YKK’s NATULON® Mechanically Recycled Zip is made with recycled yarn and post-consumer plastic bottles

The amount of zips produced by YKK each year far outstrips the number of people currently on Earth. So how can a company mass producing and growing at such scale stay true to values of circularity and sustainability? LUX speaks to Jim Reed, CEO of YKK America, about why he believes cost and speed need not be barriers to a sustainable business

LUX: Can you explain the cycle of goodness and how it relates to the YKK philosophy?
Jim Reed: The cycle of goodness – meaning that no one prospers without rendering benefit to others – was developed by our founder, Tadao Yoshida. One of his inspirations was Andrew Carnegie, a late 19th century early 20th century steel tycoon, who had a philosophy about a business’ obligation to society. As a young man, Tadao Yoshida got hold of a translated copy of Andrew Carnegie’s biography. He was inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s words and he decided that was the philosophy that should drive us. He was always entrepreneurial, but it wasn’t about how wealthy he could get, it was about how he could help. He wanted to contribute to society.

YKK is used by hundreds of major clothing companies including The North Face, Patagonia, Levi’s and Nike

LUX: Your president, Hiroaki Ōtani, said the company’s immediate vision is for ‘better products at a lower cost and greater speed, more sustainably’. How do you plan to chase growth while also racing towards carbon neutrality?
JR: President Ōtani is talking about getting the right materials for the right products to the right customer at the right time. If you think about those concepts, you’re not overproducing. We’re producing over 10 billion zippers in a year, but our objective is that, at the end of the day, every zipper has a perfect spot and nothing gets wasted. On top of that, he talks about better products, lower cost, greater speed, and more sustainability. If we can be more efficient, and some of the obstacles to sustainability – cost – can be reduced, then a sustainable product can match the price of the less sustainable cheaper product and you can match that substitution more easily.

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President Ōtani reorganised our company in a number of different ways five years ago. He created what we call the Technology Innovation Centre. He took all the smartest people in our company and put them in the Technology Innovation Centre, where they were working on pure research, not product development. Innovation and technology have always been an important part of YKK, and particularly now with climate change issues and sustainability, we all need to be making significant changes.

Beyond zips, YKK produces a variety of other products such as snaps, buttons, buckles, and textiles for apparel and industrial use

LUX: How far is the company’s adoption of renewables impacting carbon emissions?
JR: We’re doing very well in that area. We reported at the end of the last fiscal year that we had reduced scope 1 and scope 2 CO2 emissions by almost 47% against our base year. What’s even more significant is that we’re not talking about CO2 emissions per zipper – we’re actually growing our production. Even though our production is increasing, we know our CO2 emissions have to be reduced, and we were able to reduce them significantly. Our 2018 level of CO2 emissions is our base level, by 2030 we’ll cut that in half, and by 2050 we’ll be carbon neutral. Around the world we’re looking at about 32 facilities which are currently using 100% renewable electricity, and very actively working to change the others. That can be a challenge because every facility has a different footprint and has a different source of electricity. But we are continuing to try to find a variety of different mechanisms to employ this.

LUX: What are the pillars for sustainable strategies for textiles packaging and waste management?
JR: For textiles, the main thing is to switch over to recycled thread. We call that NATULON. YKK had been offering to use recycled thread for over 20 years, and we’ve probably had the product for 25 years. Now, the market desires it, and so now we are able to switch over to 100% recycled textile. 26% of our products last year were using it, and that’s going to grow rapidly. We hope that will get up to 41% by next year. We’re working on a complete switchover.

YKK produces more than 3 million kilometers of zips every year

When we talk about waste management, you think about inputs coming into the factory and products coming out, and waste as a by-product of that. You put that waste back into your process. The objective is to get inputs coming into your factory and the only thing that comes out is the product. ECO-DYE technology uses CO2 instead of water to colour the zipper tape. That removes water from the process, which removes the need to take dye out of the water. We also have something called AcroPlating. If you get rid of the need to apply the bad chemicals, then you don’t have to worry about managing the waste on the back end.

Read more: Salomon CEO Franco Fogliato on environmental responsibility in business

LUX: Can you tell us about the partnership between YKK and the Monitor for Circular Fashion? Do you think it could lead to systemic change within the fashion industry?
JR: These partnerships are really important because, just like the UN statement on climate change or the Sustainable Development Goals or the Fashion Charter, all of these statements and actions can really scope the objective to solve the problem. It gives us all targets, and then when we join the Charter, we make promises that we have to stand by. Those are extremely important, because we all need to be speaking the same language and talking about the same objectives. With those statements, the fashion industry can declare to the people of the world that we’re moving in an environmentally-friendly direction and can get the support of their customers, which gives us the inspiration to innovate into that change. Once those goals are clear, then industry can innovate towards it and solve the problem just like we’ve been able to solve any problem when we’re focused on it.

All images courtesy of YKK

Find out more: www.ykkfastening.com/sustainability

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Photo by Tim Marshall

Ahead of World Ocean Day, LUX speaks to Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, about his work on the Anthropocene, the blue acceleration, and why saving our oceans must be a collaborative effort
boy in a grey polo neck

Jean-Baptiste Jouffray

LUX: The use of the word Anthropocene has only become widespread in the scientific community fairly recently, but it’s now a key focus of your work. Why is this terminology important?
Jean Baptiste Jouffray: The Anthropocene is often described as this new period or epoch or era where humans have become a dominant force of planetary change, with profound impact on, not just the climate system, but also all sorts of ecosystems and the functioning of the earth’s system. It’s essential to my work as an analytical framework. It’s more than just entering a discussion about whether it’s a geological epoch, which means agreeing when it starts exactly. Does it start after WW2 when we start using radioactivity? Does it start exactly 2000 years ago? Does it start 10,000 years ago when we started to have agriculture and other things? I think it is more important to use it as an analytical framework, rather than focusing on those types of questions. It’s often characterised by unprecedented speed, scale and connectivity across sectors, across people, across regions, across socioeconomic contexts. What do these things mean? How do we make sure we move forward in a more sustainable and equitable way? I think that’s the power of the Anthropocene, in my work at least. Others focus more on the geological aspect of it and the question of whether it is the next geological era after the Holocene or not.

LUX: You say that in your work you use inter- and transdisciplinary approaches, which is a method which is becoming more prevalent across STEM fields. Would you say that this is particularly important when researching sustainability?
JJ: Absolutely. That’s because I think sustainability is a different kind of science. It has been described as a science for which the real test of success will be implementing its knowledge to solve the big societal challenges. So, in that sense, I think sustainability science is about translating knowledge into action. It’s not just about creating knowledge for the sake of it, but really creating knowledge, and ideally co-creating knowledge amongst multiple stakeholders to solve the problems we’re facing. Sustainable science is often said to be problem-driven and solution-oriented, and in that sense you need more than just one discipline. You have to synthesise knowledge across academic disciplines.

Beyond academia, you also need to engage with different societal actors, be it governments, NGOs or the private sector, for instance. It’s true that the coproduction of knowledge should also lead to co-operation in the designing of solutions and their implementation. If it’s just a top down thing, scientists in their ivory tower and the rest of the world, it’s not going to work.

Photo by Ivan Bandura

Photo by Ivan bandura

LUX: You have been involved with SeaBOS, the organisation involved in creating a dialogue between corporations and experts in sustainability. Obviously businesses are becoming more engaged with science, but how are they really doing this and do you think we have a long way to go?
JJ: Yes we do. But it’s good that we have started somewhere. I think SeaBOS is an example of what I just described, it’s scientists coming together with businesses and trying to co-produce knowledge, agreeing on what the challenges are and discussing what the possible solutions could be. It’s really that kind of science-business dialogue that has been a really fascinating experience. I think this is because, ultimately, it is a dance between those two entities; you have to compromise somewhere. For example, scientists usually like to see more results or ambitious time goals, and then the business side also have to deal with the reality of their own operations and what is feasible. You have to adapt to the other side, and this is a really exciting prospect.

We need collective and collaborative action across the whole supply chain. It’s not just miscellaneous companies and scientists: we need the financiers involved, we need governments to set up the right regulatory landscapes to incentivise better practices, and consumers need to be aware of it as well. So it is really that collective and collaborative approach that can accelerate sustainability.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Is it realistic to expect consumers to understand the science and the environmental impacts behind their purchases? Do they need to?
JJ: They need to understand it in order to add another dimension of pressure in what I just described in terms of collaborative and collective action. I think consumers have a role to play, but whether they should have the sole responsibility, I don’t think so. In an ideal world, as a consumer you would enter a grocery store and only have sustainable products to choose from, you wouldn’t have to choose between a sustainable version and an unsustainable version, often with a price premium for the sustainable one, which brings more difficulties.

I think for this question it is a yes and no. Yes, they do have a role to play, and we’ve seen it in boycott or buycott campaigns which have had a really strong influence on industry. One of the most widespread mechanisms used by companies is certification or labelling of products, and we do see that it has an impact, but also limits. If you do a survey and show maybe half a dozen labels to a random, average consumer or customer in the grocery store, they will recognise some that do not exist. This was actually done in the context of seafood when consumers were presented with labels; they were recognising some of the legit ones as well as some that were totally made up.

Photo by Ivan Bandura

LUX: How do you see the relationship between science and governmental policy and what role do you think researchers should play in shaping policy and decisions?
JJ: Speaking from my own field of sustainability science  I think scientists have a really big role to play. This goes back to this example of staying in your ivory tower and publishing papers and then moving onto the next one, without really caring what happens next. I think that model of operating – again, for sustainability science, I want to make that distinction because I think there are a lot of applied or fundamental sciences that are different and that we need for the sake of them. But in the context of sustainability, it has to operate with the ambition to translate that knowledge into action, and that means communicating it to different stakeholders, like the private sector, but certainly to governments so that policy decisions are evidence based. That’s really what the IPCC is about in the context of climate change.

On the other hand, however, this doesn’t mean we always need to wait for science to act. I think there is a double-edged sword to big organisations like the IPCC, and that’s why several of the scientists who have been engaged for years in the IPCC and various reports, have publicly said this will be their last report. They will not contribute anymore because it gives the impression that we need to wait for the next report to have more information to act upon, when in fact we have all of the information we need to know in terms of the urgency of the situation and to know the solution to it, and therefore we need to act.

LUX: Can you explain what is meant by ‘blue acceleration’ and what this means for our oceans going forwards?
JJ: The term blue acceleration is something we coined very much in the spirit of the Great Acceleration idea and concept by Will Steffen, who recently passed away and was a giant of science. He used the term of the Great Acceleration to describe an exponential growth. The growth usually starts in the Industrial Revolution, but it really takes off in the mid-50s after WW2. You see across economic and socio environmental variables with population, GDP, deforestation, CO2 emissions across the board, you see that really rapid, exponential growth. Of course, it has its consequences, and it’s often one of the most iconic illustrations of the Anthropocene.

If we go back to the notion of the Anthropocene, how do you visualise, how do you embody the Anthropocene? It could be with those graphs of the Great Acceleration and our work focused on how that relates to the ocean specifically. If we take that lens and look at what happens in the ocean, it looks very similar. So that’s the interesting parallel, that’s why we called it the blue acceleration, because you see a rapid increase across a wide range of sectors. There are multiple increasing uses of the ocean for food, for energy, for materials, and for space as well.

If you look at marine aquaculture or agriculture for instance, it’s one of the fastest food production sectors in the world. If you look at shipping, the volume of goods transported by containers has quadrupled over the past 20 years and more than 1,000,000km of submarine cables have been laid on the sea bed. Undersea cables account for 99% of all international telecommunications that are happening in the world; it’s cheaper, more reliable, faster and safer than satellites.

Offshore wind is another example, one of the most promising marine renewable energies and the only one so far to have been scaled up commercially. It has increased 500 fold in the past 20 years. What the blue acceleration is, in essence, is a new phase of humanity’s relationship with the ocean that is characterised by this rapid increase at the onset of the 21st century, so very recently.

Photo by Danny Copeland

LUX: Can you tell us about the Ocean 100 project?
JJ: The Ocean 100 really speaks to the blue acceleration. If you acknowledge that acceleration and that growth across all sectors, you see that there is a scramble for the sea. Then the question is, who is racing? Or, if you look at it another way, who is left behind?

The Ocean 100 is looking at the big companies, particularly in the private sector, who are involved in ocean based industries. What you see is that a handful of companies often control a really large market share of the sector. For instance, the top ten oil and gas companies in terms of offshore production are responsible for more than half of total offshore production. If you look at the 10 largest companies in cruise tourism, they are 93% of the global market share, so really highly concentrated in terms of revenues. We look at those companies within sectors, and we look at it across sectors just by revenues, to see who are the largest of the largest across ocean industries. That’s the Ocean 100. The 100 largest companies by revenues.

What’s striking is that 47 out of the 100 are oil and gas companies, and 9 of the top 10. It’s a reality check because there is a mismatch between the aspiration of a blue economy, a sustainable and equitable ocean economy, and the reality of today’s extraction where oil and gas is by far the largest industry in the ocean today. The project identified who they were and in a subsequent effort, tried to engage in dialogue. So similar to what SeaBOS has managed to do within the seafood industry, they engaged in dialogue with some of those industries to see what they could do together across industries that they couldn’t do alone within their own sector.

Read more: Markus Müller on the links between the ocean and the economy

LUX: You recently completed your PhD. What is next for you?
JJ: I’ll keep doing it, I’ll keep going at it! I’m just starting a position at the Stanford Center for Ocean Solution, whose mission is to translate knowledge into impact across a series of initiatives. I’m very keen to keep looking at the ocean economy and trying to look at how we make sure it becomes a blue economy. It’s often used synonymously; people think of the blue economy as the ocean economy. I like to make a distinction. The blue economy right now is very aspirational, it would be a sustainable and equitable version of the ocean economy. But the reality that we’re dealing with today is very much a dark blue ocean economy.

I will be looking at the ocean economy, trying to make sense of it, increasing transparency, but not just for the sake of transparency. Transparency on its own is not enough. What you need is accountability as well. Trying to identify the levels of accountability in ocean economic sectors and leverage points to change. Who can set the right incentives? I believe the financial sector has really strong power to create incentives for industry, as do governments. You need a regulatory landscape. It’s not going to happen out of altruism as much as we could wish for this, it’s not how we operate. You need the regulation to be in place to incentivise better practices, and we’re going back to collective action. I think diving into that is something that I’m really keen on.

Photo by Danny Copeland

LUX: In 10 years’ time what changes do you hope to see in the world as a result of your research and the initiatives that you’ve worked on?
JJ: In 10 years’ time we’re past 2030, so we’ve either delivered or not on the Sustainable Development Agenda. So far it doesn’t look that good to be entirely honest, I don’t know if we are on track for delivering.

But I hope we will have got to a point where governments have been bold enough to set in motion the policies that will enable change. We can’t just stick to business as usual with a few incremental changes here and there, or a couple of long term targets that make everyone feel good.

More specifically, when it comes to the financial sector, I really like to think of financiers as either enablers or gatekeepers in terms of their potential influence. I would like to see them enable capital to flow towards sustainable activities. What’s striking in the ocean domain is that SDG 14 is the least financed goal of all of them. The SDG 14, life below water, the ocean SDG, is the least financed over the past ten years. Only 1% of the total value of the ocean economy has been invested into sustainable activity. In 10 years’ time I would hope they do more to fill that gap and enable more sustainable investment.

At the same time, regardless of that ocean finance gap, you have that blue acceleration that is exponentially increasing. This means that capital is going to those sectors, one way or another. That’s where I think of financiers as gatekeepers. Ideally financiers would take the sustainability criteria into consideration in their financial decision. It’s not the norm, but I hope it will be in 10 years’ time. Loans by default should be sustainability linked instead of the other way around, because suddenly that means companies have an incentive, a very tangible incentive to perform from a sustainability perspective.

Find out more: stockholmresilience.org/jouffray

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A woman wearing a grey blazer

Dr Oxana Mulholland

Dr Oxana Mulholland is the Investment Director at the London Technology Club, a space for investors and tech professionals to network and exchange ideas within the industry. Here, Dr Mulholland speaks to LUX’s Leaders and Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh about women in the tech industry and the future of the tech world

LUX: With your background in strategic investment advisory, what drew you to specialise in tech investing and VC?
Dr Oxana Mulholland: The simple answer- I love it! Right now, the old industrial platform is collapsing, and we can’t quite make out what’s coming next. Flows of information are fuelling vast networks of knowledge, allowing us to tinker with everything from the building blocks of life to technologies that behave more like natural biological systems. We’re entering a period of increasing human-tech collaboration.

This shift from one platform to the next is likely to create massive amounts of obsolescence, but also opportunity. I see this as a thrilling opportunity for our investments to help shape the future and with the London Technology Club we can bring savvy investors along with us.

LUX: What are the barriers to entry (if any) for women entering this field and how did you deal with these?
OM: The data is compelling. Wage inequality, entrenched views about women’s and men’s roles, a lack of industry role models, and negative stories like Elizabeth Holmes are among the barriers identified by women thinking of entering the field.

Barbara Fredrickson from the University of North Carolina discovered “the positivity ratio” or the fact that it takes three positive thoughts to counter a single negative thought. For me, this “three-to-one” ratio plays out. Even though the roles are there, the data tell us there simply aren’t enough women applying.

I think it’s time we flipped the script. I think it’s time we adopted a growth mindset and reframed these negative data points as rocket fuel. Spend any time with the extraordinary and inspirational women transforming the industry and you’ll experience this first hand. In my experience, these women echo author John Irving’s blunt and straightforward advice on persistence: “Get obsessed, stay obsessed.” Of course, early-stage passion looks very different to late-stage passion. Early-stage passion is multiple curiosities coupled with a few successes. While the goal may be to “get obsessed, stay obsessed,” my advice to women entering the field is “get curious, stay curious.”

A woman wearing a white shirt giving a talk in a boardroom to a group of men

LUX: What would you advise other talented women aspiring to join the tech and VC industry?
OM: It is such an important question. It also raises a more fundamental question: We are on the threshold of a new era of human-tech collaboration, so what skills will the next generation of talent need to thrive?

History tells us that in times of rapid change, success favours those who can make big leaps of imagination, courage, and effort. And the faster the world changes the more fluidly you need to adapt. It reminds me of a quote from the renowned futurist Alvin Toffler who wrote, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

So, here’s my advice to the teams I mentor: Instead of expecting traditional business schools to do what they can’t do, take your learning into your own hands. Use traditional courses for what they can do – introducing you to what’s well-known – and in parallel, explore other ways to discover what’s less well-known, what’s special to your own interests, and what’s of real value to you. This could be anything from an apprenticeship to a personal project, or a self-prescribed reading program. But when you shift your focus from results to gaining understanding, you set yourself on the road to mastery. You learn how to learn.

LUX: Which women-led tech businesses are consistently outperforming their markets?
OM: When Ayumi Moore Aoki founded Women in Tech in 2018, I was honoured to join her Web Summit launch event. Since then, Ayumi has turned Women in Tech into a global movement to help women embrace technology. The event was also a pivotal moment for me as I spent time with game-changing trailblazers like Canva’s Co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins. With her blend of laser focus, drive, and humility, Melanie and Canva’s meteoric rise come as no surprise.

Blockchain and real estate are a potent combination. But only the team at Propy, led by Founder and CEO Natalia Karayaneva are truly disrupting and reshaping the real estate market with automated transactions and the world’s first settlement on smart contracts.

A woman with red hair wearing a white shirt

LUX: Where are the most promising areas in the tech landscape right now?
OM: From an investment standpoint, I’m most excited by technologies that increase the opportunities for human-tech collaborations. At a macro level that means AI and Blockchain. While both technologies have always shown potential, it is only now that we’re beginning to understand what they are capable of.

I can see AI reaching a tipping point soon. As massive amounts of information meet quantum processing power it will open new worlds of possibilities. One of the most exciting predictions is the potential to break language barriers, enabling AI to understand and interpret different languages simultaneously.

Right now, someone is creating a blockchain solution to disrupt a traditional business model. Blockchain-enabled business models present a seismic shift to how business is conducted in the future. But navigating dated rules and age-old playbooks is the greatest challenge to its universal adoption. As blockchain becomes more widely and systematically understood I can only see its rapid proliferation into our everyday lives.

LUX: Does your evident passion for discovery spin out to interests beyond tech?
OM: I’ve always believed that travel is the best investment you can make in yourself. Whether it’s an impromptu weekend in the Cotswolds, catching the perfect wave on the Moroccan coast, or exploring the spiritual heart of Bali, leaving my daily habits behind allows me to see things differently. As writer and avid traveller Henry Miller once said, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Closer to home, there’s nothing I enjoy more than pottery. While spinning clay the world seems to melt away and I lose myself in my creative bubble. Perhaps it’s the elementary combination of earth, fire, air, and water with pure imagination, or just an excuse to get messy, but the transformations are magical.

 

LUX: So how important is it to achieve a work-life balance?
OM: I have a superpower: I love what I do. And as a tech entrepreneur, my husband loves what he does too. Perhaps it’s why we’re so comfortable blurring the lines between our work life and our home life. It could also be because I feel there’s more value in finding the similarities in things than seeing the difference between them. I’ve always found that while there are two opposing sides to balance, there’s no possibility of progress, only compromise.

The common ingredient when I’ve tried to “do it all” and find I can’t even “do a little” is how well I manage stress. A little stress can be a great motivator, but out-of-control stress can be overwhelming. But I’ve discovered a secret: Stress isn’t about bad experiences; it’s about how much control you have over the bad experiences.

LUX: What pearl of wisdom would you give to your 18-year-old self?
OM: Nothing! I was having so much fun at 18. I’ve always enjoyed having fun. I’ll continue to enjoy having fun. All the choices I’ve made have made me who I am, and I don’t regret a single moment.

Find out more: londontechnologyclub.com

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A woman in a white shirt and black jumper working in a factory

a woman in a red jumper sitting on a chair wearing bracelets and a watchRonna Chao is Chairman of Novetex Textiles Limited, CEO of Novel Investment Partners Limited, Director of Novelpark Investments Limited, and has taken on various advisory and leading roles in foundations.  Here she speaks to Samantha Welsh about leadership, particularly at Novetex

1. How much is good leadership about effective communication?

Often as CEO, you find colleagues look up to you as the leader of the pack. Leadership is as much about offering a show of strength as it is about allowing the members of your team to feel that they are truly a part of something. During meetings, I regularly say: “What do YOU think?” This is because I want to promote an atmosphere in which everyone, regardless of rank, feels safe and free to speak and voice their opinions and recommendations. There is so much we can learn from each other and I really believe that mentoring is not one-way. Communication is a skill that requires constant practice and honing.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. What is it about this collaborative style of leadership that you are passionate to share with next gen through Bai Xian Asia Institute?

Bai Xian Asia Institute is the brainchild of my dad, who had the opportunity to study overseas and believed in the importance of fostering friendship and understanding in young people across different cultures. We focus on supporting Asian students to study abroad within the region because we believe that one needs to understand and appreciate one’s own home region and culture before becoming good ambassadors elsewhere. We provide our scholarship recipients a secure space where they can exchange views, and this environment enables them to grow as individuals and as part of a community. As they become leaders in the various fields of their choosing, our hope at Bai Xian is that they extend their circles of influence and propagate their perspectives and experiences with the wider community. Having studied abroad for extensive periods of time myself, I too see the necessity and the advantages that come with intercultural and interdisciplinary education. The world is getting smaller and smaller, and the need for collaboration across borders, across industries, is so apparent.

Hong Kong with high rise buildings and the river

3. At a personal level, how do you manage challenges in, or to, your leadership?

Things always evolve, and one way to maintain an open mind and curious mindset is to accept and embrace the fluidity of circumstances and situations. One thing I strive to keep in mind in my leadership is that I do not and cannot know everything. My liberal arts education at Brown allowed me to explore interests in different subjects and topics as an undergraduate. These experiences trained me to keep an open mind and have broader perspectives. My three children are growing into adults themselves, and I am constantly in awe of their wisdom and ability to absorb everything around them. At their age, it’s natural that they begin questioning me – but they know that questions, criticism are always welcome to me and the communication lines remain open. These days, the roles are reversed in many instances as there is so much that they teach me and I look forward to considering their experiences and perspectives, especially as they come into their own and forge their own paths.

4. What compelled you to return from US back to Hong Kong to lead Novetex, a pioneer in the global textile industry?

Returning to Hong Kong and working with Novetex was a wonderful opportunity and an enormous honour for me that our family trusted me to let me try and helm the company. Ron’s heavy investment in research and development (R&D) proved fundamental to modernising our business practices. We initially created The Billie System, an innovative upcycling process that reduces environmental impact, to address the textile waste that our company was producing on an internal level. Over the past decade, we’ve identified new ways to minimise our environmental impact, even down to our supply chain. We arrived at the idea of The Billie together with Hong Kong Research Institute for Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA). Because of how we began this venture, the focus has been on preventing materials from entering landfills and recapturing the value of these fibres.

A woman in a white shirt and black jumper working in a factory

5. Novetex is also a first mover in textile R&D and you are invested in a sustainable future.  Where have you found innovation to be most impactful under your leadership?

Novetex has been in business for five decades. We began this journey toward sustainability almost fifteen years ago when the topic was not popular as it is now. At Novetex, we pride ourselves on being our customers’ “Complete Yarn Resource,” which means we strive always to be creative and innovative in offering a wide variety of qualities, colours, custom-designed and specialty yarns.

Read more: Lazard’s Jennifer Anderson on the Evolution of ESG Investing

In a self-reflection process, we audited our environmental impact, and reviewed processes from our operations down to our supply chain. Textile waste was identified as one of our pain points and we started having conversations with stakeholders and other parties to address the issue. Rather than worry about whether the timing was right, we went full steam ahead – and incorporating sustainability into our mission and vision is paying off, slowly but surely.

lines of colourful thread

6. What was the take-away in your speech to other leaders at Hong Kong’s Business of Design Week?

Prior to joining Novetex in 2010, I had little to no hands-on experience in factory operations, textile R&D, sales and marketing, and brand management. Having to assume a leadership role with such “limitations” was a challenge. Nobody knows everything, and humility, curiosity, open-mindedness, and the attitude for life-long learning are key drivers that can help us as we journey in uncharted waters. Innovation and change require not only vision and courage but also patience and persistence. It is a marathon, not a sprint; setting goals, constant reviewing, keeping the balance between reaching for stars and keeping your feet on the ground enable us to cover the distance bit by bit.

Find out more: www.novetex.com

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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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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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Reading time: 6 min
vineyard on hillside
man in suit sitting on edge of table
Utsava Kasera is a next-gen portfolio entrepreneur who has put his faith in his latest investment: a premium Prosecco, aimed at shaking up the drink market in the UK and US. The Indian-born, UK-educated citizen of the world speaks to Anna Tyzack about his business portfolio across tech, fashion and hospitality, and his new direction in sustainability

Portrait photography by Charlie Gray

It was Phantom, Mandrake and Tintin comics, or rather the lack of them in India, that drove Utsava Kasera to start his first business at the age of 12. His group of friends were as obsessed with comics as he was, and as there weren’t many available locally, he started a small library. “When my father travelled to the big cities like Delhi and Bombay [Mumbai], he’d bring one back for me; if I did well in my exams, he might bring back two, and I’d rent them out to my friends,” he explains. “The library was a good lesson in entrepreneurship: where demand exceeds supply, there is always the chance to start an exciting business.”

It is this entrepreneurial spirit that has driven him towards his venture, an intriguing attempt to shake up the drinks market. While prestige champagnes have proliferated, and the market for the cheaper Italian sparkling wine, prosecco, has expanded, there has been no crossover between the two categories. Until now: Kasera has invested in a premium prosecco as a rival to champagne.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The rollout of Ombra Di Pantera is now being driven in the UK. “The UK is one of the biggest markets for prosecco – more people drink it than champagne. And yet there are few luxury options, few competitors to grande marque, non-vintage champagnes like Moët et Chandon or Veuve Clicquot,” he says.

Ombra Di Pantera is the answer to this gap in the market – it’s the finest quality prosecco and will soon be available online and then in a select number of London’s bars and restaurants. “Our vineyards produce the most refined Glera grapes, used in the best proseccos, and the family in charge is passionate about production and cultivating and harvesting the grapes, and they have passed this passion and their techniques down through the generations,” he explains. The name pays homage to the Venetian term for prosecco, ombra de vin, ‘wine’s shadow’ – it is said that in ancient times the traders in Piazza San Marco kept the wine cool by storing it in the shadow of the Campanile. “Prosecco is faster to produce than champagne and it is drunk when it’s younger, but the best ones are exceptional,” Kasera says. “I’ve learnt from whisky that age doesn’t necessarily define the quality – it’s about the vintage and the methods of production.”

vineyard on hillside

The winery at Conegliano Valdobbiadene, Veneto

As with all Kasera’s investments and business ventures, the opportunity to create Ombra Di Pantera was a case of right place, right time. He was introduced to the Italian family who had been cultivating the beautiful Ombra Di Pantera vineyards for many generations and he immediately saw the potential. He had similar good fortune, he says, when he met Kevin Pietersen for coffee and soon signed up to invest in the cricketer’s ethical fashion label, SORAI, set up to preserve and protect endangered species; and when he met the founders of the Singapore private members club, 1880, in which he is now an investor and advisor.

Read more: Olivia Muniak on how collective dining brings us together

Kasera says his own father drilled into him early on that you make your own luck in life. From nothing his father built up a successful chemical company supplying the chemicals to manufacturers of a detergent that is now a well-known name in northern and eastern India, a market of hundreds of millions of consumers. As a boy, Kasera used to love hearing his father talk about his world travels and the people he met along the way. “In 1972 he flew to Afghanistan and hitchhiked to the Munich Olympics; in Munich he met a guy on a bus who he stayed with for the next three months; they stayed in touch and that same guy went to my sister’s wedding in India,” he says. “It’s stories like these that showed me how small the world is if you take the time to explore it. I knew from the start that a 9-to-5 job wasn’t going to be for me.”

tractor on a vineyard

At school Kasera was a sports star, being the city captain for table tennis and a keen cricketer. After graduating from university in Delhi, he studied at the London School of Economics and gained a master’s in international business and emerging markets at the University of Edinburgh. “It was overwhelming at first – the language, the curriculum and the different culture – but it was good experience for me; there were people from 26 countries in my class.” Along with gaining his master’s he made a cosmopolitan network of friends and learnt to appreciate whisky and cognac. He was recently listed on the University of Edinburgh’s Alumni 100, a showcase of its Business School’s most inspiring former students and is also now an advisor to the British Council’s Creative Spark Higher Education Enterprise Programme. “It’s great to be able to help motivate young potential entrepreneurs to realise their potential,” he says.

His main investment focuses are now tech, luxury and environmentally sustainable solutions; in 2011 he worked on a sustainability project in the chemical industry in Switzerland and Germany, fostering in him an interest in renewable energy. “It’s been a process of learning as I go along,” he says. “I’ve made some bad investments that didn’t turn out as I hoped but I’ve got a good feel for it now – it’s so rewarding when things go well.”

italian landscape

The vineyard where the Glera grapes for Ombra Di Pantera are grown.

The entrepreneurial landscape has opened up dramatically since he left Edinburgh, he continues, largely due to social media. When used intelligently, social networking platforms break down so many boundaries, he says, allowing entrepreneurs and investors to reach a huge audience without expense. “It enables things to happen out of the blue; it brings people and opportunities together,” he says.

Read more: Pomellato’s Kintsugi collection imagines a more sustainable jewellery industry

Some of the truly unique opportunities, however, are still found away from social media and screens, he says – the bourbon whisky that he discovered in Austin, Texas through word of mouth, for example, and the Pinot Noir he tried in Armenia that he says would rival a good red Burgundy. For entrepreneurial inspiration, Kasera thus aims to explore five new countries a year; so far this year he’s visited Armenia, the Seychelles and Northern Ireland and Georgia. He also reads extensively and makes a point of expanding his network wherever he is in the world, often choosing to stay in Airbnb accommodation or with friends rather than checking in to a hotel.

man leaning against fence wearing a suit

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic put a damper on his travels. While this was frustrating in many ways, forcing him to put investment and philanthropic plans on hold, the time at home helped him gain new perspective. “I like to be busy; I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to do in the future, what’s on the horizon,” he says. “I read the Difficulty of Being Good by Gurcharan Das, which is a secular reading of the great epic, Mahabharata. It relates so much to modern times, which I found very inspiring.” He also taught himself to cook, perfecting Indian-style scrambled eggs with coriander, spices and tomato, and, with Ombra Di Pantera in mind, completed a WSET level 1 online wine course.

As the world opens up again, Kasera is looking forward to Ombra Di Pantera’s unveiling in New York City, where he aspires to open a prosecco bar to give more people the chance to sample fine prosecco. “I hope it will be a brand ambassador for Ombra Di Pantera as well as hosting small pairing lunches and dinners,” he says. “I’d like to see Ombra Di Pantera inspiring a whole new area of luxury proseccos.”

What’s also sure is that it’s impossible to tell what sector new generation entrepreneurs like Kasera will be investing in. Sector-agnostic, and symbolic of his generation, truly global, he looks for opportunities that expand and stretch the luxury sector, increasingly with sustainability in mind. He remains tight-lipped about his next ventures, but I suspect they will be increasingly impactful in the new world of luxury.

prosecco bottles

 

The premium Prosecco

Ombra Di Pantera’s Prosecco Superiore Brut Millesimato DOCG aims to conquer the hearts of aficionados of champagne and other high-end sparkling wines, who may not previously have considered a prosecco. The Glera grapes that go into this wine are grown in the foothills of the Alps north of Venice, in an area with sunny days and cool nights. This gives a balance of ripeness and freshness. The result of hand-harvesting, careful selection of grapes and a personalised winemaking process is a sparkling wine that is creamy and light.

My favourite indulgence

“Depending on the time of day and the mood, it’ll either be a whisky or a cognac. As a ritual before dinner with friends, or if I’m admiring a view, I’ll drink a glass of Louis XIII 100-year-old cognac. It never fails to get me in the right mood. Whisky is a passion I share with my friends; we taste it together, we collect it and we exchange notes.”

Find out more: ombradipantera.com

Thank you to Nobu Hotel London Portman Square for providing The Nobu Penthouse for our shoot. Styling by Grace Gilfeather; grooming by Brady Lea (Premier Hair and Make-up).

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

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Reading time: 8 min
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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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
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
iceberg black and white
iceberg black and white

Iceberg Between Paulet Island and the Shetland Islands, Antarctica, 2005 by Sebastiao Salgado

As part on an ongoing monthly column for LUX, artnet’s Vice President Sophie Neuendorf discusses how the art industry can support more sustainable businesses practices which will not only benefit the planet, but also the longevity of art and culture

Sophie Neuendorf

Over the past few months, I’ve been hearing a lot about sustainability and ESG reporting. So much so, that it’s even trickling into the art industry. Perhaps, it can be seen as a positive, global reaction to the pandemic – a way of responding to and making sense of a globally shocking and horrific situation. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that humanity has abused the planet to such an extent that we’re not only facing a pandemic and the ensuing socio-economic consequences, but also rapidly accelerating climate change. And amongst all of this, a new question has surfaced: how do we preserve our personal and cultural heritage in the face of rapidly increasing climate change, a pandemic, and volatile global socio-economic situations?

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The arts industry, like any other industry, should be responsible for affecting positive change. Given that arts and culture define us as individuals as well as nations, the arts arguably have an even greater obligation of setting a positive example to safeguard the future of humanity.

When thinking about sustainability, most of us immediately connect it to climate change and the immediate threat to the environment. Of course, this is true and important, but sustainable business practices are not only about the environment. The three pillars of sustainable business practices are the environment, society, and governance (ESG). The idea behind this multi-lateral approach to conducting business is to promote an equitable, efficient, and environmentally progressive business and society.

black and white forest

Horizontal Aspens, 1958 by Ansel Adams

Similarly, the impact of cultural awareness and investment is no longer limited to the traditional sphere of the art market; it has expanded to include political, economical, and environmental activism. The last two years have seen the rise of the MeToo and Black Lives Matter (BLM) movements, drawing widespread support across multiple industries. Corporations with questionable business ethics across the globe were targeted, just as just, equal opportunity, and environmentally-friendly business practices were sought out and celebrated. As the world seeks to slow the pace of climate change, promote equality, and support billions of people, there are several changes we can make now to spearhead the art world’s support for a sustainable planet.

Read more: Durjoy Rahman on promoting South Asian art

At artnet, I used the past year to compile our first ESG strategy and report. By engaging with Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) reporting and initiatives, we are hoping to continue our ethos of spearheading positive change and sustainable business practices – our clients expect it of us, and many of our employees are also advocates of change. As a purely digital business, we have already recognised the environmental benefits of transacting online. We don’t, for example, ship artworks across the globe for viewings, require artworks to be viewed in person, have large, costly office spaces, or print thousands of catalogues per sale.

infographic

Infographic courtesy of artnet

Elsewhere in the art world, Christie’s recently announced a pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030, making it the first of the major auction houses to do so. The company will focus four main areas to meet its carbon goals, including transforming its processes with shipping, travel, building energy, and printed material. The pledge also commits to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions, which includes diverting 90 percent of its waste away from landfills. They will provide clients with packaging and printed material that is 100% recyclable, and have also made the decision to stop publishing weighty, glossed paper catalogues.

For context, at least 7,000 auctions are held annually around the world with a median of 120 lots per sale (according to artnet price database). For nearly all of them, auction houses print catalogues to send around the world to potential buyers. In an era of digitalisation, print catalogues are unnecessarily destructive for the environment. Moreover, historical auction data is much better safeguarded, and more easily accessible for private collectors, appraisers, or wealth managers on an online database than in a printed catalogue on a shelf. This is just one of many areas of change that could be enacted immediately.

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Mentawai Climbing a Gigantic Tree to Collect, 2008 by Sebastian Salgado

5 tips for building a sustainable art business:

  1. Art businesses should first evaluate their corporations in terms of ESG standards of conducting business and then, establish strategies and targets for the next few years.
  2. Take steps to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, which can be direct or indirect emissions. However, it’s important to note that even after significant changes to operations, some emissions will remain.
  3. The next step is to calculate the remaining carbon footprint, and take responsibility by financially offsetting those emissions. Money can be invested in projects that plant trees or protect forests, support renewable energy programs, equal opportunity initiatives, or other sustainable business initiatives. Carbon offsetting, which is the process of funding emission-reduction initiatives in an effort to “balance out” your carbon footprint, is one step every responsible art business should take as part of its climate action plan. For context, to offset an equivalent amount of carbon to a cancelled coal power station, $300 million worth of trees would need to be planted. With the carbon calculator recently launched by the Gallery Climate Coalition, artists and galleries can make a good estimate at their carbon footprint and clarify where reductions can be made.
  4. Implement checks and balances for not only the environmental changes, but also the social and governance changes (which affect all stakeholders).
  5. Make your clients and employees aware of the steps you are taking, and encourage them to join you in this global effort for a sustainable future.

And here’s a final thought: as private collectors, family offices, or businesses, we are often inclined to reduce costs and taxes as much as possible, but I propose the introduction of a voluntary “Green Tax” on the buying and/or selling of art and antiques, which will benefit NGOs working on preserving the environment. Let us forget the short-term gain of wealth accumulation in favour of the long term gain of a greener planet for the next generations.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide how you would like to contribute to a sustainable future, not only for the art industry, but for humanity.

Follow Sophie Neuendorf on Instagram: @sophieneuendorf

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Reading time: 5 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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Reading time: 16 min
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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
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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.

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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.

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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
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Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan with landmark Baiterek tower. Image by cosmopol.

Dynamic leadership and entrepreneurial thinking are required to help the global economy recover. We speak to seven leaders in the Kazakhstan chapter of one of the world’s most respected business organisations about mutual support among entrepreneurs, and their country being a touchpoint between east and west. Curated by Gauhar Kapparova
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LUX’s Editor-at-Large Gauhar Kapparova

A first-time business visit to Kazakhstan is likely to end up with two overarching impressions. Firstly, of the sheer size of the country. The distance from the biggest city, Almaty, to the centres of oil production on the Caspian sea is an astonishing 3,000 kilometres. Even the short hop from Almaty to the shiny new(-ish) capital Nur-Sultan is an hour and a half on a plane.

The second impression is likely to be one of the openness and dynamism of a new entrepreneurial community. Kazakhstan often speaks of itself as a key country between east and west, with China to the east and Russia and the Caspian sea border of Europe to the west. It is also focussing on moving beyond its oil and gas-based 20th-century economy, with the majority of growth coming from other sectors.

To this end, the country teems with spirited, can-do entrepreneurs, unfazed by the distances they have to travel to get to the world’s financial centres and proud of their country’s potential. A new generation of largely western-educated business people add to the cosmopolitan feel.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

At the heart of this enterprising business community is the Kazakh chapter of YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization), a global members group for chief executives and owners of significant businesses. Entry is by invitation only and open to those who own or run substantial businesses. Benefits are notable: an instant network of the highest level of contacts in your country and around the world, gatherings, conventions and seminars, and a highly sophisticated support network.

True to the country’s buccaneering business spirit, the Kazakh division of the YPO is known as one of the world’s most dynamic. There is no better insight into the opportunities in the central Asian country or into the minds of its prominent business leaders than from the YPO Kazakhstan chapter leaders we interview here.

ALINA ALDAMBERGEN

Chair of the Management Board, member of the Board of Directors of Kazakhstan Stock Exchange

Aldambergen’s career in the finance industry began in 1997 as an analyst and manager at ABN AMRO bank in Kazakhstan, then as a senior rating advisor in the global finance markets for the same bank in London before returning to Kazakhstan to chair the bank’s management board. After a series of senior posts at various financial institutions, she moved to the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange in 2016.

woman in orange top

Alina Aldambergen. Image by Sergey Belousov.

LUX: Tell us about yourself and your experience. What distinguishes you from other YPO members?
Alina Aldambergen: I’ve been working at the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange since February 2016. In the 17 years since I was first appointed as chairperson of ABN AMRO Pension Funds Asset Management Company in Kazakhstan back in 2003, I have held a number of different management positions at private and state-owned companies.

My key expertise is in being a senior manager. Unlike other YPO members, I’ve never been an owner of a company. It is possible, of course, that one day I might decide to set up my own company, but I haven’t come to that decision yet.

I like to manage large-scale companies. It is important for me that I work for institutions that make an impact, which is why during the past ten years I have worked for companies in Kazakhstan that are owned by the state.

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LUX: How did you became the manager you wanted to be? How did you train and did you have any formal business education?
Alina Aldambergen: I happened to develop my career when the country was changing from the Soviet planned economy to a market economy. This was a significant transformation for the whole country, economically and mentally.

The country’s president was a visionary, he knew that this would require a new mindset and people with new sets of skills. That’s why the government set up a scholarship programme to send students to study abroad. I was awarded one of these scholarships and studied for an MBA at the Simon School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester, one of the top 25 business schools in the world at that time. I studied corporate finance and accounting, essential for doing business and setting up the financial system in Kazakhstan. Another major influence on my career has been working for the country’s first international bank.

Even though now I would think that doing an MBA straight from undergraduate school is a bit too soon, in my case it gave me all the essential skills to do business and manage business in Kazakhstan. I am still using all the concepts that I studied at business school in my everyday life.

Of course, I took various courses in different subjects later on, but still, the fundamentals are what keep you going. I am a strong advocate of keeping up your business education throughout one’s lifetime.

LUX: What motivated you then and what motivates you now?
Alina Aldambergen: I am motivated by excellence. However, that has to be adjusted for the environment that you are working in. At any job I have always tried to come up with the best business model, get support from the stakeholders, and follow it through. I will leave a company if my values do not coincide with those of the company.

I am a strong believer in not wasting time – why do so if you could be doing something more valuable and interesting elsewhere? It is important for me to bring worth to a company, its employees and shareholders, and to society. I want to see the results of my work make an impact.

office environment

Courtesy KASE

LUX: Why did you decide to become member of the YPO? Why it is important for you?
Alina Aldambergen: I joined YPO in Kazakhstan in 2018. For me, it was an exclusive members club of business people – true, self-made achievers. To become a member was prestigious for me. Another point is that YPO is an international organisation, so in that regard I considered it as another step forward for myself. I also recognised that it is an influential organisation that can make an impact on various issues concerning society.

LUX: What else does YPO bring to you?
Alina Aldambergen: I think I discovered even more value once I had become a YPO member. There is a wealth of knowledge, significant networking opportunities and an exchange of opinions that you can draw on.

I like the YPO concept of oneself, family and business all together. I think it is important that YPO encourages this amongst its members. Your spouse or child can become a member of the organisation and it provides access to the same education as you can get elsewhere. It really enables generations of business people to grow.

I also like the forum meetings. I found that they are a place where you can receive and share professional advice with your peers on dealing with different situations. I think this is the most valuable experience of the YPO membership.

ARMANZHAN BAITASSOV
Chairman of the Tan Media Group and publisher of Forbes Kazakhstan magazine

Baitassov is a Kazakhstan media manager, professional TV journalist and businessman. He has founded multiple media outlets, including his first TV channel, Channel 31, in 1992 the Megapolis newspaper in 2000, the Business FM radio station in 2018, and in 1994 the Radio 31 radio station. In 2017 he was elected chairman of the board of the Kazakhstan Media Alliance.

business man

Armanzhan Baitassov. Image by Andrey Lunin

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Armanzhan Baitassov: I was 19 years old when I decided to go into business. The first time we thought about business was in the late 1980s, when it became possible to engage in private entrepreneurial activity.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business and how and why did they inspire you?
Armanzhan Baitassov: We were inspired by the guys who were able to earn a lot of money back then in Soviet roubles, guys as young as us who were also searching for opportunities to make money.

LUX: What were your first steps? Did you have any formal business education?
Armanzhan Baitassov: We started in advertising, reselling the advertising slots in newspapers. At that time, there were no textbooks about business, so we learned everything along the way.

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LUX: What were the most important parts of this learning phase of your business life?
Armanzhan Baitassov: I graduated from the Faculty of Journalism at Kazakh State University and immediately went into the media industry, where I still work. Of course, in the early 90s there were problems with funding, there was not enough equipment or it was incredibly expensive, and legislation in Kazakhstan was not fully regulated. But we had enough advertising in the first year and big contracts with Procter & Gamble and Unilever.

LUX: What motivated you then and what motivates you now?
Armanzhan Baitassov: At first, the big motivation for us was creative work. We were young, we worked day and night to make our media more and more popular. Now, of course, we are more mature, but the main motivation remains to do something new to make our world better.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Armanzhan Baitassov: There is the powerful influence of the state on the economy. It hinders entrepreneurship and corruption has penetrated all levels of power and the economy. Doing business in Kazakhstan can be simply unsafe, but there are also development institutions that are helping small and medium-sized businesses thrive. All systems work well, but look carefully at your segment, especially if it contains any state-owned companies and corporations.

forbes building

The Forbes building in Almaty, Kazakhstan

LUX: What’s the secret of success in business?
Armanzhan Baitassov: For me it’s that I am interested in doing business, in watching companies develop and doing it myself, and not just being a shareholder and observing. When you are immersed, then you’ll succeed. And what probably helps is my belief that everything will get better every year.

LUX: What are your plans for the future?
Armanzhan Baitassov: The pandemic has changed all my plans for 2020 but I really want to develop media abroad in Russia, Uzbekistan and Georgia.

LUX: Who are your business heroes now?
Armanzhan Baitassov: Of course, there are people I admire such as Jeff Bezos, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin. There are also people here who inspire me, such as Vyacheslav Kim and Mikhail Lomtadze at Kaspi Bank. But today my business heroes are the young entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan.

LUX: The media business is going through unique challenges now. What do you think these are and where do opportunities lie?
Armanzhan Baitassov: The main thing is a sharp drop in income from advertising. Many media companies have begun to work remotely from home, which is a great opportunity because of the high office costs. There may also be greater digitalisation – print newspapers are living their last days.

LUX: When did you first hear about YPO?
Armanzhan Baitassov: I learned about YPO in 2010 from Nurlan Kapparov. A year or so later we went with him to the USA, where we were invited to an event held by the YPO chapter in Washington DC.

LUX: Emotional support in business and other matters seems to be an important part of being a YPO member – is that correct?
Armanzhan Baitassov: Yes. In Kazakhstan, most entrepreneurs encounter some difficulties, maybe even injustice, and we can openly discuss these within the chapter. It is an incredible support.

LUX: How does YPO support your business?
Armanzhan Baitassov: The biggest support that I get is when we hold events at Tan Media Group, almost all members are happy to come. I am especially pleased that they support the youth forum and are happy to speak to young entrepreneurs.

LUX: What does running the Kazakhstan YPO chapter mean to you?
Armanzhan Baitassov: It has become very influential. We want as many members as possible, but getting in is difficult. We have a committee that reviews all applications and only then sends them for consideration to the YPO members. We all feel a great responsibility, because each YPO member is one of our team.

AIGUL DJAILAUBEKOVA
Partner at InnoVision Management Consultancy

Djailaubekova began her career in banking 1996 in Amsterdam at MeesPierson and then ING Bank. In 2004, she returned to Kazakhstan to continue working for ING. Since 2007, her work in banking has included senior management roles at Citibank and HSBC in Kazakhstan and at large regional banks. At InnoVision she focuses on management consultancy, financial services and education.

businesswoman

Aigul Djailaubekova

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Aigul Djailaubekova: I started my career about 25 years ago. Prior to then, being an ambitious straight-As student, I was set on an academic career but after a short teaching tenure, I decided to explore new opportunities in commercial and international business.

LUX: What were your first steps? Did you have any formal business education or training? Which companies did you work for?
Aigul Djailaubekova: I won a British Council scholarship to study at Lancaster University in the UK. After graduation, I landed a job in the Trade & Commodity Finance department of the Dutch bank MeesPierson in Amsterdam. I moved to ING Bank N.V., where for several years I covered financial institutions in various countries as a senior regional manager. Then I joined ING’s office in Kazakhstan as an expatriate manager.

LUX: What have you learned in your business life in recent years?
Aigul Djailaubekova: Over the past decade, I have been deputy chairman of the management board at Citibank and HSBC in Kazakhstan and in a few large local banks. Those were vastly different experiences for me in terms of their corporate cultures. All the successes and disappointments made me a stronger and perceptive manager as well as a more resilient and, hopefully, wiser person.

LUX: What are your business plans?
Aigul Djailaubekova: A few years ago I started thinking about setting up my own bank with a team of like-minded investors and banking professionals. In view of the multimillion investment required, it’s ambitious but most successful businesses at their early stages dare to dream big.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Aigul Djailaubekova: It is important that foreign investors have a strong local partner who will be on the same page in terms of their business vision to help them navigate through the local bureaucracy.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business and how and why did they inspire you?
Aigul Djailaubekova: My main inspiration in life is my family. I’ve always been driven by a desire to do something meaningful, to contribute to financial prosperity of our family, to be a good example for my children and to be a source of pride for my parents. Thanks to them and my husband, I have never had to face the choice of being a mother and wife or a being a banking executive.

man and woman

Aigul Djailaubekova with her husband

LUX: What advice would you give anyone starting out in business?
Aigul Djailaubekova: I would say three things. Firstly, dream big and dare to have it all. One might not achieve each and every goal along the way, but it’s worth trying. Secondly, dare to follow your dreams, especially when you’re young. And thirdly, when you feel that the current trajectory is no longer satisfying, or that there are other opportunities opening up, dare to change to a new path.

LUX: How did you first hear about YPO?
Aigul Djailaubekova:Several years ago from some of my friends and business acquaintances. The Kazakhstan chapter was founded by Nurlan Kapparov, a highly respected businessman and visionary. It was very flattering when two of the long-standing members suggested I join, which I did more than five years ago. I was the first female YPO member in Kazakhstan.

LUX: Has being a woman member made a difference to the local chapter?
Aigul Djailaubekova: One of my missions was to break the image of our chapter as a closed, all male club. Later, I heard that initially some members had been cautious about a woman joining the chapter, but knowing several members before I joined and the fresh perspective and insights I brought helped me to gain the trust of other members.

LUX: How does YPO Kazakhstan benefit wider society?
Aigul Djailaubekova: Kazakhstan’s chapter has evolved from an elite business club to an organisation that strives to make differences in society. Some initiatives between the government and local businesses were introduced at the instigation of YPO. The charity balls supporting good causes are regular events now. And there are charity projects, such as the Ana Yui (Mother’s House) founded by one our members, which has become a nationwide movement saving thousands of babies from being sent to orphanages.

LUX: In what way does being a YPO member support and help you personally?
Aigul Djailaubekova: For me, YPO brings great value through business advices and insights and as a platform for personal development through the forums, training and special events. I have become good friends with most YPO members and their families, socialising outside official chapter events. When making a radical career shift, I took comfort from the forum and some closer friends at YPO to whom I could turn for advice.

SIDDIQUE KHAN
Founder and CEO of Globalink Logistics Ltd

Khan has worked in transportation since 1990. He established Globalink Logistics in 1994. In 2011 he was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the American Chamber of Commerce. As well as chairing multiple committees relating to his sector, he also advises Kazakhstan’s government on the development of transportation and has a particular expertise in the Belt & Road Initiative.

businessman

Siddique Khan

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Siddique Khan: I started part-time work while I was studying to gain practical experience and to earn some extra money. It turned out to be one of the best opportunities of my life. I was able to learn how small businesses work, and the hands-on experience helped me turn my visions into practical business ideas.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business, and how and why did they inspire you?
Siddique Khan: I was always fascinated with the ancient Silk Road and became particularly aware of it when I started a job in transportation and logistics in 1990 while supervising the distribution of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. I saw the Silk Road’s heritage everywhere. In 1994, following the collapse of the USSR three years earlier, I set up a new business in Almaty to build a world-class transportation and logistics business that would eventually revive the ancient Silk Road.

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LUX: How did you go about setting up this business venture?
Siddique Khan: Fundraising for a start-up to revive the Silk Road was anything but easy. After months of struggle, I managed to raise the seed capital, helping me launch Globalink Logistics on a shoestring budget. Choosing Almaty as a base was not a popular decision in those days, as most foreign investors were entering the former USSR market through Russia. Looking back, it was the right decision. It has helped Globalink gain recognition as the first international logistics company in Kazakhstan. Today, it has operations in nine locations in this country, more than 32 service centres in the former USSR and with representation in 55 countries.

LUX: What were the most important parts of this learning phase of your business life?
Siddique Khan: Companies have to re-invent themselves frequently, adapt to ever-changing market conditions, manage risk effectively, develop a competent workforce and invest in new technologies to be able to compete on a global stage. We must learn to overcome the uncertainty of the future and continuously educate ourselves to be able to stay ahead.

industrial container

One of Siddique Khan’s company’s containers on the move

LUX: What motivated you then, and what motivates you now?
Siddique Khan: Giving financial success a purpose is still the most incredible motivation for me and gives me an enormous satisfaction in my work. My real thrill in life is not accumulating wealth, but to seek ways to use financial resources to create life-changing opportunities for others.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Siddique Khan: Kazakhstan is a typical frontier market, offering high risk and higher reward. Overall, it and the Central Asian Republics are resource-rich economies with limited service sectors and infrastructures. There are viable business opportunities if one can cope with the numerous challenges of these emerging markets.

LUX: What advice would you give to foreign companies coming to Kazakhstan?
Siddique Khan: It is essential to learn and appreciate the cultural differences when you are doing business in this region.

LUX: YPO seems to be a unique business organisation. Is this true?
Siddique Khan: YPO is a unique group of exceptional executives that provides a network with a common aim: to become better leaders through lifelong learning. Every member seeks the knowledge and principles of success not only for their businesses but also for their families, friends and, most importantly, for themselves.

LUX: In what way does being a YPO member support and help you personally?
Siddique Khan:  Much of the YPO member experience comes from the local chapter, where you meet other business executives in your area. Although the organisation attracts high-achievers who are very competitive, the chapter also offers a sense of openness. Chapter life is full of action, ranging from family retreats and business events to executive education, counselling, healthcare and much more.

Depending on the size of the chapter, there are several forums. A forum is a group of about eight to ten people who meet frequently to discuss business and personal issues in a judgment-free and confidential environment. Forums become the sounding board for topics that you wouldn’t like to discuss anywhere else. I can confidently say that my forum has become my family. We trust and support each other – no matter what.

The professional, educational, spiritual and networking support that I got from the organisation helped me not only to transform myself but my business and family life as well. Thanks to YPO, I have become a better executive, spouse, father and friend.

RAMIL MUKHORYAPOV
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Chocofamily Holding

After early enterprises in Moscow, Mukhoryapov returned to Kazakhstan in 2011 to work in e-commerce, founding Chocolife.me, the country’s first online marketplace. This has since expanded to become Chocofamily Holding, Kazakhstan’s leading internet company with eight brands covering services such as online payments, health, travel and food delivery.

man in polo neck

Ramil Mukhoryapov

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I was 19 years old when I started my first business. It was a club for parties for students. My first idea was for a comfortable and fun student life.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business and how and why did they inspire you?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I was inspired by a few Russian and international entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Oleg Tinkov, Sergey Galitsky and Evgeny Chichvarkin. I was inspired by their energy and their desire to change the world.

LUX: What were your first steps – which companies did you work for, how did you train and did you do formal business education?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I studied at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation in Moscow. I used to read interviews with various entrepreneurs in the business newspaper Vedomosti, in which they described all sorts of business situations and how they dealt with them. Reading newspapers was my main training. I had no formal business education, just my basic finance education at the university.

LUX: What were the most important parts of this learning phase of your business life?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I loved reading the biographies of top entrepreneurs such as Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, Steve Jobs, John Rockefeller, Feodor Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, and Richard and Maurice McDonald. I was inspired by their lives and their decision making.

LUX: What motivated you then and what motivates you now?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: At first I was motivated by money and the photos I saw in magazines that depicted businessmen like happy guys with beautiful lives. Now, my main motivation is to change the world. I would like to change the relationships between companies and employees, to change the service in our country and to create new possibilities in economics. I think that business people are sort of engineers of the world.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I don’t think that Kazakhstan offers any particularly unique challenges in business but it does have great potential for entrepreneurs, because of the very low levels of competition.

LUX: What advice would you give to foreign companies coming to Kazakhstan?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: First of all, welcome to our country! There are many great possibilities to start a business here. We are growing very fast, have a stable economy and political regime. Also, we have potential in retail, e-commerce and so on.

LUX: What is the secret of success in business and what keeps you going?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I think that it depends on two things. Firstly, you should work a lot and very hard. And secondly, ambition. If you are not satisfied with the results, they have to push you to go further. It’s important not to say “enough” – that’s a very dangerous word in business.

LUX: What are your business plans?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: Our plan is to build the biggest e-commerce company in the region and to become the first tech company from Kazakhstan to be known worldwide. To keep pace with Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple and others – that’s our goal and I believe that everything is possible.

LUX: Who are your business heroes now?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: My business hero now is Elon Musk. He is a person who makes crazy things. He does not just dream about something, he does it. He inspires me to think the same way. We shouldn’t build barriers in our minds.

LUX: When did you first hear about YPO?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: The first time was when I was a student. I read a book by Artyom Tarasov, one of the first Russian millionaires and the first YPO member from Russia. That was about 19 years ago and I knew then that I wanted to join YPO.

LUX: What were your perceptions of YPO before you joined?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: YPO is a unique business organisation. It consists of the best entrepreneurs from Kazakhstan and enables you to communicate with others from different countries.

LUX: How does YPO support your business?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: I have two examples. First, two of the YPO members in our chapter became investors in my company: Timur Turlov and Aidyn Rakhimbayev. Second, when I need to speak with the managers of the big Russian e-commerce companies, I can get their contacts through YPO Connect and they answer quickly.

LUX: How often are chapter meetings held?
Ramil Mukhoryapov: Formal meetings happen on average 10 times a year. They take priority in my schedule. I appreciate the ideas and advice I get from them – they are like a personal board of directors.

ELDAR SARSENOV
Chairman of the Management Board of JSC Nurbank

Before his banking career, Sarsenov led the marketing at TAG Heuer in the US and worked his way up to being deputy director of sales and marketing at Helios LLP, the Kazakhstan petrol station company. He was the managing director of JSC Nurbank for three years, during which he managed the credit card department, IT and marketing, before he became the bank’s chairman in 2015.

businessman

Eldar Sarsenov. Image by Valery Ayapov

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Eldar Sarsenov: I started thinking of myself as some kind of business person when I was maybe six or seven years old. At the time, I was in the US living near tennis courts where I worked as a ball boy. It was then that I understood the value of being paid for your services.

LUX: Your family was prominent in business already – you took a very international route when starting your career. Why?
Eldar Sarsenov:My career started early, helping out in my family’s business when I was still in school. When in college, I did some internships and later on I was working in a few businesses in Kazakhstan, so my career started locally. My first international work was in New Jersey, at TAG Heuer, as part of my MBA.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business?
Eldar Sarsenov: I was inspired first by my parents’ enterprise in the early 1990s. When I was in college, a few professors who were also successful business people also influenced me.

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LUX: What business education do you have?
Eldar Sarsenov: My bachelor degree in science and business administration was from Suffolk University in Boston, and my MBA is from Northeastern University. Formal education helped my decision making and my ability to assess business practices in all sorts of situations.

LUX: What motivates you now?
Eldar Sarsenov: That’s easy. I am motivated by problem solving, by overcoming crises. I look at the person I was prior to certain events and can see how they transformed and improved me.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Eldar Sarsenov: It’s a great place to conduct business, but one of the biggest challenges is its population size. It is a little below 20 million and no matter how efficient or effective you are, technologically and otherwise, at some point you will hit the ceiling of what market you can get.

yellow flag

The flag of Nurbank, of which Eldar Sarsenov is chairman

LUX: What’s the secret of success in business?
Eldar Sarsenov: There’s no big secret. Work hard, be kind to people, be a good person, and stay motivated. That’s harder than it sounds. You’ll be motivated at first but, later, obstacles might slow you down. The trick is to keep moving.

LUX: What are your business plans?
Eldar Sarsenov: Going international is in the plan for me. As a company, you need to cover as many countries as you can. It is healthy and financially sound.

LUX: Who are your business heroes now?
Eldar Sarsenov: The ones who surround me, such as those who survived the break-up of the Soviet Union and prospered for the benefit of the country. Also my YPO friends, who are people of high ethical standards and great business acumen.

LUX: When did you first hear about YPO?
Eldar Sarsenov: I first heard about it through friends and business acquaintances. My friend and mentor Armanzhan Baitassov, who is a YPO member of some stature, suggested I join.

LUX: What were your perceptions of YPO before you joined?
Eldar Sarsenov: I thought it was something along the lines of a fraternity of some sort. But when I saw a meeting, which was informal, I was impressed by the comradeship.

LUX: In what way does being a YPO member support and help you personally?
Eldar Sarsenov: It’s put into perspective what I am today as a business person. It has shown me how my strengths could be furthered, and how my weaknesses can be minimised.

LUX: YPO seems to be a unique business organisation, especially in its forums.
Eldar Sarsenov: Yes, the forums are what make YPO so sought after. Chapters consist of five to eight people. They are designed to be part of the YPO experience, where people can meet regularly within their own groups and discuss problems with work, family, or personal development.

LUX: Does YPO help with international contacts also?
Eldar Sarsenov: International contacts are what YPO bring to the table once you become a member. It provides a platform called YPO Connect that enables you to connect with YPO people round the world. I have helped members from Latin America, Europe and Australia who were interested in financial services in Kazakhstan.

LUX: What does being a YPO chapter member involve and what do you need to do?
Eldar Sarsenov: You get from YPO what you invest. If you make time, reach out to people, follow guidelines at meetings and participate in forums, then YPO gives back a lot. Since I joined in 2019 I have tried to be at every event and reach out to every member. YPO has been great for me. I look forward to meeting new people after the pandemic, and I urge everyone to consider joining this great organisation.

TIMUR TURLOV
Founder and owner of Freedom Holding Corp.

Turlov is an entrepreneur and financial expert who established Freedom Finance in 2008. Becoming part of Freedom Holding Corp. in 2015, the company is a leading retail brokerage and investment bank in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Turlov is a specialist in the US stock market and regularly comments, reports and lectures on financial and economic matters in business publications.

businessman

Timur Turlov, CEO of the Freedom Holding Corp.

LUX: What age were you when you thought you might go into business as a career?
Timur Turlov: I was hungry to earn money when I was at least 13. At 15 or 16 I had my first more or less serious job (as a junior media analyst) with an ‘adult’ salary.

LUX: Who were your inspirations in business and how and why did they inspire you?
Timur Turlov: I am not sure that I really can name any. I started my own business not because of my ambitions, but because my employer closed its investments arm.

LUX: What were your first steps? Which companies did you work for, how did you train and did you do any formal business education?
Timur Turlov: I have no formal business education. I started my career in the stock market industry in Moscow at a small proprietary trading firm founded by American who was a former Soviet Union citizen. Then I switched to a retail brokerage firm that was part of a medium-sized commercial bank, and became the youngest TOM manager by my third year. Then the investment arm closed after the 2008–09 crisis.

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LUX: What were the most important parts of this learning phase of your business life?
Timur Turlov: I always was very practical. I learned a lot from my colleagues and partners, from googling and reading the necessary information to solve specific tasks.

LUX: What motivated you then and what motivates you now?
Timur Turlov: We live in a world where the winner takes it all and you need to be the best in the industry just to survive.

LUX: What are the unique challenges of business and enterprise in Kazakhstan?
Timur Turlov: The main challenge is being almost alone in your industry. A weak competitive landscape can be a problem when you eat your bread alone. And that’s an opportunity as well, of course.

LUX: What advice would you give to foreign companies coming to Kazakhstan?
Timur Turlov: Kazakhstan is a country of open doors. It’s very easy to get here and you will be warmly welcomed, but you have to manage expectations extremely carefully.

LUX: What is the secret of success in business and what keeps you going?
Timur Turlov: My ability to build relationships, to sense the direction the wind is blowing in and to create products that are in demand. And, of course, luck.

LUX: What are your plans and business dreams?
Timur Turlov: We need to expand more actively into the EU and from there, globally. Competition in my industry is already global and we need to grow to be competitive enough tomorrow, to be attractive enough to become a target for acquisition, or to acquire our competitors worldwide.

office reception

LUX: Who are your business heroes now?
Timur Turlov: My team, my competitors… No stars.

LUX: When did you first hear about YPO and from whom?
Timur Turlov: From my friend and client, Marat Shotbaev, three or four years ago.

LUX: What were your perceptions of YPO before you joined and what made you want to join?
Timur Turlov: I knew it to be a club of successful people from the business elite in our country.

LUX: YPO seems to be a unique business organisation. Is this true, and if so, how and why?
Timur Turlov: The spread across medium and large enterprises in Kazakhstan seems to be wider than usually found elsewhere in the world. So here, YPO is a club for large businesses.

LUX: In what way does being a YPO member support and help you personally?
Timur Turlov: Through the unique experience of the forum meetings, which unfortunately have been less frequent over the past year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

LUX: How does being a YPO member support your business?
Timur Turlov: Business is always about the development of relationships, and YPO helps to develop it much further.

LUX: Does YPO membership help you with international contacts as well?
Timur Turlov: I have never tried to use the international power of YPO.

LUX: What does being a YPO chapter member involve? How frequently do you have formal meetings, and international meetings?
Timur Turlov: Unfortunately, I have never participated in any of the international meetings, but this is only my second year of membership and international travel has been restricted, of course, for most of 2020.

Find out more: ypo.org

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

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Reading time: 32 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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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
installation of octopus on roof
installation of octopus on roof

Installation view from Huang Yong Ping’s exhibition ‘Wu Zei’ at Musée océanographique de Monaco (represented by Kamel Mennour)

The art world has been hit harder than most industries by the global pandemic, but the industry is adapting quickly with new digital platforms and a renewed focus on local identities. Nick Hackworth speaks to three leading European galleries, Victoria Miro, Kamel Mennour and SETAREH, about the future and how their businesses are responding

‘It was too much’ is an almost universal sentiment expressed now by those at the top of art world reflecting on pre-Covid times. For those caught up in the global merry-go-round of art fairs, biennales and major openings, the disconnect between the art – the thing-in-itself – and the business and culture around it, was increasing apparent year on year.

The energy and flavour of that now, suddenly distant world is brilliantly captured in the prologue of Boom, Michael Shnayeson’s recently published account of the rise of the contemporary art market. His opening scene is set in the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois on the eve of Art Basel 2017, where the mega dealers are congregating: ‘Gagosian has flown to Basel on his $60 million Bombardier General Express jet two days before the fair’s first choice VIP preview… Most other dealers would arrive on Monday, a day before the fair’s coveted VIP opening. A few, like silver haired blue chip dealer Bill Acquavella, would arrive in their own planes. Others would descend at Basel’s EuroAirport in NetJets filled with collectors and money, like an art world air force.’

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Basel was, of course, just one of the many stops in a hyper-globalised art world sustained by an increasingly intense circulation of people and product. In a bid to capture as much of that energy as possible the biggest galleries, the likes of Gagosian, Pace and Hauser & Wirth opened spaces across the world, becoming truly global businesses.

Generally speaking, however, art is an object of aesthetic and intellectual contemplation, often revealing more of itself to those willing and able to take the time to look and think – a resource squandered by a culture of constant travel. Then the pandemic hit, the music stopped – cue much soul-searching about the systemic problems in the art world, prime among them, an profound imbalance between the global and local.

Victoria Miro, London & Venice

Founded in 1985, Victoria Miro is one of the most significant contemporary galleries in the world and a foundational presence in the London art scene, representing some 40 international artists and artist estates. The gallery has a boutique space in Venice, and a space in Mayfair, London, but without doubt the gallery’s spiritual home is its extraordinary complex of voluminous spaces designed by Claudio Silvestrin in its building on Wharf Road in East London.

Victoria Miro and gallery partner Glenn Scott Wright in Victoria Miro Mayfair, with artworks by Yayoi Kusama
Artworks courtesy the artist, Ota Fine Arts and Victoria Miro. © YAYOI KUSAMA

Glen Scott Wright: “We don’t see ourselves as specific to a locale. Our artists come from all over the world, they show all over the world, and the world comes to London. I think London is a great place to be for that. In the past, of course, we were able to to engage with specific localities through art fairs. For a while we were doing something like twelve or thirteen fairs a year but obviously that will change now and we’re finding different ways of addressing that global marketplace. The digital marketplace is going to be an increasingly important, of course.

Read more: Meet the winners of Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation’s awards

We recently did a collaborative project with David Zwirner called Side by Side, where we created a micro-site, showing some of the artists that we both work with. We also used the occasion to launch an extended-reality app called Vortic Collect, a project that Ollie, Victoria’s son, has been developing for three years now. On Vortic people can actually enter our spaces virtually and look at art. They can walk around a Grayson Perry sculpture, they can walk up to a Njideka Akunyili Crosby painting and look at it close-up. It’s really very exciting that people can look at exhibitions on their phones or their iPads and have an accurate experience, in terms of being able to see what the art is like.

Building facade

Victoria Miro, 16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW. Courtesy Victoria Miro. Photograph © James Morris.

artwork sculptures by river

Installation view of THE MOVING MOMENT WHEN I WENT TO THE UNIVERSE
, by Yayoi Kusama, Victoria Miro, Waterside Garden, 16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW. 3 October – 21 December 2018. Courtesy the artist, Ota Fine Arts and Victoria Miro. © YAYOI KUSAMA

We’ve actually doing well in terms of sales on these digital platforms. We’ve had opened a sell-out show with Flora Yukhnovich on Vortic. The project with David Zwirner was very successful for us as was Frieze New York online. This illustrates an interesting point. I have clients of the old-school variety who’ve been collecting for decades and faithfully go to all the major fairs, biennales and openings. Some of them have written to me and said, ‘Look, we’ve always bought art that we can see, experience and engage with in the gallery, at an art fair, or see in a major exhibition. That’s not going to happen anymore. We’re not travelling. We’ve never bought art digitally, but we still want to buy art! So we’re going to be buying art and looking at digital images for the first time.’ These are several conversations that I’m merging together. But, in essence, the way people engage with art is changing and I think that’s a really interesting paradigm shift.

In terms of what change we would like to see happen in the art world as a result of this crisis, the change of pace is good. I mean, the amount of travelling I was doing! I just looked at first ten weeks of the year in my diary and I was in a different city, at a different opening, at a different event, at a different exhibition every other day. And this is all over the world, from Paris to Asia, to Australia to the States. Literally, just bouncing around all these places. I was recently scrolling through my photos and it was just pictures of planes and airports and different cities and dinners and openings and artists. My life was crazy! So less travel would be great and in terms of global warming it’s good that we’re not shipping things willy-nilly all over the world. Just having a little bit of breathing space has been fantastic.”

Find out more: victoria-miro.com

Kamel Mennour, Paris & London

Man in suit

Kamel Mennour

One of the world’s most respected gallerists, Kamel Mennour has been in business for over 20 years. His roster includes some 40 artists, including Tatiana Trouvé, Anish Kapoor, Lee Ufan, Daniel Buren, Douglas Gordon, Philippe Parreno, Martin Parr and Ugo Rondinone. Mennour is known for the quality of his program, going the extra mile to realise the creative ambitions of his artists and for championing his home town of Paris. He has three galleries in the city, two on the left bank and one on the right bank on the prestigious Avenue Matignon, as well as a boutique London space in the Claridge’s building.

Kamel Mennour: “People were often offering me opportunities to open everywhere. Bigger spaces in London, New York or Hong Kong and I was always saying no. I prefer to be extremely stable and to be extremely confident and strong in my city. I decided long ago that being Parisian was in the DNA of the gallery.

Read more: Bentley reveals its sleek new Bentayga model

As you may know, twenty years ago, Paris was totally empty, there was nothing in terms of contemporary art. I was thinking that I could, along with others, help restore Paris’ place in the art world. Also I didn’t want to be the number 38 in New York, you know? In Paris I am one of the key players, the one that the Pompidou Centre or the Palais de Tokyo calls. But of course, in order to expand and promote my artists and the gallery, my strategy is to be ambitious at art fairs like Frieze or Basel, and to stage extremely strong displays that keep the attention of the art world.

gallery front

Kamel Mennour’s gallery space on Avenue Matignon, Paris

installation artwork

An installation by Tatiana Trouvé at Kamel Mennour’s booth at Frieze London 2018

When we opened the space on Avenue Matignon [on the right bank of Paris], people said, ‘Are you kidding? Why are you opening there?’ The right bank, yes, that’s where the wealthy collectors live, but for contemporary art at that time, it was a desert, a total no man’s land. People are coming there now, but my idea was quite retro. In the thirties and the forties, before the second World War, the right bank was where the centre of Paris’ contemporary art scene, but it collapsed as France collapsed. So I wanted try to do something new and bring something back. I said to myself, instead of opening something weak in New York, I would prefer to be confident and strong in my own city and to be very present. When a collector or the director of a museum wants to see me, I’m here. I can be extremely reactive and I am always taking the subway or an Uber to meet people. I also represent artists from my city. Some of my artists are based in Berlin or New York, but most of them are here and I’m always trying to persuade artists to come and live in Paris.

Now, with lockdown, the world we knew before – with planes and travel – is gone. Now, I’m thinking every day how lucky I was to have had this intuition, to be strong here. I wish them all the best, but it will be extremely difficult for those galleries that have places all over the world to manage in this new world.”

Find out more: kamelmennour.com

SETAREH, Düsseldorf

man with artworks

Samandar Setareh

Founded in 2013 by two brothers – Samandar Setareh and Elham Setareh – SETAREH grew out of a third generation family-run business specialising in textile art. That background eventually led them to open the gallery which now has three spaces in Düsseldorf, including two on the city’s grandest avenue, Koenigsallee and one, SETAREH X, that showcases emerging artists. With its broad program of global contemporary art, the gallery has brought a new and vital energy to the venerable Rhineland art scene.  Highlights have included shows of new Iranian and Chinese contemporary art, as well museum quality shows of major German art such as Hans Hartung and the Zero group.

Samandar Setareh: “I think this pandemic will have a profound effect on the art world. I already see successful business models being challenged. Galleries that had detached themselves from their artists and their natural collector base and moved into a kind of travelling environment and artificial marketplace are going to find it difficult. Galleries that are are deeply rooted in relation to their collectors and their artists will be the winners of this new time which we are facing. This is an approach we’ve had from the beginning. On starting the gallery, we decided to be deeply rooted in this area and to make that a point of excellence in a sense. We have deep relations with the collectors and collections here, and we’re very close to the institutions of the regions. We have world-class museums in this area, the Ludwig museum in Cologne is very close, the NRW Collection in Düsseldorf and one of the best things is that we have is the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, which has produced perhaps 75% of the very important German artists in the post-war period. So while Düsseldorf isn’t a financial hub compared to places like Paris, London or New York, it’s a cultural production hub.

Read more: Founder of London Art Studies Kate Gordon on digital art history

sculpture in gallery

‘Light and Ceramics’ by Otto Piene at SETAREH Gallery, 2014

installation exhibition

Installation view of Zero group exhibition at SETAREH gallery, Düsseldorf

When we started in 2013, the art market was exploding in terms of how international it was becoming. The Rhineland then was still dominated by all big artists, such as Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Joseph Beuys (who all come from the Düsseldorf Academy), the Zero art movement, Markus Lüpertz and Jörg Immendorff and so on. They dominated the way people collected and accepted art. Being from a mixed German and Persian background, one of our missions was to expand and broaden the kind of art that collectors in the region looked at and to make it more diverse, culturally. So we staged the first Italian Modernism art exhibition in Germany, the first contemporary Iranian art show in the region and have showed artists from China and so on. That’s why we also had to have a number of different spaces in the city so that we can show a wide range of art at the same time.”

Find out more: setareh-gallery.com

Nick Hackworth is a writer and curator of Modern Forms, an art collection and curatorial platform founded by Hussam Otaibi, Managing Partner at Floreat Group.

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Reading time: 11 min
Chinese business woman
Chinese business woman

Dr. Li Li is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of MEBO Group

Li Li is a woman on a mission. Taking over her husband’s Beijing-based medical company MEBO after his unexpected early passing a few years ago, she has built it into one of the most significant and serious players in the rapidly developing field of regenerative medicine in China, the US, and beyond. While her business, which has dual headquarters in China and the US, has built partnerships with the likes of Harvard University, she is also on a personal crusade to increase cultural understanding and links between East and West, as LUX discovers

LUX: You have won many awards as a female entrepreneur. What are the challenges that you faced?
Li Li: The lack of access to market information is a challenge for many women entrepreneurs. Secondly, the speed of social development is constantly accelerating. So women entrepreneurs constantly need to learn and absorb new professional knowledge to cope with the changing external environment.

The next generation of women entrepreneurs in China need to become more open-minded, more pattern-oriented and more world-oriented. I also welcome women entrepreneurs from all over the world to join us in building a platform of win-win cooperation.

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Also important is to set up an industry role that people can use as a reference. MEBO has been committed to public welfare, including international public welfare, for more than 30 years. I hope the next generation of female entrepreneurs can further enhance their sense of social responsibility and make more contributions to society, while promoting the development of enterprises through this way.

Women are the symbol of warmth and love. There is a good conjunction between public welfare, responsibility and femininity. Female entrepreneurs should reflect this in their own power and method of working.

woman at horse racing

Li on the occasion of her receiving the Barony of Yair at Royal Ascot in 2019

LUX: You have a focus, perhaps unusual in China, on developing international relationships with institutions all over the world. Why?
Li Li: Good international relations will bring new vitality to enterprises. Currently, MEBO has established cooperation with more than 70 countries and regions. The world is becoming more and more integrated, the establishment of friendly international relations is important. It is important also for business to further enhance the connection among the people of the world. We can enhance the trust among people of all religions and beliefs, and this will improve the quality of life.

In MEBO Group we have been working on the worldwide development of regenerative medical technology in burns, wounds and ulcers. My husband, Professor Rongxiang Xu, founded this technology. Now, I am leading MEBO to introduce it around the world. This technology will bring life hope to more people from all over the world.

Read more: Fashion superstar Giorgio Armani on his global empire

LUX: How did you develop MEBO Group and what challenges did you face in this process? Why did you switch from medical technology to life sciences?
Li Li: We experienced numerous difficulties and risks while growing MEBO, and our success could not have been achieved without the efforts of the MEBO team and the help of friends throughout the world for more than 30 years. It is inseparable from the worldwide trend of life science development. During the process of development, we worked hard to explore the wet treatment for burns and developed it into a systematic and complete science of human body regeneration and recovery. We encountered a lot of challenges such as the change of the national system, the upgrading of the market structure, the clinical transformation of science and technology, diversified demands for products and in-depth research and development.

Life science is a young discipline, it promotes the improvement of life quality and progress more comprehensively and sustainably. The development of this discipline cannot be separated from more
in-depth scientific research, and R&D is the engine of the new field. Professor Rongxiang Xu proposed the concept of insitu regeneration that has opened a new world in regenerative life science. In this new field, we have accelerated the pace of diversified development and research. We are cooperating with Harvard Medical School, the University of Chicago, the University of Southern California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Caltech (among others in the US), as well as Nankai University, Shandong University and Binzhou Medical College in China to carry out regenerative life-science research, accelerating the implementation and transformation of innovation and products.

man and woman

Dr Li Li with former US president Bill Clinton

LUX: How important do you think innovation is in business?
Li Li: Innovation is the soul of enterprise’s survival and development. Also, it is an important source of business improvement. Innovation in the commercial area could not only bring new products to people, but also change ideas and culture. Innovation plays an important role in improving product quality and also in implementing a strategy of product diversification.

At the same time, only through innovation can an enterprise form its unique brand advantage, improve its organisational form and management efficiency, continuously adapt to the requirements of economic development, and further promote the prosperity of business.

MEBO has changed from a single product structure to a various product structure, including medicine, cosmetics, medical equipment, health products and food, while moving into international markets. These all represent the importance of innovation.

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

LUX: Do you think Chinese companies get enough recognition in the world?
Li Li: Since China’s modern industrialisation started relatively late, it may not have stood at the same starting line as developed countries.

However, since entering modern times, China’s development has been phenomenal and has opened the door to the world. Chinese companies are constantly going out into the world and becoming bigger and stronger. MEBO itself now covers more than 70 countries, regions and markets. We have more than 70 domestic and international patents.

LUX: What is your long-term relationship with California and the United States?
Li Li: I started to promote the regeneration business of our group in California in the early 1990s. California is now my second home and an integral part of my life and business. We have dual headquarters in China and the United States, so the US is very important to me in terms of business development and social relations.

US presidents

From far left: Dr Li Li with Kevin Xu, Laura Bush and George W Bush

LUX: Where else is important to you?
Li Li: Britain and MEBO have strong roots. As early as October 1999, my late husband’s special report into wounds sparked great attention from a renowned British expert in wound repair, Professor Mark Ferguson of Manchester University. In 2000, Professor Mamta Shah, the British consultant children’s burn and plastic surgeon, at the University Hospital of South Manchester, and honorary lecturer of the school of biological sciences at Manchester University, came to China for a five-day investigation into the basic research on and clinical application of wet burn treatment technology.

British scholars and medical experts have had increasingly frequent contact with MEBO. Academic exchanges and cooperation are also gradually increased. Last year, we had an in-depth communication with the University of Oxford and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. In June 2019, my colleague Kevin Xu and I attended the third Rhodes Ventures Forum at Rhodes House, Oxford University. We discussed Oxford as a possible first venue for the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference outside the US.

LUX: You also have interests in the entertainment and film industries…
Li Li: I have had a strong interest in art since I was a child. Now the development of the cultural industries is flourishing, so I also pay close attention to the development of the entertainment and film industries in particular. I have good friends who work there and I continuously support the development of film, culture and art. I also follow trends in the cultural industries, trying to inject new blood!

LUX: Tell us about the Boao Forum for Asia, and your work in NGOs and charity.
Li Li: The Boao Forum for Asia aims to build consensus, promote cooperation and spread the voice of Asia. From March 26 to 29 of 2019, I attended the 18th Boao annual conference for Asia in Boao, Hainan Province, at which Chinese premier Keqiang Li delivered the keynote speech. The forum focuses on the open world economy, multilateral and regional cooperation, global governance, the progress of science and technology, and politics, diplomacy and security in the frontier of hotspots in the fields of education, culture and people’s livelihood issues.

All of these are important to an entrepreneur. I have always thought of myself as a mission-driven entrepreneur who actively engages in public welfare. We have launched foundations in the US and China that support technological development, disaster relief and public life rescue, academic promotion and research on regenerative medical technology, and professional training for doctors at the grass-roots level in the three fields of funding, academic research and training.

We are also involved in public welfare action, such as the United Nations Every Woman Every Child Partnership Network Life Regeneration Action Programme, to help people in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

LUX: Do you have hobbies? What do you do to relax?
Li Li: My hobbies are reading, spotting new trends, discovering talent, getting to know diverse cultures, and so on. I relax by watching movies, listening to music and exercising. I want to experience the power of nature and humanity, to feel life, and in order to improve myself to improve the quality of all human life.

Find out more: mebo.com

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Reading time: 8 min
Render of luxury apartments on the beach
Architectural render of three tower blocks

Picasso Towers is a €225m residential development including luxury penthouses and apartments

Picasso Towers is Málaga’s latest luxury residential development, featuring 213 apartments on the seafront. Conceived by Sierra Blanca Estates in collaboration with Metrovacesa – and with endorsement from Antonio Banderas – the project aims to transform the Spanish city into more than just a holiday destination. Here, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai speaks to Pedro Rodriguez, the founder of Sierra Blanca Estates, about the challenges of the project, creating demand and Málaga’s future
Business man sitting wearing blue suit and tie

Pedro Rodriguez

LUX: Can you tell us your story and how you came to work in development?
Pedro Rodriguez:  I studied tourism and I was the top producer of tourism to Spain from the United States for more than 10 years. I actually worked for Thomas Cook more than 40 years ago. And even though I was very successful as a tour operator there was something that made me consider making a change. It was actually two or three things I think. Number one and most important, was when Spain joined the European Union back in ’85. At that point, I was reading a book that was about Megatrends, which was written by a sociologist, and he came to predict what was happening already in the USA. People and companies establishing the North Industrial coal estates were moving to the Sunbelt, especially to California and Florida, looking more than anything for quality of life – obviously in Florida, as you know, they have a tax advantage also. This transformed Florida into one of the most successful states in the USA. Well, I didn’t have to be a genius to think that if I was going to make an investment back in ’85 it should be in Spanish real estate, because the same thing [that happened in Florida] was probably going to happen in Spain. So that was how I started. I invested in real estate, but from day one, I invested in only what I considered was going to be the best project for the future.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: When did you decide that Málaga would be a focus with Picasso Towers?
Pedro Rodriguez:  We started to buy the project five or six years ago. At that time, people were very sceptical that we could even build this type of project. Almost everyone was sceptical, but when we explained the idea to Antonio Banderas, who is our ambassador, he agreed because he is somebody that will do anything to promote the city where he was born. So we explained the philosophy behind the project and how we wanted to contribute to Málaga as a residential destination.

Successful people want to enjoy the fruit of their success and as these people are looking to invest in real estate, they are thinking about where they want to live, but also where they want to establish their own startups, their own companies. That is what is going to help to transform Málaga not just as a vacation or residential destination, but as a community of all nationalities.

Render of stylish contemporary apartment interiors

A render of an apartment’s interiors inside Picasso Towers

LUX: Is it a challenge that people do not tend to think of Málaga as a location where you’d buy a very high-end holiday home?
Pedro Rodriguez: Málaga has been projected as a cultural destination in the last 10 years, and it has been celebrated in many interesting films. Also, as you know, it’s an old city – it’s more than 2-3,000 years old. It has not only the old town, but also the Roman area. We invested and started to look at Málaga with great interest because of the way it was growing already, the attention that it was getting from entrepreneurs from Spain and all over Europe. We thought that the interest was going to bring a demand for a higher quality product, and the kinds of apartments that we are building did not exist before in Málaga. You are right that Málaga doesn’t at this point offer housing or apartments with the design or the quality that Marbella offers already, and that is what we realised.

We can already see that the demand is increasing from a variety of interesting people, who are part of the new society that it is coming to the city. It has always been my philosophy to create an end product that would be of a design and quality that will exceed whatever is on the market. There is always a demand for something very special, and the quality of the project is what generates the attention, and desire of people. I think that we are contributing a very singular, unique product with Picasso Towers, and it is helping the city to project itself as a residential destination with a quality product that didn’t exist before.

Render of luxury apartments on the beach

One of the towers is dedicated to luxury lifestyle amenities including three swimming pools, a premium spa, fitness centre, private cinema, playroom, co-working area and nursery, as well as incorporating the latest technology and security.

LUX: A few years ago, you published an article about how people were opposed to one of your projects in Marbella because they thought it was too big, too sophisticated for the location. Have you had similar challenges with this project in Málaga?
Pedro Rodriguez:
When you are creating something unique or special that the city’s society is not familiar with, you have to accept that you will have people who don’t really believe in it. But that is normal. If you create – in whatever area or industry – something that’s special, you cannot expect the majority of people to agree and understand what you are creating otherwise it would not be original, it would not be special. That was my idea in Marbella, yes, when we began to build the Sierra Blanca. It is a special destination in Marbella, and people were thinking that it was crazy because we were investing 20 or 30 million euros of today’s money [the project was 30 years ago]. In Málaga, when I was conceiving the idea for Picasso Towers, people were sceptical as to whether Málaga was ready for that kind of project. They were proven – and we are still proving – that they were wrong. Fortunately, there is a growing number of local and international successful entrepreneurs that are changing Málaga day by day.

Read more: Why you should go to St Moritz now for perfect snow

LUX: Is it true that Málaga is becoming a tech and business destination as well?
Pedro Rodriguez:  Absolutely. New and important international companies are being established quite frequently in Málaga. It is happening almost everyday.

LUX: Are you expecting the buyers of Picasso Towers to be international?
Pedro Rodriguez:  We haven’t really started the international promotion yet, but right now, we already have Swedish or Finnish investors, but mainly Spanish. We have Real Madrid soccer players that have invested in at least four or six apartments. Eventually, it will be home to a great variety of people from almost anywhere.

LUX: Finally, what other developments do you have planned for the future?
Pedro Rodriguez: We have an excellent project under construction right now in Marbella that it is without question, the best apartment project to be built in the city in the last 20 or 30 years at least. We are really proud to say that we have come to an agreement of doing branding with Fendi Casa, and the apartments are excellent alternatives to luxury villas. It is obviously a nice apartment, but at the same time, we want to create a country club lifestyle.

The first phase of Picasso Towers apartments will be ready by the end of 2021, and the whole resort is expected to be completed by 2023. For more information visit: sierrablancaqualityestates.com; metrovacesa.com

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Reading time: 6 min
Private jet with ladder down on runway
Private jet with ladder down on runway

People are buying bigger and bigger planes, says Jetcraft’s Jahid Fazal-Karim such as the Global 6000 private jet pictured here

Jahid Fazal-Karim joined Jetcraft in 2008, and has since transformed the company from a primarily US-based organisation to a global trading platform. LUX Editor-in-Chief speaks to the Dubai-based businessman about the private jet market, why buying pre-owned makes sense and how the jet sharing business is creating future buyers
Man sitting inside private jet

Jahid Fazal-Karim

LUX: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into aviation?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: I’ve always been passionate about aviation. I studied aerospace engineering in France and after that I did a master’s degree in air transport management in Crenfield. Then I joined Airbus in the marketing team. After that I moved to the US to work in marketing for a commercial aircraft there. I spent nine years in commercial aviation and then eight years in business jets. My last job [before Jetcraft] was at Bombardier where I was running the sales for private jets worldwide.

LUX: What led you to Jetcraft?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: I was 38 years old, and I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My father was an entrepreneur, my grandfather was an entrepreneur, and I came to the point where I’d been working for two big companies and I thought: ‘okay, it’s probably time for me to start something on my own.’ As I said aviation was my passion so that’s where I wanted to stay, and I love the private jet side because it’s much more diverse. On the commercial aircraft side of things, you know your clients and they all have the same issues. They’re airlines, they buy an airplane to make money, right? So it’s very methodical. They all go for the best deal that’s going to produce the most amount of profit for them. The business aircraft side is much more diverse. You have airlines like VistaJet and Flexjet that are more analytical, but you also have the emotional side, or the high-net-worth individuals who are just buying planes. Some people will just buy a plane because they like it or they won’t buy it because they won’t like it. It is what it is. I’ve had clients that won’t even go in the plane. I remember I showed a Challenger 604 once, and this client came in, he saw the plane and said, ‘It looks too fat.’ The private jet industry is more varied and that makes it fun and exciting.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What was your initial business model for Jetcraft?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: So here’s the thing about this industry. Nowadays, the industry is much more organised, and it it is getting more and more consolidated and organised. But 10 years ago when I left Bombardier, it was still outside the manufacturers, which were really professional companies that run proper businesses. But on the non-manufacturer side, nobody really looked at figuring out a way to make it a real structure for buying and selling. So when I left, I saw there was a gap there, and I started by doing a lot of deals by myself. It’s funny because I went from running an organisation with 300 people to doing everything by myself. I was getting a lot of business and at some point I had to either create a structure or buy into a good structure that I could grow. And that’s how, I ended up doing a deal with Jetcraft. At the time, I met Bucky Oliver, who was the owner of Jetcraft and I bought 50% of the company and it was a great company because he had the right pace. You know when you build something, you have to think about a pyramid, right? If your base is good, then you can start adding blocks. If it’s the other way around, it’s not going to work. The base of Jetcraft was really good, the culture was really good, the management team was good. So I bought 50% of Jetcraft and really expanded it to become a proper global structured company for sales and marketing. Essentially, we’re a sales and marketing company, but all I’ve done really is duplicate the OEM sales structure but into a non-OEM environment, and put some structure around brokerage, around buying, selling, financing and deals.

LUX: Is it purely a brokerage, or do you buy and sell yourself?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: Brokerage is one piece of our business because you have to be in the brokerage business to generate deals, but the main thing that we do that a lot of people can’t do is that we trade, we buy and sell. The other unique thing about Jetcraft is that we’re truly a global company, meaning that if you’re Chinese and you want to buy an airplane, you’ll be talking to somebody at Jetcraft that actually speaks your language, and so that allows us to be everywhere. Right now, for instance, the US is a pretty active market, so a lot of buyers are from North America, but outside North America there are challenges in Russia, China, Africa and so we have a lot of sellers from those countries. Now if you’re in the US, you’re a North American buyer and you want to buy a Chinese airplane, it’s actually a challenge for you to do it. And they don’t like to do it, because for them they think: ‘Oh no, it’s Chinese. I’m not going to touch the plane.’ So what do we do? We bridge that gap. We’ll go and acquire the plane from China, we’ll take it to the US, we’ll make it a US registered airplane, we’ll invest in the plane and we’ll make it proper US based airplane and then a US client can buy it. It’s all about being everywhere and arbitraging the sales side and the buy side.

LUX: Is the market driven purely by requirement?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: My background was working for manufacturers. So then you have to sell what you build, right? But the Jetcraft model is very different because it’s really customer centric. We actually provide what is best for the client. And like I said, some clients are very emotional people. They’ll say: ‘I want to buy that plane because it has three engines and I want to fly with three engines’, even when technically it doesn’t make a difference. It’s not less or more safe. But you know, if I had a client and that’s what he wants to buy, then I’ll find a way to get him the best three engine airplane that fits his needs. Some clients don’t know what they want so we’ll give them the choices of what’s available and list all the differences in all the different products.

We also focus on structuring a transaction that works for the client, because it’s not just about the airplane and the model and the brand. It’s also about how they want to buy. Some people are cash buyers, some people want to do tax deals, some people want to finance, some people want to be more confidential and they don’t want to be seen as owning a plane. So then you have to build different structures for them, and that’s been the big shift between working for Bombardier or Airbus and being at Jetcraft.

Private jet interiors with beige leather seats

Interiors of the Global 6000

LUX: So there’s a whole service element to it?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: Yes, but we don’t actually do a lot of the services portion ourselves. For instance, I don’t manage planes, I don’t operate them because there are enough people in the world that are actually doing that very well, but we know all of the good service providers, we have relationships all around the world to put the buyers in touch with the right service providers. We really focus on the asset, on the buying, the selling, or representing a buyer, or representing a seller, and structuring the deal around the asset.

LUX: Are your clients typically businesses or individuals?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: Our clients can be corporations, or they can be private individuals. It’s really a diverse space. Very often people ask me: ‘what do you really sell?’ And I tell people: at private aviation, we sell time. It’s about how valuable your time is. If you’re a billionaire, or you’re CEO of a big company, your time is so precious that you’re not going to go waste time going to an airport, doing a check in, arriving three hours before, et cetera, et cetera.  That’s where the private jet comes into play. And so most of our deals are with business people. They’re not for really private use. They’re for businesses, to be more productive. That’s why we call it a business jet.

Read more: Hirsh’s creative director on designing timeless jewellery

LUX: Why do you think clients choose you over other options?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: That’s a very simple question to answer actually. We are the largest in our field and we have the best experience advising clients to buy whatever they need, number one. Number two, we can probably structure a transaction that would be better than anybody else. And we’ll probably find the best airplane for you, at the best buy. Because if you talk to somebody else, maybe you’ll talk to somebody in London, you’ll have access to a few number of airplanes on the market, but your London contact isn’t going to know the right airplane that maybe selling out of Russia or China or Africa, which is going to be a better value. We’re everywhere and I think that makes a big difference.

LUX: Why would a client buy pre-owned jet rather than going straight to the manufacturer?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: When I advise clients, I always tell them that if you’re not biased against somebody else having flown the plane, then the pre-owned deal will always be a better economical solution because the pre-owned airplane has already taken the first depreciation. It’s like a car. Once the plane is new, you take it out of the garage, it’s already lost 10%. So let’s say you buy a three to five year old plane, which I think is a good sweet spot for a first time buyer, your depreciation risk over time will be a lot less than buying a brand-new plane. But there are also advantages of buying new planes. So then it becomes more of a personal preference.

LUX: In your opinion, what is the best business jet on the market?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: It depends on the category, how many people you want to fly, how far, how much money you want to spend.

LUX: Let’s say eight people, long-haul, unlimited spend.
Jahid Fazal-Karim: In terms of models, I would say there’s probably three main models. There’s the 7X/8X – they are very quick planes, very modern. On the Bombardier side, you have the global line, 6,000, 5,000, 6,500, 5,500 and then on the Gulfstream side, you have the G 500, 600, 650. Frankly those three manufacturers and those planes, they all have pluses and minuses. And it becomes a lot to do with preference and budget. If you have a limited budget, you’re probably going to go for either the Gulfstream or the Bombardier. If you have unlimited budget, you can probably go for the best one if you wanted to, but the three planes are pretty equivalent. I personally have a bit of a bias because I used to work for Bombardier and I sold the Global. I always felt that the Global was one of the best – it’s an amazing airplane, especially when when you’re inside the plane and flying. On today’s market, it’s probably the best compromise between size, range and comfort.

Exterior side of a private jet on the runway

The Global 6000 is a great compromise between size, range and comfort, says Jahid Fazal-Karim

LUX: What changes have you seen in the market in the last few years?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: The main change that I’ve seen is that people are buying bigger and bigger airplanes. The mix of small planes versus big planes has changed. When I started at Bombardier in 2001, so almost 20 years ago, there were a lot of lighter jets selling on the market and if you looked at the model mix, they were very few large airplanes available. Really it was a duopoly between Gulfstream and Bombardier. Today, even if you look at most of the OEMs, they all have bigger planes, such as a 7X, 8X. Everybody is going bigger and longer range, and now you see a lot of first time buyers that actually buy a Global or a 7X, or a G550 or 650 as their first plane. 18 years ago, you started with $10 million or $8 million, not a $15 million plane.

LUX: Have you noticed a change in the demographics of consumers? Where are you doing business?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: The United States are still the largest users of private jets by far. After that it’s probably Europe and Latin America, and then Asia. And then China is obviously growing. But China is interesting because it should be growing a lot faster in terms of the number of jets they buy, but they have these ups and downs, depending on the government and the policies.

Interestingly, Monaco is good place for doing business because people are in a relaxed environment and usually it’s when they’re relaxed and that’s when they think about purchasing a plane or a boat or a house. I have a lot of meetings in summer in Monaco and meet people in a very relaxed environment, have lunch with them or go to Le Club 55 in St. Tropez. I’ve done a lot of deals in those places.

Read more: Tim Walker’s portrait exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London

LUX: Is the jet share market affecting your business?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: I find the jet share market an enhancement to our business because it actually allows people to get into the private jet segment. In the old days when you didn’t have the FlexJet, the NetJets, the VistaJet, you had to go buy your jet, right? Not anybody could afford to just buy a jet. Today, you don’t have to, I mean you have to be wealthy obviously, but you don’t have to be super wealthy to fly private. So people get a taste of private flying a lot earlier, which means when they get more successful, and they can actually afford a plane, they’ll go and buy it.  But where we can play really well [with those companies] is when they resell, because when they replace their fleet they need people like us to move the products.

LUX: How are you considering sustainability issues?
Jahid Fazal-Karim:  I think any business that you try to develop these days has to have some form of awareness of sustainability. I think there’s a lot of misconception about airplanes because people think that airplanes pollute the planet. But if you think about the actual emission of airplanes, not just private jets, even commercial aircraft, they are actually very fuel efficient. The consumption of fuel per person is actually probably less than cars. Weight is a huge issue for anybody that is going to develop an airplane because the lighter you can develop an airplane, the farther you can fly, and the less fuel you’re going to consume. So efficiency is at the core of the design of an airplane, you can’t design an airplane with inefficiencies. And the industry is always researching ways of being more and more and more efficient. I think the technology is there and I think down the line you’ll see more and more efficient airplanes out there.

LUX: Finally, when you are travelling for pleasure, where do you go?
Jahid Fazal-Karim: My family and I try to discover new places. What’s funny is that I’ve been to a lot of places for business, but I don’t know much about them. So for instance, there was one trip that I took with my family in China. I used to go to China quite a lot and I still go now, but I’d never done a real cultural experience in China. So I went to China with my wife and one of my son for two weeks and we really discovered China. We went to see the terracotta soldiers, for instance, in Xi’an, and all the temples in the old city in Beijing. We’re thinking about going into Japan this winter because my older son loves Japanese food.

Find out more: jetcraft.com

 

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Reading time: 13 min
Man standing in front of street artwork
Man standing in front of street artwork

Philipp Plein at his Resort show during the Cannes Film Festival in 2018

Philipp Plein is the partying designer for the Monaco private-jet set, who has also retained his status among fashion’s elite. Harriet Quick meets a man with a keen business brain and the unashamedly alpha swagger of a self-made global entrepreneur

“I can remember going to Salone del Mobile for the launch of my furniture line. I rented a truck and drove to Milan with my former girlfriend. We set up the booth ourselves and we slept in a motel. It turned out the motel was also operating as a brothel. Each morning, we had to leave the room empty as it was booked for ‘use’,” says Philipp Plein. “We had dinner at the Autogrill on the highway every night. It was all we could afford.” Plein’s first foray in the business of design was more than 20 years ago and the memory has a fuzzy, sleazy halo.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Male model waring Philipp Plein jacket

A model in Philipp Plein AW19

Today, the Philipp Plein empire encompasses menswear and womenswear collections, accessories, Philipp Plein Sport and 120 stores worldwide (some lease, others franchise), plus the menswear brand, Billionaire (a majority stake of which was purchased from Formula One managing director Flavio Briatore in 2016; it caters for gentlemen who prefer blazers to leather perfectos). It’s been reported that the group generates annual revenues of around €300 million.

As founder, CEO and creative director, Plein exudes the pride of a self-made man. The extrovert alpha male/female personality of his eponymous brand has earned legions of fans who are not in accord with the prissy propriety of high fashion. The stores (on the rue de Rivoli in Paris, London’s Bond Street, Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona and Soho in New York City) gleam with steel and shiny leather, embellished with Swarovski crystals. Mannequins feature six packs that spell machismo, and everything is dosed in irony.

Model standing backstage at a fashion show

A model backstage at Plein’s AW19 show in New York.

“The experience of building a business from scratch makes you really appreciate things,” says Plein of his trajectory from nobody to head of a fashion empire with 1.7 million Instagram followers. “Nothing was a ‘given’ or ‘easy.’ What people forget when they see the stars of today are the years of dedication and sacrifice. People suffer to reach certain goals.” He doesn’t go into the sacrifices he made, yet it is blatantly clear that Plein, who has an art gallery of tattoos on his considerable biceps, is an ‘all over everything’ workaholic. “I don’t get dropped, I drop the best sh*t in the game – on to the next one,” reads an Instagram post on 3 May 2019, with an image of a female model wearing fantasia eye make- up and a knockout crystal embellished body suit. Ahead of the Met Gala Camp: Notes on Fashion extravaganza, it was decidedly timely.

Read more: Gaggenau’s latest initiative to support emerging artisans

The Munich-born entrepreneur (son of a heart surgeon) possesses a fiery cocktail of Italian flare and Teutonic discipline. He launched into the design business creating sleek stainless-steel beds for dogs and then furniture for humans (he still owns 50% of the small steel factory that made his range) and went on to launch a line of upmarket objets and trophy tables with leather inlays. Dog owners from Miami to Zurich fell in love with the designer pet accessories and via that venture, the young Plein received an on-the- job education in the tastes and materialistic whimsies of the super-wealthy.

Model walking on catwalk

The Philipp Plein AW19 catwalk show in Milan

Celebrities sitting on car bonnet

Christian Combs and Breah Hicks at the opening of a new Philipp Plein store in NYC

Philipp Plein the label had planted its roots. Next came the Swarovski crystal-skull- embellished military jackets. They sold from rails at furniture trade shows. That led to an apparel collection featuring more leather, shredded jeans, diva dresses and mini skirts with the kind of proportions, detailing and quality (the collection is made in small Italian factories) that made them several cuts above the average rock ’n’ roll cliché. The collections’ fun- loving rebelliousness appealed to a generation of pop stars, moguls and party kids. Jasmine di Milo, Mohamed Al Fayed’s daughter, was one of Plein’s first customers and bought the line for her mini in-store boutique at Harrods.

“I started marketing the brand into Europe – Germany first and Italy, France and the UK followed,” says Plein. “In the mid oughts, we entered the Russian market and then China. It was a wholesale brand and we went to all the major trade shows.” On early trips to New York’s Coterie show, even his teenage sister came along for the work/vacay ride.

Celebrities attending VIP event

Socialites and celebrities gathered for the opening of the new Philipp Plein store in New York in 2018

The Plein lifestyle – fast cars, nightclubs, champagne, sex – proved a lure. While the level of flash made the arbiters of taste wince, no one could deny the coherence and the quality. This was the era of kick-ass disruption. Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo were turning Chloé into a ‘girl power’ brand, Alexander McQueen was confounding the world with his fusion of romantic beauty with punkish violence while Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga was reviving the moribund house with his electric hybrid mix of futurism, utility and armour.

Through these players, the luxury fashion world was reignited with guts and creative daring. The trajectory was bigger, higher (remember those teetering platform heels?) and in the case of Tom Ford’s Gucci, ever sexier renditions of slinky jersey dresses and low-cut blouses. Plein, who dubbed himself a heroic outsider, was astutely aiming in on the person who did not like concepts and intellectual leanings. In this decade, while fashion trends have leant away from flash and excess, Plein has kept to his groove and it’s paid off. A slew of openings (the majority are franchised stores) followed, aligned with blockbuster shows starting in 2010 and a bonanza of parties.

Do a Google Image search for Plein, and you will be blasted with a showcase of fantastical show sets and extravagance featuring hip-hop stars, racing drivers, sports champs and endless hot models – male and female – living it up to the extremes of camp and bling. The vision was epic and the investment huge. He hired British set designer Simon Costin (the mastermind behind Alexander McQueen’s early shows) and drafted in performers (yes, Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora, Chris Brown) to realise the brand fantasy. A fun park with a rollercoaster, the Harlem Globetrotters, a monster truck crashing into cars – it was all about ‘action’. The brand outbid itself season after season with show costs reaching into the millions.

Luxurious home interiors

Luxury holiday villa

Plein has homes around the world, including his Manhattan penthouse and La Jungle du Roi villa in Cannes

Plein was not an outlier – it was a period of extravagance. The fashion industry in the late oughts valued spectacle, which, via live streaming and nascent social media platforms, could be viewed across the globe. Tom Ford at Saint Laurent showed in giant black Perspex boxes in the gardens of the Musée Rodin; Louis Vuitton under Marc Jacobs created visions of Paris with moving lifts modelled on the Ritz hotel. Chanel spearheaded the interactive, hyper-reality set with a supermarket, a rocket launch pad and a casino at the Grand Palais. The ‘immersive’ experience was born and Plein wanted to spoil his guests with the outlandish best.

Male model on catwalk

The Billionaire AW19 catwalk show in Milan

Sustainability issues, questions of timing and seasons have somewhat tempered the phenomena of the blockbuster show. Louis Vuitton presented its Cruise 2020 collection at the TWA terminal at JFK (now a design gem hotel) with a note that the plants used for the relatively simple décor would be redistributed or turned into compost. Excess and ‘waste’ is not in fashion. Powerhouses are acutely aware that we are seeking diverse indie and often ecologically minded activities, at least in the West.

Some brands are scaling down, while others are changing formats, taking the show on the road and off the traditional Paris, London, New York axis. The Philipp Plein show now is a relatively plain production that concentrates on the clothes. “We staged the last ‘big’ show in Brooklyn and invited 4,000 people,” says Plein. “From that moment on, I thought: ‘I don’t always want to give people what they expect.’ I want to focus on in-store events and see the investment showing up in sales,” he says. “We are a big player online, with €55million in sales, and this does not include channels such as Farfetch. But we believe in offline stores – you need to be successful in both. While more and more people might be consuming online, we still need to dream the dream, enter stores and touch the product. It’s an omni-channel solution.”

Champion boxer on stage at fashion show

World champion boxer Vasyl Lomachenko is the face of Billionaire

While the old school and economy of fashion relied on editor diktats and designer worship, Plein sees the power pass to the consumers, who, via social media, exert influence and opine endlessly. “The consumer is much more powerful than the medium itself: choosing what information to consume, where to find the information and who to follow or unfollow. It’s much more democratic. In the past, we were able to ‘control’ the consumer, now the consumer ‘controls’ us,” concludes Plein.

Read more: At home with minimalist architect John Pawson

On Instagram, Plein is a dynamic, flashy act to follow, allowing access into his personal world. You’ll find him with his feet up in his marble and glass New York penthouse watching The Rolling Stones; in a helicopter with his five-year-old son flying across the Hudson River; or on-site overseeing the build of an Italianate mansion. One of his favourite photo- op situations is in the vicinity of premium cars. His brand recently collaborated with Mansory on a limited-edition series of ‘Star Trooper’ Mercedes G63 vehicles, for €500,000 each.

He looks fit (running six km a day), full of pluck and at the same time, with his cropped hair, stubble and brown eyes, approachable. He calls himself an “old-school guy” – he likes cars, women, the trappings that wealth can buy, sleek modernity and shiny surfaces. He does not smoke and rarely drinks. His vice is Red Bull. “I want to live a long time,” he adds. For all the wild projections, Plein is ultimately tidy. He has his son, who lives with his mother in Brazil. “He has a happy, normal life,” says Plein of his little boy. “Of course, he enters into my world and he is privileged in the sense that he can enjoy both points of view. As parents, we have a big obligation to our children – and how influential we are towards to them. They are born pure and what that child discovers and experiences, builds character and establishes a value system. It is a base that they will then develop themselves.”

As for kicking up his own feet, Plein – who is now in his forties – is dubious. He has weighed up the option of selling his business, but this would mean giving up a majority stake. “My father told me: ‘Money is an obligation. What would you do with this money? If you don’t know, then don’t sell.’ I think I have mastered my own industry – I don’t know anything else and I am not in need of money right now,” he concludes.

Where the brand ego stops and the real Philipp Plein actually starts is hard to gauge. You can’t imagine him seeking an alter-ego life with a rustic cabana and a plot of agave plants in Mexico. “It’s difficult for me,” he says. “I have grown into the brand and the brand became part of my own life and reflects pretty much my lifestyle. You don’t have too many designers who have a namesake brand anymore,” he says.

Plus, future ventures including scent (the men’s cologne, devised by famed ‘nose’ Alberto Morillas is launching this year) and cosmetics, depend on his presence. Earlier this year, he put in a bid in for the failing Roberto Cavalli brand, which subsequently filed for bankruptcy and now seems irretrievable, not a ‘renovation’ investment. “I look at fashion like a sport,” says Plein. “If you want to perform in any industry you have to be mentally fit and able to deliver results, and you are always under pressure,” he says. “Designers are drafted in like soccer players.” He admits that he does not have a lot to say on sustainability issues (gen up quick), but is happy that his manufacturing is Europe- based and small-factory led.

The exotic leathers might be on the way out and times might be turbulent, but Plein’s view on luxury remains constant. “We give people unnecessary things that no one needs, but everyone wants.”

View the designer’s collections: plein.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 11 min
Inside a knife making workshop
Row of vines growing on a hillside set against a blue sky

The Fattorie dei Dolfi estate in Tuscany uses traditional, sustainable practices in its winemaking.

Whether cooking or dining, some of our most memorable experiences are steeped in history and heritage. Abi Smith speaks to the craftspeople and producers who are placing time-honoured techniques at the heart of their work, with support from Gaggenau’s latest initiative

Conspicuous consumption is a thing of the past; today we all know that true luxury lies in experience and emotion. No longer blind to the damage that our disposable lifestyles are wreaking upon the planet, our gaze has turned to techniques and materials that have stood the test of time. But is this newfound focus on sustainability and durability built to last?

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Two farmers standing in rugged landscape

Kyle Holford and Lauren Smith

For Lauren Smith and Kyle Holford of Forest Coalpit Farm in Wales, who raise their large black cross pigs on pasture, it was the only approach. “From the beginning, we realised that our focus should be on quality and welfare so we kept that philosophy at the core of our decision- making,” Smith says. And though sustainability is rarely the quick and easy option, it pays dividends. “Quality takes time,” she adds. “It takes about twice as long for us to raise our pigs. We realised that we could produce pigs quicker, but there was less colour in the meat, and less of the much-sought-after marbling throughout.”

Forest Coalpit Farm pigs spend their days in the Brecon Beacons National Park woodland, a freedom that leads to “healthier, happier, cleaner pigs that get fresh air and exercise and haven’t been pumped full of antibiotics,” says Smith. There are perks for the environment, too: “Because our pigs roam and are rotated through large areas, there is a constant wheel of fertilising and regeneration, we don’t have vast slurry tanks and we don’t need to keep lights or air conditioning in the barns.”

Pigs grassing in woodland landscape

At Forest Coalpit Farm in Wales, Kyle Holford and Lauren Smith rear free-range large black cross pigs

Increasingly, consumers are turning to sustainable products for better quality. “I don’t follow the principle of sustainability for other people or because it’s popular in the market,” explains Giovanni Dolfi, who heads up the Fattorie dei Dolfi winery in Tuscany. “I do it for myself.” In collaboration with celebrated oenologist Dr Giacomo Tachis, Dolfi harnesses biodiversity and traditional processes to bring his historic Tuscan vineyards to life. “Sustainability is something I’ve always believed in and what I practise every day in my vineyards,” he continues, citing his devotion to both the environment and his customers’ wellbeing. “I am always the first person to drink my wine, and since I care for my own health, I believe that practising sustainability is a natural choice.”

Read more: Ornellaia’s auction of vintages with artwork by Shirin Neshat

This dedication to sustainability is what led German brand Gaggenau to begin working with Fattorie dei Dolfi, as part of its strategy to further promote its wine culture, and Giovanni Dolfi was invited to its International Sommelier Awards. As a maker of professional-grade luxury home appliances, Gaggenau has an instinctive respect for quality and craftsmanship: the ethos it has recently formalised through its Respected by Gaggenau programme. This mark of endorsement gives makers the recognition they deserve, while also offering the prospect of a bursary to support their work.

Wooden wine barrels in cellar

Italian style villa on the wine estate

Here and above: the Fattorie dei Dolfi wine estate in Tuscany

It is a project that chimes with the current zeitgeist. Ever since the ‘slow food’ movement showed us the power of taking natural ingredients and enjoying them mindfully (something that discerning aesthetes have always known) the world has been longing for a more measured pace of life. Love it or hate it, the philosophy of tidiness guru Marie Kondo (who proposes keeping only those items that ‘spark joy’ within you) has put a popular modern spin on the wise words of William Morris more than a century before, namely: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

It is a sublimation of beauty and utility that has led Nico Zendel – a designer at Gaggenau – to begin a side business forging bespoke knives with antique files. “Perfect function is a must and the perfect form supports the perfect function,” he says. “At Gaggenau we work with a lot of raw materials and try to highlight the handcrafted details on our products. That is the way I design my knives as well.” If you have an old file that has been handed down through your family, Zendel will use it to create a bespoke product for you. “An old file that has no use anymore is often discarded, but if you make a knife from it, you can use it every day, see the marks on it and perhaps think of your father or grandfather while you’re cooking. It has an emotional component that I’m very interested in,” he says. The result is a modern heirloom that says more about you than the most carefully curated Instagram feed ever could.

Inside workman's workshop

Inside a knife making workshop

Knife maker welding a knife

Designer Nico Zendel crafts bespoke knives from antique files which may otherwise have been discarded. Here, above and top: images by Alexander Stuhler

Zendel says that such objects last longer because people treat them with more respect: “For me, it’s important to preserve traditional techniques as they imbue the products with heart and emotion. It helps to get away from the throw-away culture; people are more linked to products that tell a story.” Dolfi’s wines are also overflowing with feeling: “Fattorie dei Dolfi is a project built by heart and hands,” he says. “By heart, we mean our passion, dedication and our love for the project. By hand, we mean the hard work we put in every day to pursue exceptional quality and unique results.”

Wine maker sniffing a glass of red

Fattorie dei Dolfi’s owner, Giovanni Dolfi

This hard work manifests itself in a natural approach to viniculture, where modern shortcuts are eschewed for gentler methods that work in harmony with the land. “My vineyards are surrounded by woodlands, where you’ll find bees, ladybugs, spiders, hares, birds and more,” says Dolfi. “The benefits of this are obvious. For example, the bees bring natural pollination and help to control the numbers of harmful insects. This ensures the health of my vineyards and the exceptional quality that I pursue.”

Read more:  In conversation with renowned Belgian painter Luc Tuymans

But the path of an artisanal producer is not always easy. In Dolfi’s case, during late summer, wild boars have been known to gorge on the grapes. A commitment to what we might call ‘slow luxury’ – much like slow food – means a rejection of the ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ philosophy that has made other entrepreneurs rich. As Smith from Coalpit Farm points out, “rearing pigs outdoors requires a lot more labour than an indoor system with automated feeding. We have to move the pigs from pen to pen, and it’s harder to get their diet just right when they burn a lot more energy running outside. And there’s the weather, too.” But Smith, who knows every sow by name, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Remembering how his grandfather would walk him round their ancestral vineyards, Dolfi says: “As we relentlessly strive for efficiency, traditional ways fall out of favour and the concept of exceptional quality can be lost.” To survive, these crafts must be supported and celebrated, and that’s where Respected by Gaggenau comes in. With the right platform and access to a global support network, their skills will endure for generations to come.

Respected by Gaggenau

Man in a suit standing in high tech kitchen

Gaggenau’s head of design, Sven Baacke

Sven Baacke, head of design at Gaggenau, shares his philosophy on supporting emerging artisanal creators

LUX: What inspired Respected by Gaggenau and why is it important to preserve traditional artisanal skills?
Sven Baacke: The initial concept of the Respected by Gaggenau initiative was inspired by our appreciation for people who are using traditional techniques to create a different and exceptional product. Gaggenau has always celebrated exceptional craftsmanship and we wanted to formalise our support for these artisans and craftsmen through this initiative.

LUX: How can advanced technology and traditional craftsmanship work hand in hand?
Sven Baacke: A unique example of how Gaggenau merges traditional production methods with advanced technology is the way in which we construct our EB 333 ovens. Since its introduction in 1986, this 90-cm wide oven, designed for private kitchens, is crafted almost entirely by hand using select materials. Yet the company also embraces the latest technology: we created a clean room at the epicentre of our Lipsheim factory to hand-build our signature TFT touch display, which features
on the EB 333. This is a clear case of how technology and artisanal craftsmanship work together in harmony.

LUX: Is craftsmanship still valued by consumers in a modern market?
Sven Baacke: Craftsmanship, now more than ever, is valued highly by luxury consumers. Our customers expect exceptional craftsmanship from Gaggenau appliances. At every stage of production, we examine our work to seek out imperfections. The quality control that we use when creating our appliances ensures that we produce an extraordinary product, every time.

LUX: How will the Respected by Gaggenau artisans benefit from your global network?
Sven Baacke: Gaggenau takes part in a range of events globally; for example, we are a proud partner of The World Restaurant Awards, which was launched in Paris at the beginning of this year. We introduced Respected by Gaggenau at the awards, with an immersive experience inspired by a traditional marketplace. It featured products curated by us and the Collège Culinaire de France, and guests could explore the collection while learning more about who made each item. We also host the Gaggenau International Sommelier Awards – a global search for the world’s best young sommelier talent – so we’ll encourage their involvement with this event too. It’s all part of our initiative to celebrate these remarkable artisans and their stories.

Find out more: gaggenau.com/gb

To discover Nico Zendel’s range of knives visit: vauzett.com.

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 8 min
Grand university building and lawn
Grand university building and lawn

California Tech University (Caltech), where Kevin Xu has endowed the new Neurotechnology Center, due to open next year

As a business leader, scientist, activist, media owner and philanthropist, Kevin Xu is the embodiment of a Renaissance entrepreneur. Andrew Saunders delves into the businessman’s master plan
Man leaning against a hotel chair in a suit

Kevin Xu

He may not quite be a household name – at least, not yet – but the chair of the MEBO group of regenerative wound care businesses, Kevin Xu, is a force to be reckoned with in the many spheres of his interest all the same. International entrepreneur and mentor; scientist, academic and researcher; advocate for better commercial relations and greater mutual understanding between the US and China; media owner; committed global philanthropist recognised with an Empact 100 award from the UN.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

As if that wasn’t enough, Xu also manages to fit in being a contributor to leading business titles including Forbes, Wired, Inc and Business Insider. No wonder he says wistfully that he doesn’t get much time to keep up with the fortunes of his favourite basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks, these days.

It’s an eclectic and impressive line-up of interests for a man whose ‘day job’ is running one of China’s leading biomedical therapeutics businesses, burns treatment specialist MEBO International. But the thread that unites his diverse activities is his personal credo: if you help someone, they will help others in their turn. “I believe in reciprocity and leadership,” he tells me. “I believe that if I can help an individual to lead a different life, then that person may reciprocate back to society when they become a success themselves. That’s why my interests are wide-ranging and don’t have any restrictions – not ethnicity, region, social status or gender bias. It’s all about individuals who I can help and make a difference.”

To aid him in that quest he also possesses two other valuable assets: a packed international diary and a 24-carat contacts list. He was born and raised in California, but we meet in London – he came for Royal Ascot, but also for meetings with charities and NGOs he’s interested in – before he headed to Japan for that country’s first-ever G20 summit. He’s on the advisory board of the California-China Trade Office, serves on the Asian Advisory Board at the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology, mentors young entrepreneurs at MIT, is the founder of the Kevin Xu Initiative at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and has endowed a new Neurotechnology Center in California Institute of Technology. The list goes on.

Perhaps the relationships he is most proud of, however, are his ties to two former US presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He’s a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and a contributor to the Obama Foundation, and recently spent a fortnight with Clinton in the US Virgin Islands, working with the 42nd president of the United States in connection with its efforts to help rebuild the region after the devastating 2017 hurricanes.

President Bill Clinton with Hillary and another man

Kevin Xu (pictured with Bill and Hillary Clinton here), is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

His view is that great world leaders all share a concern for humanity – and human life – above all. “True leadership involves a value system that puts people’s lives first. Clinton and Obama have that humanitarian aspect and so have other world leaders I have met – people like Pope Francis and [former UN secretary general] Ban Ki-Moon.”

Xu’s connection with the two former presidents was forged in the aftermath of the traumatic death of his father, MEBO founder Dr Rongxiang Xu, in 2015. “It was an accident – an awful shock,” he says. “It was a moment when I realised the power of mentorship. Presidents Obama and Clinton stepped up and carried me through that time – they sent condolence letters and said they would be role models to teach me how to carry on good leadership.”

At the age of 27, Xu not only had to cope with the loss of his father, but also with being parachuted into the pilot seat of the business that Dr Xu had built and run for 30 years. “My biggest fears when my father passed away were firstly that I didn’t know how to run his business in China, and secondly that I didn’t know how to create connections with people there. I grew up in the US, I didn’t know anything about China.”

Read more: Louis Roederer’s CEO Frédéric Rouzaud on art and hospitality

The business was well established in China, where Dr Xu first developed his pioneering moist environment burns therapy (MEBT) in the 1980s. Based on traditional Chinese medicine, the therapy capitalises on the human body’s innate ability to regenerate its own tissues, in a carefully controlled environment. Even deep-tissue, third-degree burns can be successfully treated without the need for painful or disfiguring skin grafts, says Xu. “My father decided to become a burns surgeon because he realised that burns are the most painful conditions people ever face – both pain from the burn and pain from the treatment.”

By the time Xu took over, the business had trained almost a million doctors in the use of its therapy, and had a network of 65,000 hospitals in China alone. Picking up the reins was quite a responsibility.

Barack Obama shaking hands with a businessman

Xu works with former US president Barack Obama

When President Obama invited Xu to stay with him and be part of the official delegation for the US state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015, doors were opened that might otherwise have remained closed to him for years. “Obama helped me to make a whole new group of connections between the US and China that are different from those of my father’s era. I met President Xi almost every day.”

That meeting led to MEBO being selected as one of the Chinese government’s official partners on the UN’s Every Woman Every Child initiative, providing medical experts to help deliver the global programme for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health in many countries. As Xu explains, there were ten such official Chinese partners, and nine of them were already chosen by the time he and President Xi met. “I believe in serendipity, and that happened serendipitously. President Xi decided to have MEBO as number ten.”

His network of A-grade connections is also helping to bring the MEBO burns treatment to the US, via California-based company Skingenix, of which he is also CEO. The road to approval is not an easy one; when the process began in the early 2000s, the FDA regulator didn’t even have a category for treatments based on Chinese medicine. Thanks to the new regulations implemented under the administration of another former president, George Bush Jr, it does now – the category of ‘botanic drugs’ – and the approval process is ongoing.

Read more: Travelling beyond the beaten track with Geoffrey Kent

What have his experiences taught him about fostering better understanding between China and the US? “It’s like the psychology of dating – the US way of dating and the Chinese way of dating show exactly how they each do business,” he suggests. “If a Chinese person takes you seriously and wants to marry you, they will take things slowly, because they want to get to know you. If a US person wants to marry you, you are more likely to get into a fight early in the romance – they are more willing to say something that might hurt you, because they care about you.”

They are two ways of achieving the same goal he says, the main difference in both love and business being that the Chinese approach involves taking a long view. “Eastern people think further ahead, but they don’t always state their full intention at the start. They use connotations to imply it, and that can cause misunderstandings with western people.”

People having a meeting around a table

Xu leads a mentoring meeting at the University of California, Berkeley

Another leadership challenge Xu has faced is the fact that many of the experienced executives who help him run MEBO are from his father’s era, and are considerably older than their current boss. “My key advice to young entrepreneurs running a company with older people is not to take your youth as an advantage, but a disadvantage. Be humble and learn what they are thinking. Treat them like your parents, people with more experience than you.”

And what of his co-ownership of Californian media outlet LA Weekly, which he acquired in 2017 alongside several other local investors? Where does this fit into the plan? “I bought it because I understand the importance of media. I love the city where I grew up, but there is too much focus on entertainment, movies and gossip. There is also a more humanitarian side to the city, it just needs bringing out. If I want to change the way people think, I must change the media. Since I bought it, it has become more focused on philanthropy and the arts – a channel for distributing positive energies to people.”

So once again, it may look random from the outside but it’s all part of his plan. What’s the ultimate aim? “I have two goals. My goal for MEBO is that the technology should be available in every country, so that when the world needs us, we will be there. My personal vision is that I want to create a new balance between peace, stability and the self. I want to use science and a new way of thinking to regenerate the world, just as MEBO regenerates the body.”

You heard it here first.

Management by horoscope

Cover of LA weekly magazineEast also meets West in one of Xu’s more unusual leadership techniques – using astrology to recruit the right people. “I like horoscopes because I studied neuroscience, and my favourite part of history is Greek mythology. In the company, I know the horoscope signs for most of my people and I place them according to their strengths. Scorpios are more meticulous, for example, so they are suited to finance work, whereas Leos and Aries are more outspoken – it is easier for them to develop new markets.” What does his own star sign indicate? “I am Libra – that’s why I like balance,” he says.

Find out more about the MEBO group: mebo.com

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Reading time: 8 min
two woman standing in front of an abstract artwork at an exhibition

two woman standing in front of an abstract artwork at an exhibition

Born in Paris and raised in New York, Laura de Gunzburg is a partner of the exclusive members art club The Cultivist, where she acts as the Global Senior Director and Head of Strategic Development. She is also the Founder and Chair of the Dia Art Foundation’s Contemporary Associates, as well as a Contributing Editor at Cultured Magazine and a Co-Chair at the CFDA Fashion Trust. We put her in our 6 Questions hot seat.

1. Did you always want a career in the art world?

I had no intention of pursuing it really, because it was my mother’s thing. She was involved with Dia Art Foundation and my parents collected art. I don’t think I ever really thought about what I wanted to do growing up. I was a professional equestrian and riding took up a big part of my life, the plan was to go to the Olympics. After getting hurt one year and not being able to ride, I started filling my time with other things that made me realise I had other passions. During my time at The University of Miami, I didn’t want to study art history at first, but then I ended up taking the class and started to fall in love with it. Later on, opportunities presented themselves within the art world.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxresponsibleluxury

2. What are the benefits of joining The Cultivist?

If one is fortunate enough, one should become a member to be able to be presented with the right information and artworks. In the time we live in, we are pushed to consume so much information and it is hard to determine what is worth your time and what isn’t. A recognisable name is often what we gravitate towards, however, in the art world a name is sometimes not enough to ensure that the exhibition is worth one’s time.

series of printed graphic materials

An example of the welcome package sent to members of The Cultivist

At The Cultivist, we edit and streamline everything the world has to offer. We help facilitate on the member’s behalf by presenting them with the information we believe they can benefit from. There is nothing commercial at The Cultivist. We organise private visits and book amazing curators and speakers to come and speak to our members. The Cultivist currently has offices in London, Brussels, Los Angeles, New York and Shanghai. We can help our members from any of these cities and one does not have to travel to make use of the membership. In London alone, we have four events every month which can be anything from a collection visit to a private studio tour. For example, we have previously done a pottery class with a ceramic sculptor and a private tour of the Da Vinci collection with the Queen’s conservator at Buckingham Palace. In Los Angeles, we have organised a private visit with the image archive at the Getty Centre, where they pulled out photographs for the members to see.

3. What does a normal day in your life look like?

Every day is very different. A big part of my job is engaging with new and prospective members at The Cultivist. I also engage with existing members, work on new opportunities, see new exhibitions and speak with partners for future collaborations. I am based between New York and London, travelling between the two cities.

A hand holding a membership card in front of an artwork

The Cultivist organises private visits to exhibitions and museums for their members

4. What do you wish to see more of in the art world?

I long for people who would speak more about the experience rather than the value of an artist or an art piece. There is an extensive amount of eagerness in regards to being market-driven. Art can often be seen as unapproachable. I believe art should be more about the experience and less about the value.

Read more: Photographer Koto Bolofo & Connolly celebrate Goodwood’s glamour

5. Who are your favourite artists at the moment?

In my personal collection, you can find Conrad Shawcross, Matt Connors, Louise Bourgeois and Sam Moyer. Another artist that I love is Wayne Thiebaud, he’s currently on my wish-list.

6. Where do you see yourself 10 years?

I see myself having my own business. The Cultivist will always be my baby as I am a partner of the company. However, I do want to build something of my own, something that stems from my own idea. I love connecting people and putting people together. That is what I am good at. I can see myself starting something related to that idea.

Follow Laura on Instagram: instagram.com/ldegunzburg

Interview by Andrea Stenslie

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Reading time: 3 min
Model lying in underwear and skirt on the ground

graphic banner in red, white and blue reading Charlie Newman's model of the month

Portrait of a mixed race model wearing a white shirt

Model and founder of Metizo chocolate, Avril Guerrero. Instagram: @_avril_guerrero

LUX contributing editor and model at Models 1, Charlie Newman continues her online exclusive series, interviewing her peers about their creative pursuits, passions and politics

colour headshot of blond girl laughing with hand against face wearing multiple rings

Charlie Newman

THIS MONTH: Having already modelled for twelve years, Avril Guerrero has enjoyed a longer career than most. She has appeared in campaigns for the likes of Victoria’s Secret, Moët, Uniqlo, Avon and Garnier, and has recently launched her own organic chocolate company Metizo. Here, she chats to Charlie about the lessons she’s learned from the fashion industry, running a start-up and tackling issues of sustainability.

Charlie Newman: Firstly, please can you tell us about your childhood and your journey into modelling?
Avril Guerrero: I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic until I left to work in New York aged 16. I went to New York literally the day after my high school graduation never to live in the Dominican Republic  again. I got into modelling through my cousin who was an actor at the time at home. He put me in contact with my first mother agent in the Dominican Republic, who then put me in contact with US agencies who I later signed with. I was with MC squared for 10 years, they were like the family to me. They were the perfect agency to start my career with and now I’ve moved to Fusion, who I signed with about two years ago.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

Charlie Newman: How did you find moving to New York?
Avril Guerrero: The contrast was huge. Honestly, I think there’s something about being so young, you don’t think about things so much. It wasn’t as big a cultural shock as you would expect. If I had to do that again now, it would probably be a much bigger shock, but at the time it just felt right, it was so much fun! The funny thing was that I didn’t even speak English! But it was great because I was so bubbly, thinking back I was just smiling all the time. It was impossible to book me a job where I wasn’t smiling, I wouldn’t have known what to do! I don’t really remember being particularly anxious or nervous.

Charlie Newman: Were you always interested in fashion?
Avril Guerrero: My family aren’t into fashion at all, they’re far more focussed on sports. In fact, all of my aunts on my dad’s side are basketball players, two of which are in the hall of fame in the Dominican Republic for basketball! Fashion wasn’t necessarily something I was seeking, it just happened.

Portrait of a female model in a leather jacket and red jumper

Instagram: @_avril_guerrero

Charlie Newman: What have been your career highlights so far?
Avril Guerrero: I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t really know. I feel like I’ve had an extremely steady career. I’ve never had that career where you’re suddenly thrust into the spotlight with one big job. I’ve had a very progressive career always in more commercial realms. In Paris I do mostly beauty and luxury jobs, but in New York more consistent commercial work. Never a big boom which is good because it’s been progressive and never gone down, well not yet!

Charlie Newman: What advice would you give to any young aspiring models?
Avril Guerrero: Models need to be smart in the sense that it is important to know that this job isn’t going to last forever. The one thing I’ve seen in common with a lot of younger girls is that they don’t understand that this is such an unreliable career and whilst it may go on for as long as mine has, I have to be honest that I don’t see the same girls now as to when I first started working. Also you have to know your purpose: why are you doing this job? For me modelling is a mean to get financial security and is an opportunity for me to travel the world, but that doesn’t have to be the same for everyone, we all have different ambitions. I think it important to be clear about what you want from this job.

Charlie Newman: What has modelling taught you about yourself?
Avril Guerrero: I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. To do something for 12 years, has made me think: wait, what have I actually done in all that time? The one thing that modelling has taught me so much is my own strength. It’s shined a light on the capacity of my strength to be self sufficient because I have to travel so much and be alone in all sorts of places, and [it takes strength] to be thrust into so many new places at such a young age. It really takes everything you’ve got, not to just get through them, but also to learn. Modelling has definitely made me a stronger person, purely by being so exposed.

Read more: OMM’s Creative Director Idil Tabanca on creating an art institution

Girl holding a bar of chocolate over her lips

Guerrero’s chocolate brand Metizo

Charlie Newman: How did your organic chocolate company Metizo come about?
Avril Guerrero: My father is an agriculturalist in Dominican Republic and my grandfather had a big farm, which grew cacao and coffee. When my grandfather died around 12 years ago, my family didn’t want to have to deal with the farm anymore because it was a lot of work so thought about selling it, but I really didn’t want them to. Somehow I managed to convince my boyfriend and myself to buy this big farm in the Dominican Republic even though we’re based in Paris and in New York!

We both love cacao and chocolate, and he already works in the wine industry so we decided to use our tools and experience by launching a chocolate company – it’s brilliant! We’ve had the farm for three years now, where we employ three people full time and then during harvest season between 15 to 20 people depending on the yield that year. Then in Paris it’s just my boyfriend and me! We have a library of 15 flavours that we have mastered, but at the moment we are only producing four of them. It’s mostly dark chocolate and for now, we only do direct sales through pop-up shops, online and private events. We also offer classes called ‘bean to bar’ where we teach everyone about the whole process and give them the opportunity to make their own bar.

Charlie Newman: What has it been like setting up your own company?
Avril Guerrero: Extremely challenging, especially because we’re trying to manage people who live in a different country and in a different culture. I might have grown up in the Dominican Republic, but I grew older in New York and in Europe. As a result, I think my mindset is no longer in tune with the in the Dominican Republic, when it comes to business at least. So it’s a lot about learning how to convey your message and maybe even learn how to bend the rules a little, and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. There’s a really interesting power dynamic between how to give and how to retain power in order to make things work. So it’s been a big challenge, but to be honest it’s been amazing because I’ve learnt so much about communicational skills as well as about the entire production.

We have complete control over our supply chain which means we can intervene at any moment. I’ve learnt everything about the whole supply chain: how to work the soil, what colour the cacao needs to be, the chemistry behind the fermentation process and how to transport my Dominican Republic bean all the way to France. We harvest and do some post-harvest processes in the Dominican Republic like the fermentation and the drying process of the beans and then the chocolate part of it is based in Paris.

Read more: London to Cornwall in a luxury Mercedes-Benz camper van

Charlie Newman: Is it a sustainable product and business?
Avril Guerrero: That was a big part of the business project. Whilst studying business [at London’s Open University], my favourite class was always sustainability. The whole issue was how in a globalised economy how can we keep the convenience of globalisation and it’s positive effect whilst also minimising the problems it creates. The supply chain is such a big problem because there are so many intermediaries. Transparency is extremely opaque, in cacao it’s really difficult to measure because a lot of the beans come from the Ivory Coast and there is not enough regulation there, so there are many ethical issues. By being able to handle the bad side of the industry ourselves is a huge blessing because we know exactly what is in each chocolate bar, we know how the beans were not only planted, but also harvested. We know our guidelines and we know where we stand and what value we want to incorporate in our company, because at the end of the day this is an opportunity for me to practise what I preach.

I want a more equal society so I’m thinking about how I can do that. I don’t have any public power or governmental power over policies, but now I have the power of a company which is a big lesson for me. Having gone to business school and having my own business portrays the power of the private sector and the fact that change will come from that in capitalist economies. The Dominican Republic may not be the biggest export in cacao, but we are the biggest in exporting organic cacao. It’s still an industry that is growing and becoming more regulated. A lot of the cacao in the Dominican Republic is organic already because of the natural good quality of the soil. We don’t need to treat our soil with chemicals because we don’t have as many diseases as other producers, which has therefore put us in an interesting position within the market.

Model lying in underwear and skirt on the ground

Instagram: @_avril_guerrero

Charlie Newman: What does Metizo mean and what is the story behind it?
Avril Guerrero: Metizo is a combination of Mestizo in Spanish and Métis in French which translates to bi-racial. Again, I want to use my enterprise and platform to deliver my message and in this case it’s about tolerance. At the time when we started to think about the concept of the brand there was a big issue with immigrants coming into Europe and there was a lot of fear surrounding that. It really made me think a lot, especially as in the countries I consider home – the Dominican Republic and the United States – we are all immigrants, no one is from there. To have that fear about new people coming in is understandable, but at the same time it’s extremely hypocritical because we ourselves are immigrants. Everywhere I’ve lived for the past 12 years, I’ve always been an immigrant. The designer for the packaging, Amandine Delaunay, transformed our ethos into physical design. Each bar has different eyes and mouths on it, so the idea is you can combine a different face with each chocolate bar.

This divide and fear we are all experiencing in some shape or form is a phenomenon that is happening simultaneously everywhere, from Europe to the U.S to my own country. I think it’s really important to understand that no one wants to leave their home for the sake of it, no one wants to embark on a mission and endure the hardship of travelling on a boat not knowing if you’re going to get to your destination. This is not a pleasure trip, you’re moving because you have no choice, you need to leave. We need to cover basic needs, people are dying so we need to be nicer.

Charlie Newman: Are there any stores you would like to see Metizo in?
Avril Guerrero: Our product is more on the luxury side of things, we’re not necessarily trying to sell you another chocolate. We’re offering you something different and sharing an interesting story, it’s never about just delivering another product. Our story is encouraging people to be more tolerant and to look inwards in order to see what we all have in ourselves wherever we are from, whatever our situation. I don’t have a a mission to be in all the biggest stores, rather to be in a few hand-selected stores with a similar objective.

Charlie Newman: Finally, who is your role model of the month?
Avril Guerrero: It’s got to be my family because I think a role model has to be someone you trust. I would never choose someone famous because I have no connection with them, I don’t know the real them. Growing up, I believe it’s more necessary to have role models because you have to start making decisions before having experienced them.

Discover Metizo’s products: metizoparis.com

Follow Avril Guerrero on Instagram: @_avril_guerrero

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Reading time: 11 min
Hands drawing on pieces of paper in a workshop setting with shoe insoles
Pain of black high heels pictured in front of medical bottles

Maison Baum heels are fitted with a pain-free insole

Newly launched shoe brand Maison Baum combines French luxury design with German medical expertise to create a high heel that’s as comfortable to wear as it is stylish. We speak to co-founder Christof Baum about their patented pain-free insole, sustainable fashion and recycling

A man and a woman wearing lab coats in an old shop

Co-founders Sophie Tréhoret and Christof Baum

1. What inspired you to start Maison Baum?

I’ve seen a lot of women around me suffer from pain in high heels, including my sister. My dad is an orthopaedic surgeon, so the idea came about naturally to explore how to apply his knowhow and make beautiful shoes with it.

In addition, French was my first foreign language and having grown up in a city just next to the border, it felt like the brand should combine my love for France while at the same time valuing my family’s German heritage.

2. How does your pain-free insole work exactly?

The insole involves seven cushioned elements that support your foot bones in just the right places to prevent your foot from slipping forward. Together with my father, I have identified the key anatomic areas which you need to relieve. Due to the anatomical insole and a couple of other measures, our shoes reduce forefoot pressure by around fifty percent and are a lot easier to keep on your feet compared to other heels.

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3. What’s been the most challenging part of setting up a fashion start-up?

Defining a vision and believing in it when no one else does. New challenges come at you every day and you have to cover a broad range of topics, such as accounting, design or even foot anatomy. Nevertheless no matter what happens, it’s important to focus on the work you can do to improve the situation in that moment, think ahead and surround yourself with the right people. I’ve been very lucky to work with people I value both on a professional and personal level, and this is what makes all the difference.

4. How are you tackling issues of sustainability?

Sustainability is a heartfelt desire for me. We only have one earth to live on and to take care of and as shoemakers we belong to one of the most polluting industries. Nevertheless the world we live in is complex, and you need to think sustainability from various ways.

For Maison Baum, we try to implement environmentally sound materials wherever we can and combine them with social and economic long-term sustainability. Hence, we manufacture with selected European suppliers and family-owned companies only and make 90% of our packaging from recycled cardboard. Our designs are classic and timeless and we focus on creating ever-green design superstars that you can wear for many years instead of only following the latest fashion trends that will make you throw away your heels after a few months of wearing them.

However, combining feminine design with the largest medical soundness to make them “sustainable” for the body remains our utmost priority.

Read more: Designer Mary Katrantzou on the business of fashion

Hands drawing on pieces of paper in a workshop setting with shoe insoles

Inside the Maison Baum workshop

5. If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be?

It would be to have internationally-binding and actually enforceable standards on the potential disassembly of shoes. We humans throw away and burn an insane amount of fashion and footwear every year. The number one reason why shoes are so rarely recycled is that most are glued together and can’t be easily separated into their constitutive materials.

6. What’s the longest period you’ve spent wearing  Maison Baum heels?

10 hours straight at home. But I wouldn’t repeat that in public.

Find out more: maisonbaum.com

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Reading time: 3 min
Models pose with lips puckered at fashion designer backstage
Models pose with lips puckered at fashion designer backstage

Mary Katrantzou (second from left) backstage at the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in New York

With a decade of successful collections behind her and a penchant for outside-the-box collaborations, Mary Katrantzou is a designer not only bursting with creativity but also with the business acumen to go truly global, as Carolyn Asome discovers

Don’t underestimate the agility required to keep up with Mary Katrantzou’s boundless curiosity, the ever-inventive ways she pushes herself out of her comfort zone, the rat-a-tat-tat of her myriad collaborations (more of which later) and fundamentally, her desire to never sit still.

Does Katrantzou, who for the past decade has wowed us with her own strand of quirky maximalism, breathtaking decoration techniques and architectural shapes, ever worry that her body may struggle to keep up with her mind? The Greek-born fashion designer (and veritable power house), who read architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design before studying for a BA in Textile Design at London’s Central Saint Martins, howls with laughter at this. “It’s true, I’ve turned 36… it probably doesn’t.”

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Few designers are able to confront the obstacles of growing their own business. Fewer still are able to articulate them quite as clearly as Katrantzou can – although one senses that she has always relished the challenge. Her voice lights up: “Growing your business is the ultimate in creativity. It forces you to have an understanding of the business of fashion. I don’t think you can have a company without that interest or without the ambition to be involved.”

In an increasingly volatile retail climate, what are the challenges she faces? “There are several, but one of them is having a voice that really stands out against the noise. There are lots of heritage brands with a rotation of designers at the helm. You need to really know what you stand for. I challenge myself to do that each year. You might think you have an idea of who your woman is, but it isn’t always as easy as you think it is. I am not designing for a romantic warrior…” she laughs. “Sure, she is bold and daring and she uses fashion as a tool of expression. What I design has an element of uplift, but it also has links to art and design – that is very much part of it, too.”

Model on the catwalk wearing a large multicoloured coat

A look from Mary Katrantzou’s AW19 collection

The conundrum of dealing with an ever- whizzier hamster wheel of production also looms large. Thankfully, Katrantzou explains this is far less of a taboo subject than it was in the past. “Three years ago, no one wanted to talk about it and you almost closed your eyes and hoped for the best, but now other designers talk and you realise we are all in the same boat. Because obviously it is going to affect your creativity.”

Her solution? “While we have four drops annually, there are only two thematic collections a year so that means we have longer to talk about something, but we still have the newness.” Another challenge she mulls over is how to move outside ready-to-wear and use her design talent in other areas. Given that Katrantzou trained as an architect, she enjoys the challenge of looking at things from different perspectives and the creativity that comes with designing in different realms.

“We’ve tried to shift the brands in both directions: at one end offering shows at a demi- couture level and building on our customer relationships so that they can buy from us as made-to-measure or bespoke, but also, to do collaborations with much bigger global brands which allows us to reach a far wider audience.”

Read more: Photographer Thomas Demand on abstract perspectives

Katrantzou enjoys the fact that collaborations force her to think in a completely different way. “It’s an entirely different end use of a product. You can be democratic in a way that as an independent brand you just can’t be, because you can’t reach those price points or your minimums and production runs are so different. The modern brand of today needs to be reaching out to all different price points and different tiers. You are communicating with your customer but offering her a very comprehensive way of being able to buy your brand. We are doing a tenth of what we can do as we are still largely a ready-to-wear brand, but we’ve created jewellery with Swarovski, and done a small homeware range with a friend, Brigitta Spinocchia Freund. We’re also doing a ballet at Sadler’s Wells with Russell Maliphant and music by Vangelis, which is obviously so different from what you get when creating the costumes for the Victoria’s Secret show.”

The designer’s interesting collaborations – ones which challenge the well-trodden formula of designer/highstreet unions – are what caught the eye of Chinese investor Wendy Yu, the 28-year-old who has earned herself the reputation as China’s unofficial fashion ambassador.

Two women posing in front of a green wall at an exclusive event

Mary Katrantzou with Wendy Yu 2017

Two years ago, Katrantzou took investment from Yu. “I’d noticed and loved Mary’s capacity and talent to expand into different product categories along with her infectious energy and drive,” says Yu. “She’s built a brand with a strong and unique identity. I can see the potential of Mary Katrantzou homeware and beauty… I think the Chinese consumer would really buy into the brand at this lifestyle level too.”

Yu was one of three who came in on a ‘family and friends’ round of investment. For Katrantzou, the idea was also to look at what investors could offer aside from the financial support. “Wendy has been helpful with expanding in China. She is someone who understands how to help build a brand between east and west, between fashion and the arts.” Katrantzou has also learnt that in order to create awareness in China, it takes much more than just visiting once a year. It’s visiting regularly and initiating activations that really engages.”

Despite following a wholesale model, Katrantzou finds that clients come to her, season after season. “It’s rare these days to have a really loyal client. I don’t know what it is about the brand that elicits that loyalty but whatever it is, I don’t take it lightly.” This modesty is typical of Katrantzou. Such is her talent that she has clients who own so many of her clothes, they might easily stage a retrospective of her collections. It is telling that one of her most devoted fans is also one of the biggest collectors of Phoebe Philo’s collections at Celine – “our aesthetics couldn’t be more opposite” – and yet, there is something about the power of Katrantzou’s craft, the detailing and point of view that elicits such fandom.

Women pose backstage in front of a rail of clothing

Katrantzou and friends at London Fashion Week, 2016

Last September, Katrantzou celebrated her tenth anniversary, filling Camden’s Roundhouse with a collection all about collecting and collectables. Instead of a ‘best of ’ tribute to the preceding decade, she riffed on philately and entomology. One gown resembled a Fabergé egg gleaming with crystals, while a bustier dress revealed an array of coloured stone rings within a jewellery box.

Read more: Why LUX loves the New Perlée creations by Van Cleef & Arpels

Her most recent collection was based on the elements – earth, air, fire and water – and how they exist within us. “I wanted to explore the fire – when you have that energy and passion; or air when you feel that sense of being light and free. And it was interesting to distil all of that into a collection as it was so abstract and unlike my previous collection, which was more literal and very object driven.”

Model on catwalk wearing large orange coat

A look from Mary Katrantzou’s AW19 collection

For water and air, Katrantzou explored silhouettes that were weightless, either in organza or tiers of ruffles, which “bounced in a cloudy way, or else we used feathers”, experimenting with materials and techniques that haven’t been explored before.

Today, there are 25 people in Katrantzou’s London studio and her label is sold in 50 countries. “Our strongest markets are in the US, the UK, southern Europe, the Middle East and now China,” she says. “You know you appeal to a certain type of woman, and while I’m not saying an archetypal woman, they do have something in common. And we don’t have to be big in the Nordic countries if we are not selling there.”

Increasingly, Katrantzou is thinking about how she fits into the world around her: what she stands for and how that extends to bigger topics. “Luxury for me is knowing you are not harming your environment, knowing that the pieces you create will last in someone’s wardrobe for ever. I find it interesting that clients increasingly come to me and say they want to spend x amount on this one dress rather than buy 20. There’s a return to craftsmanship, pieces that are made by hand. With demi-couture, you are supporting a more analogue approach to fashion. It isn’t a big percentage in terms of how many commissions we get, but it is a sizeable part of the business… and it’s growing.”

Find out more at: marykatrantzou.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 7 min
Asian model stands in desert setting wearing a bikini and jacket

graphic banner in red, white and blue reading Charlie Newman's model of the month

Portrait of Asian model Grace Cheng

Model and entrepreneur Grace Cheng. Instagram: @gracepcheng

LUX contributing editor and model at Models 1, Charlie Newman continues her online exclusive series, interviewing her peers about their creative pursuits, passions and politics

colour headshot of blond girl laughing with hand against face wearing multiple rings

Charlie Newman

THIS MONTH: 24-year-old Taiwanese/Chinese model Grace Cheng was born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles. She has appeared in numerous fashion campaigns and walked for the likes of Bottega Venetta, Moschino and Marc Jacobs. A year ago, she launched oatmeal company Mylk Labs by reinvesting her modelling earnings. She chats to Charlie about healthy eating, handling success and future ambitions.

Charlie Newman: Were you passionate about fashion and food as a child?
Grace Cheng: Not at all! I was a tomboy and never wanted to be a model, even though I stuck out as a lanky, tall girl. The most fashion I experienced was shopping every weekend at the mall! Never did I cook either – this was something I grew into when I was around 19.

Charlie Newman: So how and when did you get into modelling?
Grace Cheng: I was scouted at 17 and started modelling at 18. I never wanted to pursue it despite the many relatives and friends who told me I should, being the lanky, tall girl that I was and am! I had no idea what to expect and it kind of just fell into my lap but I’m glad it did because I’ve grown so much as a person since then.

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Charlie Newman: And then your career rocketed very quickly! Tell us about your experience of rising to success.
Grace Cheng: There’s no question I find it hard: all of the travelling, long e-commerce days and tons of castings that never come into fruition. Travelling is something I struggle with especially since I’m someone who loves being organised and prefer a set routine. My mindset has always been “nothing in life is easy” so I knew I had to put in the work. I have friends who send me screenshots of ads or campaigns that I’m featured in, it’s always so fun to be spotted and that makes it all worthwhile.

Charlie Newman: Whilst modelling full-time you were also studying at USC – how did you balance those two commitments?
Grace Cheng: Yes! I studied business and graduated in 2016. It was really hard to balance if I’m being honest. If a young girl were to tell me they want to skip college for modelling, I’d advise against it even though it’s tough. I was commuting from home and hour and thirty minutes drive one way, and took classes twice a week. They were 10 hour days so I could bang out all my classes in one go and model for the other three days of the week. I’d be studying and doing homework during my lunch and snack breaks during my jobs too! The hardest week I had looked like this: 10 hours of school on Tuesday and 3 midterms, then go to LAX airport to get on a red eye fly out to Philadelphia, arrive 6am on Wednesday to shoot 10 hours, then head back to the airport to fly home, land at 1am, wake up at 5 am for another 10 hour day of school!

Asian model sitting on a white box in a white setting wearing a red dress and black hat

Instagram: @gracepcheng

Charlie Newman: You launched your company Mylk labs just over a year ago now. How was the idea born?
Grace Cheng: I was traveling so much for modelling and I just wanted my homemade, daily oatmeal. With my background in business, I knew I always wanted to start my own company but I just never knew what it was going to be. After my first fashion month in NY, London and Paris, I came back and knew oatmeal is what I wanted to create because it was all I could think about the entire time I was gone!

CEO of Mylk Labs holding a tower of three pots

Instagram: @gracepcheng

Charlie Newman: As a woman, how have you found the experience of setting up your own business and what advice would you give to others wanting to do the same?
Grace Cheng: It’s been so exciting, but a lot of work. It took one full year of planning, sourcing and putting everything together before execution. My advice is: make sure you’re passionate about what you do, keep pushing and don’t be afraid to explore outside the box.

Read more: Designer Piet Boon on avoiding trends

Charlie Newman: Have you found the fashion world to be supportive of your newfound project?
Grace Cheng: Yes, my bookers and everyone is very understanding and supportive of my company. I’ve still yet to bridge the two together, but rest assured, it’s currently in the works. I want to be able to serve wholesome, convenient food to those in the fashion industry. This includes educating young models on eating well and being good to their own bodies.

Charlie Newman: With so much conflicting advice surrounding healthy living, it’s very easy as a
consumer to get lost within it all. What advice would you give to anyone trying to change their eating habits?
Grace Cheng: Eat based on ingredients versus calories. I always read the label to see what’s in my
food before buying and eating it, unless it’s at a restaurant of course. Always focus on wholesome
and real food as that will always be best in the long run, rather than restricting yourself on calories or low fat foods and diets.

Charlie Newman: Your products are non GMO, wholegrain, vegan and free from gluten, artificial additives and refined sugar. Why do you think it has taken the fast food industry so long to catch up with health conscious eating?
Grace Cheng: Well, to be honest, there are so many good options now so I can’t say that the fast food industry hasn’t caught up exactly, but it might have taken even longer because our world moves on “trends”. It’s weird to say it like that but people will only start to acknowledge and try something once everyone else is doing it.

Charlie Newman: Is there a health food brand you particularly admire?
Grace Cheng: Sweetgreen here in the US! They are a chain of quick service salad shops and it tastes amazing, they’re always my go to when travelling. Sweetgreen inspires me because their ability to make healthy food accessible, affordable and most importantly, delicious!

Charlie Newman: Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
Grace Cheng: I would absolutely love to create new product lines! I hope to become more than an “oatmeal company”. My goal is to create a company that people can recognise and trust in their daily lives, to create a culture and community of people who show themselves love through mindful living and eating. Being mindful is similar to being aware and considerate. Whether that be overall in life or day to day habits like eating a meal or staying active for example.

Charlie Newman: Lastly, who’s your role model of the month?
Grace Cheng: Coco Rocha. She’s a model turned business woman. She has her own book of poses and started a modelling camp to teach aspiring models how to move comfortably in their own skin.

Follow Grace Cheng on Instagram: @gracepcheng

Discover Mylk Labs: mylklabs.com

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Reading time: 6 min
Panel discussion held by YPO with speakers sitting on stage
Panel discussion held by YPO with speakers sitting on stage

One of the panel discussions at the YPO Edge global leadership conference in Singapore in 2018, an annual event that brings together nearly 3,000 business leaders

The YPO may just be the most influential organisation in the world that most people haven’t heard of. An association of major business owners and chief executives spanning Asia, the US, Europe, Africa, South America, Australasia and the former Soviet Union, it is part high-end networking forum, part extended family. It is notoriously difficult to join, and those who are in say its discussion groups, events and networks have transformed their business and, sometimes, their personal lives. LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai hears some insights from YPO members in Asia

Portrait of Joelle Goudsmit, CEO of Dimension-all Group, Philippines

Joelle Goudsmit

Joelle Goudsmit, CEO of Dimension-all Group, Philippines

YPO member since June 2012

LUX: How did you first come across the YPO in the context of your business?
Joelle Goudsmit: I took over the family company when I was 24, because my mother passed away quite suddenly. I had a liberal arts degree that I enjoyed but it did not really prepare me for working in construction and scaffolding, the family business in the Philippines. A degree in economics and Japanese literature does not prepare you for negotiating with contractors.

I was talking to someone in Hong Kong, who asked whether I’ve ever heard of this group called YPO and said that I really should join. I was a bit suspicious, as she was a random
person in my yoga class, so I answered that I was a bit overwhelmed just then and that I didn’t have room for anything else. Then YPO came up in a business context with several other people across Asia. So, I joined when I was 30, when there was critical mass with lots of people who were around my age, and it was wonderful.

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Leading a company is really quite lonely. You don’t necessarily have peers at work, you have colleagues who work for you. That’s a very different dynamic. When you work in a family business, there can be complications because the work tends to come home and your family then becomes stakeholders first, not necessarily family.

Your YPO forum does not have a vested interest in your business, they just listen, they are peers, and tend to be willing to share. Looking across the organisation, the common denominator is that the people come in with a willingness and a desire to constantly learn throughout their lives. I personally think that it doesn’t matter how challenging work gets, there is a point at which one gets a little stupid doing the same thing over and over. It’s much better t go to a YPO event to unplug, get inspired, and get new energy in order to bring that drive and inspiration back to work, and to maybe look at problems in a different way.

LUX: When you joined, did being a member help your business in specific ways?
Joelle Goudsmit: Yes, I have a number of examples of where I received unbelievable business support. When I purchased my first company, I was trying to find out about the business as quickly as possible. I decided I’d be doing business development straight away, not to be the CEO, just to go out, meet with potential clients and see whether the business was truly viable.

YPO has chapters and networks. The networks deal with your current interests , whether they be business or personal/social. I joined the deal network, I was quite active with them, and they organised these sessions around the world where you went in and met with a group. You were open about what your company needed at this point and whoever was in the room would volunteer leads for you or they could suggest someone they know or a chapter mate or someone in your realm. I remember I was in Dubai at that point and was looking for potential strategic partners. I put my need out to the table and really wasn’t expecting anything. Someone at the table goes, “come speak to me at work tomorrow”. They became my first client I acquired on my own for the company, and it was a wonderful “Phew! This company is viable” moment. It gave me a lot of confidence and hope for that company. That came out of YPO and has repeated a lot of times ever since.

I recently had breakfast yesterday with someone I met through YPO. Previously, he had a work colleague he had sent to the Philippines who needed emergency medical care. He didn’t know what to do, so he had sent a message out to the network. We responded and we were able to make a phone call to someone who owned a hospital close to where the man was, and was able to get him the right care.

So, at breakfast recently, he mentioned he was going to Kazakhstan, and I mentioned I’d like to explore potential business opportunities in Kazakhstan. So, he is phoning people to make introductions. You never know where these will lead, but it saves you having to go into a country that is very foreign, where you don’t know anyone. It’s a huge deal.

Audience at a YPO conference

Delegates at the YPO Edge conference in Singapore, 2018

Portrait of Asian businesswoman Jennifer Liu

Jennifer Liu

Jennifer Liu, Hong Kong-based owner of The Coffee Academics and founder of HABITŪ, Asia

YPO member since May 2017

LUX: Why did you join the YPO?
Jennifer Liu: When your entrepreneurial businesses reach a certain international scale, the YPO makes great sense, in terms of forming an alliance with other business friends and understanding the business environment.

I have not been a member for long, and I am getting active; for example, there is a very interesting event where YPO members in Hong Kong and the region visit the Greater Bay Area of China [the region connecting Hong Kong with mainland cities such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou]. YPO has a very selective process for its members. The calibre and the sophisticated mindsets of the people set it apart. I believe there are fewer than 100 members in Hong Kong. I went through three interviews.

LUX: What kind of questions were you asked?
Jennifer Liu: They want to know if you really are the person who makes all the important decisions in your company. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a top manager. And whether or not you can impact your company and the city or the world, one way or another both in the business world or the charities space.

Read more: Tips for a successful application to one of London’s most exclusive members’ clubs

LUX: You have been a member for less than two years ; how has it been?
Jennifer Liu: I love it. There are the very senior members who have seen it, done it, and they have all the words of wisdom. They have so much to share and for us, coming into this point in time where you’re no longer a young business person and you’re quite big, but you still have a lot to work on and to learn about, YPO has that resource of some of the best talents in town and also in the region or in the world, to openly and safely provide suggestions or networks. So, I think, in a way, when we come out and we say we are YPOers, it immediately means a certain standard, in terms of trust, respect and confidentiality. And in YPO, there is no specific hierarchy. Everyone is equal, and we all share . When it comes to confidentiality, it very clear what is level one, what is level two, and you feel very comfortable to share things you can’t even share with your family or your spouse or your co-workers.

LUX: In what way is it useful for your business?
Jennifer Liu: It’s very useful for me as person to have a safe environment to open up and to know people and to know what’s going on in Hong Kong or elsewhere in the world. It has a well-built system where we are not soliciting business between each other, but it’s a platform where we share useful and trusted information, both for business and personal matters.

Portrait of Matthew Boylan CEO of matador singapore

Mathew Boylan

Matthew Boylan, President and CEO of Matador Systems, Singapore

YPO member since October 2010

LUX: How has YPO helped your business?
Matthew Boylan: YPO has done two incredible things . Number one, it is an amazing security blanket because for a company like mine the only way that we can survive is to be able to support clients in more than one location. Our clients need to work with one supplier for their entire IT support strategy whether that is in Singapore, Vietnam, Australia, Korea or Japan. That means we need to have operations in all of those countries, meaning we have to incorporate a legal entity in those countries, meaning we have to navigate the rules and regulations that apply to employing permanent staff in those countries.

Before I joined YPO, one of the experiences that we had when we wanted to set up an office and incorporate a legal entity in China, we started talking to corporate consultants in Singapore who provided that service. The frustrating thing was that we would receive a quote from one corporate consultant for US$30,000 to incorporate in Shanghai, we would receive another quote for US$300,000 for exactly the same service. You are going into a market that you don’t have much knowledge about or experience in, you have to put a certain amount of trust in third party suppliers, but it is very difficult if you have not been recommended to those third-party suppliers, you have to do your own diligence, your own research.

You completely bypass the entire process by being a YPO member. All you need to do is pick up the phone or send an email, in this case it was to a YPO member who is based in Shanghai, and ask, “Can you please provide me with a recommendation to a corporate consultant who you have done business with, who you can trust, who you know will be able to support our needs in Shanghai?”. You know straight away that you can trust whoever they recommend. No matter where you are doing business you know that through the YPO network you can receive trustworthy and credible recommendations to third parties you need to rely on.

Read more: Inside Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps

Number two – and this is so important in today’s business world – YPO allows you to conduct business at hyper speed.

I have been able to leverage off Matador’s expertise and infrastructure and resources to incubate and accelerate a lot of other different businesses. So, if you are looking for a manufacturing partner in a certain market, you’re looking for a distribution partner in a certain market, again you can leverage off the YPO network to actually source those.

One of my new businesses for 2018 was releasing a new product into the Japan market, we needed to source a manufacturer either in China or Vietnam, and through the YPO network I was able to source potential manufacturing partners within 24 to 48 hours. The two business partners who I am working with are based in Tokyo, who are not in the YPO, they have been struggling with this for twelve months with no progress, and they just said, “Matt, how did you do this?” I said it was through YPO and they were fascinated. Basically, within a 48-hour period I was able to source a manufacturer in Vietnam and also a manufacturer in China and in both cases, they were recommendations from YPO members in those respected countries. So, you can really work at speed, which is critical.

A speaker standing on stage in front of a large audience

A speaker at the YPO Edge conference in Singapore, 2018

Portrait of Asian business woman Noni Purnamo

Noni Purnomo

Noni Purnamo, President Director of Blue Bird Group Holding, Indonesia

YPO member since November 2003

LUX: You were one of the first female YPO members in your region.
Noni Purnamo: Yes, I was first introduced to YPO about 15 years ago by a good friend who is a very successful businesswoman, Shinta Kamdani. When I joined there about only like three female members in Indonesia, including her and myself.

LUX: How has the YPO helped you?
Noni Purnamo: YPO has help me grow all sides of my life. I went through the ups and downs of various challenges. When I was in my mid thirties I was faced with this challenge of how do you balance being a mother and being a business person at the same time. It was the busiest time of my business life, when you have the most energy and so many things to do, you have so many things to handle and yet you have to handle young children because that’s normally what happens when you’re in your early thirties . So, during those times I was really relying on the YPO network, YPO experiences and YPO learnings. I have really relied on the forum [where up to ten members get together and talk confidentially], I have been in the same forum for the almost 15 years now, and they know more about me than I do myself! They have been through all the ups and downs of my life and the good thing about sharing this in a forum is because of the forum’s rules – it’s strictly confidential and there is no judgement, you can only share.

That structure really helped. At one point I faced what was almost a depression, and I went to the YPO Life, which is a five- day course for members in Mumbai, and doing it I learned a lot about myself. It saved me from that depression.

I then initiated the mother/daughter retreat in Indonesia. YPO is one of the organisations where you can get help in all aspects of your life. Some organisations are purely commercial, some organisation are purely networking, with this you can have a family, you can grow with it. That’s what I have gained from YPO.

Portrait of CEO ASIA BUCCELLATI business man Dimitri Goutenmacher

Dimitri Goutenmacher

Dimitri Gouten, CEO Asia, Buccellati

YPO member since 2012

LUX: Why did you join the YPO?
Dimitri Gouten: In my previous company [the luxury goods conglomerate Richemont], we were doing an entrepreneurship award with a similar organisation. Some members went on to join the YPO and they recommended it. For many reasons. The first reason being the networking; with the YPO you are not seven degrees of important people, you are one or two degrees because you can really access entrepreneurs, bankers, investors, in a very quick manner. And then once you join, you have a lot of expertise available to you, and there are events where there are presentations on different subjects, so it’s like a university . You can be talking about the US economy one afternoon, then the singularity another afternoon, and AI. There are many subjects that are discussed at a high level and that are very interesting for all the members.

There are also events related to family, also events with children, because the whole point is about learning something – so you can learn something with your children, or you can learn something with your spouse, there are different kinds of events that are organised to promote business, family and personal life. That’s the holistic approach that it offers.

Read more: Rosewood’s flagship hotel opens in Hong Kong

It’s a later stage the YPO forum comes, which is when you have this group of people that we gather every month to talk about personal, business and family subjects which are shared in an environment that’s 100% confidential, where you have trust with the different people. And the idea is really for everyone to really express themselves, share their emotions, share their values, and you know, tell you stories, memories that happened to them in a similar case to what’s happening to you or friends of theirs.

The idea is never to judge you, never to give you advice, but to just give you some relevant information that they see could help you make your own decisions. So, it’s not about “Oh you should do this, you should do that”, it’s really an open forum, where everybody can share and everybody can take the most out of what they want. It’s never about “Oh, I have this problem, what are the solutions?”, it’s “I have this problem, I’m going to do a small presentation to my forum mates, my forum brothers, and we will see and they all share”.

One of them can be in a family business, one of them can be an architect, one of them can be in the printing business, or finance.

LUX: It sounds like the forum is something that doesn’t really exist elsewhere?
Dimitri Gouten: Yes, and it’s true that you don’t really find it outside this forum because it’s ruled by confidentiality and trust, and the other aspect is the quality of the people, because the people who are also recruited join the YPO because of certain criteria that are fixed by the YPO itself.

LUX: And you found it useful in terms of business and personal support?
Dimitri Gouten: Very useful. As well as the forum, you also have all the rest of the YPO network, that you can also contact for certain things. For example, I can ask if there is anybody who has experience in importing jewellery into China? You will find somebody, and then you will have some sharing of information if the person wants . That’s the whole idea of the organisation, that you share with others and you benefit from that.

For example, a few years ago, we went to Taiwan with a member of my forum and we met other, different companies that belong to YPO and studied their business models . So, you mix that with excellent food on the trip, and it’s a very interesting experience. We also went to Japan at one time where we saw a company making electric cars. In Asia the YPO is very powerful, you can quickly touch some entrepreneurs, and most of the time we share because we know what YPO is and we are willing to share.

LUX: Is there a mechanism by which contact happens?
Dimitri Gouten: Yes, there is a website where you have access to all the members worldwide. It doesn’t accept solicitation, so it means a member can’t call me and say, “Do you want to buy this?” But they can send me a message and say “I’m in this type of business and I’m in Hong Kong next week, could we meet for a drink?” And you trust them, you know that they are in the same organisation and they also follow the same standards.

For more information visit: ypo.org

 

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Reading time: 16 min
Entrepreneur Wendy Yu poses with locals from Rwanda
Colour portrait of entrepreneur Wendy Yu

Wendy Yu. Portrait by Jonathan Glynn-Smith

Wendy Yu – entrepreneur, investor, cultural ambassador, fashion devotee, and frequent flyer between Shanghai, Hong Kong, London and New York – is taking the word ‘global’ to a whole new level, as Elisa Anniss discovers when they meet

Instagram can be hugely revealing about the people who use it, though rarely will you get the fullest picture of any of them. With her 1,913 posts and the 94.1K followers of her Instagram account, @Wendyyu_official, it still paints only a partial picture of this remarkable young woman, who is the founder and CEO of Yu Capital, a major Chinese investor in fashion and technology, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.

Nevertheless, snaps of Wendy Yu with Giambattista Valli, Thom Browne and Charlotte Olympia do reveal her stellar fashion credentials. There are the images of the Met Ball in New York and of a dinner for her friend Mary Katrantzou, co-hosted with Lord Rothschild at Waddesdon Manor. Instagram also tells us that she appears to be something of a collector of evening gowns. Indeed, the rare snap of her in trousers raises an obvious question. “I love both, to be honest,” she darts back, when challenged. “I’m very spontaneous. Sometimes I love things that are dreamy, crazy and imaginative. At other times I just like very simple things. I love to be a chameleon, it really depends on my mood.”

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

This morning she’s flown in from Hong Kong. For the flight, she wore head-to-toe Alaïa with a yellow Mary Katrantzou fur. It’s typical of what she wears on planes – Alaïa or a kaftan from Oscar de la Renta paired with flat shoes. “All super comfy so I can sleep easily.” Last month she flew every two or three days. Shanghai is her main base, but Hong Kong, London and New York, are all places where Yu regularly spends time. “New York more now because next year we’re launching an exciting project there,” she ventures, but that’s all she’ll give on the details. Still, Shanghai is where she has a home and where her parents’ live – Yu is heir to her family’s business, the Mengtian Group, China’s leading wooden door manufacturer.

It takes sitting down and talking to this young entrepreneur and philanthropist to see that dressing up and accumulating possessions isn’t really what drives her. Her enquiring mind and the way she lights up, crackling with enthusiasm and talking nineteen to the dozen when discussing her many passions, leaves a lasting impression. It’s certainly something that Instagram is unable to convey. Fashion, disruptive technology, the arts, China and being a Sino- Western bridge connecting people, are just some of the subjects she tackles with energy.

“Wendy is passionate about London designers and entrepreneurs and has definitely made a positive impact by supporting some of the best talent out there. We need more people like her,” enthuses José Neves, the fashion-tech businessman who founded Farfetch, and husband of Daniela Cecilio Neves, in whose business Yu was an angel investor. Undoubtedly, it was Yu’s inquisitiveness that brought her to England in the first place. This involved spending time at school in Somerset, in the English countryside where she got a taste of the British boarding school system as well as meeting other, mostly non-Chinese pupils. Next, she went on to complete a degree in fashion management at the London College of Fashion with a stint in between interning at Vogue China. She has also completed executive business programmes at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, interned for a family office in the Middle East and has spent time working for Mengtian. “Truth be told, while education is important, it’s not until you do internships and start working that you really learn about business,” she says.

Breakfast hosted by Wendy Yu and Caroline Rush

Wendy Yu and Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, co-hosted breakfast for Vogue China’s Editor-in-Chief Angelica Cheung

Today, Yu is the youngest member of the Fashion Trust, a British Fashion Council charity, and a founding member of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Young Patrons’ Circle. Even though she herself doesn’t use the word ‘anglophile’, with her love of Harrods – “I still vividly remember the first time I went [there]. It really ignited my passion for fashion” – and her appreciation of British life beyond London – “I love the town of Taunton, and Devon is beautiful, too”– it’s a moniker that fits.

Read more: Geoffrey Kent on finding new places in a well-travelled world

In 2015, Yu founded the investment vehicle Yu Capital and in January 2018, Yu Capital became Yu Holdings. Yu Holdings is a platform created to unite the worlds of strategic investment, technology, philanthropy, arts and culture and to reinforce business and cultural ties between China and the rest of the world.

“The evolution of Yu Capital into Yu Holdings was a strategic decision to consolidate my investment activities with my cultural and fashion projects, all with the end goal of bridging the economic and cultural gap between China and the rest of the world, a mission that drives every decision Yu Holdings makes,” says Yu. The investment vehicle is divided into three main areas of interest: Yu Capital, Yu Fashion and Yu Culture. Yu Capital, the investment arm of Yu Holdings, is focused on strategic investment in global technology, lifestyle and fashion businesses that show high potential for growth in a global market.

Yu’s two technology investments are Didi Chuxing (for more information see end of article), the largest taxi-hailing firm in China, valued at US$35 billion and whose other investors include Apple, Alibaba and Tencent, and Tujia.com. This Chinese online marketplace and hospitality service enables people to lease or rent short-term lodging, something like Airbnb (see end of article).

“Because Didi and Tujia are both multi-billion-dollar companies, they have very big and powerful investors. I’m involved financially rather than strategically,” she notes. “I’m generally less involved with technology investments than with my fashion and lifestyle investments, where I look to add value and contribute to their development and growth.”

Models dressed in colourful costume walking down the catwalk

One of Yu Capital’s recent ventures, Mary Katrantzou, with her SS18 show

Earlier in 2017, Yu Capital made its first luxury fashion investment in the London-based designer brand Mary Katrantzou (see end of article) whose sought-after collections are sold in leading luxury stores around the globe. Yu confesses that before she makes the final decision on an investment she consults with her fortune master, who told her great things about Mary, prompting her to go ahead. “At the back of my mind there is always the question, is this relevant to the Chinese market?”

Read more: President of Monaco Boat Service Lia Riva on the family business

Whether she proceeds with a fashion investment or not also depends on the chemistry she has with a designer as well as the company’s future potential. “With Mary, I really like her as a person as well as a business woman. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she’s hugely talented.” She was also struck by Katrantzou’s background in architecture and opportunities that lay waiting in the whole lifestyle sector.

Yu believes that past collaborations with Adidas, Moncler and Topshop have already helped Mary Katrantzou capture the attention of Chinese consumers and that there is still greater opportunity there for Katrantzou’s core brand. “We are very open to the new emerging designers and the purchasing power in China is now very strong. However, one needs to select carefully which partners in China will be the best in the long term because they all want exclusivity.” Yu can help Katrantzou navigate these complexities. “I don’t have any agenda, I only want what’s best for Mary,” she says.

The investment in Mary Katrantzou followed two made in 2015, one in ASAP54, recently re-branded Fashion Concierge, and another in the sustainable accessories brand Bottletop. Yu was drawn to Fashion Concierge by the disruptive technology it displayed at the time of its launch, whereas with Bottletop it was the idea of social investment that appealed to her. “I liked their concept and approach to sustainability,” she says. As a pioneering fashion accessories brand (founded in 2012 by Oliver Wayman and Cameron Saul, the son of Mulberry founder Roger Saul), the brand revolves around the simple idea of re-cycling the ring pulls from drinks cans – hence the name. A novel, sustainable, chainmail-like material, often with an enamel finish in a range of colours, helps to make Bottletop products, which include totes, clutches, backpacks and belts, instantly identifiable. The company also funds the Bottletop Foundation, which supports young people in Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa. “Wendy is a rare visionary and we have loved having her as part of the Bottletop family,” says Saul. “Wendy is also very strategic and has supported us with important introductions as we position the brand to launch in Asia.”

This is echoed by Daniela Cecilio Neves of Fashion Concierge: “I’ve greatly benefited from Wendy’s insights as a tech-savvy, fashion-loving individual, who can also provide me with a perspective on China,” she says.

Entrepreneur Wendy Yu poses with locals from Rwanda

Wendy Yu at the Women’s Opportunity Center in Rwanda

Ever since Yu took a trip to Rwanda with Brita Fernandez Schmidt, the UK executive director of the charity Women for Women International, social investment, and how similar principles could be applied to the less developed parts of China, have been at the forefront of Yu’s mind. “Brita invited me to see her work in Rwanda because that’s where they have the Women’s Opportunity Center. I’m very curious and I’ve always wanted to see different parts of the world. It was the most inspiring trip I’ve ever been on. I’m looking to potentially develop some culture-related projects with Women for Women, as Brita is keen to see rural parts of China. As a Chinese woman, I would like to explore how we could create support areas in China where there are still huge gender inequalities.”

This leads into the overarching ambition of Yu Culture, the purpose of which is to enrich China’s cultural landscape through development and exchange initiatives in film, art and media, and by working in special partnership with international cultural institutions on projects to be unveiled in 2018.

Yu is already closely involved in the Victoria and Albert Museum. “The V&A has been one of my favourite museums since my student days,” she enthuses. “They invited me to join and I said yes without hesitation.” Her role includes introducing friends from Asia as well as a young group of people from the international fashion and art world. “It’s a bridge, again,” she continues. “Introducing people comes very naturally to me. It’s win-win for everybody because they love the V&A and getting to know the industry community, and the museum loves to meet new art collectors.”

Her involvement is certainly appreciated by the museum. “As a Founding Member of the Young Patrons’ Circle, Wendy Yu has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Victoria and Albert Museum, not only contributing to the successful launch of this important initiative and its exciting programme, but also through her involvement with the Museum’s annual Summer Party and her passion and knowledge of the V&A’s fashion collection,” says a senior museum spokeswoman.

“I love to be the bridge between China and the rest of the world because I love both cultures and want to enhance the connection between the two,” continues Yu. The South China Morning Post recently described her as being both “a sounding board for British designers negotiating the labyrinthine ways of doing business in China” and China’s “unofficial ambassador for British fashion”.

Net-A-Porter, a company Yu admires because of its “great customer experience”, invited Yu to become one of its global ambassadors. In this new capacity, she is scheduled to take the former Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron, and her clothing brand Cefinn, which sells on Net-A-Porter, to China in 2018. It’s a collection she considers to be super wearable with a good price point. “I’ve been wearing her blouse with different outfits and wearing her skirts,” enthuses Yu. “I respect Samantha’s vision and I think Cefinn would be very relevant to Chinese professional ladies.”

According to Yu there are still major differences between the West and China, particularly in terms of technology. In China, she can go out carrying just a mobile phone. She explains that instead of a wallet, Chinese people use Alipay, a third-party mobile and online payment platform established in China in 2004 by the Alibaba group, or WeChat Pay, launched by Tencent.

Her insight into a world that the West is hungry to know more about, is just one of the reasons why she is so in demand in the fashion world. “Wendy’s business acumen and knowledge of the financial sector are invaluable assets to our British designers hence why her support and dedication to the BFC Fashion Trust are so invaluable,” says Caroline Rush CBE, chief executive of the British Fashion Council. Yu describes Rush as “a friend and a mentor” and is someone with whom she co-hosted a breakfast to welcome Angelica Cheung, the Vogue China editor-in-chief, to London. Yu’s involvement in the BFC Fashion Trust has also led to her meeting many designers and learning about the challenges that they face. “You find that a lot of designers are super-creative but they don’t really have that business sense. Nowadays, for a fashion brand to evolve, you have to have both creative vision and to understand the commercial world, exactly who the customers are and what they are looking for.”

Read more: Why we love Club Dauphin on Cap Ferrat right now

Huishan Zhang is a London-based designer in Yu’s friendship circle who is known for his classically feminine evening gowns and dresses that sell in his Mount Street flagship. Like Yu, Zhang was born in China, but left when he was still a teenager. “I’m great friends with Huishan Zhang,” Yu says. “He’s a lot of fun, we share a lot of friends and look to support each other as well, on both a personal and a business level.” According to Yu, he makes her made-to-measure dresses for her and she collects signed sketches of his designs. “Wendy has been a good friend to me,” says Zhang, who doesn’t manufacture in Italy but produces his clothes in his family’s factory in China. “She is an active entrepreneur and supporter of the fashion industry, honing in on new talent, along with great passion and a unique style.”

Colour portrait photograph of entrepreneur wendy yu

Portrait by Jonathan Glynn-Smith

It’s mid-afternoon and we’re coming to the end of our interview now and still there’s no sign of any jet lag or of her flagging post-photo shoot. Yu’s energy levels are high. But then they have to be, as she’s off to Lisbon next, speaking at Web Summit, which bills itself as “the largest tech conference in the world” and welcomes an extensive and diverse line up of speakers ranging from Al Gore to Suzy Menkes. Yu says she’s booked to talk on two panels, one with Caroline Rush and another with the CEO of Matchesfashion.com and Vestiairecollective.com. “It’s all come about very spontaneously and it’s a nice group of industry insiders.”

It won’t be Yu’s first foray into the speaker circuit. In June she appeared on the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Forum panel alongside a group including Yana Peel (CEO of the Serpentine Galleries) and the shoe designer Rupert Sanderson, discussing cultural and commercial partnerships in China. She has also given similar talks covering her investments and connecting with China, in Cambridge and at London Business School, as well as back in China. When asked if she ever gets nervous about speaking publicly she replies: “No, not really. Though I always prefer talking on a panel, it feels more natural. I wouldn’t say no to a glass of champagne if my nerves get the better of me!” And why not, I say.

LUX would like to thank 45 Park Lane in Mayfair, London, for the use of its exquisite Curzon Suite for the shoot of Wendy Yu by Jonathan Glynn-Smith. 45 Park Lane is the artistic sibling to The Dorchester, next door, and has a fabulous program of art events, its own curator, and its own artist in residence. dorchestercollection.com

For more information on Wendy Yu’s investment platform visit: yu-holdings.com

Mary Katrantzou

Mary Katrantzou, who won the £200,000 BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund prize in 2015, is Yu Capital’s most recent investment. One of the heavy hitters at London Fashion Week, the Greece-born designer delights the audience each season with highly original ideas brought to life using elaborate embroidery and embellishment, a mix of textiles, prints and silhouettes and an inimitable signature that shouts Mary. The London-based ready-to-wear marque was established in 2008, after the designer graduated with an MA in Fashion from Central Saint Martins. She was soon dubbed The Queen of Print by the press, a tag that recognised the enormous influence of her work in the medium. In recent years, collaborations, including capsule ranges with Longchamp, Moncler, and Adidas Originals, have helped to broaden her appeal at home and abroad, and of course in China. Mary Katrantzou doesn’t have a bricks-and-mortar store, yet, but she does sell to leading luxury stores in many countries including Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Le Bon Marché. “Wendy is an extraordinary person with a pragmatic and forward-looking vision, who is a close friend as well as an ambassador for the brand,” says Mary Katrantzou. “The most important thing for me is to be surrounded by people who understand my vision and support me in building a truly international lifestyle brand. It’s very exciting to enter our 10th anniversary with a board of incredible women advisors who are shaping the industry in their own right and will be helping us shape our future and reach our full potential.”

Tujia

The rental company has taken couch surfing to a whole new level with $300 million of investments announced in October 2017. Giving Airbnb a serious run for its money, and valued at $1.5 billion, Tujia was founded in 2011 under Tujia Online Information and Technology Company of Limited Liability. With 345 locations across China to choose from and at least 1,000 partnerships internationally, it boasts 650,000 listings and is tapping into a large affluent travelling class, revolutionizing the hospitality industry in China.

Didi Chuxing

The taxi-hailing app is China’s answer to Uber (in fact, it acquired Uber China in 2016) and is the largest such company in the world, with 200 million rides under its belt last year. The app was launched in 2012 and today has over 450m users across the Chinese continent, spanning 400 cities and a variety of services. From social ride-sharing to options including Didi Chauffeur, Didi Bus and Didi Car Rental and Hitch, its social ride-sharing branch, it has taken China by storm and has recently developed an English-language version of the app. It is also looking towards the future with groundbreaking investment into AI technology, with over $5.5 billion raised in 2017.

This article originally appeared in the LUX LOVE Issue, Spring 2018

 

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Reading time: 16 min
stylish contemporary interiors of a lounge space with orange chairs, big glass windows and wooden detailing
stylish contemporary interiors of a lounge space with orange chairs, big glass windows and wooden detailing

Spring Place New York: members-only collaborative workspace and social club

Co-working spaces are already well integrated into our urban landscapes. Companies like WeWork provide communal offices for start-ups and self-employed workers whilst the likes of Soho House invite members to use their residences for wining, dining and the occasional signing of a multi-million deal. Spring, however, aims to marry the two by offering physical studio spaces to rent and membership to a network of high profile brands and individuals. LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai speaks to the co-founder and CEO Francesco Costa about his vision
Colour portrait of founder of Spring Studios Francesco Costa wearing a black blazer and a blue shirt, smiling

Francesco Costa

LUX: Can you tell us about the concept of Spring?
Francesco Costa: I see Spring as a brand and an experienced company. It’s a brand that helps other brands and individuals in the luxury and aspirational industries to grow their businesses. We work with already established brands and freelance individuals, and it is the connection between these more established brands, emerging brands, talented young people and established talents that creates a unique environment.

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We now do creative agency production, post production and digital; we have studios, we have event spaces, we have co-work spaces and all of this together means that our clients or members or even our shareholders see us not as transaction opportunity, but as a long term opportunity. We are building a community and as a member of that community you are entitled to certain benefits. For example, we did an Estee Lauder campaign with Misty Copeland, the first African American Female Principal Dancer with ABT (American Ballet Theatre) and then we started working with ABT, and now we are the agency for ABT. We create certain content for them and some programming and then through us ABT got in touch with other brands that they want to sponsor ABT, and that creates further opportunities. That’s how this ecosystem works. Of course, the physical space has a key role because a lot of co-brands are trying to complete this without the investment – by that I mean not just a financial investment but an investment in time and the effort of finding a physical space – and it’s very difficult to do without having a physical hub in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London, Milan where people can actually meet, where people can create opportunities. I think it is impossible to achieve what we are trying to achieve now.

Contemporary co working space with shared tables and woman working on laptop

An example of Spring’s stylish co-working space at Spring Place New York

LUX: When you started Spring, was the intention always to go in this direction? Or did it start more as a studio space that companies could use?
Francesco Costa: It’s interesting because everything started as a real estate investment in New York. Myself and Alessandro Cajrati, my business partner, had the idea to create a studio event space, a hub for fashion. Our partner was Jimmy Moffat, the creator of Art and Commerce, let’s say he was our expert in the field. And then we discovered this company in London called Spring Studios (founded in the late ’90s strictly as a studio space), which we thought could be a good partner – they approached us and we liked their vision.

Read more: 6 Questions with world record-breaking sailor Giovanni Soldini

colourful contemporary interiors with pink arm chair, patterned pink wall and an electric guitar

The music room at Spring Place NY

Robin Derrick had just joined and Robin’s vision was to create content for companies that were functioning in the digital space. Then at a certain point, when the project in New York was growing, we saw that there was a synergy in what we were doing so we merged the two companies (the American investors remain the majority investors). That’s how Spring Studios as we now know it started.

Then a bit later, approximately two and a half years ago, there was a co-worker revolution which attracted a lot of attention – it became a kind of trend – and I thought it was interesting to give a physical space to the fashion community. The fashion community, but also the art community and other communities involved in the business of culture, tend to travel a lot and have a lot of social interactions. Frieze is a good example, or events or fashion shows or dinners that fashion brands put on, but there was no place where you could meet more professionally and during the daytime so I thought that there was a need for this kind of space, a place where CEOs or the head of communications can connect and collaborate with other brands and individuals.

Open plan industrial style dining room with exposed ceiling and square wooden tables

The main dining room at Spring Place NY where professionals can meet and socialise

LUX: How does your business model work? How do you benefit from the collaborations?
Francesco Costa: There two things that I get out of it: one is the attachment to the brand, to the physical space. The co-brand has an advantage working with Spring or being at Spring which brings them closer to us. The second is on the offer and the pricing. For example, we have showrooms that we rent for 2000/3000 dollars a day and we don’t rent for 2000/3000 a day because the real estate is better that the real estate next door which rent for 1000 a day, we rent it at that cost because the odds are that a journalist or a CEO or a famous blogger walks by, sees the product and thinks that it’s worth talking about or engaging with. I actually have a recent example of this. A very small, new shoe brand run by two young women with limited capital, launched their product in one of our showrooms and a buyer for one of the biggest retails was in the space for another meeting at that time. He saw the product, loved it and they signed a multi-million contract. This is what we offer, and this is what I mean about the benefits the community can provide.

Stylish industrial style bar with leather stools, exposed ceiling and bar tended preparing drinks

Travelling professionals and members of Spring can also make use of the bar area to meet with friends or relax

LUX: Finally, can you tell us a little bit about the brands that work with you and the kinds of projects you might work on together?
Francesco Costa: Of course – Estee Lauder might shoot a campaign in the studio, but that’s just the start. If we talk about our clients for whom we do the production, we have Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, L’Oreal to name a few. We do their campaigns. Then we have a whole other set of partners or clients for whom we run events. For example, we work with Universal Music, we did the Grammy’s week in January, New York Fashion week twice a year, Tribeca Film Festival, the list goes on.

To learn more about Spring’s studios and events visit: springstudios.com

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Reading time: 5 min
Portrait of Founder of venture capital and investment company Global Group Johnny Hon in front of artwork

Dr Johnny Hon

Johnny Hon, founder of venture capital and investment company Global Group, is on a mission to lower cultural and trade barriers between east and west to encourage commerce, charity and cultural exchange. The entrepreneur and philanthropist, based in London and Hong Kong, speaks to LUX Editor-at-Large Gauhar Kapparova
portrait of LUX Editor at Large Gauhar Kapparova

LUX Editor-at-Large, Gauhar
Kapparova

LUX: The Global Group seems to have diverse interests and ambitious plans.
Johnny Hon: I founded the Global Group in 1997 whilst completing my PhD at Cambridge University. It has since grown to become a leading venture capital, investment and strategic consultancy with offices in London and Hong Kong. Over the past 20 years, the Global Group has evolved from financing high-yield technology companies to expand into private equity, angel investment and financial services. The company’s diverse interests and areas of expertise range from fine art to FinTech, biotechnology to entertainment and leisure. The future of the Global Group is exciting – we’re a rapidly growing company that responds to opportunities, rather than limiting ourselves to specific sectors. We are always looking for exciting, interesting opportunities, whether that’s a start-up in the UK or supporting the growing appetite for excellent quality wine in China.

LUX: You catalyse and facilitate trade between Europe and China. This seems to be important to you at what must be an essential time to be doing it.
Johnny Hon: We live in an increasingly global era and this is changing the face of modern business. The Global Group has always worked with European companies looking to enter the Asian market, as well as Chinese clients and high net-worth individuals with aspirations in the European market. I believe now, more than ever, it’s essential to encourage trade and mutual engagement between Europe and China and in particular to usher in a new golden era of Sino-UK relations.

In my opinion Brexit can open up vast potential as it will provide overseas investors with more opportunities than ever to enter the market. We have our European office in London, and I think it will always be the financial heart of Europe. I encourage Chinese clients to invest in the UK’s businesses and future, and vice versa, and feel optimistic about the future of global business.

Global businessman Johnny Hon shakes hands with HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

Johnny Hon at the charity première of the stage show 42nd Steet with HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

LUX: You have a broad portfolio of business, philanthropic and diplomatic interests. Please tell us more – it seems you are in effect an ambassador between east and west at a very high level?
Johnny Hon: The main mission of the Global Group is, as our motto says, ‘Bridging the New Frontiers’. We work to remove barriers between the East and the West, and I am passionate about reflecting this in my personal and business interests.

I am British-educated but was born in Hong Kong, and I’m deeply proud of my roots and Chinese heritage. I have always felt like I represent both cultures and I have tried hard to act as an ambassador – a gateway – ever since I set up my company. The Global Group challenges expectations and concerns about doing business in China, and I also embody this role in my diplomatic work.

I am the Honorary Consul for Grenada in Hong Kong and the country’s Ambassador-at-Large. I take huge pride in the private consultancy and advisory work I do with state leaders, prime ministers and presidents from countries around the world.

Charitable giant cheque handover on stage in Hong Kong

Johnny Hon’s broad range of philanthropic and diplomatic work includes charitable fund raising

Philanthropy is a vital part of my work and an endless source of motivation and inspiration for the Global Group. One position that fills me with particular pride is my role as the first ever Diamond Benefactor of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. I am responsible for growing the scheme throughout the AsiaPacific region and introducing Chinese students and young people to such exciting life skills as teamwork, enterprise and leadership.

I’m also a Founder Benefactor of London based think tank Asia House and Vice President of the 48 Group Club, which works to raise awareness of Chinese business and innovation in the UK and promote positive relations between the two countries.

In all areas of my life – business, diplomacy, philanthropy and personal – I take great pride and pleasure in my ambassadorial role.

LUX: Does the West have much to learn from China, and vice versa?
Johnny Hon: We can all learn and benefit from a global outlook. China is now a hub of technological advancements and entrepreneurial spirit. The West can learn from its productivity levels, dedication to innovation and broad acceptance of technology, especially regarding the fourth industrial revolution.

The West, and the UK in particular, is inspiring in the approach it takes to investing in future talent and it is the home of some of the world’s greatest educational institutions. It is also an outstanding provider of services, especially in the financial and legal sectors.

From East to West, I am passionate about education and how it is already changing the business landscape. Right now, over 300 million people in China are learning English and the UK has the world’s second largest population of Chinese students studying overseas. I think we should all look to China and how it is encouraging, supporting and inspiring a global outlook for the next generation.

LUX: Tell us more about your philanthropy and your plans in that area.
Johnny Hon: Philanthropy and social responsibility is at the core of the Global Group. It bolsters my sense of purpose and motivates me to work even harder.

I have always wanted to give back. When I was reading for my PhD at Cambridge, I realised that I would be able to have more impact as a businessman than a doctor, and this started my philanthropic career.

Two Asian business men standing in front of 48 Group Club sign

Amongst many philanthropic roles, Johnny Hon is the Vice President of the 48 Group Club

We’ve now donated to over 160 charities worldwide and my projects have ranged from setting up Oxford and Cambridge University scholarship schemes to sponsoring the first London production of the China National Beijing Opera Company at Sadler’s Wells through the Hon Foundation for Music and the Performing Arts.

It is particularly rewarding to be able to combine my passion for the arts with my interests in raising awareness of Eastern culture in the UK, supporting the Global Group’s mission to bridge the gap between the East and West.

LUX: Please tell us about other areas you are developing in your business that are exciting you right now.
Johnny Hon: Sitting at the helm of a rapidly expanding company that is growing in numbers, clients, countries of operation, and team members, is hugely exciting in itself.

Looking at investment opportunities and areas, right now, there is a fascinating trend for Chinese investors to look to British heritage companies. China has a growing consumer society with an increased disposable income and appetite for British luxury goods such as whisky and smoked salmon. There’s a huge market there for UK companies to work with China, and vice versa, to develop this and other opportunities.

This year, we are building on the sustainable side of the Global Group, with a focus on our shared global future. We are focusing on technology that sets out to tackle challenges posed by issues such as population growth and its environmental impact, including green technology, agricultural technology and biotech, for example.

Investing in something that could improve life quality and expectancy means that I have the potential to make a real impact and change the lives of many millions of people for the better, which is both exciting and awe-inspiring.

johnnyhon.com

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Reading time: 6 min
Wendy yu wears bespoke desinger dress
Wendy Yu

Wendy Yu flies between London and Hong Kong for her businesses on a regular basis

Wendy Yu is an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and the founder and CEO of Yu Capital. With investments in China and Europe in fields as diverse as transportation and sustainable fashion, Yu is a visionary – with a penchant for dresses. As the youngest member of the British Fashion Council board of trustees, founding member of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s ‘Young Patrons Circle’ and heir to her family’s business Mengtian Group (China’s leading wooden door manufacturer), she is a Renaissance woman par excellence. Kitty Harris chatted to Yu over an English breakfast in London about her new group, Yu Holdings, sustainable impact investment, and her healthy obsession with ball gowns.
Wendy Yu entrepreneur

Wendy Yu

LUX: Your father runs the Mengtian Group and your mother is a successful private investor. What are the most important lessons you learnt from them?
Wendy Yu: Resilience and being determined. I think my dad is a dreamer, but he is genuinely determined and I really like that. He built his business from scratch and I think he has encountered a lot of hardships during his lifetime, but he never quit. He is always so passionate, determined and relentless about what he is going to achieve.

Since I was young, I have had the mindset that if I want to achieve something, I will find any possible way to achieve it. My dad has taught me about the ‘win-win’ mindset, that in everything you do, if you want to keep it sustainable, you have to not just do it for yourself, but also for others. Before I came to study in England, when I was fifteen, he had this really long talk with me. He said “there are three qualities that I want you to have in your life. First of all, to be a loving person. Secondly, always to fight for the better version of yourself and always think about how to improve yourself. Thirdly, never be afraid of hardships and be relentless about what you want to get.”

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LUX: As vice chairman of the family company is there ever any tension when working with family members?
Wendy Yu: Yes, absolutely. I am a very logical person, but sometimes with family business it can get too emotional when you have different ideas to each other. My dad is a very solid entrepreneur, but he is very Chinese. When he comes to England, he doesn’t eat British food and will only eat Chinese food. He loves spicy, authentic hotpot only at home. I think there is definitely tension, because there are so many big personalities and strong characters. But, at the same time we have bonded with each other and we just want the best for the company and the best for each other.

My dad is very happy with the company being one of the biggest manufacturers in Asia and China and he is happy with the brand. He is happy to make the most out of the Chinese market, because it is so big. My vision is really to expand my family business and legacy globally and to create a solid and well-established international company and brand. My education and experience in England, since my teenage years, has given me opportunities to grow up with both eastern and western mentalities and perspectives; that is where the conflict lies sometimes. Very recently I have restructured my company, Yu Capital, and the main entity will be based in Hong Kong. Under Yu Holding, there will be Yu Capital, Yu Culture and Yu Fashion, because I’ve realised so much of what I do is not just the investment. There is philanthropy, cultural exchange and fashion collaborations.

Entrepreneur Wendy Yu pictured on red carpet at The Fashion Awards 2016

Wendy Yu at The Fashion Awards 2016.

My vision is to connect investments with the innovation and creativity between the East and the West and I feel that Yu Holding will be a better entity than Yu Capital to be strategic about engagement with these sectors. I usually divide my investments into financial investments and strategic investments. Yu Capital would be more focused on financial investments, that is on the technology side like Didi, the Chinese taxi app, and Tujia, China’s home-rental website and hedge funds.

The strategic investments would be in fashion, cultural exchange to support the museums and the art world, to connect art between the East and the West. Those are two of my big passions and I feel I can say that ninety percent of the time, I spend time on my own business: Yu Holding and Yu Capital. I feel the pressure that no matter what I do and how well I do within my family business, my dad will always be the person saying yes and no. I am like my dad, as I like having the say of what direction to go in. I think he will be proud to see what Yu holding is going to achieve in the next three years and I can prove that my vision isn’t bad or limited , because I want to do things globally, not just in China. I like being independent and I think it would be a waste of my experience and education here if I don’t connect the world with China.

Read next: Salvatore Ferragamo on family prestige and Tuscan indulgence

LUX: It sounds like your business is global, so it isn’t aimed at any one territory. Is that right?
Wendy Yu: Yes, that is absolutely right. I have two partners who stay in Shanghai and they come from very solid financial investment backgrounds, one of whom is my cousin. There is still a bit of family force there but that is to make sure that I don’t do anything crazy. Yu Holdings is really my vision and my two partners are amazing. They love that I am creative and pull off different business deals. They love the idea that I’m a great matchmaker. I am good at spotting and sensing which two companies or parties will potentially have great synergy and to be the bridge that joins them.

LUX: Is part of the plan to set up a luxury group?
Wendy Yu: Absolutely, but it would be in ten years, because I think I am at the beginning stage of my career. I think I leave my mark on everything I do, and it is important that the projects are commercially successful as well. With my strategic investments, I put less money in, but I have the presence and we help each other. I have a team doing the portfolio management for me, but at the end of the day, I am the one that is making the decisions. I think after you’ve done all the due diligence and risk assessments you have to go with your heart.

LUX: Why was it important for you to be involved in the Young Patrons Circle at the V&A?
Wendy Yu: I was invited to be the founding member of the Young Patrons Circle; they know I support a lot of different museums and art galleries, so it seemed natural that they asked me.

Sian Westerman, Caroline Rush (Chief Executive of the BFC) and Wendy Yu on terrace in London

Sian Westerman, Caroline Rush (Chief Executive of the BFC) and Wendy Yu

LUX: You’re the youngest patron of the British Fashion Council (BFC) Trust – what does your role involve?
Wendy Yu: I joined a while ago and through the BFC platform I get to meet a lot of designers and learn the challenges they have encountered. I have become friends with a few of them and we have bonded. I support them by introducing them to all of my friends. I love to support women and the people I like, with no other intentions. When I think a girlfriend will like their work, I just introduce them to each other. It is a win-win situation for both of them and I take no commission! My family really believes in karma and I think that in the long-run, if you support people they will support you back. I usually get along with two types of people. One type is very creative (designers and artists) and the other type is those in the finance world. I think there are two parts of me, one is very geeky and numerical, and I love to be creative and to think outside of the box.

LUX: How much input do you have in your different investments?
Wendy Yu: I am tremendously involved in them. I am very hands-on and I chat to people for specialised advice. Usually, we have around one hundred deals to look at over a year. Normally, I have a sense of whether a deal will work or not. We do a very careful analysis for around thirty of them. Then, I look at the report and certain things I will naturally feel are great. For example, for Didi and Tujia I knew instantly that it would work, but I still asked them to do the analysis. Decisions have become relatively quick and we made both deals over a period of two months and they are big investments. But, with fashion investments, I have to get to know the designer on a more personal level. It is generally a smaller investment and I know it is not purely financial. My financial adviser will write the report listing the pros and cons, since it is a strategic, impact investment. When I invest in something, before I make my final decision, I think, ‘what is the worst thing that could happen?’ Of course, you should also consider what is the best thing that could happen, but if I can take the worst thing that could happen, then I am happy to do it. Bottletop was one of my first investments and I am very happy with it, even though I didn’t get any return from it. I love the idea and I think the two founders, Cameron Saul and Oliver Wayman, are amazing entrepreneurs. What they are trying to do (recycling bottletops to make accessories) is great and they are supporting women in Africa and Brazil. They are growing quite fast and at a steady pace.

LUX: What is the typical timeframe to hold and sell an investment?
Wendy Yu: When I first started, I invested at a very early stage. Later I realised that’s not my favourite type of investment, because you hold it for so long. What I really like are pre IPO investments. I really like opportunities like Didi and Tujia – large companies, because I believe those companies are really shaping our world, or shaping China at least. I love being part of the change in many ways and in terms of the financial return, for example the Didi deal, I got a 47% return over a 14-month period of time, which is great. You don’t really get that from the fashion brand. I invest through a fund and we sold part of our shares already. With hedge funds, it is very calculated. You would only put a few million in and the return could be over 100% each year, but it varies because it fluctuates over time. You could make a loss of 20%, or you could win 100%. That’s why you need to invest in different hedge funds. I am very involved and I am very passionate about it, because naturally I love numbers and I am very excited by them and I love creativity.

Wendy Yu travels to Hong Kong

Dinner in Hong Kong, working breakfast in London

LUX: How do you think the investment market is going to change in the next ten years?
Wendy Yu: I think China and Asia, the emerging market, is extremely exciting. But, having said that, I think that you have to really value your opportunities carefully. I have noticed that a lot of investments that are making great returns are in China. It isn’t really happening in London. I think European or American investments, are very strategically relevant with what I want to do and achieve. It is a great value investment over the long-term. In the Chinese market, it is a great financial investment over a certain period of time. I am now also starting up a joint venture with my French partner Kacy Grine, who is an incredible capable and intelligent French banker, he was serving as an adviser of the former French President and has been a long time personal advisor Prince Al-Waleed, who is the biggest investor of Saudi Arabia. We are setting up a joint venture. We feel it is the time to connect the foreign giant technology companies or foreign brands in China and to do the matchmaking with you in the West. The Chinese companies want to go global and the global companies are interested in the Chinese market, but they really want to find the right partner and we are of value in this matchmaking process.

LUX: When you do the matchmaking, you obviously add value to your partners, but how do you benefit from it?
Wendy Yu: It varies from case to case according to the level of our involvement and the deal structure, but we generally act as their advisors and matchmakers.

Read next: Priya Paul of The Park Hotels on balancing innovation and heritage 

LUX: In terms of sustainable investment, are you looking to be more sustainable in your investments?
Wendy Yu: Absolutely. I think my philanthropy investment and impact investment is very sustainable. I am trying to balance it out. A while ago, I studied at Oxford Saïd Business School while they were doing an impact investment programme, I was very inspired. I realised that when you pass away, you don’t leave anything. You only leave the good things you have done. I think until I reach a certain level in my career, I want to pledge the majority of my wealth to the company. I don’t want to keep it all, honestly. What Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have done is wise. I don’t want to hold on to so much. I want to enjoy life for sure, but one of my missions is to do things worthwhile that I’m proud of. I want my family to be proud that I am leaving something meaningful and sustainable, that will stay there for a long time.

Ethan K handbag collaboration with Wendy Yu

Ethan K x Wendy Yu handbag collection at Harrods

LUX: Tell us about the inspiration behind the Ethan K x Wendy Yu handbag collection at Harrods last year…
Wendy Yu: We have been friends for a while and I’ve bought from him. He probably likes my energy and I like his energy. Just like with Mary [Katrantzou] and my other designer friends, we like each other’s energy. They inspire me and I inspire them. I always give them crazy ideas that they love. He said, ‘let’s do a Wendy Yu bag.’ I go to a lot of events, but during the daytime I’m working. I was thinking about a bag that I can use for nighttime and daytime and that is why he designed a bag for me that is very versatile. His clients are Hermès owners, or people who have bought a lot of different bags and they are kind of bored and now they want something bespoke. Ethan’s family had tannery at the back of their home, so he has the experience of doing a bag in crocodile skin that is boutique too.

Bespoke ring made by anna hu

The Wendy Yu butterfly piece by Anna Hu

LUX: How did your love of fashion begin? You have an impressive evening gown collection – do you have a favourite dress?
Wendy Yu: My love for fashion began at very young age, when I was little I enjoyed playing with and collecting Barbie dolls, then I started to collect fashion magazines when I grew up. I love to be constantly surrounded by inspirations and creativity of all kinds. In terms of my favorite dresses; I have two. Mary Katrantzou recently did a bespoke gown for me to open the exhibition ‘Creatures and Creation’ at the Waddesdon Manor. Anna Hu also did a bespoke ring for me and named it a Wendy Yu butterfly piece. Mary did the dress in ten days – can you imagine? We did the last-minute stitching on site. The other one is Giambattista Valli – he did two bespoke gowns for me when I did an international debutante ball in New York. He did it in about three weeks. I am really into dreamy, crazy gowns!

yu-capital.com

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Reading time: 14 min
Priya Paul, one of India’s most prominent entrepreneurs, is chairperson of the design conscious, luxury five-star boutique hotel group ‘The Park Hotels’. She is heir to the Apeejay Surrendra Group, owners of Typhoo Tea, and her determination, spirit for hospitality and flair for design awarded her India’s fourth highest civilian honour, the Padma Shri in 2012 (for her services to Trade & Industry by the President of India). The President of the French Republic granted her Insignia of Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (National Order of Merit) an Order of State.  Kitty Harris talks to Priya about the Indian luxury market, leadership and innovating whilst staying true to heritage.
entrepreneur priya paul

Priya Paul

LUX: Apeejay Surrendra Group has been running for over 100 years. How has the business evolved since it began?
Priya Paul: The family business started over one hundred years ago with my grandfather and my father’s brothers and the business was originally in steel – in steel trading, small manufacturing and then into steel production. It then moved into shipping. We do dry bulk cargo ships and shipping, and we still have that business.

Later we added businesses such as hospitality, tea, real estate, finance, logistics and a whole lot of other businesses. Right now, it is my brother, my sister and myself who run the business and the main sort of businesses are shipping tea. We are the largest producers of tea in the country and we own Typhoo UK. We also have a hospitality business, real estate, logistics and other financial investments.

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LUX: What is the greatest challenge facing a group with so many different branches of investment?
Priya Paul: Indian businesses have been more diversified and have responded to many of the needs that the country has had in terms of investing. Traditionally, a lot of Indian business houses have largely been diversified. Firstly, to respond to the different needs and industries that arose when India was in its early decades of birth. I think having a diversified list of assets has been quite good for us over the long term; sometimes one thing is a drag and in other times, another one is. Particularly in a large family it has been quite good, because everyone has their own space.

LUX: It’s a family run business, is this ever difficult?
Priya Paul: Our family business was much larger, until we split up in 1989. Since then it has been my brother, my sister and myself. My mother and one of my uncles were also involved the nineties, so at one point there were five of us in the business. As I said, the business is large enough for everyone to have their own space. Yet, we make a lot of decisions together, certainly in the larger investments or re-investing. Decisions are made by us siblings now, together, and I think as we’ve grown up pretty much in the same age we see a lot of the same things and our world view is very similar. It has been quite rewarding for us.

LUX: You began your career under your father, the late Surrendra Paul, what was the greatest lesson you learnt from him?
Priya Paul: I worked with my dad for about a year and a half before he died. I think my father was very disciplined and I could see that in his work and in what he did. I can’t say I’m as disciplined, but it is something I try to emulate. He was especially disciplined and so I learnt from that. He would say, “work hard and play hard, and enjoy life too”. So that is how I live my life.

LUX: You’re the Chairperson of Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels – what is the key to its success?
Priya Paul: We are celebrating fifty years this year. It has always been a very young and vibrant company that reflected a contemporary aesthetic, even when it first opened in 1967. I would say my role has been to actually reposition and build it for a new generation of travelers and customers – both Indian and international. The success has really been to reinvigorate the brand, provide it with meaning and to position it as something that is far from ordinary. That’s my tagline: ‘anything but ordinary’.

LUX: The Park Hotels have new properties under construction, Chettinad (old palace conversion), Mumbai and Jim Corbett National Park – how do you decide on location and maintain the five-star level across so many properties?
Priya Paul: We have two brands now. We have one called The Park, which is a fifty-year-old, luxury, five-star brand with full service that’s routed in the design. When I go to look at a property, I want something from the interiors that I can create a unique identity with. Personally, it is very important for the space to be creative, interesting and not like any normal hotel you might see. The site and location are dependent on the type of city, as the city must be able to take that kind of hotel. We have now also launched a brand called Zone by the Park, which I call a design and price conscious hotel. Similar in essence to that of The Park, as they are still fun, lively and vibrant and remain a reflection of the local space. However, they are in smaller spaces in smaller cities and the hotel size typically ranges from 65 rooms to 300 rooms at most. The idea here is to create a vibrant, big-city atmosphere within a small city. Since that is what the smaller, growing, cities in India want and need. There is a whole aspirational class of customers that want a nice bar and restaurant with international food, as well as the local specialties. They want spaces where they can entertain and have their weddings.

LUX: How do the contemporary luxury boutique hotels (The Park Group Hotels) set themselves apart from the rest?
Priya Paul: I think it’s a combination of many things. We orchestrate the whole design and aesthetic of how the hotel looks; however, it is also how the hotel behaves. This is in terms of how the spaces interact and how the customer feels when they relax and are at ease in a place. There is still outstanding service, but our staff have been trained to deal with customers on a more equal basis and to be more relaxed and casual with them. It seems very simple now, but when we discussed it twenty years ago there was big kind of difference between how staff in a hotel would be treated by customers. There was a class difference and I think that has changed because hotels now attract younger service staff. I feel we have taken care to hire creative people with individuality, who are able to deliver that service in a different way. When we started talking about that around twenty years ago, that was quite a unique approach and that is the feel when you go into The Park. It is relaxed and casual and people are friendly. You have everything you might need and want, in an environment that is fun, creative and interesting.

Read next: The bohemian allure of Chiang Mai  

LUX: Is it important to hold on to heritage and tradition or to keep current?
Priya Paul: I think it’s a combination of two things. I am a firm believer that you need to know your culture and heritage and to preserve part of it, whilst allowing yourself to move forward. So, it’s a tricky balance. That being said, one of the hotels that we are currently restoring is in a palace. I firmly believe in heritage conservation and I believe this also applies to food. Twenty-five years ago we were not even exploring what our Indian food heritage was. But within twenty years, people have caught up and realised we are losing our grains, our vegetables, our techniques and our recipes. It is very important that we preserve those, but also that we move forward with them. Our food does not have to look the same for five hundred centuries. It has to evolve. For example, we host The Parks New Festival, which is a performing arts festival that now runs in six cities for a month – we started off in just one city! We do this because it’s actually for new performances not the old stuff, we want creatives to push and move forward. So how do you push comedy or music or dance? There’s that and I also think maybe it’s from my personal interest; you have to know your tradition, but we must still know how to move forward, explore and experiment.

LUX: How has the hospitably climate changed in India and how did you respond to these changes?
Priya Paul: We’ve always had a few very good luxury hotels because a lot of the palaces were converted. What’s happened in the last twenty five years, is many of the Indian brands invested in some great
properties and developed new circuits and new properties in lots of locations. A lot of the international brands have come in with their high-end brands, whether it’s Grand Hyatt and The Four Seasons. I think it has changed a lot. We have about eight million international tourists traveling into India but we have over 400 million Indian travelers traveling. So, the strength of the Indian market has never been better. At all levels of the 400 million people you need hotels and accommodation. And as people earn more money they want to move on to the next best thing. So, there is a lot of demand for luxury products within India, whether it is cars,hotel rooms, luxury dining or experiences. That has fueled a demand to supply and create those products. At all segments of the market I’ve seen growth; we are growing at seven something percent.

Park Hotel in Goa, India

The Park Calangute Goa

LUX: What’s the ultimate luxury in hospitality?
Priya Paul: You know I think I’m more of an explorer, I like exploring new places and cities or neighborhoods. For me, the luxury is in the exploration, in getting to know the area. I used to plan everything a lot more and now I just go to a place and I just discover. I think that’s also quite exciting, to just explore and you never know what you are going to find. Also, I always look for a hotel that is interesting, design wise. I typically don’t choose a chain hotel to stay in, unless there are brands doing new things. I don’t mind doing things once or twice, just to see what’s on. I look for a clean aesthetic, contemporary rooms; similar to what I do now with hotels. On the other hand, I also sometimes like grand, luxurious hotels and those old-fashioned hotels can sometimes be quite charming and interesting too. It depends on the destination.

LUX: You are a trustee of Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts (IGNCA) and board member of the National Council of Science Museums. You’re passionate about art and design, an art collector too – where did your love of the arts begin and how do you incorporate it into what you do?
Priya Paul: I think my love of the arts started off because I lived in Calcutta with my parents. Calcutta at that stage, and even now, is considered a very artistic city. The people are artistic and into the arts whether its music, dance, theatre or fine art. At a young age I did oil painting and my parents would take us to all the exhibitions in town. And at that time, in the seventies, there weren’t many art exhibitions in India but there were some in Calcutta. We would go to exhibitions, to see art and new artists. At that time, my parents collected art for the hotels, as well as personally, and so we were exposed to it at a young age and it just stayed with me.

Read next: The hottest new hotel opening on the Vietnamese coastline 

LUX: You’ve received numerous accolades and acknowledgements that include the FHRAI (Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India) who inducted you into their hall of fame in 2010. You were awarded “Excellence in Design Innovation 2011” by Condé Nast Traveller India. Which one was the most special to you?
Priya Paul: Numerous and I think a lot of them are from the industry. In the early years, it was very important to get those recognitions from the industry because I was not from the industry. I was doing something quite disruptive, I was making people look at hotels in a different way. It was great to be recognised then as doing something different and being successful but I think the most proud moment was the one I got from the government of India in 2012. The Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour, which was completely unexpected. I am probably one of the youngest people to get it in the industry and that was a very lovely recognition.

LUX: What does it take to be a good leader?
Priya Paul: Leadership requires different things at different times. I think I have a good “people instinct” and I enjoy working with people. But I’m also not afraid to make decisions and I think you have to be courageous as a leader, to make decisions whether they are bad or good. And you have to perform and stick by your decisions.

Park Hotel in Hyderabad, India

The Park Hyderabad

LUX: You’re a powerful female figure, with Forbes recognising you as top 100 most powerful business women in India – have you ever faced challenges in business from your gender?
Priya Paul: I’m lucky, in that I work in my own family business. When you work in your own family business you get the benefit of people accepting you because you are in that ownership and leadership role. Having said that, I started working at a very young age and I was also working at a time when there were very few young people working in business at a leadership level. Very often I felt people looked at me and thought you’re too young to be making that decision or to be in a decision-making role. I got more of a youth bias than a discrimination bias. But I was the owner and when in that position, you obviously have to handle yourself correctly whether you’re young or a woman. To me it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re a man or a woman, as long as they perform. But there are many people who have issues with it. I didn’t directly face that gender bias because of the industry I’m in. Even when I joined as a marketing manager, and General Manger of one hotel, when my father was around there were quite a few women in leadership roles in hospitality, because hospitality was much more equal. Women would always be heads of Sales and Marketing or Housekeeping, with a few General Managers and a few chefs. So there were even people twenty-five years ago in those leadership roles. There were some powerful women, even in hospitality.

LUX: Why was it important for you to be a Chairperson for the South Asia Women’s Fund?
Priya Paul: I was invited by Ford Foundation to be one of the founding directors of the South-East Asia Women’s Fund and I have always been a proponent of women’s empowerment and women’s leadership. Partly having had leadership roles in my School and College and having gone to a very pure feminist college in the US. It’s always been a part of my consciousness and so it’s my way of giving back and providing that leadership to the organisation. I was a director for many years, and I was elected to be chair a few years ago. It’s very interesting as I’m not from the field of women’s rights or activism but I think the organisation needed me to give it more direction, which I think has been quite successful. The organisation is doing good work.

LUX: If you hadn’t of gone into the family business, what would you have done?
Priya Paul: Well I’m asked that question a lot, and I have a standard answer for that. For many years I’ve said I would have been a chef. Cooking and food; it’s also a passion of mine. And luckily, I have wonderful chefs and I get to live vicariously through them. But that’s what I would’ve done, I would have run my own restaurant.

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Reading time: 14 min
New product by Fendi

Luxury is entering a new phase of uncharted territory as China matures, but at the heart of the consumer world, increasing income inequality will assume luxury brands still thrive, says our columnist Luca Solca

ExaneBNPparisbas_BW_JAlden-6

Luca Solca: head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas

China is no longer a market of very rich early adopters. Now, the most interesting part of the market is middle-class consumers. Discretionary spend per head is smaller than it was 10 or 15 years ago, and these consumers will benefit from price transparency levels which were unimaginable just a few years ago, because of digital luxury becoming mainstream.

The other obvious factor for any luxury brand in China is that gifting has completely gone away ever since the new leadership came on board, and this has demanded a fundamental readjustment by brands. Meanwhile, the early adopters first moved on to products and brands that were perceived to be more exclusive, to differentiate themselves, and then moved on to different product categories altogether. If we look at what the rich Chinese have done in recent years, we can see that they have bought a lot of property abroad, have spent money to send their children to schools overseas and to have very expensive individual holidays and medical checkups abroad.

Read next: Inside Knightsbridge’s newest luxury residence 

For the luxury brands, the best customers are the ones that have lots of money and empty wardrobes; then, as they spend their money on luxury goods and fill their wardrobes, they get to the point where they only buy replacements when needed. There are only so many Italian suits, so many Swiss watches, and so many branded handbags that you need. The rich early adopter Chinese went through that accumulation phase, and now are in a replacement mode, like many rich consumers in the west. In replacement mode, your wardrobes are full and you buy with significantly lower spend per capita in comparison to the past. Five years ago, the rich Chinese spent five to ten times more per capita than corresponding consumers in the US or Japan. As we move forwards and as the accumulation phase is finished, we find that spend per capita tends to converge in all these markets.

Bar at luxury hotel in Knightsbridge

The bar at the Rivea restaurant in the Bulgari hotel, Knightsbridge in London

There is an element of luxury spending now being more on experiences like travel and food. Also, there are different product categories: there are products that are more immediate and easier to buy, like a watch or a handbag, for example, and there are products that are more complex to buy because they require you to develop your own taste, like fashion. With clothing you need to mix and match different pieces, to develop some kind of personal taste. Then there are products that need you to own other significant products already: if you buy certain types of furniture and lighting, you will have a significant home already, so you will have already been down the learning curve. Taking Fendi in China as an example, they communicated that they were a relevant brand in furniture, and they are solidly among the top three brands in China, while in the West, they are nowhere near as relevant.

Read next: Horses, riders and geese at Saut Hermes 

And then at that stage, you shift your spend towards experiences which include travel, spending time with family and friends, good food and good wine.

Luxury typically develops via nationality. The 1980s was the decade of the Japanese, when they represented between 40 and 50 per cent of the global luxury market. The 1990s was the decade of the Russians. Twelve years ago, the Chinese were accounting for two or three per cent of the global luxury market, last year they accounted for close to a third. What is happening with China is not so different from what happened in the past, and for luxury brands, the growth formula of adding more stores in China and increasing prices because you have queues in front of your stores is no longer working.

Inside the Dubai's luxury hotel, Armani

The restaurant at the Armani Hotel in Dubai

There is another element at play in the luxury world, and that is the continuing increase in income inequality. If we go back 40 or 50 years or so to the 1960s and 1970s, we find what triggered the very significant development of the luxury industry in the United States was income inequality. This is the industry’s best friend, because you have a group of people in society significantly richer than the rest of the population. If you have the same level of wealth across a nation, luxury goods are not very relevant because there a very significant function these products play is conveying your status. First of all you need the money to seek satisfaction for relatively sophisticated needs: the need for beauty and refinement. But you also find these products attractive because of what they say about you, and who you are.

Read next: Real luxury strives for more, says Vilebrequin CEO Roland Herlory

When we look back in history, income inequality peaked in 1929, it then went down and reached the bottom of a trough in the early 1970s, and then rose and went roughly back to where it was in 1929, by 2008. And as long as we have interest rates at approximately zero worldwide, inequality will continue to increase because asset prices will go up. So while we may have reached the peak of the Chinese wave, I do not see a return to a situation where luxury brands are irrelevant as they were in the 1960s. If you strip out China, luxury growth over the last decade has been around two per cent, and now we have other nationalities in Asia coming on board, and the potential of India. At the moment, though, they are totally irrelevant: Indian luxury spend is worth less than one per cent of global luxury spend.

New product by Fendi

Bag by Fendi from the AW16 women’s collection

There is a debate within luxury about broadening the scope of your brand to get more consumers closer to it: the Bulgari  diversification into hotels is an interesting one, the properties are very good and this is a positive for the brand. But this is not core: such diversification is more of a nice-to-have than really relevant. You can’t address the key issues at the heart of developing a brand via such diversification. Brands are most relevant and most desirable closest to their core, and the further you go from the core, the less relevant and less desirable they become.

Luca Solca is head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas and one of the world’s most respected luxury analysts

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Vilebrequin model cactus

Roland Herlory, CEO of luxury swimwear brand Vilebrequin continues our Luxury Leaders series. He speaks to LUX about Saint Tropez’s 1970s rock’n’roll lifestyle, the influence of social media and working in St. Bart’s

CEO of Vilebrequin

Roland Herlory

LUX: How would you describe the Vilebrequin lifestyle?
Roland Herlory: When you think about Vilebrequin, you think about holidays and fantasy. About having a good time, relaxing, and sharing privileged moments with your loved ones. Vilebrequin wants to make this feeling of “lâcher prise” last all year long. Our style is elegant but casual and fun at the same time.

LUX: In the fast expanding luxury market, is heritage still as significant?
Roland Herlory: Of course it is! We were born in St-Tropez in 1971. At that time it was just a little harbour where many artists and icons gathered. It was a time when carelessness was allowed and freedom was in the air. Brigitte Bardot , Gunter Sachs, Françoise Sagan  …They all met and had fun together. It was rock’n’roll at that time and Mick even married Bianca Jagger in St-Tropez in 1971. Now times are different, but Vilebrequin still claims its St-Tropez 1970’s roots! It is very important because no other swimwear brand has this kind of heritage and expertise – apart from probably  Eres  created in 1969. Most of our clients work throughout the year in dark suits. Its only during their holidays that they allow themselves humour and freedom. Vilebrequin’s expertise is this delicate fine line between elegance and the joy to play. This is part of our heritage and we will keep working around this. The secret about men is that they embody strength when they feel comfortable with their bodies. Only then, they wear green elephants or pink crabs with an ultimate, male allure. For me, this is the St-Tropez spirit of the seventies for which Vilebrequin is still a symbol.

Read next: LUX takes a VIP tour of the Monaco Grand Prix 

LUX: What makes a product truly luxurious?
Roland Herlory: Quality is restless. The characteristic of real luxury is to always strive for more. For our golden swimsuits, it was our Italian embroidering company that came up with the idea to work with threads of real gold. Now, there are 15 grams of pure gold embroidered onto these special editions, plus 2 sapphires for the ends of the cords. Half of the 80 pieces that were produced were sold out in a second.

LUX: What are the most challenging issues you face as a CEO of an international business?
Roland Herlory: We always need to evolve. We still have the same ocean vocabulary but we always need to reinvent our classic, with the iconic turtle becoming bubbly or 3D. We don’t follow fashion, instead we are guided by our technological advances. What makes the human hand also allows us to progress stylistically. Today, thanks to ink jet printing, we can reach qualities of unsurpassed delicacy on a fabric, which is nevertheless extremely difficult.

Read next: LVMH’s Jean-Claude Biver on the singleness of real luxury 

LUX: How do you balance business with pleasure?
Roland Herlory: I live 10 days each month in St Bart’s, but I’m not at the beach as often as one might expect me to be living in the Caribbean. Having lived in St Bart’s for 15 years, you tend to look at the beach in a different way to tourists. If you’re were on holidays there, you would probably spend the whole day at the beach. But I work there, even if people don’t believe me when they hear ocean waves in the background of a phone call. The rest of the time I live in Geneva and Paris, travelling from subsidiary to subsidiary. I am moving around a lot.

LUX: How has the rise of social media affected or influenced your business decisions?
Roland Herlory: Under the #Poolside365 this year, and #SummerAllYearLong last year, fashion and lifestyle bloggers presented their favourite pools on the Vilebrequin blog and social networks. The whole digital Mise en Scène is a trend that is represented by these bloggers. Tradition stays alive if you inject modernity. It’s a skill I’m well accomplished in, having been at Hermès for 23 years. Tradition can become a part of the past very fast. We need these bloggers to add part of the modernity.

Read next: Bringing back the sounds of the seventies 

LUX: You’re a pioneer facing increasing competition, how do you deal with that?
Roland Herlory: You have to keep on fighting to maintain the level or to improve something. For example, quick dry was a big challenge during the last two years. The new collection dries three times quicker – I don’t know if I should even be telling you this yet – but my dream is to make completely water-resistant swim shorts. We are working on it, with nano-technology . But I don’t want the competitors to know more. Fabrics that dry fast are easy to be found, but they are thin and technical. When you leave water in such a fabric it sticks to your legs. Bad for selfies…Our material is- thanks to an elaborate fabrication process and incredible expertise – the ultimate elegance. Wet or dry , the swim shorts keep their look. But still the easiest solution for the problem is a second pair of shorts: one for the water, one for the beach.

Commercial shot of Vilebrequin swimwear

Vilebrequin menswear

LUX: What are the most important developments for Vilebrequin this year?
Roland Herlory: Vilebrequin was created 45 years ago so for us, this is an age of maturity. We will open more shops in Asia and Australia. We have been developing accessories, including shoes and soon sunglasses. We grow at our own rhythm, step by step. We will continue creating more products.

LUX: How do you relax?
Roland Herlory: The best way to relax is yoga. Otherwise, when I am home in St Bart’s, on a beach at sunset.
vilebrequin.com

 

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Reading time: 5 min
Switzerland with the lake and town surrounding it
Javad Marandi, international entrepreneur with investments in the UK and continental Europe, is the first to feature in our new Luxury Leaders series. Here Marandi describes his work in Switzerland, and how the nation retains investment appeal

The first investor featured in this series is Javad Marandi, a London-based entrepreneur with significant investments in the UK, continental Europe and Azerbaijan. Marandi focuses on hotels, commercial real estate, fast-growing retail companies, and blue chip companies in the manufacturing sector.

A UK Chartered Accountant by training, Marandi is also known as a successful second-tier investor in fast-growing British fashion retailers and is the owner of Soho House group’s Soho Farmhouse hotel in Oxfordshire, England. In the first part of our focus, he reveals the secrets of investing in Switzerland.

Javad Marandi billionaire businessman

London-based entrepreneur, Javad Marandi

Key fact bio: Javad Marandi

Born: January 1968, Tehran, Iran
Education: Electrical and Electronics Engineering and Chartered Accountant
Lives: London
Nationality: British
Married to: Narmina Marandi, nee Narmina Alizadeh, daughter of Ali Alizadeh, a prominent oncologist in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Children: 3
Investment strategy: Looking for growth sectors within the more mature stable markets of Western Europe in the small to medium sized industries.

Part One: Investing in Switzerland

LUX: Which sectors did you choose to invest in, in Switzerland?
Javad Marandi: I am a major investor in one of the country’s best-regarded manufacturing companies. I also co-own commercial warehouses.

LUX: What attracts you about Switzerland as a place to invest?
JM: The country is renowned for its highly qualified workforce, excellent education, apprenticeship and training schemes and high-quality infrastructure. Its location at the heart of Europe means it will always be a commercial crossroads, and the highly developed nature of its economy mitigates risk. All of this makes it an attractive environment for the investor.

LUX: How closely correlated is the growth of your investments with the Swiss economy?
JM: Annual GDP growth in the country since 2010 has been between 1 and 3 per cent, in line with my expectations. Growth has slowed a little in the last year, but Switzerland is a mature, low-risk market and there are plenty of opportunities to grow our investments there regardless of the macroeconomic situation. Having said that, the overall economic climate is very positive.

LUX: Has the slowdown in other European countries affected your Swiss businesses?
JM: The sectors we invest in are not highly exposed to economic developments in the rest of the EU. The construction manufacturing business is focused on the Swiss market. The commercial real estate is located in the north of the country on the transport infrastructure hub and yields are exactly as projected by the executives of the businesses.

LUX: How has your construction manufacturing business performed over the past five years?
JM: It has seen compound annual growth of over 5% in both our turnover and EBITDA. This is extremely satisfying performance given the backdrop of the appreciating Swiss currency and the Country’s GDP growth. There are plenty of opportunities to preserve and grow investments in the country.

Javad Marandi invests in Switzerland

Switzerland: an effective place to do business, according to Javad Marandi

LUX: Has the recent appreciation of the Swiss Franc affected your investments?
JM: The tourism sector has been affected, as have manufacturers that rely on exports. My investments have not been adversely affected. I think the independence of the Swiss Franc is a positive for the investment climate.

LUX: Do you personally enjoy visiting the country?
JM: I have visited Switzerland frequently over the past 20 years both for leisure and business. My first job was a multinational company near Geneva. I am first and foremost, a family man and the children, my wife and I love the mountains and the skiing! The investment climate down on the plateau, where my investments are based, is a contrast to the chocolate box image of the high mountains. The Swiss are sophisticated, cosmopolitan people who have been trading with their immediate neighbouring countries for centuries. They are multilingual and very adept at dealing with investors from all over the world.

LUX: Do you have any further plans for investment in the country?
JM: We are continually assessing potential investments in Switzerland and all over Europe, to complement our existing portfolio. However we base our decisions an analysis of potential return, rather than focussing on any specific country.

Note: Javad Marandi sold his stake in the Swiss construction manufacturing business in early 2021

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Reading time: 3 min

Looking for a piece of design that absolutely nobody else has? You need to head to a busy Swiss motorway junction and visit the Stilhaus (style house), a gigantic new building bespoked for showing off the best designers of interior architecture, luxury products, furniture and just about anything else. The building itself is as cool as anything it shows, but it’s also the only thing you can’t take with you. This particular image is of the latest winner of the prestigious Red Dot Design Award, by Zurich-based design team Gessaga Hindermann, showcased at the Stilhaus recently. There’s always something on.

stilhaus.ch

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