Male with arms crossed standing next to art
Male with arms crossed standing next to art

Petr Pudil, collector and founder of Kunsthalle Praha

A decade ago, an entrepreneur bought a decommissioned power station located in a prime position opposite Prague Castle. Investing some $40M together with his Family Foundation he regenerated this brownfield site and in 2015 relaunched it as the landmark Kunsthalle Praha, Prague’s first non-profit private institution. Samantha Welsh speaks with Petr Pudil about his passion for collecting, why he is dedicated to supporting contemporary Czech artists, and his vision for connecting the local art scene with international art movements.

big building with orange roof in sunshine

Former electrical substation, art institution Kunsthalle Praha

LUX: What is your background as an entrepreneur?

Petr Pudil: I am co-founder of BPD partners, leading family office in Prague. The BPD partners group actively seeks out companies with promising scientific and technological backgrounds. The priority is projects that bring new challenges regarding healthy economic growth and are in line with internationally recognised standards of social responsibility and sustainability.

Interior of building, empty space, white walls wood floors

The former power station redeveloped as Kunsthalle Praha

A stable part of the portfolio consists of long-term investments in biotechnology and chemistry, including investments in basic research, renewable resources, and the construction of environmentally friendly office complexes and residential properties.

 

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LUX:  When did you become involved with art philanthropy?

PP: My wife, Pavlina, and I started collecting art almost twenty years ago. We have never seen it as a financial investment, but rather as a tool to understand the connections of the world and life through the lens of artists, which is an alternative and enriching perspective for me as a businessman.

man and woman standing next to each other in a living space

Pavlina and Petr Pudil, collectors and cultural philanthropists

By purchasing contemporary art, we also wanted to support living artists. The idea to build a new Kunsthalle in Prague came about approximately 9 years ago.

LUX: How does Czech fit, historically, within the Central Europe art canon?

PP: The Czech lands and later Czechoslovakia have been in cultural contact with many European centres in the past centuries, naturally with Vienna within the monarchy, with Munich, and later in the 20th century, with Paris. As Václav Havel said, Prague has been a cultural crossroad of Europe for a thousand years. Our country is a natural part of the cultural and historical development of Central Europe.

LUX: What was your founding idea for the Kunsthalle Praha?

PP: We founded Kunsthalle Praha as a non-profit and non-governmental institution whose mission is to bring art to the lives of as many people as possible, with a focus on the younger generation. The second part of our mission is to connect the local scene with the international art environment.

LUX: What collaborations and sectors have you enjoyed shining a light on during these two years?

PP: I will highlight two moments. Since opening, our building has seen over 210,000 visitors, with the majority being younger than 35, which is a great result. And then, the introductory exhibition “Kinetismus,” which was created through a curatorial collaboration with Peter Weibel and ZKM Karlsruhe.

Art light installation in gallery

Inaugural exhibition November 2022, Kinetismus, photo by Vojtêch Veškrna, Kunsthalle Praha

It was an highly innovative exhibition that involved demanding research and, at the same time, became very popular with the local audience.

LUX: Vaclav Havel, Nobel Prize satirist and first democratically-elected president of post-soviet Czech and Slovakia, is a symbol for many of the trust vested by the people in literature to say the unsayable.  Was the samizdat movement art activism or covert propaganda?

PP: Currently, there is an exhibition at Kunsthalle Praha titled “Read” by Elmgreen & Dragset, where part of the exposition is about Czech samizdat literature.

Man walking between bookshelves

Installation ‘Point of View’ 2024 at exhibition ‘READ’ by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragnet

Samizdat was neither activism nor covert propaganda. It was driven by the simple desire of people for information and literature that was denied to them. Naturally, such “forbidden fruit” had a much wider audience than the dissident Charter 77 led by informal leader Václav Havel.

LUX: How has Kunsthalle Praha been received by your peers in the contemporary art ecosystem?            

PP: Kunsthalle Praha is bringing another platform for the presentation of contemporary and modern art to Prague, as well as a space for trans-generational dialogue between different communities. Our goal is to collaborate with other institutions, which we have been successful in achieving so far. We perceive the cultural institution ecosystem as a collaborative, rather than competitive, environment.

LUX: You are an innovator and serial entrepreneur, where else is your focus?

PP: Surely, it is a sport. I try to engage in some physical activity every day, and running, in particular, is an addiction and a way of mental regeneration for me.

LUX: How do you see your foundation evolving as a platform for sustainability in art?

PP: We have sought to apply sustainability principles already during the renovation of the building. It is not a new construction but the revitalisation of a contaminated brownfield in the historical center of Prague. We are preparing an ESG report and striving to exceed our regional peers in all aspects of ESG metrics

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

LUX: What one tip would you share with a young collector wanting to make a difference?

PP: It is not easy at all to find distinctiveness, it is actually a very ambitious goal. If you want to build a unique, distinctive collection, I would focus on new, digital media. Everyone knows that the digitisation of society must be reflected in art, but we still don’t know how art will respond to this phenomenon, and we certainly don’t know yet how to collect such art.

 

Online Editor: Isabel Phillips

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A black and white image of huge waves about to crash into the sea
An underwater vortex of waves in the sea

Photo by Ben Thouard

Creating a sustainable blue economy – meaning we can invest in businesses directly related to the oceans while avoiding negative impact – is one of the most important tasks on humankind’s to-do list. Below, LUX speaks with Muriel Danis of Deutsche Bank about the challenges. Chris Stokel-Walker also speaks to entrepreneurs trying to make a positive impact in the ocean space

Muriel Danis on building investment opportunities in the sustainable blue economy

A woman wearing a white shirt

Muriel Danis

One of the challenges faced by investors interested in the sustainable blue economy is that it is an emerging landscape. “It’s a very nascent space,” says Muriel Danis, Global Head of Product Platforms and Sustainable Solutions at Deutsche Bank’s International Private Bank. “There are few products dedicated to the blue economy. What we see more often, especially in the private markets space, is a broader, impact approach to investing, with a sub-allocation for ocean-based investments.”

Danis is overhauling the products at Deutsche Bank by making sustainability a central part of the tenet. She is incorporating ESG qualitative and quantitative factors into the product development process to meet regulatory requirements and help identify “best in class” managers and solutions. That is easier said than done. Most liquid products available today focus primarily on what Danis calls a “do no harm approach”: they tend to exclude from investment portfolios any sectors or activities that have a materially negative impact on the oceans. However, in private markets there may be more product opportunities able to deliver material and measurable positive outcomes. “We are seeing a number of VC funds that are directly investing in technologies and capabilities that protect marine biodiversity,” says Danis. “By targeting overfishing, ocean pollution and climate change, they are supporting a sustainable blue economy.”

A black and white image of huge waves about to crash into the sea

Photo by Ben Thouard

“We think this will be an expanding universe,” adds Danis. That’s partly driven by investor demand, and partly by increased policy action. A good example is the recent UN High Seas Treaty, which aims to place 30 per cent of the seas into protected areas by 2030. This will support increased finance flows into sectors of the sustainable blue economy impacted by the 30 x 30 agreement. “As the market becomes more mature,” says Danis, “we will see more need for financing to support the transition of business models to what I would call a blue or green model.”

Danis is spearheading that transition by making connections to blue economy pioneers. One such opportunity was the DB x ORRAA Ocean Conference hosted in 2022 in Mallorca. In the first conference of its kind, Deutsche Bank invited a range of companies and their founders, including some of those featured below, to demystify the sustainable blue economy and show how private capital can help achieve positive ocean impact at scale.

Entrepreneurs on creating businesses for the good of the oceans

A new generation of individuals are setting up companies worldwide to radically overhaul how we interact with our oceans, and help save our planet while building a sustainable economy

A woman wearing a black top and glasses

Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz

Replacing ship engines with sails
Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz
Co-founder, bound4blue, Barcelona

Cristina Aleixendri Muñoz always wanted to be a doctor. “I thought the only way to do good in theworld was to save lives,” she says. But a chance conversation with a teacher who suggested engineering changed her path.

Muñoz became an aeronautical engineer, working on planes and space shuttles before pivoting to the maritime industry. That aerodynamic expertise helped when she launched bound4blue with her co-founders. The challenge was to overcome the shipping industry’s fuel-consumption problem – shipping alone accounts for 2.5 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.

“I think engineering can help solve today’s hardest problems, make sustainability profitable and be something that can be developed and implemented,” says Muñoz. The company has developed a wind-propelled eSAIL that can reduce emissions by up to 40 per cent, and which it has tested on three ships. “The intention is for around 80 per cent of the global fleet to benefit from this type of solution,” she says.

bound4blue.com

Marine-friendly robotics
Liane Thompson
Co-founder, Aquaai, California and Norway

A woman with long wavy hair

Liane Thompson

As a journalist for The New York Times, Liane Thompson used to travel the world. Once, while she was in South Africa, she reported on an entrepreneur called Simeon Pieterkosky. Little did she know then that she would reconnect with Pieterkosky around a decade later in 2014 to develop Aquaai.

The husband-and-wife’s marine-robotics company builds affordable Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), which it calls Nammu. These are shaped like fish and are used to gather environmental data deep underwater, without intruding on the marine life living there. The AUVs are 3D printed and come installed with off-the-shelf cameras and sensors – deliberately so, says Thompson, so that people can build their own in communities that need them most.

And that need is ever increasing, says Thompson, “given superstorms, floods, the proteins and food sources coming out of underwater farming, and the need to protect marine habitats and corals.”

aquaai.com

Biodiversity-friendly coastal concrete
Ido Sella
Co-founder, ECOncrete, Tel Aviv

A bald man wearing a white shirt

Ido Sella

Marine biologist Dr Ido Sella has been fixated on the impact of coastal construction on the marine environment for more than 20 years. His bugbear? Concrete, as it doesn’t support the same biodiversity as other substrates. In an ideal world, natural reef would mark out ports and create promontories – but that won’t happen. So Sella worked to develop a material that would be better than the concrete used in 70 per cent of coastal infrastructure.

And so, in 2012, ECOncrete was born. A decade ago, the company started experimenting in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The findings were shocking: the mix itself was an issue, as was the surface and the structural strength. ECOncrete solves all three problems: its Admix can be added to regular concrete to provide a better chemical balance for marine life, its texture agents help marine life cling to the structures and their moulds help create ecological niches and strengthen the structures.

ECOncrete is now used in breakwaters and ports globally. “There is a real drive from the industry to look for these solutions,” says Sella.

econcretetech.com

The curve of a wave and the blue sky

Photo by Ben Thouard

Large-scale coral regrowth
Sam Teicher
Co-founder, Coral Vita, Freeport

A man with a beard wearing a white t-shirt and shirt

Sam Teicher

At the age of 13, Sam Teicher gained a scuba- diving certification. “I’ve loved the ocean and nature my whole life,” he says. “As a kid from Washington D.C., I grew up imagining I was going to become a coral farmer.” Teicher studied the environment and climate change in college, then grad school. It was through working at a friend’s NGO between courses that he was first introduced to coral restoration – and it became his life’s work.

Coral Vita, the company Teicher co-founded in 2019, grows coral 50 times faster than it would grow in nature – so it can be replenished as modern life diminishes our reserves of the natural resource. Started with a $1,000 grant from Yale, where Teicher and his co-founder met, Coral Vita is now behind the world’s first commercial land-based coral-reef farm, in Freeport, Grand Bahama, where the coral grown is being used to replenish the reef. In 2021, the company won Prince William’s inaugural Revive Our Oceans Earthshot Prize. “We hope to kick-start the whole restoration economy,” says Teicher.

coralvita.co

Biodegradable packaging and materials
Jack Sieff
Corporate Development Manager, Polymateria, London

A man sitting down with his hands on this lap wearing a suit

Jack Sieff

Plastic waste is a major problem for the world’s oceans, strangling marine life and jeopardising biodiversity systems. There is now an estimated 30 million tonnes of plastic waste in the world’s sea and oceans.

Founded in 2015 by Jack Sieff’s father Jonathan, Polymateria has developed biodegradable alternatives to plastic. In 2020, Polymateria reached a major milestone, achieving certified biodegradation of the most commonly littered forms of plastic packaging in real-world conditions, all without creating the harmful microplastics the world is seeking to avoid. “Since the launch of that standard, we’ve seen a domino effect,” Sieff says, as many countries are adopting similar standards.

Polymateria’s biodegradable materials are now utilised in items such as masks and wipes, along with other uses. The company raised £15 million in its Series-A funding before the pandemic hit, and is about to close out a Series-B round, bringing in a further £20 million.

polymateria.com

Autonomous sailing fleet that creates power
Ben Medland
Founder, DRIFT Energy, London

A man wearing a back suit and white shirt

Ben Medland

Engineer Ben Medland didn’t know how to answer when his eight-year-old son asked him, “Daddy, why is the climate broken? And how can we fix it?” Medland’s son had been reading about a recent COP conference, and had noticed that the nearby wind farm just wasn’t moving. What could be done? Medland vowed to try to change things by turning the 70 per cent of the planet that traditional renewables don’t reach – the world’s oceans – into an energy source. He admits that it is a “crazy” idea, but it is one that works.

DRIFT, founded in 2021, creates sailboats, augmented with turbines, which will go through the water, guided by AI to inform them of the most beneficial route to pick up power. The tides themselves generate energy into the turbine, which is stored onboard as green hydrogen using a process called electrolysis.

Better yet, that onboard green energy can then be used wherever the sailboats end up docking – bringing green energy to the parts of the world that need it the most.

drift.energy

This article was first published in the Deustche Bank Supplement in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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festive table arrangement
festive table arrangement

Photograph by Jennifer Sosa

As Christmas fast approaches, Los Angeles-based chef and entrepreneur Olivia Muniak shares her tips on curating a successful festive party for family and friends

For me, the holiday season revolves around dreaming up new and exciting menus that reinvent classic favourites with seasonal ingredients and unexpected flavours. Admittedly, hosting is in my job description, but I take the same pleasure in putting on a magical evening for my friends as I do in designing an event for clients. Below, are a few tricks I’ve learnt over the years to reduce stress and ensure success.

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1. Atmosphere & Music

Curating a successful event in your home is about all achieving the perfect balance of food, drink, atmosphere and music. Personally, I like to use lots of unscented candles dotted around the house and assembled on the dining table. It’s a quick and easy way to create a warm, magical atmosphere.

In terms of music, I usually prepare playlist of my favourite artists such as Cesaria Evora, Amanz, Buena Vista Social Club and Rhye. Random pop or rock songs playing from your Spotify “like” list can make for a bumpy night.

Right now, I can’t stop listening to… Orchestra Baobab.

woman mixing cocktails

Olivia mixing cocktails in her home. Photograph by Jennifer Sosa

2. Aperitivo Hour

Building in time to greet your guests with cocktails is the warmest way to welcome someone into your home. I find that if you can allow time to enjoy conversation and a drink with friends, it sets the tone for a more fun and relaxed evening. Having a large batch of cocktails pre-mixed so that you can pour the liquid over ice makes your job as bartender even easier.

Try this cocktail… Bianco (White) Negroni 

Read more: Alain Ducasse & Dom Pérignon’s Ephemeral Dining Experience

3. Wine & Food Pairings

Even the simplest wine pairing can really elevate an event. While some guests or family members might prefer stick to their preference of white or red, try offering different varieties of grapes that enhance the flavours of your dish. It might sound obvious, but I find the best place to start is often the local wine shop. It can be really helpful to get some expert advice based both on what you’re cooking and the kind of atmosphere you’d like to create.

This Christmas I’ll be drinking… a Barolo in Tuscany.

woman preparing a salad

Photograph by Jennifer Sosa

4. Approaching Cooking Like a Pro

People always ask how I make cooking and entertaining look and feel so easy, my answer is always prep! I begin the shopping and the cooking days before the party so that when it comes to the evening, I get to actually enjoy the event.

I start by reading the recipe through a few times to make sure I’m not missing any specific produce or complicated processes – you don’t want your guests arriving just after you’ve discovered the main dish needs 3hrs in the oven. Then, I prepare my mis-en-place (a French culinary term that refers to a chef’s “set” station) so that I have each ingredient pre-measured and ready at my fingertips.

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

There are often things that can be done the morning of the event, or even the day before, which will, again, save you time and stress when your guests arrive. Vegetables, for example, can often be precooked and a salad (undressed) can be ready in the fridge. Personally, I like to make the dessert a day or two prior to the party.

I also highly recommend trying to stay on top of your washing up during the cooking process – having an empty dishwasher is a lifesaver for that late-night clean up. Or else, opt for a glamorous approach (it’s Christmas, after all) and hire someone to help out with serving food, pouring wine and clearing away dishes.

The most thumbed cookbook in my kitchen… Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California by Travis Lett

curated dining table

Photograph by Jennifer Sosa

5. Decor

I’m a collector by nature. Over the years, I have amassed all sorts of dishes, serving platters,  vintage glassware and eclectic trinkets. Personally, I think life’s too short to be precious about Grandma’s china, but if you have a slim collection at home, there are numerous rental companies from which you can source beautiful dishes, glassware and flatware (and most let you return it dirty).

Outside of the necessary items on the table, I like to add small vases with delicate florals, or larger clusters of sparse branches arranged in clear vases so guests can still see each other across the table. A simple, dark velvet ribbon tied around a napkin is a quick way to add texture, colour and sensuality to a table.

My favourite homeware shop… Il Buco Vita in New York City.

Olivia Muniak is the founder of La Cura, a Los Angeles-based catering and events company. For more information, visit: thisislacura.com

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Reading time: 4 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.

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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
Man standing in front of painting

Durjoy Rahman with Kiefer’s Cell (Diptych) (1999) by Atul Dodiya. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Bangladeshi entrepreneur and art collector Durjoy Rahman is on a mission to make the world a better place through artistic dialogue and cultural collaborations between artists from the Global North and South. Rebecca Anne Proctor reports

It was mid March 2021 and the world was slowing waking up from a long sleep after the global lockdowns and travel restrictions that had been enforced to curb the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Dubai, the megalopolis Gulf city, was already open and it was kicking off with Art Dubai, one of the first in-person art fairs the art world experienced in the past year. As big art-world personalities flocked to the United Arab Emirates, so too did a rising star from Dhaka, Bangladesh – Durjoy Rahman. The art collector and textile and garment entrepreneur used the occasion of Art Dubai to present one of his latest art initiatives that uses contemporary art to champion social issues. The Dubai Design District featured a large-scale installation of elephants by Bangladeshi artist Kamruzzaman Shadhin and Rohingya craftspeople from the Kutupalong refugee camp. Titled Elephant in the Room, it made its international debut in Dubai. The work, unmissable by those visiting the futuristic Dubai Design District, originated in the desire to forge a dialogue about human and environmental displacement. The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state thought to number around one million people who remain unrecognised as citizens or as one of the country’s 135 recognised ethnic groups by the country’s ruling party. By exhibiting a work with the involvement of Rohingya people, Durjoy hoped to draw attention to their cause.

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From the Indian subcontinent, the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF), founded in 2018 in Berlin and Dhaka, is one of a handful of collector-led foundations in South Asia working to support creatives, the majority of which have been set up during the past decade. There’s the Bengal Foundation, founded in 1986 and based in Dhaka, which acts as a non-profit and charitable organisation; the Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group conglomerate; the HerStory Foundation, a not-for-profit that supports gender equality through storytelling, illustration, design, and dialogue; and the Samdani Art Foundation (SAF), a private arts trust based in Dhaka, founded in 2011 by collector couple Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani. In neighbouring India, several collector-led foundations have sought individually and collectively to foster India’s rich art scene. These include the Gujral Foundation, founded by Mohit and Feroze Gujral; Kiran Nadar Museum, founded by collector Kiran Nadar; and the Devi Art Foundation, founded in 2008 by Anupam Poddar and his mother, Lekha Poddar. In Pakistan, the Lahore Biennale Foundation and the Como Museum of Art, the country’s first private museum of contemporary art that opened in 2019, are notable.

elephant sculptures

Elephant in the Room (2018) by Kamruzzaman Shadin and Rohingya craftspeople from the Kutupalong refugee camp, installed at the Dubai Design District in 2021. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Despite the region’s fast-growing economies, major gaps between rich and poor still exist, as does a lack of infrastructure and funding for arts and culture. Art foundations such as the DBF have been pivotal in supporting artistic research and practice. What defines these foundations, which are critical to the expansion of modern and contemporary South Asian discourse, is their ability to take risks and to experiment. For a world increasingly defined by borders, this approach is crucial and one that Durjoy has not taken lightly over the past several years. Cultural awareness and collaboration has been key to his vision for the DBF’s mission.

His support for the exhibition ‘Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan’, which opened at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge in 2019, is a case in point. Through sculpture, painting, performance, film and photography, the exhibition told the stories of migration and resettlement in South Asia and internationally, engaging with the painful memories of displacement and the challenging notion of ‘home’ following the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 and the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

hanging textile artwork

Gbor Tsui (2019) by Serge Attukwei Clottey. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Passionate and energetic, Durjoy never stops, not even during a global pandemic. In a year when many art collectors, galleries and institutions had to do business at a slower pace, Durjoy was busier than ever in Dhaka. The textile entrepreneur, who runs the Bangladeshi garment and textile-sourcing business Winners Creations Ltd, was actively staging new exhibitions, online and live, to support his foundation. Its mission is to promote art from South Asia and beyond, part of the so-called Global South, to forge a critical dialogue within an international context.

Cultural exchange, particularly between artist and arts practitioners from South Asia and beyond, is paramount to the DBF’s vision. Its recent projects, such as ‘No Place Like Home’, a Rohingya art exhibit consisting of Shadhin’s Elephant in the Room and pieces created by Rohingya refugees living in the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh, aim to raise awareness of the plight of displaced communities, is just one of many that Durjoy and his foundation have initiated over the past three years.

Read more: In the Studio with Idris Khan

“Art creation can keep the conversation going on important issues,” said Durjoy from his office in Dhaka. “The Rohingya crisis is an example. When it first took place, the news was everywhere. Now, three years on and it doesn’t make the headlines. Through exhibition art made by Rohingya we can keep the conversation alive and hopefully it will result in some change.”

Durjoy, who since 1997 has been collecting art with a strong focus on supporting artists from Bangladesh and South Asia, has long believed that artists from the sub-continent haven’t been given the recognition they deserve on the global stage. The first work he bought was by Bangladesh Modernist Rafiqun Nabi, a famous cartoonist and visual artist known for his creation of the character Tokai, a street urchin. “He produced this character to show the everyday struggle in Bangladeshi society,” explains Durjoy. “He used Tokai to express his visions about what was happening around him. I have been a big fan of his ever since I was young.”

sculptures on a table

art collection

Works in Durjoy Rahman’s collection include Le Baron Fou (2009) and La Baleine (2014) by Novera Ahmed (top), (below, on the wall) Gasp (2013) by Charles Pachter and (sewing machine) 100 Years Old (2018) by Tayeba Begum Lipi. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy now has more than 70 works by Nabi in his collection of 1,000 or more works of South Asian and international art by the likes of David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Bangladeshi modernists such as Safiuddin Ahmed, as well as South Asian antiques including Ghandharan art and works from the Pala Dynasty dating from the 9th to 11th centuries in Bengal. His collection exemplifies his worldly interests, his love of art and other cultures, and his desire to bring artists from around the world together in unison and creative dialogue. Since his first purchase of Nabi’s work, he has sought to support and collect works by emerging and established Bangladeshi artists in particular, which has become the prime objective of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation.

Over the years, Durjoy noticed a shift in attention from the global art community towards what was taking place in South Asia. “The heightened curiosity towards the East and what is taking place has influenced many artists from the sub-continent to produce works that are more socially charged, that illuminate post-colonial thought and impressions and the continual struggle with notions of identity and statehood,” Durjoy explains. In 2018 he finally took the plunge and established his own foundation with the mission to further the visibility of artists from the Global South – those, as he says, who are often disadvantaged, who don’t come from areas with much art education or infrastructure. Durjoy staged projects, art residencies and exhibitions that support his cause and, importantly, foster creative and cultural dialogue between the artists of South Asia and other areas in the Global South with those elsewhere in the world.

Read more: Helga Piaget on educating the next generation

“I sensed that there needed to be a platform that could represent artists from South Asia as I felt they had not yet been recognised internationally in the way that they should have been,” he says. He admits that at first it was challenging, given his hybrid role of collector and director of a foundation. “It might have looked in the beginning like I was trying to promote the artists in my collection, but then I realised that I could work with artists who were not already in my collection and whose practice and work I appreciated. I truly believe we need to play a more important role in shaping the art system originating from the sub-continent and making a bridge between South Asia and Europe.”

Durjoy first set up a base for the foundation in Berlin in 2018. He was advised on the decision by well-known art advisor Marta Gnyp, known for her work with contemporary African artists. “I admire Durjoy’s curiosity, open-mindedness and his ability to learn extremely fast,” said Gnyp. “This, in combination with the ambitious, focused and very well structured programme of his Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation, makes him one of the forces that will shape the future of the South Asian art world.” Later that year Durjoy set up the office in Dhaka where he now has a team of 10 people working for the foundation. He launched his initiative with the unveiling of his donation of Indian artist Mithu Sen’s powerful and nostalgic installation MOU (Museum of Unbelongings) (2011–18) to the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Germany as part of their permanent collection. “This was how we made the announcement of the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation, by having Sen’s installation mark one of the first times that a work by a South Asian artist who happens to be female is in the permanent collection of a European institution,” he adds.

installation artwork

MOU (Museum of Unbelongings) (2011-18) by Mithu Sen. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

This gift to the Kunstmuseum followed a serendipitous meeting between Durjoy and Dr Holger Broeker, head of the collection and senior curator there. Earlier that year, the museum had staged ‘Facing India’, a show marking the first museum exhibition in Germany to present works by women artists from India. The works included in the exhibition, by Vibha Galhotra, Bharti Kher, Prajakta Potnis, Reena Saini Kallat, Mithu Sen and Tejal Shah, questioned the idea of borders of all kinds, whether political, territorial, ecological, religious, social, personal or gender-based. Broeker and Durjoy met by chance one evening in Berlin at GNYP Gallery. “When I asked him about the focus of his collection,” remembers Broeker, “he told me about his project to promote art from the Bangladeshi region and India in Europe and America, and that he himself had already exhibited Western art in Bangladesh in return. He wanted to intensify this idea of cultural exchange within the framework of foundation. An extraordinarily intensive and fruitful communication developed between us and Durjoy donated Sen’s magnificent work to us for our collection.”

Sen’s powerful installation forms the beginning of the Kunstmuseum’s Indian art collection, which now includes works by Tejal Shah, Gauri Gill and Prajakta Potnis. Uta Ruhkamp, the museum’s curator, said, “Mithu Sen finds an international but unconventional visual language that reaches beyond markers like nationality, religion, wealth, skin colour, caste, family, education and language that people use to distinguish themselves from others in both ways, whether feeling superior or inferior. Sen’s installation contains a personal collection of objects and artworks from all over the world. She curated it her way, creating ‘joint’ artworks by combining objects, narrating stories, and suggesting a colourful world free of hierarchies. No label, no categories. It is a global statement, the vision of a world that does not yet exist.”

man speaking into microphone

Artist Serge Attukwei Clottey with his work Gbor Tsui during the exhibition ‘Stormy Weather’ at Arnhem Museum. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy, an entrepreneur, lets nothing get in the way of his goals. The number of projects, exhibitions and residencies his foundation has staged in just over three years is startling and impressive. One is example is DBF’s support of Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey in the production of a large artwork featured in the 2019 exhibition ‘Stormy Weather’ at the Arnhem Museum in the Netherlands on the theme of climate change and social justice. After the show, Clottey’s work entered the museum’s collection.

Testament to Durjoy’s desire to support artists in need are two initiatives he launched during the pandemic. One is called Bhumi, which was a collaboration with the Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Arts aiming to help rural communities that make crafts, art and land art. The other programme is Future of Hope, for which Durjoy asked nine artists to create work in response to present global challenges. The works were displayed at the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation last October 2020. “The crux of Durjoy’s mission is to raise awareness of the Global South and supporting and promoting emerging and established artists from that region, but to do so in dialogue with artists from other places around the world,” said Iftikhar Dadi, artist and a professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University in New York. “I love his energy, dynamism and openness.”

light artwork

Shapla from the series ‘Efflorescence’ (2013-19) by Iftikhar Dadi and Elizabeth Dadi. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

One example of Durjoy’s mission to raise awareness of such artists is the 10-year Majhi International Art Residency Program. ‘Majhi’ in Bengali means boatman or the leader or guide. He is the one, explains Durjoy, who steers people on the boat on a certain course. “My vision is to take artists from South Asia and the Global South to Europe every year to work with artists there so that they can exchange thoughts and ideas.” The first edition of the Majhi International Art Residency took place in Venice in 2019 and the 11 artists selected included Dilara Begum Jolly, Dhali Al-Mamoon, Rajaul Islam (Lovelu), Noor Ahmed Gelal, Uttam Kumar Karmaker, Kamruzzaman Shadhin, Umut Yasat, Chiara Tubia, Cosima Montavoci, Andrea Morucchio and David Dalla Venezia. They are from different regions of the world: six were born in Bangladesh, one is of mixed Turkish and German heritage, and four are Venetians. During their stay, the artists were invited to reflect upon the question: “Does life in these uncertain times of crisis and turmoil make art more interesting?” The question was a response to the title of Ralph Rugoff ’s 58th Venice Biennale that year, ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’. The first residency resulted in a dialogue of works that achieved exactly the aims of the foundation, with the artists choosing the title of the final exhibition.

The residency continued in Dhaka as part of the annual 15th Contemporary Art Day organised by the Association of the Italian Museums of Contemporary Art and supported by DBF. ‘The Scent of Time’ exhibition was hosted at Edge, The Foundation and featured work by the residency’s artists.

artist drawing in front of canvas

artist at work

The Mahji International Art Residency in Venice, 2019, with artists David Dalla Venezia (top) and Umut Yasat. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy recently acquired a second work by Morucchio for his collection, a digital print on aluminium titled Merlyn. Durjoy says he was attracted to the artist’s work that drew attention to the dangerous effects of mass tourism in Venice, the subject of Morucchio’s project ‘Venezia Anno Zero’ documenting the serenity of the city during lockdown.

“Majhi, the boatman, travels from one destination to another – just like the artist going to the residency, he does not stop in one fixed place,” explains Durjoy. While 2020 posed numerous challenges, Durjoy made sure the Majhi residency continued. “When 2020 closed the world, we didn’t stop,” he says. “Because we already have a strong presence in Berlin, we decided to stage to residency there as part of Berlin Art Week.” The residencies, like Durjoy’s multifaceted vision, always involve numerous factors. For the Berlin exhibition, he invited a food and music collective to enliven the venue.

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

The foundation is now gearing up for its next location, Eindhoven in the Netherlands in October 2021. The theme is ‘Land, Water and Borders’. While Durjoy admits it is a challenging topic, it is ultimately one that reflects the present post-colonial struggles the world continues to experience. He says that, like the residency in Berlin, they will incorporate sound and acoustics into the residency that will take place during the Dutch Design Week. “It’s important that we make everything current,” he adds.

Durjoy’s cross-cultural efforts to elevate artists from South Asia are also apparent in his foundation’s recent partnership with the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, where international artists join a residency programme with an emphasis on experiment and critical engagement. “The objective of this partnership is to promote the exchange between artists from South Asia and the international artists’ network of the Rijksakademie and the strengthening of the position and visibility of artist from South Asia,” explains Susan Gloudemans, the Rijksakademie’s director of strategy and development. The first Fellowship is for Rajyashri Goody from India, who started her residency in September 2021. Rajyashri has been selected from 1,600 artists from 115 countries for one of the 23 residency positions available. The Fellowship covers the living expenses of the artist and is a direct way of contributing to the professional development and breakthrough of a promising artist. “The importance of DBF’s support of the Fellowship programme goes beyond the individual artist,” Gloudemans adds. “We know from experience that this line of support will increase the participation of other artists from the region in the Rijksakademie programme and that the local art scene in Bangladesh and South Asia will be able to benefit from the exchanges and collaborations that result from it.”

group of people standing underneath arch

Durjoy Rahman with the artists and curators from the residency’s 2019 edition. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Durjoy’s passion and endless enthusiasm for his foundation’s mission is contagious. A silent artistic revolution seems to be taking place in Dhaka and Berlin, one that is urging artists and arts practitioners to become more open-minded in their approach and vision through artistic and creative dialogue. These are results, as Durjoy knows, that can only come about when people from various cultures and nations are brought together to speak, work and learn from each other. In March 2021, the DBF hosted ‘From Here to Eternity’, a one-day online symposium looking at topics such as gender, sexuality and race in relation to art and photography; the transnational consciousness in cities of the UK, North America and India; and artistic responses to social and political change. Along these same themes was DBF’s support for renowned Indian photographer Sunil Gupta’s show ‘From Here to Eternity: Sunil Gupta. A Retrospective’ at The Photographer’s Gallery (TPG) in London in 2020–21. “Given the scarcity of cultural organisations promoting the work of visual artists from the Global South, the Durjoy Foundation is filling an important vacuum within cultural relations,” says Francesca Pinto, the director of business development at TPG.

The North-South divide is a present reality reflecting centuries of colonialism, tensions and political feuds. If trauma is inter-generational, then to heal the resulting pain means looking at its origins, and Durjoy’s work through DBF attempts to make past wounds less painful through an understanding and recognition of the other through art. It starts, as he is demonstrating so passionately, by raising awareness about challenging socio-political and economic subjects. As he puts it: “When the headlines no longer carry these stories, then art can continue the narrative.”

black and white street photographs

portrait of man by fence

Images from Sunil Gupta’s series ‘Christopher Street’ (1976) from Durjoy Rahman’s collection. Images courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery. Copyright Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACs 2021. Courtesy of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

How to define the Global South?

There is still much discussion over how to define the ‘the Global South’, a term coined in the late 1960s but being increasingly used today. The concept of the Global North and Global South (or North-South divide) describes a grouping of countries according to socio-economic and political characteristics. The Global South usually denotes lower-income countries, once referred to as Third World countries, while the Global North is often equated with developed or First World countries. However, this distinction can be misleading. Nations in the Gulf of Arabia, for example, are in the Global South but can be characterised as Global North countries. “During the Cold War we had the Third World model, which referred to the first world, second world and third world,” explains Ifkhtiar Dadi, a professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University. “Since the 1990s, the Global South has emerged as a working definition to look at the realities of these regions over the past 30 years since the end of the Cold War. I feel it is the most neutral and effective term today but the critique against it is that it evacuates the politics of an unequal world.”

As borders continue to be disputed despite an increasingly globalised world, the ideas of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ continue to be questioned. Dr Devika Singh, a curator of International Art at Tate Modern who specialises in art from South Asia, illuminates the paradigm in the book Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, published to accompany the exhibition of the same name at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, UK. “The notion of homeland belongs to the realm of the imagination and to seemingly distant, yet constantly revisited, pasts,” she writes.

“It also belongs to our present times of suffering and anxiety often spawned by national borders. The imposition and safeguarding of borders disrupt not only the long histories of human movements and exchanges, but also shared pasts, languages, and cultures. Displacement, whether forced exile or voluntary expatriation, and the notions of home and nation, therefore, appear intrinsically connected.”

Find out more: durjoybangladesh.org

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 18 min
man with handbags and watches
man with handbags and watches

Founder of Xupes, Joe McKenzie

Joe McKenzie and his father Frank founded Xupes in 2009, selling a handful of pre-owned Cartier watches from their home in Bishop’s Stortford. The company now sells a curated collection of vintage handbags, jewellery, art and design pieces alongside refurbished luxury timepieces. Here, he speaks to Candice Tucker about sustainable luxury, the rise of the digital marketplace and future collectibles

1. What inspired you to enter the pre-owned luxury retail industry?

I’ve always been interested in and participated in the circular economy. When I was 13, I was buying and selling clothes on eBay. I’ve always had an appreciation for nice things (but couldn’t afford them!) with an interest in engineering. Buying pre-owned gave me the ability to own and enjoy nice clothes for a few months and then, often sell them for double what I paid. When I was 15, I taught myself to repair airsoft gearboxes. Airsoft was an increasingly popular sport at the time and I imported parts from China to offer one of the first repair services in the UK. This was my first proper job that gave me the ability to save up some money. My parents have always taught me the importance of independence and I guess my entrepreneurship started from a young age inspired by my father and grandfather who both ran their own successful businesses.

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The mechanics of watches always fascinated me (my great grandfather was a clock maker) and when I was lucky enough to be gifted one, I became immersed in the world of horology. With the knowledge and experience of buying and selling on eBay, I saw an opportunity to redefine a market that was growing and where others were not offering service or quality. I thought to myself: why shouldn’t the experience of buying a second hand (or pre-owned as we call it) luxury watch be the same or better than buying one new? This is how the idea of Xupes began, in my bedroom at university, and I set out to redefine the perception of buying a luxury pre-owned item. I was completing a degree in photography at the time, and I used this experience to focus on creating a brand that could become a leader in the sector.

watches

A selection of pre-owned luxury watches from the Xupes collection

2. Why are vintage watches becoming ever more popular at a time when everyone has a phone that tells the time and also a smart watch?

This is a topic which has been widely discussed. At first, people thought the smart watch would have a significant impact on the luxury watch market. But customers who own a luxury watch appreciate it for many other reasons beyond convenience. Smart watches provide a service and the technology that helps us streamline our lives day to day. A luxury or vintage watch is a work of art, something with history that tells a story and is an extension of our personality, that one day might be passed on to loved ones. They also can appreciate so have become collectable and in today’s world and alternative asset class. Often, for these reasons our customers have both for these very different purposes.

3. Have any watch brands become noticeably more popular since the pandemic?

The pandemic has had one major impact to our sector: it has accelerated a shift towards digital/online channels versus the high street, a shift that was happening already, but is now probably 5 years ahead of where it would have been had the pandemic not happened. At the start of the pandemic this created a rush of brands struggling to re-organise their businesses to be able to sell online, but it is only now, 12 months on, that many of them have managed to set this up properly whilst others are still developing their operations to cope with this change. I also think consumers are more conscious of the impact their purchasing is having on the planet, bringing a wave a focus on more sustainable luxury, within which the circular economy will play a huge part in years to come.

Read more: Uplifting new paintings by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

This has all meant we’ve seen considerable demand grow across our most popular brands, which people couldn’t easily buy during the pandemic. Examples are Rolex, AP and Patek Philippe, but we’ve seen a new demand in vintage across these brands as well as Cartier, Omega, IWC, and Jaeger-Le- Coultre as customers start to diversify and deepen their interests and collections. Some of the more niche independent brands have also increased in their desirability such as FP Journe, George Daniels, Philippe Dufour, Laurent Ferrier and Moser & Cie. My personal belief is that next year will also be big for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak as it is the model’s 50th Anniversary. I expect prices for vintage Royal Oak’s to increase significantly. Prices in the past 12 months have risen across the pre-owned sector in varying amounts driven by this shortage of supply.

4. What is the decision process when deciding which brands you choose to sell?

We created Xupes through interest and passion for what we do. Our whole service is built around experience and taking time to educate and often learn from our customers. We apply this to the collection we offer and only purchase around 5% of what we are offered. This is because we’re selective about quality, provenance and also the brands and models we select. We believe our collection of watches is one of the best in the industry. Whilst we want our customers to have the right variety, we won’t sell anything and everything and 75% of our inventory is focused across five key brands.

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A pre-owned Rolex Daytona Stainless Steel watch

5. Is there a clear demographic of the people buying pre-owned watches?

The demographic where we see the largest portion of our customers is 35-50 and 75% male as you might expect. The watches we sell are expensive items often purchased for a special occasion to commemorate a milestone in life or to celebrate a birthday or other event. It’s hard for our team to remember that people often work hard for years to treat themselves to a luxury watch. So many of our customers are professionals from a variety of walks of life. It’s important to add however we have seen an increase in our female customer base; one of our best customers is a female watch collector with over 150 watches in her collection. And we’ve also seen a shift new 20–35-year-old customers buying their first watch with a view to investment, something they can also trade up through our part exchange service.

6. Which contemporary watch brands do you envisage being future collectibles?

We’ve seen Richard Mille sustain huge growth in residual values in the pre-owned market over the past three years. Twelve months ago, we discussed whether this could and would continue, and whether it could be a fad and go out of fashion, but the demand and prices remain strong, and Richard Mille has done well to maintain demand. I believe some of the independent brands could become hugely coveted in the future as the watch market continues to grow. We’ve seen this with FP Journe and Laurent Ferrier as I mentioned as many pieces are made in such small volumes versus say Rolex or even Patek Philippe. We also witnessed the recent discontinuation of the Nautilus 5711 which saw prices spike by 25% in 24 hours in a market where this watch already commanded nearly 3 times premium on the retail price. Lange & Sohne’s release of the Odysseus was another example of a leading brand bringing out a steel “sports” watch which now commands a large premium. Rolex sports watches are always a safe investment and will have future collectability.

Find out more: xupes.com

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Reading time: 6 min
Man awarding medal

Keith Breslauer congratulating a wounded British veteran during The Veteran Games

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

Keith Breslauer

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

man on mountain summit

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

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

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

Read more: Entrepreneur Wendy Yu on creativity & charity

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

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

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

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

man with climbing wall

Keith with the in-house climbing wall at Patron Capital

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

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

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

Find out more: patroncapital.com

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cityscape

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
portrait of a woman

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.

Read more: Deutsche Bank’s Claudio de Sanctis on investing in the ocean

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.

Read more: Sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld on the power of public art

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.

Read more: Gaggenau launches initiative to support innovative artisans

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.

Read more: Kering’s Marie-Claire Daveu on benefits of the blue economy

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.

Read more: Prince Robert de Luxembourg on wine, gastronomy & storytelling

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
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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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
Monochrome image of a man
Dancer sitting against a green background

Ballet dancer, actor and entrepreneur Sergei Polunin. Image by Alex Kerkis

Tattooed, athletic and outspoken, ballet maestro Sergei Polunin has a way of keeping everyone on their toes. LUX talks to the dancer, actor and entrepreneur about his internet-breaking video for Hozier, working with Kenneth Branagh, and dancing in virtual reality

1. Can you describe your style of dancing?

It’s a combination of having trained in two different countries: Russia, with its classical training, precise technique and good clean positions, and England, where there is a lot of acting and expression in every movement.

2. Are you a rule-breaker?

I actually enjoy following the rules when it comes to ballet. When you’re training, you need to follow a very strict path, but in order to perform, you need to feel free. During performances, I try to discard the rules and translate what I feel for the audience.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

3. Your feelings about ballet institutions seem untraditional, though?

I’m trying to build an alternative system to compete with the old theatre system, which has been going since the 1800s, where ballet dancers are signed up and then are told exactly what to do for their whole career. They’re not allowed any representation or to negotiate for money or to choose their next project – like old Hollywood. I’m working with the government to offer dancers more money and freedom and to create some healthy competition.

4. What is the biggest misconception about male ballet dancers?

That they are silly or feminine. I was never bullied for dancing, though; I’ve always considered it a man’s job. Boxers learn dancing to improve their flexibility and to hide emotions. Just as a dancer never shows how hard they are working, a fighter hides where his next punch is coming from. Also, if you choose to study ballet, you’ll be surrounded by girls! That would never happen with football.

5. Did you expect Hozier’s ‘Take Me to Church’ video with your dance to go viral?

Not really, no. When they filmed the video, I had been thinking about quitting dancing for acting, so I wasn’t in the best shape at the time. I’m happy that so many people appreciated it but I still see lots of technical mistakes!

Monochrome portrait of a man

Monochrome image of a man

Here and above: Sergei Polunin photographed by Morgan Norman

6. How do you connect with the audience when you are dancing in an arena?

Performing for that many people gives me more energy. I could actually dance larger, perform bigger! It’s important to show that ballet can work for big stadium audiences, too.

7. What great traditional ballet roles are left for you to perform?

So many amazing dancers have already performed these roles, I don’t think I could add anything. I want to create new things instead.

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

8. Are there any stories begging to be made into a ballet?

Many! You can turn anything into a ballet. Imagine a Marvel or DC comic and dancing as the Joker or the Penguin.

9. How about a ballet about the Kardashians?

Absolutely! Dance has no boundaries. You can dance as a chess piece, a planet, a myth, a god.

10. What do you think is the future of dance?

Virtual reality and 3D technology are the perfect mediums for dance. Once a dance is done, how can the performance be saved forever? I think virtual reality is the answer.

11. You’ve acted in films directed by Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Fiennes. Did they give you any acting advice?

They didn’t have too many corrections on set. I think as an actor you transfer your personal energy into the role. Some actors just make you want to look at them, like Mickey Rourke or Marlon Brando on screen – I don’t care what they’re doing or saying, I just look at them.

12. Can you imagine a life without dancing?

Dance is my centre and my core. I always come back to it. It comes easily to me, but I don’t spend time thinking about it. I pursue other things like acting and I’m building a foundation to bring together financing, resources and people to develop and fund creative projects. I want to support different kinds of talents – choreographers, lighting designers, costume designers, painters, film directors, playwrights.

Discover more: poluninink.com

This interview was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue. 

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Reading time: 3 min
Models on catwalk at fashion week
Models on catwalk at fashion week

Atelier Zuhra’s latest collection “The Immaculate Flight of the Phoenix” showcased at London Fashion Week over the weekend. Image by Daniel John Cotton @cottonphotographer

Rayan Al Sulaimani is the female entrepreneur behind the growing couture fashion house Atelier Zuhra. Since its launch in 2015, Atelier Zuhra has had a growing presence on Hollywood’s red carpet. Following the launch of her latest collection at London Fashion Week, Emma Marnell speaks to the designer about fairytale dresses, timeless couture and her cultural heritage

Middle Eastern woman wearing headscarf

Rayan Al Sulaimani

1. The brand is named after your grandmother – has she always been a style inspiration for you?

My grandmother Zuhra is a strong Omani woman with a great passion for living life to the fullest. Yes indeed, she has always been a style inspiration, but eventually through the years I have also developed my own unique sense of style.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. What led you to focus on evening wear and specifically, show-stopping dresses?

From a young age, it has always been my dream to dress celebrities for big red-carpet events in a fairytale like Cinderella gown or to dress a bride at her wedding and help her dreams come true. Hence, from the very beginning we have always focused on creating show-stopping dresses.

Model on catwalk wearing black feathered dress

Atelier Zuhra’s LFW 2020 collection. Image by Garry Carbon @becauseimgarry

3. Can you talk us through the inspiration behind your LFW collection?

The collection is called “The Immaculate Flight of the Phoenix”.

In mythology the phoenix is a powerful bird which cyclically regenerates and is continually reborn over and over again in human legend and imagination. In the same way, this symbolises the beauty of ethereal everlasting couture as this immaculate bird represents the idea that the end is only ever the beginning.

Read more: Vik Muniz’s photography series for Ruinart

The LFW collection entwines beautiful tailoring with modern innovation and couture. The collection is brilliantly coloured in black and grey to represent the ashes of the phoenix. Contrastingly, its eyes are blue and shine like sapphires. Whereas the lilac and other ethereal playful colours are associated with the rising sun and fire, illuminating in the sky. Everything we have created in this collection is emphatically elegant and impeccably designed so that it looks like it would feel delightful to wear and to walk in.

backstage at a fashion show

Backstage at Atelier Zuhra’s LFW 2020 show. Image by Daniel John Cotton @cottonphotographer

4. How are your designs influenced by your cultural heritage?

Middle Eastern culture has definitely been a source of inspiration for all of our creations. Being born and brought up here [in Oman], I have grown up as a part of this beautiful culture, and knowingly or unknowingly it is somehow reflected in my designs. I would say the Middle Eastern influences are most recognisable in the silhouettes that we work with.

Model wearing maximalist dress on catwalk

Atelier Zuhra LFW 2020. Image by Image by Daniel John Cotton @cottonphotographer

5. When you’re dressing down, what’s your go to outfit?

My personal style is very classic and chic.

6. Who would be your dream to dress for the red carpet?

Angelina Jolie, Blake Lively, the Kardashians and Scarlett Johansson.

Discover the collections: atelier-zuhra.com

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Reading time: 2 min
Rooftop garden in a city landscape
Rooftop garden in a city landscape

The K11 MUSEA features a roof garden where clients can grow their own herbs and vegetables

Adrian Cheng has high hopes for the new K11 MUSEA in Hong Kong: to change the way retail, art and culture collide, says Darius Sanai
Portrait of an Asian man wearing a suit and glasses

Entrepreneur Adrian Cheng

When billionaire Hong Kong entrepreneur Adrian Cheng opened his K11 MUSEA development on Hong Kong’s Victoria Dockside late last year, he heralded it as “The Silicon Valley of culture”. It was a concept that some found hard to get their heads around, but a visit to the development is enlightening and points to ways K11’s innovations could have influence across the world in future.

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At the heart of K11 MUSEA is a funkily designed luxury and fashion retail mall, housing the usual roster of names found elsewhere in China, from Alexander McQueen to Supreme. It’s the architecture and design, headed by New York-based James Corner, and the depth of concept in the detail, that is so innovative. K11’s roof is a kind of kitchen garden-cum-safari park, with spaces where clients can grow their own herbs and vegetables, a natural butterfly park (open for visits by any passing butterfly), a giant aquarium mimicking Victoria Harbour directly below, and rangers working to show local school groups the rooftop flora and fauna Inside, alongside the living walls and slides connecting different floors, is a constantly rotating roster of curated public art, chosen by Cheng (a significant collector) and his team. An e-sports zone allows you to indulge in the sports of your choice, there are public art and performance spaces, and nattily attired concierges sit at desks made of recovered logs.

Inside a futuristic mall setting

The interiors of the luxury and fashion retail mall

Cheng’s aim in the development, which sits on prime waterfront land in Kowloon directly facing Central Hong Kong across the water of Victoria Harbour, is to bring retail, culture and technology together. Cheng is himself a complex and multifaceted entrepreneur: third generation heir to a multi-billion-dollar property and services empire, he is reinventing the family company, which also includes
brands like Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, for the future. He has as many friends in art and fashion as he does in the traditional family industry, and you feel Cheng is never happier than when reinventing something – and yet he has also invested time and money into a foundation to restore traditional Chinese crafts, and is something of a craftsman himself – it is his own hand that forms the calligraphic decorations around K11 MUSEA.

Read more: Plaza Premium Group’s Founder Song Hoi-see on airport luxury

The development has innovative platforms being planned using AI and facial recognition, as well as tie-ins with AI retail companies Cheng’s group has invested in, across the water in Shenzhen’s technology zone and across the globe: these are the spaces developers and retailers around the world will be watching.

Cubic sculpture on a broadwalk

The Kube kiosk designed by Rem Koolhaas’ studio OMA

As Cheng tells LUX: “When you purchase or sign up for something at K11 MUSEA, our loyalty programme allows us to understand your preference, basically what excites you the most. With enough samples, we can sufficiently draw correlations that will shape how we curate our brick-and-mortar spaces in the future. This is the advantage of running vast spaces like K11 MUSEA because it offers flexibility and a lot of possible curations. It’s about growing with our customers, predicting their needs and also working with brands and partners to create an inspiring customer journey. In fact, one of the companies I invested in, Moda Operandi, which we brought into K11 MUSEA, has a similar model. Online preferences will shape the store display, styling services and the various events that they host. Both K11 and Moda believe in creating a journey of wonder, for customers to learn and discover.”

There is also, importantly for Hong Kong’s current climate and from a scion of one of its most important families, a significant public/ community aspect to K11 MUSEA and the surrounding Victoria Dockside area which Cheng and his family company, New World Developments, has revitalised.

K11 MUSEA may be ground-breaking, but it’s unlikely to be the last creation of its kind from the peripatetic multi-business, multicultural Hong Kong dynamo.

‘Musea: A Book of Modern Muses’, published by Condé Nast, is available at boutiquemags.com

For more information visit: K11musea.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 3 min
Prosecco bottle against brown background
Prosecco bottle against brown background

Ombra Di Pantera is a new producer of Prosseco, and businessman Utsava Kasera’s latest investment

Utsava Kasera is an entrepreneur and investor with interests in luxury brands, fashion, art and tech. Most recently, his attention has turned to new Prosecco brand Ombra Di Pantera. Here, he tells us about this latest investment, finding a gap in the market and his new year ambitions

Man in suit and bow tie

Utsava Kasera

1. How did you first come across Ombra Di Pantera?

I always wanted to be involved in the drinks industry and the stars aligned when I met the other promoters of Ombra Di Pantera over a lunch through a common connection. The opportunity looked very good and we are on an exciting journey now.

Our inspiration for ‘Ombra’ is delivered from a unique heritage and a fabled history which stretches back to the Roman wines of antiquity. In ancient times, traders who served wine in Venice’s Piazza San Marco would follow the shadow of the Campanile to cool their wine as there was no refrigeration, and the Venetian expression, ‘Ombra de Vin’, meaning ‘Wine’s Shadow’, is still used to order Prosecco in its original heartland. Another interesting fact about Prosecco is that typically a glass contains fewer calories than wine and there is a town called Prosecco nearby Venice, where the name of this bubbly comes from.

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2. What drew you to invest in the business?

The huge demand for Prosecco in the UK and lack of branding around it gives an opportunity to fill a missing gap in the market. The sales of Prosecco have overtaken champagne in the UK, which is now the second biggest market in the world after the US. Besides that, it’s a delicious Prosecco which embodies the elegance of Italian luxury and I believe it has the potential to make its mark in the sparkling wine world.

3. What sets Ombra Di Pantera’s Prosecco apart from other brands?

Ombra is traditionally crafted from a single vintage, using superior Glera grapes from our delicately cultivated Conegliano vineyard, to deliver a pure expression of the very finest Prosecco. The Prosecco is created ‘in bianco’, meaning the fermentation is without the skins creating the delicate sparkle that is captured over 60 days to produce a fine, persistent perlage. The steep hills of the vineyard provide the perfect conditions to grow  Glera grapes, which require cultivating and harvesting by hand relying on traditional methods refined over a thousand years. Ombra Di Pantera is dedicated to celebrating the traditional heritage and craftsmanship of Italian viticulture to deliver an authentic, exclusive Prosecco experience and can stand up to any high quality champagne or sparkling wine in blind tasting.

Vineyard with lush green vines

Ombra Di Pantera’s Prosecco is made from Glera grapes grown on their vineyard in Conegliano

4. How does the company fit into your wider investment portfolio?

My investments are across a wide spectrum of industries from tech to hospitality. I particularly invest in industries and projects, which I am passionate about rather than just looking at the numbers. Having said that, Ombra compliments a couple of my investments, which are in private members club, one called 1880 in Singapore and a wine bar chain in London called Vagabond.

Read more: Knight Frank’s Andrew Hay on the best emerging markets for real estate investment

5. What are your ambitions for 2020?

I would like to focus on making Ombra di Pantera bigger by aligning with more luxury partners and concentrate on strategic growth of the brand. I am also a co-founder of ‘Sidehide’, which is a tech app for hotel booking, providing a seamless experience for users and I will be involved in the launch and marketing campaign during 2020. Lastly, I would like to do some volunteering work with one of the charities I am involved with, and learn to play the piano.

6. How do you switch off?

I have a passion for whiskies and cognac. Enjoying a dram of Springbank 21 years whisky or Louis XIII cognac in company of friends relaxes me. Recently, I have started taking out time to cook and I am enjoying it at lot. Travelling is another passion and therapy of its own kind for me.

For more information visit: ombradipantera.com

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Reading time: 3 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.

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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
Cliffside hotel with view of the ocean
Luxury outdoor hotel swimming pool

L’Hotel Marrakech is one of Voyager Club’s Hidden Gems in Morocco

Sophie Caulcutt is the co-founder of luxury travel and fashion concierge company Voyager Club, which connects travellers with unique hotels, provides lifestyle services and curates personalised vacation wardrobes. Here, we speak to the 28-year-old entrepreneur about luxury experiences, fashion, and the hottest destinations for 2020

Portrait of young woman in a white dress

Sophie Caulcutt

1. How did Voyager Club go from an idea to a reality?

My background is in fashion and my other passion has always been travel. My co-founder, Ashley Barras, (who is also an avid traveller) and I couldn’t understand why no one was connecting the dots between the two, where you were going and what you put in your suitcase…so we had a vision to create a travel and lifestyle company that would be the first company to do just that. Voyager Club was launched in September 2018.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

As well as offering clients a vacation wardrobe service, #MyVacationStylist, that curates bespoke wardrobes for every traveller wherever they are going, partnering with MatchesFashion – Voyager Club also works with Hidden Gem hotels and exclusive privately villas around the world. We do the 360 for clients, from travel to concierge to the vacation wardrobe but all our services are also à la carte.

2. What kinds of experiences can the lifestyle concierge organise?

We strive on offering the most personalised experiences so every trip is bespoke to each client. Anything from insider itineraries and off the radar experiences to curating the perfect holiday wardrobe. With our little black book, Voyager Club can also organise the money can’t buy experiences around the world such as access to exclusive global events with MatchesFashion and their favourite designers to renting a house or yacht that would not usually be for rent. We also offer what we call ‘super brand’ concierge, helping brands make the impossible possible from events, pop-ups and experiences in beautiful destinations.

Cliffside hotel with view of the ocean

Another of Voyager Club’s Hidden Gems: Monastero Santa Rosa on the Almalfi Coast

3. How do you tailor a holiday wardrobe to an individual’s preferences?

If a client chooses the #MyVacationStylist service, they will be paired with an expert stylist for an in-person or phone consultation and asked questions about favourite designers, colours as well as the vacation itinerary. Our vacation stylists will then create an edit based on the client’s preferences and ship them to their hotel, villa, yacht or chalet in time for their trip. The best part is you only pay for what you keep.

Read more: Why you should invest in a wine storage cabinet

Layout of holiday clothing

Voyager Club’s #MyVacationStylist service is a personalised shopping service, tailored to fit with the client’s itinerary

Suitcase filled with luxury clothing

4. Favourite brand right now?

I have a few…This season La Double J which are amazingly versatile in a suitcase, Ulla Johnson and Gioia Bini for vacation mode and my favourite new discovery are Métier bags, which are a work of art.

5. Where do you predict will be the hottest holiday destinations next year?

Eco-retreats in South America as our commitment to sustainability grows and Comporta [in Portugal] for summer escapes with its bohemian beauty.

6. What are your travel essentials?

Noise cancelling headphones, vitamins, a great swimsuit and always a pair of great flats (I always pack a pair of Le Monde Beryl mules). I never travel without my own beauty products which I decant into miniatures from Muji and always keep in my wash bag ready to go!

To find out more, visit: voyagerclub.co

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Reading time: 3 min
Woman standing on cliff

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

Middle aged woman posing in studio setting

British model and founder of Wilder Botanics Rachel Boss. Image by Aaron Hurley

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: British model Rachel Boss has had a longer career than most, shooting with industry legends including the late Peter Lindbergh as well as appearing in all the Vogues, the Pirelli calendar and numerous fashion brand campaigns. Alongside her husband, she recently founded her own brand Wilder Botanics, which specialises in holistic products created from organic, wild ingredients. Here, Rachel opens up about the tough side of modelling, becoming an entrepreneur and her aspirations for the future.

Charlie Newman: Let’s start at the beginning. What was your childhood like?
Rachel Boss: I grew up just outside of Manchester. I had the perfect mix of countryside and being on this great music city’s doorstep back in the late eighties early nineties, so I was constantly going to gigs when I could. We lived in this beautiful old farm, not that we used it, but my mum only ever cooked using home grown vegetables. I went to a convent which wasn’t great! I went there from 3 to 18 years old as a day pupil. Looking back it had a huge effect on me with the guilt that comes from Catholicism. It was awful, it was heaven and hell, it was retribution. My mum stuck up for us by not letting us do confession: what 7 year old has anything to confess? That’s why I had my confirmation much later because you can’t get confirmed without having confessed. I haven’t been to church in a long time now but it’s still in there. I remember going to school and seeing these propaganda posters and being so appalled by these extreme elitist views, but in reaction to this quite a few of us were rebellious. The young nuns were slightly more liberal singing Kumbaya with us, whilst the elder ones were just dreadful. The only two male teachers were science teachers which meant that we really weren’t pushed to do science – things have changed hugely since then. Safe to say, I would never send my children to a convent, in fact I went the complete opposite and sent them to a school where they call the teachers by their first name!

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Charlie Newman: How did fashion come into your life?
Rachel Boss: I can remember always being taller than my peers and everyone telling me I could be a model but I never even considered it because modelling wasn’t a career back then. I saw fashion as my escape, it was my ticket out of Manchester. Interestingly, people from Manchester generally always stay there, they don’t often move. I don’t know whether that’s typical of most towns but I couldn’t wait to get away. University was never on the cards for me, it wasn’t even something I wanted to do and I don’t know why because later on I went to study off my own back. Even though I didn’t go to university straight after school, I still want my children to because I hate the idea of them being out in the world without a purpose. When I left school that’s exactly how I felt, so when I got asked to be a model I took the chance. I was staying at a friends house in Dublin and then somebody asked me to do a show for John Rocha. From that show an agent picked me up, it’s not a very glamorous story! In that first season I worked for John Rocha, Katharine Hamnett and a few other Irish designers. After that, I came back to Manchester and then moved to London at 19 years old so I was a late starter for a model.

Model pictured standing on cliff edge

Charlie Newman: What were your early experiences of modelling like?
Rachel Boss: Once I signed with an agency I was whisked straight away off to Tokyo, and I didn’t really like it. Whenever I see friends who were also models at the time we look back now and realise that actually we really weren’t treated right as teenagers. Thank goodness for the way my mum brought me up else I would have ended up in some compromising positions. People were always saying to me, ‘Why don’t you relax? Why don’t you go to that club? Why don’t you go out for dinner with them?’ But I wasn’t having any of it which meant that I was spending a lot of time on my own. My first trip was to Tokyo for 4 weeks which was a real eye opener, it was like a cattle market. We weren’t marketed as human beings, never having time to eat or break. Then at night we had to go to club openings which was just not my thing. I left Tokyo with not very fond memories and from there went onto Paris after a brief stint at home in between.

Read more: Artistic visions of Louis Roederer’s Brut Nature 2012

Charlie Newman: Paris is the centre of old school fashion houses, and with it often comes an old school mentality. Did you come across this and how did you deal with it?
Rachel Boss:  I really struggled in Paris because the French bookers were always the toughest. We’d be staying in a model apartment 25 years ago for 600 euros a month and it would be a mattress on the floor, with no light bulbs, nothing in the kitchen and with 6 other girls in the flat, it was completely wrong. Even though I was a tiny bit older than my peers, I felt a lot younger because most of my friends within the industry were from cities so were a lot more streetwise than me. They were in the right crowds immediately, whereas I was very far from it. I must have been really hard to manage because I was forever saying, ‘Sorry but I’m going home now!’ I realise now that I was suffering with anxiety without even realising it because anxiety disorders weren’t discussed then. I remember berating myself thinking, ‘What’s the problem? All you have to do is get on that plane, go to the hotel, get up and go to the job.’ I remember forever talking myself through it and every time on the plane home I’d congratulate myself. So it wasn’t an enjoyable period for me but then again I did have a couple of years which were just incredible. That was when everything changed.

Woman standing in white studio

Image by Aaron Hurley

Charlie Newman: What changed exactly?
Rachel Boss: I moved to New York in 1991 where I stayed for a year, and then I moved back there at the age of 25 which was just fantastic because there was a real resurgence of health in fashion. The heroin chic look was out and the more healthy, robust girl was in. People were waking up to the benefits of nutrition and that really opened my eyes to what I wanted to do. I went to an amazing Ashram in upstate near Woodstock, where I learnt the teachings and philosophies of yoga and meditation. I had the time to really read and expand my knowledge whilst I was in New York purely because all of my work was based there and I didn’t have to catch a flight all the time. But by the age of 26 I was moved to the ‘Classic’ table and was told I was past it. That had a real effect on me mentally because I suddenly woke up to the idea that I was a woman and I needed to have a family. I was being portrayed as a 46 year old woman at 26 which I wish I hadn’t agreed to. Afterwards, I just tucked myself away and studied and studied at the Holistic Health college. I was studying to be a Naturopath alongside Nutrition, Homeopathy and Iridology which is recognising genetic traits through Iris formations. I love it because it’s one of those subjects where you’re forever learning.

Charlie Newman: You published Super Herbs: The best adaptogens to reduce stress and improve health, beauty and wellness in 2017. How did that come about?
Rachel Boss: I was approached by The Little Brown publishing house after having just given birth. I remember being so incredibly exhausted at the time and without thinking I went along to the meeting. I remember thinking in the meeting at this really smart office, ‘What the hell am I doing here? I am so tired, and here I am saying that I can write a book!’ I think it must have been the endorphins that come with breast feeding! I wrote it like a job, or studying, so I was really strict with deadlines. I so enjoyed writing it. The book focuses on the history of the herb. It’s a really easy read and helps direct you on how to slot herbs into your life and make you feel better. When you have a chronic illness quite often you get used to it (unless it’s acute) and you end up ignoring it, like chronic digestive issues for example, but in my book I explain how herbs can help you. I also highly recommend reading Rosemary Gladstone and Christopher Hedley’s books. Christopher was my tutor and is simply amazing.

Read more: Designer Philipp Plein on mixing business with pleasure

Charlie Newman: You’ve had such a long and diverse career in an industry that is notoriously short. How has your career developed as you get older?
Rachel Boss: I was more editorial at the beginning, but then I really pushed for it to become a money earner. When I came back to London I was doing the likes of John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Next, which was great money! There was a time when I was doing everything in London and it was just fantastic, I could drive to work, I absolutely loved it. But then of course they move on as they always do and have to. I’m also very aware that I’m extremely tall to be doing commercial work. I’m just over 6 foot so I’m extremely grateful to them for being so kind to me, most of the other models were 5’9. However, the other day I did my first editorial shoot for a while with the wonderful Renaissance magazine. I met this amazing guy who was Turkish but brought up in Sweden, the hair and make up was from Tokyo and the stylist from America – we all just couldn’t stop talking! I’ve always loved that part of fashion, every shoot has a real mix of people from all over the world. Perhaps it’s because I’m older and more confident, but I feel as though I’m no longer seen as an object that has to be moulded to other peoples desires. I am my own person whilst modelling now.

Charlie Newman: Looking back at your career now, what do you wish you had done differently?
Rachel Boss: My career has forever been in flux between forcing myself to do the job and then retreating. Even when it was French Vogue or shooting with Peter Lindbergh, it was terrible because in my head I just wanted to run for the hills. I look back now and wish I just got on with it for four years and then left. But instead I dragged it out over decades! Often when I left a city I would leave an agency too because then I felt like I could always start again and have a fresh start. The agencies were always very damning of my opinion when really it should have been a joint decision, but luckily I had one wonderful agent who understood that when I said no, I meant no. I became very good at saying no because for years I’d forever been a yes man. As a result, I had a reputation for being difficult. It’s been an interesting journey. Talking and reading about the past now amongst friends and colleagues makes you realise how intense it is as a job.

Charlie Newman: What advice would you give to young models now starting out?
Rachel Boss: Please enjoy it and don’t take it too seriously. I was forever being told that I was ungrateful because I didn’t want to do the jobs, but really there’s alway someone else who will do the job. If it’s not your route or desired path don’t do it.

Charlie Newman: What has been a career highlight for you?
Rachel Boss: I think it’s got to be living in all the cities. I loved working in New York and Morocco and even though living in Paris was hell, I’m so pleased I did it. Now I know all the areas and I met Yves Saint Laurent and so many other incredible people. I was lucky enough to have a good wage so wherever I was, I did whatever I wanted. If there was some restaurant I wanted to go to, I’d try it, if there was anywhere I wanted to go to, off I went. I was very, very happy with my own company, which was hugely beneficial for me because I’d got into such a huge state of panic before where I felt as though I always needed to be with someone, so that was a huge turn around for me. It’s so important to have times in your life, especially when you’re young, to go off and do your own thing because you’ll probably never have that time again. Even if you do get the opportunity to do it when you’re older, your mind is constantly elsewhere and wanting to be with your children. So for me to have had that time was something I really relished. It’s so important as a human being to sit by yourself and be happy.

Man and woman portrait in living room

Rachel and her husband Charlie co-run Wilder Organics, doing everything from the making of products to the selling.

Charlie Newman: What made you decide to start your own company?
Rachel Boss: The company was talked about for years. I was so aware that herbs were still seen as something a bit odd or witchy or something that only people wearing linen and blankets could prescribe to and I didn’t like that! It was the same with when I went to my lectures too. It was all too intense and I wanted to prove that you could be interested in Naturopathy, whilst also enjoying a glass of wine with a steak. The whole idea for Wilder Organics was about bringing herbs into the contemporary lifestyle and fitting it into the everyday. Before it was only really Neal’s Yard, but within the past 5 years I’ve seen a huge surge in interest.

Read more: Island paradise at the Ritz-Carlton Abama resort in Tenerife

Interiors of a cosmetics shop

The Wilder Botanics boutique, Broadway Market

Charlie Newman: How did you make Wilder Organics a reality?
Rachel Boss: It started with me creating a herb infused body oil and two teas. I asked my friend Lerryn Korda, who is a beautiful illustrator of children’s books, to design the beautiful labels for me. Each type of herb has a different illustration because I really wanted to draw people back to nature and get them to recognise what they’re actually drinking, and maybe even encourage them to go and pick the leaves themselves. This was back in October 2017. I had a little stand at this wonderful sale that supports creatives called The Hand Sale in Kensington and everything sold! I didn’t know what the whole worth was of my product so that’s when my husband swooped in, and he’s totally immersed in it now. It’s just us two and one other person who comes in every so often. We do everything, from the making to the selling to the wholesaling. Everything is biodegradable and recyclable nationwide, it can even be put into your compost. All of our products are recyclable grade 7 which means all councils recycling systems will accept it, which sadly isn’t the case for a lot of other products out there.

Charlie Newman: Where would you like to see Wilder Organics in the future?
Rachel Boss: We would really love to see our beauty products in Liberty because we’re obsessed with everything in there! We have endless ideas for the future, but I’m particularly excited about delving more into women’s health. Alongside our 10 stockists, we’d also like to be stocked worldwide, but without ever losing the core values of our company.

Charlie Newman: And finally, who is your role model of the month?
Rachel Boss: It’s got to be women for me, I love women in every form. If I had to pick one individual it would probably be Julianne Moore, I think she’s just heavenly. My friend works with her who’s a make up artist and said she’s the real deal, she’s true to her persona, so kind and brilliant. I was listening to Zadie Smith on Radio 4 yesterday and I thought she was just amazing, partly because she doesn’t appear to be a people pleaser. I grew up in a generation where everything was about being liked, fitting in and not being a burden. I really rock boats with that even now. I hope my children are like that, I tell my children all the time, just because someone’s an adult it doesn’t mean they are right.

Discover Wilder Botanics’ range of products: wilderbotanics.com

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Reading time: 15 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
Abstract ink painting in black and pink
Ink painting of a moon

‘Moon Walk’ (1969), by Liu Kuo-sung

Navigating the deep waters of the Asian art scene could be treacherous, without a guide such as Calvin Hui. Jason Chung Tang Yen talks to the Hong Kong and London-based globetrotter, art connoisseur and entrepreneur about his mission to bring contemporary Chinese ink art to the global stage

DEUTSCHE BANK WEALTH MANAGEMENT x LUX

“Ink is not just a medium; it embodies a cultural language,” says gallery owner and art fair entrepreneur Calvin Hui. He’s referring to contemporary Chinese ink art and the enterprise he founded, a booming art platform titled Ink Now, first launched in Taipei and generating considerable buzz among art lovers and collectors. However, Hui’s vision for Ink Now extends beyond any fixed formats; he has introduced a notion of “more than ink, and more than an art fair. We are bringing awareness of ink art’s essence and spirituality in a cultural context, beyond its pure medium form,” he says.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

For more than 2,000 years, ink art, once made with burnt pine trees and organic matter on rice paper or silk, has been the primary – and most celebrated – form of artistic expression for Chinese calligraphers and painters. The traditional art form reached its peak in the Song Dynasty, from 960-1279AD; historical masterpieces from that era are still preserved in the palace museums in Beijing and Taipei and Qu Ding’s Summer Mountains has a permanent home at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Western artists, from the Impressionists to Pablo Picasso, have long been inspired by the ink art tradition, but in recent years, new media and influences from the West have made their own mark on the medium. Today’s artists often turn to or reinterpret traditional ink art techniques while in pursuit of a contemporary breakthrough, resulting in multi-layered works that are filled with cultural references and meaning. And some advocates for the medium, such as Calvin Hui, are hoping to lay the foundations for a new golden age of ink art.

Contemporary style Chinese ink painting

‘Far Side of the Moon’ (2019), by Victor Wong.

Asian man in suit sitting in installation artwork

Calvin Hui at Victor Wong’s solo exhibition ‘TECH-iNK Garden’

A network of contacts and the ability to plan on a grand scale are required to make this happen, but Hui has long operated in the nerve centre of the art market, bridging the gap between contemporary Eastern art and the market in the West. He is the cofounder of the 3812 Gallery, with an outpost in Central Hong Kong and St James’s in London, and his company also provides professional and private art consultancy services. His vision for the Ink Now venture is driven by his passion for Chinese artists who are producing works steeped in heritage, but who look towards the future.

One such artist is Hsiao Chin – a favourite of Hui’s and a master of abstract art in Asia – whose work captures the duality of Taoist philosophy and will be shown in a solo exhibition, PUNTO: Hsiao Chin’s International Art Movement Era at 3812 Gallery next year to coincide with the artist’s 85th birthday. “Hsiao Chin’s work perfectly interprets the ‘Eastern origin in contemporary expression’ principle advocated by Ink Now and 3812 Gallery,” Hui declares. “Though the artist always claims that his work is not Chinese ink, it is obvious to see that Hsiao applies Eastern philosophical thoughts such as Lao Zhuang in Western art.” These influences translate into abstract paintings that merge colourful brush painting with modernist compositions. The show will also include a variety of archival materials that will be shown for the first time outside of Asia.

Read more: Viviane Sassen’s ‘Venus and Mercury’ at Frieze London

And Hui, unsurprisingly, has big plans to take what was once a niche market mainstream. “The objective of having a brand and platform like Ink Now is to materialise the pursuit of art from a cultural perspective to a commercial one,” he enthuses. “Over the last century, particularly in the US and Europe, the shifting influence of culture exported from the East [has transformed] due to political power shifts.” With billions of people now familiar with ink’s cultural language, the discipline is poised to gain widespread popularity.

For Hui, the “Western perspective on Chinese contemporary art was, in a way, too repetitive and rigid while lacking historical and aesthetic context.” Jay Xu, director of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, agrees that although Chinese inks inspired and continue to inspire Western art, there is still much for us to learn. “Picasso himself once said that had he been born Chinese, he would have been a calligrapher, not a painter, and there was a tablet of Chinese calligraphy on Matisse’s wall. Whether or not Western artists understand the Chinese culture or fully understand the context of ink as a colour and ink as a linear expression, it has inspired many generations of artists both in the East and the West.”

Art exhibition with press

The inaugural Ink Now art expo in Taipei earlier this year

Ink Now is designed to deliver a more nuanced study of the genre by creating a platform for academic discussions, online archives and collectors’ gatherings. Hui’s approach allows an international audience to access material and information in a “globalised community on one’s palm via smartphones,” as well as physically in the gallery spaces and exhibition venues. Ink Now is not merely an art fair; it is “trans-regional and multifaceted”, enabling “international dialogues in various cities”. And, as Hui revealed in our interview, the initiative will be coming to London, perhaps as early as 2020.

Hui knows that the words we use to talk about art are significant, and that the name ‘Ink Now’ underlines the platform’s forward- looking approach to cultural identity. The emerging and established artists promoted by Ink Now create work that is supremely relevant to the issues that preoccupy us in the present. ‘Tech Ink’ is another phrase coined by Hui to refer to our relationship to art in the online age. “Discovering, appreciating, collecting art all happens in the digital realm now. It is a new era; we are particularly fortunate to be part of making new history.”

Abstract geometric artwork using ink

‘Magical Landscape’, by Wang Jieyin

Liu Kuo-sung is a Chinese artist whose Modernist work is part of this new history. For Kuo-sung, “Ink has always been part of our culture’s DNA,” not just a media but, “really something much deeper. To me, ink is more spiritual.” He believes our era of digital connectivity will help to both influence the market and inspire ink artists. “With the evolution of technology, culture exchange and influence will be easier and faster. During my early career, information [was] scarce and I needed to either borrow a catalogue from a public source or physically go to a museum or gallery to see artworks. Today, you get so much information without needing to leave your house.”

Read more: Spanish artist Secundino Hernández on flesh & creative chaos

Museum director Jay Xu thinks the medium could even challenge the lens through which we view art history. “From the Renaissance, the scope and definition of art has been evolving, and though art has been regarded [in relation to] a Western canon, what ink could possibly do is to rethink the canon of art in general. It is a much more diverse world that we live in now. The global phenomenon must include artistic expressions of all cultures and regions, in which each have their own definition of what art is.”

The art form finds perhaps its most modern expression when machines are involved in its creation. “Digital art is definitely a trend, especially in the Western market,” Hui points out, citing Victor Wong’s artificial intelligence ink paintings, a collaboration between the artist and his AI assistant, Gemini. The robot that Wong programmed has created a fascinating, meticulous body of shuimo ink work, heading into uncharted artistic territory and prompting a wider discussion on AI artworks and the definition of art.

The relationship between traditional and contemporary inks is one duality that is explored in the art form; the tension between Western and Eastern influences is another. Jay Xu cites artist Xu Bing and his ability to “create scripts writing English alphabets in Chinese calligraphic strokes – an iconic mode of expression that is part of the ongoing evolution of calligraphy.” The museum’s 2012 exhibition, Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy, featured works from the Jerry Yang collection, including animated calligraphy by Bing and “juxtaposing Western abstract expressionism with ink art to form a dialogue”.

Abstract ink painting in black and pink

Abstract ink painting

Here: ‘L’inizio del Dao-2’ (1962); above: ‘L’Origine del Chi-3’ (1962), both by Hsiao Chin

As both a gallery owner and a collector, what does Hui think about mixing business with pleasure? “The inevitable marriage of art and investment is an agreeable phenomenon; however, the danger of treating art solely as an investment means to neglect its artistic value while focusing on the price. Art should always be about value, not the market price.” Value should be established first, and the market should follow. “As an art consultant, I take great precaution in investing in art. It is crucial to know the difference between cultural assets and financial products. The art market is much more complex, with different factors and less regulations and compliances than the financial sector.”

There is no doubt that the ink art market is growing: “The regional market in China itself is an important index on the one hand, but on the other, acceptance and exposure in locations such as London provide outlooks for the market trends.” As a gallery owner, Hui has a track record of successfully bringing works by celebrated regional artists onto a more international stage, and platforms like Ink Now often mark the beginning of a surge in the market; the growth of the contemporary African art scene in London and New York followed a similar trajectory. Ink Now’s strategy is to focus on ink art, “not just as a category, but rather as a set of mutual cultural linguistics that bridge various cultures and markets together.”

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

Calvin Hui and Ink Now’s mission has artist Liu Kuo-sung’s backing: “As an artist, we need to understand our mission in life is not only to create good art, but also to leave a mark or make a contribution to our culture and civilisation. Ink art has evolved so much in the past 50 years. Today, young ink artists are creating some amazing new forms of ink art, and I have also seen some great ink art works from Western artists as well.”

On the business of collecting, Hui is equally passionate: “Mankind is drawn to collect, it is in our nature. Owning art is owning experience, emotion, and a piece of the past, it should have a story of its own, to have an interaction with the collector. It is a highly individual and subjective act. One should always collect what one loves. Buying art should not always be about investment. It is about the purest form of passion. I only buy what speaks to me, something I can engage on a deeper level.”

And what was the first piece of art that Calvin Hui collected? A lithograph by Joan Miró, an artist who was fascinated by Eastern culture and who incorporated calligraphy and ink art into his oeuvre. In other words, the artwork that Hui first chose was not only a testament to his impeccable taste, but a glimpse into his future.

Find out more: ink-now.com/en

abstract artwork with multiple lines

‘Moving Vision: Neither Dying or Being’, by Wang Huangsheng.

Calvin Hui’s six artists to know

Wang Jieyin
From the start of his career, Shanghai-based Wang Jieyin has been inspired by the cave paintings in Dunhuang. His contemporary take on ancient Chinese art results in artwork with a muted palette, a focus on natural shapes and romantic, abstracted depictions of landscapes.

Chloe Ho
Chloe Ho’s ink art references both her American and Hong Kong background with unexpected elements such as coffee and acrylic paint. Her exhibition, Unconfined Illumination, runs at 3812 Gallery in London until 15 November.

Chinese ink painting with pink and black ink

‘Volcano;, by Chloe Ho

Wang Huangsheng
Living and working in Beijing, Wang Huangsheng is a curator and professor whose minimalist contemporary ink drawings convey a range of moods, suggest landscapes and allude to calligraphy.

Victor Wong
Victor Wong’s debut in TECH-iNK is a breakthrough in combining technology with art, calling into question our definition of art and culture, while creating highly detailed, original ink depictions of surfaces, such as the moon.

Landscape painting in ink

‘Contraction and Extension of the Twilight’, by Liu Dan

Liu Dan
Liu Dan is known for the contemporary twist he applies to his organic, shaded landscapes, devoting himself to detailed studies of flowers and rocks using Chinese ink and brush techniques.

Hsu Yung Chin
Hsu Yung Chin’s practice incorporates both writing and painting, merging boundaries between the two forms of expression, and breaking all the traditions of calligraphy in order to create works that feel relevant to contemporary Chinese society.

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 11 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
Facade of a contemporary building at night
Facade of a contemporary building at night

Spring Place Beverly Hills is housed in a building designed by Belzberg Architects

Colour portrait of founder of Spring Studios Francesco Costa wearing a black blazer and a blue shirt, smiling

Francesco Costa

Is he the new Nick Jones? Is he the new Adam Neumann? Or is Francesco Costa a totally different type of entrepreneur to the founders of Soho House and WeWork? His Spring Studios and Spring Place businesses, which operate in New York, LA, London and, soon, Milan, offer hip coworking spaces, club membership and studios for shoots, and are becoming a creative force in themselves. Clients include Procter & Gamble, Louis Vuitton, Estée Lauder, Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford. Milan will represent another big step in the global reach of a group that is harnessing the creative energy of its members in a way that might just be making the all-conquering Soho House group feel a little envious. LUX Editor-at- Large Gauhar Kapparova, a Spring member, fires some questions at the Italian creative rainmaker over lunch in London
Close up portrait of a woman with black hair and a black top

Gauhar Kapparova

LUX: Does anything else like your business model exist, and how did you think of it?
Francesco Costa: There is nothing like it, we put together workspace, creative agency, production, events and content creation.

LUX: Did you always intend to create Spring Place even when you were creating Studios?
Francesco Costa: No, the idea came later when we saw there was a request for space from our friends and associates.

LUX: How important was the buy-in of creative leaders?
Francesco Costa: Very. Spring is a platform created for them.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxresponsibleluxury

LUX: Spring Place is set to open soon in Milan, following on from NYC and LA. Why is this model so successful?
Francesco Costa: Because the community we serve has many occasions to meet socially, but not so many to meet and interact professionally.

LUX: Why Milan?
Francesco Costa: Milan has an incredible energy. Milan was the art capital of the world in the 1960s, then the fashion capital of the world in the 1980s. Today, it is the centre of design. And, I am Italian.

Contemporary communal living space

Luxury meeting room with contemporary interiros

The meeting space and bar (above) in the LA building

LUX: Did you need to get the buy-in of the big fashion houses for Milan and how did you do this? Who else? Agencies? Celebrities?
Francesco Costa: Most of the fashion houses in Milan are already our clients or investors or friends. I expect a big support from them.

Read more: The opening of Turkey’s newest contemporary art museum OMM

LUX: Is there a signature look and feel to all of the Spring locations, or does the design of each space reflect the personality of its host city? How will the Milan space be different?
Francesco Costa: Every one is different, but there is a common factor: the quality of design and the modernity. Milan will be the same .

Facade of a contemporary building with two palm trees

The Spring Studios building in New York City and the bar (below)

Contemporary style bar with barman mixing at the counter

LUX: There is an obvious logistical advantage in signing up for the whole Spring ‘package’ (production, location, content, events, workspace and entertaining), but does this joined-up approach somehow open up more creative opportunities as well?
Francesco Costa: My goal is to give opportunities beyond the obvious advantage of signing up for ‘a package’.

LUX: Tell us about examples of the creative community supporting or encouraging their peers through the Spring network.
Francesco Costa: There are so many; our members just had the opportunity to invest in the real deal one year ago at one third of the actual stock price.

Contemporary luxury meeting space with sofas and plants

Smart contemporary style terrace

Each Spring Place location – from LA (above) to NYC and soon Milan – is unique, but the common factor is “the quality of the design and the modernity,” says Costa

LUX: Fashion, film, advertising, digital, media, print – is one more important than others for you? How do they work together?
Francesco Costa: They all work together, but fashion pays for everything.

LUX: How do you communicate with your community and bind them together?
Francesco Costa: By email.

Read more: Lenny Kravitz on creativity and champagne

LUX: Are you the new Soho House?
Francesco Costa: No. Soho House is where you grab a beer, Spring is where you create a new venture or idea.

LUX: Is food and entertainment an important part of the Spring brand?
Francesco Costa: Very!

LUX: What are your biggest challenges?
Francesco Costa: To find amazing buildings like the NYC and LA ones.

LUX: What’s your ten-year plan?
Francesco Costa: To have Spring in every major creative city, a Spring audience, and great brands incubated out of Spring.

Notes: Costa co-founded Spring Place with Alessandro Cajrati; Olivier Lordonnois is its CEO. Costa reinvented the Spring Studios concept after buying it as a studio facility in London.

Find out more: springstudios.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 4 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
Two reflective boxes stacked on top of each other in a white room
Portrait of a young man in front of a geometric art work

Lorenzo Uggeri, founder of online art marketplace Kooness.com

In 2015, Lorenzo Uggeri swapped his job as an analyst in the steel industry to launch an online marketplace for fine art: Kooness.com. The platform now showcases work from over 600 galleries across the globe and last year, Uggeri appeared on Forbes’ prestigious 30 under 30 list in Art & Culture. We put the young entrepreneur in our 6 Questions hot seat.

1. How did you come up with the concept of Kooness?

Four years ago, I was at my friend’s house and a friend of hers gave her a piece of artwork as a gift. We were spending a lot of time trying to understand which wall the artwork should be hung up on in order for it to fit best in the space. At that moment, I thought of the idea to make an app with virtual reality [technology] to understand where the artwork can fit best.

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At that time I was working as an analyst in a big company in the steel industry. After I came up with the idea, I started studying the art business market, in particular the online art market and I found out that there were many different possibilities. I decided to quit my job and move to New York City where I attended a summer course at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

While I was in New York, I changed the business plan for Kooness. From the initial idea of virtual reality, I decided that Kooness was going to be an online marketplace where galleries could increase their sales and find collectors, and collectors could find artists and galleries.

A phone held in front of a rendered room

Kooness caters for established and new art collectors, says Uggeri

2. Is the platform designed more for established collectors or new buyers?

Our motto is to transform simple customers today into the collectors of the future. The idea of Kooness is to democratise the art world and give access to people that are not really in the art market. From an outside perspective, the art market appears to be very closed off. People are often afraid to ask about prices and information when they go to galleries, therefore Kooness gives people the possibility to experience the art world in a different way. At the same time, we also have established collectors that use our platform since we work with over 600 galleries in 25 different countries, which gives collectors the chance to see new artwork from smaller galleries and young emerging artists. Therefore, we cater to both new and established collectors.

Two reflective boxes stacked on top of each other in a white room

‘Interno 7’ (2018), Teresa Giannico

Neon artwork of half a face

‘Fragile Gebilde’ (2019), Sali Muller

3. How are online art platforms impacting the larger art market?

Online platforms are completely transforming the art market. Many major auction houses are investing in creating their own online platforms to give clients the possibility to bid directly. The world is constantly becoming more digital and it is necessary for the art world to join in.

When I started Kooness, people were very sceptical since it was a completely new way of doing things and it made them uncomfortable. The segment of our platform is increasing, the revenue is double digits every year. In a couple of years, the revenue will come from the online platforms for galleries, auction houses and collectors inside the art market.

Read more: Savoir Beds’ MD Alistair Hughes on the value of craftsmanship

4. What advice would you give to a first time buyer looking to build a collection?

I would give them the same advice as an experienced collector gave me the first time: buy what you like. I have talked to many experienced collectors, they all have told me the exact same thing: collecting is a process and you will never start out with discovering the new Picasso of this generation as your first piece. When you start collecting, your taste will change and you will start to develop an eye.

5. Which galleries should we be keeping our eye on right now?

I can not really name names as I work with many galleries. I was recently in Basel and there were many amazing galleries there, from established to new. There are also many great galleries from Milan that play an important role in the art world today such as Massimo De Carlo gallery and Francesca Minini. It is quite difficult to suggest a gallery since you find so many different things in each gallery, it depends what you are looking for.

Installation art work featuring everyday objects

‘Reception’ (2018), Daniel Mullen

6. What’s next for Kooness?

We have big plans. By the end of July, we will launch our blog chain platform for the certification of artwork. For a platform like Kooness and I think I can talk of behalf of my competitors as well, it is important to give the collectors something new every 2-3 months since the competition is very high. There are many smart and young people working in the art industry and everyone plays a small part from working the blog chain to working as an advisor. Therefore, it is important to embrace every aspect and include them in one platform, which is what I do with Kooness. I make improvements around every three months to give the collectors and users new ways to experience art in order to provide the best digital art experience.

Discover Kooness: kooness.com

Interview by Andrea Stenslie

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Reading time: 4 min
Portrait of businessman Samih Swiris
Portrait of businessman Samih Swiris

Egyptian entrepreneur Samih Sawiris

Mass automation will mean the majority of human beings will have little prospect of being in employment. It is essential both to provide for them with financial support, and to create a sense of purpose

The transition to the era where the vast majority of people will not be able to be employed will require governments to start seriously thinking about de-demonising not working. Right now, the world is full of Calvinists who believe that God made us here to work, and even if others are not as extreme, there is this subtle belief that if you don’t work you’re no good. And this will have to change as we move into an era where machines will do a lot of the work that people are doing now and where it becomes impossible to create enough jobs. So, de facto, come 2050 a lot of people will be born and live and die without ever really working because the world doesn’t need them as a workforce.

If governments don’t soon start to prepare people for this event, we will have a lot of angry and unhappy people who just don’t understand why some are working and they’re not.

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The second thing that has to happen is to create an association between all these machines and the ex-employees that were replaced by them, and the best scenario would be to start contriving a sense of ownership. Let’s let’s say you used to assemble cars in a factory and now it’s all computerised with robots. Under this system, you would actually own the robot, so your robot is working instead of you, doing the job that you used to do manually. You go in at the end of the month, tap it, pat it and then collect your salary. And basically governments are giving you your tax money back, the factories are not paying salaries any longer but they are paying higher taxes, and that gives the ex-employee more or less the same income, because the productivity has become better. You keep this improvement in productivity for yourself as the factory owner, you pass some of it to the employee, and the government starts giving the people some of the taxes directly, not as unemployment payments but rather as employment, or, specifically, loans to buy their robot. A factory may have a thousand robots, so a thousand employees are given a loan to buy them and they lease them to the manufacturer. The worker feels he owns the robot and the robot’s working instead of him.

Once you have addressed the bulk of the employment problem, you think about other elements. A former Uber driver would become an owner of an Uber car, and he would lease it, and he gets the delta between what the driverless car brings in versus what he would have brought, because a driverless car can drive 24 hours a day, which he cannot. So effectively there are 16 hours more work done that wouldn’t have otherwise been done.

So, with cars, trucks, assembly line workers and other manual jobs, there is a long list of functions that could be addressed in this way. New ideas will ultimately come up to address other sectors, such as accountants, for example, who will be replaced by machines.

I am not saying you’re going to totally eradicate the problem overnight, but governments have to start thinking about this. We have to start preparing children when they go to school that they shouldn’t think they are going to become a surgeon – because even operations today can be done by machines. For example, there is an experiment in which a perfect copy of a liver, including a tumour, is produced. The replica is operated on by a machine until it’s done right, and then back in the operating theatre the robot does the whole job so there is no risk of tearing an artery or other mistakes. Doctors will still have to exist for the training, and they will become much more efficient because they will be present for the first part of the process and in the second part the robot and the computer will do it alone.

Read more: Masseto unveils a new underground wine cellar

It is also empowering. If people who were formerly employees believe they own the tools, whether in a factory or in a hospital, they are being paid for the tools they own, and instead of having employees in the billions and owners in the thousands or hundreds of thousands, it becomes the other way round. There will be billions of entrepreneur/owners: the guy who owns the robot, the doctor who owns the tools. And they will get paid for the use of their tools.

At the end of the day we are only replacing people with machines because machines are going to do a better and cheaper job. So there is a delta, a benefit that’s going to be created – don’t try and keep it in your pocket, give it to the people so that they feel some kind of empowerment. They may not get paid more than they are now, maybe they even get paid less. But such is life: you stay at home, you are paid 70% of your salary from when you worked like an idiot nine hours a day. You are still better off and you have time for your family.

There will be a lot of new industries created. The entertainment industry will triple or quadruple in size to take care of all this new leisure time, and this industry will require manual labour. So the excess surplus time that people will have will by itself reignite job creation for those who just need to work.

At the end of the day we know now that jobs will disappear and the current solution of unemployment money paid to people is socially unacceptable. Society should start thinking seriously about this issue. We need to demand from governments that they be proactive in preparing citizens worldwide for this impending era.

Samih Sawiris is an Egyptian entrepreneur who built the desert city of El Gouna and is the developer of Andermatt Swiss Alps in Switzerland and Luštica Bay in Montenegro

This article was originally published in the Summer 19 Issue

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Reading time: 5 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
Velocity black branded truck in a desert facing sand dunes
Velocity black branded truck in a desert facing sand dunes

Velocity Black offers a start to finish booking service for high-net-worth individuals 

In 2014, Zia Yusuf quit his job at Goldman Sachs and started an online, ultra-luxury concierge service with his school friend Alex Macdonald. The business is run 100% digitally through the website and app, and membership is by invitation only. We put the co-founder in the hot seat for our 6 Questions interview slot.

Portrait of Velocity Black founder Zia Yusuf

Co-founder Zia Yusuf

1. What makes Velocity Black different to other lifestyle services?

Velocity Black is a members’ club reimagined for the digital age and engineered for those looking to lead a limitless life. Velocity Black is built on a breakthrough technology: the world’s first conversational mobile commerce engine for the affluent consumer. Our unique technology is disrupting several multi-trillion dollar industries at once, by re-imagining and simplifying the member experience for discovering and booking travel, dining, events and experiences. Built on the principal that the only thing we truly own is our story and everything else we are simply custodians of, Velocity Black liberates members to make their story as extraordinary as it can be. From planning round-the-world trips, to obtaining the most-sought after luxury goods, a dinner that’ll never be forgotten and original experiences like no other, Velocity Black turns what-ifs, into what’s next.

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We guarantee a response time of one minute 24/7, 365 days a year. We have enabled conversational commerce for the affluent consumer delivering personalised recommendations, automatic payment and fulfilment in real-time, around the clock.

2. How do millennials compare as customers to older generations?

Millennials are the ‘experience generation’. They are bringing a shift in consumptionVelocity Black app showing hotel booking service growth away from goods to experiences, valuing a meaningful life and memories shared over material goods. There is also an increase in awareness of the wellbeing of the planet and the effect of humanity on the environment and communities. Many millennials are increasingly looking to ‘give back’. We see that our members are particularly invested in global change.

In addition, instant messaging on smartphones is the preferred form of communication for millennials and they are much more likely to use messaging while travelling. Thanks to an ‘always on’ lifestyle, millennials live in an age of immediate gratification and our guaranteed response time appeals to this.

3. Will Velocity Black ever run out of experiences to offer?

We have delivered more than 45,000 experiences in 60 countries. We strive to assist members to live a limitless life of unforgettable moments and experiences. The world is our oyster. There is always a new experience or discovery to be had and we connect members to these.

Preview the Velocity Black world:

4. Your founding members include public figures such as Gigi Hadid and Vanessa Hudgens. Why is celebrity endorsement so important for the app?

These people work on extraordinary schedules. The reason they find value on our platform is because we make experiences so easy that all they have to do is go and get on a plane, or arrive at a restaurant. Our membership acquisition is based on an outstanding reputation and incredible offering.

5. What’s the craziest experience requested or organised through the app?

Our members benefit from being part of a closed community and we take privacy very seriously. I am therefore unable to disclose the nature of any individual requests, not even the really crazy ones!

6. Where do you go from here?

Velocity Black is one of the fastest growing tech start-ups and we don’t plan on slowing down. As voice search moves from novelty to habitual routine with time poor individuals looking to optimise their time however possible, you can expect to hear Siri and Alexa booking Velocity Black experiences on our member’s behalf. We will also be launching services in health care, real estate and art, later in 2019.

Find out more: velocity.black

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Reading time: 3 min
Render of Avenue of the Stars ocean walk in Hong Kong
Render of Avenue of the Stars ocean walk in Hong Kong

The Avenue of the Stars is Hong Kong’s new oceanside promenade developed by Adrian Cheng

The Avenue of the Stars is the oceanside promenade in Asia’s most exciting city that has just been reworked as part of the vision of Adrian Cheng, developer extraordinaire

If you’re visiting Hong Kong this winter – well, lucky you. It’s the best time of year to experience the most vibrant city in Asia, and, as from today, there is no better place to catch the phantasmagorical light show that the city puts on every night than the new Avenue of the Stars. On the waterfront, this is a half-kilometre long pedestrian zone and green space with breathtaking views of the city, which has just been reworked as part of the area’s seminal Victoria Dockside development.

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Image of oceanside promenade Avenue of the Stars at night with lights glowing in the distance

The Avenue of the Stars at night, with the lights of Central Hong Kong across the harbour

Victoria Dockside is the vision of Adrian Cheng, entrepreneur/visionary, tech and cultural tycoon, and one of LUX’s favourite dudes, and later this year will open fully as a cultural, luxury retail, public art, residential and concert space (stick with us for more details). It will also host the global flagship of Hong Kong-based Rosewood Hotel Group (Hotel de Crillon in Paris, The Carlyle in New York, etc), run with eye-watering panache by Adrian’s super-stylish maths genius sister Sonia.

Sibling rivalry? Maybe, but it’s certainly producing some epochal results. It’s time for that midnight stroll…

Darius Sanai

Read our LUX x Rosewood collaborations on ‘The New Creative Entrepreneurs’ here: lux-mag.com/meet-the-new-creative-entrepreneurs

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Reading time: 1 min
Portrait of London College of Fashion student and youtube star Derin Adetosoye
Portrait of the makers and hosts of 'The Receipts Podcast' pictured in their studio

Tolani Shoneye, Milena Sanchez and Audrey Indome of ‘The Receipts Podcast’

Remember the days when being creative meant you were someone who couldn’t cut it in the world of real jobs? Now artistry and enterprise go hand in hand, says Emma Love
Photography by Kate Peter

A LUX x ROSEWOOD COLLABORATION

What do you get if you cross eBay with Instagram? The youth-targeted, app-based selling platform Depop where vendors post images of the items that they want to sell, that’s billed as the ‘creative community’s mobile marketplace’. Depop can be as basic as a teenager posting pictures of unwanted jewellery they are selling from their bedroom, and as sophisticated as a highly stylised vintage fashion shoot – quite possibly also created by a school kid from their bedroom.

For many millennials, these apps are a neat way to make extra money on the side; the most entrepreneurial have turned selling via Depop and marketing themselves on social media into full-blown businesses. Jade Douse fits into the latter category. After realising how much money she could make by selling clothes on Depop, she teamed up with friend Symone Mills to set up street-style-inspired label Oh Hey Girl on Big Cartel in 2016. “It was a slow burner until we started putting sponsored ads on Facebook and Instagram,” recalls Douse. “We literally went from making £8,000 to £35,000 in a month.”

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Two years on, with fans including models Bella Hadid and Jourdan Dunn, Instagram is still integral to their business. “It’s our biggest network,” says Douse. “And sponsored ads are cheap. There really is nothing to hold anyone back from giving it a try.” Alongside the brand’s strong visual identity and magazine-worthy styling, its success lies in its simple shopping process: click on a pair of high-waisted, belted jeans or a puff-sleeved shirt on @ohheygirlstore and you are redirected to its website to pay. It’s a shopping solution for design conscious, iPhone-wielding buyers, and easy to manage for iPhone-wielding vendors. No wonder it works.

Founder of online clothing retailer Oh Hey Girl, Jade Douse

Portrait of Symone Mills, Oh Hey Girl founder

Jade Douse (above) and Symone Mills (here) set up Oh Hey Girl in 2016, selling exclusively online

“Social media is increasingly becoming [the place] where we discover new products,” says Petah Marian, senior editor at WGSN Insight, the industry analyst. “For many people, it feels like an intimate place to spend your time. When you see new things on these platforms, you get the sense that it’s a friend suggesting an item,even when it’s a professional influencer.”

The biggest challenge for Oh Hey Girl? Being able to react quickly in a fast-paced industry.“We’re always looking at how other brands market themselves, so we can find similar strategies that work for us,” explains Douse, who says she wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.

Retail isn’t the only industry where advances in technology have spawned out-of-the-box thinkers creative enough to carve out a unique niche. Research from Nesta and the Creative Industries Council shows that the creative industries are driving economic growth across the UK, with one million new jobs expected to be created between 2013 and 2030. “There are many jobs in the creative industries that didn’t exist 20 years ago,” explains Eliza Easton, principal policy researcher on creative economies at Nesta. “In terms of new sectors, the impact of digital can be seen across the board,especially in areas such as augmented and virtual reality, where we found 1,000 specialist companies making £660million in sales.”

Watch the LUX x ROSEWOOD film featuring the entrepreneurs

Read more: Where leading scientists and cutting-edge poets meet

Deborah Dickinson, associate professor in creative practice at City University London, agrees, citing UK Government statistics that show the creative industries were estimated to be worth £87.4billion in 2015, up 34 percent from 2010. “One of the most fascinating aspects of my job teaching creative industries to undergraduates for the past decade has been the complete change in the type of creative enterprises students move into. Probably the biggest area of job growth and employment opportunities is around digital technologies.”

Image of a home recording studio with wires hanging on hooks on the wall and a deskOne place where the impact of the digital revolution is most evident is on online platforms such as Sedition, where you can buy, rent and trade limited-edition digital artworks which are viewed on any connected device or screen.“When we first started Sedition it was an entirely new concept,” recalls director Rory Blain. “Before the digital advent many artists were working on the fringes, waiting for the technology to catch up with the vision they had. For us, it was the big advancement in screen resolution and bandwidth that meant artists were then happy to present their work on a screen.”

Take artist Gordon Cheung, whose New Order series of paintings, derived from the Dutch Golden Age and modified using an algorithm, sell on the website. For Cheung, who creates a deliberate ‘glitch’ in the code to distort the image, it’s been a learning curve. “The first time I used the code it took five minutes to make one glitch; I calculated that if I wanted to do 2,000 glitches it would take far too long,” he says. His solution to speed up the process was to ask a friend to create a user-friendly interface. Experimental artist duo Overlap, AKA Michael Denton and Anna McCrickard, also use software programmes to deliberately disrupt their music and moving-image-based artworks, including Lands, an audiovisual series of 40 iterations of the same multilayered electronic landscape (also available on Sedition).

Experimental art duo overlap at work in their home studio

Portrait of artists Michael Denton and Anna McCrickard in their home studio

Michael Denton and Anna McCrickard use Sedition as a platform for their audiovisual art

“The values that are attributed to digital artworks are exciting and frustrating at the same time; a lot of people are still nonplussed by time-based painting,” says Denton, who started out VJing for big-name music acts nearly 20 years ago. “The other side of the coin is that people are getting used to listening and reading things in different ways.” He is also excited at how the creative industries are moving forwards, and what the future holds. “In terms of where it’s going next, I think more people will become specialists in more obscure things. Technology throws up so many creative possibilities and so few of those have been explored. For instance, in visual-editing software, there isn’t a facility to move images around in relation to bars of music. If there was, I would be using it all the time, but areas like this haven’t advanced at all.”

This year, Nesta studied 41 million job adverts to identify the digital skills required for a ‘future-proof’ job, and it seems the most secure involve creativity. “What’s going to be needed is cognitive thinking and communication, so creative jobs are most likely to grow as they require those skills,” says Easton, citing a boom in entrepreneurship as another current industry trend. “In the creative world, a third of people are freelance. It’s a sector run by entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks on their own ideas.”

Instagram bristles with micro-entrepreneurs selling their own artistic creations. A LUX editor recently bought a triptych of postcard-sized oil paintings from an up-and-coming artist still studying at Oxford – a creative vendor and a purchaser connected via an algorithm.

Derin Adetosoye editing a YouTube channel post

Derin Adetosoye at work on her YouTube channel

But nowhere can the new creatives be seen more dramatically than on YouTube. While a certain group of young stars are making a name for themselves with channels that focus on lifestyle and beauty, there are more interesting talents beneath the superfice, including under-the-radar vloggers putting a fun spin on everyday topics. There’s photographer George Muncey whose Negative Feedback channel offers practical advice on editing photos and shooting film at night for instance, and London College of Fashion student Derin Adetosoye whose videos tackle helpful subjects such as exam tips and what university life is really like.

Portrait of London College of Fashion student and youtube star Derin Adetosoye

London College of Fashion student Derin Adetosoye has 30,000 YouTube subscribers

“YouTube is such an interesting platform because it allows you to have the best engagement with your audience,” explains Adetosoye, whose videos have led to her cohosting the Exam Essentials web series for BBC Bitesize as well as catching the attention of BBC 1Xtra. “You can articulate things better than you would be able to via a written blog and your audience can really see your personality. It’s also immediate so you can understand how a subject is resonating with viewers.”

Read more: Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst on the art x technology revolution

The biggest obstacles she has had to overcome include shyness at filming in public and finding ways to make her subjects more amusing. “When vlogs first started it was all about showing every single thing that happened in your day. Now, they tend to be shorter, better planned and more entertaining. It’s a good thing because it means that the viewer is getting the best content.” Although Adetosoye has no plans to make a full-time career from vlogging, she doesn’t see herself stopping anytime soon either. “When people tell me they’ve aced a test or chosen to take a particular degree because they were inspired by my videos, it’s heart warming.” And as Easton concludes: “YouTube and Netflix are platforms, but without content they are nothing. It’s the content that defines how we want to use these new platforms.”

Another flourishing platform is the podcast. Once often just the best bits of radio shows, podcasts now are producing some of the most thrilling new content (and popularity is rising: figures released in 2018 by Radio Joint Audience Research, the official body measuring UK radio audiences, revealed that six million adults in the UK listen to a podcast weekly). From comedies such as My Dad Wrote a Porno (which has been turned into a live stage show and is set to be a HBO special too), to singer-songwriter Jessie Ware’s Table Manners about ‘food, family and the art of having a chat’, it is the current medium of choice for opinionated, personal broadcasts.

Tolani Shoneye is a journalist and one of the founders of The Receipts Podcast

Tolani Shoneye of ‘The Receipts Podcast’

“Podcasts allow more voices to be heard,” agrees journalist Tolani Shoneye, one third of the trio that hosts The Receipts Podcast, which delivers straight-talking conversations about all kinds of subjects from relationships to music. “In the past if you wanted to get something made you’d have to go through the proper channels. Now there’s more freedom; anyone can make a podcast and have a voice.”

And that’s the irony. In an era when the human race is fearing redundancy, or worse, due to AI developments, creative disciplines, aided by technology, are booming as never before. Millions are taking the opportunity to be both creative and entrepreneurial, something AI is ill-suited to do. Even as machines poise to take over, creativity has never had it so good.

Rosewood hotel London

Rosewood London

ROSEWOOD LONDON

Rosewood London is in the heart of the city with a claim to be the world’s creative capital. A blend of English heritage and contemporary refinement, the Edwardian building is an oasis on historic High Holborn, with easy access to the vibes of Shoreditch, the glamour of Mayfair, the glitz of Theatreland and the buzz of the City.

Book your stay: rosewoodhotels.com

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 issue.

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Reading time: 9 min
Young woman wearing jeans and white top poses lying on the ground

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

Portrait of Thai English model Olivia Graham

Model and entrepreneur, Lydia Graham. Image courtesy Models 1

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: At 16, Lydia Graham applied to an online modelling competition at the now defunct teen magazine, Sugar. She didn’t win but still got signed by Models 1. Now 22, she’s already shot for the likes of Burberry and Kenzo, signed a beauty and perfume contract with Yves Rocher and is set to launch her own brand, Oh Lydia, early next year. Charlie speaks to Lydia about the fashion industry, Victoria’s Secret and versatility.

Charlie Newman: You’re half British and half Thai – what was your upbringing like?
Lydia Graham: I was born in Bangkok, so I’m a Thai citizen, but I’m the furthest thing from being Thai because I don’t speak Thai and I don’t understand it either! I moved to Hertfordshire in England when I was two years old, then onto East Sussex and now I live in Whitechapel.

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

Charlie Newman: From when you first started modelling, how do you think the industry has changed?
Lydia Graham: I guess it’s more diverse. I enjoy it better now because I have the choice of saying no, not that I necessarily need to, but for example I’m getting stronger at not letting people cut my hair whichever way they like on set. Still I’ve had the dodgiest haircuts in my time!

Charlie Newman: Are there still things you think could be improved in the industry?
Lydia Graham: For me, the modelling side of things has got so much better, including plus sized girls, shorter girls, it’s much more street cast nowadays. Where I would like to see the industry change is with payment. Even though I get paid quite well as a model, a lot of my friends are stylists or photographers or artists and they work so hard yet don’t get paid. Sometimes I feel bad because I know how much I’m getting whilst I know half of the people on set are doing it for free. I think if everyone got paid then it would just set the standard. It would also prevent the snobbery between commercial and editorial jobs within the industry. The cheaper the brand the higher they pay, whilst the high end brands believe that whoever shoots for them should feel privileged, hence why the pay is so little. But then again, you can’t put the commercial jobs in your portfolio, it’s the editorial shoots that the clients want to see. At the end of the day, it should never be acceptable to work for free, it should all be fair.

Young woman wearing jeans and white top poses lying on the ground

Image courtesy Models 1

Charlie Newman: You’ve been really smart with changing your ‘look’ over the years which I think elongates your career and makes you more versatile. What’s been your favourite look so far?
Lydia Graham: Probably the mullet but I just couldn’t style it myself and I think my hair was too thick for it, I just ended up looking like Dot Cotton! My hairdresser’s amazing but my hair just wasn’t quite right for it. At the moment I’d like my hair to be longer but with a short fringe or maybe go peroxide blonde one day and then get a pixie cut after. But obviously I haven’t spoken to Models 1 about it yet!

Charlie Newman: Within a world where the beauty standard is so narrow, have you found your uniqueness to be an advantage or disadvantage?
Lydia Graham: A bit of both. Even though I’m not a full Asian, sometimes I’m used as the token Asian, which I’m happy to represent so in that example it’s been good. But other times I get backhanded compliments like “Oh you just look so normal, the clothes fit you so good, normally we have to pin them to other models” or “You just look like anyone walking down the street”, I’m like cheers for that! If I wasn’t in the right headspace that could have a bad effect on me, but I obviously don’t give a shit.

Read more: New luxury hotel Chais Monnet opens near Bordeaux

Charlie Newman: You’ve got effortless style. If money was no object, who would you choose to wear?
Lydia Graham: I used to really love Gucci but now I just think the designs are too mad. I don’t really have a favourite brand right now, but I love the stylist Mimi Cuttrell, she nails every outfit! She doesn’t just put the same look on all her girls, she styles them all individually, my favourite being Bella Hadid, she always looks sick!

Charlie Newman: What’s been your favourite job thus far?
Lydia Graham: My favourite would have to be for the shoe brand Call it Spring that I shot with my boyfriend Josh. It’s not particularly high fashion but they were just amazing trips. The team were so cool, we would have the best time in the evenings all together. We’ve been to Palm Springs, Lisbon and Berlin – it was the whole experience! My favourite high fashion shoot would have to be with Burberry. I knew everyone on set, the shoot for me is more about the team and the experience than the images that come out of it. In other words, didn’t care about either of those jobs running overtime basically, I didn’t want to rap at 5 like I normally do!

Burberry campaign starring model Lydia Graham

Lydia for Burberry. Instagram: @ohlydiagraham

Charlie Newman: You’re currently embarking on creating your own brand called Oh Lydia. Please tell us more about it.
Lydia Graham: It first started because I was getting a bit depressed. I was either working too hard or not enough and was really struggling with the imbalance of my life. If I’m not busy then I’ve got the time for my mind to wander. I was feeling a bit lost but Josh, bless him, was always encouraging me to do more, saying that I had so much more to offer than just modelling. So I thought fuck it, why not run my own business, even if it doesn’t make a profit I want to give it a go.

Underwear is such a big thing for me, I love nothing more than wearing something sexy but comfy – I’m a big advocate for comfort! I remember when Josh and I first started dating and I’d go to Agent Provocateur and buy a nice set of underwear and I’ve only worn it once! Now I see it in the drawer and try it on but take it off immediately because it’s just not me. Then I thought, why can’t I have date night underwear but still be able to wear a sanitary towel? I’m not calling myself a designer, so I’ve decided to just stick with pants and tank tops for now before I get the experience to do more. I’m using a lot of small businesses to help me get to where I want to be because at the end of the day, I’m only a little person in this world! Ultimately, Oh Lydia came about through a mixture of boredom and entrepreneurial spirit. Most importantly it makes me feel happier!

Read more: Artist Maryam Eisler on East London’s creative characters

Charlie Newman: What sort of image are you hoping for?
Lydia Graham: The comfort of M&S underwear but in a colourful, 90s aesthetic although I’m making the colours more modern, it’s not just a vintage remake.

Charlie Newman: You’re clearly very interested in underwear and as the Victoria’s Secret show came out only last weekend, I just wondered what your attitude was to their whole brand and their values?
Lydia Graham: I don’t really rate them as a brand. All the girls look beautiful but that doesn’t mean I want to actually go out and buy the clothes. I can appreciate that Candice Swanepoel is so fit, but it all just seems so far out of my reach. I don’t even think ‘Oh I could never look like that’, my brain just completely switches off. But of course I understand it really opens up the girls career and changes their lives. I always hear the girls refer to VS as their ‘family’ but within fashion I just don’t think that exists because however much of a relationship you have with a client, they’ll always need new girls, you’re only ever just a number. I would always call my agency Models 1 my family though, as they’ve been there right from the beginning.

Charlie Newman: Who would be your role model of the month?
Lydia Graham: It would have to be my little 20 year old sister. She’s a carer and earns barely anything considering she works her fucking arse off. She’s such a grafter, always working extra shifts. If she can do it then we all can do it!

Follow Lydia Graham on Instagram: @ohlydiagraham

 

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Reading time: 7 min
Grand hotel entrance with british flag flying at the doorway, a car parked outside and lights glowing from the windows
Grand hotel entrance with british flag flying at the doorway, a car parked outside and lights glowing from the windows

The entrance to the Corinthia Hotel in Westminster, London

Under the leadership of Alfred Pisani, Corinthia Hotels has grown from a single family-owned banquet hall in Malta to a global luxury brand with properties in 9 destinations and forthcoming openings in Dubai and Brussels. LUX speaks to the Maltese businessman about the challenges he’s faced, his guiding principles and the importance of creating a strong employee culture
Portrait of Maltese businessman and Corinthia Hotels founder Alfred Pisani

Founder & Chairman of Corinthia Hotels, Alfred Pisani

LUX: You developed one of the first deluxe hotels in Malta on your family’s estate. Can you tell us about that story?
Alfred Pisani: It’s a long story but I’ll try and abbreviate. Basically, I was not planning to become a hotelier. My interests when I was at college were mathematics and science; a very logical style of thinking, which I think is very important to our life anyway. My father had just bought a beautiful, majestic villa with some 20,000 square metres of land and wasn’t quite sure whether we were going to live in it or he was going to do business in it. Unfortunately, he passed away four months later, and suddenly, together with my brothers, I had the responsibility of deciding what to do with this property. The place had not been lived in for a number of years and obviously deterioration had taken place, so our first step was to try and put that right. I went to the bank and got a loan, which my uncle supported me with in terms of security, and we first started using this magnificent hall for receptions and weddings, parties and so on.

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

Then one day someone came along and said, ‘Why don’t you provide the catering as well?’ so we brought in an outside caterer to help us with that request. After that, we organised a proper kitchen, and then we opened our own restaurant. Two years down the line, there was a big drive from the government to give incentives to entrepreneurs, as the country was changing the economy from  one totally dependent on a naval and military base (as the English were pulling out), to one where we would have industry and tourism, to create a new economy. So I applied, and I went with my own drawing of a forty-room hotel to the appropriate ministry, but we were told we wouldn’t qualify unless we had a minimum 150 rooms.

Vintage photograph from the opening of Corinthia Palace in Malta

The opening of Corinthia Palace in Malta, 1968

A few weeks later, I went back with an elongated hotel with 156 rooms. And the guy said to me, ‘So you have money for 40 rooms, but do you have room for 156?’ I said, ‘Well, no, but the bank does. They’re going to give us the money.’ He was amused, but I still went through the motions. I went to one bank, and then another, and then another, and eventually I found one large enough to handle the job. The same question was asked about our equity, and I told them the equity was the building, the ground and our effort. We got 100% funding, and this is something I’m still proud of today. That was unheard of then. But I assume the timing was part of the whole success; there was a tremendous push to bring in foreign currency and to create a new industry.

Then when I came to build the hotel, I found the local contractors were very busy and too expensive, so I decided I’d be the contractor. I actually employed people from the street – literally. And I’ve never built a hotel as fast as that. Never. Today I keep saying to everybody, ‘We do so many drawings that we’d have enough paper to build a hotel out of it.’ But obviously things have become very much more complicated with all the electronics and everything. It’s quite remarkable, though, what one can do when one is determined. I remember buying a second-hand mixer to do the concrete, and we would throw in the aggregate, the sand and the cement and I’d hold a pipe and I’d look it and say, ‘Hmm, yes, the consistency looks right, let’s pour.’

Read more: New luxury hotel Chais Monnet opens near Bordeaux

You know, it’s remarkable with what you can do with nothing. We would work from 6 o’clock in the morning until about 11 o’clock at night, day in, day out, for around two years. And then we opened and it was successful. Again, there were coincidences that helped us along the road and we took the opportunities. Some decisions were very difficult to make in terms of bringing in new partners and going from one playing field to a more advanced one with new shareholders and new standards. And you have to remember that we didn’t have a home market. The banks couldn’t come aboard with us, because they just didn’t have the capital to do that. So, each time we went to an outside destination we’d have to talk to banks who didn’t know us. That didn’t make it easy. You really had to prove yourself. And you had to appoint new architects too. This was what I found most difficult. If you got your first step outside your island wrong, it would just knock you out. So you couldn’t afford to get it wrong. At that time, I didn’t think like that: I just went and went and went. I never had a doubt in my mind. I suppose that’s the beauty of youth, when you are full of enthusiasm and determination but you are limited in your expertise and experience: that combination worked well for us.

Vintage photograph of woman sunbathing by a hotel pool

Ladies enjoying the pool at Corinthia Palace, Malta in 1968

We have always focused on trying to achieve the best. I don’t think in the early days we gave more importance to visibility as to the quality. I have a strong conviction that quality will win the day. You have to get every step right and then the results will be right. I had a natural tendency to focus on the details and trying to get everything right with the strong belief that that was ultimately what would produce the results I wanted. We don’t have a real measure. I used to say, ‘If I sow one hundred seeds, ninety-five will grow, because that’s part of nature.’ So as long as you move with the current of nature, the results are going to be further growth. There were these very strong principles from a very early stage, and I was constantly trying to share my beliefs and direction with everybody else.

LUX: What do you think sets the Corinthia apart?
Alfred Pisani: Well, today, after so many years of growing a hotel out of a very small country, we have brought another element into our consideration. Not only do we believe in ‘doing it right’ in order to generate a positive return, but we’ve gone one step further by saying we want to “uplift lives”. It will probably take a long time to appreciate what I’m trying to say; I didn’t think like this when I was younger, but it’s something people get to eventually. If you want a more productive outcome from your colleagues – I don’t like to call them employees – you must identify a sense of caring. If you share your knowledge, give a helping hand and show respect, this creates a more committed work force, where everybody is aligning the energy. It’s just like in a magnet: when you align all the atoms instead of having them in disarray, you create a magnet. Simply by infusing a sense of discipline and purpose, you can align everyone’s energies to think in the same direction. You create an energy where, like a magnet, though you can’t see it, you can sense it.

So, from being totally focused on wanting perfection, it has translated itself over the years into saying how can you make everyone within the family more successful as an individual? You must sleep well, eat well, socialise – work is just another aspect of this holistic responsibility. If you can get your engine to be firing correctly on all cylinders, you just get your efficiency a bit higher; you fine tune it. That’s what I think sets Corinthia apart. We have a very close interaction with our personnel. We call it the family. I truly say this with all sincerity: people who have come to the company, and even those who leave the company, will always remain Corinthians. They will always show respect. I say this with a lot of conviction and satisfaction.

Luxury hotel bedroom with a double bed and open plan bathroom decorated in stylish neutral tones

A suite at the Corinthia Hotel in London

LUX: We’ve been discussing your properties in Malta – is that your biggest market?
Alfred Pisani: If we go back to when I opened my first hotel in 1968, at that time, with Malta still having a semi-colonial relationship with Britain, all we knew was the UK. We bought everything from the UK, right down to the smallest screw. Our tourism came from the UK, I would say 99%. There was no corporate business because there was no business. People came mainly in summer. Their stays would be long stays – one or two weeks – and it was all handled by tour operators, who distributed the brochures and displayed the hotel across the UK. They would come over in August and agree the rates for the following year. Everything was agreed a year in advance.

Read more: Luxury watch designer Richard Mille on creativity and supercars

Over the years the government and hoteliers realised that it was necessary to diversify for the future and effort was put into marketing it in Europe. And this has, over the years, mainly succeeded, because now we have visitors from all over. Possibly Britain is still number 1. I think it’s a healthy situation to arrive at. When we came to open in London, we knew what the story was. In the five-star business, you had the home market and the United States. So we made a big effort in the United States to win our share of the five star business coming to London, competing against all the other well-known brands, who have been there for a very long time. I think we did very well in penetrating the market in the space of two or three years.

Luxury indoor swimming pool with soft lighting and blue tiles

The Pool at ESPA, Corinthia London

LUX: What’s the biggest challenge in investing in other countries?
Alfred Pisani: As I said earlier our bankers, our lawyers, our everything could not move with us. We had to look for destination  where their business had a similarity to us such as resort businesses, holiday businesses, and where it was not too expensive that we could not afford it. I couldn’t dream of coming to London or New York so to begin we built five hotels in Turkey and because I didn’t feel confident enough I looked for Turkish partner.

After 1990 when there was the dissolution of the Soviet Union, tremendous opportunities were available in Russia and all the Eastern European countries came by cheaply. Now, we were, I think, even ahead of the banks! We went into St Petersburg and Budapest and so on and they were good opportunities. We visited every single east European country that had now opened, but what I didn’t have, because I don’t think we were wise yet or we didn’t have the reputation yet, was funding and support from a consult team of banks and institutions which was somewhat of a handicap because the opportunities I met were tremendous.

Read more: The Secret Diary of an Oxford Undergraduate

LUX: And you’ve got properties opening in Brussels and Dubai?
Alfred Pisani: We bought the property in Brussels so that belongs to us, but in Dubai we are purely in management. We will run our flag on one of the most beautiful hotels to be built in Dubai and it will be Corinthia, but we are not the owners. We have supported it in the designs – it will be stunning and it’s set to open in 2020.

In the meantime, we have been operating two other properties on behalf of the same company, the Meydan Group. They have the Meydan Hotel which has big horse racing track and all of the bedrooms overlook the track. It’s a very successful property and we have seen tremendous increase in the bottom line since we took over, together with another hotel which they own in the desert called Bab Al Shams. So, apart from investing in our own properties I think now we have a brand that is visible enough and that is providing good enough standards to also offer it to third party owners and hopefully expand our brand in many more hotels without necessarily putting in capital.

Luxury restaurant interiors with a sculpture of a man in a suit, dark green walls and plush red sofa seating

The restaurant at Corinthia London, headed by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge

LUX: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn?
Alfred Pisani: I think the lesson I learnt was a confirmation of the conviction I already had to do everything properly and that by doing everything properly, you stood a much bigger chance of success, as opposed to taking shortcuts. We kept to this principal and we would never get involved with political parties in countries. What I realise today, which I didn’t realise at the time, is that I think we were right  in the way we negotiated and I don’t think I would change it if I had to do it all over again. My advice to those who are still starting is keep on the straight.

LUX: Do you see a difference in what younger and older travellers expect from luxury?
Alfred Pisani: Yes, there has been a change of expectations from the customers in terms of the hardware, for example, bathrooms. However, the basic ingredients that they look for haven’t changed. Are you welcomed with a smile that is genuine and not plastic? Do you truly, collectively, radiate an energy of positiveness, which makes the customer feel good even though he cannot put his finger on it? Those elements haven’t really changed that much. I don’t know whether in a number of years to come whether we will be interacting with one another in a deeper way by the development of our intellect, the telepathy, the ability to feel and sense each other in a stronger way with the support of electronics… That’s the future.

LUX: And what about the future of Corinthia Hotels?
Alfred Pisani: Growth. I am sure that the principles that we have worked with will be maintained and the new phrase that was created recently in our last general managers’ meeting in Brussels: “uplifting lives”. That phrases encompasses how we want to continue helping our colleagues to grow and become better people.

Discover Corinthia hotels: corinthia.com

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Reading time: 12 min
Chais Monnet is a luxury country hotel in southwest France with striking contemporary architecture
Chais Monnet is a luxury country hotel in southwest France with striking contemporary architecture

Chais Monnet is a luxury country and spa hotel near Bordeaux

Last week saw the official opening of the most swanky hotel in southwest France, by Anglo-Iranian entrepreneur Javad Marandi, owner of the beyond cool Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, England.

A very welcome addition to the luxury hotel scene near Bordeaux, Chais Monnet is a converted former Cognac warehouse transformed into a very lavish hotel, spa, and conference centre with some breathtaking architecture by Didier Poignant. The interior design is contemporary-luxe auberge, if you can allow yourself to imagine such a thing, and the cuisine has a lightness of touch and umami influence from Sebastien Broda, who earned a Michelin star at his former employer in Cannes.

Luxury Hotel Chais Monnet resides in a former Cognac warehouse, transformed into striking contemporary architecture

The hotel was built out of a former Cognac warehouse by architect Didier Poignant

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Chais Monnet offers riding holidays, picnics in the sun-dappled vineyards of Cognac in classic cars (guests can just jump into the hotel’s vintage Citroen and drive away), wine and cognac tastings and tours of the local Cognac houses such as Hennessy, Martell and Rémy Martin, as well as visits to the great Chateaux of Bordeaux, and a spa and full-sized indoor-outdoor pool.

Dancers perform with flaming torches at opening celebration of luxury country hotel Chais Monnet

A local troupe performs a fire dance at the opening of the luxury Chais Monnet hotel

Read more: An exclusive preview inside Hôtel Chais Monnet

At the launch event last week, we were content to sip Cognac cocktails (and some very refreshing local Chenin Blanc) while indulging in the festivities and a feast inside the old chais, or cellar, surrounded by ancient ageing vats. Oh, and then we partied away to a jazz band in the extremely cool converted barn-bar. A new reference for this part of France.

Panel of speakers standing on a stage at the inauguration of luxury hotel near bordeaux Chais Monnet

From left to right: Cognac Mayor Michel Gourinchas, architect Didier Poignant, Daniel Theron of ACPH, Xavier Arm from Vinci construction, and hotel General Manager Arnaud Bamvens

Owner Javad Marandi attends opening of hotel Chais Monnet in southwestern France along with Cognac Mayor and the hotel manager

Owner Javad Marandi, Cognac Mayor Michel Gourinchas and hotel manager Arnaud Bamvens

Making of an oak barrique at the opening ceremony of Chais Monnet

The making of an oak barrique, part of the display at the opening of Chais Monnet in southwest France

Book your stay: chaismonnethotel.com
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Reading time: 1 min
Facade of the K11 Musea Hong Kong development with roof gardens
Facade of the K11 Musea Hong Kong development with roof gardens

The K11 Musea retail complex forms part of the Victoria Dockside development

Entrepreneur Adrian Cheng and landscape architect James Corner are transforming Hong Kong with a multi-billion dollar development plan. Leading architecture writer Mark C O’Flaherty reports

Every city wants its own High Line. Designing an urban park that sits cheek by jowl with super-prime real estate is a difficult task, and the benchmark is the 1.45-mile-long repurposed structure that runs north from the once run-down – nay, degenerate – Meatpacking District in Manhattan. So, when Adrian Cheng (son of Hong Kong billionaire Henry Cheng and executive vice chairman of real-estate behemoth New World Development) was looking for someone to transform the world-famous but tired TST waterfront area of the Kowloon Peninsula into a 21st-century destination for recreation, he turned to James Corner of Field Operations. Corner is perhaps the world’s most celebrated landscape architect right now – the man behind the engineering of the High Line, as well as the new Domino Park on the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn. After six years of work, Kowloon’s Victoria Dockside – which has already taken significant shape and is scheduled for completion late next year – looks set to offer a new gold standard for urban planning.

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“The High Line was an epic success,” says Corner, without any hint of a self-congratulatory tone. “It is much-loved by people from all over the world.” At the same time, he sees the High Line as something unique to its Manhattan context, flanked by landmarks and the neighbourhoods of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea. It can’t, he believes, be duplicated. “Every city does seem to want its own High Line,” he says, “but other cities should better evaluate and imagine how public spaces can be designed for them that are authentic to, and resonant with, their own contexts. With the Hong Kong project, all we did was simply amplify the power of the existing context – improving accessibility, designing places to sit and linger, and provide shade. The new design will recall many characteristics of the old TST, while pointing ways forward to its future.”

Architectural render of a white building with sloping walkway and building

The Mount Pavilia residential complex is part of New World Development’s Hong Kong portfolio

Corner first visited Hong Kong in the 1990s, the decade that saw sovereignty handed from the UK to China. If there was any worry that the handover would stem growth on the island, it was misplaced – this continues to be an electrifying hub of culture and commerce, developing at an incredible rate. Corner started work on the US$2.6billion, three-million-square-foot New World Development project in 2012, and has been visiting every 10 weeks since then. “The city has always appeared vibrant and cosmopolitan to me,” he says. “But even more so in recent years, especially now that it is actively shaping public access and space around the harbour front, investing in new cultural facilities, and prioritising liveable, walkable and sociable city space.”

Architectural render of a waterfront promenade with shaded seating areas and buildings in the background

Corner’s waterfront design includes lots of shaded areas

For years, the Avenue of Stars on the Kowloon waterfront has been on every tourist’s list of must-dos in the city. The statue of Bruce Lee here has been photographed as much as the light show that bursts into to life across the skyscrapers of the CBD on the other side of the harbour. But, as waterside thoroughfares go, it’s hardly up there with the pleasures of the Southbank Centre in London or Sydney Harbour. It was never somewhere you’d want to linger – particularly when heat and humidity hit typically intolerable levels. “We have improved access to shade with numerous trellises, trees and other canopies,” explains Corner. “The experience will be richly varied, fun and engaging – it is social, global, spectacular and at the same time humanising, fun and special.” Looking at renderings of it from above, it mixes inside and outside elements with graphic élan. It will redefine the look of the city.

Read more: Bruno Schöpfer, Managing Director of the Bürgenstock Selection, on the future of luxury hospitality

One of the many things that makes this project so different from other urban park commissions with which Corner has been involved, is Adrian Cheng, an art patron and gallerist as well as a developer. He has a unique fluency in the language of urban culture. While there’s already a fully operational 15-floor limestone-and-bronze office tower at the new Victoria Dockside (Mizuho Bank and Taipei Fubon Commercial Bank were two early adopters of the space), and a revenue-spinning hotel and shopping complex with a glass corridor at the heart of the masterplan, there will also be a sunken amphitheatre with curved glass walls surrounding it, and a constantly changing collection of public art on view. One of the first pieces to be installed when the project is finished next year will be Elmgreen & Dragset’s Van Gogh’s Ear – a swimming pool turned upright, deep-end down, originally installed at the Fifth Avenue entrance to the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center in New York City in 2016. It will, inevitably, be photographed with the same fervour as the Bruce Lee statue.

Tall skyscraper on the edge of waterfront with boats floating, buildings and mountains in the distance

The 15-floor K11 Atelier office building is already open

The aforementioned shopping complex has its own cultural agenda. Christened the K11 Musea, it takes its name from the K11 Art Foundation that Cheng founded in 2010, and which he continues to head. Like the new Whitney in New York, it has incorporated numerous terraces into its design, which stops it looking like a hermetically sealed institution. Instead, the green layered spaces that punctuate the elegant, rounded architecture bring human and plant life to the skyline. The K11 retail complex will host live music, exhibitions and numerous other cultural events according to Cheng who, in addition to his cultural responsibilities in Asia, sits on the board of the Museum of Modern Art PS1 in New York and is a member of the International Circle of Centre Pompidou.

Man wearing black polo neck sitting on blue velvet chair wearing glasses with wooden bookshelves behind

Hong Kong entrepreneur Adrian Cheng

“Adrian is a true visionary and inspiration,” says Corner. “He is of course a developer and his primary business is development for both retail and lifestyle, but his passion is art and culture, so he works very hard to bring richly textured practices of art and culture to his development projects. This is why he is so passionate about the outdoor public spaces – these are not simply frontages to his development, but more active platforms for social life, for civic engagement, public participation, art and culture. His vision is civic, generous and inclusive.”

Read more: Why you should be staying at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme this September

The pavilia hiill building hong kong

Cheng’s other developments include The Pavilia Hill (pictured here) and Skypark rooftop clubhouse (above)

Portrait of James Corner, celebrated landscape architect standing against a patterned wall

Landscape architect James Corner

As far as the dynamic of the public outdoor spaces of the new Victoria Dockside goes, there are valid logistical parallels with the High Line. “Like the project in New York, it is tightly dimensioned,” explains Corner. “But we were still able to provide spaces to sit, gather and look at views, and plantings to provide colour and shade, as well as water features and lighting for dramatic effect and art for social enrichment.” The two projects also share an issue in terms of the choice of the greenery. By its very nature (being essentially a raised, elongated platform), the High Line had a very thin allowance for soil. “We used a planting palette that is robust and attuned to those kinds of conditions,” he says. “The same is true in Hong Kong, where we do not have ample soil, but we do have stress from sun, heat and typhoons – so again we needed a careful planting palette with adequate maintenance and oversight.” The result will look perpetually fresh, green and inviting.

One may wonder for a moment, in a global city where every square inch has to wash its own face financially, what the quantifiable value of recreational space is. At a time when you can shop online and choose to work remotely, it may in fact be priceless. Traditional urban office and retail space is undergoing a global reboot, and Victoria Dockside is a particularly stylish example of the phenomenon. It offers a profoundly pleasurable experience. “Cities are economic machines,” says Corner, “and the new Victoria Dockside significantly improves economic value, while at the same time enhancing public space experience for everybody. Parks, squares, gardens, courts, terraces, promenades, waterfronts and so on, are fundamental to improving the liveability, sustainability and social equity in our cities. These are investments that only add value. It is a win-win – a transformation for both the economy and the people.”

View more of James Corner’s projects at: fieldoperations.net
Learn about Adrian Cheng’s K11 Foundation: k11artfoundation.org

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Reading time: 7 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
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.”

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

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!

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Reading time: 14 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