Two artists who are men standing in front of a mirror with a blue background

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George Condo shot this selfie and painted this logo and these coverlines for our cover. We see it as an ‘anti-cover’ – a reaction to the slick imagery created by magazines and now universally imitated by social media

George Condo has been redefining art for more than four decades. As he unveils a body of work titled “The Mad and the Lonely”, the artist speaks with Maryam Eisler about the human condition and society’s outcasts. Condo created this issue’s cover and logo for LUX, and showcases these paintings for the first time below

Maryam Eisler: Charles Bukowski once said, “Only the crazy and the lonely can afford to be themselves”. Would you agree?
George Condo: I would agree with Bukowski. However, I would say the mad and the lonely are perhaps more victims of their own internal circumstances, as opposed to having the choice to make that distinction.

back of a man painting in his studio, with an image of various faces

George Condo at work in his studio

ME: Would you consider madness and loneliness as necessary precursors to the act of creation?
GC: I don’t think so. I imagine the mad and the lonely as a state of mind that comes over the artist in moments of joy and happiness as well. Suddenly, without warning, the subconscious kicks in and drives him, or at least myself, into dark corners within me to bring out reflections, or rather observations of those disparate souls in life who have no choice but to be outcast or peripheral to the everyday working-class person, and are unable to function within the constraints of such boundaries. At which point, they become either homeless or simply rejected from society.

a man who is an artist looking directly at the viewer, drawn with pencil

George Condo, Illustration by Jonathan Newhouse

ME: Henry Miller once said, “The artist is always alone”. Are you mad and lonely? If so, is it by choice or by necessity?
GC: I am not mad and lonely. However, the portraits I paint are depictions of those who are. I like to take selfies, like the one on the LUX cover, because they make me laugh. Miller’s books always make me laugh as well. They are practically selfies in and of themselves.

Artwork created for LUX, 2024, by George Condo

ME: Have we become sad, lonely and angry as a society? Have we forgotten empathy? How would you propose saving us?
GC: I cannot save the world from its own extinction. We are the new dinosaurs living through the ice age, the cyber age, the world of disinformation and scam; a world at war within itself, like fires that keep popping up in various cultures – cultures that have been driven to believe in war against each other, a rather brutal form of extinction.

 

a painting of someone between a person and an animal

‘Acceptance’, 1989, by George Condo

 

ME: Sciences help us understand the natural world; social sciences help us measure human behaviour. Is culture alone capable of understanding the individual’s emotions?
GC: The emotional aspects of a child are the purest. Once the child becomes hardwired into various systems of belief, whether by political pressures or religious pressures passed to them by their elders, is when the trouble begins. The actual science of medicine and the science of research are subject to government regulations that perhaps aid the big pharmaceutical companies to continue to produce drugs. Many of the drugs they have produced previously have led to the need of the new drugs. For all we know, there has been a cure for dementia or cancer that has been held back from us for years. For all we know, it’s like trying to get to the truth about aliens. I don’t have an answer to that. I find that art is the truth; it is the only manmade representation of what one truly has to say and can believe in.

ME: How would you qualify the individual’s experience when they are confronted with a great artwork?
GC: I think the first feeling is one of great joy in seeing the remarkable impact of either colour or form or the way things are depicted and the spirit of an artist’s true beliefs.

 

A face coming out of a purple and blue background

‘Appearance’, 2023, by George Condo

 

ME: It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who once said that we consume culture to enlarge our hearts and minds. Would you agree that the very best of the arts induce humility and empathy?
GC: I would say Emerson was able to express some of the most beautiful essays ever written and I agree with everything he has said. His quotes from Aristotle are particularly amusing.

ME: Do you agree that art has the power to render sorrow into beauty, loneliness into a shared experience and despair into hope?
GC: I do agree with that. I believe it’s possible in art to turn that which is negative into positive, and that some of the most beautiful art is of the melancholic. One might find in the music of John Dowland in the early 17th century such beautiful and melancholic songwriting and ensemble music, such as ‘Lachrimae’, or ‘Seaven Teares’ as well as ‘A Pilgrimes Solace’, that it becomes transformative. This mood pervades throughout the arts, in painting as well, from this period. One might think of Caravaggio’s ‘Death of the Virgin’, which is currently at the Louvre.

 

a red nun, in a painting

‘The Red Nun’, 2017, by George Condo

 

ME: Dakis Joannou said, “If it doesn’t have psyche, it cannot be art”. How would you describe the psyche when it comes to your own art production?
GC: The psyche is an Ancient Greek expression and it still stands true. If the art does not have a mind of its own, irrespective of the viewers, it’s no good.

ME: Are you excited by your upcoming collaboration with Dakis Joannou’s Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art on the island of Hydra?
GC: I’m very excited, I’ve known Dakis for quite some time now. He is a very wise man with an extremely acute sense of aesthetics and imagination – even to have realised the Slaughterhouse as a place to show art tells you just how brilliant he is.

 

a blue face with brownish red wide eyes, pointy eyebrows and a long nose

‘Dark Facing Light’, 2023, by George Condo

 

ME: Does Hydra itself play a big part in this excitement? If so, why?
GC: Yes. This is a mythical island and it has all the elements of the ancient and modern times combined within one place.

ME: What are you hoping to achieve with this initiative?
GC: My hope is to somehow combine minimalism and figuration in one exhibition and to have a kind of dialectic experience take place: the cold and the warm coming together and liberating the constraints of both forms of art from being anything less than human.

a sculpture of a head

‘The Renegade’, 2009, by George Condo

ME: Would you say that this is a big departure stylistically and thematically from what you have produced in the past?
GC: This will be the first time I have worked in such a way as to focus the attention on the outcasts of society and glorify or rather dignify them in the context of a high-art experience.

ME: Where have you found your main sources of inspiration? Have these sources shifted in recent years or for the work you are about to present in Hydra?
GC: My art is always in flux with my imagination. I don’t necessarily draw or paint in a representational manner; it’s more an internal dialogue in my mind that is thrust onto the surface of a canvas to express my inner thoughts and feelings.

Caravaggio painting with red and heads and someone dying

‘The Death of the Virgin’, 1606, by Caravaggio (Fine Art/Alamy Stock Photo)

ME: What are you fascinated by these days? What do you abhor?
GC: Well, I am always fascinated by food, I must admit. I love to cook and try out new recipes or recreate things I’ve eaten that I really love. I even had such a great Greek lamb sandwich in Athens that I recreated the food-truck experience for Dakis here in New York and he loved it! I abhor war and suffering. I wish the wars would all end.

ME: What are your plans after Hydra?
GC: I will just come back home. My daughter is expecting a baby girl and I’m hoping to spend time babysitting!

George Condo’s exhibition “The Mad and The Lonely” is at the Deste Foundation Project Space Slaughterhouse, Hydra, Greece, 18 June-31 October 2024;

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Man in a mask standing next to frames of a crushed car
Pink and purple book on a colourful table

The hardback copy of ‘Confined Artists – Free Spririts: Portraints and Interviews from Lockdown 2020’. Photo by Maryam Eisler

During the lockdown of 2020, Maryam Eisler brought together 164 of the world’s most influential artists, interviewing and photographing them over video calls to create a unique series of portraits and accompanying insights. As we anticipate the physical launch of Confined Artists – Free Spirits: Portraits & Interviews from Lockdown 2020, Trudy Ross speaks to Maryam about looking back on her unique creative journey from a post-pandemic perspective

It was April 2020, and Maryam Eisler was feeling restless. With her usual schedule of travelling round the world, exploring and creating curtailed, she sat at home pondering a life without movement. Thus, in a rare circumstance of  stasis, a one-of-a-kind project was born.

The result? 164 conversations, 164 unique portraits, and their assemblage as a wider piece of art. An exploration into the minds and hearts of artists across the globe during one of the most significant historical events in many of our lifetimes. As she says herself, it is: “a collective stamp of a moment in time. It is a memory, a capsule of a moment in history.” She managed to capture an important frame in the history of the modern art world.

Man in a mask standing next to frames of a crushed car

Ron Arad seeing his work Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me? for the first time at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2020. Photo by Ron Arad and Associates Limited

The project’s first form was a digital exhibition on the LUX website shortly after its completion, which garnered so much traction that it actually crashed the LUX website when it went live. Now there is a new launch happening this week, a physical one, for a hardback book entitled: Confined Artists – Free Spirits: Portraits and Interviews from Lockdown 2020. Shaped like a tall rectangle to imitate a smartphone, each slick copy brings Maryam’s virtual interviews and Facetime-facilitated photography beyond the screen and into the physical world.

Over three years later, with the pandemic behind us – indeed, almost forgotten about by many in society – I spoke to Maryam about her time spent on this original project and the inspiration behind it.

“Artists are always very symbolic of their time,” she says. “Their ways of thinking and philosophies are often very much a reflection of the historical time that they live in, and this manifests in their artworks. I was intrigued to see how that particular community was dealing with the COVID issue from a psychological perspective, an emotional perspective, and also from a logistical perspective of production.”

Artist Ron Arad, one of the interviewees, spoke to LUX about the practicalities of production these strange times; “I did a lot during lockdown, including buying cars online, an old red Mercedes, and then flattening it online by giving instructions over Zoom to a team in Holland. I saw that piece for the first time on the walls of the Royal Academy […] It is very strange to know a piece intimately and work on it intensely, but to have never touched it.”

Originally, Maryam set her sights on thirty artists in total, but after receiving a resounding yes from everyone she reached out to – very rare in the world of overstretched artists in demand – she decided to keep going. And going. And going.

Screenshot of a woman in multiple mirrors

Es Devlin. Photo by Maryam Eisler

It became a routine for her, she tells me: “I had my desk set up in the kitchen, I had my roster, my Rolodex, and I would spend one day interviewing and one day organising.” Each conversation enriched her mind and gave her new perspectives on unprecedented times.

Beyond this, it was a creative exercise; she had a creative vision for each portrait, and aimed to allow each artist’s personality and areas of focus to shine through. When I ask her about some of her favourites, she says: “Off the cuff, I can remember Es Devlin; she put herself in front of a refractory mirror so you could see her face several times, which is very in line with her aesthetic and ethos. Charlotte Colbert uses eyes a lot on her work – indeed, eyes were a symbol that recurred throughout the project – so she had this massive eye that she put in front of another, so she had this distorted hawking out eye, an inanimate object, versus her regular blue eyes. With Edmund de Waal I remember clearly saying hold the camera a little bit more that way just a little bit more, so I could see the geometric designs and patterns in the studio ceiling. We had of course a lot of artists in front of their works which was one more straightforward but still telling approach. Melanie Dunea is one of my favourite portraits; she is holding a magnifying glass in front of one eye so, again, she has one eye protruding.”

Edmund de Waal by Maryam Eisler

“When you go through it you can see some artists’ attitudes in their portraits reflected in their words. Some are incredibly peaceful, and you can see the sense of serenity and peace in their face. In others you can see fear, and potentially anger. There was a real degree of playfulness from others. Philip Colbert, with his lobster alter ego and his mask, for instance.”

The project not only allowed interested readers to gain insight into the lives of artists in extraordinary times – it also touched the artists themselves profoundly. Shirin Neshat comments that: “Maryam came knocking at artists’ doors with lightness, sense of humour and ease when everyone felt utterly isolated and lost. Her zoom’s conversations felt comforting and a reminder of artists’ need for a community especially in times of crisis.”

Shirin Neshat by Maryam Eisler

Further still, the project touches on the fraught political landscape of the moment. Maryam highlighted the importance of chronology when putting the book together: “ as you read through, there is not only an art-historical progression, there is a political progression. Towards the end of the project in June is when the Black Lives Matter movement was beginning. The last profile of the book is about breathing – not in connection with the virus, but in connection with George Floyd.”

Mickalene Thomas takes the final, impactful slot in this book of over 150 famous artists, speaking to Maryam on 30th June, 2020. She calls upon the world to “say her damn name”, cementing in print the names of tens of black women who lost their lives at the hands of police enforcement – just a fraction of the total black lives lost this way.

Thomas’ words leave an imprint in the mind of the reader, and the project itself leaves an imprint on the timeline of the modern art world.

Find out more: www.maryameisler.com

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A ginger model with a wearing a white shirt with a camera next to her head
A ginger model wearing a brown and grey robe with her hand on her head

A portrait of the multitalented Lily Cole

The model and campaigner talks to Ella Johnson about environmental action, NFTs and how fashion can never be truly sustainable

1. What was your first piece of eco-activism?

Without it being intentionally connected to environmentalism, I guess it was campaigning against fur and turning vegetarian as a kid.

2. Why are you an “accidental entrepreneur”?

I’ve never resonated with the idea of business or entrepreneurship. I just have ideas and business has been a good vehicle for executing them, so it’s “accidental”. Perhaps “incidental entrepreneur” is a better way of saying it, as it’s an incidental by-product of following ideas.

3. What is the aim of your 2020 book and ongoing podcast, Who Cares Wins?

To draw attention to climate solutions and to foster a culture of diversity, dialogue and collaboration.

4. Who would be your ultimate guest for the podcast?

Thich Nhat Hanh. Aware it is too late for that.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

5. Why should we take an intersectional approach to environmentalism?

Because all our issues are interconnected and interwoven, both social and environmental. And because the key to embracing biodiversity involves embracing diversity on all levels, such as cultural diversity and diversity of thought.

6. The Queen asks you what to do. What do you tell her?

I ask her to listen to, support and champion indigenous voices. 

7. What was your greatest revelation while researching your book?

That we could halt global warming, draw down more than 15 years of carbon emissions, enhance global biodiversity and essentially stop the sixth mass extinction through a very simple, and technically possible, action: stopping most animal farming.

A child sitting on a sofa with tights on and a sign over her neck that says 'Don't Wer Fur'

Cole, aged around 10, with an early activist fashion statement

8. Can we really stop global heating?

As above, and through many other solutions I look at in Who Cares Wins. Although it might not be possible to stop global heating in the short-to-medium term, we can potentially stop it in the longer term. And we can lessen the extent at which it accelerates, so it’s not too late to do something.

 9. Fashion can never be sustainable. True or false? 

If Adam and Eve swapping out fig leaves for, say, maple-tree leaves, was fashion, then yes, it can be. If most fashion remains made up of petrochemicals – 70 per cent of new fabrics are composed from plastic – and using non-circular business models, then no, probably not.

10. Why did you move to Portugal?

My daughter’s father is Portuguese and it felt like a good move to be closer to his family during the pandemic. Then I fell in love with the country: good nature, weather and people.

11. Have you ever bought an NFT?

Interesting question. I nearly did, as one was originally attached to a tapestry artwork I bought by Éva Ostrowska.

12. What’s your favourite building?

Sant’Ivo in Rome. The floor plan has a weird shape, like a bee. When Borromini drew the plans, he had to put the centre of the compass outside the ecclesiastical space to make it, which some interpret as a nod to the new idea that Earth was not the centre of the universe.

13. Tate Modern or Pompidou?

Tate Modern.

14. Is success about talent or effort?

It takes both, I’d think.

15. Which fictional character would you most want to have dinner with, why, and where?

Ada, from the novel by Nabokov. To pick her brain and play her games. On a sun-kissed beach.

Read more: An Interview with KAWS

16. What next, creatively?

Writing, writing, writing more.

Season 2 of Lily Cole’s Who Cares Wins podcast is available to stream now: lilycole.com/podcast

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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An artwork of a man wearing a stethoscope
A man wearing a suit sitting in front of a green piece of art

Alan Lo

The restaurateur, collector and leading figure in the Hong Kong art scene on who’s hot, what’s not, and why Singapore may soon be the next Asian art hotspot

LUX: You have been involved in the art world in Hong Kong for around 15 years. How has the scene changed there during this period?
Alan Lo: Hong Kong has become one of the most important art hubs in the world, on a par with London and New York. With Art Basel and M+, as well as local non-profits such as Asia Art Archive, Para Site and Design Trust, it is truly one of the best places to see art and buy art.

LUX: Are Hong Kong and China producing as many interesting new artists as 10 years ago?
AL: Things are a little complicated lately with social unrest followed by Covid, but I still see amazing new talent emerging. Hong Kong artist Ng Wing Lam is one of my latest acquisitions.

An artwork of a man wearing a stethoscope

Untitled, 2020, by Arjan Martins, from the collection of Yenn and Alan Lo

LUX: Is there a move away from the “Western eye” in recognising artists from the region, or to be successful does an artist still need to be rated by collectors in the US and Europe?
AL: Contemporary art should be borderless. Think of artists Chris Huen Sin-kan and Wu Tsang, who show and are collected globally. As much as China and Asian collectors are on the rise, in the near term the US and Europe are still very influential, so it is important for artists to participate in projects with Western institutions.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Which living artists internationally will be as remembered and sought after in 50 years time as the early 21st-century greats?
AL: Danh Vo, Mickalene Thomas, Shinro Ohtake, Rirkrit Tiravanija.

LUX: Hong Kong is highly digitised. How is digital art interacting with conventional art?
AL: Digital art is very now and Hong Kong is very much at the forefront. From digital art fairs to the level of interest in NFT art among collectors, new and established, these are signs of the significance of this new medium.

Skyscrapers in Singapore

Singapore’s bay area by night

LUX: The art-market peak has been called many times over the past 10 years. Will it peak?
AL: Who knows!

LUX: Is there a new generation of collectors making the art market and new artists in their own way, and is that interesting for you?
AL: For sure. Especially in China, we see the emergence of the very young who are buying very well and very quickly. It is definitely a new phenomenon that is here to stay, I think.

LUX: Is the influence of Singapore in the art world likely to increase? Why has it not done so today?
AL: The collector base is quite small today, but with the influx of capital and talent into Singapore, the city state is already seeing change in the scene, and Art SG debuting in January 2023 will be a catalyst.

A painting of two people driving in a car and one is standing up naked

Bakk, 2022, by Cheikh Ndiaye, from the collection of Yenn and Alan Lo

LUX: Will what you do help stimulate a ground-up art movement in Singapore?
AL: I’m just an insignificant collector, but I do hope to see more artist- and curator-led spaces to make scene more interesting.

Read more: Adrian Cheng On Brands To Watch In 2023

LUX: In 10 years time, will collectors and enthusiasts visit Singapore for its art scene?
AL: There is the potential. Its ecosystem already has Singapore Art Museum (SAM), Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) and National Gallery Singapore. I’d like to see more collector-driven and foundation spaces, as well as non-profits.

LUX: Name your five most interesting artists in the world right now.
AL: Oh de Laval, Wahab Saheed, Soimadou Ibrahim, Wu Tsang, Sarah Cunningham.

Find out more: @alanyeungkit

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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photograph that looks like painting with swirly silver object and squares
photograph that looks like painting with swirly silver object and squares

Lost at the Beach. Image courtesy of the artist

New York-based architect-turned-artist Erin O’Keefe plays tricks with our perceptions with her photographs that look like graphic paintings. The Deutsche Bank Lounge Artist for Frieze New York 2022 speaks to LUX about the transition from being an architecture professor to an artist, how the disciplines are interconnected, and her inspirations from the original Bauhaus art school in Weimar Germany. Interview by Darius Sanai

LUX: Was your dream when you were younger to be an architect or an artist?
Erin O’Keefe: I always wanted to be an artist. Although I guess what that actually means is an open question. Architecture provided a way of supporting myself that felt super interesting, and teaching meant I could explore theoretical issues that have turned out to be relevant to my art practice.

LUX: Were you always fascinated by the crossover between architecture and art?
EOK: Thinking about how architecture is represented in painting and photography has always been a source of fascination. I particularly love the wrongness of space in early Renaissance paintings – it actually feels pretty liberating. And I’m interested in the fact that most of what I know about architecture has come through images rather than visiting the actual buildings – that seems perverse, but it’s true. So you need to become a good translator to make a bridge between a picture of the thing and the thing itself, but I think it’s actually impossible to get the two things to align.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Are we right in seeing influences of the Bauhaus – the physical school itself and its teachers – in your career and your works?
EOK: Yes, absolutely – it’s a kind of touchstone for me, and the development of my practice. The sense of interconnectedness among the disciplines, and the primacy of making, were both things that feel relevant. I did the Albers colour exercises with my architecture students, which was really the beginning of thinking about the spatial impact of colour in my work.

photograph that looks like painting with pink black and silver elements

Fever. Image courtesy of the artist

LUX: How do you set out to create your works: what is the process of conception and execution? Are you looking for a particular effect on the perception of the viewer?
EOK: I am always looking for a condition of uncertainty in the images. Something that operates in multiple ways and is a bit destabilising for the viewer. I’m interested in the friction between the ordinary tactile objects and the unreality of the image.

My studio process is quite open-ended, lots of trial and error. Small shifts or alignments in the still life can transform the reading of the image, and that moment feels like magic to me.

Colour and light play a huge part in how the objects are perceived, and what they are capable of spatially. The objects themselves are made with the awareness of how they will operate in the photograph – although it’s always a very rough guess, and most of the time I discover possibilities that I couldn’t have anticipated.

blue and orange shapes in photograph

One Day Soon. Image courtesy of the artist

LUX: Please tell us a little about some of the works at Frieze NY.
EOK: The consistent focus of my work is the gap between the real condition and its representation in the photograph. For the work at Frieze, I became interested in perspective correction – meaning I can paint shapes on the ground and back wall of my still-life set-up that appear very differently in the image – a trompe-l’oeil situation in reverse. I’m also using paint in these photographs as a kind of camouflage to confuse or amplify a spatial condition.

LUX: What kind of a visual artist do you describe yourself as?
EOK: At this point, a photographer, as a way of underlining what these images are. People often mistake them for paintings, but the fact that they are photographs that utilise the language of painting feels like an important distinction.

Read more: Uplifting New Paintings by Sassan Behnam- Bakhtiar 

LUX: Do you still teach and if not, will you ever teach again?
EOK: I really loved teaching, but I’m glad to have the time and attention to devote to my practice. I do miss the studio interaction – architectural education is pretty unique. I have no plans to teach in the future, but who knows?

Find out more: erinokeefe.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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artist in the studio
man standing in front of colourful artworks

Idris Khan in his studio with new works incorporating musical scores. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

Idris Khan is one of the world’s hottest abstract artists, drawing on his Muslim heritage to create works that gain a different meaning every time you look at them. Darius Sanai meets him in his London studio to discuss colour, the Koran and his suburban childhood, while Maryam Eisler photographs him

I first met Idris Khan on a plane. We were flying back from a private view of an exhibition in Baku, where both he and his wife Annie Morris have had their works shown in the Zaha Hadid-designed Heydar Aliyev Center.

Idris was scrawling through some photographs he had taken on his iPad. They showed aspects of Hadid’s then new design in an abstract, mystical, almost humorous way. I said I wanted to publish them in one of the magazines I edited for Condé Nast; after a little persuasion, he agreed.

At that stage, I had no idea that Idris, one of Britain’s most prominent painters and sculptors, had originally trained in fine art photography. It explained the richness of the images I saw on his iPad that he had taken just for his personal pleasure.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

It is, in fact, hard to classify Idris, hard to pin him down. As he points out in the interview below, even his ethnicity is not quite what it seems: he possesses a completely Islamic name, but is half Welsh and was born and educated in the UK. Tall, slim and fair-skinned, he could pass as any Englishman in the lanky Jarvis Cocker mould; but he was actually brought up as a devout Muslim by his father, a surgeon from Pakistan who had settled in Birmingham.

His art is also deceptive. He has created his own, distinctive and trademark shade of blue, known informally as ‘Idris Khan blue’, through blending ultramarine and Prussian blue; yet he is a sculptor and maker of 3D objects as much as a painter.

Every time I meet him, he is gentle, thoughtful, disarmingly self-deprecating, and not in a staged way. But there is an intensity and steeliness there, and originality of thought amidst the lightness of touch, that has allowed him to become the celebrated artist he is.

abstract blue artwork

One of the artist’s works with stamped texts

We meet at his studio in an artistic area in east London. It is a striking, warehouse-type building on a single floor; his wife, the acclaimed sculptor Annie Morris, occupies a near identical studio next door. Walking into Idris’s studio, you find yourself in front of a long, wide art table with paints and objects neatly lined up. There is a multitude of materials, but it is the tidiest studio I have seen.

At the back, behind the glass partition, is his office; behind his desk are stamps of lettering he creates for some of his works. They are artworks in themselves. A passageway off to the left leads to an open-plan kitchen area which opens out into Morris’s studio. She is there, working on a spectacularly coloured array of sculptures and stained glass; she chats to us for a while before returning to her own works.

Khan has been commissioned to be the Lounge Artist for Deutsche Bank at Frieze London 2021, where the artist will be creating an immersive blue environment. Meanwhile, I look on while Maryam Eisler photographs him in a variety of locations in the studio for our cover, and then he and I settle down on suitably socially distanced chairs to chat.

artist with stamp

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

LUX: Was there anything in your background to suggest you would become an artist?
Idris Khan: I had a very normal suburban upbringing: my father was a surgeon and mother was a nurse and I was a really sporty kid. It was probably through education that I sort of fell upon becoming an artist.

Read more: The eco-art organisation making a stand at Frieze London

LUX: So, when you were single digits, were you doing artistic things?
Idris Khan: No. I can remember loving to draw, but the creativity came late, probably when I was around 17 or 18. I went to do a foundation year and it was photography that gave me the keys or the tools to go on and express myself in an artistic way.

collection of metal stamps

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

LUX: There was no plan to become an artist?
Idris Khan:
No, I wanted to be an athlete. It was strange. I loved running – that was my top sport. But it just didn’t work out and it was just like, “What’s the next thing, the next best thing you’re good at?” It’s funny, isn’t it? That weird pressure when early on you want an artistic career, especially when two professional people – my parents – were saying, “Well, you know, graphic design is what you need to go into.” And I was thinking, “Hmm, I don’t want to be a graphic designer… my portfolio is full of photographs and beautiful things.” And from no understanding of that kind of career, I had to fight for it. I went to Derby University to study for my photography BA and had great teachers there and that helped me. They paved the way for me to come down to London to do my master’s at the Royal College of Art.

LUX: Did you always expect to be an abstract, conceptual photographer?
Idris Khan: Very much so. I never really saw myself as someone who was going to be a landscape photographer or go out into the world and take those kinds of pictures. I was already a studio-based photographer and for some reason I always liked photographing very still things. It’s interesting – when you’re a student, you’re sort of looking for things that you want to pursue in some way and so, I found myself going back into empty sports interiors. It’s kind of weird, the access a camera gives you to go into these places. So, I would photograph the walls of squash courts. I loved the marks that were made in the squash court wall. Somehow, when you frame those marks they start to look like paintings. They no longer look like a squash-court wall; the marks in the wall and the floor just started to have this energy, and there’s a certain element of stillness. It’s amazing that a photographer can get access to empty spaces like that. I’d say, “Oh, can I come and sit in your squash court for half an hour?” Normally they’d say no, but a camera gives you this licence.

artist laying down musical score

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

LUX: And how would you describe yourself? An abstract artist? Or is that irrelevant?
Idris Khan: It is relevant. I think I always try and push that level of abstraction, whatever medium I’m working with. So, if I’m working with a photograph, I like the deception that you don’t know whether it’s a photograph or not, it just looks like my hand or marks made on a piece of photographic paper. I think it was about three or four years outside of college that I met Annie and she was the first person to say, “Well, why don’t you make a sculpture?” I did a bit of film and things like that, but she said, “You know what, there’s a great idea. You deal with layering photographs. Why can’t you deal with that same idea, but in different materials?” So, I made my first sculpture for which I sandblasted musical notes onto steel and used that same process of repetition and layering and time and the eradication of time, and then that sort of led itself into what I’m doing now with the big blue paintings and language eradicating language. Same idea, just pushed into different mediums.

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf on the Legacy of Valmont’s Didier Guillon

LUX: Musical notes and stamps of verses – why are they of interest, particularly?
Idris Khan: I think Islam probably gave me the sort of trigger to deal with repetition and language and the eradication of language. And the reason was that my father wanted us to become Muslims; we were praying five times a day, mosque every Friday afternoon… that’s what he wanted for us. And of course, it became an act of rebellion: first my brother, then my middle brother, then me. I said, “Well, now we’re not going to do this anymore.” But I can’t help that, somehow, that part of my life is inherent in what I do. So, talking of repetition for example, I find Islam very repetitive – returning to the prayer mat every day, repeating the same verses all the time. I remember very clearly my father saying, “Repeat after me, repeat, repeat after me…” – and that’s the way I was processing language. I didn’t know what I was saying. I think what I do is a reflection of that, to be honest. Looking back to my twenties, the work I was making and the way I was using language, I was kind of confused with the culture when I was growing up. Being the only white kid in the mosque, it was kind of a role reversal in terms of race. I was the white boy everyone was looking at and I felt uncomfortable. Am I using that way of linking something to my heritage or trying to eradicate it? That’s the kind of thread I could try and bring together.

artist using a stamp

Photograph by Maryam Eisler

LUX: And what’s your relationship with your heritage now?
Idris Khan: I don’t know. I really like the fact that I have it to tap into occasionally. I don’t think there’s many kids from that sort of background who actually do become artists. And I’d love to give back to that culture a little bit. I’m doing a proposal at the moment [for a spectacular public sculpture in Saudi Arabia] and I don’t think you could go there with a British name and delve into the Koran. But my name gives me access to be able to do that; there is that little bit of faith, perhaps, somewhere deep rooted, that I can engage with and have an idea and a concept that I can push.

LUX: So you feel that your name is more Islamic than you?
Idris Khan: Yeah, definitely.

LUX: Is that a drawback or is it just a thing?
Idris Khan: I think it’s just a thing. It’s funny when people see me and they haven’t seen a photograph of me or anything like that, they’re always very surprised by what I look like. Maybe I should just look a bit more exotic. I’m not sure, but I definitely think that’s the case.

LUX: Do you feel obliged to make art that your gallery can sell?
Idris Khan: It changes. I think when you were young, you obviously want to start working with a gallery straight away. I felt that I was very nurtured by Victoria Miro in London. I was a 24-year-old coming out of college, quite young for an artist to start working with a commercial gallery straight away. And what was in my mind at that time was if I was making something for sale. So, every show from then on adds more pressure to have a successful exhibition, meaning: does the work sell out? And I have found that over the past 15 years or so that the pressure to sell is much higher than it was. Because of the art fairs and the machine that is the art world, there’s a lot more pressure. I suppose that can spill into the artist’s mentality, but I don’t particularly care too much about that sort of thing. I like making bodies of work. Yes, we’ve got to keep the studio going and things like that, but I don’t like to say, “Okay, if I’m not going to have a sell-out show, then I’m a failure.” I don’t feel that pressure. Everybody likes to say, “Oh yeah, I sold out”. It never used to be like that. And so, what does that mean? Does that mean a successful show? I don’t know!

LUX: How do you control the pressure to sell?
Idris Khan: I like putting limits on the number of paintings; for example, six blue paintings at a particular size. And if you can put limitations on yourself, that’s important too, because otherwise you could just keep going. I could probably have made layered music pieces in black and white from 2006 for years, but I said no.

colourful artworks

Khan with his stamp works. Photograph by Maryam Eisler

LUX: And what about museum shows?
Idris Khan: They’re different. I see them as giving me greater freedom to show a breadth of work rather than the usual commercial shows. It’s about what happened in those two years – you’re showing the work you’ve done during that time. What I love about what’s happening in Milwaukee in early 2023 [where the first US retrospective of his work will be held at the Milwaukee Art Museum] is that it’s a survey show of 20 years of my work. And it’s such an exciting thing to do, to bring your work together at different moments and look back and see the journey it has taken and how it has changed. You’re hopefully reaching a much bigger audience than comes for commercial gallery shows and a different part of the audience, too. I hope that part of my career develops more.

Read more: Inside Maja Hoffmann’s Provençal Art Hotel

LUX: What else would you still like to do?
Idris Khan: I’m working on a proposal at the moment [for a public artwork in Saudi Arabia], which is rather big. I’ve been thinking about it for three years. If I get that, it’ll be a wonderful thing to do. I just did a nice little piece of public art in London [65,000 Photographs at One Blackfriars in 2019]. There’s a real excitement when you make something like that, so I’d love to do more.

LUX: How often do you and Annie see each other during the day in the studios?
Idris Khan: You know, Annie is so busy it’s like, “Why would you be coming in here?” It’s only when I ask her to come over for an opinion or I go there, and she has an opinion. And it’s just not about art making. Sometimes it’s about selling a work and everything that comes with being an artist.

two artists in studio

Annie Morris with Idris Khan in her studio.

LUX: How did you meet?
Idris Khan: In 2007, she was exhibiting at a gallery in west London. I had a mutual friend called Rebecca in New York. In fact, the first time I met Annie, Rebecca said, “You have to meet Annie Morris.” And then she told me that she was coming to London and said, “You’ve got to come to Annie’s exhibition”. I went but I was a bit lazy, thinking, “God, west London, it’s too far…”. But I went and then she had a show in New York in the same month that I was having one and I flew in to see it and, you know, there’s no lie here, we’ve been pretty much together 24 hours a day since then. She moved in after a month. Got engaged after five.

LUX: Are you very similar as people or just matching?
Idris Khan: Is Annie louder? Perhaps! I suppose maybe similar but different energies. What’s great is we both respect each other’s work massively. I mean, now I’m moving more into colour. That’s probably because I can’t get away from all the colour next door. I was very much monotone, you know, with my black and white works, and then there has been this sort of explosion. She will probably get into more monotone, hopefully! There’s unbelievable respect and influence in both directions.

LUX: Annie is Jewish, you were brought up a devout Muslim. Is there relevance in that?
Idris Khan: I think if Annie was a lot more practicing, then maybe. I mean, there’s definitely choices of faith: holidays, things like that. And the kids weirdly see themselves as Jewish, or want to be more Jewish. They want to have a connection to a religion, which is kind of interesting. I don’t know whether that’s because of the schools they’re going to or whatever, but they quite like to say, “My mother is Jewish, so I am too. My father’s Muslim, but because it’s my mother, that’s what we are.” I’ve got absolutely no problem with that. They like to learn about both faiths as well. I think it’s one of those questions which doesn’t necessarily come up, but it could one day. Maybe the show in Israel [at the Alon Segev Gallery, Tel-Aviv, in April 2022] will be kind of an interesting place to look at that. Could I start using the Torah? Can I use Hebrew to make a painting? Could I combine Arabic and Hebrew together in a painting? What would that look like? That show will be a good excuse to be able to do something like that.

Collaborations with Frieze and Deutsche Bank

Idris Khan took over the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Lounge at Frieze London this October. “I’m making the Lounge into this kind of blue world with blue carpet and blue paintings. You’re going to be walking down the corridor from the fair, with one of my works made into wallpaper which becomes very immersive, into the lounge. I’m also going to be showing a huge array of the stamps that I have made my paintings with over the past 10 years. I’ve made quite a lot of these stamps – probably over a hundred thousand – but it is the first time I’ve actually exhibited them as an installation. What I really love about them is that they become relics of the paintings. I mean, not many artists can say, ‘Well, here are my brushes’. They’re interesting things as they’re still objects in their own right. Even having been along a kind of journey as paintings, they exist as there are these passages of writings in blocks. I’ll be showing shelves and shelves of these.”

He has also created artworks for the first exhibition, also to be launched in October this year, in a new programme of art to be shown at Deutsche Bank’s new offices in the former Time Warner building on Columbus Circle in New York. “I’ve made four large grid paintings using watercolour and sheet music. Each is a set of nine different variations on a colour tone from blues, reds and greys based on colours of the seasons. I like working with a grid of colour – it’s like looking at the colours of the seasons in one instant. And Annie will be showing a large sculpture there as well. We’re looking forward to seeing it all installed. Hopefully it will be a real explosion of colour as you walk into the space.”

Find out more: victoriamiro.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue, for which Idris Khan designed our logo.

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Reading time: 16 min
apple artwork

Artist Clara Hastrup in her studio at the Royal Academy of Arts in London

Danish artist Clara Hastrup graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts in 2020, and is one of the selected artists in this year’s New Contemporaries exhibition. Here, she speaks to Millie Walton about experimenting in the studio, the symbolism of blue and finding beauty in everyday objects 

1. Where does your creative process typically begin?

I have to look backwards to see how things begin. I have a lot of things lying around in the studio that I find and buy –  everyday objects -, and I like to continually experiment with these objects and make small models. Through this chaos, ideas come about. I also read and research things I am interested in, and play is an important part of my practice. I play around with functions of the objects, and see how they can lead from one thing to another. I usually have multiple things going on at the same time, and I try and connect these ideas.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. What draws you to the objects that you collect or buy?

I look at colours and visual qualities. For example, with Lapdog Tabernum, I found the colour of Doritos interesting, and the fact that you can transform them into a material similar to sand that has a lot of new associations and meanings. At other times, I’m drawn to a pattern of some sort. So much design and thought that has gone into these low value, everyday objects, and I try to look for the beauty even if it seems like it has little meaning or value. It’s a combination of allowing intuition and logic to come together. Everything, to me, is a potential material.

installation artwork

Here and above: Lapdog Tabernam, 2019, Clara Hastrup, installation view at URBANEK Gallery, South Dulwich, London

3. The colour blue seems to recur in your work quite frequently. Does it have particular significance for you?

I have always been very drawn to blue. It is a colour that represents a lot of emotions. It kept popping up for me particularly in relation to the Lapdog Tabernum installation, and I allowed it to tie the materials together. It’s a very vibrant colour, but a sad colour as well, and I like that contrast with the humorous gestures. At the same time, it’s a colour which is often used as a backdrop as it is associated with the sky and ocean.

Read more: Anne-Pierre d’Albis-Ganem on championing artists

4. How did your Instant Sculpture series come about?

It started because I had these travel magazines which I took from my bedroom and brought into the studio. I started cutting them out and making these small gestures, but I didn’t know what to do with them as they only existed in the moment. I wasn’t sure if they were sculptures or images, but then I started photographing them, and repeating the process. Sometimes, these kinds of experiments don’t lead to anything, but perhaps they will become bigger sculptures. That’s often what happens with my work, I start by doing a lot of small things and occasionally, it makes sense to transform its meaning which excites me.

apple sculpture

A work from Hastrup’s ongoing Instant Sculpture series

5. Where do you go for inspiration?

Museums like the Tate or galleries in Mayfair, but inspiration, for me, could come from anywhere – botanical gardens, nightclubs, music, reading.

6. What do you have planned for 2021?

I am part of the New Contemporaries exhibition which opens on 13 January at South London Gallery. Also my degree show, which was postponed from last year, is taking place in June this summer.

View Clara Hastrup’s portfolio of work: clarahastrup.com
For more information on URBANEK Gallery, visit: urbanekgallery.co.uk

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Reading time: 3 min
Man awarding medal

Keith Breslauer congratulating a wounded British veteran during The Veteran Games

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

Keith Breslauer

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

man on mountain summit

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

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

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

Read more: Entrepreneur Wendy Yu on creativity & charity

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

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

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

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

man with climbing wall

Keith with the in-house climbing wall at Patron Capital

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

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

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

Find out more: patroncapital.com

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Reading time: 9 min
Two men in conversation
Black and white portrait of a man

Giorgio Armani. Courtesy Giorgio Armani

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

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

Antique photograph

Two men in conversation

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fashion model wearing dress

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

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

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

Restaurant pool terrace

The Amal restaurant at the Armani Hotel Dubai.

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

Read more: Discovering Deutsche Bank’s legendary art collection

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

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

artistic design display

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

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

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

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

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

Antique film still photograph

vintage film photograph

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

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

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

Discover the collections: armani.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 13 min
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
Open kitchen living space with exposed beams

Man sitting on bench in white room

John Pawson is one of the UK’s most renowned architects, known for his signature white, pared-back aesthetic that celebrates space over clutter. His projects vary from high-end private homes to hotels, shops, restaurants, monasteries and London’s Design Museum. LUX Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler visits and photographs his recently completed home in Oxfordshire consisting of a farmhouse and barns to talk about light, lines, and imperfect perfection.

Maryam Eisler: Talk to me about light John.
John Pawson: Well, Louis Kahn said there’s no architecture without natural light. So if there are ten building blocks for architecture, whether it’s scale or proportion or materials, light has to take priority. Cause you’re fucked otherwise!

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Maryam Eisler: If I say monastic, you say …
John Pawson: We’ve been very lucky to have completed three monastic commissions (referring to the new Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Novy Dvur in Bohemia, interior renovation of the basilica of the Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma in Hungary and work at the Cistercian Abbey of Sept-Fons in France). Religious buildings – and specifically monastic buildings – are very different. And the brief is different. But the fact that someone who’s done a Calvin Klein shop can also do a monastery isn’t a contradiction. We’re there to do buildings and we are not measured for our morals or religious beliefs. And the monks saw something in the domestic and retail architecture which attracted them; they thought I might be the right person to help them with their projects.

Open kitchen living space with exposed beams

Maryam Eisler: So, if I say the Rothko Chapel in Houston or Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light near Osaka in Japan…
John Pawson: I could relate to these projects. A lot.

Maryam Eisler: Talk to me about clutter. Or the lack of it.
John Pawson: I’m not a great one for things, but you know you need tools to do stuff, as an architect, a gardener or a cook; it’s just about making sure that you don’t have more than you need.

Minimalist style sitting room

View through an open glass door onto barn

Maryam Eisler: So you take quite a utilitarian approach to life?
John Pawson: I think that the architecture comes from the way I like to live and it always has done. It’s what I do, and the clients seem to like what I do.

Maryam Eisler: Is your mind as clean as the space and environment you function in?
John Pawson: No, quite the opposite. It’s crammed with stuff, and my brain is all over the place. That’s why I like things ordered. But you can never have exactly what you want. Especially if you live with people.

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

Maryam Eisler: What about order?
John Pawson: I see order as being a good thing. But it has pejorative tones for some people. They see regiment. They see military. They see oppression. I just think it helps.

Maryam Eisler: You appear to have a sense of inner peace and balance, reflective of your work. Am I reading it right?
John Pawson: I’ve been very lucky in my life, and things have gone for the most part smoothly. Work can be quite stressful as I try to produce really special things.

Minimalist kitchen

Maryam Eisler: Talk to me about lines.
John Pawson: Yes, Lines. Lots of them. Straight lines.

Maryam Eisler: Are they always straight?
John Pawson: Human beings and women in particular have curves. Buildings are, for the most part, rectilinear. Things are only curved when they need to be.

Maryam Eisler: Have you ever produced anything circular?
John Pawson: Very rarely. We once did a circular surround hedge to a tennis court for Karl Lagerfeld in Biarritz. And he went slightly mad because he said, ‘Don’t you know I don’t like curves’ and I didn’t ! – You know, one of the rules! The other one is ‘Don’t spill coffee on the plans’ which I did as well; that didn’t go down very well either [laughter]!

Maryam Eisler: Which brings me actually to the topic of ‘favourite’ project. Have you had one?
John Pawson: Yes! A monastic city. That was the most fulfilling project of all. And different. Also, I suppose on an egotistical level, not many architects get to do monasteries on this scale.

Gardens of a country home with a marble bench

Man sitting on bench in garden

Maryam Eisler: What about this particular farm house, where we’re sitting now ?
John Pawson: Having worked on this project for five years, you forget how fresh it can be for other people. The level of detail which isn’t always apparent in the materials and the amount of work that has gone into it …. It must seem very calm, judging by peoples’ reactions. So, I don’t know whether this will become like the monastery or not. I just don’t know.

Ma and woman sitting on bench in gravel courtyard

John Pawson conversing with Carrie Scott, an independent art historian and curator who is currently working with John on his photographic series

Maryam Eisler: The strength of your work, the clean lines in your designs, are reminiscent in my opinion of Judd’s work. Same strength. Same presence. Interesting that the first thing I saw when I came here are three Judd chairs, perfectly aligned in the kitchen. Has he been a source of inspiration?
John Pawson: Yes. From very early days – I think I first saw an exhibition of his in Japan when I lived in Tokyo in the early 70s. After that Hester [van Royen, mother of John’s children Caius and Phoebe] became his dealer in Europe, so I got to meet him. He was not too big on conversation!

And then there was a moment in Basel when Hester said, ‘Oh let’s go for lunch !’ Judd was hungry. So, the three of us went out and I thought ‘Oh great; I finally get to sit down with Donald Judd over lunch. Amazing!’ And just as we were going out of the hall, a client of mine caught me and I couldn’t help but to say ‘come along’. He talked non-stop. So, I never got to listen to Judd!

Man standing in doorway of staircase

Maryam Eisler: Your aesthetic and emotional connection to Judd seems obvious.
John Pawson: Definitely. Extraordinary, in fact! It’s been a natural thing. He was one of the first artists I was exposed to. I was asked by Hester to give a talk in Oxford on Judd’s work. ‘Sure, cool’, I said and had the complete set of the most incredible slides relating to him – his work, Marfa, everything! It was a big hall and a lot of people. I got up very confident. I was, maybe 30 or 35, and of course my mind went completely blank! So, I put up that first slide and I just said ‘window’, because it was a window. And then the next one was ‘door’. And it went on and on.

Maryam Eisler: We’ve talked about light. What about shadow or darkness?
John Pawson: Everything is about the contrast. Without one, you don’t have the other. But it’s all in the subtlety – the colour changes so quickly, doesn’t it?

Read more: In conversation with painter Luc Tuymans

Maryam Eisler: I’m assuming you see a lot of colour even though, to an outside observer, your work may appear to be somewhat monochrome, neutral, in various shades of beige and grey.
John Pawson: There’s a huge amount of colour in my work and they’re all different! I also slightly underestimated the garden side of things here in the country. Because I thought I could just lay it all out simply and everything would be fine. And at this time of year (end of Spring), it’s so green and yellow … just incredible!

Maryam Eisler: It looks like a painting. Which brings me to the subject of art! You are an architect, a creative mind and a photographer. An artist in every sense of the word. I hope you agree ? Yet, I see no art (in its traditional sense) in the house. No painting on walls. No sculptures in rooms.
John Pawson: I’ve always been very very careful with that. I keep it clean and uncluttered. I know people consider architecture to be an art form. But, to me, architects are not artists. There is a very distinct line between art and architecture.

Rustic living room

Open plan dining room in converted barn

Maryam Eisler: What are the main lines of differentiation between art and architecture?
John Pawson: I think that architecture has a functional aspect to it. It has to be used. People need shelter. Whereas ‘art’ doesn’t have to fulfil any practical or functional qualities. However, it is important to say that we would not survive as a human race without art.

Maryam Eisler: And you, personally, can do both. You can be an architect and a photographer, simultaneously.
John Pawson: I’m definitely not an artist [laughter]. And I would be very careful about considering myself a photographer.

Read more: Dutch artist Viviane Sassen’s photographic series ‘Venus and Mercury’

Maryam Eisler: But the world will label you as that, especially as you are becoming more public with your photography! You look, think and see like a photographer!
John Pawson: Well then, I am happy to review the situation. It isn’t false modesty. It’s just that I’ve always enjoyed framing things and taking photographs, and until now, I’ve never sought to take it any further than the daily musings.

Black and white photograph of stairwell

Fire place photographed in black and white with light and shadow on wall

Here and above: Images from John Pawson’s photographic series Home, a portfolio of 8 images available in an edition of 10.

Man reclining against table in sitting roomMaryam Eisler: These daily musings which I follow on your instagram have become in effect a journal or a diary of your life. One can feel your soul through your photographs. I would even go as far as saying that they are self- portraits of some sort. And even though we don’t see you, you’re there and we definitely feel you.
John Pawson: This is just the way I see life, and it’s been a very nice discipline for me. I’m always amazed at how people see things and how they each photograph the same subject so differently. I’m not saying that they’re worse or better, but they’re so different and yet they use the same machine and have two eyes! I’ve always taken photographs but I had never shown them publicly before Instagram.

Maryam Eisler: Now that you’ve come out of the closet with your photography, do you impose more rules onto yourself? Or do you keep the practice spontaneous in the way that you have always done before?
John Pawson: I’d say I am spontaneous because I never think too much before framing a shot. They’re for me, first and foremost. It’s a bit the same with architecture. I design things for me, or as I would like them to be.

Wood panelled kitchen

Maryam Eisler: You give birth to buildings and you give birth to photographs, and then they get adopted, basically, by the collector, or by the clients.
John Pawson: Sure.

Maryam Eisler: And then they do what they wish with it.
John Pawson: Absolutely.

Maryam Eisler: Does that bother you?
John Pawson: No.

Maryam Eisler: They have a life of their own and that’s OK?
John Pawson: Even though I spend months designing a building, the day you hand it over, it’s no longer yours.

Maryam Eisler: Do you believe in some form of sublime intervention in the act of creation? A hand that enables some – maybe not everyone – to produce and to be creative?
John Pawson: I don’t think so. I’ve always thought that anyone can do it. Although I didn’t think I could. I thought designing was something other people could do. So I learnt; I went to school and learnt to design, literally. Which was illuminating in itself.

Interior detailing of minimalist house

Maryam Eisler: Are there any limitations in the act of creation?
John Pawson: One of the things that’s held me back is that people find it very difficult to see what I might do for them. Because the work seems so simple. But it’s a hard grind. It’s making umpteen models. And the problem is that most people just can’t see it. And I can understand that. People came here and saw this place and simply couldn’t understand how I could possibly do anything with it.

I remember giving a talk at RIBA years ago and I turned up, and the whole place was buzzing and heaving, and there were lots of incredibly attractive people, and they all looked very intelligent. And for a moment I wondered why they were there. And then of course I realised they were there for my talk. I still couldn’t think ‘why are they not doing it themselves, and why am I doing it?’ And I realised that it just takes a certain drive; every day you push and you keep your head down and then at the end, there’s something special.

Maryam Eisler: Whereas with photography, there’s much more instant satisfaction. No? You snap, you see…
John Pawson: Oh it’s heaven. Pure satisfaction.

Maryam Eisler: You are your own language in photography. Is the black and white a conscious choice?
John Pawson: Yes I think. Well, my photographs have a black and whiteness about them. But I think it just provides more focus, a stronger message. It takes away the noise.

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

Maryam Eisler: In the chaotic world that we live in and share, do you think your photography helps you gain some control of your life, possibly even focus and introspection?
John Pawson: Definitely. It’s a sort of ordering of things, and the discipline is important. And it makes me even calmer because I’ve captured something. We’re always seeing things as we drive. But I very rarely stop the car. Lost moments. It’s important to capture these instances.

Window from a house onto a river

Wild English garden with wallMaryam Eisler: Are you concerned by the passage of time, by the ephemeral?
John Pawson: Of course I’m concerned about the state of things in the world. But I just find it difficult to get involved or to get concerned too deeply about something I can’t personally do something about. Maybe I should do more.

Maryam Eisler: Maybe you do. And maybe you’re not aware of it. Maybe you are adding that much required inner peace to people’s lives. Either through the serenity of your architectural spaces or your peaceful, well measured photography…
John Pawson: We do have a drawer of thank you letters. People’s lives are saved. It feels good to hear about the stories. And there are many stories.

Maryam Eisler: How would you like your legacy to be pondered upon?
John Pawson: Definitely not something I consider at all.

Maryam Eisler: So, for you, it’s about being here, in the moment?
John Pawson: Yeah, I’m here in the moment and legacy is impalpable. I didn’t chart this life, and I never set out to be an architect, but it’s come my way.

Maryam Eisler: A favourite photographer?
John Pawson: Crikey. I do tend to like the classics and people who did things first, but I used to hang out with Robert Mapplethorpe. Some of his works were really good. Not so much the portrait he made of me …

Maryam Eisler: Tell me about that moment when he shot you…
John Pawson: Early 80s is when it happened. Sadly, I was not asked to take my clothes off for him [laughter]… It was just a very relaxed shot of me sitting on the floor, cross-legged. I remember the moment well.

I was around the studio when he was taking photographs. A huge amount of energy went into his photography. He knew what he was doing. He was also very good with people.

Maryam Eisler: I suppose that the primary source of inspiration when you photograph is derived from your own spaces… as well as the reflection of shadow and light within these spaces ?
John Pawson: Yes.

Maryam Eisler: I see the odd tree or landscape every now again. Would you ever snap a figure?
John Pawson: I took Catherine [John’s wife] doing press ups on the beach once! Taking people is a whole other ball game isn’t it? When you’re travelling, I used to see a lot of potential interesting photographs of people and things happening around me. I would take them, but the stress levels were too much, because strangers get uncomfortable. So I decided to stick to what I know.

Man reflected in glass

Maryam Eisler: Would you say you’re a perfectionist?
John Pawson: Absolutely. An imperfect person.

Maryam Eisler: So, you’re an imperfect perfectionist ?
John Pawson: Well I’m obviously aware. A lot of it comes from being very imperfect. At the end, the goal is to produce something really really special, and I don’t personally have the means to do it on my own, so I’m always marshalling other people. It’s a big team. Building is an imprecise trade. So nothing is actually perfect anyway, which is fine because only God can be perfect, as the monks say. And that’s where the curve comes, I think; it’s only God who does curves well.

Maryam Eisler: So perhaps you’re the God of architecture?
John Pawson: That I know not. No delusions there!

John Pawson’s latest book ‘John Pawson: Anatomy of Minimum’ is published by Phaidon: phaidon.com

View his full portfolio of work: johnpawson.com

 

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Reading time: 14 min
Coloured paper cutouts scattered on a wooden floor
Coloured paper cutouts scattered on a wooden floor

‘Atelier’ (2014). Thomas Demand.

German photographer Thomas Demand has become celebrated for his compelling, sometimes shocking, abstract recreations of the everyday. He talks to Anna Wallace-Thompson about the homogenization of our worlds, finding power in the banal, and Saddam Hussein’s kitchen.
Portrait photograph of a man wearing a white shirt and glasses

Thomas Demand

There’s a particular moment of calm – let’s call it suspended time – when things have settled down while still retaining the memory of the movement that filled them a split second before. Think of the moment when that last dust mote finally settled after drifting down a shaft of light, or the ghostly echoes of the last flutter of a piece of paper as it relaxes into place. Or when you don’t know if the door just slammed shut or is about to burst open. Or sensing the presence of people only through their absence. That’s the moment German photographer Thomas Demand is interested in.

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In fact, at first glance, Demand’s photographs appear simply to be snaps of ordinary places, unremarkable for their sameness, from half-empty supermarket shelves to a bath awaiting its occupant. (This is something that struck him about modern urban spaces, particularly when he first arrived in the US.) Yet, these seemingly humble snaps of everyday situations have earned him a place in the collections of international institutions such as the Guggenheim and MoMA. At auction, his works have sold for more than $100,000 at Christie’s, and he was included in the sale of Mario Testino’s personal collection at Sotheby’s, alongside luminaries such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman.

Close up photograph of pale pink blossom against a blue sky

‘Hanami’ (2014). Thomas Demand

So what is it about these seemingly everyday snaps that has everybody so hooked? Well, further examination reveals each portrait to be a meticulously built paper recreation. Yes, paper. Working in often quite large dimensions, Demand reconstructs the most complex real- life scenarios out of the humblest of materials. They are perfect – or rather, perfectly imperfect, for at the heart of Demand’s work is an interest in the world as a filtered rendering – that is, the paradox of examining past moments through the lens of the present – and even then, through a canny reconstruction of that original moment. “Perfection and beauty are very often seen as interchangeable,” says Demand. “However, if something is too perfect, then it becomes sterile.” And so, working from found photographs of banal scenes (be they supermarket aisles, hotel rooms or office interiors), Demand meticulously reconstructs these tableaux out of paper – warts and all. It is these sculptural paper sets – often quite large in scale – that he then photographs, imbuing the finished image with such an uncanny realism that the eye is often fooled into believing it is looking at the ‘real deal’.

Stacks of folders photographed against a red and white background

‘Folders’ (2017)

“What I have been doing over the years is replacing the time frame of the [original] photograph with another time frame, which is no less a point in time,” explains Demand when we speak. “The original scenario in the media photograph may no longer be there to look at – although it may be from an event that is still in our short or long-term memory, depending on when it was taken. What I suppose you can see in my work is a paradox of time standing still that is both my own fragile paper construction (complete with all the little imperfections and details of ‘reality’) as much as it is a memory of the moment captured in the original photograph.” The sense of transience in Demand’s work is further compounded by the fact that he often discards the sculpture itself (and, in fact, originally began photographing them purely for the purposes of documentation).

Photograph of abstract bright geometric colours

‘Rainbow’ (2018)

In person, Demand is more tidy professor than wild-child artist, his neatly trimmed hair and beard perfectly in sync with his nifty vest and jacket. Get him talking, however, and you can almost hear the thoughts galloping inside his head. When he gets going, he talks a mile a minute, as if the thoughts inside him were moving faster than his ability to articulate them. They tumble out almost in a stream of consciousness, except just when you think he might be going off on a tangent, like a master conductor, Demand deftly brings all the threads together, eloquently and precisely articulating his point.His powers of observation, too, are key to the vision behind the work. Growing up in Munich in the 1960s and 70s, it was when Demand visited the GDR that he first began to pay attention to the power of mass production (or, in the case of the GDR, the lack thereof), and Warhol’s Brillo boxes, for example, remain a key influence: “I grew up in Munich, which is in West Germany, which had plenty of everything.”

Read more: Why we love the New Perlée creations by Van Cleef & Arpels 

As a young artist, travels and study followed – Düsseldorf, Paris, and Goldsmiths in London – as well as the US (he is now based in both LA and Berlin). During this time he began to notice what he refers to as global “homogenization” – a hospital ward in one part of the world looks very much like it does anywhere else, for example, and, with our mass-produced products – be they Nike trainers or even the Tupperware found in Saddam Hussein’s kitchen – we are more united than we think. “When they found Saddam, and showed the photographs, there were so many remarkably recognisable objects,” says Demand. “In one way, it’s the devil’s lair, but in another, it’s possible to see it in parts as your own kitchen. Maybe it’s a little dirtier, but he had the same objects as you and me.” The resulting work – Küche/Kitchen (2004) – could truly be a picture of a kitchen anywhere. “It’s funny how far objects circulate worldwide: you look at photographs of upheavals in Africa and people are wearing the T-shirts of a local bank in Texas, or plastic sandals made in China and marketed in California can end up in Ethiopia. I am fascinated by how the everyday links us to other cultures, from the pervasive blue computer screens that illuminate of office buildings out of hours, or the industrial slickness of an airport.”

Photograph of a small silver gas cooker and kitchen

‘Küche/ Kitchen’ (2004)

Window blind photographed

‘Daily #16’ (2011)

As well as the tableaux of media images that he is known for, Demand has experimented with more intimate scenes familiar to social media. The ongoing ‘Dailies’ series begun in 2008 features an ashtray, a plastic cup shoved into a chain link fence, or even a leaf about to fall through a sewer grate. “I was looking at doing something shorter and easier,” he says. “We all have cell phones in our pockets, and the images being circulated are now private photos – subjective little notes that might not make the news, but are still a form of communication and a culture in itself.”

Read more: In conversation with Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson

These ‘smaller’ works also offer a welcome break from larger and more ambitious set- ups. “In a good year I can make five works, but in a bad one just one,” sighs Demand. “Also, working occasionally with a team of 30 people means that if you’re two months into a particular set up, it’s too late to stop, so you keep going until it works, there’s no way around it.” For example, the work Lichtung/ Clearing Demand created for the 2003 edition of the Venice Biennale took months to get just right due to it being displayed en plein air, and therefore needed to be in some harmony with its verdant surroundings, the challenge being that the Venetian foliage kept changing with the seasons while the image was being built.

Coffee cup wedged in a wire fence

‘Daily #15’ (2011)

They leave things open – can you imagine how they might they be reused for something else?” This is particularly evident in pieces such as Rainbow (2018), part of ‘Model Studies’, in which abstract circular shapes in a range of yellows, oranges and reds hint at the full potential of the building they might perhaps one day have been, yet also present themselves as abstract colourscapes.

Most recently, Demand has had a major monograph published. The Complete Papers presents a survey of his work over three decades, and proved to be both a challenge as well as something of an eye opener, as he was able to see an evolution in his work that he had never noticed before. “I thought I was pretty organised, but it turns out there were so many pieces I’d forgotten about – and now that the book is out, there are so many more pieces I realise I would still need to add,” he laughs. “I can see that my work, since the beginning, has been moving slowly towards abstraction, though photography and abstraction can be a bit of a bad marriage in that photography, by its very nature, is figurative.” So what’s the endgame? “If my work were to become too abstract then it would all become a pointless exercise. To be something, the image has to stay on the very edge of nearly becoming something.”

Find out more: thomasdemand.info

This article was originally published in the Summer 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 8 min
Rachel Whiteread sculpture on the edge of a lake in the US
Rachel Whiteread sculpture on the edge of a lake in the US

One of Rachel Whiteread’s so-called shy sculptures, ‘Cabin’ (2016), on Governors Island in New York, her first major permanent public commission in the United States

Rachel Whiteread, winner of the 2019 Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon award, has illuminated the world’s art scene with her blazing originality, her wit and her unique perspectives, for more than 30 years. She speaks to Darius Sanai about creating something out of nothing, the joys of London, and the importance of being bored
Colour portrait of artist Rachel Whiteread in her studio

Rachel Whiteread in her studio, 2011

LUX: Your works create something from nothing. Is it a kind of anti-matter that you are creating?
Rachel Whiteread: That’s exactly right. I’ve always tried to make something out of nothing.
Something I used to do at college a lot was just stare at a white wall or a floor and visualise what I’d want to make from that space. I’d see what it was, so it was still something but it was out of nothing. It’s still a practice that I do, I suppose like a meditation, but I didn’t ever call it that. It was just, you know, staring at the wall.

There’s probably not enough staring into space done now. Everything’s always about looking at images, like on Instagram. Everything is just so full up that what I try and do is empty out. You wouldn’t think it from the chaos of my studio, though.

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LUX: Is there just too much social media around now?
Rachel Whiteread: Yes, I think so. People don’t know how to be bored anymore – I must have been saying this for years. Being bored is one of the most essential things of life, because what you do is you then work out how to not be bored, and by doing that, you open up a creativity in your mind. Even if it’s just deciding that you’re going to cook something or you’re going to read –whatever your creative outlet is – people just don’t do this anymore. They’ll scroll through Instagram instead and look at thousands of everyone else’s borrowed images. I think there’s something to be said about really slowing down the brain; it can be a very useful thing to do.

LUX: Will distraction of this kind affect future artists?
Rachel Whiteread: I suspect it will, but I also think that there’s going to be a backlash to all this and that people will just start to shut down a bit and try to be quieter about what they do, because you can’t just scream and shout about it. It’s hard for young artists. I’ve got two sons, they’re 13 and 17, and it’s difficult for them to be young anymore, to be able to play and enjoy life in a certain way, because you can just turn on the computer and you’re immediately entertained and distracted.

Rachel Whiteread's shack sculpture in Joshua Tree National Park

‘Shack I’ (2014), one of two concrete casts of cabins in the Joshua Tree National Park in California.

LUX: How do you decide what to create next?
Rachel Whiteread: Normally one thing leads to another, to be honest. I have had an exceptionally busy year de-installing and installing at the Tate, in Vienna and Washington. I have just come back from Washington where the exhibition has just opened, and also cast a very large piece, another one of my ‘shy’ sculptures, that’s in the Dalby Forest in Yorkshire – it’s a cast of a Nissen hut that’s been made as part of the First World War centenary. I have had a busy time doing all of that, and I am now having a breather before I get going again. I am at the pre-production phase of a new body of work.

LUX: Do you ever consider the reaction to your work while you are planning it?
Rachel Whiteread: I am very fortunate to be in a position to be able to do what I like. There has been a lot of controversy over various works I have made, but this is not something I court, it is simply in the nature of the objects.

Rachel Whiteread's cushion sculpture

‘Cushion’ (2006)

LUX: What gives you the most satisfaction?
Rachel Whiteread: Luckily for me, the show at the Tate gave me an enormous amount of satisfaction. It was five years in the planning and has travelled very successfully to Europe and America including the National Gallery of Art in Washington. I have very much enjoyed doing the retrospective, looking back at thirty years of work – it has been really helpful.

Read more: PalaisPopulaire & Berlin’s Cultural Revolution

LUX: What are your frustrations in making your art?
Rachel Whiteread: It is becoming harder and harder to find large studio spaces. Gone are the days when artists could colonise derelict areas in London. Consequently there is a lack of places for young artists to work. Luckily for me I am able to stay in London and carry out some of the more ambitious things, but it is very expensive. But what are the annoyances? That the day isn’t long enough, that I’m getting older and don’t have quite as much energy – I’ve got a bad back [laughs].

LUX: You’re carting heavy materials around…
Rachel Whiteread: That’s down to years of not looking after my back properly; it catches up with you. You think you’re forever young, especially when people were constantly calling you the YBAs [Young British Artists].

LUX: London – is it an integral part of who you are?
Rachel Whiteread: It’s totally integral to who I am. At one point we looked into moving out to Norfolk or Essex. To get a place with land where I could build a big studio, but I thought, actually I can’t. I need the frisson and busyness of London.

Rachel Whiteread's Nissen Hut sculpture

‘Nissen Hut’ (2018)

LUX: What do you love about London?
Rachel Whiteread: I love the multicultural world, the soupiness of London. It’s the one of the best cities of the world. I love the way the people are mostly extremely tolerant of each other. I love the way it’s an enthusiastic city and it has so much to offer culturally – even if you don’t go to that much you still feel it around you – it’s a bit like osmosis, it touches you somehow. I love the green spaces, I love the built-up spaces, I love the Thames, I love the canals, I love the way in which London can have these complex urban spaces and then these very beautiful but still very urban spaces. And so much has been done with trying to get wildlife going. It’s just a great community – a load of really good, interesting villages all stuck together – that’s sort of what London is, isn’t it?

LUX: After so much progress in tolerance over the past few years, are things now going the other way?
Rachel Whiteread: Completely, yes. Terrifying. I hate to think what we’re going to be leaving our children and grandchildren. There’s a sour feeling in the world at the moment and it’s not pretty.

LUX: It’s inexplicable, isn’t it? There are a people with a lot of money feeling angry.
Rachel Whiteread: A lot of it has got to do with Brexit. There are so many people who were sold a line that they just didn’t know what they were voting for. And the reality of that is sinking
in. It’s an appalling waste of money, time and energy – and for what, in the end? In the UK in particular there are a lot of people who are angry in London, and outside London, too, and quite rightly so for being neglected and ignored. Money is not coming in to pay for things that are needed, resources are at an all-time low, and there’s not enough housing. So for all of those things it’s a really complex city to live in, but when things work, they work brilliantly and people cross-culturally can really rub shoulders together and get a lot out of each other and that’s a great thing.

Installation by Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain, London

‘Untitled’ (100 Spaces) (1995), installed at Tate Britain in 2017

LUX: Your art has a blend of seriousness and wit – would you agree that this also describes yourself as a person?
Rachel Whiteread: My work is me, I couldn’t make anything else. It is totally me, it’s how I think, how I exist in the world.

Read more: Gender stereotypes and the male nude in art

LUX: Is there a responsibility with your influence? Are you tempted to use it?
Rachel Whiteread: I’ve got two children and a job, and I don’t have the energy for it. Maybe later on. My parents were both very political and it’s certainly in my DNA. The ways I can influence people are by giving lectures, by sharing my work.

LUX: How does it feel to be the Whitechapel Gallery’s Art Icon for 2019?
Rachel Whiteread: It’s nice to be recognised for the many decades of hard work, and everyone likes to be recognised. It is a great honour. The Whitechapel is a fantastic institution doing fantastic things and has such a great and rich history.

Large scale holocaust memorial by Rachel Whiteread in Vienna

‘Holocaust Memorial’ (1995-2000) in the Judenplatz, Vienna

LUX: Do you believe that gallery funding should come from the state?
Rachel Whiteread: When they’re very much community-led galleries, which places like the Whitechapel are, then I would say yes. They’re for a community as they’ve always been. It’s just extremely hard raising money for galleries, and now there are a lot more than there used to be, they all need funding and they all have to find ways of making money. It’s complicated. But they are therefor the public and therefore the government should fund them.

LUX: Does the amount of money being spent in the art market seem strange?
Rachel Whiteread: The whole economics of the art market doesn’t sit comfortably with me. A lot of artists are generally left-ish, and a lot of them find that dichotomy difficult, because it’s a tough thing to think about.

LUX: Is it true that the punk movement influenced your generation in the art world?
Rachel Whiteread: Absolutely. I grew up in the seventies in London, I went to a few punk gigs. They were a bit rough for me to be honest [laughs]. But I was quite young at the time, so I’d go to the Marquee in Wardour Street [in Soho]. The gigs were pretty scary but they had an enormous influence upon me.

Trafalgar Square art installation by artist Rachel Whiteread

‘Monument’ (2001), installed in Trafalgar Square, London as part of the Fourth Plinth Project

LUX: Did you have any idea at art school what kind of art you would go on to produce?
Rachel Whiteread: No, the whole development of making my art was a gradual process, but certainly the seeds were sown at Brighton [Polytechnic] and the Slade [UCL London].

LUX: Did you always plan to be an artist?
Rachel Whiteread: Not initially, though my mother was an artist and there was always a strong familial influence. However, I always imagined that I would have to teach in order to sustain my practice as an artist. I have been very fortunate though, and my art has supported me.

LUX: Was it serendipity that you and the other Young British Artists, such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, were contemporaries?
Rachel Whiteread: It was total serendipity. People say it was a movement, but it just happened to be a certain moment in time where this political and creative energy came out. One of the artists I relate to most is Sarah Lucas. She grew up just down the road from me and I didn’t know her when we were children – we came from very different backgrounds. I was from a middle-class home and she was from a working-class family, but there was definitely the London energy in the work we both made. The YBAs were simply how the stars were aligned and we were fortunate to be doing our work together at the same time.

Rachel Whiteread is the Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon 2019 with Swarovski. Visit whitechapelgallery.org/support/art-icon-swarovski

This article was first published in the Winter 19 Issue.

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Reading time: 10 min
Model poses in futuristic make-up and styling

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

Portrait of a Afro-America model positing in natural make-up wearing a black jackt

Model, philanthropist and psychology student Olivia Anakwe. Instagram: @olivia_anakwe

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: 22-year-old Nigerian American model Olivia Anakwe grew up in the small town of Bucks County, Pennsylvania and was scouted whilst studying for a degree Psychology. In her first season, she walked an astounding 40 shows and has since shot for Harpers Bazaar, W Magazine, LOVE and Allure. Fellow Models 1 girl, Charlie speaks to Olivia about balancing time, philanthropy and Michelle Obama.

Charlie Newman: How and when you were first scouted?
Olivia Anakwe: I was scouted in the summer when I was visiting New York for my sister’s graduation. We went out to lunch at Westville and I was scouted right when I walked into the restaurant. I chose to take advantage of the opportunity, transferred from University of Pittsburgh to Pace University and was thrown right into the middle of the hustle and bustle in the Financial District of Manhattan. I am studying Psychology on the Pre-Medical track and will be graduating in Spring of next year – I can’t wait!

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Charlie Newman: Was modelling something you considered doing when you were younger or did you just fall into it?
Olivia Anakwe: I did a small Target ad and a knitwear catalogue when I was younger which I can’t really remember very well. Growing up, my aunties always made comments about using my height to model but I never took it seriously.

Charlie Newman: How easy have you found the balance between studying and modelling? Is your agency supportive of your studying commitments?
Olivia Anakwe: My agency is super supportive, but I definitely speak up about my studying commitments and exams. To find balance I take advantage of my free time; whether I am in the hair chair, waiting for my flight, or riding the subway, I save documents to my google drive, make it available offline, and whip it out during those spare minutes. I often take pictures of my textbook and read it over. We are in such a technology-driven age, so it’s all about putting our gadgets to positive use.

Kate Spade fashion campaign 2019 starring a female model wearing a patterned dress and sunglasses

Instagram: @olivia_anakwe for Kate Spade Pre-Fall ‘19

Charlie Newman: After modelling, how do you hope to use your degree in the future?
Olivia Anakwe: I am drawn to the meaning behind all of our actions so that is why I love Psychology. However, I want to go into Dermatology and use that unconventional background to offer a different perspective in the medical field.

Charlie Newman: Your career has really catapulted in such a short period of time. What do you to do to stay grounded?
Olivia Anakwe: Bikram yoga has been such an important practice in my life; mentally and physically it has kept my body balanced and stronger than ever. I also love going to coffee shops, reading, cooking with friends, and self-care rituals (sheet masks, essential oils, & wine!)

Charlie Newman: What advice would you give to any aspiring young boys or girls wishing to enter the fashion industry?
Olivia Anakwe: Don’t let anyone get in the way of your drive and stay level-headed. It is important to have confidence because you may receive a million “nos” until one person sees something in you and says “yes”. So always believe in yourself!

Charlie Newman: What has been your favourite job thus far and why?
Olivia Anakwe: Shooting the Miu Miu Spring Summer ‘18 Campaign with Alasdair Mclellan in the middle of the desert of Arizona was incredible. To shot alongside industry legends including Adwoa Aboah, Cameron Russell, Jean Campbell and Dakota Fanning was a total honour. It was my first time in Arizona and the whole team made the experience unforgettable.

Charlie Newman: I can see from your Instagram that your passionate about food. Is this something that was instilled within your family home or since moving to New York? What’s your favourite restaurant in the city?
Olivia Anakwe: Yes, I am a total foodie! Coming together for home cooked meals is ingrained in Nigerian culture – our Thanksgiving and Christmas is nothing less than a 20 dish feast. I have been cooking my own dishes since I was young, but was only introduced to healthy eating when I got scouted and moved to New York. Gathering to enjoy a meal is a ritual that I cherish. My favourite takeaway has to be Queen of Falafel, a mediterranean spot with the freshest falafel, pita, and roasted eggplant. For vegan pizza go to Paulie Gee’s – you will not even believe the cheese is vegan, simply mind blowing! For the latest obsession, Thaiholic, for clean Thai food with absolute flavour.

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

Charlie Newman: I read that you did tap dance as a child. Is this something you’ve continued to enjoy? Have you found the movement and the performance elements of dance helpful to your modelling career?
Olivia Anakwe: No, sadly I don’t tap dance anymore but my background in dance has definitely complimented being in front of the camera. I am more aware of my body because movement allows me to flow into various poses and carry myself when walking into castings.

Charlie Newman: If you could wave a magic wand and change something within the fashion industry, what would you choose and why?
Olivia Anakwe: As always, inclusivity and representation. It is so important for people to see themselves in the things that they admire because it reinforces the greatness they can attain.

Female model poses in white scarf and coat looking into the distance

Instagram: @olivia_anakwe for Mansur Gavriel

Charlie Newman: I really admire the fact that you’re using your profile to promote good causes, such as  organising the ‘Shake That Give Back’ event to help collect funds for the the NUWAY foundation and the Women’s Refugee Commission. Where did this idea come from and why did you chose these two specific charities?
Olivia Anakwe: The conversation sparked as we [Olivia and her friend Meghan] were discussing what we could do to give back towards the end of the year. We both love bringing people together so we figured why not combine both of these things into a huge celebration! We each picked a cause that was close to our backgrounds.

As a first generation Nigerian in America, giving back is something that is ingrained in our culture and a value that my mother and father always instilled. Discovering the NUWAY Foundation was particularly special because they are involved in charitable contributions that are quite active and really make a difference for the communities in Nigeria that they work with. Their message of ‘Give H.O.P.E.’ provides: Healthcare, Opportunity, Pure Water, and Educational resources and development.

Meghan chose the Women’s Refugee Commission as she is a child of refugees. Her mother’s family had everything taken from them, escaped Communism in Vietnam via a fishing boat and landed ashore on the Malaysian island of Bidong where they lived in a refugee camp for a little over a year. The Women’s Refugee Commission specifically helps to improve the lives of refugee women within these camps and empower them once they begin the start of their new lives. They provide services of financial education, reproductive health services and also educate other nonprofit organisations in ways to help prevent these dangers that women in the refugee camps may face.

Charlie Newman: Are you involved in anymore charitable projects this year?
Olivia Anakwe: Yes I am and more is to come! I will also be working with the Model Mafia group this year so be sure to follow along on my Instagram and @modelactivist for upcoming events!

Charlie Newman: Lastly who is your role model of the month?
Olivia Anakwe: My role model of the month is Michelle Obama! I just finished her memoir Becoming; it was so eloquently written and inspiring. She is a true powerhouse and a figure who has always stayed true to herself.

Follow Olivia on Instagram: @olivia_anakwe

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Reading time: 6 min
Fashion look book with two images of models wearing suits and white heels
Fashion look book with two images of models wearing suits and white heels

Looks from the MANDKHAI Autumn/ Winter 2018 collection

Mongolian designer Mandkhai Jargalsaikhan’s eponymous brand is dedicated to the sustainable production of high quality cashmere. Using yarn spun from the coats of free roaming goats, the cashmere is dyed and then delicately crafted into elegant, contemporary garments. We ask the designer 6 Questions.

Portrait of designer Mongolian designer Mandkhai Jargalsaikhan, founder of MANDKHAI luxury cashmere brand

Mandkhai Jargalsaikhan

1. What’s your favourite memory from your childhood?

My favourite memories will have to be the times I spent at the factory growing up. My parents always worked until late so I would often be with them at the factory watching the craftsmen do their jobs and playing around.

We got visitors regularly at the factory and one time everyone kept asking me to go this man and ask for an autograph. I did as I was told not knowing who it was because I must have been around 5-6 years old. Later I found out it was Richard Gere!

2. Why did you want to start your own brand?

I started MANDKHAI because I saw that there was a gap in the market for well designed, modern cashmere pieces. Everything I saw was very basic and old fashioned. After studying fashion design in London, I felt like I could offer something more exciting using my background in cashmere production. We make everything ourselves in our factory in Mongolia and are vertically integrated, so I really wanted to show the different processes and give an insight into the craftsmanship and expertise that goes into the production of cashmere, which in itself is sustainable.

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

My name means to rise above in Mongolian. I decided to stick with my name because I wanted the brand to be personal and relatable while staying true to my roots.

Model poses in studio setting wearing a white t-shirt and white trousers

MANDKHAI Spring/ Summer 2019 collection

3. What’s your top tip for recognising and buying high quality cashmere?

Just because it’s super soft does not necessarily mean it’s good quality cashmere. Do have a look at where it was made. Mongolian cashmere (not to be confused with inner Mongolia as that’s a region in China) is of higher quality because the cashmere comes from free roaming goats that produce the fibre to survive the harsh winters reaching up to -50C. Good quality cashmere will last you decades and becomes even softer as you wear it and will even stop pilling.

4. Do you think it’s possible for fashion to become fully sustainable?

Everything is possible, so yes I do think fashion can become fully sustainable. It just needs people to want it.

Read more: Canary Wharf Group’s MD Camille Waxer on urban transformation

5. Who or what is inspiring you right now?

A trip I took to Wyoming and Jackson hole is currently inspiring me. The nature is beautiful there and it’s similar to Mongolia in some areas. Our next collection is based on this trip and I am very excited to share it soon.

Model poses wearing an orange slip dress

MANDKHAI Spring/ Summer 2019 collection

6. What’s next for MANDKHAI?

Recently we have added a menswear line and are excited to see the growth as we are getting good responses. I think fashion is becoming more and more androgynous and it will be definitely interesting to design for men. We will also keep pushing our womenswear and work to create an awareness around cashmere production.

Discover the MANDKHAI collections: mandkhai.com

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Reading time: 2 min
Watch designer Richard Mille watches Formula One
Ukrainian high jumper Yuliya Levchenko wearing a watch by Richard Mille

Richard Mille chooses sports personalities as brand ambassadors, including Ukrainian high jumper Yuliya Levchenko

Richard Mille is the name adorning some of the world’s most expensive – and outrageous – timepieces. But the eponymous founder is a thoughtful, passionate creative who dreamed of creating a racing car company as much as a watch brand. Darius Sanai meets him
Watch designer Richard Mille watches Formula One

Richard Mille watching Formula One

Richard Mille has grown his eponymous brand from start-up to occupying a dominant space at the top end of the luxury watch echelon, in less than 20 years. He has done so, not by imitating others, but by creating a completely new script for high-end watches: dramatically beautiful shapes, mind-bending mechanicals and super-high tech, tough materials, meaning his striking timepieces are significant in size but lightweight to wear. Mille could be seen as inventing a new market for the young-at-heart collector who wants to break from tradition. They are sculptures as much as they are timepieces.

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

But he is also a marketing genius, sponsoring (and sticking with) stars such as Rafael Nadal, who repaid Mille’s unswerving faith in him by winning the French Open for the 11th time this year, and attaching his name to the sexiest sports, and the sexiest spots, in the world. Whether you’re attending Formula One in Singapore, Formula E in Hong Kong, the Concours d’Elegance in Chantilly, or just hopping by helicopter from Monaco to the private jet terminal at Nice Côte d’Azur airport, you will see the brand (and its customers).

Polo player action shot on the field

Polo champion and Richard Mille brand ambassador Pablo MacDonough

Richard Mille’s most notable recent partnership is with hyper-car makers McLaren, and like the rest of the brand, the motoring DNA wasn’t dreamed up by a marketing agency. Mille is a car fanatic and collector of some of the most exquisite historic classic cars, and it was this subject – the symmetry between watch and car design and ethos – that kicked off our conversation, because there is a symmetry between classic cars and hypermodern watches, as he reveals…

LUX: Many collectors will say that today’s cars are not as beautiful as the cars of the 1950s and 1960s. What is your view on that?
Richard Mille: The car designs of today are certainly driven by efficiency; everyone wants to optimise the aerodynamics, engine power, downforce, etc. In the 1960s the objectives were different, and there was a lot of the designer’s personality involved in the cars. The variety of designs was very interesting, even in terms of the design drawings – back then even racing cars were very different to each other. Nowadays it is very difficult to see the difference between different car brands because they have to be designed with performance efficiency in mind. Even if you are a connoisseur of Formula One, if you take away the different colours, it would be very different to see the difference between a Ferrari and a Mercedes, because everything is driven by computers and aerodynamics.

Luxury timepiece by Richard Mille in partnership with McLaren

The McLaren collaboration watch, RM 50-03

olympic athlete Mutaz Essa Barshim pictured outside the richard mille store on mount street mayfair

Brand ambassador and
Olympic high jumper
Mutaz Essa Barshim

LUX: Does that apply also to engines? Engines used to be mechanical things of beauty, and that applied to the sounds they made, also. Nowadays, I’m not sure many people could tell the difference between the V8 twin turbo engines in an Aston Martin, a Ferrari, a Mercedes-AMG or a BMW M5.
Richard Mille: Most probably, because now you have to be careful about noise, emissions and other aspects. And when you open the bonnet you don’t see the revelation of the engine. With an Aston Martin or a Lamborghini Huracán you have a magnificent car, but you open the bonnet and you just see a lot of plastic. You then go to a classic car concours and see all those cars; the people are totally crazy because each one is more beautiful than the other – so many different shapes, colours, engines, noises. It is fantastic to see 500 cars in one place that are so different from each other.

Read more: Art auctioneer Simon de Pury on modern philanthropy

LUX: Do you think the younger generation now think of cars just as transportation – that they’d be as happy to use a shared car club or an autonomous car?
Richard Mille: I think in the genes there is still an appeal for cars. If you speak about younger children, today they are in different virtual universes, but still the appeal of a nice car is there. You see them looking around racing cars and dreaming. So I think it still brings excitement.

Bird's eye shot of a grand mansion house and estate

Richard Mille sponsored classic car competition

Above: scenes from the Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille event 2017

Richard Mille luxury timepiece the RM 70-01

The RM 70-01 watch

LUX: Does the same question apply with mechanical watches? People don’t need the watches you make, but they want them because they are desirable objects?
Richard Mille: Yes, you can really say that there is a parallel there because so many people are still buying watches in different colours that they don’t really use. It’s the same when you buy a sports car that can go at 300km/h; that is not any use because of speed limits, unless you go on a track. But the beautiful object is still a source of desire, which is nice because I can see myself that we cannot cope with the demand, the demand is getting totally crazy. We increase the production every year. Last year we did 4,000 pieces, this year we will do 4,600 pieces, so it is a constant growth. But I cannot cope with the demand at all, the demand is exploding. I have seen the same with my friends. The McLaren Senna costs £750,000 and they were all sold without anyone even seeing a picture of one. My friends, they want it but they can’t get it. It’s the same story with the McLaren P1: 500 units all sold before even before production started. Studies are showing that young people aged 18-30 still dream about luxury watches, which is funny because I expected the opposite.

Read more: The Secret Diary of an Oxford Undergraduate

LUX: When you are creating the watches, how much does the design inform the mechanicals and how does that conversation happen? Because the distinctiveness of your watches is in the design but they are also very mechanically advanced.
Richard Mille: It was one of my concerns when I started,to give as much importance to the design as to the mechanical aspect.

Heptathlete Nafissatou Thiam poses wearing richard mille watch

Heptathlete and brand ambassador Nafissatou Thiam

LUX: It is a crowded market, and you have created a brand that has gone from zero to hero in 20 years. How did you do that and why did you succeed when so many others had tried but failed, or remained much smaller?
Richard Mille: The first reason was a kind of rupture with a world of watches. People in this world of high-end watches were just duplicating the same watches that were in existence at the beginning of the 20th century. So I said, we have to do a contemporary watch, a watch that is very different from what is out there, and to create it at any cost, without any compromise. So today it is a paradox where we have a young brand that has got a lot of respect from the market, from the competition and also from the public. We have a lot of respect because we do not copy anybody and we are not afraid to take risks. Many other brands are inspired by the high-end watch business, but sometimes the problem with the watch business is that it is boring – the message is always the same. Our message is that we respect tradition, but we are modern, we are a contemporary watch, we are extremely technical but we do watches to live with, to wear daily.

Singer Pharell and sprinter Yohan Blake at the Little Big Mans car race

Singer Pharrell Williams and sprinter Yohan Blake wearing Richard Mille watches at the Little Big Mans race

Alexander Zverev kissing the winning trophy at the Madrid Open 2018

Mille-sponsored Alexander
Zverev wins the 2018
Madrid Open

LUX: Have you ever been tempted to start or revive a luxury car brand?
Richard Mille: That has been my dream for many years, yes. I would have loved that. It is such a different universe. At the same time, we only have 24 hours in a day; I think it would take two lives to do a car company as well. So I will stick to the watches and collect cars.

LUX: Do you think it’s a shame that France no longer has a supercar brand, like it did many years ago?
Richard Mille: It is, because we have a very interesting past as you see with car collectors. But after the Second World War, the French government just decided to do popular cars.

LUX: LUX speaks to the high end of the luxury market. Is luxury stratifying?
Richard Mille:  Yes, I can see that everyday. There are many luxury brands that are turning into volume brands, and sometimes it is very high volume. Also people are more educated and sophisticated and know the numbers; they know that many brands are volume makers and they are looking for more exclusive things, things that will make them different. Twenty years ago people did not know the difference between Hermès and Louis Vuitton. Today they know the difference between those brands; they know who is doing what. The world of luxury, which was quite over generous, has today totally exploded between all the different segments.

Discover Richard Mille’s collections: richardmille.com

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Reading time: 8 min
Photograph of man with large metal horn positioned on a tripod
Portrait of south african artist willima kentridge standing in front of a stone sculpture
As the globe’s art lovers gather at Frieze London, Anna Wallace-Thompson interviews one of the world’s greatest living artists exclusively for LUX.  The expansive career of William Kentridge has seen him design opera sets, stage multidisciplinary performances and create hard-hitting and poignant drawings and animations. His work explores the legacy of apartheid, as well as the human condition, and the ever-repeating cycles of history and memory.

When William Kentridge was three years old, he wanted to be an elephant. At 15, he declared his intention to become a conductor, but was somewhat crestfallen to discover one needed to know how to read music in order to do this. In his twenties, he decided to attend theatre school, and it was there, he says, that he found the confidence to realise he would never become an actor. At 30, a friend broke the news to him: stop calling yourself a technician, or a set designer. You’re an artist! No more talking about ‘falling back’ on a sensible career – time to sink or swim. This should have come as no surprise, for Kentridge had always been drawing and creating – “to make sense of the world”. At 34, he had a breakthrough. His 1989 animated film Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris introduced an intrigued audience to the first of what would become nine films chronicling the rise and fall of the characters Soho Eckstein, his wife, and her lover Felix Teitelbaum – all brought to life, in charcoal, through a unique draw-and-erase stop-motion animation technique.

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

Artist working on large scale egyptian style paintings

Carnets d’Égypte (2010), a multimedia ‘excavation’ of ancient Egypt

In fact, the world of William Kentridge is defined by those dark, deft lines of charcoal, which, as he explains to me, “make us aware of the work we do in recognising what we are looking at”. They capture, in a few strokes, the nuances of bodies and personalities, joy and heartache. When animated, they appear and disappear over and over to create living, breathing figures; the erased traces of lines remaining in the background, marking the passing of time and the endurance of memory. Now, at 63, Kentridge is often referred to as South Africa’s Picasso, and his fiercely intelligent oeuvre encompasses those signature charcoal drawings and animations as well as sculpture and theatre. He also creates vast, multidisciplinary performances using shadow puppetry, music, dance and sculpture – so that theatre school wasn’t wasted after all. His work has appeared in museum shows around the world, most recently Thick Time at London’s Whitechapel Gallery (2016–17), and O Sentimental Machine (2018) at Frankfurt’s Liebieghaus. He also debuted a special performance at London’s Tate Modern in July, titled The Head & the Load. The latter is, he admits, is “filling all my thoughts at the moment. It is the most ambitious work I’ve done… even though it is not necessarily the largest.” For, of course, in addition to theatre, Kentridge also has decades of opera design under his belt – and that means whole choirs on stage.

Read more: Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar’s dialogue across time and space

Kentridge is also a striking man. He is not particularly tall, yet appears tall. His sharp features, marked by dark bushy eyebrows are at once stern yet kind, lending him a sort of old world grace and gravitas (it is telling that Linda Givon, founder of his long-time gallery, Goodman, has referred to him as “a genius and a gentleman”). His parents, Sydney and the late Felicia Kentridge, were anti-apartheid lawyers. During his career, the now 95-year-old Sydney defended Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu as well as the family of activist Steve Biko in the infamous Biko Inquest – investigating the death of the Black Consciousness Movement founder at the hands of police. Kentridge has spoken of the pervasive sense of “indignation and rage at the dinner table” during his childhood, as well as a now-famous story during which the young Kentridge, thinking it was full of sweets, accidentally stumbled upon a box full of police photographs of brutalised bodies being used as evidence. Those images, he recalls, percolated in his subconscious and found their way into his work decades later, and it was only then that he himself recalled the incident, and told his father.

Multimedia art installation with screen showing black and white film and living room set up

‘O Sentimental Machine’ (2015) at Liebieghaus in Frankfurt

With this backdrop of apartheid, it is natural that there is violence in Kentridge’s art, but there is immense, overpowering beauty too. Much of his work is political – a ruthless yet contemplative exploration of the human condition and the ramifications and consequences of apartheid in South Africa in particular, but also events in general. History, for Kentridge, is a collage – a series of intermingling events each affecting the other, and it is his insight into ‘the other side’, the understanding that “everyone’s triumph is someone else’s lament” that gives it such an edge. “I imagine working with Kentridge is what it must have been like working with Charles Dickens or Shakespeare,” the Whitechapel’s Iwona Blazwick tells me. “He is a phenomenon. Of all the artists we’ve worked with, he’s the greatest polymath, and so open and excited to work with other people.”

Portrait of man wearing uniform and head costume

Photograph of man carrying parts of a machine on his back

Photograph of man with large metal horn positioned on a tripod

Scenes from ‘The Head & the Load’ (2018) performance at London’s Tate Modern

This is the reason why, to define Kentridge’s work as exclusively South African would be misleading in many ways. Its impact and appeal lies in its ability to transcend cultural boundaries. Speaking in the documentary, Certain Doubts of William Kentridge, he has explained, “The work is political in that it takes the political part of the world as one of its subject matters, in the same way one could look at love or deception or the structure of personalities, as a subject to endlessly investigate and play with.” For him, it is the ambiguity of any ‘message’ in his work that allows him such freedom – and part of why he loves, and often uses, Dadaist elements, as reflective of a process of not making sense in order to make sense. In many ways, this is the essence of Kentridge, as is his interest in what he has dubbed ‘the less good idea’. He often quotes the adage “if the good doctor can’t cure you, find a less good doctor” – if one idea isn’t working, find the less good one, for that is where the interesting stuff truly happens.

When I meet him, he is in London to unveil a slightly different artistic project, namely, this year’s Vendemmia d’Artista, an annual artist commission by Italian super-winery Ornellaia. The collaboration feels natural, for Kentridge has something of a special relationship with Italy – evidenced most recently by the vast, 550-metre-long processional fresco, Triumphs and Laments, ‘reverse stencilled’ along the walls on the banks of the Tiber (high-pressure water was used to remove layers of dirt from the wall’s surface and create the images).

Wine bottle with painting spilling from the base in a circle

Kentridge’s Salmanazar creation for Ornellaia’s Vendemmia d’Artista

For Ornellaia’s 2015 Il Carisma, now in its 30th vintage, he has created special wine labels, drawing in charcoal on the pages of old Italian cash books sourced by him from flea markets in Tuscany. On them, he depicts grape pickers and wine secateurs, a shadow procession, as it were, of the people and tools involved in making wine, celebrating “a great harvest of hard labour”. And the secateurs? “I’m interested in things with hinges,” Kentridge explains. “It gives objects an anthropomorphism, and creates things that can walk.” Two of these figures will be realised as three-metre-high, painted steel sculptures and placed in the Ornellaia vineyard itself.

Read more: Entrepreneur John Caudwell on luxury property & philanthropy

The sale of these special bottles by Sotheby’s raised £123,000 for the Victoria & Albert Museum. The star piece, which went under the hammer for £50,000, is a Salmanazar with a mirrored casing. When placed upon a special drawing, it reflects a series of figures, bringing to life Kentridge’s vineyard procession. “The thing about mirror reflections is that you get an image without end,” Kentridge explains. “There is no edge to the form: it has a top and a bottom, but you can keep circling around. In this case it’s a static drawing of wine pickers, growers and makers, and at the Tate it will be humans carrying shadows along a long curve as they circle around a stage.”

Kentridge is referring to his most recent project, an expansive theatrical production marking the centenary of the First World War – and more specifically, the role of the millions of African porters and carriers who served (for the most part unacknowledged and forgotten in the historical record) in that war. The Head & the Load takes its name from a Ghanaian proverb (‘The head and the load are the troubles of the neck’) and draws on Kentridge’s vast experience of operatic production, set design, shadow puppetry, mechanised sculpture, dance and film projection. Debuting over the summer at Tate Modern, it saw Kentridge team up with his longtime composer collaborator Philip Miller as well as choreographer and dancer Gregory Maqoma to create a theatrical, musical procession.

“I am interested in processions for a couple of different reasons,” Kentridge muses. “One is that they have to do with human foot power – people moving themselves along. Obviously, this has echoes of migration, of refugees walking and the idea of human power moving from one part of the world to another.” The other aspect, he explains, is to do with lateral movement, referencing the analogy of Plato’s cave, in a processional work the figures move sideways to the viewer, rather than backwards and forwards (towards and away from). When they pass by us,we become passive, witnesses to the passage of time. “The world is filled with people, with loads on their backs and their heads, walking across the world,” he explains. “What is our relationship to that passage of passing?”

Chalk drawing of an angry cartoon man holding a sword

chalk drawing of a bald man waving a sword at an eye floating in the sky

chalk drawing of tripod like machine walking along a chalk line on a black background

chalk drawing of a machine spouting white powder

Stills from ‘Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City After Paris’

Plato is also key, as shadows have become one of Kentridge’s signature motifs, the use of monochrome (greatly influenced by what he sees as a rather bleak landscape around Johannesburg) evident in his animation works as well as in the use of large-scale shadow puppets and mechanical sculptures. “Colour had so many problems for me, associated with how one used it, that it stopped the question of what one was using it for,” Kentridge has said. “Charcoal, black and white, it’s much closer to writing… instead of writing with a pen, one’s writing in a shorthand with images and the images can always be at the service of something other than themselves – an idea, a theme, a question that’s being asked.”

Read more: Caroline Scheufele on Chopard’s gold standard

The use of shadow processions in his theatrical work, then, is an evolution of his schematic moving figures, as seen in films such as Ubu Tells the Truth, in which he combines moving puppets with charcoal animation. “There is something very simple about shadows, in that you take a basic shape, and when it’s cast as a shadow, one still recognises it,” says Kentridge.
“For example, without having to make a real model of a boat, you can cut out the silhouette of one, and everybody will recognise your boat – even though it’s just a few sticks and some cardboard. So in that sense, it is a sort of poor art form, yet it has a real richness of both allusion and illusion when you watch it.” There is a lot to be said for the democratising abilities of the ‘poor art form’ of silhouettes and puppets – indeed, in the 18th and 19th centuries, cut-paper silhouette portraits became a cheap and affordable alternative to photography or painting. “I hadn’t thought of them in that form specifically, but there is something very simple about them,” Kentridge responds. “A silhouette has a kind of life and a presence. We’re so good at recognising and putting meaning to a shape, so even if we don’t know how to draw something, we can recognise it as it appears in front of us. A lot of the pieces I create, when I look at them on the ground, I can’t quite tell what the image in front of me is, but as soon as it’s held up, and its shadow is cast, it reveals itself completely. I’ll be surprised, even though I made it – you can’t always predict what the shadow will be.”

When it comes to the theme of The Head & the Load, as with much of Kentridge’s work, it deals with historical events, human flow and facts that might otherwise slip through the fingers of history. During the First World War, there were over a million African casualties – of these about 30,000 were soldiers, but a staggering 300,000 were carriers, another 700,000 civilians. “I was astonished at my own ignorance at the start of the project, and the way in which these fatalities devastated different sections of Africa,” he says. “I also had no idea of the 300,000 Chinese in the Western Front, or the hundreds of thousands of Indian sepoys that were in Africa and in France.”

Stencil type public art illustrations on a wall of a kneeling beggar and a half animal half human creature

Public art mural lit up on a wall along a rive

Kentridge’s fresco ‘Triumphs and Laments’ (2016) along the walls of the Tiber in Rome

It seems unfathomable that something like this could be so unknown. “I think this is because, all the air, as it were, has been taken by [the Eurocentric experience of] All Quiet on the Western Front and Wilfred Owen – that’s what we learned in school,” says Kentridge.
“That’s what one found so moving, and had such a strong connection to.” As a nod to this, The Head & the Load does feature a fragment of Owen’s poetry – translated, in true Kentridge Dadaist fashion, into forgotten French as well as a dog barking (“well, it might have metamorphosed now into a crow rather than a dog,” he twinkles) – Kentridge’s way of saying it’s time to remember other things as well, to be aware of someone else’s lament. The work stands as emblematic of the fraught relationship Africa has had with Europe since colonisation of the continent began, what Kentridge characterises as, “Europe not understanding Africa, not hearing Africa, and Africa having all of these expectations and hopes of Europe.” He pauses and smiles sadly. “As somebody said to me: ‘Not one of our dreams came true. Freedom! Oh, we missed the boat again.’ So yes, it’s incomprehensible.”

View William Kentridge’s portfolio: mariangoodman.com/artists/william-kentridge

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Reading time: 12 min
Giraffe stands by tree in Africa against an orange sunset
Abercrombie & Kent founder Geoffrey Kent standing next to a red helicopter

Geoffrey Kent standing next to a helicopter in Tasmania, Australia. Image courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

Founder and CEO of luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent, and regular LUX columnist, Geoffrey Kent began his career by taking tourists on safaris in Kenya. Now his business operates tours across the globe by land, sea and air – on board the A&K private jet, naturally. As Geoffrey Kent launches his Safari Collection of travel apparel and luggage, Digital Editor Millie Walton asks the luxury travel pioneer about his greatest memories, worst fears and how it all began

LUX: If you could relive one moment in time, what would it be?
Geoffrey Kent: The moment I turned down the opportunity to have dinner with Nelson Mandela. What could have been more important than that? I can’t recall now, but I do keenly feel the regret I have that I never met him. He was so inspiring.

Alternatively, I would relive the dinner I had in New York with former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate Kofi Annan, who passed away recently. I was so impressed with him and grateful to him for saving Kenya, my home, when he brokered a power sharing deal between the president, Mwai Kibaki, and the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, in the aftermath of the 2007-8 post-election crisis, bringing peace and prosperity back to Kenya.

On the action front, to win that US Open again would be amazing. It would be a ‘Field of Dreams’.

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

LUX: What frustrates you the most about the current travelling industry?
Geoffrey Kent: The lack of regulation in the so-called ‘collaborative economy’ for businesses such as Uber and Airbnb. I’ve used Ubers and stayed in Airbnbs. I think both are amazing, innovative products. The problem is with licensing. I think if I were a taxi driver, I would be very unhappy about Uber. Likewise, Airbnbs are putting licensed hotel operators out of business. There can’t be rules for one and not the other.

Princess Diana, Prince Charles and a young Geoffrey Kent speaking post polo match

Princess Diana congratulates Prince Charles and Geoffrey Kent at the Guard’s Polo Club, 1987. Image courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

LUX: Where do you long to go back to?
Geoffrey Kent: I had the privilege to visit Gabon recently at the invitation of President Ali Bongo Ondimba. In an executive Puma helicopter, I cruised the coast and flew over forests, the sand cliffs, and Kongou and Djidji Falls. I fell in love with Loango National Park where I spotted elephant, hippo, and buffalo. One group of elephant were swimming off the beach with their trunks raised out of the water like snorkels. Tourism is still a fledgling industry in Gabon, but I predict it will take off in a big way and soon, and I hope A&K can be part of it. I’ll definitely be back.

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

LUX: When were you last afraid?
Geoffrey Kent: I went into Iraq with some SAS guys in 2010. There were some hairy moments during that trip, however the thing that concerns me most on an ongoing basis is climate change. The polar icecaps are melting, there are prolonged heat waves and the sea levels are rising. My concern is there’s no way we can just throw up our hands and say “stop!”. We’re going down this chute far too fast and I believe it’s far worse than we think. Even if we stop burning fossil fuels in the next decade, we might tragically lose some low-lying countries. As both a father and a global citizen, I’m very afraid of climate change. It’s not just about carbon off-setting (though everyone should do that), it’s about sustainability going forwards. For my part, I’m very proud of what Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy is doing around the world in its 41 projects in 20 countries.

LUX: What’s the most recent lesson you’ve learnt?
Geoffrey Kent: That quality is synonymous with luxury has always been my mantra. When I launched the Geoffrey Kent Safari collection of timeless, high-performance, luxury travel apparel and luggage for today’s adventurer, I learned quickly that for me, quality means ‘made in Italy’. I found a manufacturer in Monza, a town just outside of Milan. I like to have a very close relationship with my suppliers and get involved every step of the way. There is such passion and detail put into each and every cut of leather and every stitch made by hand. That same flair and attention to the minutiae has always gone into every bespoke holiday and escorted tour that A&K has created – those are the secret ingredients that clients perhaps can’t put their finger on but always know if they are missing.

Giraffe stands by tree in Africa against an orange sunset

Geoffrey Kent and his parents set up Abercrombie & Kent with the intention of hosting safaris around Kenya

LUX: What did you want to be growing up?
Geoffrey Kent: I was obsessed with polo from the time I learnt the sport. When I was 14, Major Digby Tatham-Warter – a family friend – was training in me in three-day eventing at his farm in Eburru. One day he said: “Geoff, you’re excellent in the saddle and you’ve got quick reflexes. Why not try your hand at polo? It’s a much more exciting sport”. And how right he was. Polo excited me wildly and I spent hundreds of afternoons riding ponies with a polo stick in my hand. I became a world-class player and eventually I captained the Windsor Park polo team – which included HRH The Prince of Wales. Together with my US Abercrombie & Kent team, I also won a Cartier Open, World Open Championship, US Gold Cup, and two US Open victories. These victories were dreams come true and more than I could have imagined as a 14 year old learning at Eburru.

Other than that, I would have liked to have been a helicopter pilot or fly fighter jets. I love airplanes and helicopters, plus I’m a bit of an action junkie.

Read more: Northacre CEO Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro on creating dream homes

LUX: So how and when did Abercrombie & Kent begin?
Geoffrey Kent: In February 1960, the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan gave his famous ‘Winds of Change’ speech in Cape Town. This address stated that colonial rule could not go on and in 1962, the British government gave Kenya self-governance and determined that the farms in the highlands would be returned to the Kikuyu people. The Kenyan government forced my parents off the farm they’d spent two and a half decades creating in the Aberdares, South Kinangop in Kenya.

Fortunately, my parents – Colonel John and Valerie Kent – had sensed this coming and my father had landed a job as a part-time guide with a local travel company. He had been the first person to map the route from Kenya to Nigeria whilst in the army, so Dad knew the roads and sights of Africa better than any tour guide in the region and thus was able to earn a good wage – especially from American travellers, who tipped generously when they liked a guide.

In 1962, my parents and I made a decision to go in as partners, founding our own travel company (picking the ‘Abercrombie’ out of a phonebook), with the intention of hosting safaris around Kenya, and possibly moving into other areas of Africa.

LUX: And now you’re organising luxury tours across the globe as well as leading your own personal expeditions! What happens next?
Geoffrey Kent: A&K will continue to offer tailor-made luxury holidays and unparalleled escorted-tour experiences. Someone once calculated that I travel 300,000 miles per year. I’d say that was the average. My lifetime total is 17 million miles. When I last counted I had been to 148 countries and there are so many more I still need to see – I have no plans to slow down. I’m currently planning two or three of my Inspiring Expedition by Geoffrey Kent, which are innovative and amazing in every way.

To find out more about Abercrombie & Kent visit: abercrombiekent.com

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Reading time: 6 min
Two images of red haired model on yellow and turquoise backgrounds

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

striking red haired model poses in front of yellow background

22-year-old model and actress, Emma Laird. Instagram: @emmlaird

LUX contributing editor and model at Models 1, Charlie Newman continues her new 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: Emma Laird was scouted when she was 18 by Models 1 at a festival  covered in mud, glitter and last night’s make-up. Since then, the 22-year-old from Chesterfield, England has appeared on the pages of some of the world’s most famous magazines including Elle, Grazia, Glamour and L’Officiel, and has starred in a campaign for United Colours of Benetton. She is also an actress and avid reader, as Charlie discovers

Charlie Newman: Firstly huge congratulations on your burgeoning film career! Can you tell us a bit about it and what you’re working on at the moment?
Emma Laird: Thank you so much! I always loved acting at school, but felt maybe a little naive thinking that’s a valid career path. Modelling set me up because I knew how much effort went into a photoshoot, the lights, the costume department etc…there are similarities there which transfer to acting. When I went to New York initially for modelling back in 2016, I started looking at studying whilst I was there. I went to an open day at New York Film Academy and the casting director there said that he had a spot for me, but I had to start on Monday. I said yes and have never been so thankful for making such an impulsive decision. This year I got two short films, one in particular that I’m very excited about. It will be hitting film festivals globally next summer and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

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

Charlie Newman: How have you found the progression from modelling to acting?
Emma Laird: It’s hard because modelling is addictive. It’s very easy to get addicted to money, but there comes a point when you go to work wishing you were doing something else and you realise you can’t be doing something with your life just to score a bigger pay cheque. I would always turn down a paid modelling job to work on an indie film. As long as I can pay my mortgage off each month I’m happy doing free shit that I’m excited about, smaller projects, just learning and working with talented people in film is what I get excited about. I’m trying to enjoy the ride and continually learn in the mean time; reading scripts, watching other performances, reading, writing and just educating myself in general. Some of the greatest actors are some of the smartest people. If you land a role set in a different time period you have to know your shit. Politically, who was in power at that time, how were women treated, what were their roles in society at that time, how did people dress, what things had been invented, what were people campaigning for? It’s all relevant. So I’m trying just to continually progress with education and spend more time with my head in books that on social media.

Image of red-haired model standing in jeans and crop top in front of plain background

Emma Laird, shot by Aaron Hurley

Charlie Newman: Being a model and actress must require a multitude of emotion and a lot of energy when you turn up on set. Does it ever all get a bit much?
Emma Laird: Yes it does, it’s hard. I think loving yourself is something every model needs to learn. You are constantly under scrutiny. Getting naked in a room full of people, going in bare-faced when you might have a few spots, people asking your age and what you plan to do with your life… Of course that requires confidence, but more importantly you have to love and appreciate yourself as a person in order for that not to affect you. Modelling more so, I feel the pressure because they’ve booked me on looks alone. At least with acting I’ve gone through that audition process and they’ve booked me because they see something inside me. Acting is more of an escape from my own emotions or I use the stuff I’m dealing with and build it into a character which offers me a release.

Charlie Newman: How do you think the film and fashion industry compare when it comes to female empowerment?
Emma Laird: For me it’s been very circumstantial. Sometimes it’s an all girl team and it’s fab, sometimes it’s been the women who have scorned me for having hips. Sometimes I’ve been vulnerable in a room with only me and a male photographer. In general I think both industries are progressing with more female directors, photographers etc. which have always been male dominated but I do think we’ve got a way to go in taking women seriously and judging someone on their talent not their gender.

Read more: Charlie Newman interviews model, actress, filmmaker and activist,Florence Kosky

Charlie Newman: What would you like to see change within both industries?
Emma Laird: I’d love to see women in male roles and vice versa. I hate to think that a boy would grow up with such a talent for styling but would never pursue it because he thinks its too feminine or is scared people will question his gender. I sometimes think these issues are linked to homophobia. If people were more accepting of the LGBT movement and if it was normalised in more rural areas (because London is very progressive, it’s the small towns that still have a long way to go) I believe there would be fewer problems with gender roles/norms and that people would feel less obliged to take on a career based on their gender. So yes, I’d love for everyone to stop worrying about men wearing pink and on a more serious note, all industries hiring on a strictly talent and skill basis!

Red haired model poses against turquoise background wearing yellow bucket hat, t-shirt and black and white jacket

Emma Laird for Skinny Dip London. Instagram: @emmlaird

Charlie Newman: You have such a strikingly beautiful look. Whilst growing up, did you ever feel like you needed to conform to more stereotypical beauty standards?
Emma Laird: You’re very flattering Charlie thanks! I tried too definitely but there came a point when I realised that heavy make up didn’t suit me and nor did fake tan. I either had to embrace my look or hate it. I learnt to deal with it, and I had a really great group of friends in secondary school so whilst I was never the ‘pretty’ one, I wasn’t bullied for my looks after about the age of 12. It’s funny, I always hated not having boobs growing up, I developed very late and now I actually have B cup and wish they were smaller! I don’t think we’re ever happy with our bodies are we?

Charlie Newman: What do you do for you, to keep you grounded?
Emma Laird: I go back North all the time, around twice a month. I also have a lot of friends with ‘normal’ jobs, who don’t live in London which I think helps. It’s great to be able to live such a normal life and disconnect from fashion and the media whilst having such an extraordinary job. Don’t get me wrong I have amazing friends like you in fashion, and it’s so exciting knowing so many creative and truly talented people. I just personally like the balance of both. I feel like I have the best of both worlds.

Read more: Co-founder & CEO of Spring Francesco Costa on creative co-working

Charlie Newman: I know that you’re a committed vegan. What made you make this transition?
Emma Laird: I kind of did it accidentally at first. I don’t think I knew what a vegan was until after I became one. I was restrictive with food groups when I first started modelling so I wouldn’t eat that stuff anyway. I then started to research vigorously about food. I always loved learning and felt like I had to know whether I was doing my body good or bad by eliminating these things from my diet. That was when I started to realise there was all these health complications and risks with consuming dairy and meat that I started to call myself vegan.

Charlie Newman: Do you have any tips for aspiring vegans whilst travelling? I presume it’s quite difficult to maintain whilst on the move.
Emma Laird: I always say just be low maintenance. You can’t expect vegan joints all over the world but you can sure as hell expect supermarkets with fresh produce, places that sell side salads, fries, meals that you can ‘veganise’ and ask for things off of the menu. At the end of the day you’re giving a restaurant your money so you should get what you want. You just have to be a bit more creative when you travel.

Model on catwalk wearing gothic style outfit black silk shirt, skirt and hat

Instagram: @emmlaird

Charlie Newman: Are there any environmental causes you’re particularly passionate about?
Emma Laird: I’m actually spending the entire month of August plastic free, meaning all of my produce from shops I’m buying without plastic. I’m very passionate about our oceans – we should all be passionate about the oceans because we 100% need them to survive. The majority of our oxygen comes from the oceans, more so than trees and plants on land. It’s almost that out-of-sight, out-of-mind view that people have. We’re not really taught about environmental issues in school and how we can live a more conscious lifestyle, supermarkets make it very difficult to live eco-friendly when almost everything is wrapped in plastic. I’m not saying plastic isn’t effective. I know that it allows for produce to stay fresh whilst it’s being transported but I refuse to believe that other, less harmful materials can be used or even reused.

Charlie Newman: Lastly, who’s your role model of the month?
Emma Laird: My role model of the month is Sylvia Plath. I’ve been reading a lot of her work recently. It’s so inspiring and resonates so well with me that I almost create this world in my head as I’m reading her poems. Her and Leonard Cohen. He can make me cry like nobody else, his songs especially. There’s this verse in one of his songs that goes:

I walked into a hospital
Where none was sick and none was well,
When at night the nurses left
I could not walk at all

(Lyrics from Teachers)

I just love it. So I guess poets are my role models of the month!

Find Emma Laird on Instagram: @emmlaird

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Reading time: 9 min
poet, model and film-maker greta bellamacina
London-based Greta Bellamacina is one of those people who, once discovered, you can’t stop thinking about. Like a sleeper hit which innocuously makes its way up into the charts as one by one fans fall in love, Greta’s infectious presence online and throughout the arts scene utterly grabs hold. For October’s Vogue she is included in a feature about today’s progressive new poets, along with Cecilia Knapp, Selina Nwulu and James Massiah – but this is hardly surprising considering the unique blend of talents in her arsenal. LUX’s contributing poet, Rhiannon Williams speaks to the woman behind the words about the plight of of the public library, how her varifocal talents intersect, and her inspirations.

Ethereally beautiful, the first thing that strikes you is that Greta looks every part the romanticised ideal of ‘poet’. But it is her passion for what she does which, more than anything, startles – and makes you want to follow in her lead as a force for good in a confusing world. Greta’s work as a poet, film-maker, activist and model crosses and fuses borders, something that is seen more and more these days as people resist the restrictive boundaries of having a single ‘profession’ – and what could be more fitting for a modern-day poet? She published her debut poetry collection ‘Perishing Tame’ in 2015 through New River Press, a poetry press which she co-founded herself, and launched it into the world with readings at Shakespeare & Co, Paris and The Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles. She has also edited collections, including ‘Smear’ in 2017, an important anthology for young women poets everywhere, and has published collaboratively with poet-husband Robert Montgomery the collection ‘Points for Time in the Sky’.

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In the role of film-maker a particularly significant recent work was 2016’s documentary ‘The Safe House: A Decline of Ideas’, which smartly tackles the state of the British public libraries, spreading awareness of a plight that not enough people are conscious of. For a poet, the savage cuts to public funding that have brought the libraries of the UK to their knees over the last decade is a political outrage that hits very close to home. Greta’s activism with this documentary, which involved Stephen Fry and Irvine Welsh among others, demonstrated a fierce defiance in the face of a crisis of intellectual deterioration, and a prime example of how Greta uses her creative abilities as a force for good.

On top of all this, Greta has been involved in modelling campaigns for the likes of &otherstories and Stella McCartney. One can only pause in awe to wonder how she has time for so much, all the while maintaining an image that is undeniably slick. This is brought about by a stylishness that spans from the arresting design of her website (think arty snaps with poet John Cooper Clarke outside her film premiere), to her Instagram presence (handwritten pages of her thoughtful, searing poetry), to her fashion choices (somewhere in the realm of elfish art student lost on a Victorian couture runway).

poet, model and film-maker greta bellamacina

Greta has appeared in modelling campaigns for the likes of &otherstories and Stella McCartney

Rhiannon Williams: How did you first fall into poetry?
Greta Bellamacina: It has always been there, I’ve always heard words in my head that I felt compelled to write down. I knew from early on that poetry has the power to break your heart and fill it up again within a sentence.

RW: Can you tell me a bit more about the intersection between your talents for film-making, writing and modelling? Do they complement or sometimes clash?
GB: I think I have always been drawn to exploring the truth and beauty in the everyday- and playing with everyday conventions. If you make art in any form I think you have the moral responsibly to make the world a better place and be socially progressive. Fashion can be a fun way to make people feel apart of a new consciousness.

Read next: Kering’s Marie-Calire Daveu on championing long-term sustainability 

RW: In your writing as well as film-making you are an activist, tackling the threat to the public libraries in Britain with ‘The Safe House: A Decline of Ideas’ and promoting the empowerment of girls and female identity with ‘Smear’. Was this always a conscious decision to use an artistic avenue to further a cause, or do you think your beliefs shape your work almost without you realising?
GB: The working class fought for a hundred years to have public libraries. My local one had been turned into a block of luxury flats. But it wasn’t until I kept meeting young secondary school students fighting for seats in the library all round Britain that I understood how much it would change the next generation, change the communities if these temples of learning were to disappear. I think it’s good to let the audience have room to imagine their own futures and memories in these places, in order to shape wider beliefs and bring change. I think thats why when I edited ‘Smear’ I didn’t have any age limit or direct theme of Feminism, I just wanted women to have a place to be uncensored and shameless, a place for women to speak.

RW: What is your creative process – how do you sort through ideas and plans for projects?
GB: Rage, heartbreak and love- usually in that order.

Rhiannon Williams: Who are some poets you could not live without reading?
Greta Bellamacina: I always seem to go back to Ted Hughes, his words have some many eternal, harrowing shades to them. It has a closeness to it that you can’t help feel connected. There are so many more, Robert Montgomery of course, Alice Oswald, Warsan Shire, Heathcote Williams, Anne Sexton….

RW: What are you reading, listening to or excited about right now?
GB: I am listening a lot to Mazzy Star, Patti Smith, Sharon Van Etten and Sleaford Mods right now and really enjoying Warsen Shires poetry collection “Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth”. I’m excited about the morning sun, learning from strangers and finding new worlds in the sky.

gretabellamacina.com

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Reading time: 5 min
Saint Tropez luxury

Groupe Floirat’s first property, the legendary Hotel Byblos, Saint Tropez

Hotel Byblos and its nightclub Les Caves du Roy are French Riviera legends, hosting celebrities, old wealth, young Bohemians and new wealth for rest, play and partying since the Swinging Sixties. As the Byblos celebrates its 50th anniversary, Antoine Chevanne, CEO of the family-run Groupe Floirat, which owns the Byblos, the Caves, and owns two other French resort hotels, talks to Nathalie Breitschwerdt about running a family business, discreet luxury, and the enduring allure of St Trop.
Hotel Byblos

Antoine Chevanne

LUX: Your great grandfather founded Groupe Floirat back in 1967, how has the business evolved since then?
Antoine Chevanne: Groupe Floirat has grown, starting with our flagship property Hotel Byblos in St Tropez, 50 years ago. It now comprises of three properties including La Réserve in St Jean De Luz and Les Manoirs De Tourgeville in Normandy. Although the group has expanded, I have strived to maintain the spirit of the group that my grandfather first implemented, a feeling of home away from home, a personalized experience and intimate luxury.

LUX: From your experience, what are the challenges facing family run businesses today?
Antoine Chevanne: I think both the challenge and reward for a family run business is to maintain its own values and not lose sight of the company’s ethos. It’s finding a balance between adapting to the latest trends in luxury and technology, whilst continuing the legacy of the company’s founders.

Hotel Byblos

Rosita Missoni at the Byblos 50th anniversary

LUX: Byblos St Tropez continues to thrive after 50 years. What is the key to its success?
Antoine Chevanne: The key to Hotel Byblos’ success is personalized luxury to create a unique experience. We like to give freedom to our clientele, whilst providing impeccable service. We want our guests to feel at home, but in the most immaculate conditions. The breakfast at Le B by the pool is open until 1pm, and guests can eat dinner at any time after a night at Les Caves Du Roy – these are just examples of what I like to implement to make my guests feel special. As a ratio, we allocate on average 3 members of staff per room.

Read next: Bangkok’s Art Deco palace, The Siam 

LUX: In our rapidly changing world, how important is it to emphasise traditions and stability?
Antoine Chevanne: It’s very important to emphasise the company’s values in order to prove you are not getting swept away with the rapidly changing world. The challenge is to remain unique, whilst growing with our times.

hotel byblos

Anna Cleveland, Catherine Baba, Elie Top and Joana Preiss at the Byblos Party

LUX: How do you define luxury within hospitality?
Antoine Chevanne: Time, Space, Freedom – we want to make our guests feel relaxed. Many of our guests lead busy lives so we want them to feel free, independent as if they were in their own home. For example we serve breakfast until 1pm to give our guests time to relax and get up at whatever time they wish in the mornings.

LUX: In this sense, how has Groupe Floirat separated itself from other hotel groups?
Antoine Chevanne: By creating these bespoke and unique experiences for our guests. In order to do so, we partner with like-minded brands, who share the same beliefs and values of the group. For instance, this year for Hotel Byblos 50th Anniversary, we partnered with a range of luxury brands that share a similar mindset: Rolls Royce, Audemars Piguet, Goyard, Sisley, Missoni Home and Dom Pérignon. By creating these affiliations, we ensure guests are delivered any service to the highest standards, always in a similar spirit. Even our staff is now family, with certain members who have been with the group for over 20 years.

Hotel Byblos party

The 50th anniversary party at Hotel Byblos

LUX: How do you see luxury hospitality evolving over the next 5-10 years?
Antoine Chevanne: I don’t predict luxury will change immensely over the next 5-10 years. An experience can’t be replaced by virtual reality, an emotion can’t be replaced by an application, a feeling can’t be replaced by social media… Luxury will continue to be the ‘crème de la crème’, which is what guests seek when they travel to a 5 star property. May it be the gastronomy, beauty, or wellbeing, all of our properties will continue to deliver optimum, innovative and exclusive services to guarantee we remain ahead of the game. With this in mind, we seek to predict the change of expectations with the change of generations.

Read next: The star studded launch of Dom Pérignon P2 Champagne

LUX: Which of your experiences have been most helpful in leading Groupe Floirat?
Antoine Chevanne: Being the General Manager at Hotel Byblos for 5 years before becoming CEO in 2006, this really taught me the power of observation. Being aware of my clientele, receiving feedback and implementing solutions. Being on the ground at the beginning of a career, is key to successful leadership.

Rivea restaurant by Alain Ducasse at Hotel Byblos

LUX: In which ways has St Tropez changed over the last few decades? If at all, how have you responded to those changes?
Antoine Chevanne: The beauty of St Tropez is it’s never changing, legendary atmosphere. Byblos has maintained its prestigious reputation not only due to our services, but also thanks to our loyal customers and long standing relationships.

LUX: When not at Byblos, where is your favourite holiday destination?
Antoine Chevanne: My family house in South West of France in a village called Ahetze, where I can enjoy some quality time with my friend and family.

groupe-floirat.com

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Reading time: 4 min
Sophia Kah Fashion

Fashion designer Ana Teixeira de Sousa began working with textiles at a very young age, making dresses for her dolls in her grandmother’s textile factory in Portugal. Launched in 2011, her luxury womenswear label Sophia Kah (named after her grandmother) is now global, with pieces sold in Harrods, London, and Barneys, New York. Her evening dresses have adorned the red carpet on celebrities such as Kiera Knightley and Ruth Wilson. With no formal training, Ana uses techniques and family secrets to design lightweight lace dresses with her signature exposed drawstring corsetry, silk organza and leather panel additions. The evening-wear designer talks to Kitty Harris about conjuring her female muses and design secrets.

LUX: What’s your wardrobe staple?
Anna Teixeira: A black lace dress and leather jacket.

LUX: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
AT: Modernised classic with a twist, very feminine and sophisticated.

LUX: Your design signatures include corsetry and lace for “cultured strong-minded women”. How do you keep your designs feminine yet strong?
AT: I think woman can be both feminine yet strong – there’s nothing stronger and more empowering than a super feminine fitted black lace dress.

LUX: How do you create designs that are both relevant and timeless?
AT: It’s not an easy job but I believe you create timeless pieces when you use great materials, a flawless finish and exceptional cuts.

Read next: Which is the best modern classic Ferrari?

LUX: The Kah girls include the likes of Beyoncé, Keira Knightley and Sarah Jessica Parker. Does your approach to design differ when you have a particular woman in mind?
AT: No, my woman is very much present in my mind when I design. I always picture her – where she likes to go, what she likes to do, what she believes in, how she sees the world and what inspires her. Based on my muse, I then design her wardrobe; she is obviously always evolving because the world is so dynamic.

LUX: You name your pieces: the ‘Marie Victoire’ from SS’17, the ‘Sharlene’ from your signature collection and ‘Violet’ from your AW16. Why?
AT: Each collection we dream up a woman – SS17 she was a French girl living between France and Mexico with a strong passion for architecture.

LUX: Why did you choose renowned architect Luis Barragan as inspiration for your SS17 collection?
AT: I absolutely love his work, how he managed to work on colour is so inspiring.

LUX: Which techniques do you still use today that you learnt in your grandmother’s textile factory?
AT: There is still a great amount of hand work on my pieces. But the major secrets are on the construction of the pieces. The number of little tricks that goes inside each piece is tremendous.

LUX: What’s next for the brand?
AT: Continue to grow our presence worldwide sustainably.

sophiakah.com

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Reading time: 3 min
beirut architect nadim karam
Installation by Nadim Karam, Japan

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

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

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

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

Genesis Diptych 2016 by Nadim Karam

Genesis Diptych 2016 by Nadim Karam

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

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

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

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

beirut architect nadim karam

Urban Stories by Nadim Karam

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

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

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

Dreams and Journeys 2017 by Nadim Karam

Dreams and Journeys 2017 by Nadim Karam

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

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

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

Large scale urban art project by Nadim Karam, Prague 1997

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

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

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

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Florence-born Fawaz Gruosi spent years working with diamond expert Harry Winston in Saudi Arabia, learning the intricacies of the industry from within. In 1993 he launched his own brand, de Grisogono in fine jewellery’s capital, Geneva. Despite his lack of formal training, Gruosi is now widely considered one of the most creatively daring, sales savvy and charming jewellery designers on the modern market. He speaks to Millie Walton about black diamonds, celebrity endorsements and the need for experimentation.
Models Kate Moss and Helena Christensen pictured with Fawaz Gruosi

Kate Moss, Fawaz Gruosi and Helena Christensen

Fawaz Gruosi at Eden Roc cocktail party in Cannes

LUX: What do you think makes de Grisogono so successful?
Fawaz Gruosi: De Grisogono is characterised by unique and playful design codes. I like people to feel glamorous in my creations and while I have the greatest respect for them, I am not bound by the conventions of traditional jewellery design; at de Grisogono we like to take risks. When you wear de Grisogono you are making a statement, I think this is what makes us stand out.

LUX: Which markets are most interesting in the luxury world at the moment?
Fawaz Gruosi: We are currently expanding our offering in the Middle East and we are also looking into Asia. In Europe, London remains an important market; our Flagship opened in February 2016 and deeply reflects our brand aesthetics and my personal roots. The plan of the store references the typical Florentine villa – where I grew up – with three distinctive rooms: the Corte, the Grande Sala and the Stanza Del Tempo. The space uses chiaroscuro – playing with light and dark, texture and colour – to add interest to the room and create playful backdrop to the jewellery and watches.

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de Grisgono founder and creative director pictured with milla jovovich

Milla Jovovich with Fawaz Gruosi at Cannes in 2002

LUX: How do you compete against historic jewellery brands?
Fawaz Gruosi: We do not compete against historic jewellery brands, what we offer is completely different. We are often described as ‘daring’ and ‘trailblazing’ thanks to the fact that my approach does not conform to the rigours of traditional jewellery design. Our clients come to us because they know they will find something different. I made my name by experimenting at a time when the market was tired of traditional pieces that looked more or less the same. My designs are bold and colourful, we mix semi-precious with precious stones to create unexpected, unusual and beautiful pieces.

LUX: How has the fine jewellery world changed since you first entered it?
Fawaz Gruosi: At the beginning, many people were wary of my approach to high jewellery but now people are actively seeking more daring and challenging designs. Conventional design has given way to greater creative freedom.

LUX: You’re famous for pioneering the use of the “black diamond”, what inspired that innovation?
Fawaz Gruosi: I was entranced by the story of the historic Black Orlov, a monumental black diamond. I began to research black diamonds which had been rejected by the industry, largely because they are extremely challenging to cut. I found them intriguing, captivating, and any other gemstone is immediately enhanced by the dark sparkle of black diamonds, creating one of the most striking chiaroscuro effect. In 1996, de Grisogono launched a collection devoted to the black diamond. It was perfectly pitched at a moment when monochrome minimalism was very fashionable, sparking a massive global jewellery style-trend for black diamonds which continues unabated today.

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LUX: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as the founder and creative director of a luxury brand?
Fawaz Gruosi: The marriage between business and creative approach – thankfully we seem to have struck the right balance.

LUX: How important are celebrity endorsements for de Grisogono?
Fawaz Gruosi: The glamour of celebrity has greatly helped to shape our identity. The tone was set when the first de Grisogono boutique was opened in Geneva in 1993 at a party attended by Sophia Loren. Since then, we have been lucky to play host to many of the world’s most beautiful and famous women who have attended our parties and worn our jewels – Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Sharon Stone to name a few. Throughout the years, we have built lasting friendships with celebrities. By personally choosing de Grisogono for their red carpet moment, they express their love and passion for exclusive, distinctive, dazzling jewellery. This year during Cannes, we were delighted to see Bella Hadid and Kim Kardashian wearing our jewellery, as well as Jourdan Dunn, Milla Jovovich, Toni Garn and Natasha Poly.

Kim Kardashian with de Grisogono founder

Kim Kardashian and Fawaz Gruosi in Cannes

de Grisgono founder pictured with Liz Hurley

Fawaz Gruosi with Liz Hurley in Gstaad

LUX: When you look back on your career, what are you most proud of?
Fawaz Gruosi: I am most proud of the de Grisogono family. My closest team members are at my side for 10, 20 years now. We are just like a family and know exactly how each other works and I am proud of each and every one of them.

LUX: What lies ahead for the brand?
Fawaz Gruosi: We continue to expand into new territories and next year will be exciting in terms of some of the high jewellery creations we plan to unveil.

LUX: How do you relax?
Fawaz Gruosi: I have been so busy in the recent years that relaxing is a true luxury! But a perfect way to relax would be spending time with my family, in Porto Cervo or St. Moritz/Gstaad during winter, listening to music or cooking pasta for big groups of friends at home!

degrisogono.com

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In the five years since it opened, The Alpina Gstaad has become an iconic European hotel, featuring award-winning restaurants and spa, spectacular indoor and outdoor pools, a gallery-worthy art collection, and an ambience of relaxed chic that epitomises modern luxury at its best. Here, Eric Favre, its Managing Director, talks about how it’s done as part of our ongoing Luxury Leaders series.

Managing Director of The Alpina Gstaad

Eric Favre

LUX: The Alpina Gstaad opened into a market, Gstaad, with plenty of choice at the luxury end. Why did it succeed?
Eric Favre: Since it opened in 2012, our property has offered an entirely different experience than Gstaad has seen in the past 100 years. Our owners, architects and consultants had a clear vision of today’s discerning guests, who seek a chic but casual, authentic but refined hideaway in the mountains. So yes, the hardware is still important and we are fortunate to be offering outstanding facilities, but it’s really about meeting the exacting needs of our guests which is at the crux of our success. More and more, hotel and spa clients are looking to connect with a 360 degree lifestyle brand, which offers a compelling combination of art, fashion, wellness and personality. We make it our mission at The Alpina Gstaad to deliver this in a truly exceptional way.

LUX: What were the greatest challenges?
Eric Favre: Finding the right people that are able to transport your philosophy has always been a challenge. Your biggest assets are the people behind your brand and who are willing to go the extra-mile for the satisfaction of your guests. We are fortunate enough to have built a team which goes above and beyond in achieving that task. Another challenge we were facing at the beginning was to build up a loyal clientele given the competition in the area. Today we are thrilled to welcome a strong percentage of returning guests year after year.

Summer in Gstaad, Switzerland

The Alpina has the best outdoor pool zone in the Alps

 

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LUX: What are your clients like?
Eric Favre: Our guests are looking for a sophisticated hideaway to unwind from their busy schedules and responsibilities. It is a wide and international audience that we attract, from high profile celebrities to active couples and families seeking some quality time. What they appreciate is the casual but classy environment at The Alpina Gstaad – not needing to oblige to any dress code, for example. They appreciate the discretion and natural beauty that Gstaad is so famous for.

LUX: Why is Gstaad thriving when many Alpine destinations struggle at the top end?
Eric Favre: I believe that it’s a mix of Gstaad’s world-class events, alpine authenticity, breath-taking landscapes and lively social scene, not only during peak seasons. We keep reinventing ourselves without compromising on the local traditions. The world has always met in Gstaad and I am confident that this will remain a hot-spot for many generations to come.

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LUX: Are you “new luxury” and what does that mean?
Eric Favre: We go beyond what you would expect from a luxury hotel. Yes there is a Michelin starred restaurant and an award-winning Spa, however we are not celebrating the opulence in it. The idea of luxury is much more simpler than it was 20 years ago and today it evolves around re-connecting with yourself, your loved ones and a piece of heaven that we believe is Gstaad.

LUX: What are the most important elements of your offering?
Eric Favre: High-end accommodation, interesting gastronomical experiences, a holistic wellness area and a personalised service from our 170 employees. Moreover, it is also the high level of discretion and Alpine authenticity in a stylish and contemporary setting.

LUX: Is The Alpina Gstaad old money or new money?
Eric Favre: I’d say we are well-invested money.

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LUX: How is running a very exclusive hotel different from the rest of the hospitality industry?
Eric Favre: It is highly labour intensive and there is no room for error.  It is also important to tread carefully the fine line between being exclusive and inclusive – while we wish to offer the utmost in discretion and privacy, it’s important for all of our guests to feel welcome.

Luxury in the Alpine town of Gstaad

One of the hotel’s spacious junior suites

LUX: How important is PR and how do you generate it at the high level?
Eric Favre: We consider PR to be very important, but it needs to be well managed with a strategic approach. We are very selective with the opportunities we pursue and the media we work with, to ensure the results generated are the most effective. It’s important for us to have exposure in the right lifestyle magazines, newspapers and supplements, as well as niche websites, in order to reach our target demographic. Part of this comes from working with the right journalists who have a clear understanding of our offering, and of our audience.

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LUX: Is The Alpina Gstaad a brand, to roll out?
Eric Favre: The beauty of our hotel is that we are completely independent from any international hotel chain.

LUX:If you were a guest in your own hotel, what would you enjoy most about it?
Eric Favre: The ability to be myself in a beautiful environment, which feels like its a million miles from anywhere in the mountains, yet is just minutes from all that Gstaad has to offer.

thealpinagstaad.ch

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formula-one1Ahead of the new Formula 1 season, CAROLINE DAVIES caught up with two of its stars, Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Lewis Hamilton and team boss Ross Brawn, at an IWC exhibit. Brawn has since announced his retirement, but we’re running the interview anyway

LUX Regarding the tyre controversies, why would a company produce tyres that don’t grip? Isn’t that like producing watches that aren’t on time?

Ross Brawn That is a delicate topic. When you only have one supplier as we do in Formula 1 then the tyre supplier can work on one end of the scale or the other. If they only supply tyres that don’t deteriorate then they run the risk of the tyres becoming too predictable. It’s about finding the balance between a tyre that is extremely durable and never wears out and the other end, which is very soft, very fast but only has a limited life.

Just finding that right point is quite a challenge for Pirelli as they have some elements of Formula 1 pushing them in one direction and some pushing them in the other. They will never do a tyre that suits every team because each team looks for a particular thing. I think Pirelli can do whatever is required and Formula 1 needs to decide which they need. Perhaps we have gone a little too much towards the entertainment with all the pit stops, which can confuse the fans, and it needs to come back a little bit, but not go all the way.

LUX Lewis, you’ve recently joined IWC. How’s the watch collection coming?

Lewis Hamilton I’ve collected watches for a while, but I’m only just beginning my IWC watches collection…

LUX Are there any similarities in the details of watchmaking and a Formula 1 driver?

LH Timing is everything for a Formula 1 driver. We are constantly developing and improving, chasing time throughout the year. Time means points so that’s what we are working towards. All the different materials we use – carbon fibre, aluminium, titanium – and the processes we use are now used to make brilliant watches.

LUX Engines are changing in the coming season. How’s this going to affect Formula 1?

RB I think for a number of years the engine has not been a strong factor. Sometime ago the engines were frozen so there hasn’t been any development on them. Formula 1 tends to be thought of as a competition between the cars and not so much between the engines. This year we have a fresh start. It is a very important change. At the moment we have V8 engines, but next season we are having some small capacity turbocharged hybrid engines. These are becoming more common in the automotive industry and we get a lot of ‘energy recovering’ from them. We will have the same power and performance for 100 kilos of fuel as we had for 150 kilos before. The efficiency improvement is enormous and that is going to feed back into our daily lives in terms of the types of cars we drive and the sort of engines we have. Formula 1 is getting relevant again. I think we are going to see a discussion about the drivers, the cars and the engines, which is a good thing. It is also bringing in new companies as they see that relevance. In 2015, Honda will be returning to Formula 1 and certainly they wouldn’t have done that before with the previous engines. It is a good step.

formula-one3

LUX We have seen materials used in car manufacturing cross into watchmaking. Which materials will move next and why do they work well in watches?

RB I think it is an interesting area of synergy. We are using them because of physical properties, which may not be totally relevant for a watch, but are very interesting in terms of the technology and the aesthetics. One of the obvious areas is carbon fibre. A huge percentage of cars are carbon fibre and that is now becoming similar in watches. I think that the synergy is developing. It is at an early stage presently, but there are a lot of interesting materials. It adds another aspect to the watch as well as pure design.

LUX How do you know when the chemistry is right in a dream team?

RB I think sharing the same goals, when everybody works together. At Mercedes we had a very strong principle in our team that we didn’t have a blame culture. If something went wrong it went wrong for everybody and when things went well they went well for everybody. We worked together as a team. It is a combination of everyone working with attention to detail at every level of the company. It is a reason it succeeds. We had two fantastic drivers who worked well together with the right spirit, which translated through the whole team.

LUX Lewis, would you rather have a vintage IWC or a vintage Mercedes?

LH I like driving, but I would rather both. A vintage Mercedes would be a Gullwing. I’ll have to wait and see which vintage classic IWC watch I should get.

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Reading time: 4 min