only region on the planet to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic with higher local spending than it had in 2019, as it experienced a massive consumption growth rate of about 45%. When you further consider the increase in per capita wealth being generated in China, I’m confident that in the next few years, China may overtake the United States as the world’s leading hard luxury market.

LUX: What will hard luxury companies have to do to encourage growth post-pandemic?
Portia Antonia Alexis: I think that one of the single most important changes that hard luxury companies will have to undergo is the shifting of their focus from the American market to the Asia-Pacific one, with China being their primary long term target.

Research has shown that relative to American consumers, Chinese consumers tend to have very different responses to advertisements. More specifically, it seems that while American consumers respond well to brand awareness, which is created by, say, commercials at the Super Bowl, Chinese consumers tend to be far more concerned with intrinsic value, which derives from factors such as the quality of the materials used, how the goods are created, and what the brand’s story or ethos represents.

Chinese consumers also seem to respond poorly to discounted merchandise. Now, during the pandemic, many American brands dropped prices or released lower cost lines of products in order to make their goods more affordable to cash-strapped consumers. However, this often backfired in the Asia-Pacific, where consumers perceived this fall in prices to be a drop in intrinsic value, which therefore made the goods less desirable than they were before the prices were decreased!

In any case, I think that if American brands are to fully take advantage of the Chinese markets, they will have to focus more on building a long term story for their brand and less on simply creating a recognisable logo with flashy advertising. However, given that the Chinese and American markets are so large yet so different, the big challenge here will be to straddle the competing consumer mindsets in both regions. In my opinion, hard luxury brands can achieve this by applying different neuroeconomic principles to their marketing campaigns and brand building on a regional basis, and my hope is that in the coming years, more analysts with a neuroeconomic background will enter the consulting field so that this can be achieved!

Portia Antonia Alexis is a neuroeconomic consumer goods analyst and researcher who works with luxury brands such as L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, and Tiffany & Co. @portiaeconomics

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Reading time: 7 min
installation of paintings
art exhibition

Works by Pia Krajewski in the group exhibition ‘Lost and Found in Paradis’, Paris, 2019

The pandemic has changed the art market forever. A new model of purchasing and enjoying art is amazing, and a new generation of collectors with different passions is coming to the fore, as our contributing editor and columnist Sophie Neuendorf outlines

Sophie Neuendorf

2021 is proving a year of profound shifts within the art market. Covid-19 restrictions and socio-political changes have empowered some markets, such as in Germany, and caused the decline of others, such as in the UK (see bar chart below). The most notable, even sustainable, of several changes are a shift to online transactions, a rise in new collectors and markets, and the rapid development of alternative art-related assets. Looking back, it took a pandemic to propel the art world forward 10 years within 12 months.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

With the steady roll-out of vaccines and a slow return to ‘normal life’, many industry insiders and commentators are debating whether or not the art industry will return to its pre-pandemic existence, especially with regard to its former habit of jetting around the globe to see the latest fairs and exhibitions. But is that what collectors still want, and does it reflect the zeitgeist? The answer is yes and no, with recent developments pointing towards a hybrid model of transacting online and enjoying in person.

graph showing fine art sales

Recent data suggests that more and more collectors are confidently and regularly transacting online, with the 2021 Art Basel/UBS art market report showing that in 2020, 90 per cent of high-net-worth collectors visited the online viewing rooms of galleries and art fairs rather than their physical spaces in spite of the fact that in the same period 66 per cent of the same group expressed a preference for viewing art at a physical exhibition. For context, online-only fine art sales at the three big auction houses – Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips – in 2020 jumped from approximately US$100 million to just over US$1 billion, according to artnet data.

Read more: Helga Piaget on educating the next generation

It is predicted by the research and consulting firm Cerulli that over the next 25 years more than US$68 trillion will be transferred primarily by baby boomers to their generation X heirs and to charity, with potentially a large part going to fine art and collectibles. These are the most important groups of collectors to watch. It’s also these generations who will sell part of their inherited collections and re-invest.

According to artnet data, the categories currently most favoured are modern and contemporary art, closely followed by post-war and ultra-contemporary art. Where the collectors of the baby boomer generation were knowledge- and expertise-driven and interested in the art-historical context of an artist, the new generation is often interested instead in the context of an artwork in terms of current events (such as climate change, Black Lives Matter or #MeToo), as well as what motivates and moves the artist in question. It is unsurprising, therefore, to see the rise of ultra-contemporary art, specifically the work of African American artists and female artists (see table below). This is supported by data supplied by artnet’s partnership with Artfacts, in which the combined data points (exhibitions, art fairs, auction data, among many others) help determine the popularity of emerging artists. For example, artnet/Artfacts data suggests that work by artists such as Woody de Othello, Mario Klingemann and Anne Samat will become more desirable and valuable over the near future.

table showing most searched artists

A new generation of patrons, such as Eugenio and Olga de Rebaudengo, are driven by their desire to support emerging artists and help them reach their full potential and recognition. Their visionary hybrid model of online exhibitions and offline pop-up shows, developed in 2013, was ahead of their time and are now, post-pandemic, growing in popularity. “We are very lucky, because, for us, collecting and supporting artists and creating projects with them is a central part of our everyday life. We focus in particular on artists of our generation and try to get involved with them before they become mainstream names,” Olga explained, adding that, “When we believe in an artist and their vision, we love to collect them in depth and often we become good friends in the process.” Artists whose work the de Rebaudengos are collecting include Michael Armitage, Pia Krajewski, David Czupryn, Avery Singer, Sanya Kantarovsky and Josh Kline.

Read more: Milk Honey Bees Founder Ebinehita Iyere on youth work & creativity

The rise of new, young collectors goes hand in hand with the development of art-related alternative assets. Over the past few months, there has been a steady development in the tokenisation of works of fine art. This means that you can now purchase a share of an artwork and trade it, in the same way you would purchase a share on the stock market. Being much easier and faster to sell than an actual artwork, tokens are an attractive entry point into the art market and appeal to potential new buyers who are unfamiliar with it. Such buyers may find the prospect of investing into a blue-chip work daunting and find tokens as a way to slowly ease themselves into the pool of collectors. Keep an eye out for firms such as Sygnum and Ikon Exchange, who have recently launched their first tokenised works of fine art.

couple standing next to artwork

Olga and Eugenio de Rebaudengo with Antigone (2018) by Michael Armitage. Courtesy ARTUNER

Tokenisation of an artwork is not to be confused with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are growing in popularity among collectors worldwide. NFTs are unique digital assets, such as an artwork, stored on a blockchain which in turn is a system secure from cyberattack by virtue of its non-centralised presence online. According to NonFungible.com’s data, NFT sales peaked on 3 May 2021, when $102 million of NFTs changed hands in a single day with the seven-day period surrounding the peak bringing $170 million in transactions. If the numbers for the crypto-art category appear startlingly low, that’s because NonFungible.com only tracks on-chain transactions. Some of the biggest sales of crypto art – such as the Beeple digital collage that sold at Christie’s for $69.3 million of Etherium, Sotheby’s sale of Pak for $17 million, and so on – generally happen off-chain, meaning they are not recorded on the public blockchain. (This has, in turn, led some in the digital art community to question whether these are ‘real’ NFTs.)

The pandemic has ushered in an era of positive change as the art world finally embraces digitalisation. The new generation of collectors is a driving force, especially in terms of emerging artists and innovations. This increased liquidity will surely carry the upwards trajectory well into 2022 and beyond.

Sophie Neuendorf is Vice-President at artnet. Find out more: artnet.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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Glacier landscape
Glacier landscape

Melting glaciers will contribute to dramatic sea-level rises. Pictured: the Gornergletcher and Monte Rosa, Switzerland.

man in front of book case

Professor Peter Newell

Academic Peter Newell made waves in the global media recently with a report describing how the wealthy have a disproportionate effect on climate change, and a duty to change their travel, business and leisure habits. As COP26 kicks off in Glasgow, he speaks to LUX about how moral duties increase with net worth

LUX: How do you define ‘unnecessary travel’?
Peter Newell: It is not for us as individuals to work out what counts as unnecessary travel: governments, cities and businesses can send clear signals about which travel is critical and which is largely unnecessary. Wealthy employers can set sustainable travel policies for their companies. But all of us can also exercise responsible self-restraint. Addressing poverty and social inequality means that carbon will inevitably and justifiably increase for some people, especially, but not exclusively, in the Global South.

To still live within tightening carbon budgets means cutting back on luxury emissions, including where travel to conferences and meetings is no longer necessary when virtual platforms can replace that need, as well as reducing frequent flying for holidays. It is worth remembering that just one per cent of people cause half of global aviation emissions.

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LUX: What are the ethics of travelling for sporting events and art fairs?
Peter Newell: With finite carbon budgets that have to be shared equally, some activities become harder to justify than others. We should focus less on whether a particular event is ‘essential’, because we all feel what we do is essential, and ensure that we have sustainable and low-carbon forms of travel accessible to all. But until that’s in place, there is a need to reduce unsustainable travel through policy including taxes (to subsidise affordable, low-carbon transport), restrictions on air expansion or carbon rationing. There is an issue of collective responsibility here that trumps individual whims.

LUX: Is there any validity in the idea of personal carbon offsets?
Peter Newell: Personal carbon quotas may have some value but need to be implemented carefully. Offsets are notoriously problematic, subject to double-counting and fraudulent savings, and are really just passing the costs and the responsibility for reducing emissions onto others. Displacing responsibility is not the answer.

LUX: If wealthy individuals only do what is ‘necessary’, what’s the point of being wealthy?
Peter Newell: The issue is both how much wealth people have, because emissions are very closely related to purchasing power (to buy larger homes, cars, flights etc) and how that wealth was generated in the first place. If people make their money from activities driving the climate crisis, that is part of the problem and needs to be addressed. No amount of sustainable living will compensate for that. For wealthier people, it is also about where you invest your money and how you use your influence politically.

LUX: If everybody acts ‘correctly’, jobs will be lost in the oil, aviation and other sectors.
Peter Newell: Most discussions now are about transitions – helping workers to retrain in renewable energy industries or to work in other sectors of a sustainable economy. Research suggests most of them want a secure and reasonably paid job and have no loyalty to fossil fuel companies. There is also a need for compensation and regional development plans, the like of which have been used in helping coal-dependent regions transition to new development pathways. It is about protecting poorer workers as we make the necessary changes and redirecting the vast sums of state support in subsidies and aid that fossil fuel companies receive towards support for jobs in sustainable industries.

Read more: How Durjoy Rahman’s art foundation is promoting cultural collaboration

LUX: What of the tourism industry in the Global South?
Peter Newell: Many in the Global South are amongst the most exposed to the worst effects of climate change, a problem most who live there played little part in accelerating. For this reason, they are rightly demanding tougher action from the Global North, including reducing emissions from aviation. Small, low-lying and Caribbean island states have rightly been the champions of bolder climate action because their lives depend on it, even where some are heavily dependent on tourism. What you also might see, as we have here in the UK, is a huge boost to local economies as people holiday nearer to home. Aviation may become more sustainable through fuel and engine technology, but that will take time and clearly, for all our sakes, wealthier citizens need to reduce the amount they fly.

LUX: Is it realistic to try to recalibrate the desires and aspirations of the wealthy?
Peter Newell: Climate chaos is not a realistic or attractive prospect, but that is where we are headed. So, carrying on with business as usual is not an option. The investment and political power of the wealthy is vast and can be used to positive effect – to divest from fossil fuels, to support low carbon innovations, to use their profile and influence to back key campaigns and to pay taxes that generate the funds to address these challenges. This clearly isn’t happening on anything like the scale required. The wealthy share the same planet as the rest of us. They are part of the same society. With that comes duties and responsibilities to behave in ways that serve common interests. Planetary survival is one of those. This is a key moment for those with power, wealth and influence to use them in a bold and responsible way to safeguard all of our futures, including their own.

Peter Newell is Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 4 min
school children with painting
portrait of a woman in a white shire

Helga Piaget, Founder of Passion Sea

Helga Piaget is the founder of the Monaco-based non-profit organisation Passion Sea, which reaches out to schools around the world with educational and artistic initiatives around ocean conservation.  Here, Piaget speaks to LUX about pushing ocean conservation to the top of the youth agenda and the role of art

If passion could save the oceans, Helga Piaget would have done the job already. An engaging mix of fire and focus, she is sitting with LUX at the Yacht Club de Monaco, speaking about her programme to bring awareness of ocean issues to the younger generation through her art programmes at her non-profit organisation Passion Sea. Born in Germany and based in Monaco, Piaget spends much of her time engaging with schools to try to create a new generation who understand the issues facing the oceans, and the routes to resolution.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Our location is not a coincidence: Monaco’s Prince Albert is one of the most significant high-profile supporters of ocean causes, something in the DNA of the principality with the celebrated Oceanographic Museum and Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, as well as being the President of the Yacht Club itself.

LUX: Passion Sea strives to engage young children in the conservation debate. Why?
Helga Piaget: Education is huge. Children are the future – the next adults, and the next leaders. So, if you educate them in the right way, they might be able to make a change. I specialise with younger children because they are sponges. They educate others: when they play, they ask the other kids, ‘Why did you throw that [litter] on the ground?’ Then, they often go home and realise how much trash and plastic is in their households, and the parents learn, too. I think they know even more than us sometimes.

school children with painting

Passion Sea runs educational programs across the globe

LUX: Explain the role of art in Passion Sea’s efforts.
Helga Piaget: We educate through art, because when children paint something, or they have to do poetry, it stays in their brain. You have to get it anchored in their brain, and [the best way to do] that is through art. It makes them happy, too, learning in a happy way. We did a book with artworks from around the world [in 2017], but for the last two years we have been working on [producing] big flags with schools worldwide, with one from each country. It’s really something to be proud of. I’m waiting to do an exhibition on it, but for the moment it’s not the right time. We already have 25 countries, and beautiful works which are all related to the topic of water. A whole class of children [produces] each work: that’s what’s beautiful. When it’s ready, I often go to the school and have a wonderful event with the mayor and the parents. Normally the schools do other programmes afterwards for conservation in their area. It never stops with us.

Read more: James Chen on providing vision for all

LUX: So, for Passion Sea, creativity is a form of activism?
Helga Piaget: Yes. It’s a snowball system, from one [project] to the other. We find one school, and we meet with the directors and teachers who are willing to participate. Then, through the locals, we find the next connection to the next school. If you start in one good point, you get the connections afterwards, and they start working with you. I am very lucky because I have travelled nearly the whole world with Piaget, so I have good connections in most countries. Now I live in Monaco, which I am a citizen of, so I am very well-connected there. Our prince [Albert of Monaco] does a lot there. It’s very important to have people like him, who have a name, in my book. If you don’t have names, people are less interested. They like heroes, someone they can follow. It makes them listen more.

woman and man standing on boat

Piaget with Paris Baloumis, Oceanco’s marketing director

LUX: How difficult has it been to incentivise those in the high net worth community to care about the oceans? Does it ever feel like you like you are fighting a losing battle?
Helga Piaget: Some days it does feel like that. It’s very difficult, but if you have one or two people who understand, it gives you the energy to continue. Two years ago, I was at the Monaco Yacht Show and I was the only one who was speaking about sustainability; everyone [else] was just thinking about money. But the biggest luxury is water, and fresh air. If the water is not clean, who can sell boats? People won’t go to dirty lakes or seas. Everyone has to work together. So I said, ‘The money is in the water.’ Ever since, we have been contacting marinas and boat owners to give them flags for the boats. The flag means they are respecting and protecting the waters. [It’s a way of getting people to] think about how they live, to not to buy too much throwaway material, and to use better products when they clean their boats. A year later there were four, five, six events in construction technology, and everyone was cleaning with these new products. I was delighted. I am really just trying to make people aware. When people see me now, they always ask questions about the topics of nature. They say I am the mother of the oceans!

LUX: What is the nature of philanthropy?
Helga Piaget: Giving the time and energy to make something positive happen. It doesn’t need to be worldwide. Even if it’s small – it can be next door, in the community – it is amazing to see something happen. For me, it’s water and the environment. There is so much being done, but there is still so much to do. Water connects us all, with our body, with our whole planet. It’s important. You must feel where your heart goes – for you need a big passion and you need a lot of time – then think as big as you want.

Find out more: passionsea.com

As with all of our philanthropists, readers who have their own foundations and philanthropic interests are encouraged to reach out to our interview subjects and their institutions directly.

 

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woman holding glass of champagne

Vitalie Taittinger is president of the Taittinger champagne house. Photograph by Luc Valigny

Vitalie Taittinger took over her family’s champagne house in 2020. As well as controlling the creation of one of the world’s most celebrated drinks brands, she is actively involved in supporting emerging artists in France and elsewhere. She chats to Samantha Welsh over a tasting of some of Taittinger’s most interesting cuvées about art, luxury and, of course, her champagnes

LUX: You are closely involved with supporting emerging artists through the Fond Regional d’Art Contemporain (Frac) in Reims.
Vitalie Taittinger: Five years ago my father asked me if I could be the new president of Frac Champagne Ardenne. In the beginning I did not 100% agree because I have a lot of work at Taittinger. Six months afterwards, he was saying “everyone is so happy you have become president of the Frac Champagne Ardenne…” The president is in charge of all the political relationships, the one who challenges the vision.

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It’s very interesting because I love this project and to see the evolution of a project that was created forty years ago [by Jack Lang, the swashbuckling Minister of Culture under President Francois Mitterrand]. It’s a lot of work and it’s also very exciting because it’s very political: we are dealing with the minister and we are trying to make things happen in a good way, to protect the Frac and to push them to evolve. Art is one of the biggest motors in society because it is just full of inspiration coming from every culture, from every mix of cultures, so I think for the young generations this is crucial. I should note there is no link between the Frac and Taittinger except for the fact that I’m working every day and on both sides.

LUX: When you took over last year, did you have a grand plan or a strategy to change anything?
Vitalie Taittinger: I think that when you are in this kind of family company, changing would be a renouncement, so the aim is not to change; the aim is to go further into every detail of the elaboration of this champagne. I think that today, with the challenge of global warming and climate change, we always have to improve our way, to be very careful with the environment and to always think about how we can produce this quality of grapes which can also bring after the additional quality to the champagne.

two glasses of champagne

Image by David Picchiottino

LUX: The producer of one of the world’s most expensive wines became quite heated when we asked him if his wine was a luxury good: he said it certainly was not. Are you producing a luxury good? Is champagne a luxury good or are you producing an agricultural product?
Vitalie Taittinger: This is a luxury good, definitely. And it doesn’t mean that it’s not a cultural brand, but I think for me this is a luxury good. It depends on what you understand luxury to mean, but for me this is definitely the highest level of luxury. Also, the fact that we have so many years of experience and these are in the memories of the workers, we have everything which makes this experience different, exceptional and inimitable. To work for more than ten years on a project which we drink in one second, is crazy. The only thing you will keep with you is the memory of the instant.

Read more: Classic Ferraris and Lamborghinis galore at Salon Privé

LUX: Would you ever consider going back into the general luxury goods world, like your family did before? [Previously, Taittinger owned luxury hotels until the company was bought out by Starwood Capital in 2005; Taittinger family members purchased the champagne house back again in 2006].
Vitalie Taittinger: Maybe one day. It was a challenge when my father bought back the company and every day since 2006, we have put all of our passion and time into the company. Today, we are happy that we have done everything with passion, heart and youth. We are not financially driven; this is really a company which pays more attention and credit to humans than finance. Both are important; it’s relative but when we are thinking about our development our thinking is more irrational than rational.

woman walking through vineyards

Taittinger walking through her family estate’s vineyards. Image by David Picchiotino

LUX: Why are the French so good at luxury?
Vitalie Taittinger: We are not the only ones! I don’t know… I think we are structured, but what makes France different, I think, is the country’s relationship to the time; the history, the heritage; and the fact that when you are thinking about generations, you are not focusing on the ego; it is less about “I” and more about “how can I continue this history?” I find this interesting because you keep all the knowledge and the experience of the people that were here before; you are just reinforcing history.

It doesn’t prevent yourself from being who you are and to bring what you want to bring, but this knowledge is a kind of religion. People in companies like Taittinger are really proud of the knowledge they have in their hands. So, I think maybe this is why, but I don’t have the perfect answer.

The Tasting

Comments by Vitalie Taittinger

Taittinger Prelude Grand Cru

Taittinger  champagneThis is 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, all Grand Cru. This is our vision of Grand Cru, and you have a wine which is sculpted. You always have this energy, this freshness which you can find in the Chardonnay; light, delicate thin bubbles. It is pushed by the structure of the Pinot Noir; the two grapes are perfectly integrated; they are one. I think that all our wine is precise, super clean and in a way they are also speaking to the art which is for us very important. It has to be a pleasure!

orange and green champagne bottleTaittinger Les Folies de la Marquetiere

This is a cuvée which talks about the origins of the house, everything started in a little castle close to Epernay. My great grandfather was there during the war, and many years after, his brother-in-law called him and told him there is a castle for sale, one of the only ones to be surrounded by vineyards, and he went to the visit the castle, and this cuvée was first elaborated with the grapes around the castle. The idea with history and identity was to create a cuvée which looks like this castle, which gives the emotions that similar to when we give a beautiful dinner in this castle, from the eighteenth century.

It is a very small but beautiful castle so you have a warm, cosy feeling, you have a feeling of culture. The Folies is a homage to great moments, gastronomy and beauty; you have the richness, something which is warm, which is larger and at the same time, you find this minerality of the Chardonnay and the style of the house.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008

This is a wine we do not do every year. It was created in the 1950s to pay homage to Thibault IV who is our ambassador of the house. For us, he represents the adventurous spirit, the poetry (he was a poet), and also the very smooth relationship between men and women, so in this character we find something which is very faithful and inspiring to us.

But there is a limit – we will never be able to produce a lot. We only take the grapes of the five villages in the Côte des Blancs, and with that we only use the first pressed juice, to have the purest juice, to be able to make it age in the long term.

This is a wine we will release ten years after we make it, and it’s also a wine you keep in your own cellars. We take only the best grapes from the Côte des Blancs, afterwards there is a little elaboration process which is 5% of the juices come from Chouilly (it is more bodied), just to have this precious taste. And what is special about the Comtes de Champagne is that when you are opening your bottle, when you are having your first sip, you have the first impression that the wine is a long one, and it has more than ten years, and as you keep it, it will become more warm; minute after minute you will be be able to smell all the aromas, they are totally fantastic. This is the life of the wine!

champagne rose bottleTaittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2007

2007 was a beautiful year, strangely so: it was not a conventional one. In the grapes there was some tension, which was for us a very good sign because at the end you get a perfect wedding between both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and you get something which is both structure and harmony. You have something which is very noble and very elegant. It has the red fruits, but it’s also very deep and it also has freshness.

Find out more: taittinger.com

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Reading time: 7 min
woman looking at a painting
woman looking at a painting

Bellini’s Pietà at the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, which Beretta helped restore

The role of philanthropy has never been more urgent, and is reflected in our ongoing online series. Here, Umberta Beretta outlines her work around women’s rights and art for the many

Beretta was born into a family of prominent industrialists in northern Italy and is married to Franco Beretta, who leads the famed gunmakers. For the past two decades she has been active in fund-raising for numerous non-profit organisations and foundations with a focus on art, including her work for the Italian pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale and the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan; medical charities, including cancer research through the Fondazione Beretta, of which she is a board member, and the Essere Bambino foundation; and on social causes such as campaigning against violence against women. The Beretta family’s involvement in art is notable also for Christo’s 2016 project The Floating Piers, which connected the shore of Lake Iseo with the island of San Paolo, owned by the Berettas, with fabric-covered walkways.

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LUX: Where did your interest in philanthropy in the arts come from?
Umberta Beretta: I have always had an interest in the arts. My father Giorgio Gnutti often took me to museums or when visiting artists’ studios. My grandmother (on my mother’s side) pushed me to do volunteer work. Art is my passion and the time I dedicate to less fortunate people or causes is my way of giving back.

woman by a swimming pool

Umberta Beretta photographed by Lady Tarin

LUX: Which art projects are exciting you?
Umberta Beretta: The past year has been very complicated and frustrating, but I very much look forward to the Venice Biennale [due to take place 23 April to 27 November 2022] curated by Cecilia Alemani. I admire women who do well in the arts. My hometown of Brescia and Bergamo will be Italian Capital of Culture in 2023, so we are planning a series of cultural activities and that’s quite exciting.

LUX: How important are private and philanthropic support for the arts?
Umberta Beretta: They’re both crucial. In Italy this still has yet to be fully understood. Individuals should be given more tax incentives [to donate]. But it is in our culture to promote beauty so against all odds I think Italy will always be a motor for the arts.

Man and woman standing in front of artwork

Beretta with the Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama

LUX: How has the pandemic affected the arts in Italy?
Umberta Beretta: Tourists will always come to visit our museums. What concerns me most is the impact the pandemic will have on young, lesser-known artists, whose opportunities have frozen. And the same can be said for emerging fashion designers.

Read more: Meet the new generation of artisanal producers

LUX: What else can be done to support women’s rights?
Umberta Beretta: We can start by educating our children. I try with my son every day. All boys should be taught to respect women and all girls should be taught to demand respect. Women have the right to express themselves freely like men. In the art world, for example, women should be free to express their views on sexuality without scaring the public away. In everyday life they should be able to be mothers and have a career at the same time.

man and woman in artist's studio

Beretta with the artist Christo in his New York studio

LUX: What project has pleased you most?
Umberta Beretta: Definitely Christo’s Floating Piers. Winning the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award in 2015 for Italy. Restoring some of the masterpieces of the Museo Poldi Pezzoli through the Restoration Club… I could go on.

For more information, visit: umbertagnuttiberetta.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 Issue. 

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double artist portrait
rashid johnson cover of LUX

The main cover of our Summer 2021 issue, with a portrait of, and logo takeover by Rashid Johnson

Our Editor-in-Chief on the role of media and convergence in sustainability and luxury, from the editor’s letter in the summer 2021 issue
man in a suit

Darius Sanai

A curious thing happened to the media during the first lockdown last year. The media became everything, and nothing.

If you are struggling to make sense of that, consider this. For much of the period when we were forbidden from travelling or engaging in normal everyday activities, would wake up, flip onto WhatsApp and Instagram, login to Zoom and Teams, perhaps while checking out a YouTube video or TikTok feed on another device. In the evenings we might travel somewhere on Amazon Prime or YouTube, listen to stuff on Spotify, play League of Legends, search for a watch or a dress on Watchfinder or Net-a-Porter, or be entertained on Netflix or Apple. We would also use a podcast app to inform and entertain ourselves, maybe while Alexa or Siri read us the headlines from The New York Times.

All of that is ‘media’, which begs the question, what isn’t media?

Twenty years ago, I remember being asked, as a media correspondent for a newspaper, to write and give talks on the then new phenomenon of ‘convergence’, whereby previously completely disparate strands of human existence were starting to overlap and merge into each other. Convergence has now not just happened, but done a kind of backflip on itself. Witness the new armies of ‘creators’, who were once people with social media accounts, but are now investable business platforms leading reverse takeovers of the product lines and sectors they promote, from beauty to entertainment. They are also media, as is Ryan, who earns exclamation dollars a year opening toys on YouTube; and what is a non-fungible art token except the ultimate form of personalised, monetised media?

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All of this has left some of the traditional media in a head spin. Which tail is wagging which dog when a magazine employs a writer who then becomes an advocate for a brand she has written about, and creates a following and business worth more than the magazine that employs her?

Our partner cover for Gaggenau

In a sense, nothing has changed except the players. In this new global ecosystem, ‘media’ refers to curation above anything else – just as it did when Diana Vreeland edited Vogue. An influencer curates brands and looks; a TikToker curates social memes; a Washington Post editor curates the hierarchy and interpretation of what is happening in the world.

Far from being a constraint to traditional media, it is or should be an opportunity. We used to be expert intermediaries, reporting on aspects of the world (news, analysis, business, art) to our audiences. Now, as well as curating, we create: bring to life experiences and ecosystems. We make things happen. We also leverage our existing ecosystems in new directions.

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf on why tokenisation is the art world’s new frontier

LUX readers were previously defined simply by their demographic. But with wealth comes responsibility, increasingly so in this era, and we are both being inspired by and inspiring our readers, partners and ecosystem to not only help create a better life for our readers, but help them do what they would like to do and adjust the direction of elements of the world for the better. Media has a responsibility to lead.

The summer issue contains a 16-page section in partnership with Deutsche Bank, on sustainability and biodiversity

That is why you will see our 16-page supplement, together with our partner Deutsche Bank, on biodiversity and the blue economy. It is why we have launched our new series on philanthropy online, and given it a manifestation in this issue. Why we are partnering with brands and institutions to create events as diverse as a prize for sustainable art, and a forum for biodiversity. When I interviewed Brunello Cucinelli, our conversation was about the moral duty of those who can help to do so; we barely spoke about the sublime cashmere he makes. Responsible culture has long been our tag line; it is also our call to action.

I hope you enjoy this issue and everything else we do – keep updated at lux-mag.com and on our Instagram.

Read more from our Summer 2021 issue:

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protestors for climate change
protestors for climate change
Professor Peter Newell made waves earlier this year with a report describing how the wealthy have a disproportionate impact on climate change – and a particular duty to change their habits. The lead author of the Cambridge Sustainability Commission report on Scaling Behaviour Change speaks to Candice Tucker about the power of protest, how duty increases with wealth, and the need for radical action
man in front of book case

Professor Peter Newell

LUX: What is the single most effective non-philanthropic act ultra-high net worth individuals can do to help combat climate change?
Peter Newell: There are many things ultra-high net worth individuals can do to combat climate change. These range from, firstly, reducing emissions associated with their lifestyles, from flying less, avoiding unnecessary travel and changing the way they travel (switching to electric cars, for example) to owning fewer and smaller homes; secondly, withdrawing investments in the fossil fuel economy and investing in low carbon alternatives and thirdly, using their political influence (through access to politicians and donations to political parties) to push for more ambitious climate change.

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LUX: To encourage a shift towards a low-carbon economy, should charitable institutions including museums and universities reject donations from companies with poor environmental profiles?
Peter Newell: Yes, companies driving the climate crisis are increasingly losing their social license to operate and so museums, arts institutions and universities refusing to give them a platform or association with which to push their products or enhance their brands is an important contribution.

LUX: How effective are protests demanding action on climate change (such as the FridaysForFuture strikes) in instigating meaningful change?
Peter Newell: Incredibly effective. If we look to the past, few big and progressive shifts in society have come about without social protests and struggle. The battle to address the climate crisis is no different. Without the school strikes, governments, cities and some corporations would not have declared a climate emergency. Protests always force the issue and offer a gauge of how a society feels because they will only be successful if enough people support them directly and indirectly.

LUX: What will it take to reach a political tipping point, where climate change becomes the top priority for politicians globally?
Peter Newell: Climate change impacts everything and increasingly, people are understanding that more and more. It is a health issue, a security issue, an economic issue as well as a human rights and environmental issue. The more people connect their wellbeing and quality of life to climate, the higher up the agenda it goes. Ask people in the midst of forest fires, droughts and record temperatures if they are worried about climate change. For change at the speed and scale now required, we need lots of things to come together at the same: shifts in technology, behaviour, the falling costs of renewables and political shifts including greater representation for younger people and excluded groups. Luckily, some of these things are happening now.

housing with plants growing down facade

The highest consuming and wealthiest groups in society need to radically address their lifestyle habits, says Peter Newell

LUX: Can global governments be persuaded to put climate issues above fractious relationships?
Peter Newell: No one country is immune from the effects of climate change. So, on the one hand everyone has an interest in addressing it. On the other, countries would rather someone else moves first and powerful interests resist more ambitious action. As noted above, climate is also a security and trade issue, a welfare and work issue, a health and human rights issue and governments do pay more attention to those issues. Governments have worked together to address Covid, the key now is to address the causes of threats like that in the destruction of the natural world. Now is a marginally better time for multilateral solutions than a few years ago.

LUX: What can be done to encourage governments to campaign on low carbon policies which may only lead to a benefit long after they have left office?
Peter Newell: There are near-term benefits from low carbon policies in terms of lower fuel bills, jobs, energy security, health and many other things. These bring benefits to consumers, businesses and of course governments themselves in terms of lower health costs, energy independence and a resilient economy. These are the things governments need to emphasise to bring people with them. Some benefits will come after they have left office. That is a good legacy to leave!

Read more: Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava on light and space

LUX: Having worked with the governments of the UK, Sweden and Finland as well as NGOs including Friends of the Earth and Climate Network Europe, how would you contrast their approach to mitigating the effects climate change?
Peter Newell: For more than 25 years, I have worked with most actors in the climate space from governments, local councils, businesses, NGOs and cities. They all have different approaches to reducing emissions and enhancing their resilience to the effects of climate change. This is unsurprising given the different mandates and resources they have and the diverse constituencies they have to respond to. Right now, we need action from all of these actors. Each has a vital role to play in accelerating and deepening change.

LUX: What aspects of international governmental cooperation have surprised you in protecting the environment?
Peter Newell: International cooperation of the environment is generally very slow as countries seek to manage different interests and priorities and agree on the details of negotiating a legal text. It is often a very frustrating process, but occasionally you get significant outcomes such as when governments rapidly phased out ozone-depleting CFCs as part of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, or when the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015 set an ambitious target of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.

LUX: How can governments be incentivised to prioritise a low-carbon economy when it may be detrimental to their medium term economic interests?
Peter Newell: Any policy pathway creates costs for some and opportunities for others. With climate change though, we will also lose everything unless we respond in a way that corresponds to the scale of the threat. That also means we have everything to gain. In the short term, we need a just transition to manage and reduce disruption and negative impacts on those sectors that inevitably need to be wound down, while shifting resources and support to sectors and industries whose future is compatible with addressing the climate crisis.

LUX: Will the pandemic effect governments’ approach to climate policies moving forward?
Peter Newell: The pandemic has had a detrimental impact on government finances, so one level this is an even more challenging time to address the climate crisis. On the other hand, the pandemic has shown how quickly governments can mobilise finance, repurpose industries and shift behaviours. These are all things we need to do to tackle climate change. There is also a chance to re-set the economy: how we travel, shop, source our food and how we work. There are opportunities to radically decarbonise all of these areas if governments are bold enough to rise to the challenge. It really is the case that we can build better – and in any case going back to business as usual is not an option because it was leading us towards a climate disaster.

green house emissions statistics

Source: Hertwich & Peters 2009

LUX: How much of the problem is a lack of education in combatting climate change?
Peter Newell: The question of education is often raised in the context of educating younger generations or those with less scientific literacy about the dangers of climate change. In reality, younger people and poorer people often understand only too well the threats associated with climate change and feel a sense of injustice that they are not the ones who caused the problem yet live with its worse effects. So, it is actually richer and more privileged the people the world over that need to re-educate themselves in the need for radical action to address climate change.

LUX: Can changes made by individual citizens, such as eating less meat, have a genuine impact on climate change?
Peter Newell: There is no question that we cannot reach ambitious climate goals without behaviour change. This needs to be led by the highest consuming and richest groups in society and it also needs to address key behaviour “hotspots” around unnecessary travel, diet and housing, for example. But, we also need to think about behaviour change more broadly, beyond what individuals and households do: to consider what we do at work, in our communities and in public life where we often have more ability to shape things in a positive direction.

LUX: Are there reasonable grounds to hope we will avoid the worst-case scenarios caused by climate change?
Peter Newell: At the Rapid Transition Alliance, we talk about “evidence-based hope.” This showcases change taking place around the world today in relation to energy, transport, housing, finance and many other areas, as well as shows how we have met some of these challenges before. This shows how we can meet this challenge. But as well as tapping into all the opportunities I have described here, we need to make tough choices like urgently leaving large swathes of fossil fuels in the ground and standing up to vested interests. We need to make the right choices and the difficult decisions for all our sakes. This will only come from pressure and action on all fronts and on a scale that we have not yet seen, but things are happening, so I remain optimistic.

Peter Newell is a Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex and a key member of the Rapid Transition Alliance, which supports research and campaigning to tackle the climate emergency. Find out more: rapidtransition.org

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Reading time: 8 min
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Lady Edwina Grosvenor. Photograph by Roo Kendall at Pencil Agency

Lady Edwina Grosvenor is the daughter of Britain’s richest landowner, the Duke of Westminster, and a passionate advocate for prison reform. She is the founder and chair of One Small Thing, an organisation that works with prisoners and staff in both male and female prisons, and a founding investor and ambassador of the Clink Restaurant chain, which trains prisoners for work in the catering industry. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, she speaks to Samantha Welsh about her early work with prisons across the globe, the importance of training officers and her vision for the future

LUX: What are your earliest memories of wanting to give to make a difference?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: I was about 12 when my mother and father decided to take me and my older sister to a drug-rehabilitation centre on Hope Street in Liverpool to meet two heroin addicts, to understand about drugs and addiction. It was a pivotal moment. I remember realising there are reasons why people become addicts, and so my interest in human behaviour began. Years later, I realised I had money to give and there was a big internal wrestle with what that meant, what I was going to do with it, how I was going to do it, what would be the appropriate way. Then, at 15, I worked in a homeless shelter called Save the Family where mothers went with their children as a last-ditch attempt to prevent the children from being removed into care. The mothers were taught how to be parents. If you’ve never been parented yourself, how could you be expected to do it? I found that really hard-hitting as some fathers were either in prison, others had left, or they were dead. The mothers all had trauma-histories. I was the same age as some of the children that were there, they knew who I was and they challenged my family background. It made me think.

Working with Save the Family and visiting the two heroin addicts on Hope Street are the two really big moments in my life and both those happened before I was 16. From then on, I was always thinking, how is that fair, why have I got all this when others have so little?

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LUX: When were you drawn to advocate for justice through prison reform?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: I travelled alone to Nepal when I was 18 to work as a prison’s assistant missionary in Central Jail, Kathmandu. I was going into prison to remove innocent children serving time alongside their parents. I remember the first four boys were all under the age of five. They’d never seen a white person, and they’d never been in a car. They were violently sick throughout the five hour trip from high in the remote Himalayas down to the flatlands of Nepal. It was just utter chaos, but wonderful chaos and I was doing something that other people don’t do.

LUX: So from the start, you knew you had go into prisons to be sure of making a difference?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: Yes. It only became obvious when I went into women’s prisons in the UK. The case studies were part of my graduate dissertation on children growing up in prisons. I found that government legislation and the prison system were not responding to the reality of what was happening in prisons. After graduating in Criminology and Sociology & Criminal Behaviour, I started working with women offenders and their children. I also started to understand how the law works by working in the House of Lords. So with this, my passion and resources, I could hopefully approach this problem from every angle and be effective.

woman speaking at conference

Lady Edwina Grosvenor speaking at a conference

LUX: What characteristics are shared by the worst prisons you have visited?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: Overcrowding is a big problem, infections spread faster, it’s harder to manage prisoners effectively, it’s harder for staff to do their jobs well and its harder to run a good, clean, safe regime. Also, bad leadership. You can go to prisons that look grim but the leadership is outstanding, there’s great staff morale from the governor down to the officers on the wing and the prisoners have a sense of hope. As in business, there has to be good leadership top down through every pay grade.

LUX: How does understanding offenders’ past trauma help in reforming behaviour?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: I set up One Small Thing to understand trauma through a gender-lens. My organisation provides training for prison officers and at the end of the course, we emphasise one small thing: it’s about changing the question from ‘what’s wrong with you?’ to ‘what’s happened to you?’ The way men generally tend to deal with their violence is to externalise it whereas women often internalise it. For example, women are usually abused by the person to whom they say, “I love you” which is why they suffer more with mental health problems. If a prisoner tells you what happened to them, you stand a chance of understanding who they are, why they are behaving the way they are and then you can work with them more effectively.

Read more: New residences at hot selling Andermatt Swiss Alps

LUX: Is it possible to change the way that correctional institutions approach rehabilitation?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: It absolutely is – that is why I never get too downbeat about things because it is entirely possible. Negative culture can become very strong in some prisons and you can feel it. With One Small Thing, over six years we have been working across all the women’s prisons and the long-term high secure male estate, which is 17 prisons. We have been training the officers, putting interventions in for the prisoners and working with the leadership down through the ranks to bring about that cultural shift.

LUX: So changing the culture ‘inside’ increases the probability prisoners who have served their sentences do not reoffend once they are ‘outside’; the press has reported widely on the success of the Clink restaurants here. Can you tell us more?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: We have a five-step integrated approach at the Clink: recruitment to the programme, training, support, employment, mentoring. A lot of organisations can do one thing really well, but to be successful you have to do it all for someone not to reoffend. The mentoring is critical as it supports the hard work done whilst the person has been inside the prison training. Do you have a suit to go to your interview? Do you have a flat? Is it furnished? Do you have anyone to talk to? Maybe they can’t see their friends and family because they are part of their old life and they do not want to reoffend. It is painful.

LUX: How do you think academics and other professionals draw on your experience here?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: Our trauma work was adopted into policy and written into the Female Offender Strategy, published in July 2018 by the Secretary of State for Justice. The Clink restaurant chain has just announced its expansion in partnership with the MOJ across 70 more prisons.

LUX: Why have you had to contribute financial resources alongside your professional work?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: I think this is an interesting thing when it comes to the role of philanthropy, and the public sector. I decided not to set up a foundation so that I could give to things that weren’t registered charities. When you’re trying to bring about a system change, and do things that have never been done before, you have to do things entirely differently from the beginning. For example, the training that we put across the prisons came from California, and the author of the work is a lady called Dr Stephanie Covington. I was able to bring her from California over to England to start training the prison officers. We were then able to put her curriculum into the prisons, but none of that could have been done if I had a foundation because she’s not a registered charity; she’s a professional expert, consultant and author. The conversation I had with the head of the prison service was along the lines of “I’ve seen this amazing thing in California, we really need this across our women’s prisons.” He said, “Edwina, there’s no money.” So I said that I would pay for it and he said, “Edwina, there’s no one to organise it’. So I said that I would organise and he agreed. It worked so well that it has now gone into the male estate.

LUX: What upcoming projects are you looking forward to?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: I am working on a big five year pilot project called Hope Street. I am redesigning the justice system for women and their children in the community in the hope that we will prove concept and then it will be rolled out nationally across England and Wales. Hope Street is about offering a safe space for women to serve their sentences in the community alongside their children. There are fewer than 4,000 women in prison in this country in12 women’s prisons, many of whom are perversely sent there for their own safety. Most women are inside for non-violent crimes, the large majority are in for very short sentences. Their children get removed from them, this is about 17,000 children per year. Hope Street will sit across the county of Hampshire. The county boundary is relevant because you have the local police, the local probation, the local services and commissioning routes. We’ve designed Hope Street to fit into that local landscape. It’s designed to be replicable and scalable so that it could be rolled out nationally.

render of a building

An imagined render of Hope Street. Photograph by EnAim

LUX: How does Hope Street work?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: Hope Street will reduce the number of women being sentenced to prison in Hampshire by being the safe and healing community alternative. Women and their children will be able to access holistic, wrap around support in one place. At Hope Street there will be flats for the women and children, intervention rooms, workshops and training facilities where the women will do the work the courts prescribe. It’s a real life, open community with a café for the public as well as the women themselves, a crèche, and a garden. When it’s time for individuals to move on to a less supported environment, Hope Street will provide move on accommodation and continued support through outreach workers. It’s been four years’ in the planning and development, construction has begun and we open in Q2 2022.

Read more: Tasting with sustainable Napa wine producer Beth Novak Milliken

LUX: What advice would you offer someone else with personal resources who wants to make an impactful difference?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: I think people who have a lot should be conscious of it, and think about what they might or might not like to do with it. Wealth can be an incredibly powerful and amazing thing but it can become toxic to manage. I’ve managed to think about my philanthropy firstly, as a career and secondly, as a hobby to be enjoyed. Even on holiday in Sri Lanka last year, I found a prison opposite our hotel and managed to get in. Dan, my husband said: “Have you noticed the prison’s there?” and I said, “Of course I’ve noticed the prison’s there!”

LUX: What is the most memorable moment of your philanthropic journey?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: A big impactful one for me was visiting twelve prisoners in the Secure Housing Unit (segregation) within Pelican Bay prison, a State Male Supermax prison in northern California. In this prison the officers had guns, riots were common place, alarm bells rang; it was a chaotic, violent place. I needed to see and understand the work that the men were doing to address the trauma that they had suffered and to see how it may fit back in our English system. These men were never going to see the light of day again, however, I heard them describe their compulsion for violence as a physical fire in the stomach that they could not stop “but what I can do now is recognise it, breathe through it, and I know I can control it now.” For the first time they were being given words to be able to articulate and therefore address and process some of the horrific things they had been through. The only two things the prisoners felt were wrong with the programme were that it should be expanded to the whole prison and the teaching should be in a classroom not a cage.

LUX: What are your next big challenges?
Lady Edwina Grosvenor: Getting Hope Street fully funded and open. We have £6 million left to raise of £26.2m in order to fully fund the five year Hope Street pilot. I would love to hear from people who would like to support us.

Find out more: onesmallthing.org.uk/hopestreet

Samantha Welsh is a contributing editor of LUX with a special focus on philanthropy.

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Reading time: 11 min
lake in Switzerland
business man

Philanthropist and businessman Etienne d’Arenberg

Etienne d’Arenberg hails from one of Europe’s oldest families and is treasurer of the Arenberg Foundation, whose mission is the promotion of the understanding of European history and culture. He is a partner of family-owned Swiss private bank Mirabaud. He is also President of the Menuhin Competition Trust, and Trustee of several Swiss and UK charities. He speaks to LUX about European values, and the evolving perspectives and expectations of the next generation

LUX: Has the nature of philanthropy changed in the last two decades?
Etienne d’Arenberg: Both from my private banking experience at Mirabaud as well as from various circle of donors I belong to, I feel that there is a clear evolution in philanthropic practices. Firstly, there is an increasing involvement in philanthropic areas outside the traditional non-profit sector with growing interest from both governments and companies to partner with individual donors on specific issues. Secondly, and this is probably the consequence of the first point, there is an increasing focus on systemic change and transformative grant-making approaches that achieve greater leverage. Lastly, and this can become challenging for smaller institutions, there is a growing expectation for impact measurement and focus on KPIs.

Another trend that I see emerging in large donors’ circles – often business-owning families – is the need to align business and family platforms. The time where your company was polluting the rivers while at the same time your family foundation was giving to the WWF is over. There is a search for coherence between the different activities with a growing alignment between the business, the investment vehicle(s) and the philanthropic foundation. Interestingly, private banks in Geneva such as Mirabaud have been at the forefront of this trend with their founding families being very active in local communities, while at the same time promoting a company’s approach to addressing the most pressing social and environmental issues.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Tell us more about your last point – are people being judged by different criteria?
Etienne d’Arenberg: We are faced with issues of huge magnitude, both on the societal and environmental front and this is especially true in times of COVID-19. If you combine this with growing access to information, I do feel that there is a real demand from the public for more sustainable business practices and generally speaking pressure for accountability. I see this pressure mounting, especially from a new generation of customers and employees.

If you run a company that is active in socially or environmentally damaging activities, the issue is that you will not be able to shift your business focus overnight. Our role as investors – and this is what we do at Mirabaud – is to accept companies that may not yet be there, but which are able to demonstrate a forward-looking vision including a clear strategy to transition to clean, circular and inclusive business models. For a family-owned or family-controlled company such as Mirabaud, this is also a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with purpose and long-holding family values.

lake in Switzerland

The Arenberg Foundation organises concerts in the remote village of Lauenen, in central Switzerland.

LUX: Is inclusion and bringing people together an important element of philanthropy?
Etienne d’Arenberg: Inclusion is about embracing people irrespective of their difference, whether that’s race, ethnicity gender, sexual orientation or identification, religion or economic circumstances, and providing them with equal opportunities. This is where philanthropy plays an important role as inclusion often starts with access to education, healthcare or basic needs.

But inclusion is also about getting rid of bias, the “us versus them” old way thinking, and embracing the fact that our difference is something positive: this goes far beyond the tropic of philanthropy. I come from quite a traditional background, but I am proud to say that I do not feel threatened by a society that changes. Quite to the contrary and under the impulsion of my daughters, we have been revisiting family values and behaviours, making sure not to pigeon-hole people and being particularly mindful not to impose suffering by raw reflexes of exclusion.

Mirabaud has also committed itself to diversity and inclusion, making sure, for example, that we create an optimal workplace for women. The fact that we were one of the first Geneva private bank to welcome a female managing partner helped us to develop a solid framework for gender equality practices. This has nothing to do with tokenism as it is based on the strong conviction that a forward-looking institution needs different perspectives and experiences.

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf on building a more sustainable art world

LUX: With the demands that are ever growing on the state sector, does the private sector need to step in more to support the cultural and charitable activities that were previously more supported by the state?
Etienne d’Arenberg: I don’t want to be a judge of the private sector being ‘not enough’, because whatever comes is already something and some individual donors are immensely generous. As I was mentioning before, there is an increasing need for approaches that achieve greater leverage and I believe that public-private partnership will play a greater role in addressing the need for systemic change.

The private sector can also act as a catalyst for change, raising awareness on specific issue and campaigning direct governmental support. I have been following the work of a UK charity which focuses on children food poverty: this is a very good example of an initially privately funded charity, who is actively campaigning for legislative change and working in close collaboration with government on food delivery. I am sure that we will see more on this in the future.

sailing event

The Bol d’Or Mirabaud regatta on Lake Geneva

LUX: Does the next generation of wealth owners have different priorities for philanthropy?
Etienne d’Arenberg: Traditionally, family businesses or wealth owners have been quite active in their communities, and Mirabaud is no exception, both at the bank and at the partners’ level. Ask many Geneva-based NGOs, charities, cultural or sport institutions and they will tell you about its commitment.

I feel that the type of issues Generation Z cares about are a little bit different and I see this with my daughters. Their preoccupations are centred around inclusion, mental health, environment and racial equity. They will tell you bluntly that they are not prepared to work for a company that does not match their ethics or values, even if that means foregoing a number of lucrative jobs. To my view, this is quite representative of a generation that is much open to a new set of issues.

What is also changing is the active role they are ready to take. I think that the generation of philanthropists who will just sign a check is slowly over, and we will see a new generation of individuals who will want to take a much active role, starting earlier in life as volunteers, advocates or activists, and using a wider range of engagement tools.

As I said, Mirabaud has demonstrated a 200-year-old interest in the communities in which it operates and I sense that as a bank we are particularly interested in understanding this new generation, not only because they are our future clients and employees, but also because they are shaping the future we will be operating in, as a company.

Read more: Lamberto Frescobaldi on 1000 years of tradition and wine

LUX: Do Mirabaud’s philanthropic contributions focus on culture and the arts?
Etienne d’Arenberg: First and foremost, concerning contemporary art, in recent years we’ve been sponsors of FIAC in Paris among various other renowned institutions. We’ve also sponsored the Zurich Art weekend, which is, in a way, the pre-Art Basel event, in a more intimate setting. Even if we are an institution that celebrated its 200th birthday in 2019 (so we are 202 years old now) our motto is always “to be prepared for now”. As in, immediately at your service, to sponsor and to be interested in today’s world and that’s why we are interested in contemporary art. We know the value of looking into the past, and taking lessons into the future.

The second thing to remember is that culture is not something which always pertains to art. If you look at the enthusiasm of the public, art is not always the biggest thing, sports, for example, are part of the culture of a nation. We are sponsors of the largest inland regatta competition in the world, the Bol d’Or Mirabaud on Lake Geneva, and it’s a fascinating competition, because the lake has very particular wind conditions that are ever-changing, it is not a one-sided Caribbean type wind that comes constantly from one side and doesn’t change that often. Here again our motto “prepared for now” completely makes sense.

LUX: The concept of Europe is an important one for your family foundation. Why?
Etienne d’Arenberg: When we think about Europe, our family thinks of the continent which includes Switzerland and the United Kingdom, not only the European Union. The concept of Europe is indeed very important for our family, as it includes a set of value that are dear to our heart: human dignity, rule of law, equality and democracy to name a few. This sounds wonderful and noble, but the truth is that it is quite vague in practice.

What we have been trying to do with our family foundation is to revisit these values in the light of today’s challenges and explore new ways to shape our common future.

I am personally convinced that Europe has a key role to play in shaping the post-COVID recovery, and building a new social contract based on these long-lasting European values and at a very modest level, we are trying to be part of this conversation.

Etienne d’Arenberg is limited partner of family-owned Swiss private bank Mirabaud and is Head Wealth Management United Kingdom.

Find out more: arenbergfoundation.eu, mirabaud.com

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Reading time: 8 min
man throwing champagne botle
Man holding two glasses of champagne

Olivier Krug. Image by Jenny Zarins

Olivier Krug, sixth generation director of the Krug champagne house, sits down for a tasting with a musical difference with LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai

Olivier Krug is smiling on a Zoom screen, standing behind a row of bottles in his office in Reims, Champagne. He has just been speaking about his family’s long-standing passion for music, which he has recently combined with the day job, making some of the world’s most celebrated champagnes at the eponymous Krug champagne house, in an initiative called Krug Echoes.

For Krug Echoes, the champagne house, now owned by luxury behemoth LVMH, has commissioned a series of musicians to create music to match its different, sublime champagnes.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Olivier says the idea was inspired by an executive at the company who went to a tasting of gourmet chocolate. Each different chocolate was accompanied by a different piece of music, and while they tasted very different, at the end it was revealed that the tasters had been eating the same chocolate each time: the music had triggered such different emotions that the participants’ perception of taste had altered for each.

The science of how emotion and mood, catalysed by music, affects taste is real but in its infancy: meanwhile Olivier Krug has stolen a march on it with the Krug Echoes initiative.

Below, Olivier explains his family’s long association with music; underneath which LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai, who tasted the champagnes and experienced the music over Zoom with Olivier Krug, gives his tasting notes.

man juggling champagne

Image by Jenny Zarins

“When I joined Krug 30 years ago I sat in front my dad, and I was expecting to have the 9 AM legendary glass of Krug that people get when they join the company. I did get it, and then I was expecting my dad to start a very technical explanation of this job. He said, “You know, Olivier, my job is very similar to the role of a conductor.”

I said, “What conductor dad, are you playing music, or making champagne?”

He said, “I am creating champagne, but my job is very similar to the role of the conductor,” and I said “Why?” and he said, “My job, my mission, every year is to recreate a music that was invented by Joseph Krug, your great-great-great grandfather, in the 1840s. He wanted to create a type of champagne, and type of music, that did not exist. A champagne that would not rely on waiting for a good generation of musicians, but would offer the fullest music of champagne every single year.”

Read more: Parisian jewellers GOOSSENS opens its first London boutique

Great champagnes rely on great years, this is why most of the great champagnes have a vintage, there is a stamp on the label telling you: “This comes from 2002, therefore, it is good.” You know nothing about the story of 2002, but you trust it is the better champagne. But we do not have a good year every year, and so in other years you have to deal with a quality which is more uneven.

That was not satisfying at all for my great-great-great grandfather, who had already spent, as a young German immigrant, ten years in a big champagne house, and despite the fact he had a good job, despite the fact he was married to someone from the family, and despite the fact he was 42 years old (which was old in the 1840s), he decided to leave to create his dream: a champagne that would offer, every year, the fullest expression, the fullest music of champagne.

man holding family portrait

Olivier Krug with a portrait of his great-great-great grandfather Joseph Krug. Image by Jenny Zarins

So how can you do that? Of course, every year is different. You have good years and less good years. Sometimes, you have two or three good years in a row, and despite the fact they are good they don’t look the same at all. It’s the same as when you take the top 20 musicians of the five best music schools in the country; you will have a year when you have 18 violins, but the following year the generation of violinists will be very poor, and instead, you will have drummers and flautists.

But for me, as a conductor, I want to be in a position, every year, to sit in my orchestra and see all these instruments. I want them to be individually, if not the best, then the purest, the most intense character in their field. If I have to wait every year to have a good generation of musicians, I will have a year led by violin, and the next year will be led by other instruments and the following year will be forgotten, because no one is good enough alone on stage.

Read more: Tiqui Atencio on the value of collecting art

But if I could put myself in a position to put aside the extra musicians that I have, the year where they will not be offered to me, I will able to call them back, and ask them back into the orchestra. For example, the year where I have 18 violinists, I don’t need 18 violins in my orchestra, I only need six or eight or four so I will call the lead violin, and I will ask the other one to be a spare, and probably next year, I will call back one or two or three of them, and ask them to play in the orchestra, because the next year will not be about violins.

So every year, whatever the quality of the year, I will be in a position to find the musicians that I need to play everything. And the example of this is Krug Grande Cuvée, this is the music analogy that my dad made at the beginning.

Music has always been strongly present in my family. At the beginning of the 20th century, my great grandfather had a Salle Domestique, a room which was entirely dedicated to his friends or family members who were playing an instrument, and since that room is next to the cellar, I believe that the good people were deserving of a good glass of champagne at the end of the recital, or even before, who knows. We’ve always been very used to music.”

The Krug Echoes Tasting with Olivier Krug

Tasting notes by Darius Sanai

Krug Clos du Mesnil 2006

This is a blanc de blancs champagne (100% chardonnay) but it has as much in common with a common-or-garden blanc de blancs as a Dior couture gown has with a fast fashion frock. There are so many layers to this, like a gastronomic experience in a glass: it combines a streak of freshness with a deep cluster of honeyed buttered croissant and the aroma of cycling through Fontainebleau forest in October, with a drop of Sorrento lemon. It’s fashionable to liken complex Chardonnay-based champagnes to aged white Burgundy wine but this is something else entirely, even more complex.

I first had the Clos du Mesnil while sitting in the Clos du Mesnil smoking a Partagas D4 in the early 2000s and this is the perfect Havana cigar champagne; perhaps to be accompanied by some agnelotti al tartufo with a little taleggio. Mixing cultures, why not.

Krug Echoes music match  Krug Clos du Mesnil 2006 by Ozark Henry – Meteor’s path

Krug 2006

Highly concentrated, tightly packed, layer on layer of flavours and richesse. The Krug house wasn’t (quite) around when Louis XIV had his audiences at Versailles but this is the kind of champagne I can imagine being served to the Sun King while he feasted on partridge, his audience watching on. Chamber music would work nicely, although the Krug Echoes choice is more original.

Krug Echoes music match: Krug 2006 by Kris Bowers

Krug Grande Cuvée 162ème Edition

Grande Cuvée is the orchestral composition Olivier was referring to in his fascinating musical history of the family. For me, if it were a symphony, it would be Beethoven’s Ninth, or perhaps a Mahler. It has drama, different levels of notes, and it is endless – in the best possible way. This is a champagne you keep tasting even after you have finished it. The Krug Echoes music choice is far more digestible than a Mahler symphony, of course.

Krug Echoes music match: Krug Grande Cuvée 162ème Edition by Ozark Henry

The champagnes for this tasting were provided to LUX by Krug: krug.com/playlist/krug-echoes

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Reading time: 7 min
artwork in a lobby
artwork in a lobby

A colourful neon installation by Jason Rhoades in the home of German art dealer David Zwirner

Art collector and author Tiqui Atencio is the founder and chair of the Tate Latin America Acquisition Committee and a trustee of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation amongst numerous other philanthropic arts and culture organisations. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, she discusses her latest book, the importance of collecting art and her efforts to promote Latin American artists

Tiqui Atencio

LUX: How did you come up with your idea for your book For Art’s Sake?
Tiqui Atencio: The idea for my second book, For Art’s Sake was born whilst I was writing my first book, Could Have, Would Have, Should Have. For me, it was a natural progression. After visiting the homes of the collectors that I interviewed, I decided I wanted to write a book with photos about art dealers. I wanted to see how they lived in their homes with the artists they represent and collect. I wanted it to reflect their passions, motivations, pursuits, adventures, and personal choices.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: ‘Heroic commitment’ or ‘crazy silliness’ – how is collecting art different from buying art?
Tiqui Atencio: Buying art can be different from collecting if the intention of the person buying the work is different from buying to form a collection, or increase one. Motivations and objectives are very varied. Some are committed collectors that go the extra mile to get what they want, others are not as passionate or dedicated. I would never describe it as silliness or craziness; it’s more like a steadfast passion.

art book cover

The cover of For Art’s Sake by Tiqui Atencio, published by Rizzoli New York

LUX: How do you gain the trust to access these private homes with the team?
Tiqui Atencio: Most of the dealers I approached and interviewed were either trusted friends or people I had met through the art world at different occasions over the years, sometimes having bought from them myself.

Read more: Lamberto Frescobaldi on 1000 years of tradition and wine

LUX: From your interviews, what essential principles guide an architect or designer in showcasing a collection?
Tiqui Atencio: I believe that a good designer or architect will take into consideration the taste of their client in art, their collecting patterns, and preferences in lifestyle and choices in home living.

LUX: Among the homes you have visited, do you have any personal favourites?
Tiqui Atencio: Every home and collection had a certain angle of attraction, and I can’t say I had a favourite one, but being originally Latin American I could have moved in Luisa Strina’s home in São Paulo with only a toothbrush.

artwork hanging in living room

Lucian Freud’s Annie, a painting of the artist’s eldest daughter from 1962, hangs above a sofa upholstered in William Morris “Acanthus” print in Iwan and Manuela Wirth’s home in the Scottish Highlands

LUX: How do you think your own approach to collecting has changed over the years?
Tiqui Atencio: At the beginning, when I was very young, I was buying what I liked without too much information. With time and experience, I buy with more caution and research, but still following my heart and instincts.

LUX: For Art’s Sake integrates with your other roles within art philanthropy, what are you most proud to have achieved with its publication?
Tiqui Atencio: I am very proud to inform the readers of my books about the sense of sharing, giving and philanthropic commitment to the art world that most collectors, through their collecting practices have given to humanity. Their sense of responsibility, their generosity and their role in promoting art and culture.

Read more: How women artists are reshaping art history

LUX: What inspired you to become Chair of the Tate Latin American Acquisition?
Tiqui Atencio: I was part of an effort to increase the holdings of Latin American Art for the Tate. The intention was to promote the art and artists from the region of the world where I was born. So, I came up with the idea of forming a committee who would be willing to support this initiative, and that is how the Latin American Committee for Tate came to life.

contemporary art hanging

Platypus, 2009 by Amy Sillman in the home of British art dealer and collector Ivor Braka

LUX: Have you found that the pandemic has affected art buyers’ attitudes?
Tiqui Atencio: Yes, personally I am buying less. I am longing to go back to the fairs and auctions of the past to see and feel the emotions and excitement of falling for a work of art. I have bought online, but not often and I can’t say it’s the same experience.

LUX: Do you think the pandemic has affected fine artists’ creativity?
Tiqui Atencio: I believe the pandemic has affected us all in some way – positively and/or negatively. With time, it will be interesting to see what comes out of this challenging moment. I am a positive thinker and I do believe we will come out better than we think – same with artists!

LUX: What is your favourite period of art?
Tiqui Atencio: I confess it’s mid-century Latin American Art, but my taste is very eclectic and varied and in my collection, there are many periods and styles.

Find out more: tiquiatencio.com

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Reading time: 4 min
man in vineyard
man in vineyard

Lamberto Frescobaldi is the president of Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi

Lamberto Frescobaldi is the 30th generation (yes, you read that right) head of Florence’s Frescobaldi dynasty which has done everything from build bridges and palaces in Tuscany to create one of the world’s most epic wine groups. In the first of a new series on leaders in the wine world, the owner of Masseto, Luce, Ornellaia and many other wines chats to LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai over a tasting of the Frescobaldi’s flagship Luce wines

Lamberto Frescobaldi:

“Frescobaldi is a family that goes back to 1000 when they showed up in Tuscany, and then arrived in Florence around 1100, so from a little village out of Florence to Florence. Then a gentleman called, like me, Lamberto, in 1252, built the bridge where now is Ponte Santa Trinita, there is a little square called Piazza de’ Frescobaldi, for the bridge that he built there and he owned all the houses there.

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He comes up quite strongly under the light of Florence in that century. Then the Frescobaldi, began to do as many families of Florence did, they became bankers. Because in those days one of the things that was complicated was to ship money. Money was risky, has always been risky, and so funnily enough the first cheque ever invented was here in Florence by Francesco Datini, he invented the cheque, it was a revolution. Think of taking a piece of paper and writing a value! It was a total revolution.

vineyard estate

The Luce wine estate in Montalcino, Tuscany

And then they understand that it is important to move the paper, but not to move the money. So, the money was here and there. Then the Frescobaldi, around the 14th Century, they actually become important bankers through Europe. It was the aristocratic families of Europe, they were always fighting between each other. The Frescobaldi became bankers of the families of England. They actually moved to England, and they became very powerful because they were bankers of the king. And the king actually gave them the run, in Devonshire, of the silver mines. Then they became too famous and too powerful and then the king, I can’t remember which one, but he kicked them out of England. Then they came back to Florence, and from bankers they became farmers.

Read more: Durjoy Rahman on promoting South Asian art

wine cellars

Inside the Tenuta Luce cellars

So, long story short, I believe that my family have always been very forward-looking and innovative. And that is reflected in what happened with me and the Mondavi family (the legendary wine family of California, who have Italian origins). Around the mid 90s they show up in Italy, and they wanted to do something in Italy. They had moved from Italy 1908, and they went to America because Italy was a tough country in those days. And here they wanted to come back, and we got together, and there was again a beautiful relationship. This changed my way of doing my job, Mondavi opening up a window, a window opened giving me the opportunity to taste wines everywhere around the world. Sharing fears and also the beauty of producing a wine together. And now it is the 25th anniversary of Luce, the wine we created together.”

wine bottles

The Luce wine library

There follows a tasting of Luce wines, with Darius Sanai’s notes below each:

Luce 2013

A big, powerful, rich wine but also fresh and light, a remarkable combination. Plenty of fruit, plenty of tannin. I would drink this in five years with a pici al cingiale (thick Tuscan pasta with a wild boar ragu) on the terrace of the Villa San Michele above Florence at sunset.

wine bottle

Luce 2017

Luce 2006

Less power, more softness, an almost gentle wine but with a long backdrop of olive groves, fading into the olfactory distance. One to drink while perched on the old city wall of Montalcino, looking over the Colline Metallifere hills towards the sea hidden beyond, and across the endless forest.

Luce 2002

An almost gentle red wine, belying the Tuscan reputation for producing big reds. Yet there’s a persistence of dried berry, vanilla, and the kinds of herbs you sprinkle on pizzas that make it very moreish. A lunchtime wine, on the Piazza del Campo in Siena, looking at the people wandering past as another day disappears.

Luce 1998

Wow. You wouldn’t believe this wine is older than this millennium. Both powerful and zingy, it has a different character to the others, fascinating to see what can happen as great red wines age. Peppers, cherries, and also a waft of Bistecca alla Fiorentina, beautifully balanced. One to drink over dinner, in late autumn, in your Florentine palace, with your loved one; and like the Frescobaldis, I think this wine will last forever.

Thank you to Lamberto Frescobaldi for his time and the wines for this tasting.

For more information, visit: en.lucedellevite.com

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Reading time: 4 min
Man standing in front of painting

Durjoy Rahman is an art patron and collector, and the founder of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Art collector and patron Durjoy Rahman founded the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation in 2018 to promote South Asian art and artists to global audiences by hosting exhibitions, commissioning new works and facilitating cross-cultural residencies. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, he discusses the business of art philanthropy and why artistic narratives play an essential role in documenting history

LUX: How does giving fit with your beliefs?
Durjoy Rahman: Giving has been engrained in me since childhood. My parents instilled the importance of money management by giving me an allowance from a very early age. I was always told to save, use and give from that amount. It’s something I teach my children. The gift of knowledge is often held in high esteem in Asian culture more so over monetary ones. Due to limited availability of wealth to majority of the people and the long history of colonialism, the patronage of the arts and culture was very scarce and I wanted to contribute in a meaningful way. I feel privileged to be able to promote artistic endeavours from southeast Asia.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Why were you compelled to collect art as opposed to another valuable asset type?
Durjoy Rahman: I started collecting by chance not by a scheduled plan. We received a beautiful painting as a wedding present from a prominent artist. I wanted a few more paintings for my walls, so I started to visit galleries to find things I liked. Then I started reading more about the artists whose works spoke to me. I collected pieces that were notable and told stories about their artistic journey. Most pieces were passion buys just because I loved them. The inherent value of art lies in the pleasure of acquiring it and holding on to it. If one goes in with the mindset of building assets, the fun of collecting evaporates in entirely. Of course, the collection is valuable not because of its market value but because many were done by artists who introduced new techniques in Bangladesh and played an integral part of our art history. Many works were destroyed due to lack of preservation so not many notable works remain.

LUX: What triggered your decision to advocate for South East Asian artists?
Durjoy Rahman: South Asia has a rich cultural heritage. Art, music, and dance are a part of our daily life, but because of the long history of colonialism, artistic patronage was scarce. After independence, more and more art institutes were established and art movements were started. Now, the world is becoming more connected and the traditional hubs of art in Europe are also encouraging more diversity. This has made the global art scene very interesting and not limited to only European schools. The South Asian art scene is becoming more established with the growing number of art events and institutions, but still the artists need a lot of support to be able to establish themselves internationally. Patronage is essential for art to thrive and survive. Our artists are very talented and I hope that the individual like myself can contribute to introducing these artists to an international audience.

collage artwork

Joydeb Roaja, The Right to Relief, 2020 – one of the artworks included in Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation’s 2020 online exhibition Future of Hope

LUX: Western narrative discourse about South East Asia is dominated by tragedy, conflict, schism, floods, famine, genocide. What is the relevance of art in crisis?
Durjoy Rahman: South Asia was under colonial domination for centuries. The postcolonial period has been plagued by border and religious conflicts. Conflict, famine, tragedy has happened in every country in the world; the Great Depression in the United States, Europe after World War I and II. Every country has experienced suffering but the Western narrative about our region was most remembered because of globally televised news that emerged in the 60s and 70s that established these stereotypes for South Asia. All crises always inspired the creative community. It’s their narrative that makes us understand human suffering better. Otherwise, it’s just historical information. The birth of Bangladesh in the 70s was followed by a famine. Many artists depicted horror with their artworks. I think these artworks depicted suffering for generations to come and understand what the country went through. Only humans can create beautiful things out of a painful experience. The narrative creates history.

Read more: Jewellery designer Tessa Packard on charity & creative thinking 

LUX: Where will the voice of truth and art tell the history in these dark times in Myanmar?
Durjoy Rahman: It is said the history is often written by victors but it is little relevant now due to global access of information to everyone. Every narrative is available and it is up to reader to draw their own conclusions. Documentation and witnesses about Rohingya plight made the world change their views. The sufferings are established fact result from the autocratic activity by the ruling regime. The quarter that caused these past miseries have solidify their position with the new situation that recently unfolded in Myanmar.

Artworks and tapestries created by Rohingya women and children depicting the horrors they endured will always be a part of history; they have cast aside the “official” narrative .

painting of a boat

Mong Mong Sho, Songs Of Covid 19, 2020 from the Future of Hope exhibition

LUX: Why did you headquarter DB Foundation in Dhaka and Berlin?
Durjoy Rahman: Berlin and Dhaka are both thriving art cities filled with many talented artists. DB Foundation aims to be a conduit for art and artists across Europe and South Asia. Berlin is an international city for art and design and a perfect place to build greater awareness for South Asian artists on the global stage while Dhaka remains DBF’s epic centre for activity.

LUX: Your focus is ‘to promote art from South East Asia and beyond in a critical, international art context.’ Which countries particularly?
Durjoy Rahman: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

LUX: Are there examples from this rich art heritage you are excited to have introduced to the West?
Durjoy Rahman: Bengal has thousands of years of heritage in art and craft. Textiles were one of the wonders from this region and played a dominant role in our glorious past. Historically, the intricate weaving in Muslin fabric from Bengal received an appreciation from the West and also became a sign of superior craftsmanship in many European royal courts.

Through the DBF’s outreach program and artist residency program, we aim to show the world once again the skill and creativity of Bengal. I have the privilege of donating a work by Mithu Sen from West Bengal, India to the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany. Her work is based on a collection of memorabilia that people normally collect as souvenirs. It was a great accomplishment to help bring Mithu’s work to the western audience according to the Museum press release the first work of a female contemporary artist collected by a major public institution in Germany.

Currently, we are working on a project that will tell the story of displaced elephants due to the Rohinga crisis where the artist used sustainable material like bamboo and quilt making skills to tell a story about this plight of humans and animals caused by conflict. The work will be displayed internationally with the support and initiative from DBF.

LUX: Your archive of artists, past and present is acclaimed and you mentor emerging artists. What was the game-changer for DB Foundation in a critical sense?
Durjoy Rahman: The real challenge for us has been to find a niche in the global art events and to make a meaningful contribution to the artist community. We adopted the model of a residency program centred around an idea or a burning issue. Artists from different parts of the world interpret the central theme. For two weeks the artists live and work together. For artists in southeast Asia, it’s a unique opportunity. For artists from Europe, this is also an experience to work with the brilliant artists from Asia and understand their perspective. So I would say our Majhi Art Residency program is a game-changer for DBF foundation which we have been hosting since 2019 and plan to continue for the next ten years.

public sculpture work

Sujan Chowdhury, Wings of Hope, 2020 from the Future of Hope exhibition

LUX: How did the pandemic affect upcoming exhibitions, commissions and residencies?
Durjoy Rahman: We have ventured alternate art space to exhibit art on a limited scale while major public exhibition spaces were closed. We continued our International Art Residency in Berlin during Berlin Art Week 2020 despite pandemic and to maintain consistency of the continuation of our supported projects internationally. However, the pandemic has really brought forward the need to use technology in every aspect of our lives and the focus has shifted to connecting virtually. We too are focusing on remote initiatives and found the many ways one can connect to a greater audience. We still tried to engage artists and marginalised artisans during the pandemic while observing safety protocols. Last year, at the peak of the pandemic, many craftsmen and their families in Bangladesh were greatly affected due to the economic downturn and low tourism activity. We created an initiative to support traditional craftsmen and their families by offering practical and financial support so that they can continue the creative process.

Read more: Alia Al-Senussi on art as a catalyst for change

LUX: Circularity could be said to future-proof giving. How can business support art philanthropy at the level of helping people help themselves as opposed to funding them top down?
Durjoy Rahman: The business of art philanthropy has been historically top-down going back to how art and crafts were supported by royal and affluent patrons in the Europe, Americas and Asia. I think that to create a more sustainable and self-sufficient model, the public needs to get involved and be motivated. While I think that the top-down approach will always be a critical part of art philanthropy, businesses can create public demand by creating programs for the public (especially virtual events) meant to keep the public engaged and inspired. As long as this demand exists and businesses are meeting it, they will become partially self-sustained in funding channels.

LUX: 2020 was Covid-dominated, hopeless, until the point of vaccines’ licensing, as will be seen when lexicographers list the vocabulary we used most. What can art philanthropy offer in a wider sense to humankind?
Durjoy Rahman: The Covid pandemic has really focused the public on the importance of one’s mental health. Creativity, art, and culture are the ultimate mind healers, and art philanthropy supports that. Being a cultural foundation DBF were probably the first organisation in Bangladesh got involved with front line workers to equip them for better safety and serve people more confidently.

woman weaving in a village

Here & above: Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation launched its philanthropic project “Bhumi” in 2020 to support rural creative communities in Bangladesh. Courtesy Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation and Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Art

LUX: Your passion to connect extends to activism through your support of satirists and the rights of minorities. What do you feel was particularly relevant to defend in 2020?
Durjoy Rahman: Migration, displacement, and supporting minorities. We focused our activities with minorities in 2020 through one of our major initiatives “Bhumi”, where we worked with artists and craftsmen from a marginalised ethnic group. We are currently working with Rohingya refugees and the environmental consequences of this mass migration. We are trying to build awareness among the international community about the plight of this ethnic group and its impact on the fragile hills of our border and the already dwindling elephant herd which inhabit that area.

LUX: Where has DB Foundation facilitated public discourse and created the climate for political change?
Durjoy Rahman: Diversity has been at the centre of the creative field, especially now. We have done several initiatives across Europe and Asia aimed towards actively facilitating our activity in the arts and culture from South Asia. Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation wants to bring representation to these artists, give them the recognition they deserve, and bring their voices into the art conversation, so they are heard. Our initiative “Future of Hope” has also highlighted a key word “hope” during the early break of pandemic. Now, “hope” has become a global slogan.

LUX: What one piece of advice should an art philanthropist share with the next generation?
Durjoy Rahman: Be generous when thinking of art and culture – a small contribution can make a significant impact on the art and artist.

Find out more: durjoybangladesh.org

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Reading time: 10 min
portrait of a woman in a living room
portrait of a woman in a living room

Jewellery designer and philanthropist Tessa Packard

Tessa Packard is the founder of her eponymous fine jewellery brand, and a business mentor for several youth and education-focused charities. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, she speaks to Samantha Welsh about charitable giving amongst younger generations, the influence of social media and why successful philanthropy requires creative thinking

LUX: How did you first get involved in philanthropy?
Tessa Packard: I grew up in a very philanthropically orientated family. Charity was a forward theme in our household, and because my parents were so passionate about it, my sister and I adopted an interest in the concept of ‘giving back’ at quite a young age.

It wasn’t until I was eighteen, however, that I really understood what charity work actually meant. At my father’s suggestion, I agreed to a three-month volunteer placement at the Amelia Trust Farm in Wales, which is a grassroots charity supporting youngsters who have largely been excluded from mainstream education at the hands of abuse, neglect or neurodevelopment disorders. It was a complete baptism of fire. Despite everything I had been taught by my parents about the ‘real world’, experiencing it first hand was somewhat different. True reality was infinitely more gritty, unfair, shocking, brutal and humbling all in one mouthful. I still consider this experience to be one of my most formative.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Who has been your greatest influence?
Tessa Packard: With regards to philanthropy, my father and my great-grandfather (who I never met, but was instrumental in shaping my own father’s beliefs in charitable giving).

LUX: What sector are you passionate about?
Tessa Packard: Most of my philanthropic involvement to date has revolved around the theme of education and systemic change. Education has always seemed to me to be a sensible place to invest my energy, whatever the end goal. Whether you are looking to eliminate polio or save the rainforest, all roads tend to lead back to education.

painted mural

women painting mural

Here and above: In collaboration with Lyndsey Ingram Gallery, Tessa Packard and her team created a mural based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book The Secret Garden which was later installed in Honeypot House, a children’s charitable home in Hampshire

LUX: Do you think there are any parallels in being a creative and being a philanthropist?
Tessa Packard: Interesting question. I think that successful philanthropy requires creative thinking. It can be a challenge to communicate successfully with your audience, and more often than not, the answer to solving any human-socio-economic problem on a long-term, systemic level is complex. The philanthropist must be willing to take risks in order to bridge the void between sectors – a task that is far too frequently overlooked – and this requires out-of-the-box tactics and a fertile imagination. You have to believe that even the most impossible outcome is possible, and generally speaking creatives are quite good at doing that because their job is to always think about the ‘new’.

Read more: An interview with Brazilian artist Maxwell Alexandre

LUX: At what stage of someone’s life have you seen intervention make the most difference?
Tessa Packard: If you were to approach philanthropy like a business deal, then investing in people at an early age generally yields better results in the long term. In practice, however, it isn’t quite so simplistic. Creating systemic change in any sector requires all the wheels of progress to turn at the same time, and that means transforming everyone and everything connected to the supply chain in unison.

crab-shaped earrings

Tessa Packard’s crab earrings from her Secret Garden collection

LUX: What success story has made you particularly happy?
Tessa Packard: I’m extremely excited about the work of Emmanuel Akpan-Inwang, who is currently building a new generation of children care homes in the UK. The existing model is embarrassingly inadequate and I really think Emmanuel is about to revolutionise a very important sector.

LUX: How do generations Y/Z give compared with generations X and the Baby Boomers?
Tessa Packard: I am by no means an expert here, but Baby Boomers generally tend to have much more prescriptive attitudes to philanthropy. They might begin to think about ‘giving back’ only when they are comfortably installed in steady, well-paid jobs and / or with a little more time on their hands. Baby Boomers also like to be able to justify their philanthropic investments – if you look closely, most of them tend to donate to causes that they personally understand or have experience of. They also tend to be less hands on and more cheque book-forward.

Read more: How women artists are reshaping art history

Generation X philanthropists are a mix of the old and the new. Whilst they also see philanthropy as something to enjoy in their more settled or mature years, they are often less partisan or dogmatic in outlook, meaning the manner in which they look at philanthropy is often more creative than the Baby Boomers. This generation can be credited as the originators of a number of entrepreneurial social programmes, and although Generation X are more hands on, they are generally so in two specific ways. The first is in a visionary capacity, as the founder, trustee or leader of a charity or charitable programme; or physically, by raising money organising or taking part in fundraising challenges, such as marathon running or mountain climbing.

Generation Y or Z philanthropists are probably the most hands on of the groups to date. They tend to be the more likely of the three to actually volunteer or spend time with grassroots organisations. There is often a desire to have a direct, personal relationship with the charities or individuals they support, as this direct line to the charity is integral to the experience of authentic ‘giving’. Giving back, for them, needs to be itself an experience – handing over a cheque is not fulfilling enough. Generation Y / Z philanthropists also tend to be concerned with, or involved with, charities and organisations that deal with large, macro-level problems such as global deforestation, ocean plastics or refugees. Unlike the Baby Boomers, these themes are not chosen as a result of lived experience – they are a reflection of the concerns of the here and now.

rustic looking earrings

‘Forest Glade’ earrings by Tessa Packard

LUX: What issues come up most frequently in conversations about giving that you are having with your network?
Tessa Packard: There are a large number of adults in their 20s and 30s who have the means and energy to fund or support grassroots charities across the globe, yet have no idea where to start or who to fund. They want to be authentically connected to these charities (they like the idea of working with smaller organisations as they can track the impact of their donations or expertise more easily), but also want to feel part of something bigger. Time and time again the question we ask ourselves is how to best connect these dots.

LUX: Does the impact of social media change how things are done or how well they are done?
Tessa Packard: In general, I think charitable organisations have a lot to learn when it comes to making the most of social media. It’s not surprising to be honest – I can barely keep up to speed with it myself when it comes to my own business, and imagine if you are a grassroots charity with limited funding and even less free time… I certainly think a few free branding or marketing tutorials by big agencies for small charities would be a helpful start. The exchange of knowledge and expertise is often one of the most valuable donations a larger organisation can make to those in the charity sector.

LUX: Social impact entrepreneurialism or outsourcing to a third party manager – how do you choose?
Tessa Packard: The best kind of philanthropy is the one that is considered, and encourages the philanthropist to keep giving. Whichever route you choose, I would always start with the same question: what do I want to fix, and what is preventing this problem being fixed now? From there you can do a deep dive to identify where you need to go in the sector to create systemic change, and how best to do it. Sometimes the answer is to create your own vehicle to combat change, and sometimes it is best to support an existing vehicle that knows the ropes and is ready to expand.

LUX: Can you offer some ideas to a teenager wanting to start on their lifetime journey of giving?
Tessa Packard: Do a three-month volunteer placement at a grassroots charity. You might question your sanity at points, but you’ll never regret it.

LUX: What is one thing they should not forget?
Tessa Packard: My great-grandfather used to say: ‘Don’t carve your name in dark and gloomy places; carve your name with pride for all the world to see.’ I think that’s a pretty important lesson: whatever you decide to do with your life, make sure it’s something that you are proud to be remembered by.

Find out more: tessapackard.com, @tessapackardlondon

Samantha Welsh is a contributing editor of LUX with a special focus on philanthropy.

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Reading time: 7 min
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Headshot of man in blue shirt

Alexandre Mars is the Founder & CEO of non-profit foundation Epic and the Founder of Paris-based VC fund blisce/. Image courtesy of Epic

French entrepreneur, author and philanthropist Alexandre Mars founded nonprofit organisation Epic in 2014 to help change the lives of disadvantaged young people around the world through individual and corporate donors as well as partnerships with other social organisations. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, he speaks to Samantha Welsh about the importance of encouraging people to give more often, building a strong team and putting in the hours to achieve success

LUX: When did you start your first business and what made you do it?
Alexandre Mars: I started my first business at 17 years old by organising concerts at my high school. While I didn’t have the natural ability to become a professional athlete or movie star, something about entrepreneurship resonated with me.

The goal was never just to make money. It was about what to do with that money – a means to an end. Growing up with a mother that instilled values of altruism and solidarity in me from a young age, I knew that I wanted to give myself the necessary resources to protect my loved ones and then help others in need around the world. This first business was a first step toward realising that mission. I earned enough money to buy my first computers and that’s how my career as a tech entrepreneur was born.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Why did you pivot from serial entrepreneur to successful philanthropist?
Alexandre Mars: I’d actually consider that it was more of a continuation than a pivot. As I mentioned before, it was always my goal to help those less fortunate. It just took me a bit longer than expected to generate the means of being able to do so on the scale I hoped.

When I was ready to create Epic, my foundation, I still came at it from a very entrepreneurial perspective. In fact, a close friend of mine asked me an essential question as I embarked on this new venture: ‘What’s your uniqueness?’ In other words, how could I help others in ways that someone else couldn’t. Entrepreneurship is what I know best, so I built Epic like my previous startups, methodically and always with market needs in mind.

Working with young people can make for the most measurable outcomes. We know empirically that intervening early on is the most effective way to change life trajectories. That’s why we’ve decided to specialise in helping children and young people aged 0 to 29 years old.

Disadvantaged youths can come from anywhere, whether it be halfway across the world or in our own neighbourhoods. While the specific issues may vary from physical safety and job prospects to education and healthcare access, the overarching injustice remains the same: no one should be denied the opportunity to live their life to its full potential just because of the circumstances of their birth.

children's charity

Alexandre Mars in Mumbai. Image courtesy of Epic

LUX: Tell us about Epic.
Alexandre Mars: Epic is the culmination of deep market research into the philanthropic sector and the solution to three major obstacles to charitable giving: lack of knowledge (about who to give to), lack of trust (that the funds would be put to good use) and lack of time (to do the necessary research).

Our vision is a world in which every child and youth has access to safety, empowerment and equal opportunity. Our mission is to find, select, back and monitor high impact charitable organisations in order to catalyse their impact on underserved children and youth, and the systems affecting their lives. We are able to effectively fund them thanks to our donors who pool their resources together via our platform.

There are currently 26 organisations in the Epic portfolio worldwide, working on essential issues like access to healthcare, employment, education and physical safety. To date, we have raised $30 million.

What sets Epic apart is the robustness of our methodology that promotes transparency and accountability. From the outset, Epic has had a rigorous selection process to ensure trust and confidence. We curate a portfolio of high-impact, mid-size organisations addressing the complexity of issues affecting children and youth in a select number of countries, through a thorough and cutting-edge sourcing, vetting and monitoring process.

Another important factor is timing. We intervene at a stage in these organisations’ development when our support is the most transformative, allowing them to scale and have an even greater impact on children and youth.

Read more: Alia Al-Senussi on art as a catalyst for change

LUX: You are the enfant terrible disrupting traditional philanthropy, yet you build great teams. How do you go about that?
Alexandre Mars: Whether at Epic or any other startup I’ve founded, an undeniable key to success has been building the right team. And it starts with humility: you need to evaluate your strengths as well as your weaknesses, and hire for those needs.

For example, I built my career in the tech space, but I don’t know how to code. I surrounded myself with talented, passionate people. But it’s not enough to hire them. You need to have trust and give them autonomy to do their best work. It sounds like a simple formula, but it really works.

LUX: What issues around methodology come up most frequently in conversations between your NGOs?
Alexandre Mars: One of the interesting things that comes up often is how we measure success. We have been working hand in hand with our portfolio organisations to define a specific set of KPIs that they report on and that are tailored to their issues areas and strategy, for example: academic success rates or job placements. It’s a very interesting data-driven process that enables Epic to understand organisations’ performance in the context of their own success metrics as well as in the context of our centrally defined framework.

LUX: You have ‘skin in the game’ and pay all operating administration costs yourself – what are your expectations of companies and individuals who give and outsource to Epic?
Alexandre Mars: Two words: involvement and trust. We make sure that donors are very engaged throughout the giving process and that they’re able to follow their impact. Thanks to our thorough monitoring that brings accountability, our donors are more likely to continue giving. It’s a virtuous circle. This relationship of mutual confidence keeps our donors coming back year after year.

I also ask our donors to move away from certain outdated views on philanthropy, and to understand that impact and success cannot always be boiled down into quantitative terms like the number of children served per euro spent. Our organisations are dealing with a complex set of issues, and change takes time, as well as precise methods of measuring and understanding those outcomes. But you are right, I do have a lot of skin in the game so that 100% of all donations are sure to go directly toward changing lives.

Man posing on chair on paris streets

Image courtesy of Broadsoft

LUX: How has your approach guided your selection of partners in diverse regions and cultures?
Alexandre Mars: Our methodology takes into account 45 criteria in three categories: governance, impact and operations. It was developed by our team that draws on experience from both the non-profit and private sectors. For example, we’ve integrated best practices from the venture capital sector and evaluate organisations as if we were investing in a tech startup, looking at factors like growth potential, the quality of the leadership and most importantly, the organisation’s ability to create changes in the lives of the children and young people they serve.

The principles of our selection process drive at an understanding of how an organisation fares against an objective set of criteria. By looking through the lens of each organisation’s internal and external contexts, we are able to look at a worldwide set of organisations operating on vastly different issues and across varying social, financial, operational contexts. Interestingly, we do observe a certain universality, to an extent, in these organisations’ frameworks.

LUX: What corporate structures are most open to outsourcing their philanthropy to optimise returns?
Alexandre Mars: We work with corporates, but also foundations and individuals. One of the most frequent reasons they choose Epic is because we address three major obstacles in charitable giving: lack of trust, time, and resources. This is especially true when it comes to funding organisations that are in other countries than where the donor is located. We are a sort of one-stop-shop that they can trust.

Furthermore, I believe that people go through Epic to support children and youth because they have confidence in our model that focuses on strategic philanthropy. We look for impact and have developed a cutting-edge selection and monitoring methodology to ensure a certain return on investment, to borrow a term from the business world. It’s quite innovative, which explains why Harvard University did a case study on the Epic model in 2019.

Read more: Michelin-starred high altitude dining in Andermatt

LUX: To the average person, charities want to get more people to give, whereas you want people to give more often. Why?
Alexandre Mars: Our experience has shown that charitable organisations benefit from having a stable source of funding, rather than volatile ups and downs throughout the year. It allows them to more effectively plan and allocate resources to those they serve. That’s why our model is centred on multi-year unrestricted funding, giving organisations the stability and autonomy to do what they do best. We encourage companies and individuals to make giving a habitual action and embed the social good in a way that fits seamlessly with their personal situation or business model.

The form this solidarity takes will vary from case to case. For example, we’ve worked with Société Générale on a simple yet innovative solution that allows the bank’s corporate clients to round-up foreign exchange transactions and donate to Epic. And for entrepreneurs, we created the Epic Pledge whereby they commit to donating a percentage from the future sale of their company.
You are mission-driven, so how do you control social media to deliver success?

LUX: How does blisce/ fit into your current vision?
Alexandre Mars: At my growth stage venture capital fund, blisce/, we support mission-driven entrepreneurs to build global consumer technology companies like Spotify, Pinterest, Headspace and Too Good To Go. So we’re approaching social impact from another angle, but it’s absolutely core to our collective vision.

Finance can be a powerful tool and, if yielded responsibly, can be a force for good. That’s why we’re committed to working with our portfolio companies to improve their (and our own) environmental, social and corporate governance measures. For example, our term sheet includes two non-negotiable clauses for ventures: an agreement to carry out an ongoing ESG evaluation every 12-18 months, as well as a commitment to interview at least one diverse profile for every open senior leadership position. Our team has committed to donating 20% of its carried interest revenues to Epic, so it’s really a virtuous circle between my investment and philanthropic activities.

As a testament to these engagements, we’re very proud that blisce/ recently became the first B Corp certified growth stage VC fund in the E.U.

LUX: How has this vision developed and what projects are you looking forward to over the medium term?
Alexandre Mars: It is my view that solidarity and sharing are going to become increasingly essential, and that we can no longer rely solely on public support if we are to address the challenges we face such as rising inequality, climate change, lack of diversity, gender inequality. We need the participation of the private sector and an engaged citizenry as well.

In the near term, we will be doubling down on our strategies at Epic and at blisce/ to identify and support exceptional social organisations and mission-driven companies that positively contribute to our communities and planet. I’m thrilled by all of the determined social entrepreneurs I meet on a daily basis, and look forward to announcing those that we’ll be backing soon.

LUX: Has Covid accelerated how you do things?
Alexandre Mars: In my opinion, Covid has accelerated a trend that has been building for the past several years. I’m old enough to remember how different the world was just 20 years ago. People viewed success differently: it was about the number of zeros in your bank account, about having a corner office and a company car. Today that’s all changed, especially with the arrival of the millennials and Gen Z. Today, we know that real fulfilment and purpose comes when you put that material success toward realising your mission, whatever it may be.

Covid has only reinforced this evolution, as it has given many of us time to pause and reflect while also exposing the ever-widening rifts in our societies. So in terms of how it’s changed things for us at Epic and blisce/, I can’t recall a time when we’ve seen such an outpouring of support from across the board, or so many entrepreneurs for whom combining purpose and performance is an automatic must-have. It gives me reason to believe in the work we’ve been doing and to be optimistic about the future.

Image by T.G. Herrington

LUX: What lesson did you learn with a start-up as a teenager that you will share with your own kids?
Alexandre Mars: Entrepreneurship, including my first venture, has taught me so many lessons over the years. That’s part of the reason I wanted to write my recent book on the subject (it’s out in French now under the title OSE ! Tout le monde peut devenir entrepreneur, and the English translation is coming soon).

If I had to pick just one piece of advice, I’d emphasise the importance and necessity of hard work. Luck and natural ability only account for a small fraction of success. What will set you apart is outworking the competition, which will inevitably require sacrificing other activities such as going to the movies, coffee breaks, and weekends with friends. You won’t be able to do everything and work hard at the same time. That’s the harsh reality of it.

In my book I talk about Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell and the 10,000 hour theory he popularised. He explains how, in any discipline, 10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of world-class mastery. This theory is based on the experience of three psychologists in observing violin students at the prestigious Berlin Academy of Music. The results were surprising: future international maestros each had reached 10,000 hours of practice; good violinists reached 8,000 hours, and future music teachers did not exceed 4,000 hours.

To take another example: when the Beatles were successful in 1964, supposedly coming out of nowhere and taking the world by storm, in reality they had exceeded 12,000 hours of rehearsals and concerts. They didn’t just appear overnight.

And as a last piece of related advice, I always remind my children about the importance of having a mission. In the end, having a sense of purpose is what brings true satisfaction, plus it will sustain you on your arduous but rewarding entrepreneurial journey. When you wake up in the morning with something bigger than yourself on your mind, you’ll find the motivation you need to succeed.

Find out more: epic.foundation

Samantha Welsh is a contributing editor of LUX with a special focus on philanthropy.

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Reading time: 13 min

Alia Al-Senussi is an academic and global arts patron. Photograph by Anton Corbijn

Alia Al-Senussi grew up between Egypt, South Dakota, and Minnesota, and is now based in London where she works as a cultural strategist with a special focus on young patronage and culture within the Middle East. She is the Art Basel Representative for the UK and MENA, a senior advisor to the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia and a guest lecturer at institutions such as Brown University and Sotheby’s Institute. Here, Al-Senussi discusses her philanthropic efforts, work in Saudi Arabia and belief in art as a catalyst for social change

LUX: What forms the basis of your passion for art and culture? When did this interest begin?
Alia Al-Senussi: I am passionate about contemporary art and supporting living artists. I focus mostly on Middle Eastern art and artists as this is close to my heart and my heritage. I very much hope I see the day when more artists of Middle Eastern origin are integrated in to the wider art world, and society looks past myopic views of political systems and embraces people, and the change they are trying to bring.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The first time I really understood what contemporary meant in the context of art was visiting Tate Modern in January 2004, and experiencing the life-changing work by Olafur Eliasson The Weather Project. It felt like an overwhelming moment: to gaze into this vast space and to see people treating a museum like a social space rather than a temple to worship art. In this way, art could change the way we see and the way we act—I became a believer.

Art provides an alternative discourse by which we can solve problems, promote heritage and instil a sense of national pride. My hope has been that by educating artists and patrons we can then educate the wider population on the benefits that art can bring to their everyday lives, not only beautifying the communities where we live, but also promoting more creative ways to solve problems, bridge differences and build community sentiment and strength.

H.R.H Alia, 2016, Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy the artist

LUX: What is it about certain contemporary artists such as Manal Al Dowayan that so inspire you to champion them?
Alia Al-Senussi: In Saudi artists and patrons I see this deep commitment to art as a cornerstone of an evolving society. I am proud to be a part of this fascinating art world, and to help introduce more and more of my friends to Saudi culture, and to artists like Manal AlDowayan, Dana Awartani and Maha Malluh. These pioneers, of all ages, have been the voice of their society, as well as patriot activists. They are change-makers as well as cheerleaders, leading us all in to a brave new world.

Phil Tinari, a dear friend, and brilliant cultural leader, visited Saudi Arabia at my invitation in September 2019, and immediately understood what was unfolding. He has since agreed to work with me and our team at the Ministry of Culture, as the curator for the inaugural Ad-Diriyah Biennale. Collaborating with Phil has been a sustaining (and guiding) light in this year of uncertainty amidst Covid-19. Phil sent me this message the night he arrived to Riyadh, illustrating just how quickly he grasped the changes afoot – it is a quote from Václav Havel’s 1994 speech The Need for Transcendence in the Post-Modern World:

“Today, this state of mind or of the human world is called postmodernism. For me, a symbol of that state is a Bedouin mounted on a camel and clad in traditional robes under which he is wearing jeans, with a transistor radio in his hands and an ad for Coca-Cola on the camel’s back. I am not ridiculing this, nor am I shedding an intellectual tear over the commercial expansion of the West that destroys alien cultures. I see it rather as a typical expression of this multicultural era, a signal that an amalgamation of cultures is taking place. I see it as proof that something is happening, something is being born, that we are in a phase when one age is succeeding another, when everything is possible. Yes, everything is possible, because our civilisation does not have its own unified style, its own spirit, it’s own aesthetic.”

Al-Senussi with friends at Roden Crater. Photo courtesy Alia Al-Senussi.

LUX: The world is watching the next generation of Saudis and there is an optimistic outlook for women’s voices to be heard – how have you found your passion for politics, power and patronage is received among educated women of influence in Saudi?
Alia Al-Senussi: My work in Saudi Arabia has been multifaceted, as I have been part of the moment when this cultural community came together and continued to evolve. I was lucky to have been introduced to Saudi through family, and then friends, and to have been there at the first moments of a cultural reawakening almost two decades ago, helping to make connections amongst members of the community within and outside of the Kingdom. Women were then, and still are, at the forefront of culture and are change-makers at every level.

Read more: Life coach Simon Hodges on how to thrive in uncertainty

The idea that culture can change a community was instilled in me throughout my life, but never more so than through my work with Art Basel. I have been able to translate this to so many parts of my personal and professional lives. My colleagues at Art Basel and in Saudi embrace the belief that culture has power; that it is at the nexus of change and positive evolution.

LUX: You are renowned not only for your intellect, but also for your drive. How much of your time does chairing or founding patron groups take up?
Alia Al-Senussi: I actually think I fried brain cells rather than grew them getting my PhD! It certainly was an intellectual exercise, and one that made me realise how important it is to continuously exercise one’s mind, as well as emotions. My mother instilled in me a sense of honesty, integrity and work ethic. She taught me that one must not rest on history or title, but one’s own value and contributions to society. My maternal grandfather often discussed the value of “being a productive member of society.” I have taken these values to heart and strive to make a contribution, big or small, in any way I can through the work I do.

Most of my personal and professional time is taken up with activities in art and culture. I am fortunate that many of my friends are also intimately involved in the art world so I can share these fantastic and special experiences with them. It makes it a lot easier to keep busy with work when you do it with people you love and admire!

Al-Senussi at Mada’in Salih, an archaeological site located in the area of AlUla within Al Madinah Region in the Hejaz, Saudi Arabia. Photo courtesy Alia Al-Senussi.

LUX: What exactly is your role as Chair of the Tate Young Patrons, and how do you ensure you get optimum results?
Alia Al-Senussi: I served as Chair of the Tate Young Patrons for 5 years, and now sit on the Director- and Board- appointed Tate Modern Advisory Council as well as being a founding member of the Art Now Supporters Circle (Tate Britain). The Tate holds a very special place in my heart. It was one of the first institutions I got involved with in London, through the Young Patrons. Then the Middle East and North African Acquisitions Committee was launching and I was one of the first people on board. One thing led to another and I was asked to be a Young Patrons Ambassador, and also to represent the Young Patrons on the advisory board of the Tate. I feel like the Tate is family and also that I have a responsibility to help it evolve and grow, not just in London, but in the Middle East also, and in terms of its role in society, particularly at this fractious time.

LUX: Can you tell us a little about your work with Delfina Foundation?
Alia Al-Senussi: ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’ – that is my motto, and one that I see embodied in the work of Aaron Cezar in his role as Director of Delfina Foundation. Aaron, and the foundation, are unlike any other. Delfina is a home, not just at its physical space in London, but also throughout the world whenever you come across residents (artists, curators and collectors). Delfina Foundation is a safe haven, and Aaron is the ultimate angel, providing solace and shepherding our entire community to embrace new concepts while breaking down the intellectual barriers that keep us apart.

Read more: Juanita Ingram on empowering women in the workplace

LUX: What are your proudest achievements?
Alia Al-Senussi: I discovered my passion for art and the art world by chance. Upon graduating with my MsC from LSE, some friends recommended that I meet Michael Hue-Williams to work on a project he had created in Siwa, Egypt, with the world-renowned artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov.

I had never worked in the arts, but as I had an interest for non-governmental organisations working in the Middle East, I thought this would be an interesting first job for me. Also, the fact that Siwa bordered Libya was particularly poignant.

In the end, it was fate and I fell in love with art, the art world and everything about it. I saw it as being a perfect way for me to balance my interest in political science, international relations and the history of the Middle East with a “softer” way of approaching the difficult issues facing the region.

My entire life is shaped by this first art world experience, and by the belief that an international cosmopolitan world is a better one. Every time I make an introduction, conceive a project or bring people somewhere new, I feel a deep sense of pride – the world shrinks that tiny bit more and we learn more about our neighbours and about humanity.

LUX: How will COVID-19 affect what do you do?
Alia Al-Senussi: I hope, and fervently believe, that people will realise the importance of culture in this new and renewed world. Of course things are moving online in the short term, and I believe that this means we can share our shows and messages with a wider audience and hopefully make them want to come see things in real life. Art Basel provided me, and so many, with an online community, but this was not a substitute for the thrill of interacting with people, swapping stories, having fun and experiences in Hong Kong, Miami and Basel.

Al-Senussi at The Lightning Field.

LUX: We know you have been passionately engaged with the US election process and we would love you to share with us a few ways you think the result will benefit the work of your partners over the next four years.
Alia Al-Senussi: I have decided to embrace beauty. I also have committed myself to art and artists that reflect my values, and who work to effect positive change in their worlds, and in mine.

A large part of my Libyan identity was actually shaped by my mother, an American of Scandinavian-German origin who grew up in Worthington, Minnesota. My mother studied International History for her Bachelor’s degree in Minnesota. She fell in love with Middle Eastern culture so upon graduating decided to pursue a Master’s at the American University of Cairo. It was in Cairo that she met my father.

My American identity is inextricably linked to my Libyan heritage, to my belief in an international cosmopolitan world, and to the life I have built for myself in London, the Middle East and Asia. Everything I held dear was shattered in 2016, by others’ small-minded desire to isolate ourselves from the “other” in the US and the UK. I couldn’t imagine that was the world I was living in. How could my community reject the essence of me in such a way? My friends bundled me up, helped me to heal and gave me my marching orders (literally!). Going to the Women’s March in Washington was a therapeutic moment, and now four years later I see the change again, and I am hopeful we can rebuild and evolve by making a world that is more equitable and by embracing the ideals that I hold dear.

LUX: Any other advice for our readers who might be considering going into art philanthropy?
Alia Al-Senussi: Artists, collectors and institutions are becoming more aware, and truly taking ownership of their ability to be change-makers. I applaud institutions like the Tate that are working to accurately reflect our world in their galleries—a global cosmopolitan world.

Fill yourself with passion, surround yourself with people you admire and embrace the idea of what is right, rejecting what is wrong. As mentioned before, a rising tide lifts all boats, so make sure your community rises with you.

Follow Ali Al-Senussi on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/alia-al-senussi

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Reading time: 11 min
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Juanita Ingram is the founder and chair of the board of trustees of Dress for Success Greater London (DfSGL)

Attorney, author and actress Juanita Ingram began working as a volunteer for women’s charity Dress for Success in the United States in 2008, and went on to found the London branch in 2015. The charity’s aim is to empower women by providing them with a support network and professional development tools. Here, she speaks to Samantha Welsh about developing a structure to help women professionally and emotionally, the impacts of the pandemic and embracing the accessibility of a virtual world

LUX: When did you set up Dress for Success and what spurred your passion for the project?
Juanita Ingram: Dress for Success Greater London (DfSGL) was reestablished in 2015, but the actual journey began in the prior year with seeking foundational approval and initiating its startup phase. DfSGL affiliate is part of a global franchise of charities with 150 affiliates that span 30 countries.

In 2008, I was faced with department-wide downsizing (redundancy) while concurrently devoting time as a Dress for Success volunteer with an American affiliate. Even with my successful and established career as an attorney (possessing a J.D. and M.B.A.), I was not shielded from the devastating economic crisis of 2008. By bearing witness, as a volunteer with Dress for Success, to the women who were overcoming immense adversity in their own unemployment, I was reinvigorated when I went through my stint of unemployment. I was blessed with outstanding professional skill sets and impeccable credentials, and still during the 2008 great recession, myself and other professional women like me were not immune from the economic vicissitudes of challenge and change.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

In my time as a volunteer, I had already become acquainted with Joi Gordon, Dress for Success’s worldwide CEO. When I relocated to London for my husband’s job promotion in 2011, I had stayed in contact with Gordon who later asked me to start the new non-profit affiliate in London. Given my high regard and immense passion for the charity’s mission, which aligned quite well with my own experiences, I felt confident that it was truly an undertaking that I was not only equipped, but also divinely purposed to do. When divine purpose is aligned with a powerful commitment of personal will, the result is mission driven success.

The work, planning, and coordination was incredibly challenging in the beginning, as it is with all startups. One must go through the natural maturation process of building grassroots functionality from the ground up, including fundraising, searching for viable properties, creating a fictional and mission critical team, and building everything from a visionary inventory to a viable and productive volunteer base. While there were certainly days that I questioned my ability to rise to the challenge and continue our mission critical goals, I was inevitably reminded and reinforced by what had already driven me this far; those who had far less, many who were holding on for the one ounce of encouragement and advocacy that would sustain a rebirth of hope and life achievement.

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Ingram speaking at the Power of Women Awards 2020

LUX: What kind of women reach out for help?
Juanita Ingram: A few years ago our mission statement set forth that we aimed to help women coming from socioeconomically ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds; however as the enormous changes to the global economy broadened its impact on our society and especially women, our mission also evolved so that we currently, we serve the ‘unemployed and unempowered’ woman.

Read more: British artist Antony Micallef on his hybrid method of painting

As we have experienced and encountered an incredible diversity of backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses from our clients, we have been privileged to serve a much broader demographic spectrum many of whom emerge from extraordinary and overwhelming circumstances of human trafficking, domestic violence, homelessness, addiction, and incarceration. We also have the privilege to serve women who are recent graduates from higher learning institutions. Our dedicated work includes mothers returning to the world of work, or seasoned executives who have been market classified as job skill redundant and who may find it necessary to polish their interpersonal confidence and enhance their soft skills and interview skills-sets. We anticipate escalating demand for our services as we navigate in the new economic norm. Preliminary surveys reflect that statistically Covid-19 will negatively impact unemployment in women more than any other demographic group.

Fionnuala Shannon (Executive Director of DFSGL) and Ingram (centre) with the 2020 Power of Women Clients of the Year winners

LUX: What are the steps to preparing them for success at interview?
Juanita Ingram: DfSGL literally dresses women physically and emotionally from the inside out. We always begin with professional attire because, as we know from sociological research, we only have about seven seconds to make a lasting impression. We live in an increasingly visual world. The fast-paced nature of social media has continued to shorten this “impression” window. With validated research, we now have even less time to really make a substantial impact on potential employers.

While we understand the outer appearance of a person plays an important role in their job seeking success, our 80% success rate at our London affiliate can be also attributed to the thorough interview training and soft skills that we teach and reinforce that immediately after a woman’s personal styling session. During this critical training, we provide mock interviews, CV and resume review, confidence-building activities, and non-verbal body language training. Much of this has been seamlessly transitioned to a virtual format in which DfSGL teaches women about success in a predominantly virtual and universally easily accessible format.

As women, we tend to downplay and psychosocially minimise our successes. DfSGL trains clients to answer questions with power, positivity, and clarity; using enlightening descriptors that highlight their strengths, which ultimately lead with words that are of profound impact and success driven outcomes.

Ingram (right) with Joi Gordon CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide at the Power of Women awards 2020

LUX: What is your hit rate in placing clients?
Juanita Ingram: Our London affiliate’s 80% success rate is due in large part because of our focused job interview training, and DfS is among the few types of nonprofits whose impact is seen almost instantly.

The first client I ever mentored, styled, and empowered, had managed to escape a domestic violence situation and resorted to living in her car. The moment she saw herself in the dressing room, there was an instant transformation of personal and emotional self-esteem. The services we provide enable a woman’s impression of herself to change dramatically in the sense that she sees herself in a way she hasn’t seen herself in a long time, or perhaps ever before. We help women shape their self-worth, self-image, and self-esteem, which ultimately leads to their reenergising level of self-efficacy.

LUX: How do you support clients once they’ve won the job?
Juanita Ingram: DfSGL offers several support programs to our clients after their initial dressing and training and successful job attainment. Our foundational support standard is provided by being the Professional Women’s Group (PWG). PWG is a monthly support group for our newly employed clients and works to ensure our clients ultimately sustain and thrive in their newly attained positions. We also provide several workshops each month to ensure and support prolonged client success inclusive of financial literacy, makeup techniques to enhance presentation in the workplace, negotiating skills, and other forms of sustainable professional development.

Each PWG class offers a supportive environment for successful clients to bond, interact, and be success supported. The members of the group encourage one another in professional endeavours. In addition to skills and strategies acquired through ongoing workshops, we are also motivating and encouraging clients to develop a network of client peers and virtual advocate staff in light of COVID-19. Though these diverse support offerings are not intended to substitute for professional mental health services, the support meetings have often served as a way for women to unpack and confront the staggering difficulties that this year has brought them in an advocate based supportive atmosphere.

Read more: Life coach Simon Hodges discusses how to build harmonious & loving family relationships

LUX: Circularity is key to your strategy – what sorts of partnerships have accommodated your vision on the fashion supply side?
Juanita Ingram: Dress for Success has a mission driven duplicity of service existence in that not only do we employ fashion to empower women; we also extend the useful life cycle of garments and contribute to fashion sustainability in significant ways. Our affiliate thrives from the generous support from fashion leading corporations, fashion brands and retailers. Our corporate supporters often run clothing drives and encourage their executive women to donate gently used items. For example, we were fortunate to be selected as the charity of choice for the London law firm Weil. They financially supported DfSGL programming, hosted in-house clothing drives, and supported our annual Power of Women awards.

We have also received mission critical support from numerous fashion brands who seek philanthropic and alternative sources to dispose of end-of-the line fashion garments. The companies avoid burning or disposing of garments in a manner which avoids the production of waste. Fashion brands and retailers such as Ralph Lauren, Gucci, McArthur Glen Outlets, to name a few, have opted to donate pieces to DfSGL instead of participating in the common practice of burning surplus clothing. To put it simply, our organisation is fashion sustainability personified. DFS affords the opportunity to give new life to clothes destined for destruction. This sustainability initiative further empowers new and positive perspectives in the lives of thousands of women.

While some donated apparel cannot be repurposed for professional interview purposes, brands like Adrianna Papell are global DfS partners and have permitted the London affiliate to resell formal wear pieces in what we call our Confidence Shop, a fashion resale charity shop in Kensington. All monetary proceeds from such sales are used to support our mission and the women that we serve. These types of philanthropic partnerships are dramatically extending the life cycle of fashion garments and significantly reducing abundant clothing waste. At DfSGL, we reflect “goodbye land fills and welcome to second chances” for the donated garments supplied to our clients.

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Ingram at the Power of Women Awards 2020

LUX: What do you believe is the motivational factor behind these partners getting involved?
Juanita Ingram: Philanthropic partnerships produce outcomes and impact – these are the core motivational factors that we see most often in the calibre of partners that support the work that we do. We are fortunate to have numerous like-minded corporate and fashion retail supporters who are drawn to the work that we do. Ultimately, their primary desires and motivations are to support women. Companies gravitate towards our charity because our core values are synergistically aligned: empowering women, tackling poverty, and having a positive impact on our planet through a highly valued fashion sustainable initiative.

Statistically, when you change the professional and interpersonal trajectory of a woman’s life, you also empower a corollary impact upon the lives of the people who support and depend on her. When the opportunity to support a green fashion sustainable initiative that empowers over 1200 women annually in London presents itself to companies and their brands, they are expedient and strategic to provide support and align with our mission. The indirect financial result of the work that we do saves the city of London on average 2million pounds annually. Corporate sponsors and brand partners know that they can trust our services and that their investment in the charity and the women we serve will yield a great return on investment.

LUX: How do you transfer the skillset you’ve developed in law and real estate to fundraising? Would you describe fundraising as a business?
Juanita Ingram: The business acumen and related skills acquired from my 18 progressive years as a business attorney have greatly informed my experiences and planning with Dress for Success Greater London, Dress for Success Chattanooga, and Purpose Productions Inc. My first few years of legal practice were devoted to helping to structurally establish nonprofits and give them the foundational knowledge and tools to govern themselves, which, of course, are critical to the process of successful operations, organisational governance, and fundraising.

The ability to apply the wealth of academic knowledge and practical experiences from my law and MBA degrees continues to prove beneficial in strategic planning, corporate sponsor relationship management, and board leadership. When presenting the long-term impact of our work to donors, sponsors, and volunteers, the unique ability to effectively deliver substantiate a clear and effective business case; inclusive of the return on their investment metrics (ROI) is vital. With giving, people desire transparent communication and a clear strategy for applying all donated assets with integrity and in a manner that is fiscally responsible. Our actions must align with our vision, mission, and values.

The fundamental ability to clearly articulate how funds are used, as well as how clients, donors, and their community will benefit from a strategic and technical standpoint is the hallmark of a successful non-for-profit entity. When one merges sound fiscal practices with the ability to manage relationships, as one frequently does in the practice of law, you maintain much needed transparency and integrity with donors. In fact, fundraising quickly becomes the business of relationship management.

Proper governance, effective operational management, and innovative fundraising strategies for a nonprofit business are essential to the sustainability and success of the organisation.

Read more: Entrepreneur Wendy Yu on creativity & charity

LUX: Are there individual success stories that you are particularly proud of?
Juanita Ingram: Our 2019 Client of the Year, Runa came to us after suffering from depression and a series of suicide attempts. Her subsequent transformation has been so profound. This young woman is a testament to a woman’s internal strength and tenacity to pivot her life in remarkable ways. When I see a transformational journey like this, which has included hosting her own podcast and exploring the work of radio, I am affirmatively reminded of DfSGL’s purpose.

In addition to our Client of the Year, we had the opportunity this year to highlight some additional clients with amazing journeys of triumph and transformation, and resiliency. Our Power of Women Awards, which takes place every March during International Women’s Day, celebrates ordinary women doing extraordinary things. We provide a platform for women executives locally and globally for their advocacy of empowerment and workplace upward mobility. In 2020, in honour of celebrating the fourth year that this event has been held since establishing the new London affiliate, the accompanying panel of speakers highlighted four DfSGL clients and their success stories.

LUX: COVID has placed particular stresses on women especially across the world. How has the organisation been able to crisis-manage an integrated response when no one has ever experienced a pandemic?
Juanita Ingram: Our Executive Director Fionnuala Shannon and I have heavily leaned on and learned from one another this year. While many small to mid-sized charities have closed their doors in the wake of COVID-19, Dress for Success Greater London managed to adapt to our “new normal” rather quickly. We are determined that Covid-19 will not defeat us, but rather define us!

The seamless relationship between the Chair/Founder and Executive Director of a nonprofit is critical on a normal day. The personal and professional rapport between Fionnuala and I is what allowed us to forecast and persevere in a powerful and sustainable way. Amidst the pandemic, we’ve managed to raise substantial funds, maintain corporate relationships, and operations, as well as provide new, innovative programs.

I am currently residing and operating my non-profit production company remotely while living in Taiwan as an expat for my husband’s job promotion which has enabled me to have a very insightful lens on the pandemic. Having the vantage point of operating businesses on three continents (the US, UK, and Asia) has further enabled me to be informed about COVID-19 prior to my US and US counterparts. Leveraging the information and knowledge that I acquired while in Taiwan (which has successfully managed the pandemic as a country) has proven to be beneficial to our London affiliate.

Read more: Marine biologist Douglas McCauley on environmental philanthropy

Witnessing and experiencing firsthand Taiwan’s swift response to the initial spread of COVID-19, provided me with the advantage of being able to craft organisational response plans earlier than most. You see to deal with COVID-19, I find one has to be proactive rather than reactive in preventative planning that ensure the viability of one’s business and own personal health. With this position of knowledge-based strength and posture of informed and insightful leadership, Fionnuala and I were able to get ahead of the curve well before much of the Western world. As a result, we were able to pivot our services to accommodate the needs of our clients in the new norm.

One program which was borne out of the need to innovate and shift during the pandemic was the development of DFS Express, which is a virtual styling and clothing provision program I launched in London and in the US. By meeting with clients virtually, DfSGL is still able to provide styling and training sessions; while delivering garments via mail or other services. Our affiliate in Chattanooga, Tennessee (US) has had to adapt the program in different manner, as this affiliate is still in the start-up phase and launched in the midst of COVID-19. In lieu of mailing physical fashion pieces, our Tennessee clients have been sponsored by donors to purchase what they need online through the distribution of cash gift cards. With the utilisation of this new online purchasing methodology, DfSGL is able to continue supporting women through unprecedented circumstances while also safeguarding them in addition to our team of staff and volunteers.

LUX: How do you see services evolving after mass vaccination over the medium term?
Juanita Ingram: Our services will continue to evolve as the world begins a phased approach to reopen. We learned during this time that the application of innovative virtual services is hugely beneficial, and we will continue to utilise this approach in the future. Meeting with clients virtually enables us to serve more women who previously may have found it limiting to visit us in person because of limited access to transportation and childcare services. The infusion of technology into our service model resulted in a positive and innovative outcome of in enabling us to have a wider reach. While DFSExpress was born out of necessity, it has addressed a gap in client accessibility. With this newly virtual presence, we have the capacity to serve more women. We will certainly sustain some of these learned practices and innovations that have allowed our outreach to grow as we navigate the emerging new post-pandemic norm.

LUX: What advice would you offer someone thinking about starting their own foundation?
Juanita Ingram: Fundamentally, nonprofits are still businesses, albeit people businesses that touch the lives of individuals each day. It is vital to be mindful of your purpose, mission, values and the people you are serving through your organisation every step of the way. Remembering why you embarked down this path will sustain you through the hard times and through the unexpected.

Non-profits are sophisticated business models with the added complexity of your purpose and mission. Unlike for-profits, generating income or fundraising is not the only factor in measuring success and one must be mindful that no mission or organisational size is too small to have a major impact on your local community, country, or the world. One’s definition of success must remain intrinsically linked and aligned to your mission statement and the people you are purposed to help. One must also have a balanced formula centred upon the application of passion, capability, and continuous learning. Nonprofit management and related operations is an industry, so always stay in a competitive position of learning.

For more information on Dress for Success Greater London visit: dressforsuccessgl.org
Follow Juanita Ingram on Instagram: @iamjuanitaingram

Samantha Welsh is a contributing editor of LUX with a special focus on philanthropy.

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The Heritage Suite Bedroom at Castello Del Nero, Como Group’s latest opening in Tuscany

Olivier Jolivet has sat at the helm of COMO Group since 2017. He oversees the COMO Hotels and Resorts portfolio across 15 locations, and masterminded the launch of Castello Del Nero, the group’s first property in continental Europe. Here, Jolivet tells Chloe Frost-Smith why the luxury travel industry will see an increasing demand for small hotels, private residences and wellbeing experiences this year

Olivier Jolivet

LUX: What sets COMO apart from other luxury brands?
Olivier Jolivet: COMO and its businesses are unique in the luxury landscape. Since its inception, the shareholders stayed the same, which provides stability to the organisation and the opportunity to think long term. It’s a massive competitive advantage, especially when recruiting the right talents. COMO is not only a brand, it’s a ‘lifestyle‘ and this why we have invested in fashion, wellness, sport and will continue to do so in the future.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: COMO is currently reopening properties in select destinations after temporary closure due to the pandemic. How’s that going?
Olivier Jolivet: One of our founding purposes at COMO has been our 25-year commitment to holistic wellbeing among customers, staff and the communities where we operate. As our properties re-open, we continue to adjust measures to remain in line with different government guidelines, and when we are in doubt of guidelines, we will always go further to ensure the safety of staff and guests.

In the long term, health isn’t ever a quick fix ,but a life-long commitment. This is the driving force behind COMO Shambhala – the wellness heart of COMO, which has always prescribed an integrative approach to wellbeing.

LUX: Can you tell us a bit about the launch of COMO Shambhala By My Side?
Olivier Jolivet: COMO Shambhala By My Side is an innovative digital wellbeing companion, launched by COMO Group’s holistic wellness brand, COMO Shambhala, to bring wellness programmes and personal consultations into homes around the world. The online platform brings together the holistic expertise honed at both COMO Shambhala Urban Escape in Singapore, and COMO Hotels and Resorts wellness locations around the world. Through the digital platform users can access COMO’s rich network of international experts. COMO Shambhala By My Side provides a sanctuary for those who seek tranquillity and the inspiration to stay active during these uncertain times and beyond.

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The Bayugita Master bedroom at COMO Shambhala Estate, and above, the treatment room in the retreat villa

LUX: What’s your approach to sustainability for now and in the future?
Olivier Jolivet: No matter the location, we operate with the belief that we can deliver unique experiences for our guests while operating sustainably. We reduce our consumption and source locally, managing our water and energy to minimise our impact on the environment. We celebrate local culture and support the domestic economy, offering immersive and authentic experiences. This is true for all the business we operate.

We have a long-term philosophy and sustainability has always been a key part of our make-up – we just don’t feel the need to shout about it.

Read more: Why Sofia Mitsola is one of our artists to watch in 2021

LUX: You recently oversaw the brand’s first venture into continental Europe, Castello del Nero. Why Tuscany?
Olivier Jolivet: When you want to be an international lifestyle brand, it is difficult to avoid Italy. Tuscany is one of the most amazing regions of Italy with its history, its landscape, its tradition and food. You will always have a strong local market and a great international appeal.

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The exterior of the chapel at Castello del Nero

LUX: You have managed two luxury travel brands with Asia-Pacific origins – your current role with COMO and your previous position at Aman Resorts. Is this coincidence, or is there something in particular that drew you to these destinations?
Olivier Jolivet: Even if these two brands have the same geographical origin, they are very different in their conception and in their history, and yes, I was very curious about it. What drew my attention is probably the myth around them and their huge potential for growth.

Read more: Artnet’s Sophie Neuendorf on the rise of a new Renaissance

LUX: Bhutan is a relatively unusual country to have in the portfolio. What is your thought process when it comes to scouting out new destinations?
Olivier Jolivet:  We look for destinations with soul. Our hotels inspire people to live fuller lives and make a meaningful difference by creating experiences worth re-living, whether it’s meditating at an ancient Bhutanese temple or diving with manta rays in the Maldives. Our guests want to satisfy their quest to explore our destinations with COMO.

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A water villa at COMO Cocoa Island resort

LUX: How do you think the coronavirus crisis will affect the luxury travel in general and your group in particular?
Olivier Jolivet: Travellers will opt for smaller groups, more intimate locations and specialised offerings instead of 300-bedroom hotels. Our hotel business model has always catered to this, focusing on the soul of each destination, offering limited rooms and suites, and catering to those who seek to improve their wellbeing. For COMO, it’s not about long-term change; our core philosophy toward proactive wellness isn’t changing, it’s just never been more front of mind. We are successful not by chance, but because we continue with our vision.

LUX: What travel trends do you anticipate emerging in 2021?
Olivier Jolivet: I have always said that luxury has something to do with space and intimacy. It is now more relevant than ever, and small destinations will prevail. Travellers are on a pursuit for privacy and intimacy, and we’ve noticed an increased demand for our private villas and residences, as well as private, exclusive experiences. I also predict there will be a strong emphasis on people wanting a wellbeing offering.

LUX: Do you have any new developments in the pipeline?
Olivier Jolivet: We are focusing on developing our lifestyle component by investing into new trends, new businesses and new destinations. We’re also in the process of launching our COMO Club, with access to the world of COMO from hospitality to wellness, sport and fashion.

Find out more: comohotels.com

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Reading time: 5 min

Artworks by Erwin Wurm installed in Cafe de Flore, Paris

Art historian Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem is the founder of the Parcours-Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a yearly contemporary art festival in Paris, and the B&C art and culture member’s club. She is also the co-founder of Spirit Now London which organises exclusive art events, and a board member of numerous cultural institutions across the globe. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, she speaks to Samantha Welsh about supporting rising artists, the challenges of her work and plans for 2021

Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem. Image by Sonia Fitoussi

LUX: When did you first begin to support emerging artists, and what motivated you?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: I come from a family of art collectors and experts. I was born in Limoges into the Haviland family, a family of porcelain manufacturers. My mother was an art restorer. It is a family tradition to support artists and to become really good friends with them. Haviland, for example, worked with Wassily Kandinsky, who made a tea set for them.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

I first began to collect artists in 2000. The first show I curated was of the photographer Ange Leccia at the Armani shop in 1999. I bought four pictures with my first salary. I then started to collect the artists that I was exhibiting in my annual art show, Parcours Saint Germain, which I founded in Paris twenty years ago.

This exhibition presents about thirty artists in each edition, whom I chose amongst the projects that I like the most and of which I gather a few pieces.

More recently, I have started developing a collection of abstract paintings and I am trying to focus also on women artists like Suzan Frecon and Vivian Springford.

installation art

Sabine Pigalle and Philippe di Meo at Celine as part of Sweet Art, the 2007 edition of Parcours-Saint-Germain-des-Prés

LUX: Is there anybody in the philanthropy world who particularly inspires you?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: As an art historian I have always been admiring of all the important philanthropic families such as the Medici family. When I was working at the Centre Pompidou at the beginning of my career I realised how much public museums have been depending on private collectors. Many artworks in museum’s collections come from private donations, sometimes a private collection is the starting stone of building a whole museum.

I also witnessed the creation of collections such as the Fondation Cartier, Louis Vuitton, François Pinault as well as the birth of their private foundations and the opening private museums for the public.

I am also a big admirer of Patricia Sandretto and Frederic Jousset, and of philanthropic initiatives that help young artists and support education and diversity such as Fluxus Charity or Art Explora.

A sculpture at the 2007 edition of Parcours-Saint-Germain-des-Prés

LUX: What originally brought you to found the B&C Club?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: I had the idea of creating a club when I was living in France seven years ago, acting as a board member of the Tokyo Art Club of the Palais de Tokyo. I used to create programs around the current exhibitions and the artists exhibiting for the patrons of the museum. As soon as I moved to London I wanted to create a more international group and to offer my members the possibility to go everywhere. I thought that founding a private project which also raises funds for art and museums would enable me to offer a more diversified program.

Read more: Life coach Simon Hodges on how to break free from destructive behaviour

LUX: What exactly does the B&C Club do, and how did you ensure you get optimum results?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: The club is a private group of patrons, art collectors, intellectuals and open minded people, for which I organise very privileged access to artists’ studios, galleries, museums, art centres but also to eminent curators, museum directors and art historians. For me the key is the assurance of high quality visits and the excellent curating of all the speakers. I look carefully at what is going on in the world and I pick the artists, designers, and curators who I fundamentally believe have something different to say.

LUX: What are your proudest achievements?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: An encounter and talk between Antony Gormely and Idan Segev, an internationally renowned neuroscientist from the Edmond & Lily Safra centre for Brain Sciences of Jerusalem.

LUX: Do you enjoy participating in Fluxus Art Projects? What originally brought you there?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: The former cultural attaché of the French Institute in London approached me as soon as I moved to London to be on the board of Fluxus and its artistic committee. I enjoy it a lot, it is a fabulous feeling to be at the source of the future talents and help them achieve their goals.

LUX: How much of your time does it take?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: It takes a lot of time to read all the different projects and to prepare the two annual board meetings. I would say it takes a third of my time at the moment.

Read more: Keith Breslauer on combining business & charity

LUX: Do you have some specific examples of artists who have benefited?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: Ed Atkins, Ryan Gander, Ulla von Brandenburg, Zineb Sedira, Laure Prouvost and Camille Henrot (currently showing at Lisson Gallery) among others.

LUX: What are the biggest obstacles and challenges you have faced?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: The first lockdown was complicated because my job entails a lot of travelling and organising events with groups, but I immediately signed up to a Zoom pro account and started organising webinars.

LUX: How will COVID-19 affect what you do?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: It is still a challenge particularly in Paris for the Parcours Saint Germain, with my sponsors in fashion. So the main idea is to do the best as I can, work a lot, redesign the web portals, organise webinars, send newsletters articles, and wait and see.

Dior windows by artist Stephane Calais, 2002

LUX: How would you encourage people like you to get more involved in non-profit organisations that support the arts?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: Every event is an opportunity to communicate to my network the need of private initiatives in culture. A great example is a talk we had with Sandra Hegedüs and the Sam Art Projects in conversation together with Catherine Petitgas.

LUX: Any other advice for our readers who might be considering going into the sector?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: Crises often give birth to new opportunities. Keep your eyes and ears open.

Read more: A new honey-based concept restaurant opens in Selfridges

LUX: What led to you co-founding Spirit Now London?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: Spirit Now was the first group, and B&C the second. The main difference between the two groups is that I am the only owner of B&C and its program is more open to philosophy, literature and current affairs.

Installation of work by French photographer Natacha Lesueur as part of Sweet Art, the 2007 edition of Parcours-Saint-Germain-des-Prés

LUX: What does your role as director of the B&C Club entail?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: I am both the owner and director of the club. I curate the whole program, contact artists, collectors, curators, gallerists, museum directors and writers, sometimes from all over the world and invite them either to come to London for a talk, a webinar or a visit. We organise art trips as well.

LUX: What about B&C’s direction, as we head into 2021, what are you most excited for?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: I am creating an international category for the club called B&C Reports – there is a new page on our website. I have invited a curator based in Rio de Janeiro to write articles about his favourite artists which I regularly post on my blog. We also organise webinars with these artists based all over the word. We select them together, record them and post all the webinars. We are also signing partnerships with different institutions to help them support the arts and to develop strongly their philanthropic side.

LUX: Can you tell us a bit about your aim for your new project in 2021 with Parcours-Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris?
Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem: We have very ambitious projects for the Parcours 2021. As the current situation limits visits indoors in all of the places where we traditionally exhibited them (Louis Vuitton, Armani, Hotel Lutetia and Café de Flore), we have decided to program a variety of outdoor installations. We are working on a huge installation with the international artist JR and  the students of the famous school for cinema Kourtrajmé which will be produced and installed on the place Germain des Prés. Another project is to create colours and patterns on the pedestrian pathways with Carlos-Cruz Diez, who was a teacher at the School of Beaux Arts and had his studio in St Germain des Prés.

As we wanted to include architecture in our program, we have also invited the Architectural Association and a collective of young architects from Place Furstenberg. Our opening event will be outdoor with chefs and food-trucks, and will aim to combine photography, design, sculpture, fashion, photography, street art, street food and art all together.

Find out more: thebc-club.com

Samantha Welsh is a contributing editor of LUX with a special focus on philanthropy.

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Reading time: 8 min
Man awarding medal

Keith Breslauer congratulating a wounded British veteran during The Veteran Games

Keith Breslauer is the founder and Managing Director of private equity company Patron Capital, and a trustee and donor to numerous charities including the Royal Marines Charity and the Prince’s Teaching Institute. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, he speaks to LUX about building bridges between charities and the corporate world, his work with disabled veterans and how philanthropy differs in the US and the UK
man in suit

Keith Breslauer

LUX: What inspired your interest in philanthropy?
Keith Breslauer: I was brought up to believe that giving what you can is the biggest triumph in life. I took this belief and inspiration from my parents and religion into my career and to help create a platform to give what I can to those who need it, enable others to do the same and make a lasting difference.

LUX: Why did you decide to support the Royal Marines?
Keith Breslauer: I’m from the US where veterans are celebrated on both a public and personal level. However, when I moved to the UK twenty seven years ago, I was disappointed to learn that British war veterans often receive marginal public support. That is why I started ventures that manifested as fundraising for all veterans with a focus on volunteering for the Royal Marines Charity (RMA-TRMC).

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What led you to create Patron Capital?
Keith Breslauer: Lehman Brothers allowed me to come to Europe and work on distressed assets, which was a niche sector of real estate at the time. I loved being in the UK – everyone said ‘Breslauer is a New Yorker, he’ll never stay’ – but I love that on a typical Friday night (pre-Covid) I have five-plus cultures and languages at my table. So, when Lehman Brothers asked me to go back to New York, I decided to stay and took the leap to start our business with a great team of partners and the rest is history.

Keith with Royal Marines and a team from the Royal Navy on a riverbank during their re-creation of Operation Frankton, which was sponsored by Patron

LUX: What are the principle benefits of a business involving itself in charity?
Keith Breslauer: We’ve worked hard for Patron Capital to be positioned as a leader of successful commercial business while also available for charitable good – rather than just donating funds. As a team we’ve built the business to be a bridge between charities like the Royal Marines and the corporate world. We can offer them everything from business plans, employment advice, office space, secretarial services, to our business contacts and expertise.

We also utilise our business to give a voice to the extraordinary people we raise money for. In 2017, we established The Greatness Lectures, a forum to inspire, educate and create opportunities through Patron’s extensive business network. Through education, The Greatness Lectures can involve every member of the audience and ensure everyone has a part to play in the Patron value of ‘creating a positive change whenever and wherever required’.

LUX: How does philanthropy differ in the US and the UK?
Keith Breslauer: The key differences between the US and the UK lie in the construct of giving, the perception of philanthropy and the landscape of donors. In the US, it is not just tax-deductible, but also a status symbol for many and there are significant givers across the spectrum. However, while in the UK, it is a tax credit and the dynamic of it being a status symbol is far less prevalent – instead, there is much more grassroots support where individuals across the country might not give a huge amount, but they donate what they can on a regular basis.

Read more: Katrina Aleksa Ryemill on helping women in the arts

LUX: Is there anyone in particular who inspires you philanthropically?
Keith Breslauer: There are so many people, but I will always be inspired by Harvey Krueger, an early boss of mine at Lehman Brothers who is known for being the first banker to bring Israel, really, to the international capital markets. He embodied what it means to me to give as he gave a lot of his time and limited resources but remained focused on the primary objective of how to help those who needed it.

LUX: What feels more rewarding: enabling people to get involved in charity, or simply giving?
Keith Breslauer: I am a big believer in doing more than just giving. If you don’t immerse yourself in the act of charity, then you can only help on a superficial level and you will never understand the satisfaction of knowing what a difference you’ve made. To understand what a charity stands for – getting under the skin of why you’re trying to raise money – you need to endure some sort of hardship to help. You need to get know the people you are helping. At Patron, we encourage employees to take part in fundraising events that help people push their own preconceived limits. For example, in 2019, Patron sponsored Rock2Recovery’s flagship fundraising event – a sponsored climb of Ben Nevis in Scotland – and we were really proud to see an all-female team from Patron join the 140 climbers taking part. In total circa £26,000 was raised for the charity.

man on mountain summit

Keith (top) with his youngest daughter Samantha on Mont Blanc Massif, and at the summit of Pointe Percée

LUX: How has your religious background influenced your charitable work?
Keith Breslauer: My religious background is incredibly important to my approach to charity and giving – it’s the core of it really. For a start, a principle of the Jewish faith is to give away about 10% of what you earn, and I adhere to this with my time and money. Next, there is the concept of ‘tikkun olam’ which comes from Mishnah, a body of classical rabbinic teachings, and is defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or repair the world. This is key to how I was raised and how I try to live my life; if you have the ability to make a difference then you should whenever and wherever you can.

LUX: What is the biggest lesson you have learnt in your lifetime?
Keith Breslauer: I have learned so much throughout my life and I am still learning, but one of the biggest lessons that has stayed with me comes from the late Lord Rabbi Sacks, and that is about working hard and seeing the possible where others see the improbable. We can achieve more than we think we can if we try.

Read more: Entrepreneur Wendy Yu on creativity & charity

LUX: How has Covid-19 affected your philanthropic efforts?
Keith Breslauer: In the first few months of lockdown, it was really difficult for everyone as no one knew what the future would hold – everyone suffered. We tried to stick to a routine at Patron and this is why we took the Greatness Lectures, a forum to educate and inspire the Patron team, our friends, and partners, online. This included “Reports from the COVID-19 Frontline” with Dr Seb Vandermolen and Nurse Laura Pinches, who had both been working on adult COVID-19 wards at St Thomas’ and St Bartholomew’s hospitals respectively.

Alongside our efforts to establish The Women In Safe Homes Fund, believed to be the world’s first gender lens property impact investment fund being launched as a solution to the lack of affordable, safe and secure homes across the UK for women and their children, who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk, I’ve made a personal commitment of £1 million to demonstrate how important this fund really is. We’ve also organised a Greatness Lecture with Chloe McCardel and Jane Jutsum to share different perspectives on domestic violence and providing help and inspiration to its survivors. Chloe is an elite athlete whose love of marathon swimming helped her recover from post-traumatic stress disorder, and she holds the world record for the longest non-stop ocean swim – 124km. Jane Jutsum is Director of Business Development at Solace, a charity that exists to end the harm done through violence against women and girls.

All of our charities have suffered this year; the Royal Marines Charity (RMA-TRMC) alone needs £1.5 million of vital funds. We’re always looking for ways of raising money and connecting those who wish to help with any one of our 30 charities.

LUX: What has been the most surprising discovery in your philanthropic activities?
Keith Breslauer: The most surprising thing for me to discover is the significant impact we can have through the multiplier effect of dedicating both time and money, rather than just one or the other. Our initiatives focus on funding projects and events with the potential to harness a multiplier effect either driving further donations, raising awareness, or helping deserving individuals who have suffered injury, illness or disadvantage achieve personal goals and build self-esteem.

man with climbing wall

Keith with the in-house climbing wall at Patron Capital

LUX: What are your passions outside of business?
Keith Breslauer: I’m obsessed with mountain sports, especially skiing, and climbing. I even had a climbing wall fitted in our office. When I first moved to the UK, I was introduced to European mountaineering through a trip to Mont Blanc. My wife told me I was only allowed one trip, but I’ve been addicted ever since and have now climbed, notably; Old Man of Hoy, Denali and various summits and routes in the Mont Blanc Massif. I also strive to incorporate social impact into everything and anything I do. And, last but not least, my family – they are everything to me.

LUX: How have you combined those interests with charity work?
Keith Breslauer: My personal philosophy on life and in business is to lead by example. Through working with the Royal Marines Charity (RMA-TRMC), I’ve been able to share this approach undertake challenges with some extraordinary individuals that also raise awareness and funds for those in need. For example, in 2017, we sponsored The Royal Marines’ recreation of Operation Frankton, an 85-mile paddle and a 100-mile run described as the most courageous raid of World War II. This commemorated the 75th anniversary of the legendary feat which was immortalised in the 1955 film ‘The Cockleshell Heroes’ and raised money and awareness for the charity. I joined the team as we retraced the route of 10 commandos who paddled up the Gironde estuary in December 1942 to attack enemy German ships moored at the port of Bordeaux in occupied France, before making the 100-mile journey on foot to rendezvous with the French Resistance in Ruffec. Only two men survived to tell the tale – the others succumbed to hypothermia or were executed by the Germans – but the operation’s significance reportedly led Winston Churchill to say he believed the raid could have shortened the war by six months. For me, our re-enactment was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

LUX: Should we expect to hear of any upcoming projects?
Keith Breslauer: I’m looking forward to working with disabled veterans as they take on new challenges, including in the near future with a disabled veteran Mark Bower. More generally, we have a range of both adventure projects and practical projects with different charities to drive reach and penetration where charities have lost traditional channels of outreach and fundraising due to the pandemic.

Find out more: patroncapital.com

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Reading time: 9 min
women at charity
women at charity

Wendy Yu on her trip to Rwanda with Women For Women International charity

Fashion entrepreneur Wendy Yu is the founder and CEO of Yu Holdings, an international ambassador for the French Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, and a supporter of The Metropolitan Museum of Arts, BAFTA and numerous other charitable foundations. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, LUX speaks to Yu about her long-standing commitment to the arts, female empowerment and children’s education

LUX: As well as supporting the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when did you first have the idea to set up a China program and why?
Wendy Yu: Having spent many years residing in London, travelling for business and working with international organisations, upon returning to Shanghai to live a few years ago, I felt an immediate sense of responsibility to my country in terms of helping to shape the creative and cultural space and provide a bridge between East and West.

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This is why conversations about China with The Met were initiated. Having been fortunate enough to spend some time with Andrew Bolton, I wanted to give the design community in China the opportunity to meet him and understand more about his work at The Costume Institute. The Met has such a big following in China, but mostly because of the Met Gala, and yet there is so much more to know and learn.

I invited Andrew to China in 2017, where he and Angelica Cheung co-hosted an event to meet emerging Chinese designers. I’m passionate about providing a platform for creative and cultural exchange.

woman wearing a ballgown

Wendy Yu at The Met Gala

LUX: Have you always been passionate about costume?
Wendy Yu: I’ve always been passionate about fashion as part of the wider creative industry. Fashion and costume are so intrinsically linked to a sense of identity, emotion, stories, a moment in time and culture. It’s also provides us with an opportunity to dream, and further nowadays, share our voice as our wardrobe is beginning to say something about our values.

LUX: Is there anyone the philanthropy world who particularly inspires you?
Wendy Yu: Amal Clooney, and Queen Rania.

LUX: What exactly does the Women For Women International charity do, and how do you ensure your support is optimal?
Wendy Yu: Supporting women is one of my priorities and I have loved to support Women For Women International as they are a wonderful charity dedicated to helping women, who are living in areas of conflict and are often marginalised. I travelled with Women For Women to Rwanda a few years ago to meet some of these women, and it was one of the most enlightening and heartfelt experiences of my life. It was incredible to see how these women had benefited from Women For Women’s training program, which provides them with the necessary skills to become financially independent and support their families.

woman sitting amongst children

Wendy with some of the women helped by the Women For Women International charity in Rwanda

LUX: Do you think that the role of private philanthropy is becoming more important, with increasing limitations on government funding?
Wendy Yu: Absolutely, particularly for the creative industry and especially at the moment, where much of government funding is having to be redirected due towards the pandemic. With philanthropy comes a true personal passion and commitment, often deriving from a special relationship that goes beyond financial support and can be truly game-changing for the people and organisations on the receiving end.

Read more: Why The Alpina Gstaad is top of our travel wish list

LUX: In terms of your support for the educational prospects of China’s children, is there anything that concerns you about the path ahead for Teach for China, and what made you decide to launch an art fund?
Wendy Yu: I believe in the importance of creativity in enhancing our lives and particularly that of children. Teach For China does an incredible job at providing education and facilities for children living in rural areas of China. What I felt I could bring to the table as one of their committee members was to provide the means for them to integrate art in their program, a subject that can often get sidelined when there is a lack of funding. Together we established an art fund, which would see the funding of art teachers and the necessary materials for schools in rural areas.

woman in classroom

Wendy working in one of Teach For China’s classrooms

LUX: Do you enjoy collaborating with Teach for China?
Wendy Yu: Very much so. Working with Teach For China has given me the opportunity to meet and spend time with the children who are benefiting from the art fund, as well as integrate their artwork in some of my own projects, including a clutch for a collaboration I did with Olympia Le-Tan where we used an artwork created by one of the students.

LUX: How will COVID-19 affect what do you do?
Wendy Yu: Covid hasn’t impacted my interests and what kind of initiatives I am directing my energy to; the causes I am committed to continue to be the arts, female empowerment and children’s education. That said not being able to travel means that at the moment any activity is by default mostly China centric.

Read more: Montegrappa’s CEO Giuseppe Aquila on personalised luxury

We have just launched the Yu Prize, which is an annual award and incubator program to support promising emerging fashion designers from China. The CFDA, the BFC, Camera Moda and FHCM are so good at championing creativity and providing a support system for their rising stars; this is something that is lacking in China and yet we have a burgeoning fashion community of very talented designers. I’m excited and want to nurture this generation of designers, who compared with their predecessors, have mostly studied abroad (CSM, LCF, Parsons) and so are more globally minded. They marry this with a sense of pride of their cultural roots, and from this a new wave of creativity and confidence is born, which serves to reposition “Made in China”. Huishan Zhang, Guo Pei and Caroline Hu craft many, if not all, of their demi-couture pieces locally in China to an international standard.

fashion event

Wendy Yu (middle) with Anna Wintour and Andrew Bolton

LUX: Do you often get to personally experience the difference you have made to a foundation or group?
Wendy Yu: My philanthropy has always stemmed from a personal relationship and a special connection that I have felt with a cause and therefore my involvement tends to be hands-on. It’s incredibly grounding and rewarding to be close to the people whose lives and/or careers are being transformed. Equally working with organisations that are specialised, and have the power and platform to make a difference is very inspiring. In today’s world and coming from a position of privilege, I believe in the importance of doing good as part of a wider definition of success.

LUX: Any other advice for our readers who might be considering going into the sector?
Wendy Yu: Follow your passion. Have in mind a wider sense of impact that you would like to make to a particular sector or area of interest, and then cultivate specific objectives and tangible projects that can be brought to fruition. Work closely with professional organisations that align with your vision and from whom you can learn more and gain access, however don’t be afraid also to champion people on a more personal level.

Find out more about Wendy Yu’s work: wendy-yu.com

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Reading time: 6 min
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woman on sofa

Katrina Aleksa Ryemill is a co-founder of Association of Women In The Arts

Non-profit organisation Association of Women In The Arts was founded with the ambition of providing a networking and mentorship platform for women working in the arts in the UK. Since the pandemic, their membership has expanded globally with a new online programme. As part of our ongoing philanthropy series, Samantha Welsh speaks to the organisation’s co-founder Katrina Aleksa Ryemill about the importance of a professional support network, adapting to a digital world and expanding globally

LUX: Tell us about the Association of Women In The Arts, and why is it already such a powerful organisation?
Katrina Aleksa: Since our beginning in February 2016, AWITA’s main focus has been to bring the inspirational women working within the art world together, and this remains our core strength to this day. AWITA’s membership includes gallerists, curators, art advisers and academics as well as auction houses, museum, public sector and art fair professionals.

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Quite simply our members are our key strength and what makes us the powerful organisation that we have become. For so long there was no place where women, who are underrepresented in top positions in the art industry (as they are in many others), could unite, network and help each other in a safe and positive environment. AWITA provides just that, and every time another fantastically talented woman joins our network we become stronger, better represented and more powerful. Leaders across the art world can share and collaborate in a safe way. We adapt and pivot very quickly to changing times the current crisis is just one example of it. Quite simply, we are stronger together.

women standing on stage

AWITA Great Women Artists: why women? panel discussion at Sotheby’s London in partnership with Phaidon. From left to right: Katrina Aleksa Ryemill, Harriet Loffler, Marina Ruiz Colomer, Wells Fray-Smith, Mary Findlay, Rebecca Morril, Kate Gordon. Photograph by Pedro Lima

LUX: What experience and expertise do you look for in your members?
Katrina Aleksa: AWITA is a non-profit membership organisation open to women with a minimum of five years’ experience in the art world. We want gallery owners to connect with curators, arts journalists to connect with dealers, art advisors to meet academics in a lively, informal atmosphere. We believe in collaboration over competition, and want the membership to include as many different voices as possible.

LUX: AWITA is already the most connected network in UK for women in the visual arts, what do you think attracts women who are already influential in their fields?
Katrina Aleksa: Honestly, I think it’s the calibre of women who are already in the network. It’s a safe place to grow and share and ask questions. I think at whichever point somebody may be in their career, you still have questions even if you have been in art world for 20 or 30 years. Of course the questions may change as people advance through their careers, but many of the topics and challenges are the same.

Additionally, the nature of the art world, where creativity is at its core means that it constantly changes and challenges itself, arguably more than any other industry. Therefore, anyone working in the sector must also ensure they stay relevant and current, which means challenging, developing and growing your own thinking, and a network can really help with this. Nothing stays still for very long in the art world.

Of course, there is also the fact that women in senior roles can often feel alone due to their under-representation –  so many pieces of research have shown that women crave a network of peers, which of course is what AWITA is.

women in discussion

Rebecca Morril and Katrina Aleksa Ryemill (right) at the AWITA Great Women Artists event. Photograph by Pedro Lima

LUX: Do you have strong representation from non-UK based membership?
Katrina Aleksa: This is actually something completely new to us, not to mention very exciting. Ever since we set up there have always been a number of international applicants wanting to join and also numerous people who have wanted to set up AWITA entities in their local countries. However, whilst we always have wanted to do this we simply haven’t, until now, had the resources to expand internationally.

Read more: How sustainable knitwear brand Aessai supports female craft collectives

We have, in many ways, really benefitted from the pivot we needed to make during these unprecedented times. Whilst we were very UK and London centric, organising some wonderful events that our members would attend and enjoy, the pandemic has meant that we had to move all of our events online. No longer were we “restricted” to the UK and predominantly London-based events that we were offering. We are now able to reach incredibly inspirational women across the globe that we would of not been able to do locally in London. Our membership has expanded internationally as result of that and I’m so proud that our international membership group is now the fastest growing aspect of AWITA.

LUX: What real life platforms are you working on at the moment?
Katrina Aleksa: We have recently launched a partnership with Cromwell Place, which is a first-of-its-kind exhibition and working space for galleries, dealers, collectors and art professionals seeking a presence in central London. With creativity, connection and collaboration at the core this partnership amplifies our mission and values.

female focused event

Dressed for the art world AWITA event with Edeline Lee at Fenwicks London. From left to right: Indre Serpetyte-Roberts, Kate Gordon, Edeline Lee, Sigrid Kirk, Polly Robinson Gaer, Linsey Young, Helena Lee, Katrina Aleksa Ryemill. Photograph by Pedro Lima

LUX: During Covid, AWITA has turned adversity into advantage by running a series of hybrid events. What works well for live-streaming, and will you continue to exploit this format post-Covid?
Katrina Aleksa: Absolutely! I actually think that this “hybrid model” where the event is both online and ‘in person’ has huge potential to continue to ensure that we are offering a more inclusive model for our members around the world, whilst also offering what so many of our members crave: an in person experience immersed in the art world, surrounded by like minded art professionals.

Read more: Jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim’s guide to Cape Town

That said, I think the mood from everyone, not just our members, is that we have all now overdosed on “zoom” already. So the challenge is making the authentic and positive experience of our online programme running alongside our live events. I don’t think we will ever return back to being 100% online or offline, I believe the future and certainly 2021 will be a balance between both.

LUX: You have also focused on creating digital content – what kind of conversations has this facilitated?
Katrina Aleksa: We are still learning. My favourite quote is ‘flying a plane while building it’ and this is exactly what we are doing right now. We have had a tremendously positive response from our members, but we need to keep it up, not rest on our laurels and keep adapting to changing times.

panel discussion

Finding Balance: How to thrive in a 24/7 world panel discussion with AWITA at Phillips. From left to right: Catherine Blyth, Jo Stella-Sawicka, Angela Choon and Dr Zoé Whitley. Photograph by Pedro Lima

LUX: Have perspectives and priorities altered in 2020?
Katrina Aleksa: I don’t think there has been anyone who hasn’t been affected by current health crisis, whether you are in or outside of the art world, or whether you are an employer, an employee or even self-employed.

We, of course, had to adapt and pivot to be able to stay ahead of the curve and support our members. It was a priority for us to support our members, in whichever way they needed help or advice. We even instituted a very casual weekly coffee morning, online, which some of our members described as a lifeline, and a welcome break from home-schooling.

LUX: How have collectors adapted to this changed world?
Katrina Aleksa: I love that the art world hasn’t stopped! Whilst it has been very challenging for many people, I have also seen some people really flourish. Whether that be artists that were “breaking through” or professionals who were taking on new challenges, there have been many positive stories that we should all look at for motivation and inspiration. Of course, it is a challenging time and my heart goes out to all of the people who have been ill or have suffered losses during this difficult period, but the world keeps turning and art works have been bought and sold. Many online auctions have been showing a great increase in their results and like many other online businesses have really thrived. I always say, change is always happening and like in nature, the ones that are able to evolve and change are ultimately best positioned to survive and thrive. This pandemic has, in my mind, just presented a sped-up opportunity for change.

LUX: What sort of political or cultural partnerships are your members potentially exploring and can AWITA reach out to their sisters in parts of the world where women’s talents and voices are stifled?
Katrina Aleksa: It’s important to continue to build networks. We are talking to women in organisations around the globe and will be concentrating on leadership and new structures and models. We are concentrating on finding innovative and useful ways to keep the important conversations that need to be had going. While we may not be able to see each other in person, we can still stay connected.

LUX: What are your next plans?
Katrina Aleksa: With the huge increase across our membership we are finding that we are now able to represent more women than ever before, looking at tackling so many diverse challenges and opportunities around the art industry. Every new member we have ensures another voice and another way of thinking, so we will continue our growth drive – adding women into our network from all over the globe and then empowering them through more mentoring, networking and professional development.

Find out more: awita.london

Samantha Welsh is a contributing editor of LUX with a special focus on philanthropy.

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Reading time: 8 min
women on the red carpet
women on the red carpet

Caroline Scheufele (left) and actress Julianne Moore at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival wearing Chopard.
Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

Chopard’s Artistic Director Caroline Scheufele speaks to Torri Mundell about the Swiss company’s new Magical Setting range, aimed at creating a whisper-light collection of jewellery to be worn anywhere, anytime

diamond necklace

emerald ringWhen Chopard’s artistic director and co-president, Caroline Scheufele, developed an innovative technique to render the setting of gemstones nearly invisible, magnifying their light and lustre, she knew she wanted to apply the technique to everyday pieces as well as show-stopping designs. “I imagined this collection for a chic day-look and easy-to-wear style,” she says. “Chopard pieces are works of art that come to life when they are worn; I want women to feel as free as the light of the diamonds, and to be able to wear their jewellery with an evening dress as well as with a pair of denim jeans!”

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

blue diamond ringThe custom of saving something for best may have fallen out of favour and after several months of lockdown and the tedium of staycations and leisurewear, it holds even less appeal. Created around traditional clusters of diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds with a modern, ‘barely there’ setting, Magical Setting necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings add a dash of sparkle to the most ordinary of days.

woman wearing red lipstick

model on the red carpet

Lea Seydoux (top) and Natalia Vodianova at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival wearing Chopard

Read more: Halloween thrills on the slopes in Andermatt

Scheufele knows that versatile design is the key to conceiving fine jewellery that can be worn every day. She even designed pieces such as earrings that convert from “long earrings for special occasions” to “stud-like cluster earrings for a more day-to-day basis”. She also advises her clients to follow their instincts when it comes to choosing jewellery that will stand the test of time. “Some women are ‘emerald people’ while others are ‘exclusively diamonds’,” she says. “When I am with a client buying a piece, I want to make sure the jewellery she is buying is true to her, that she can see herself wearing it tomorrow, as well as in 10 years, for any kind of occasion.”

View the collection: chopard.com

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

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Reading time: 1 min
luxury pen
luxury fountain pen

Montegrappa’s online configurator allows full customisation of the brand’s iconic fountain pens

Responding to the ever increasing demand for custom-designed products, Italian luxury brand Montegrappa has recently launched an online configurator which allows customers to fully personalise their hand-crafted fountain pens. Here, the brand’s CEO Giuseppe Aquila discusses the rise of a collector culture, adapting to a new generation of luxury customers and how personalisation supports the artisanal industry
Man wearing blue suit on the stairs

Giuseppe Aquila

‘As a company that has remained dedicated to handmade production, a service like the configurator is something we had always aspired to offer, but the technology and market climate simply didn’t exist until relatively recently to make such a step possible.

After spending years reorganising and refreshing our supply chain, eventually we were encouraged by the efforts of a few luxury brands to sell and offer individualised services online. From the outset, though, we knew that our offer needed to be much more than simple monogramming.’

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

‘On the one hand, the generational shift in luxury is causing great upheaval. These emerging luxury customers have been nurtured on digital goods and platforms like Nike ID, so we must respond. On the other hand, people in general are much more interested in cultivating a personal style than adhering to fashion. To be different is the fashion.

Then there is the fact that acquiring truly scarce objects has become much more competitive in recent years – in almost all categories. Bespoke and custom production are avenues for collectors to expand their wish lists and secure ‘grail’ items on different terms. Collector culture is growing and diversifying – and will continue to do so.’

woman with a fountain pen

‘[Personalisation] is very welcome trend that allows artisanal industry to return to its roots. Of course, now our customer could be anywhere in the world; but in 2020, technology makes it possible to offer them a similar service to what a walk-up private client might have received in 1920. Unlike a century ago, though, production needs to be swift. This means that the modern atelier needs to be well stocked and perfectly organised.

Read more: Artist Yayoi Kusama’s designs for Veuve Clicquot celebrate joy and innovation

Personalised products also help craft businesses show their full repertoire. Many of the options found on the configurator are the result of experimentation and artisanal curiosity. Though beautiful and worthy, most would have considerably less opportunity to flourish if we were confined to offering our products within traditional distribution structures.’

fountain pen

‘The configurator is the only platform of its kind in the writing world, so it has been a been a real drawcard for our site and for Montegrappa in general. More importantly though, it has been tremendously helpful with attracting new customers: these are people whose desire to own a writing instrument is distinct from seasoned aficionados and collectors, and are interested in other paths of discovery.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect has been the acceptance from established Montegrappisti. The configurator has been like a release valve for all their ideas – all the pens they have secretly wished to own. It has helped us make many good friends within the community, and to learn from them.’

Design your own Montegrappa pen: montegrappa.com

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Reading time: 2 min
aquarium
man standing on grass

José Soares dos Santos outside the Lisbon Oceanarium

Through his Oceano Azul Foundation and game-changing Oceanário de Lisboa, Portuguese business leader and activist José Soares dos Santos is one of the foremost forces in Europe driving ocean conservation. LUX meets him to find out how he inspires politicians and his fellow philanthropists, business leaders and scientists to create a more sustainable future. By Andrew Saunders

DEUTSCHE BANK WEALTH MANAGEMENT x LUX

We have a responsibility to look after the oceans better, because the oceans look after us. That, in a nutshell, is the reason marine biologist and lifelong ocean-conservation activist José Soares dos Santos established the Oceano Azul Foundation in Lisbon, aiming to look at sustainability “from the ocean’s point of view”, as the foundation’s motto has it.

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Whether it is the huge volumes of plastic that threaten marine life of all kinds, unsustainable fishing or the dangers of climate change-related ocean warming and acidification, dos Santos believes the marine environment is under pressure like never before. However, the crisis does not get the international attention and action that it deserves; it is time for businesses, investors, society and science to get together and spread the word.

“The fact is that the planet is a system, and if we don’t take care of the system there will be no businesses, no families and no proper life as we know it,” he says. “This is a responsibility we have and we had better do something about it.”

aquarium

The central aquarium at Lisbon Oceanarium. Image by Pedro Pina

As executive director of one of Portugal’s largest and most successful business groups – whose Jerónimo Martins food distribution and retail business, chaired by his brother Pedro Soares dos Santos, had approximately €19bn in sales in 2019, with 115,000 employees and more than 4,400 stores – he used his commercial nous and network plus his marine biology training to bring together a group of experts, academics and businesses in 2014 to set up the Oceano Azul Foundation.

Read more: OceanX founders Ray & Mark Dalio on ocean awareness

“Together with my brother, we are at the head of our family group. We are the fourth generation of a very hard-working family,” dos Santos explains.“We have capital to deploy and we can call in interesting people with very good information. We have the means, and we also believe that we have the obligation to act.”

Why focus on the ocean? Portugal does of course have a long and illustrious maritime heritage, but dos Santos is motivated by his concern that the public lacks an awareness of the vital role that oceans play in sustaining life on earth. Even though the oceans cover 70 per cent of the world’s surface, the threats they are facing are poorly understood outside the scientific community. “We are talking about the oceans because there is a lot of curiosity about them. People often ask me questions about the oceans, but I am extremely surprised how little people know about them.”

crowd at aquarium

King Philippe of Belgium and Queen Mathilde at the Oceanarium during their official visit to Portugal, 2018. Image by João Maria Catarino

Dos Santos points out that the oceans are not only home to 15 per cent of all known living species, but also produce over half of all the world’s oxygen, and, in the long term, has the capacity to absorb 50 times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere. They also act as a massive heat sink to slow down the impact of global warming. They are an important source of food, resources and jobs – the OECD estimates that the blue economy could be worth $3 trillion by 2030, double its 2010 value. Human beings may live on land, but we are highly dependent on healthy, productive and sustainable oceans to enable us to do so.

Hence the foundation’s successful initiative, RISE UP – A Blue Call to Action. This is a joint initiative involving everyone from local fishing communities, foundations, indigenous people’s organisations and conservation groups, such as Ocean Unite and Environmental Defense Fund. Its campaign agenda was launched in May 2019 and presented to UN Secretary General António Guterres in February this year.

man making a speech

José Soares dos Santos announcing the donation of nautical equipment to the Portuguese National School Sports network by the Oceano Azul Foundation, 2019

Dos Santos was determined that the Oceano Azul Foundation would not be just another politically motivated pressure group pursuing its own narrow agenda, but instead a collaborative platform uniting marine conservationists, science, academia, business and society, as the collaborative and partnership-based RISE UP campaign, with over 400 organisations signed on in support. “We must keep science inside the foundation,” he says, “because we are not politicians and we cannot drift into politics. If we do that, we will be exactly the same as many other foundations and pressure groups. The world needs something different, not just another one of those.”

In particular, his view on the primacy of business and private investment in building a strong and self-sufficient culture of ocean stewardship marks out the Oceano Azul approach to sustainability as something out of the ordinary. “Our philosophy is not to donate money but to invest it. We believe that it is very important to take care of the planet but that we shouldn’t just give all that responsibility to the government.” He continues, “I find it very hypocritical when people say it is up to the government to change things. No! We elect the government, and we should say what we want.”

Read more: Nadezda Foundation’s Nadya Abela on running a children’s charity

Oceano Azul has also teamed up with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to develop the Blue Bio Value business programme, an accelerator scheme to help new and sustainable blue-economy business ideas to grow faster and more effectively. A vibrant blue economy provides jobs and generates returns that can in turn be used to protect the ocean environment. “We believe in investing to create jobs, create value and to create social value,” he points out.

The programme, now in its third year, helps innovative marine biology-based businesses to scale up. Applicants undergo a rigorous due-diligence process that can lead to a prize corresponding to €45,000 awarded to the best start-up or start-ups, as well as access to coaching and mentoring services and valuable business networking opportunities. So far, 28 businesses from 15 countries have benefitted from the programme, ranging from Biosolvit, a specialist in offshore clean-up materials made from discarded biomass, to sustainable aquaculture engineering start-up SEAentia.

sea puffin

The Lisbon Oceanarium studies vulnerable and endangered ocean-dwelling species, including birds such as this Atlantic puffin. Image by Pedro Pina

At the heart of dos Santos’s mission to provide better information and education about the role of the ocean in maintaining a healthy planet lies the Oceanário de Lisboa. The newly refurbished facility is the largest indoor oceanarium in Europe and one of the city’s major attractions. Home to large collections of marine life, it had 1.4 million visitors in 2019.

“The Oceanário de Lisboa is at the heart of what we do,” he explains. “People go there and the effect on them is fantastic. They can see that below the surface of the water, the ocean is a place full of life that we have a responsibility to protect.”

Read more: British artist Petroc Sesti on his nature-inspired artworks

When he is not chairing the Oceano Azul Foundation, dos Santos is heavily involved in the family business. It’s no surprise that he is a staunch advocate of the ability of business owners to move the dial on ocean sustainability. “Business owners can change this,” he says. “I am a great believer in owners because they have a longer term perspective than financial markets.” He is at pains to point out that while he fully appreciates the importance of the financial markets, he is also aware that the long-term view required for sustainability can be at odds with short-term market expectations of publicly owned companies. “You need courage to do this; it’s not always good for your short-term share price,” he says.

men in suits

José Soares dos Santos with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the opening of an exhibition at the Oceanarium, 2020. Image by Pedro Pina

As an example, he cites his family’s decision to remove all plastic from its businesses’ supply chains. “This is a huge transformation. It will cost a lot and take many years.” A publicly owned firm would struggle not only with the complexities of executing such a decision, but also with shareholders and hedge funds that prioritise short-term profitability. Consequently, such businesses may want to do the right thing, but be unable to follow through, he says.

By contrast, successful privately held family businesses are often built on long-term investment strategies. They appreciate the win-win of sustainable investing, but in turn often lack good quality information about what to invest in. This, too, is where the Oceano Azul Foundation has a role to play. “When we talk to owners, we can see they are worried. But they often do not know what to do. This is the bridge we have to cross – I can go out there and explain the issue, but I also have to provide the instruments.”

Read more: Marine biologist Douglas McCauley on environmental philanthropy

Creating the right framework for sustainable blue economy investment is thus crucial, he says, and the Oceano Azul Foundation’s Blue Azores programme is a model for how this can be achieved. The Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, is an Atlantic archipelago that is home to some highly diverse and under-pressure marine environments and ecosystems. In partnership with the Regional Government of the Azores and Waitt Foundation, the Foundation has run two scientific research expeditions, the result of which was the February 2019 signing of a memorandum of understanding for both the conservation of those environments and the sustainable development of resources and fisheries within the area.

As a result of the memorandum, 15 per cent of the Azores Exclusive Economic Zone will be designated as marine fully protected areas, with comprehensive plans for the sustainable development of resources and fisheries within the zone – in line with the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals, among others – to follow.

building in the sea

The Oceanarium building, designed by Peter Chermayeff in 1998. Image by Pedro Pina

Blue Azores is a great example of what can be achieved through a marriage of government, society and business investment, says dos Santos. “The Azores government has an outstanding leader who appreciates the need to take political decisions that will go beyond his term of office. It makes the Azores a very good place to invest, because there are programmes there that you can measure, and you can see making a difference. They will be good for the fishing industry, but also for the preservation of the oceans.”

It’s precisely that kind of win-win that dos Santos believes is key to building a stronger, better understood and more resilient approach to marine conservation and development. It’s a big job, but he has faith that it can be done – and more quickly than you might expect. “I am a great believer in humankind – given the right circumstances, we are capable of achieving extraordinary things and really making a difference to the planet.”

Lisbon Oceanarium

Opened in 1998 and designed by architect Peter Chermayeff, who also conceived the design for the Osaka Oceanarium, the spectacular Oceanário de Lisboa is home to some 16,000 marine organisms representing 450 species from across the globe. The attraction’s centrepiece is a vast tank containing five million litres of sea water, in which approximately 100 species – including sharks, rays and a giant sunfish – swim in near-ocean conditions.

The Oceanario is also the base for dedicated teams of experts in education and ocean conservation, including more than 30 highly qualified marine biologists. Its educational outreach programmes reach more than 100,000 school children every year.

Find out more: oceanoazulfoundation.org

This article originally appeared in the LUX x Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Blue Economy Special in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue.

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Reading time: 10 min
woman and child

Nadya Abela is the founder and CEO of the Nadezda Foundation in the Russia and the UK

Philanthropist Nadya Abela established the Nadezda Foundation in her hometown of Tver in Russia in 2015 to provide disadvantaged children with much needed medical care and educational support. In 2019, a sister foundation was registered in the UK. In the first of our new philanthropy series, she speaks to Samantha Welsh about her motivations, the process of setting up a children’s charity and the challenges presented by the global pandemic
woman with blonde hair

Nadya Abela

LUX: When did you first have the idea to set up your Nadezda charity fund in Russia and why? What prompted you to also to launch the foundation in UK? ​
Nadya Abela: When my youngest son was born here in London, I start realising more and more that being a parent is enormous responsibility and hard work. I felt lucky that my boys had good medical and educational infrastructure available for them here in UK. When I start comparing that to what was available back then for children in Tver, Russia, I realised there was a huge gap between the two.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

I flew home in the summer of 2015  and visited a few children’s hospitals, orphanages and educational centres for underprivileged children. Right there and then I decided to set up a foundation that would concentrate on children’s health and education issues in my hometown and other cities in Russia.

A few of my dear girlfriends (who are now on the committee at Nadezda Foundation) and I had been discussing similar issues here in United Kingdom for a long time and so we decided to set up the UK foundation in 2019, which also helps children who also find themselves in difficult life situations.

LUX: Is there anybody in the world of philanthropy and fund raising who inspired you?​
Nadya Abela: Regular people, who give their time and money to support causes that are dear to their hearts or families, always inspire me.

LUX: What exactly does Nadezda Foundation do and how do you ensure you get optimum results? ​
Nadya Abela: Our foundations concentrate on children’s health and education. I believe those two factors are most important in creating positive future for them and for society in general.

LUX: How much of your time does it take?​
Nadya Abela: Quite a lot, especially prior to important fundraising events.

LUX: Have you always been passionate about the welfare of underprivileged children and young people?
Nadya Abela:  Ever since I started my modelling career at the age of 18, I always wanted to adopt a little boy or a girl, to take them away from life in orphanage and create a safe and healthy environment for them to live in. I have not done it yet, but hope that one day it will be possible. For now our charity foundation and I directly help lots of children, and we know that we change some of their lives for the better.

children in classroom

children's playground

Some of the children the Nadezda Foundation helps (above), and one of the playgrounds built in Tver, Russia for children with autism.

LUX: Do you think that the role of private philanthropy is becoming more important, with increasing limitations on government funding?​
Nadya Abela:  Absolutely. It is always very direct because it involves less bureaucracy.

LUX: What are the biggest obstacles and challenges you have faced?​
Nadya Abela: In Russia at the beginning, it was difficult to get people and big companies on board with fundraising. People were skeptical, or too busy with their own problems. Now, five years later, the situation has changed completely. I have people calling me directly and asking how and where they can help, which is an achievement on its own.

In UK, the hardest part was legally registering the foundation. It was a lengthy and costly affair, but now everything is fairly straight forward.

Read more: British artist Petroc Sesti on his nature-inspired artworks

LUX: Is there anything that concerns you about the path ahead for your foundation?​
Nadya Abela: With Covid and current restrictions it is nearly impossible to do any fundraising so our work and the help we can provide is very limited. It is absolutely devastating and takes us back to square one so many children are not getting help they so urgently need.

LUX: What are your proudest achievements?
Nadya Abela: ​Seeing my two sons want to help with my charity work and support other boys and girls who are currently living in difficult situations.

woman outside hospice

Nadya outside EACH (East Anglia Children’s Hospices) for the whom the foundation raised £25,000 in 2019.

LUX: How will Covid-19 affect what you do?​
Nadya Abela: Covid does not affect what I do. The ministers who make wrong decisions, kill economy and therefore, affect the wellbeing of whole nation and future of our children.

LUX: Do you enjoy running your foundation?​
Nadya Abela: It keeps me grounded and yes, when we see how our work has changed children’s and their families’ lives, it does feel good.

LUX: Do you have specific examples of children or young people who have benefited?
Nadya Abela: ​There are lots of stories and projects from both of our foundations, which you can see on our websites. They all important, no matter how big or small so I wouldn’t want to single one out.

LUX: How would you encourage people to get more involved in supporting vulnerable children and young people?
Nadya Abela: You can go and visit schools and share your knowledge and experience. All children love to learn and they also love it when they feel that grown ups are interested in what they have to say. Find out what their biggest dream is, and help them to achieve it. We do not always have to raise lots of money to help change a child’s life.

LUX: What would you warn people about who are interested in setting up a charitable foundation?​
Nadya Abela: Depending on the cause, it can be very emotional and take up lots of your time especially if it’s something you’re really passionate about, but it’s all worth it!

LUX: Have you any advice for LUX readers who might want to get involved in philanthropy?
Nadya Abela: Just do it and don’t look back!

Find out more: nadezdafoundation.org.uk; fondnadezda.com

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Reading time: 5 min
submarine
uderwater submarine

OceanX’s sub Deep Rover filming for ‘Blue Planet II’ in Cocos Island in the Pacific Ocean, 2015. Image by Ian Kellett.

Once the sea casts its spell, it holds you in its net of wonder forever. So said the legendary Jacques Cousteau, and so it is with Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds. Together with his son Mark, Dalio created OceanX to raise awareness of the seas through exploration, film, media and science. LUX speaks to them about their visionary philanthropic venture. By Sophie Marie Atkinson

DEUTSCHE BANK WEALTH MANAGEMENT x LUX

man in wetsuit

Ray Dalio. Image by Didier Noirot.

In an age when several billionaires have set their sights on a new age space race, Ray Dalio’s heart belongs to a different frontier.

It’s one that, unlike our solar system, has seen untold destruction over the past 50 years alone. Coral bleaching is the devastating result of climate change, chemicals used in agriculture routinely end up in the water, killing marine plants and shellfish, and, according to Greenpeace, a truckload of plastic is tipped into the ocean every single minute.

Fascinatingly, the recent coronavirus pandemic has seen marine life rebound. A decline in the number of visitors to beaches has allowed endangered species of turtles more space to lay their eggs. Quieter oceans have led to incredible footage of marine life resurging around the world, including pods of dolphins and sperm whales off the coasts of Fujairah in the UAE and Sri Lanka. But how do we harness this effect, one of the few positives to emerge from an otherwise devastating situation? Ray Dalio – philanthropist, entrepreneur and founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds – has a few ideas.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Dalio, who started Bridgewater in his two-bedroom apartment in New York in 1975 before growing the firm into one of the most important private companies in the US, first felt the tug of underwater exploration decades ago. Like many others, his interest was sparked by the father of modern-day diving.

“I watched Jacques Cousteau’s films and documentaries growing up,” explains Dalio, whose personal fortune is almost $19 billion, “and they made me incredibly curious about the underwater world. I’ve always felt this pull towards nature and the wilderness. I started diving in my early 20s, I think. At first, I would charter a boat, then I bought one of my own.” But a yacht, which to many others of significant wealth would be the natural next step, never appealed to Ray, who has given away more than $760 million to philanthropic causes and has called the US wealth gap a national emergency. “I wanted an exploration boat,” he says. Half a century later, Dalio and his converted lift ship, a much-coveted exploration boat, have been central to several high-profile aquatic missions.

So far, MV Alucia has helped capture the first-ever footage of the elusive giant squid; aided in the search for Air France Flight 447; taken Leonardo DiCaprio on a submersible dive for his documentary film, Before the Flood, and travelled to new depths for BBC Earth’s Blue Planet. The last of these was made in partnership with OceanX (formerly Alucia Productions), of which Dalio is Founder and his youngest son Mark is Founder and Creative Director. OceanX’s sole mission is to explore the ocean and reveal its discoveries to the world.

ocean ship

OceanX’s new research vessel OceanXplorer. Courtesy OceanX

But where did this intense desire to educate others come from? “For me,” Dalio explains, “there was an intellectual awareness of the issues, and then there was actually witnessing them first-hand. I would dive in certain places, like the Great Barrier Reef, and then return many years later and see how much had changed. I’d see how much more pollution there was, and how much illegal fishing was going on. I’d see locals trying to eke out a living in the face of these huge trawlers that were decimating underwater life.”

Read more: How ethical blue economy investments support ocean conservation

This had a big effect on him personally. “But I knew that not everyone had experienced what I had,” he continues. “With the ocean, there is of course a surface, and if you don’t penetrate the surface, what you experience instead is a reflection. But when you dive, you go beyond that reflection. You get a glimpse of precisely what’s going on and how this world is changing. You speak to people about how populations of fish are dying. You see and understand the impact of plastic in the ocean and of people treating it like a toilet. Add into this equation the extreme beauty of the sea, and the fact that I had been learning about it through scientists and fellow explorers. So, when my financial circumstances were such that I could truly get involved in a big way, I realised I could not only support explorations, but that I could also start showing them to the wider world.”

two men on the stage

Mark and Ray Dalio at the OceanX launch in 2018. Image by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for OceanX

Mark was working at National Geographic at the time, Ray explains. “We got talking and decided that we needed to bring it back to the world, we needed to share these incredible stories. And so we did.”

On a mission, Ray and Mark began to partner with others who shared their enthusiasm for the ocean. They worked with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on explorations and collaborated with the BBC on Blue Planet II, which was shot on their own ship. They filmed the giant squid for the first time. Slowly, awareness of their work began to spread through their own social media efforts and exhibitions.

“We wanted to get what we had helped produce for Blue Planet II into science centres and museums,” explains Mark. “We partnered with the American Museum of Natural History. We took a lot of the amazing content from the ‘Deep Ocean’ episode and created an interactive exhibit for families and kids to enjoy, featuring a giant screen film that we co-produced. This, too, was geared towards a younger audience.

Read more: Signature African Art’s Khalil Akar on Black Lives Matter

“We didn’t go too heavy on the science, but there were undertones of it. Our vision was that families would watch this series, then go into a museum and have a more in-depth, interpersonal and educational experience.”

“Mark and I became deeply entrenched in these projects,” Dalio continues, “and then we started to get other philanthropists involved. We realised there were synergies between us and those with similar visions. We – Mark and I – knew that we could bring our platform and the ship as well as media capabilities. We sought people who were interested in that offering. That led us to James Cameron.”

Cameron, the director of Avatar and Titanic, is partner of OceanX. Like the Dalios, he’s an ocean advocate and also an avid diver – at one point he was a record holder for his solo descent to the deepest place in the ocean, the Mariana Trench off the western Pacific (his title was usurped by Victor Vescovo in 2019, who, unnervingly, found a plastic bag on the sea floor at nearly 11km). Cameron will head back underwater for Mission OceanX, a series co-produced by OceanX and BBC Studios along with himself for National Geographic. This follows the maiden voyage of the OceanXplorer, the younger sibling of Alucia. “The greatest nature filmmakers in existence will be coming together on our new ship,” Dalio says.

submarine

OceanX’s vessel Alucia while filming in Antartica for ‘Blue Planet II’ in 2017. Image by Ian Kellett

“This is the way I look at it,” he continues. “Oceans are utterly integral to our daily lives. And for me personally, it’s much more exciting than venturing to outer space. I’m not knocking it, by any means, but if you want to see aliens, you’re not going to see them by travelling to Mars. You’re going to see them here.”

As Dalio says, if you compare the ocean area to that of the land, there’s twice as much to explore underwater. “And think how much we’ve unearthed up here,” he continues. “All of the plants and their medicinal purposes – imagine what else we might discover in terms of much needed breakthroughs, cures and vaccines.”

Research and expeditions are expensive, though. Ray estimates that around 200 times more funding goes into space than aquatics, even though the health of our oceans is on a knife edge. Despite this, Philippe Cousteau – grandson of Jacques and an oceanographer in his own right – stresses that it’s not too late to save them from complete destruction. In an interview with Agence France-Presse in June 2020, he emphasised that humanity not only has the tools at its disposal, but, crucially, we already know that they work. He went on to stress the importance of what he believes to be an integral initiative: establishing areas on Earth that are protected. At present, only five per cent of the oceans are officially safeguarded, but there’s a growing movement to ensure that this reaches 30 per cent by 2030.

Read more: British artist Petroc Sesti on his nature-inspired artworks

He believes that the documenting of expeditions and promotion of the work being undertaken is at the heart of spreading that message. “I like to think that we can create change through the stories we tell on television, in classrooms, through social media, on cruise ships – and it’s really all about exploring our world,” he says in an interview with Condé Nast Traveller. “Because what is travel if not telling stories?”

Blue Planet II was a great awakener to this way of thinking. So much so that there’s a term for the impact it had – the Blue Planet effect. It’s reported that a remarkable 88 per cent of people who watched the programme changed their behaviour, from carrying reusable coffee cups to shunning plastic packaging. But, Ray points out, a TV series like this is finite. “You watch it and then it’s over. What we and our partners aspire to is a constant stream of content.” Enter Mission OceanX, which will air on a weekly basis. And as well as the TV show, fans will be able to interact and engage further through social media. Their aim, in fact, is to build a global community.

man looking into fish tank

Mark Dalio

The show, due to air in 2022, will also be character driven, something that will set it apart from previous natural history series. Cameron has even suggested that the format could come close to that of reality TV. As he told Variety, it will get under the skin of the people and the mission. “I want to follow these people. I want to know how they think; I want to understand their passion as explorers and as ocean scientists… that burning curiosity.”

OceanX is, however, wary of coming across as preachy. “Our intention is to inspire a love of the ocean, as well as intrigue and excitement,” says Ray. “That will manifest itself in many different ways – people will be thirsty to explore it and, crucially, protect it. Children will aspire to be marine biologists. And hopefully new and existing projects alike will start to treat it with the importance it deserves.”

Alongside this optimism, Dalio is also aware of how much there is to do. “When it comes to the aquatic world, we simply haven’t scratched the surface yet,” he says. “Not in a way that’s relative to its potential. What we’re currently doing with OceanX is just the beginning of the journey. Our hope is that we can provide an escape that also inspires.”

Dalio is conscious that this must be more than entertainment. “We want to provide people with beautiful content that of course they enjoy, but that also helps them to pinpoint the issues that need to be addressed and prompts them to ask themselves, ‘how can I get involved?’,” he explains. “Those small sparks, that’s what we’re looking for. It’s the Cousteau movement. He inspired so many pioneers and ocean explorers today, like me, and we’re trying to reignite that.”

Find out more: oceanx.org

This article originally appeared in the LUX x Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Blue Economy Special in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue.

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bird flying over sharks
diver

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, located off the coast of California. Image by NOAA/Mark Norder

Douglas McCauley directs the Benioff Ocean Initiative, the philanthropic organisation created by billionaire Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne. McCauley, a marine biologist, says that philanthropists can do much more to save the oceans than simply write a cheque

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man holding goggles

Douglas McCauley. Image by Jonathan Little.

We all have an opportunity and responsibility to do something for ocean health, whatever walk of life we are from. The ocean has paid us some service – and this service can be reciprocated.

I grew up in Los Angeles and if you’ve passed through the Greater Los Angeles area you get a sense that there is a whole lot of concrete and man-made change on land. And then you hit the coast and you have this big, beautiful uninterrupted space. So, for me the first debt of gratitude that I have to the oceans is that they were my escape to a world where I could find wilderness and immerse myself in the beauty of the ocean. And there was the practical side: the ocean provided me with my dinner – it gave me employment and income.

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For most people, the debt that they owe the ocean is different. For some people, such as Marc and Lynne Benioff, their identity has been shaped by ocean places such as San Francisco and Hawaii where they’ve lived and raised kids. The ocean has given them a lot of inspiration and beauty and knowledge. To be in a place that is so ancient and to be part of the majesty of the ocean and to experience such a mindful reset, and then to jump back into life on land and manage it successfully, means that you as an individual have drawn some value from the solitude and exaltation felt when by the ocean.

In the arrangement that we forged, Marc and I are each trying to repay some portion of that debt. As an ocean scientist, I can use the tools, our networks and our laboratories to try to be helpful, and Marc uses his resources, his influence, his network, to help create change. These two worlds together are really powerful.

For many people, the oceans feel very remote from us, making it a harder environment as a philanthropic domain to connect with. But there are some very practical ways that the oceans, even if they are remote, do provide benefits to all of us. The most universal of these is that the ocean, as it lives and breathes, as it aspires and photosynthesizes, produces half of the oxygen on the planet.

That means that whether you’re in seaside Miami or in landlocked Geneva, every other breath that you take comes from the oceans. It is a life-support system and certainly enough reason for us to connect to make sure that it continues to be fully functioning and healthy. When you do actually recognise that you have a debt to repay to the oceans, it is important to return the favour to the sea, to repay that debt.

The numbers of people who have made that reconnection to the oceans and have become champions for the seas are relatively few in the world of philanthropy. Statistics estimate that approximately one per cent of philanthropy is dedicated to the oceans. There are so many important causes on the planet that deserve our attention and investment but for a living place that encompasses two-thirds of our planet and provides us with half of our breaths, perhaps it deserves more from us. Each individual’s philanthropic portfolio matters, because each one incrementally will help us move a little bit further north of that one per cent.

bird flying over sharks

Building partnerships with scientists and science can be powerful and create some symbiotic opportunities. Almost all of us have a relationship with a university, and we might be surprised that there are centres and hubs of ocean excellence in many universities, and not just places on the coast. For example, ETH in Zurich, Switzerland is one such hub of excellence.

Read more: How ethical blue economy investments support ocean conservation

Unfortunately, the problems facing ocean health are so large that there has to be a critical mass. No one single university is going to be able to change things. So a lot of what we are trying to do is create a template by which we can activate our colleagues and peers to demonstrate that we can actually make a difference.

For example, when you’re looking at an issue such as plastic pollution, in which you have more than five trillion pieces of plastic in the global oceans, that is too big an issue for any one organisation to solve. So we are trying to create this model to facilitate change by creating open tools that will not only help and but also become replicable in other places.

That is one reason why working with Marc Benioff has been so successful. He is a problem solver who has built a globally successful company. There is much that we have learned from him about the general mechanics of problem solving, and about the many tools that cross that boundary, such as the ones we use in ocean problem solving that originally were designed for industry and technology.

When we started working with the Benioffs, I had the incorrect assumption that we would have a few starter conversations, they would send us a cheque, and we would be off on our own to try to figure this out. But the most valuable thing that they did for us was not send us the cheque. Instead, the most valuable thing that they did for us was to open up their networks and to share their expertise, and to very usefully help match us with people that could have a part of a solution that we needed.

Find out more: boi.ucsb.edu; labs.eemb.ucsb.edu/mccauley/doug/

This article originally appeared in the LUX x Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Blue Economy Special in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

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house in the water
house in the water

The Lisbon Oceanarium, Europe’s largest informational and educational space on the oceans, is operated by a foundation launched by Portugal’s Dos Santos family. Image by Paulo Maxim

Claudio de Sanctis, the new Global Head of Wealth Management at Deutsche Bank, has been passionate about the oceans since he was young. He now sees the blue economy – the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth – as a major and necessary target for investments. LUX speaks with him to discover why

DEUTSCHE BANK WEALTH MANAGEMENT x LUX

man in suit

Claudio de Sanctis

LUX: How did your interest in ocean conservation arise?
Claudio de Sanctis: It’s something that goes back to my childhood. I was brought up in Italy and school summers there are very long. I spent a good portion of that time in the water snorkelling and skin diving in the Mediterranean and I developed an incredibly strong connection to the sea and the life in it. You carry forward that passion for animals and life in the sea; and then, if you are 47 as I am now and you are still spending your holidays diving in the sea with your family, you witness first-hand the changes that have gone on. You have this passion, you have witnessed this crisis, and there is a part of you that says something needs to be done.

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LUX: You have personally noticed the environmental changes in the sea?
Claudio de Sanctis: One hundred per cent. If you don’t dive or spend time underwater, the ocean may seem like a beautiful, big, blue expanse and it’s difficult to perceive how it’s changing; it looks as beautiful now as it did 50 years ago. But if you do actually spend time underwater, you then notice that the Mediterranean, for example, has changed dramatically. In the past 40 years, plastic has replaced fish. There were previously a lot of fish, and now there are far fewer and plastic is popping up more and more so it’s now almost impossible to get underwater without seeing a large amount. Also, tropical fish are being seen in Greece, for example, which is a concern as it suggests a very significant change in temperature. If you go to the tropics, the situation is very similar. I have less than 20 years’ experience diving in the tropics, but even in that time, the situation has deteriorated and reefs have disappeared.

LUX: And this is what inspired your focus on the blue economy, which includes ocean conservation and much more besides.
Claudio de Sanctis: That’s correct. There are two fundamental beliefs informing this. One is that institutions such as Deutsche Bank have a fantastic history, if you realise that, for example, we have invested in young artists for the past 40 years for no other reason than social responsibility. While we are a business for profit, doing things because they are relevant and important for the societies we operate in, and because it’s right to be doing them, is important. In that context, we try to do things that are relevant to our clients. I meet clients on a daily basis and more often than not, the discussion will turn to conservation and particularly ocean conservation, and the strongest message I get is one of interest and one of alarm. “How can I help?”, they ask. And that’s how the blue economy comes into play because I believe that the best way to protect the sea is actually to explain to everybody the extraordinary sustainable, long-term economic value it has. There is a lot we need to explain to the world, such as the fact that we breathe because of the ocean; if we damage the ocean beyond a certain point, we won’t be able to breathe air any more. This is very much where education comes into play. And if you understand how the ocean can produce long-term economic development for low-income, underdeveloped countries, that is very relevant. If it’s properly harnessed, the blue-economy potential for a country such as Indonesia is extraordinary. It can lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and give them long-term prospects.

LUX: Are there increasing investment opportunities for the blue economy?
Claudio de Sanctis: There are, but there is so much more to be done, which is why the conference we are holding is so interesting. At the moment it is a very thin market but you essentially have three main drivers. The first one is very wealthy families who set up dedicated foundations, which in turn invest long term in ocean conservation and the blue economy. In that space, education plays a massive role. Secondly, if you don’t want to have a dedicated foundation then you can invest in financial instruments. There are more and more liquid financial instruments starting with blue bonds that allow you to contribute capital with a certain degree of return in order to help these underlying themes. The last element that we need to develop is investing directly in companies as more start up with a blue economy angle.

LUX: Will the blue economy become more important within environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing in general?
Claudio de Sanctis: That’s a very good question. My view is that when it comes to ESG, there is no need to put different sub-themes within ESG into competition. There is so much need for more across the board. I can say that interest in ocean conservation and the blue economy is growing exponentially and the awareness of it is growing extraordinarily fast because it’s tied to very important problems. I mean, science has now led us to understand that the oxygen for two breaths in every three comes from the sea, which is something that, five to ten years ago, very few people knew. So if you pollute the sea to a point that that sort of oxygen production slows down, you have a huge problem, because we’re not going to be replanting a lot of forest in the next 50 years. And planting forest takes a long time. Most of the ESG themes are fundamentally interlinked. For example, ocean conservation, blue economy and climate change all interlock.

Read more: Fashion designer Kevin Germanier’s sustainable glamour

LUX: Do companies who may believe they are not responsible for, say, ocean degradation because they are based far from the sea, need to be made aware of this interlocking, that the ocean is relevant to them?
Claudio de Sanctis: That is a very fundamental point. Awareness is everything and in my view, the awareness we need to create is not so much in the companies as in the end consumer. Everybody needs to understand the relevance of this resource, that the ocean is deteriorating and what the consequences of this are. And then on the positive side, what are the opportunities we can extract from the sea if we actually manage it properly? When we talk of the problem of plastic in the oceans, everyone thinks of the poor albatross found with plastic in its stomach, which is a significant problem. It’s an easier problem to grasp than microplastics, which are less visible. But while plastic bottle and bag waste affects marine mammals and sea birds, it is microplastics that affect fish. And the biggest polluting factor in the plastic problem is our clothing. Every time we wash our clothes in a washing machine, particularly anything that has plastic fibres, we release microplastics into the ocean. This is just an example, and this is why we need education, because there is so much more that we need to know and that we need consumers to know because it is they who ultimately drive politicians and purchasing.

LUX: What would you like to achieve through your blue economy programme?
Claudio de Sanctis: In our business we talk to a number of very significant families about what it means to actually have positive impact. So even if we help a few of these families be more aware of the problems and solutions, that is already gratifying for me personally in terms of helping the cause. From a Deutsche Bank point of view, my aspiration is that in the next two to three years when Wealth Management clients think about oceans, they think about ocean conservation and economic development tied to that. And then they think of Deutsche Bank and pick up the phone and speak to their banker here.

Find out more: deutschewealth.com

This article originally appeared in the LUX x Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Blue Economy Special in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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women on a farm
women on a farm

Marie-Claire Daveu with Elodie Brunstein of ecological engineers Solicaz in French Guiana. Image by Magneto.

The Kering group, owner of Gucci and Bottega Veneta, led the luxury industry by pioneering a sustainability strategy years ago. Marie-Claire Daveu, who spearheaded this move, explains how environmental accounting and the blue economy are good for business, consumers and the planet

DEUTSCHE BANK WEALTH MANAGEMENT x LUX

woman smiling

Marie-Claire Daveu. © Benoît Peverelli

The fashion industry is dependent upon nature’s resources to manufacture. It is also a vast industry and, unfortunately, one of the most polluting. This means we have a specific responsibility to act now and transform our business model to mitigate the diminution of resources, loss of biodiversity and climate change that we already see affecting our industry and our planet. Sustainability is not an option; it is a necessity. And it demands definitive action from the fashion industry and beyond.

The blue economy in particular has to be a huge focus for everyone. The oceans are the lungs of the Earth, producing more than half the world’s oxygen and helping regulate our weather. But in the past few hundred years they have absorbed vast amounts of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, raising their temperature and changing their chemistry and ecosystems. Marine animals and humans rely on the oceans to live, and the only way to mitigate the harm being done is to change the way we operate here on land – from reducing plastic and chemical waste to choosing renewable energy sources where possible.

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Kering has already implemented a series of measures specifically in recognition of the rapidly degrading ocean environment. We have been working for years to preserve ocean biodiversity via programmes and partnerships with recognised associations – most recently, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). And in 2017, our chairman and CEO, François-Henri Pinault, presented the Fashion Pact to the G7, incorporating ocean protection as one of its main environmental goals. It proposes a set of concrete actions, such as the adoption of pollution controls to safeguard the rivers and oceans from chemicals released through the fashion production processes; and compels companies to develop innovations that will eliminate microfibre pollution from the washing of synthetic materials.

Such innovation is vital to growing a sustainable blue economy. In 2017, we committed to reducing our environmental footprint by 40 per cent by 2025, and half of that reduction will come from innovation, which is crucial if we want to bring new solutions into our business model.

Today, we are looking for and investing in innovations that can address blue economy challenges, including closed-loop recycling, alternative materials and sustainable sourcing. But there is still a long way to go. One of the main challenges the blue economy is facing is plastic, used to pack, transport and store garments. The fashion industry needs to urgently tackle polybag-packaging waste. One possible innovation has been developed by the Plastics Packaging Project – a Fashion for Good initiative supported by a coalition of companies, including Kering. The project aims to reduce the impact and use of plastic packaging, and recently launched a pilot for the collection and recycling of garment polybags. They will be transformed into new plastic film products, closing the loop and dramatically reducing the amount of plastic waste that often ends up in our waterways.

hands holding material

Kering’s Materials Innovation Lab. Image by Jean-Luc Perreard

Transparency will be vital to the longevity of such initiatives. Studies show that millennials and Generation Z are very sensitive to sustainability – with a keen focus on traceability. They also have very high expectations. Generation Z entering the workforce, together with increasing sustainability questions from consumers, will drive further efforts in the fashion industry and increased transparency around a product’s origins.

Read more: These photographer-activists are capturing underwater beauty

Corporate sustainability agendas must take into account a product’s entire impact, from the raw materials to products reaching clients. At Kering, this has become an essential part of our products’ excellence, and we have made that process transparent through the creation of our Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L) system, which measures, monetises and monitors the full environmental impact of a company’s operations across the entire supply chain, including greenhouse gas emissions, water use, water and air pollution, waste production and land use change. When you think about what is behind luxury, sustainability is often already built in: we use the highest quality raw materials; our products are made by skilled craftspeople; and some of them are passed down from generation to generation. They have to be perfect; even their sustainability must be perfect.

Building a sustainability strategy is about taking your whole supply chain and its impacts into account, and activating programmes to mitigate these impacts. The blue economy can be fully part of an environmental policy, and sustainability as a whole should be very much integrated in a company’s strategy. As an example, we know that the high-quality raw materials in luxury goods are ‘pre-designed’ for circularity, because of their value and versatility. But brands can extend product life cycles even further by employing recycled and upcycled materials. One blue-economy example within our supply chain is our collaboration with Econyl, makers of regenerated nylon yarn made of recycled fishnets, textile and industrial nylon waste. It has the same high quality as less sustainable alternatives, but can be endlessly regenerated.

Innovative collaborations such as these are the answer to accelerating sustainability. Our collaboration with IPBES is helping to strengthen the evidence base for better informed decisions about nature. And our EP&L hackathon in October 2019 brought developers and sustainability experts together to create digital tools that provide greater transparency around fashion’s footprint.

The message is clear: we want to play a pivotal role in leading the shift towards a sustainable future, but we can’t do it alone. Our action must be science-based and results-oriented. The private sector, governments and international organisations need to collaborate to protect nature and build a globally sustainable economy.

I am a very optimistic person, and I can see that a real shift has happened recently. Sustainability is at the heart of every conversation, both from companies and media, and this is a very good sign. Now it’s time for implementation, with unwavering determination. Fashion’s influence holds the key to accelerating those sustainable practices, both within our industry and beyond.

Marie-Claire Daveu is Kering’s chief sustainability officer.

Find out more: kering.com/en/sustainability

This article originally appeared in the LUX x Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Blue Economy Special in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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wine estate
wine estate

Château La Mission Haut-Brion. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

For the cosmopolitan Prince Robert de Luxembourg, owning one of the world’s most celebrated wine estates, Château Haut-Brion, was not enough. The former Hollywood screenwriter is creating a world of fine wine and cuisine fantasy for visitors to enjoy in Bordeaux and Paris – and much more besides. Darius Sanai chats to the Prince about the future of Thomas Jefferson’s favourite estate

Chatting in fluent English about online retail and the Chinese social media app WeChat, Prince Robert de Luxembourg does not exactly conform to a preconception of a European prince who owns the longest established of all the great Bordeaux wine estates.

And yet since he took over Domaine Clarence Dillon, maker of Château Haut-Brion, in 2003, Prince Robert has transformed the company, taking it from being the maker of a couple of the most celebrated wines in the world (Haut-Brion and its sister, La Mission, and their second wines) but little else (and a little profit), to a business employing 200 people with five different wine ranges, a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, an upmarket wine store next door, an online fine-wine retail business and a wholesaling arm.

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To add a little tannin to the story, Prince Robert, despite being born into the family that owns Château Haut-Brion, was not even intending to run it. In his youth, he was a successful screenwriter, spotted by Creative Artists in Los Angeles, with one of his scripts optioned by Steven Spielberg. To this day, he looks as if he would be as comfortable sipping a margarita in Malibu as a glass of the legendary 1989 vintage of his wine in Bordeaux.

You also feel he has only just begun on his journey of creating a real enterprise around a gem that was previously, if not neglected then certainly not fully polished.

He insists that he will not, unlike Bernard Arnault of LVMH, luxury magnate and owner of the equally celebrated Château Cheval Blanc, be lending his wine’s name to a hotel group. But there is more in the offing, including a tasting, dining and museum facility at the château itself. Unlike Cheval Blanc, Petrus, Lafite and Margaux, Haut-Brion is easily accessible from the city and airport of Bordeaux, and it is a place where he is determined that any lover of great wines should be able to visit and enjoy.

man looking out of window

Prince Robert de Luxembourg. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: What were your dreams when you were young?
Robert de Luxembourg: Like all of us, I had all kinds of different dreams depending on my age and some of them were realistic and some were less so.

LUX: Not many owners of Bordeaux First Growths lived in the US and were scouted as screen writers by Stephen Spielberg.
Robert de Luxembourg: I lived in the US only because I went to university there for a short while (at Georgetown) in Washington DC. I was there for under two years. We’ve always had family properties in Maine up in the north-east where I go every summer. Afterwards, thanks to my future wife, we became involved in screenwriting. She was very keen and had done some courses and was working on some ideas and had written a couple of films before I became involved with her, and we wrote a first speculative script when we were living all over the place, including France and driving around. That was the one that was picked up by Creative Artists in Los Angeles and we were signed as young writers; there was interest from Spielberg in that script but we ended up auctioning it to Columbia Pictures and then we worked with different people on it including Peters Entertainment, Original Film and David Heyman. We would come and go. Creative Artists would set up two weeks of meetings for us; and then Columbia and David actually hired us to write another screenplay.

Read more: Penélope Cruz on designing jewellery for Swarovski

LUX: Does a bit of you wish you’d carried on?
Robert de Luxembourg: You can’t do everything in life, and what appealed to me initially about that was I was working with my future wife, and then the realities of our lives made it a bit more complex. I loved the purely creative process. But I have been able to enjoy that in the work that I do in the wine industry throughout all kinds of different projects, whether it’s in the wine estates’ architectural projects or whether it’s developing business ideas. My need, I have come to understand over time, is to be able to develop projects and to basically be able to tell a story and then see that story come to life. So, I have been continuing to write these stories even if they are virtual and seeing them come to life whether it is at Le Clarence or La Cave du Château, or whether it is creating our wholesale business plans.

Vintage photograph men in wine cellar

Seymour Weller and Douglas Dillon, respectively nephew and son of Clarence Dillon. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: Was it always inevitable you would go into the family business?
Robert de Luxembourg: In 1993 it was clear that we needed to have the involvement of a young family member in the business. My mother was older and my stepfather, her husband, who was also managing director of the company, was also older, so there was a definite need to bring in new blood. At the time my writing was going well, so I spoke to my grandfather because I could see my career moving away from the family business, and I said, “I’ve been led to believe that there might be interest in me becoming involved. If that is the case, it’s really going to be now or never”. I had moved back to Europe, I was starting a family, I had bought a property and was building a house and all the rest of it, and so I was physically present and I could do it.

I didn’t know to what degree it would become such a central part of my life or how time consuming it would be at the time, but I said to him I don’t just want to be a caretaker if I become involved. I didn’t want to be involved for the glory of being associated with a wonderful story which is Haut-Brion, but to look after the business and develop it, and so he agreed with that, and then I became involved.

wood-panelled library

The library at Château Haut-Brion. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon

LUX: What was your plan when you started?
Robert de Luxembourg: I had to deal with the most basic things, like branding for example. I also wanted to make sure that we had as much focus on La Mission Haut-Brion [the sister property of Château Haut-Brion, regarded by many experts as equally good] as Haut-Brion so that they were both treated as equals. The business had always been a folly, never a business, we never took any money out of it. It was really just about making exceptional wine. I recognised that was not going to be a way that we could maintain family ownership over the generations. You have to also have a vision, you have to also be able to develop the business, and eventually down the road have a realistic income stream for future beneficiaries.

The story we had to tell was just extraordinary. We wanted to communicate it properly to the outside world, including that Haut-Brion has the most extraordinary wine history of any of the estates in Bordeaux, and we didn’t talk about it enough. Haut-Brion’s red wine as we know it today was basically invented by the Pontac family, and we had this extraordinary story of how the first vines were planted there probably in the first century AD, whereas the Médoc [the main red wine region of the left bank of Bordeaux] was only developed in the 17th century, so 1,600 years later. We were really the birthplace of the great wines of Bordeaux.

Read more: Designer Ali Behnam-Bakhtiar on bringing dream worlds to life

The Pontac family started all of these technological advancements, meaning they were able to develop the new French claret (red Bordeaux wine) that became famous thanks to their extraordinary marketing tool of opening up the Pontac’s Head tavern in London in 1666 after the great fire of London, where all of the cognoscenti at the time would go; everyone from John Locke and Isaac Newton to John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys would be there.

Since then, there has been the development of a new wine estate, Quintus, which really came into existence in 2011, so next year we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary. And then the creation of Clarendelle [high-quality entry-level white, rosé, red and sweet wines]. And that was an easy story for me to tell. I was a young man looking for a great bottle of wine that had a little bit of age on it where I wasn’t going to have to break the bank and have to store in a cellar in London because I didn’t have one. I could buy extraordinary aged Spanish wines or even some Italian wines but I couldn’t find anything from Bordeaux that had the regularity or quality at that price point. That’s where that idea came from.

LUX: With something like Le Clarence, the two Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris that opened in 2015, how do you decide that something which might be interesting to do will also be a good business?
Robert de Luxembourg:  There’s a little bit of a field-of-dreams scenario in some cases in that if you build something then they will come. Le Clarence was inspired by the Pontac family opening up this extraordinary restaurant in London in 1666 where they introduced the new French wines of Haut-Brion. It became the most hyped-up meeting spot in that city, and I also thought if they can do that in 1666 after the Great Fire of London, we could open something up in the heart of the most visited city in the world, Paris, a few feet from the most visited shopping street in the world, the Champs-Élysées. If they were successful then, why not now?

chef in the kitchen

fine dining

Le Clarence chef Christophe Pelé (above) and a dish of sea urchin with nasturtium. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon.

My wife told me I was absolutely crazy but I said why not do something a little bit different, I would like to design it myself, decorate it myself, build the team around it myself and do something that’s unlike anything else that’s out there. Because I could see the way that people would react when I would invite them to Haut-Brion; they would come to the château for lunch and you could see that people were charmed by that experience. It’s a home, it’s a family story, it’s a historical story and no one else can tell that story but us.

Today it is easy to find perfection in all of these designer restaurants in great hotels around the world that are designed by the same people oftentimes. But I think what’s truly priceless is finding a soul and also finding a perfection in imperfection.

LUX: And what about the idea of starting a wine shop in a city, Paris, that has no shortage of them?
Robert de Luxembourg: Once again, it was about how do you create a unique experience. You can see what Hedonism Wines did in London for example. You didn’t have a lack of wine shops in London yet what Hedonism did was unique and founded a new customer base. Also, Sotheby’s have done an amazing job with their wine shop in Manhattan. La Cave du Château is very specifically focused on the best French produce. My first job was writing letters to about 500 wine producers in France asking them and begging them if they could give us a few bottles to sell directly from the estate. And then creating an environment that was beautiful.

La Cave has developed into an e-tailer, a rather exciting new development that has been a lifesaver for us over the last few months.

Wine cellar

La Cave du Château. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon.

LUX: Walking around La Cave and Le Clarence, you feel that they are more private clubs than commercial entities.
Robert de Luxembourg: Ha, yes, I know, it does not look very commercial. But once again, that’s the ultimate luxury. You don’t want to be going to a place where you are right next to other people. For a lot of these people today the ultimate luxury is being comfortable, you don’t want to be overheard by the next table, you want to be in a place where you have space and a sense of privacy. The premise was to receive people the way we receive people at the château in Bordeaux, and to have a place where, before you go down to lunch, you can go and sit in the living room and have a glass of champagne, and after dinner you can go up and have a brandy as you would in the château, and if you want to go outside and have a cigar you can do so.

LUX: And we know you have more plans…
Robert de Luxembourg: Yes, we will be opening up private dining rooms in Bordeaux, with a visitors’ centre. We will have a new Cave du Château which we’ll open up in our visitors’ centre, managed by our retail arm. We will have multiple private dining rooms there, and they can have an experience like the one they can have at Le Clarence but with an extraordinary wine shop downstairs, right within the vineyards of Haut-Brion.

Wine glass and bottle

Château Haut-Brion’s acclaimed 1985 vintage. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon.

Prince Robert de Luxembourg’s desert island wines: Château Haut-Brion 1945, Château Haut-Brion 1989, Château La Mission Haut-Brion 1955, Château Haut-Brion Blanc 1989, Château La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc 2009, Château Quintus 2019

LUX: With Château Haut-Brion, you are the guardian of one of the world’s great luxury brands. How does that feel?
Robert de Luxembourg: I’d like to say it’s the greatest! I don’t know – it depends how you define a brand. I am not arrogant because I am not responsible for it.

LUX: Traditionally, awareness of the great Bordeaux wines was handed down from parent to child – unfortunately, usually father to son. Now there are so many new markets – how do you pass the message on to the latest generation of wine lovers, and how do you ensure that the status of the brand is clear?
Robert de Luxembourg: It’s a challenge for us. When I first got into this space, a real wine lover in New York or Singapore or Hong Kong would say how exceptional our wines were. But none of our competitors had the regularity of the past century that we had at Haut-Brion. That was something not really known by the greater public, and it was something I felt we needed to work on.

We continue to be active and interact with people. We were the first First Growth to have our own server and website in China or have a YouTube channel or a WeChat account for our wholesale business, or to open up Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for our vineyards.

You will probably remember that it was considered that luxury brands should not be represented in this space, and it took away from the experience. I disagree with that because I think if you controlled the way you do it you can reach this audience, especially a young audience. Our client base was changing and we needed to adapt to the youth.

chateau building

The chapel of Château La Mission Haut-Brion. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon.

LUX: And what about the wines themselves? There are commentators who say wine now is better than it has ever been because of advances in winemaking techniques. And others who say that, for example, the 1945 vintage is still the best ever made.
Robert de Luxembourg: The 1945 is the finest Haut-Brion that I have had the pleasure of enjoying. I have only had it about three times in my life. We sold the last eight bottles for charity about ten years ago, and we have none left.

But the unfortunate truth is that global warming has been beneficial to the regularity of quality with wines we’ve produced, alongside the technological advances. If you look at a temperature chart of south-western France over the years, and the heat of those particular years, you will note that the better vintages like the 1945 and 1989 are always the hottest vintages. I don’t want to take anything away from our winemakers and their work, but their work is easier dealing with a 1945, 1959 or a 1961 vintage.

Read more: Meet the marine biologist pioneering coral conservation

Yes, it is helped by technology and science, and also by massive investment. We have been in a golden period for the great wines of Bordeaux, and so we have made more money and thus are able to invest more money in all of our businesses and we always try and push the envelope and do better every year. And then we’ve had the arrival of the wine critics who have always encouraged and helped us to a degree, because we have people looking over our shoulder so you can’t get it wrong today. So, yes, I don’t think we have ever made better wines over a period of time than over the past two decades, and our climate conditions have greatly helped us.

LUX: Many wine lovers, after starting their First Growth cellar with the likes of Château Lafite and Château Margaux, eventually gravitate towards Château Haut-Brion. Why?
Robert de Luxembourg:As a wine lover, and I consider myself to be a wine lover before a wine producer, you tend to gravitate away from things that are easier to understand towards things that are more subtle and more difficult to understand.

And that is a disadvantage for Haut-Brion when you are doing a blind tasting and you are not eating and your more easily able on a cerebral level to recognise bulky and more fruit-filled wines. As you age and you become more educated, you want to have a different experience I think you look for something that sets off multiple parts of your gustatory experience, hitting certain spots you are not able to reach with other wines. It’s the same with a painting or a piece of music.

You might find it shocking and enjoyable to see a Pop art piece but over time you maybe gravitate towards something that’s a little bit more complex and has a little bit more depth, with more layers. And Haut-Brion is an intellectual wine because of the terroir, but also because of the way the wine is produced. We have always had that at Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion. They are wines that are more difficult to understand, but when you want to grow as a taster, they are remarkable wines. You see that people eventually gravitate towards lighter extraordinary wines, and great Burgundies which I love also, and I think that is also explained by seeking out something very subtle, elegant and complex.

LUX: What are the unique opportunities and challenges of running a family wine business?
Robert de Luxembourg: Already just being in the world of wine, there is the notion that we aren’t doing anything for tomorrow. A decision that I will make to pull up a parcel of vines and replant it will probably still benefit my grandchildren if they are lucky enough to be involved in the business. We don’t anticipate being able to have a short-term return on many of these projects. We didn’t take a penny out of the business for the first six decades of running this company. It really was a folly of my great-grandfather [Clarence Dillon, who acquired Château Haut-Brion in 1935] that was then inherited by his children.

Today we can’t just sit on our laurels and think that we are managing a jewel of today and being proud of being the wardens or owners of this jewel. We have to have a business that makes sense for future generations and shows some evolutionary growth because otherwise you will immediately get frustrations from the generations to come that build up, and we know how that ends. So that’s a big part of it, great people keeping great people on board, sharing that message with them, making sure they buy into that and we’ve been able to do that with all our companies.

We’ve had relative stability across the board with the teams of people that I work with. Take Jean-Philippe Delmas, a third-generation winemaker at our estate. His family arrived at Haut-Brion in 1923, so they are about to celebrate their century with us, but his is one of multiple families that have been with us for generations.

country estate

Château Haut-Brion. Courtesy of Domaine Clarence Dillon.

Winemaker and Deputy General Manager Jean-Philippe Delmas on the greatest wines from the Domaine Clarence Dillon estates

Château Quintus red 2011
We acquired this property in June 2011, so this is a first vintage. It is located on a promontory overlooking the Dordogne valley at the south-west end of Saint-Émilion. This wine is blended equally between Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It’s a sublime marriage of the finesse and elegance of Cabernet Franc with the power, colour and sweetness of Merlot.

Château Haut-Brion red 1989
Certainly the greatest success of all the wines produced by my father. Its harmony is close to perfection with a breathtaking intensity and aromatic complexity combining cedar, eucalyptus, mint, roasting and Havana. The whole tannic structure is coated, giving this wine an unexpected sweetness. This vintage remains and will remain a reference.

Château La Mission Haut-Brion red 2003
This is a vintage when the summer was scorching, so we started the red harvest in mid-August, working at sunrise at the coolest time of the day with refrigerated trucks to preserve the freshness until the vat. It is one of the few Mission vintages where there is a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon. The magic of this terroir does the rest with an incredibly fresh wine.

Château Quintus red 2019
This is the latest addition to this beautiful property in Saint-Émilion. After almost a decade of meticulous work, we have succeeded in creating not only a new brand, but also a new wine with its own identity. Over the years, we have patiently drawn the personality of this wine and have achieved our goal with this vintage.

Château Haut-Brion red 1929
Of all the vintages made by my grandfather, this is the greatest. Even today, this wine has an amazing youth. The great density of this wine has allowed it to travel back in time. It has all the characteristics of the great wines that this terroir can produce – an aromatic signature, elegance and inimitable silky touch.

Château La Mission Haut-Brion red 2009
2009 seems to me to be the modern version of the legendary 1989. In this wine, we find all the characteristics of La Mission, with very rich, deep, spherical and coated wines. This wine charms you with its precision, a tannic structure counterbalanced by sweetness akin to velvet.

Find out more: haut-brion.com

This article features in the Autumn Issue, which will be published later this month.

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Reading time: 20 min
sunken terrace
man in suit

Ali Behnam-Bakhtiar. Image by Marko Delbello Ocepek.

Iranian-born designer Ali Behnam-Bakhtiar does it all – interiors, architectural design, weddings. Whether large-scale events or private homes, a converted airplane or a château, he runs the gamut from extravagant to minimal with equal flair and imagination, bringing his clients’ stories to life. Torri Mundell reports

Architectural designer Ali Behnam-Bakhtiar is a man on the move. Since 2003, his striking design projects have made their mark on coastlines, private islands, mountainsides and city streets in Europe, Asia and the Gulf, while his events company operates from Dubai, London, Paris and Monaco. The spaces he conceives, from the cargo plane he transformed into an airborne apartment to a spectacular eco-friendly château in Provence and a refurbished 150-metre yacht extended with landscaped green spaces, are equally dynamic. “I think of spaces and events like personal books,” he says. “They are stories that we experience through an introduction, a body and a grande finale.”

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Though Behnam-Bakhtiar claims not to have a signature style, the emphasis on experiencing a space – rather than simply passing through it – is an essential part of his aesthetic. “To create this kind of extra dimension, I am very detail orientated. I study the space carefully, I envision the memories that can be created and I focus on the senses that can be discovered.”

floral wedding display

Behnam-Bakhtiar’s floral design for a wedding in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Copyright and courtesy Ali Bakhtiar Designs

Ali Bakhtiar Interiors clients do not commission him to create something they have already seen somewhere else. “Everything I do is one of a kind,” he says. “I don’t hold on to what I have done or what has been done.” Conceiving wholly original designs for every project can be hard work, he admits, but it means that he never caves in to “the dullness of repetition.” Instead, each project is always “a learning process that definitely keeps me challenged and excited.”

Read more: Meet the marine biologist pioneering coral conservation

Behnam-Bakhtiar’s curiosity, extensive research and the relationships he fosters with his clients to “deeply understand their values, wants and needs” all feed into his vision for a project. Every aspect of design is thoughtfully considered to create a harmonious whole, but his spaces are also full of daring, unexpected moments. Consider the château he restored in Provence: he preserved the historic façade and added a self-sustainable modern basement, a pond that irrigates the rest of the estate and a formal dining room with a glass floor that overlooks a garden lavishly planted with lotus flowers. “I believe it is important to embrace modernity as much as ancient knowledge, because something might look cool and new but it also needs to age well,” says the designer about his blend of the traditional and contemporary.

sunken terrace

A 2019 house on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat designed with glass walls to make the surrounding forest part of the interior. Copyright and courtesy Ali Bakhtiar Designs

Though the scale of the properties he designs can be vast, Behnam-Bakhtiar imbues his spaces with personal elements as well. “Generally, my favourite events or interior projects are the ones in which I deeply connect with my client, because this is what inspires me to go beyond expectation, and create something ‘out of this world’, a visualisation of their dreams and more.” In the château, for instance, each of the 34 suites was decorated to represent places or moments in time that are meaningful to the owner.

Creating a blueprint that encompasses both grand design moments and personal detail requires a nuanced approach. “Architecture to me is about conserving memory; creating spaces that host our lives but remain in existence beyond it,” Behnam-Bakhtiar continues. “Unlike events, architecture has permanence and so you are not just working on one experience in time, you are working on a timeless structure that impacts repeatedly. I believe architecture, landscaping and interior design need to merge to bring true and lasting harmony.”

He takes his cues from the outdoors to create this harmony. “I used to design houses that stood out from nature,” he remembers. “I now create ones that integrate with nature. The house becomes engulfed by the landscape rather than being simply set in it.” This approach also chimes with the current drive for sustainability. “Much more than ever, we now see nature as something that needs to be integrated in interiors and architecture. Rather than fighting the rules of nature or working against it, which we have done for so long, we are finally starting to see the incredible benefits of an alliance.”

Luxury villa

A 2018 house design in Florida with a characteristic Behnam-Bakhtiar blending of natural and built environments. Copyright and courtesy Ali Bakhtiar Designs

The “green and self-sustainable” glass house he designed for a client on a private island epitomises how this can work. In building the residence from scratch, Behnam-Bakhtiar gave it a “system that transmits and observes energy” along with an ultra-modern, sleek exterior and sumptuous Art Deco furnishings.

Read more: American artist Rashid Johnson on searching for autonomy

Similarly, on a property refurbishment in the French Pyrénées, Behnam-Bakhtiar preserved the ancient rocks that predated the house by encasing them in glass boxes and installing a “hydraulic system to make the house ‘convertible’; completely open towards the seascape, on multiple levels. We also created several distinct courtyards and fountains, to give the landscape exciting layers.”

architectural render

A render of an island house off the coast in Abu Dhabi, with an Art Deco inspired interior in contrast to the building’s ultra-modern minimalist exterior. Copyright and courtesy Ali Bakhtiar Designs

Born in Tehran, Ali Behnam-Bakhtiar was still a child when he moved with his family to Paris after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. He grew up surrounded by art and culture and his parents indulged his drive to “redecorate their interiors on a weekly basis”. Even so, he says, “it was very much a conscious adult decision to develop my creativity professionally.”

His early memories from Iran, particularly before the revolution, “in which large-scale events and gatherings were considered normal” may have informed Behnam-Bakhtiar’s other hugely successful business: event planning. Orchestrating large-scale, fantasy weddings, celebrations and parties is a complementary discipline to his design work but he came upon it entirely by chance. “I was working on the interior design of a palace for a client of mine, whose daughter was in the midst of planning her wedding. Completely uninspired by the process, she had sort of given up on her dream wedding until she coincidentally saw my plans for their winter garden. In love with the plans for the garden, she convinced me to design her large-scale royal-like wedding for 2,500 guests.”

events space

A reception that took place in Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. Copyright and courtesy Ali Bakhtiar Designs

Behnam-Bakhtiar’s ability to imagine multidimensional, immersive spaces works as well for one-off events as it does permanent buildings, and working across the two disciplines allows for a beneficial cross-pollination of ideas. “I mix architecture and interior design with event planning, and do things that have never been seen or done before. This has allowed me to evolve and remain modern. I embrace the future and the process of change and growth.” In 2019, Ali Bakhtiar Designs was named “best wedding planner in the Middle East” at the Destination Wedding Planners ACE awards, and in the same year the company won an honorary award at the Influencer Awards Monaco.

As with his architectural designs, the events he designs are inspired by their setting. “The location and not the budget is what creates the possibilities,” he says. What would he conjure up for a wedding at a castle with an unlimited budget? “I’d probably create a sunset moment, curate different areas so there is movement and a multi-layered experience of the castle. I would also do something with the façade, so the guests can view it differently throughout the evening.”

Read more: Why the market for modern classic Ferraris is hot right now

He is delighted to be commissioned for wedding and parties abroad. “Like creating a world from scratch, the entire infrastructure is purposefully built and specifically curated for the event, in the middle of nowhere.” The possibilities are endless, he points out, describing a beautiful event he planned on “a private island lit by 50,000 candles. The guests arrived by raft laid with beautiful flowers and in the middle of the island, we created a pond and fountain on which the gala’s dinner tables floated.” More unusually, Behnam-Bakhtiar also oversaw a divorce party on a cruise ship.

As with his design projects, Behnam-Bakhtiar and his team ensure they have oversight of every detail. “The design of the food, the uniforms, the bar; anything that has to do with the visuals, the service, the presentation… To me an event is never just about decoration, it is about continuous implementation; everything needs to run smoothly and as we visualised it.”

floral wedding display

An impression of flower-covered columns for a wedding at the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata in Florence, January 2020. Copyright and courtesy Ali Bakhtiar Designs

floral arch

A rendered image of a tunnel of flowers for a wedding in Cape Town, 2020. Copyright and courtesy Ali Bakhtiar Designs

With high-profile architectural and interior design clients and starry party guest lists, discretion is part of the Ali Bakhtiar Design service. He will not be drawn on the high profile personalities that have commissioned him. “We work with a lot of different people including celebrities and royalty, but under no circumstances do we share our clients’ names, whether we signed confidentiality agreements or not. We pride ourselves on being private.”

Word, however, is out – partly because of the design company’s huge international reach. “We go where our clients are, so it was only natural to expand,” Behnam-Bakhtiar explains of his company’s outposts in Dubai, London, Paris and Monaco. The company does not promote its productions but exposure has come nonetheless through guests’ photos on social media. And who can blame them? The vast hall filled with reflective ponds and dancing LED lights for a party in Shanghai and the arcade of pink roses for a church wedding in St Barts demanded a selfie. “Much of the current exposure of our work is not just because we have expanded but also because it is shared,” Behnam-Bakhtiar agrees.

Contemporary living interiors

A digital impression of a 2019 building design in Switzerland that brings nature into the heart of the home. Copyright and courtesy Ali Bakhtiar Designs

Like the architectural design industry, the events business is also becoming more mindful about expenditure. “I would like to see more consciousness around long-term trust and a sustainable use of funds,” Behnam-Bakhtiar asserts. “Rather than creating an event for the budget and exhausting funds, we now look at what we need for the event. This means we spend less on unnecessary things, so that these funds can be used elsewhere or go to charity.”

Behnam-Bakhtiar’s diligence is even more relevant in a post-Covid era. “Events of up to 7,000 people are postponed for at least a year,” he says, “but the smaller events are starting to take place now, in a more down-sized manner. We’re on stand-by, like the rest of the world.” With his vivid imagination, a roster of international clients and almost two decades of experience, he won’t be standing by for long.

Find out more: alibakhtiardesigns.com

This article features in the Autumn Issue, which will be published later this month.

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Reading time: 9 min
fine dining restaurant
sushi platter

A sushi platter from Zuma’s menu

When chef Rainer Becker opened the first Zuma restaurant in Knightsbridge in 2002, it set a new benchmark for informal high end dining. Sven Koch joined the restaurant group Azumi Ltd Worldwide in 2011 and now, their portfolio includes ROKA, ETARU, Oblix at The Shard and INKO NITO, with locations spread across the globe. Here, Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai speaks to Sven Koch, the group’s CEO, about embracing competition, working collaboratively and handling the challenges of Covid-19
portrait of man

Sven Koch

LUX: You opened Zuma in Boston last year. How is that going?
Sven Koch: Zuma Boston has done very well; I am pleased to say it was an instant success. We have a beautiful bar area at the front of the restaurant which quickly turned into “the place to be” within the city.

Obviously, Covid-19 has affected things hugely and the restaurant has been closed for a significant amount of time, but we are positive about building the business back up once we reopen.

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LUX: You have a number of different brands in the portfolio. Do they all have different customer bases, or is the idea that clients can flip between them?
Sven Koch: It’s a mix really. We have some crossover between the brands, in fact individual locations more so, like Zuma and ROKA Mayfair, due to the proximity a lot of guests dine at both. Other than that, I would largely say they have their own customer bases. The ROKA locations have more a neighbourhood vibe, a lot of people frequent specific locations because it’s close to where they live or work, although obviously there are destination diners. Both INKO NITO locations, in London and LA, are young, vibrant area’s and very much represents the type of clients that the brand is aimed at. Oblix at The Shard, has a vastly different clientele as its our only non-Japanese restaurant and due to the restaurants location.

luxurious dining room

Zuma Boston is the brand’s latest opening

LUX: Which is the more powerful brand, between Zuma and Roka, and why?
Sven Koch: It’s hard to say if one is more powerful than the other, they are both strong in their own right but obviously different. Zuma has more international recognition due to its global footprint and the nature of the clientele who travel a great deal and regularly will eat in our locations in other countries. ROKA is predominantly based in London, with four locations, and has a huge following locally but this is also growing. We recently opened ROKA Dubai which has been very successful, and we have plans for other international locations. Ask me again in a year or two and I may be able to give you a more concrete answer!

LUX: It is famously hard to create a group of restaurants operating around the world. Why have you succeeded where others have failed?
Sven Koch: Honestly, it’s down to the people – our teams! We have always operated on the philosophy that it’s important to nurture and grow good people within the business. We have a lot of staff that have worked in multiple locations around the world for us and we really support these internal transfers as it helps to spread the company’s DNA, they are effectively like ambassadors. Additionally, we try to empower the teams in individual restaurants, they are on the ground and understand customers the best.

Read more: SKIN co-founder Lauren Lozano Ziol on creating inspiring homes

LUX: You are one of the first pioneers of informal high end dining. Is the scene moving on? If so, to what?
Sven Koch: I don’t think so, you only have to look at the influx of international restaurant brands opening in London to realise that the trend is not going anywhere. That is not to say that the industry is not diversifying because I believe it is. The lifestyle element is key, people don’t simply want to go out for a meal anymore, they want to be able to spend an evening in that location; enjoy drinks before and/or after dinner, music, atmosphere… We are fortunate that all of those elements have always been part of our concept and that Japanese food is timeless as many other cuisines go in and out of fashion.

LUX: How will the coronavirus crisis affect dining out in general and your group in particular?
Sven Koch: Sadly, it seems to have affected everyone, although the hospitality industry has been particularly badly hit. We had to close all of our locations internationally, bar one (Hong Kong), at the peak of the crisis. Slowly we have been able to reopen the majority, but some cities or areas are still suffering from the aftermath so we have made the choice to wait. I think we’ve been very fortunate on the whole with government support in the countries we have restaurants in, additionally our landlords have been very understanding during this difficult time.

LUX: For years, we have seen an expansion of global travelling young wealthy people – are these your base? Is that now changing, with political and global uncertainties?
Sven Koch: Yes, they definitely are the Zuma customer base. Obviously Covid-19 has had huge effects on travel both nationally and internationally and I think it is too early to determine the long-term effects at this stage.

Having said that I just returned from the South of France for work and it was packed. It almost felt like Covid had never happened, international travellers everywhere… Prior to this trip I would have said it will take some time for travel to recover but now, you tell me?!

fine dining

Oblix at the Shard is the group’s only non-Japanese restaurant, offering a rotisserie and grill menu

LUX: Is food miles an issue? Will it be?
Sven Koch: Food miles is certainly something that we need to be conscious of. It is a tricky one for our restaurants as so many of the speciality products we use can only be sourced from Japan. You obviously try and buy as locally as we can but in some cases its just not possible. In recent years we have experimented with making our own products, like soy sauce for example which was fantastic. I think that this and the resurgence of smaller artisanal producers are the way forward…If anyone knows people producing miso in the UK then let us know?!

Read more: Two new buildings offer contemporary Alpine living in Andermatt

LUX: Is the food offering at Zuma and ROKA evergreen, or does it involve constantly? Would a diner from 12 years ago recognise the menu now?
Sven Koch: I would say 70% of the menu is evergreen but honestly that’s dictated by our customers who sometimes uproar if we take dishes off. We have several new seasonal dishes that are added to the menu and change quarterly which are developed by the individual restaurant teams. If one of those dishes happens to sell exceptionally well then, we add it to the menu permanently. In answer to your questions, yes, they would recognise it 12 years on.

LUX: You have a lot more competition now. How has that affected things? Do you get irritated by imitators?
Sven Koch: Competition is good, it keeps you on your toes and pushes you to keep evolving. When new restaurants open in competition with us we generally feel it for the first month or so. Customers love to try the latest new thing and we do see a small downturn in business which is always a little difficult to deal with, but they soon return to us, which is a testament to the quality of our product and our team.

Ha! Do we get irritated by imitators?… Good question! I must be honest; it is irritating when you see another restaurant directly ripping us off, it happens regularly that I go to another restaurant, open the menu and its surprisingly so familiar! I always just think: why don’t you make it your own? Be a bit creative, work a little harder – fundamentally I think it’s a very lazy approach.

fine dining restaurant

ROKA Aldwych. Image by Richard Southall/Agi Ch

LUX: Are we facing a speed bump or a new paradigm?
Sven Koch: 2020 has been a difficult year to say the least and things have certainly shifted but I would love to think this a speed bump and we are approaching as such. We are pushing ahead with plans, albeit a bit more cautiously from a budget perspective. Between Zuma, ROKA and Oblix, we aim to open in excess of 15 new locations in the next 3  years.

LUX: What cities or countries would you like to be in, which you are not in currently?
Sven Koch: As I mentioned we have substantial expansion plans in the not too distant future and are looking at sites in Europe such as Paris, Cannes, Saint Tropez, Monaco, Madrid and Capri, and further afield in Cabo, Mexico, and Morocco… I don’t think that leaves much left! From a personal perspective, I would love to open something in Germany – as would Rainer [Becker] – given that it’s our home country but so far, the right opportunity hasn’t presented itself. Watch this space!

sushi plate

Sliced yellowtail with green chilli relish, ponzu and pickled garlic from Zuma’s menu

LUX: How do you and Rainer Becker share duties?
Sven Koch: We don’t really share duties to be honest, we have never sat down formally and assigned roles as it has always been a lot more natural and organic than that.

Obviously, Rainer created the restaurant concepts and he is still heavily involved in the creative side of things including the food and design. I tend to take care of the day to day running of the company including the expansion and growth. We are very collaborative however and always tend to bounce ideas off each other.

LUX: What has been your greatest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
Sven Koch: For sure Covid-19 has been the biggest challenge both personally and professionally. The pandemic has hit everyone hard and its devastating to see people’s families effected and being so hard hit financially. As a business we are working hard to ensure we can bring as many members of staff back into the business as possible. It really is a frightening time.

Find out more: azumirestaurants.com

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Reading time: 8 min
colourful dining room interior
colourful dining room interior

A dining room interior by SKIN. Image by Andrew Miller Photography

Founded by interior designer Lauren Lozano Ziol and graphic designer Michelle Jolas, SKIN is a luxury interior design studio that offers its clients the opportunity to accompany designers to furniture markets, design shows and antique shops. Ahead of the studio’s London launch, we speak to Lauren Lozano Ziol about the business concept, her inspirations and designing spaces to promote positivity
two women in contemporary interior

Lauren Lozano Ziol (right) with Michelle Jolas

LUX: How did the concept for SKIN first evolve and who’s your target customer?
Lauren Lozano Ziol: Since Michelle and I first met over a decade ago, we have succeeded in pushing each other out of our respective comfort zones of graphic design and history of art, allowing us to continually challenge style boundaries. When we founded SKIN in 2017, we bonded over our love for materials that can be used in design. There are so many exciting and interesting ways to use materials such as cowhides, shagreen, snakeskin, leather, fabrics, veneer and so much more. Wallpaper is another critical consideration for us, in the past, we contemplated creating a wallpaper line, and the name ‘SKIN’ was a fun play on all of the above. As we considered what SKIN as a company meant, we realised the meaning is profound – it’s your outer layer, what you show to the world, it’s inner and outer beauty, it’s diversity – this led us to name our website skinyourworld.com.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Our target customer is a discerning client who appreciates the beauty of high-end, quality interiors and materials, with a shared interest in art and furniture history, who isn’t afraid of mixing period pieces and jumping out of their comfort zone to create unique, elegant and sophisticated interiors. Also, a client that likes to have fun with the process.

LUX: What’s your creative process when you start on a new interiors project?
Lauren Lozano Ziol: Firstly, we learn about the client, who they are, what they like and what inspires them in their daily lives so that we can understand their needs. The creative juices then start flowing. We create vision boards, art collection ideas and materials. We lay out the floor plans and make sure the scale is perfect, we then select potential furniture, sketch ideas and pull it all together with renderings to show the client. We love being in the client’s space with all the materials. Colour and texture, lighting and luxurious material all play a synchronised role in the complete design. When we present to a client, we love to collaborate with them, it sparks creativity and new ideas.

luxurious home interiors

A private residence project by SKIN. Image by Andrew Miller

LUX: In terms of the design side of the business, is it important to have a style that’s recognisably yours?
Lauren Lozano Ziol: Yes, and no. Yes, in terms of being refined, elegant, timeless, classic and chic – whether the interior is modern or traditional. However, every client is different, so we like to explore what that means to the project and not box ourselves into one look. We want each project to be unique.

Read more: Two new buildings offer contemporary Alpine living in Andermatt

LUX: Is there a design era that you’re particularly drawn to or inspired by?
Lauren Lozano Ziol: French 40s and Art Deco in terms of style and materials. We also adore Maison Jansen.

luxury library

Library design by SKIN. Image by Andrew Miller

LUX: How much of a consideration is sustainability?
Lauren Lozano Ziol: Very much so, our environment has never been more important, so we work together with architects and contractors to bring the right materials that are long-lasting and good for the planet. Now more than ever the need for healthy communities, clean air and non-toxic environments is paramount.

LUX: Why do you think lifestyle services have become more desirable in recent years?
Lauren Lozano Ziol: We firmly believe that environments influence how you feel. They have the potential to promote creativity and help make you your best. If you like the space you’re in, you feel happier amidst the disruption of Covid-19. The well-being achieved from a well-thought-out, organised home can have long-term positive effects on the whole family.

Read more: Three top gallerists on how the art world is changing

LUX: Are your excursions designed to inspire or educate, or both?
Lauren Lozano Ziol: Both! We make a list, head off to explore and see what catches our eye. We love talking about the history of pieces when we go on an excursion, but ultimately, we settle on what speaks to us and inspires our project goals. The day can end very differently to what we set out to accomplish because there are always hidden gems and treasures to find along the way.

LUX: Should good design last forever?
Lauren Lozano Ziol: Yes, our philosophy is “timeless, classic, chic with an edge” which allows us to create an ageless design yet pushes us to look for new and exciting trends.

LUX: What’s next for you?
Lauren Lozano Ziol: Our London launch, which we are so excited about. We are ready to meet new and interesting clients and breathe life into amazing projects. Again, our environments have never been more critical, and we are ready to take on our new adventure.

Find out more: skinyourworld.com

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Reading time: 4 min
Two men in conversation
Black and white portrait of a man

Giorgio Armani. Courtesy Giorgio Armani

The designs of fashion superstar Giorgio Armani have become synonymous with the relaxed yet restrained and sophisticated style that has, over the nearly half century he has been in the business, transformed Italian tailoring. Harriet Quick talks to the legend about his global empire, which spans womenswear, menswear, interiors, hotels and more

Even with increased life expectancy and delayed retirement age, there is only a tiny percentage of us who, at the age of 85, will wake up every morning motivated by the prospect of a full days’ work. That Giorgio Armani is in charge of a multibillion-euro company, more than 7,000 employees and owns a personal property portfolio of nine houses (plus a 65m superyacht named after his mother’s nickname, Maín), a personal fortune estimated at 6 billion euros and a whip-sharp brain makes him that rarity.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Who does he see in the mirror each morning? “I see a man who, through sheer hard work, has achieved a lot, turning a vision of style into an all-encompassing business. This assumption might sound like an overstatement, but it is a matter of fact,” says Mr Armani (Mr is his preferred address), dressed in his ‘fashion-worker uniform’ of blue sweater, cotton trousers and white sneakers. “And yet, in spite of all my achievements, I still feel the fire. I am never content – I am always challenging myself. That’s how I keep young and aware, by always raising the bar a little higher,” he says.

In January 2020, Armani will have presented Giorgio Armani menswear during Milan fashion week, the Armani Privé collection during the Paris haute couture collections and overseen looks designed for celebrities attending the Golden Globes, the Oscars and the Baftas. He also picked up the GQ Italia Award in January in swift succession to the Outstanding Achievement Award that was presented to him by Julia Roberts and Cate Blanchett at the British Fashion Awards in December 2019. By way of acceptance, he simply gave a big thank you while Blanchett added, “Mr Armani is a man who prefers to let his clothes do the talking”.

Antique photograph

Two men in conversation

Armani with his mother Maria in 1939 (top), and with his partner Sergio Galeotti. Both images courtesy of Giorgio Armani

The new decade marks forty-five years in the business during which the Armani brand has grown from a seedling collection of subtle, relaxed men’s suiting into a global powerhouse that encompasses 11 collections a year (including Privé and Emporio Armani) fine perfume and cosmetics, underwear, eyewear, denim, interiors, furnishings and hotels. Armani, who is the CEO and creative director, remains the sole shareholder making him, alongside the Wertheimer family that owns Chanel, Sir Paul Smith and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, one of the last remaining fashion industry founder/owner titans. Ralph Lauren stepped down from his role as CEO in 2015.

“A vision like this takes a long time to be fully developed. The slow growth made it organic and all encompassing,” says Armani. “I had the first glimpses that style could turn into lifestyle back in the eighties, sensing that my philosophy could be applied to many different fields. Across the nineties, as the business grew, I started adding new elements, be it furniture, restaurants or hotels. My intention today is to offer a complete Armani lifestyle. New things can be added all the time. The vision has not changed over the years, it has grown, evolved and expanded,” he says as if observing the horizon line. But the roots were set firm and fast. In the first year of trading (1976) the turnover was $2 million. With Italian producer GFT and American know-how, Giorgio Armani and his right-hand Sergio Galeotti learnt how to manufacture and distribute at scale. In 1981, Emporio Armani was launched offering denims and sportswear at accessible prices and emblazoned with the graphic triumph that is the EA eagle.

Read more: How Hublot’s collaborations are changing the face of luxury

Armani’s lifestyle vision of pared-down elegance (in shades of aqua and greige) has proven as enduring as the bewitching romance of Pantelleria, the tiny island that lies off the coast of Sicily. The myth of Armani seems to predate the man himself, reaching back through the 20th century into some misty pre-industrial past and lurching forward into a tonally harmonised borderless utopia. In Armani’s universe, shapes, moods and memes may change, but not excessively so and one would be hard pushed to date one collection versus another. In this age of responsible luxury and sustainability, that interchangeability is now again being considered a virtue rather than a freakish anomaly. The brand, which Armani describes as a ‘physiological entity’, speaks of constancy, grace, strength and good health seemingly impervious (or very well sheltered from) the rude chaos of real life, just like the founder himself. The allure of Armani’s serene aesthetic harbour (in jackets and the best-selling Luminous Silk Foundation alike) seems to grow in inverse proportions to the spiking rates of anxiety and turbulence in the world.

Celebrities

Armani at the 2019 British Fashion Awards with, from left, Cate Blanchett, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and Roberta Armani. Photo by Stefano Guindani

Yet upheaval, tragedy and human destruction is part and parcel of the Armani story. Young Giorgio (one of three siblings) grew up in poverty-stricken postwar Italy, in the town of Piacenza, near Milan. Food, healthcare, building materials, fuel and clothing were in short supply. Bombing raids were imprinted on his childhood memories as were the visits to the local fascist HQ where his father worked as an office clerk. Armani distanced himself from the ideology and the relationship (his father died when he was 25) decades ago. “We had little, very little, so we treasured what we owned. My mother was wonderful in that sense: we were always impeccable, even if we did not have anything to show off. It was all about being clean, being proper. I’d call it dignity,” he reflects. The autumn/winter 2020 menswear collection, with its distressed-leather donkey jacket, soft shouldered tweed suits and shearling mountain coats and combat boots, had strong echoes of wartime civvy and military garb, albeit in luxury and technical materials.

“As industrialisation grew, we came into contact with new stuff. I remember my first incredibly stiff pair of blue jeans and I immediately felt like James Dean. As the economy boomed we all became eager for more. The social fabric disintegrated a bit and being modern became a must. That’s when I really understood the power of clothing – it’s the first projection of the self into society,” he continues. To note, Giorgio Armani SpA was one of the first brands to enter the Chinese market – he has an innate understanding of aspiration.

Read more: Van Cleef & Arpels CEO Nicolas Bos on the poetry of jewellery

Like Ralph Lauren, Armani received his fashion training on the shop floor at the swish Milanese department store, La Rinascente. “I was dressing windows and working as a buyer. I got to observe people, and that was an invaluable lesson. Milano at that time was a bursting, innovative city and people were constantly on the lookout for something new. I developed a passion for fabrics and shapes. Then I had the privilege of working as an apprentice with Nino Cerruti, where my career truly took off. I quickly started to develop strong, personal ideas. It was Cerruti himself – to whose foresight I owe a great deal – who asked me for new solutions to make the suit less rigid, more comfortable, less industrial and more tailored,” says Armani.

It’s hard to imagine in our century of casual how modern and desirable the deconstructed jacket and roomy fluid trousers on which Armani made his name would have appeared. But his work to soften the silhouette was as impactful as Coco Chanel’s cardigan jacket on women’s fashion. The silhouette was not only ‘comfortable’, it also projected a certain sense of cosmopolitan ease and adaptability, qualities that were in keeping with a flourishing economy (cars, furniture, fashion, fabric, lighting) and the birth of the ‘Made In Italy’ pedigree.

“By deconstructing the jacket, I allowed it to live on the body, using far from traditional fabrics. That principle is the one I used to build my own brand. Suiting at the time was very stiff. Women, in the meantime, were making progress in the work place and needed a new dress code: ‘ladylike’ was not suitable for the board meeting. I made the suit suitable for men on the lookout for something more natural and for career women. I sensed a need and offered a solution. The rest, as they say, is history,” says Armani, who is wont to gently shrug his shoulders.

Fashion model wearing dress

A look from the Armani AW14 advertising campaign. Image by Solve Sundsbo

“I think Armani’s success is due to his fashion and the images that went with it,” says Gianluca Longo, style editor at British Vogue. “He personally art directed the advertising campaigns and created the Armani style. He hit the American and the Japanese markets in the booming 80s and the Armani suit became a symbol of success at work. For men, it was a relaxed style and for women, a structured jacket that was still elegant and feminine in the cut.”

Armani’s success is rooted in a close group of loyal collaborators that were particularly effective in navigating the closed-shop Italian fashion business. “Sergio Galeotti has been the pivotal figure for me. He was the one who pushed me to go on my own and who was also by my side to manage it all. When he passed away [in 1985] I had to take my destiny into my own hands. Finally, that was his biggest push. I would not be where I am now without Sergio. I owe a lot to many people I have met across the years, especially Leo Dell’Orco, but I am a truly self-made individual,” he says. He also cites his mother Maria as a mentor: “She taught us the importance of taking care of yourself as an ethical choice. The idea of achieving so much with so little left a lasting impression on me.” Even at 85, he exercises for 90 minutes daily.

Restaurant pool terrace

The Amal restaurant at the Armani Hotel Dubai.

In his professional life, he cites John Fairchild (founder and editor of WWD) and Karl Lagerfeld as mentors. He admits he is not easy to get on with in terms of journalistic portrayal (he is succinct to the point of being terse) but does remember Jay Cocks’s 1982 Time profile. The cover bore the headline “Giorgio’s Gorgeous Style” and featured the leather-jacketed designer in his own incarnation of James Dean. This was also when Armani took on American retail (Barneys was one of the first stores) and then Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Kevin Costner (The Untouchables) and Richard Gere (American Gigolo) are among the early pin-ups in a line-up of celebrities looked after by a highly active VIP and Entertainment division overseen by his niece, Roberta Armani.

Read more: Discovering Deutsche Bank’s legendary art collection

In the leagues of big business, a beige Armani suit (in fluid crepe wool) became the uniform of choice for a generation of female leaders, president of Bergdorf Goodman, Dawn Mello, and first ladies included. Today’s soft-power designers, including The Row and Gabriela Hearst, share a surprising amount in common with Armani’s aesthetic. Where peer-group brands built billion-dollar businesses on accessories, Armani’s strength has always been clothing. The cohesive brand architecture works from top to bottom with a bespoke velvet tuxedo on Brad Pitt boosting everyday entry-level purchases of underwear and scent. For the best part of the 1980s, Gianni Versace, Giorgio Armani, Gianfranco Ferré and Valentino Garavani ruled the Italian fashion business before Gucci was resurrected and Miuccia Prada launched into ready-to-wear.

Working at Giorgio Armani SpA is not for slouches. Team Armani work with military precision, expertly choreographing Armani’s interactions with press and dignitaries while exuding brand values 24/7. The notion of a team is always emphasised over individual stars and the same is true of the catwalk presentations and campaigns. The models are rarely supermodels or names but appear as a lithe army, with naturalistic make-up, hair and gestures and clothes that blend in with the wearer. “The founding principles of my company are based upon autonomy and independence,” says Armani. “Jobs might be short lived today, but not in my case. My first employee, Irene, still works for the company.” The Armani Group’s reach has been impacted by a flood of street-credible brands, including Balenciaga, Off White, Burberry and Kim Jones at Dior. In 2016, revenues dropped by five per cent (estimated at 2.51 billion euros) and various strands of the business were given a sharp nip and tuck to refocus on core values.

artistic design display

Furniture in the Armani/Casa 2019–20 collection at the Salone del Mobile in Milan. Image by Fabrizio Nannini

As a private company, rumblings and frissons behind the scenes are hard to detect. The Armani world is elegantly orchestrated, from the polished-concrete Armani HQ in Milan designed by Tadao Ando to the flagships, many designed by architect Claudio Silvestrin, and the low-rise converted dammuso on the island of Pantelleria where Armani has a holiday home. “Clothing is about the space between cloth and body, architecture is about the space in which the body moves. I do not see many differences, and I think soulful simplicity always wins,” says Armani. And tactility. “The virtual is cold. We need to touch things, we need to make bonds.”

Read more: Inside Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar’s Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat studio

“Mr Armani is a very loyal person, he relies on his close friends and has an acute sense of humour,” says Longo who last year was invited onto the superyacht, Maín. “That always helps. And he still loves to be involved in everything that he sees around him. From a button on a jacket, to the cutlery on a table.”

The spring/summer 2020 collection of misty fog and aqua cadet suits and cloud-like organza-topped shimmering gowns was dedicated to Earth, echoing this era’s concern over climate change. The company has been a supporter of Acqua for Life for more than ten years alongside other charities supported by the Giorgio Armani Foundation, set up in 2016. As fashion goes through epochal changes in purchasing behaviours and attitudes, the business will be remarkably different in ten years’ time.

Antique film still photograph

vintage film photograph

Richard Gere in American Gigolo (1980), and Andy Garcia and Kevin Costner in The Untouchables (1987), for both of which Armani designed the costumes

“The outlook for the fashion business and the outlook for fashion are two separate issues,” Armani says. “Fashion, I feel, has a great future, as people are becoming more and more confident in making decisions about what to wear based on what suits them, and are also becoming better educated in matters of style. The fashion business, on the other hand, must adapt to this new situation, and the fact that consumers are able to access new ideas from their digital devices at any hour of the day, anywhere in the world. How to best respond to the new landscape hasn’t changed – make clothing and accessories that help people fulfil their potential and look their best and bring out their characters.” The focus should be on style, not trends, he argues. “And you should have your own vision and viewpoint as a designer. If you do these things, you will be successful. Consumer behaviour may change, but why people buy fashion in the first place will not.”

On the matter of succession plans, Mr Armani remains a closed book. The internal leaders are likely to be in place. “Freedom gives me pleasure. I experience it in my business, as I am still my own boss. I experience it in my boat, suspended between the sky and the sea.” One intuits that this sense of inner peace has been hard won yet the reaching for it is what drives the Giorgio Armani brand.

Discover the collections: armani.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 13 min
Exterior deck of yacht
Exterior deck of yacht

The Princess Yachts’ X95 flybridge

Antony Sheriff has transformed the fortunes of Bernard Arnault’s yachtmaker Princess, creating boats that are stylish, in demand and environmentally innovative, for a new generation of consumer. LUX gets his story
Business man on yacht

Antony Sheriff

“It’s the sports car of the range. The hull reduces drag by 30 per cent, and it has sports-car-like performance and a Pininfarina design.” Princess Yachts CEO Antony Sheriff is enthusing over a projection of the R35, his company’s cool-looking 35-foot yacht, the latest in a series of innovations he has overseen in what is fast becoming known as the most dynamic yachtmaker in the world.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

“Sometimes,” he says, “if you are doing something new and are innovating, customers don’t know what they want until you give it to them.” Sheriff has been responsible for a number of innovations at the company, which is owned by LVMH-owner Bernard Arnault through his private equity company L Catterton, both on the product side and on partnerships.

yacht bedroom

Superyacht on ocean

The stateroom (above) and exterior of X95 yacht

In 2016 he launched a collaboration with the Marine Conservation Society, aimed at helping clean up ocean plastics, conserve coral and aid the conservation of marine creatures such as turtles. The Italian-American, who in his previous job launched McLaren’s hybrid P1 hypercar as CEO of the company’s road-car division, is disarmingly straight talking. “We are an industry which makes beautiful products, but we haven’t always been that mindful of the effects they have. We wanted to do something quietly to reduce the impact of yachts on the sea.”

He says the impetus has not – yet – come from the market, but from his own initiative. “We are trying to do the right thing and would rather be on the front foot than the back foot. People enjoy yachting because of the beautiful environment, and we need to try and maintain the water in the state we found it in.”

Read more: Chelsea Barracks is redefining London’s garden squares

Sheriff says that, as with cars, the need to innovate for environmental reasons has actually ended up bringing better products to market. He points to the example of the X95, which has up to 40 per cent more space than its predecessor while using 30 per cent less fuel and matching it in performance; and the Y95, another super-slick collaboration with Italian design house Pininfarina, which seems to have taken up its unparalleled design of luxury modes of transport where it left off with Ferrari after the end of a collaboration there spanning decades.

yacht on a waterway

The R35 performance sports yacht

Sheriff is a little scathing about some of the bloated products on offer from other yachtmakers, and adds: “We are putting the elegance and refinement back in yacht design, creating yachts that look like they belong on the ocean.”

Ultimately, though, he says the biggest change during his tenure since 2016 has been the change in the nature of the consumer. “Increasingly people are buying yachts not as status symbols but as places to spend a wonderful time with family and friends. You go on a family vacation in a yacht and it’s the best vacation possible: the kids stay together with you for fantastic family time, they can’t run away to the nightclub, and you get to spend time with each other in private in a beautiful place.” And, if some of the latest Pininfarina designs continue in the same vein, on a beautiful place, too.

Find out more: princessyachts.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 3 min
fine jewellery
fine jewellery

L’Arbre aux tourmalines (1976) by Jean Vendome © MNHN/F. Farges.

The heritage of Parisian jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels is being honoured by an exhibition at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, in which their gems from across the years are being shown alongside the raw stones that such jewels are made from. On the eve of the show’s opening, LUX meets with the maison’s CEO, Nicolas Bos
Red carpet photograph

Nicolas Bos & Cate Blanchett. © Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty.

LUX: How does seeing the raw beauty of stones extracted from the earth affect your appreciation of fine jewellery?
Nicolas Bos: The aim of this exhibition is to show alongside each other the raw minerals, faceted gems and finished jewellery creations. This juxtaposition really emphasises the stones’ journey from the depth of the Earth into the craftsmen’s hands that will reveal their beauty. In front of raw minerals, we cannot but be humble and admire what nature can create. It is also with great pride that we can see what we are able to accomplish today with these treasures through our know-how.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: The exhibition shows that humans have always been drawn to adornment. Is the lure of jewellery today different to ancient times?
Nicolas Bos: Since ancient times, both men and women have enjoyed adorning themselves with precious and rare materials. Over the centuries, jewellery and lapidary techniques have evolved, new materials have been found and new sources of inspiration and artistic movements have forged new creations. Society has also significantly evolved, with changes in how jewellery is perceived.

blue and diamond necklace

Cravat necklace, 1954. © Patrick Gries.

Jewelled bluebird clip

Bluebird clip, 1963. © Anthony Falcone.

LUX: Jewellery companies seem to be doing ever more exhibitions – why is this?
Nicolas Bos: Exhibitions are a great way for a centenary maison such as ours to reveal the evolution of its style across the decades. Furthermore, for Van Cleef & Arpels, transmission, education and culture are fundamental values. That is why we conceive or participate in exhibitions (be it patrimonial or even contemporary). We display creations not just by the maison; we also focus either on the spirit of a particular era (the 1970s and Alhambra, for example), or on a source of inspiration, or on a particular material such as gems. The maison has over several years initiated relationships with great cultural institutions such as the Musée des Arts Décoratifs or the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, both in Paris, to encourage thoughtful and pertinent dialogues between jewellery and other fields such as mineralogy or the decorative arts in general. The collaboration with the American artist Bob Wilson, in 2016, with a scenography based on Noah’s Ark’s highlighting a high jewellery collection, also expressed this wish to link our creativity with other arts. Another example, in 2017, at the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, paralleled traditional Japanese craftsmanship and Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery expertise in the exhibition ‘Mastery of an Art’.

Read more: How Gaggenau is innovating the ancient art of steam cooking

LUX: How would you summarise the brand or aura of Van Cleef & Arpels to a new client?
Nicolas Bos: I would say that the maison puts poetry and enchantment at centre stage in all its creations, be it high jewellery or jewellery or timepieces. Over the years, Van Cleef & Arpels keeps reinventing itself while always staying faithful to its original DNA. Its sources of inspiration range from nature and couture to dance, astronomy and imaginary worlds.

vintage jewelled brooch

Eucalyptus seed clip, 1968. © Bertrand Moulin

LUX: The ‘Gems’ exhibition includes modern recreations of significant historical jewellery, such as the Toison d’Or worn by Louis XV. What does a piece of historical jewellery tell you about how the wearer once lived?
Nicolas Bos: I’m not a history expert and the maison did not participate in these recreations but it is true that they are impressive. The Toison d’Or underlines the magnificence in which French monarchs used to live and it highlights their taste for exceptional stones and adornment in general. I would like also to mention a special piece that belongs to the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle collection and is of real interest – the tourmalines mobile/tree created by Jean Vendome. This is a real masterpiece that exemplifies the fine work bringing together jewellery, sculpture and design.

LUX: Are lab-grown gems a threat?
Nicolas Bos: We do not consider them as such at Van Cleef & Arpels. They are another type of material which has nothing to do with our idea of jewellery. They are industrial objects which don’t have the rarity, the preciousness or charm that natural stones gain after spending millions of years in the depths of the Earth.

vintage decorative jewellery

Gladiator clip, 1956. © Anthony Falcone.

LUX: Does learning about the origins of gemstones in an exhibition such as this teach us about the earth from which they came? Does it influence Van Cleef & Arpel’s attitude towards provenance and sustainability?
Nicolas Bos: Sustainability is a core value of Van Cleef & Arpels: we are a certified member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) which has the strictest standards of responsible practices for the jewellery industry. We also ask our suppliers to be certified with the RJC in order to promote good practices in the supply chain and we audit them as well. All diamonds purchased by Van Cleef & Arpels are compliant with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme which has worked since 2003 to put an end to the trade in conflict diamonds. We also work with multi-stakeholder initiatives on responsible sourcing and supply-chain due diligence, in particular for coloured gemstones.

LUX: Can you describe the Van Cleef & Arpels high jewellery piece that is inspired by the exhibition?
Nicolas Bos: In order to fit in with the central theme of the exhibition, the maison imagined a unique high jewellery object comprising stones, gems and jewels, some faceted, some polished, some raw. Through the work of craftsmen’s hands these stones speak with each other, adding a highly original piece to the history of Van Cleef & Arpels. It provides a fittingly precious and poetic conclusion to this exhibition.

The exhibition ‘Pierres Précieuses’ runs until 3 January 2021 at Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris 

View the collections: vancleefarpels.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue, out now.

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Reading time: 5 min
Man wearing glasses
Man wearing glasses

Erdem Moralioglu by Tom Mannion

Erdem Moralıoğlu’s flagship store is in Mayfair, but the heart of this designer to the stars is in hip east London, where he lives and has his studio. He gives LUX a pre-lockdown tour of his home patch

My favourite view…

The view from the restaurant at the top of the National Portrait Gallery

The most romantic spot for dinner…

St John on Commercial Street

The best spot to read a book…

The London Library

The best place to take a selfie…

No selfies!

Where you’ll hear the coolest music…

The Glory in Dalston

The only coffee I’ll queue for…

Violet on Wilton Way (they also do the best cinnamon bun in the world)

The perfect spot not in a travel guide…

The stacks at The London Library – I could spend hours getting lost in all the books

A tourist destination that’s worth the hype…

The Turbine Hall at Tate Modern

The best spot for some people-watching…

Broadway Market on a Saturday

The taste that reminds me of my childhood…

Mangal 2 on Stoke Newington Road, which is my favourite Turkish restaurant in London

My favourite museum/gallery…

The Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum or anything at Maureen Paley

The shop I never want to leave…

My shop in Mayfair. I spend a lot of time there and many of my clients say it feels like home

The best place to soak up some nature…

In the pool at London Fields Lido in winter

The perfect weekend brunch…

Allpress Espresso on Dalston Lane

I’m prepared to make a detour for…

The National Portrait Gallery

I’m at home in….

Hackney

View the designer’s collections: erdem.com

This story was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue, out now.

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Reading time: 1 min
woman standing in front of pink flowers
woman standing in front of pink flowers

Portia Antonia Alexis is a leading consumer business analyst, neuroeconomist and mathematician

Portia Antonia Alexis is a neuroeconomist and consumer goods analyst specialising in the luxury and beauty sector. Following the publication of a recent research paper entitled ‘The Global Elite,’ the McKinsey alumnus speaks to LUX about how populism is just another form of protection for ingrained elites, why more women will become entrepreneurs, and how self-made billionaires are not always what they seem

LUX: Recent elections in the US, UK and elsewhere have returned a populist message. Yet US President Donald Trump and UK PM Boris Johnson are part of the elite themselves, and their elections are benefitting the elite more than anyone else. How can this be?
Portia Antonia Alexis: Right-wing populism emerges when the political and economic status quo fails the majority of people. Populist politicians build their base by constructing an in-group – in this case, hardworking white Britons – and pitching themselves as the champions of this “oppressed” group. They then blame the out-group – Muslims, migrants and scroungers – for the hardships everyone else is suffering.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

In doing so, they channel widespread anger away from the powerful – the economic and political elites – and towards the powerless.  They may claim to be tearing up the status quo, but their fundamental objective is to protect capitalist institutions when they are at their most fragile.

This strategy extends into the realm of policy. Johnson’s electoral agenda – from clamping down on crime to ending freedom of movement within the EU – will polarise politics around an opposition between white, working-class Britons versus migrants and welfare scroungers. He will declare himself tough on crime and migration while casting his opponents as out-of-touch elites who don’t understand the concerns of ordinary people.

Right-wing populism must be seen for what I think it is: a symptom of a crumbling capitalist order that no longer promises a better future for most people.

LUX: An increasing number of super-wealthy are self-made. Is this good?
Portia Antonia Alexis: This question reminds me of the controversial Forbes cover story naming Kylie Jenner a “self-made” billionaire.

Critics cited that it was irresponsible for that magazine not to address how Jenner’s family fame helped her amass her fortune. And it’s true, in a way. Calling Jenner self-made connotes a sense of empowerment and a narrative that she lifted herself by her bootstraps. In contrast, her successful company is not so much the result of being self-made but rather an extension of the already successful empire that’s driven by her sisters.

Most bottomless pockets, not just Jenner, consider themselves entirely “self-made.” Rich people are very conflicted about their entitlement. To cope with this conflict, many simply pretend to be self-made. President Trump is a glaring example. Even though he grew up wealthy, he introduces himself as an entrepreneur.

The best evidence of this bias to claim “self-made” status? The annual September release of the Forbes magazine list of America’s 400 richest.

The necessary conclusion from these findings: Forbes is spinning “a misleading tale of what it takes to become wealthy in America.” Most of the Forbes 400 have benefited from a level of privilege unknown to the vast majority of Americans.

Read more: Inside artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar’s Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat studio

LUX: When will women start to have a significant presence in the ranks of the super-wealthy?
Portia Antonia Alexis: While women still represent a relatively small part of the billionaire community, they are a continuously growing segment. Perhaps more interesting is that the percentage increase in self-made women was more significant than the rise in the number of billionaires overall, which could signal a change in who will create and control wealth moving forward.

Much of the increase in super-rich women is due to entrepreneurship. These women, like all self-made successes, exhibit several core characteristics. For example, they typically have high levels of self-efficacy, are adept at strategic networking, and are accomplished negotiators.

Women that have created their wealth are different from those that marry or inherit their wealth in several essential ways. They are more willing to take calculated business risks, and they are often motivated to take steps to enlarge and enhance their fortunes through new business ventures, sophisticated tax and investment strategies, and the creation of family offices.

There is unconscious bias in the system, though. I believe many men would like to see more women at the top. I don’t think they’re all actively trying to keep women out, but some discrimination still exists.

I am confident that we will achieve gender parity in top income generation over the next generation. The girl who can dominate a field of robots is a woman who can dominate a field of men.

lady in white dress

LUX: As millennials mature, will the nature of consumption change?
Portia Antonia Alexis: Millennials are less wealthy than people were in the past, which makes them very price-sensitive for brands and products that are not differentiated from competitors. But while they have less money, they are very value-focused and are willing – thanks to their parents’ finances – to pay for quality or status.

And they are very tech-savvy, having grown up on the internet and with smartphones. They are well-informed and quick to adopt new technologies. Finally, they are into health and wellness, taking a more active role in physical fitness than keeping to an ideal weight or getting enough sleep.

LUX: Are millennials and Gen Z investing more into the ESG and impact investing sectors, or is it lip service?

Portia Antonia Alexis: When investing, millennials are committed to environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices. They want to be responsible investors.

In the early days, this mainly amounted to the exclusion of investments exposed to industries such as tobacco, alcohol or armaments. Still, it is now turning to broader ESG and sustainability policies. For example, we are increasingly asked about board diversity: millennials want to know how many women are on boards or in senior management.

Millennials are not the end of the generational transformation of consumption patterns. Some 77 million members of Generation Z, also known as centennials, have been born since 1997 – making them as large a cohort as the millennials. They are the most diverse generation, with almost half of them belonging to a minority group.

The potential for higher returns from companies that position themselves to benefit from the changing consumption patterns of millennials and centennials should make them especially attractive for investors.

Read more: How Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah is establishing itself as a cultural hub

LUX: Can you invest ethically and get the same return as investing without regard for ethics?
Portia Antonia Alexis: A common assumption is that sustainable investment is about conscience rather than profit. Almost three out of 10 people avoid ethical funds because they believe the returns will not be as high as more conventional alternatives.

Very often, people assume you have to give up decent returns to do good with your money. But this isn’t philanthropy, and it’s about people, planet and profit. The research bears that out, showing that sustainable funds are often generating better returns than more traditional funds. Some still regard ethical investing as a fringe activity for do-gooders, but evidence shows how wrong this assumption is.

This year, the National Trust announced it was divesting its investment portfolio from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, equity research house Redburn recently removed buy ratings from the biggest oil companies, saying that demand for oil is set to decline as the focus moves to renewables.  Not only is it savvy to maintain a varied portfolio, but sustainable investing is also becoming increasingly mainstream, opening up more impact investing opportunities to all levels of the investment community.

Research shows this type of investment can provide equal, if not better, returns than more conventional funds. And also, the variety of companies financed by impact investment funds – those that score highly on ESG factors – perform better. These businesses typically have lower costs of capital and higher returns.

woman seated in white dress

LUX: Is ethical investing being led by the West, and does the rest of the world need to catch up?
Portia Antonia Alexis: In most Western countries, between 40 to 80 per cent of investors want to invest “ethically”. They desire to make money and create a better society. However, the funds screening investments for ethical conduct usually make up less than 3 per cent of total mutual fund, unit trust, or ETF assets in those countries. These ‘ethically screened′ funds frequently focus on investments related to the environment and sustainability, social responsibility, or are faith-based, and so on.

Investing ethically, for some investors, is essential as they believe it also impacts their personal or spiritual development. They think they ultimately share in the responsibility for the activities of the company, companies or funds that they invest in.

In many Muslim countries, ethical investors invest in Islamic financial products such as Sukuk—Islamic bonds. These assets sometimes represent a significant proportion of total financial system assets in these countries, in contrast to the socially responsible investment (SRI) priorities of many Western investors such as mitigating climate change or regulating genetically modified foods. SRI in developing countries may need to address health care provision, poverty alleviation or food security. The SRI schedule tends to be shaped by a market dogma that can elevate or marginalise issues according to their perceived “financial materiality” to investors preoccupied with finding a business case for acting ethically.

Read more: Boundary-breaking artist Barbara Kasten on light & perception

LUX: How are the children of the super-elite dealing with the wealth created by their parents?
Portia Antonia Alexis: I often describe elite kids as having “well-fed child syndrome.” The idea is simple enough: they’re not made aware of their limits, only of their capacities. They get a sense of the world not as rules and regulations, but instead as an open terrain to be negotiated. Whereas the experience for a lot of disadvantaged kids is that of “you can’t” — of the limits placed upon you, the rules you have to follow, and the punishments likely to be laid down on you, the experience at St. Paul’s is that “you can.” This is an empowering way to treat children. This ethic — this sense of potential and an open world before you — helps with success.

A lot of very wealthy people are not accountable to their community, they’re not responsible to the people they love, they show their power and control through the transaction, and they are unhappy, from what I can tell. The people I know who are very wealthy and are happy are all contributing something to society.

LUX: Are experiences replacing luxury goods as the purchasing focus of the wealthy?
Portia Antonia Alexis: At the end of November of last year, the Savigny Luxury Index, compiled on the stock values of 18 leading luxury companies, reported a drop in average stock prices to reach a lower level than at the beginning of the year.

In the past, luxury was associated with champagne, caviar and designer clothes. Nowadays, with increased affluence, luxury is no longer the preserve of the elite. More and more consumers have traded up as old values of tradition and nobility have become less critical. People are enjoying much more material comfort in comparison with previous generations, and this has resulted in a trend of a cultural shift for cultural fulfilment and aspiration through experience. Therefore, it could be argued that luxury is increasingly about experience and authenticity rather than monetary value.

The focus on aspiration and experience means there is an increasing emphasis on personal transformation through, for example, well-being and travel. Therefore, luxury is becoming more challenging to define because the language has changed. Luxury today is not necessarily expensive. It can be accessible to a mass market, not traditional; it can also be personal, authentic and experiential. However, the old-world luxury of consumption and elitism still prevails.

LUX: Does elite mean wealthy, or does it mean privileged in other ways? Can you be one of the elites without being wealthy?
Portia Antonia Alexis: Elite suggests by definition that it goes for both wealthy and privileged. An elite is a relatively small group of people with the highest status in a society, or in some domain of activity, who have more privileges or power than other people due to their condition. Elitism is believing in or promoting this sort of arrangement, whether that be in the academic world, politics, art, sports, or anywhere else. Almost all the national income gains over the last 40 years have gone to the wealthiest 5 per cent of Americans.

If you think that only the top 5 per cent of American earners have become more productive or been the sole producers of value, you don’t understand how an economy works. Elites have used their power to extract a greater and greater share of the national wealth. And that must be addressed.

I don’t know if you can be one of the elites and not wealthy. But I do know ones who can be against the elite and still be wealthy and privileged.

Read more: Examining the work of visual artist & philosopher Wolfgang Tillmans

LUX: So far, populism in the West has returned right-wing, free-market, nationalist political leaders in the UK, US, Poland, and elsewhere (see Q1). Will high tax/socialist politicians succeed?
Portia Antonia Alexis: The resurgence of populism has abruptly reshaped global politics over the past few years, but what it means for economic growth and financial assets has yet to become apparent.

Although markets are quick to respond to individual events—such as a populist party’s rise to power or the introduction of a tax cut or spending increase—they have not yet grasped how populism could affect the global economy over the long term.

This poses a challenge for investors, as they need to understand the economics of populism to position their portfolios over the years ahead effectively.

The early stages of the policy profile outlined above can be glimpsed in President Trump’s deficit financed tax cuts and the ruling Italian populist coalition’s battles with the European Union (EU) to push through an expansionary budget.

The fiscal accounts of Hungary and Poland have structurally deteriorated after the election of rightwing populist governments, and the market’s price in an economic deterioration in Mexico under the newly elected left-wing president Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

It is worrying that most of the populist governments that undertake these fiscal expansions lack the fiscal space to do so.

LUX: What is the most exciting trend you have observed among the elites?
Portia Antonia Alexis: The rise of populism has become a global obsession in the last year. Whether it’s Donald Trump or the Brexit movement, the rise of populism has helped crystallise the fact that there are two kinds of elites: those who like to bash populists for being foolish, and those who wish to bash other elites for failing to give populists enough of what they want.

What’s interesting is that the anti-elite elites don’t seem to have policy preferences that differ that considerably from other elites. Everybody thinks the status quo needs changing in one way or another. And I don’t think points based on skilled immigration systems and relocation vouchers aren’t what most anti-immigration protesters have in mind.

Nor do I think a vigorous points-based immigration system, relocation vouchers, or any policy ideas of anti-elites would have done much to stop the current global wave of populism that we’re seeing. Had anti-elite elites been handed the wheel 15 years ago, I think we’d pretty much be right where we are right now.

LUX: You initially trained to become an equestrian show jumper, today you are an economist, mathematician and business analyst. What changed?
Portia Antonia Alexis: I spent an extensive amount of time training to become an international equestrian. Ultimately, I found I loved mathematics more. When I was volunteering as a youth counsellor with the London Metropolitan Police, offering counselling and therapeutic care to youths who had been victims of crime, I witnessed a range of diverse socioeconomic issues. These issues concerned me, and I found it interesting to analyse the problems from an academic, investigative and human lens. I wanted to find a way to research the determinants relating to wealth, income, poverty using a range of the method. And to predict the probability of wealth distribution income inequality and social mobility in detail. The rise of the global elite and the rise of income inequality and the decline of the social movement.

The most important thing I learned as a mathematician is that I can’t explain it all on my models, I must get out and meet the world. I enjoyed the process, and it motivated me: the people and their stories. Economics studies the behaviour of people. There are a lot of variables that can’t be explained in the models. Even if they could, those models would be useless. When I started working as a researcher, I didn’t spend my time thinking about what Keynes or Hayek said, nor did I try to show how the mathematical models work. I just went to the data, applied some statistical analysis and applied them on the real world.

This is the kind of work that counts, the type of knowledge that is useful, because it’s not doomed to stay on a shelf for centuries, and it has a connection with the people out there.

I still love horses and ride and show jump for leisure these days. I take part in equine therapy once a week, which involves activities with horses and other equines to promote human physical and mental health. I also occasionally write research papers on trends within the horse racing industry and the global equine industry.

Follow Portia on Instagram: @portiaeconomics

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Reading time: 14 min
Restaurant dining
Restaurant dining

Interiors by Jouin Manku at the recently reopened restaurant Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London. Image by Pierre Monetta

With 21 Michelin stars to his name, Alain Ducasse is one of the world’s most decorated chefs. Over the course of his career, he has opened over 25 restaurants across the globe, launched a cooking school and an artisan chocolate company. Following the reopening of his flagship restaurant Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, we speak to the chef about sustainability, collaborating with Jason Atherton and the importance of telling your own story
Monochrome portrait of a chef

Alain Ducasse

LUX: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you started as a chef?
Alain Ducasse: My first memory is the smell and taste of the dishes my grandmother used to cook. We used to live in the countryside, and she was often sending me to the garden to pick vegetables. I loved to look at her cooking our Sunday roast chicken, and transforming the produce of the garden into delicious family dishes. She is my biggest source of inspiration, even today.

LUX: Your company Ducasse Paris comprises numerous establishments, how do you ensure a consistent level of quality across the restaurants?
Alain Ducasse: All of my chefs have been working with me for many years, sometimes for more than 20 years. This is the best way to ensure a consistent level of quality across my restaurants. They are totally instilled with my vision and I know they can perfectly interpret it with their own personality.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What’s your process like when you’re creating a new recipe? Where do you typically find your inspiration?
Alain Ducasse: When I create a dish, it is all about the local resources: what can I found locally? Where am I? What are the influences around me? Then, I apply the technics and DNA of French cuisine to create.

LUX: Over the course of your career, how have fine dining expectations changed?
Alain Ducasse: All the guests have nowadays all the information they need through social medias, and internet. You are now able to share all your experiences with millions of other customers, so of course now the expectations are higher and the customers are unfaithful because they have a lot of choice.

artistic dining dish

Salsify amuse-bouche. This dish is based on the contrast between a noble produce (the truffle), and an humble one (the salsify).

LUX: How much attention do you pay to dining trends?
Alain Ducasse: It’s all about moving with our times. The most important is to tell your own story. Each restaurant must be true to the location where it is situated, in tune with the lifestyle of the guests it is welcoming from all over the world.

Read more: The Thinking Traveller’s Founders Huw & Rossella Beaugié on nurturing quality

LUX: This year saw the reopening of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. What’s changed?
Alain Ducasse: I am delighted to partner once again with Jouin Manku to visually bring to life the most recent evolution of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. The new concept is a sensorial feast that champions nature’s unrivalled beauty and pays homage to our vibrant Mayfair location.

In the main dining area, Jouin Manku have opened the room, introducing curved wood and leather banquettes which anchor the tables within the space. In contrast to the dark, smoky colours of the furniture, the green and silver tones of the carpet suggest a mist through the park, progressively darkening to the edges.

Fine dining restaurant

The new concept of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester is “a sensorial feast” says the chef

LUX: How did the idea for a dinner in support of Hospitality Action with Jason Atherton come about and what can guests expect from the evening?
Alain Ducasse: I have followed this young chef for a while now. I love his vision and his open mind. To support Hospitality Action with this one-off dinner is a great occasion to work together for a charity we both love and to welcome our guests in the freshly refurbished restaurant.

LUX: What’s your collaborative working process like when you’re working with another chef?
Alain Ducasse: It is going to be a four hands dinner, with our two executive chefs. We will brainstorm all together to create a special experience. The dinner will be composed of a 5-course menu with a wine pairing and it is going to be awesome.

Read more: High altitude luxury at Riffelalp Resort 2222m, Zermatt

LUX: How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your kitchens?
Alain Ducasse: By changing all of our habits. I always say that a habit is a bad habit. More than ever, we have to change the way we work to take care of the planet and the health of human being.

I relaunched my restaurant Alain Ducasse at The Plaza Athénée five years ago with a new concept called naturalness, based on vegetable, cereals with less salt, less fat, less sugar, and less animal protein but better ones from sustainable fish.

It is very important to act and show to the industry that we are able to create differently, even in a three Michelin-starred restaurant.

dish of vegetables and fruits

Cookpot of seasonal vegetables and fruit

LUX: What has been your most memorable dining experience to date and why?
Alain Ducasse: It will be my next discovery for sure, the one I don’t know yet. I am an eager traveller, always looking for new discoveries. The world is full of talents, waiting to be discovered. It is not only about French cuisine and French chefs. You can find talented chefs all over the world, with multiple ways to express themselves.

LUX: What’s next for you?
Alain Ducasse: The next steps are the development of Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse in Asia, and my schools “Ecole Ducasse” too. We are launching an exceptional new campus in Meudon specialising in culinary arts which will welcome students from September 2020, with an English education. This Paris campus will be ultra-contemporary; a customised school with the aim of teaching and promoting world-renowned gastronomic expertise.

Alain Ducasse & Jason Atherton’s charity dinner for Hospital Action will take place on 22 April at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. For more information on Hospitality Action visit: hospitalityaction.org.uk

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Reading time: 5 min
Entranceway to a beautiful whitewashed building
House hidden amongst the trees

Supported by the Lady Bamford Foundation as a centre for craft and sustainable design, Nila House occupies a 1940s residence in Jaipur restored by Indian architect Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai. Image by James Houston

Lady Carole Bamford, the founder of Daylesford Organic, beauty brand Bamford and numerous charitable foundations including Nila House gives us a guide to her spiritual home, Jaipur

Woman sitting on steps of building

Lady Carole Bamford

Where I hunt for treasures…

I always look forward to visiting the government khadi shops. I find myself spending hours there, lost in the piles of beautiful hand-spun fabric. Handwoven in villages across the country, the simple white cloth with all its imperfections is my idea of the ultimate luxury item.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Cultural immersion…

The riot of colour and sound of the markets is extraordinary, and the old city has some of the best textiles and jewellery. I recently met a family of hand-block carvers who have been creating intricate wooden blocks for generations. Such artisans have a wealth of knowledge that we at Nila House, our new centre for preserving these traditions, believe should be shared with a broader audience so that it can be carried on into the future.

Entranceway to a beautiful whitewashed building

Image by James Houston

My perfect day in the city…

I always start my day with a puja prayer ritual followed by yoga and meditation. Then I will head out with my design team to visit our suppliers. I love visiting the workshops; I always learn so much, watching the dedication and meditativeness of their work. In the afternoon I might explore antique textiles at Rajasthani Arts to see if there is anything for our archives.

Read more: Hôtel Chais Monnet & the beauty of southwest France

Best dining spot…

47 Jobner Bagh is my favourite place to escape the crowds and noise. This charming family-run hotel has the best home-cooked Indian food. My favourite is a bowl of dal makhani, mopped up with a hot naan bread.

Clothes hanging against white wall

Indian craftsman threading fabric

The building features a shop and studio spaces for local artisans. Images by James Houston

Home away from home…

We always stay at the The Oberoi Rajvilas. It is our home in Jaipur and the wonderful staff look after us like family.

Worth a detour…

I love visiting the paper factories in Sanganeer, just outside Jaipur. They have some of the most beautiful paper you can find, all handmade from natural materials – from cotton rag and banana fibre to the beautiful textured seed paper that we use for all of our packaging [at Nila House].

Nila House is a cultural centre dedicated to preserving traditional craft methods and supporting artisans across India; it is part of the Lady Bamford Foundation. Find out more: carolebamford.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 2 min
Luxurious lounge with artwork
Luxurious lounge with artwork

Plaza Premium Group’s newest concept provides a “first-class” experience with fine dining and spa facilities. Pictured here: the relaxation area at Plaza Premium First Hong Kong

Headquartered in Hong Kong, Plaza Premium Group is one of the world’s leading premium airport services companies. The group provides luxury airport lounges, transit hotels, meet & greet services and dining in over 42 international airports with plans for expansion throughout 2020. Here, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai speaks with the group’s Founder & CEO Song Hoi-see about the rise of wellness tourism, the group’s new “first-class” concept and the airport of the future
Asian man in suit standing in lounge

Plaza Premium Group’s Founder & CEO Song Hoi-see

LUX: Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to found plaza premium lounges?
Song Hoi-see: Before I started Plaza Premium Group, I used to work in the investment banking industry and enjoyed the privileges that came with flying in business class. Upon leaving the sector I went back to flying economy class without having access to the benefits of airport lounges. It made work on the go a lot more difficult and the airport journey became much less comfortable, I felt that the travel experience was somehow incomplete. I wanted to create something for the majority rather than only the 15% passengers taking business and first-class benefiting from such services. I therefore decided to disrupt the status quo by creating this new idea of an independent, pay-per-use airport lounge concept – Plaza Premium Lounge – in 1998 for all travellers regardless of airlines or class of travel.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Have you seen a change in the airport services industry since having opened the first
independent airport lounge over 20 years ago?
Song Hoi-see: Definitely! When we first started Plaza Premium Lounge – our idea was to create an airport lounge for all travellers to enjoy a meal, facilities to conduct businesses and a relaxation area for guests to wait for their next flight. In the next few years, we observed travellers were looking for more especially during long-haul travels. We started to add shower facilities and lounge bay where our guests could freshen up before boarding. In addition to departure, we also take care of arrival passengers’ pain points – those arriving early in morning like Hong Kong travellers landing Heathrow at 5 or 6 a.m., what they want most is a hot shower and we developed the concept of an arrival lounge. Imagine there are over 25 fights landing Heathrow T3 before 9a.m. every day and now they are able to freshen up prior to heading to town or going to a business meeting.

Luxury airport lounge

Plaza Premium lounge in Dubai airport

Interior designs are also evolving. Comfortable seating, soothing lighting, warm colours to facilitate relaxation and rest are fundamental. We take a step further and look into how design elements and features impacts on customer experience. We started to infuse local cultural and destination elements. In our Brazil lounge, we invited local graffiti artist and created an art wall featuring vibrant colours. One of our Taiwan lounges showcases a hand-crafted Taipei city skyline. Plaza Premium Lounge in Siem Reap incorporates a temple triangular-shaped ceiling and black and white photography of local attractions and one of our latest openings in Cebu domestic arrivals uses locally sourced wood as part of the design materials.

Today, everyone is a traveller and they travel for different purposes – business, leisure and bleisure. Some travel alone and some are in group or with families. Services desired are very different and we must continuously evolve to meet their needs. This year, we launched Playroom in our Helsinki lounge – a dedicated kids zone featuring educational toys that are also sustainably made. In our existing locations, we also added kids’ friendly services – kids menu and cutlery, high chairs for babies and colouring sets, etc. Agoda did a research last year on family travel and it shown 7 out of 10 families globally take at least two family vacations a year and in UK, there are 7% of families going away five or more times per year. We want to ensure our family guests can take care of their little ones in our lounge while parents are able to enjoy our facilities and services.

Airport lounge is getting popular among travellers however, there is a group of elite travellers that desire a more elevated and personalised experience and beginning of Plaza Premium First launched in 2018.

Hotel bedroom with double bed

A guest room at Aerotel London Heathrow

Travellers often need to find a space to sleep without leaving the airport when their connecting flights are just a few hours later. We disrupted the industry again with the creation of Aerotel in 2016 – it is a simple but very efficient concept. We create guest-rooms with quality beds and pillows, hot showers and convenient set-up to facilitate guests to sleep or nap at the terminal building. It is the world’s first in-terminal airport hotel concept. Nowadays, we have already evolved the brand to include both airside and landside locations to suit different travellers’ demands. Our latest opening was Aerotel London Heathrow in October is at Terminal 3 Arrivals.

Airports can also be a challenging journey for older travellers or when travelling with big groups, and our meet-and-greet service is the perfect solution. We started to speak with airport partners and introduced Allways services to offer buggy, luggage handling, fast-track security, lounge stays, gate-to-gate escort, etc.

Read more: Fine dining on the ski slopes of Andermatt, Switzerland

LUX: How have you responded to the demand on consumer experience?
Song Hoi-see: Plaza Premium Group and our brands were born out of the idea of launching something that would elevate the airport experience for travellers and ultimately making travel better.

For example, brand partnership is an important element we introduced to the Plaza Premium First concept. Early this year, we worked with Poly Art to curate an inspiring art collection at the Hong Kong location with the purpose of transforming an airport lounge into art gallery – we wanted to create a space for our guests to not only anticipate their next journeys ahead, but also have an inner dialogue on what travel means to them. Currently, Aerotel London Heathrow is showcasing aerial photography from London-based travel photographer Tommy Clarke. We admired his visions of taking striking photography around the world to illustrate natures in a new perspective. Also something intriguing for our guests to appreciate while they are staying with us.

Wellness is also a trend we have been observing and listening to. Global Wellness Institute is predicting that the wellness tourism sector will reach close to US$1 trillion on a global level by 2020. Airport as a starting point of a journey, we brought in healthy food options such as Beyond Meat Burger at Plaza Premium First Hong Kong. In addition, we also launched Root98, a herbs-and-seeds inspired concept as part of our Airport Dining portfolio.

LUX: How has the rise in technology changed the way people travel and utilise lounges?
Song Hoi-see: Technology is making the airport journey more efficient, whether this be through facial and fingerprint recognition, electronic payments, chatbots, and online or mobileApp applications, next-generation technologies are changing the ways we travel. That’s also exactly the reason why travellers are expecting more from the airports. They look at airports as destinations in their own right filled with shopping, restaurants and a whole host of activities like yoga and even ice-skating.

The emergence of digitalisation also drives us to rethink our businesses. While we create a friendly online environment to see and book our services, we must not forget this is people business. Our guests expect personal touch when they experience our services and maintaining a high level of service standard does not come easy. Therefore, we invest more than 130,000 hours every year on training to ensure we are the best all the times.

LUX: Can you tell us a bit about your newest concept, Plaza Premium First?
Song Hoi-see: This is a “first-class” airport lounge concept that we have made available to all travellers. We recognised the needs from affluent and discerning travellers who appreciate personalised services such as a la carte dining, a bar that serves largest collection of Scotch whiskey and high-quality artisanal coffee, etc. As mentioned earlier, brand partnership is key to this concept and we have worked with tea brand TWG to create specialty tea mocktails and cocktails, Italian coffee brand Lavazza, internationally-known beverage company Pernod Ricard and more will follow! Most importantly, our team are all Lounge Ambassadors who will provide a guided tour to first-time guest so they can familiarise the services and facilities to enjoy the fullest.

Currently we operate Plaza Premium First in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, soon it’ll open in Jakarta later in 2020.

Luxurious airport bar

The bar at Plaza Premium First in Hong Kong

LUX: Plaza Premium First has some interesting partners such as Elemis Spa. Can you tell us
how you go about choosing who to partner with?
Song Hoi-see: Apart from the experiences and products we look for from a partner, we want to ensure both parties share the same vision and mission. Plaza Premium Group is always aim at making travel better through outstanding services rendered by a dedicated and passionate team and taking an innovative approach. We want to work with partners to ensure these values are safeguarded and bring in experiences to surprise and delight our guests.

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LUX: Do you have any more inspiring ideas in the pipeline?
Song Hoi-see: We have an ambitious development plan to open in 15 new locations by the end of 2020 alone. As part of this, we will launch Aerotel Sydney – the first in-terminal airport hotel in Australia, in the third quarter of 2020. A nearly 3,000-square-metre lounge space combining Plaza Premium First, Plaza Premium Lounge and Allways will be built in Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport to fully open in the 1st half of 2020. In our home base Hong Kong and the birthplace of Plaza Premium Lounge, we will launch two new locations with uplifted experiences incorporating specialty offers to suit modern travellers’ needs. (Our team will share the press release as soon as it’s ready with more details!)

LUX: What are your visions for the next 5 years of travel and airport hospitality?
Song Hoi-see: The airport of the future will be shaped by changing technology. Robots will be in line to help passengers in airports, AI-powered products such as chatbots and virtual assistants will be used to further revolutionise customer service and optimise efficiency, and technological advancements will help bring about a much-needed change in the way airports assist travellers with additional needs.

I want to highlight that these are all hardware and we cannot forget the most important element in the airport hospitality services – people. Therefore, we see people as our most valuable asset. Our passionate global teams communicate regularly to share best practices, while we empower local teams to execute in order to ensure it’s culturally sensitive so local audiences feel at home and oversea guests get a sense of place while experiencing our services.

LUX: Do sustainability and environmental factors play into what you project for the future of
travel?
Song Hoi-see: Absolutely, sustainability is one of our core goals. We are constantly looking into it and we have already started by taking small steps. For instance, we started to introduce water taps in our Langkawi lounge so travellers can fill up their water bottles and have installed big refillable bottles for shampoo and shower gel at Aerotel instead of one-time plastic bottles. In our Playrooms, we have educat