Glassblower - Meticulously shapes glass using heat and air

Glassblower – Meticulously shapes glass using heat and air

How do you lend form to light? With glass, as glassmakers and bespoke light fittings expert Lasvit demonstrates. Yuen Lin Koh investigates

The gentle vibrancy of the day’s first light, seen on the sparkle of a morning dew. The liveliness of sunrays scattered into a dance by the ripples of a stream. The calm of a shaft of luminosity, soundlessly pouring through the oculus of the Pantheon.

For what is essentially electromagnetic radiation — if we are to break it down by physical science — light possesses magic. It’s magic that can be seen, and certainly can be felt, yet has no form. Or does it have to be that way?

Translating to “Love and Light” in Czech, Czech Republic-based glassmaker the Lasvit Group lends physical form to light with every piece created. The medium is perfect in the dualities it presents. Crystalline clear, it is visible — yet invisible in its see-through quality. An amorphous substance, its atomic structure resembles that of supercooled liquid, yet displays all the mechanical properties of a solid — like fluidity frozen in time.

The company founded in 2007 might be young, but the craft is one that has been perfected through centuries. By combining the traditional artistry of North Bohemian glassmaking with the innovative creativity of world class designers, architects, engineers and lighting technology, Lasvit brings Bohemian glassmaking and designing to a new level. Well-known for its high profile collaborations with cutting-edge design leaders including the likes of Ross Lovegrove, Oki Sato of Nendo and Michael Young, and well-loved by consumers for their iconic collections such as ‘Bubbles in Space’, Lasvit is also revered for its bespoke services that have lit many private and public spaces around the world with their magic.

The shimmering lattice of 250,000 crystal pieces and 12,800 artistic hand-blown glass components, stretching like a web across a diameter of 16 metres on the ceilings of the Jumeirah hotel at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi. Giant textured bent glass structures connected to a cascade of hand-blown, hollow glass drops, lit by LED and optical fibre to become whimsical “jelly fish” that float atop the futuristic Dubai Metro Stations. The “Diamond Sea” of handblown glass — some dazzling clear, some in amber tones, some twisted, some curved — creating waves that shimmer above the patrons of The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong.

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong Lasvit created six pieces for the hotel, including the ‘Diamond Sea’

The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong
Lasvit created six pieces for the hotel, including the ‘Diamond Sea’

Majestic in proportions and intricate in detail, each is a shining example of excellence in craftsmanship. Yet each is also an artistic expression — not just of Lasvit’s designers, but also their patrons. Certainly, given carte blanche, their stable of 14 in-house designers can dream up the perfect piece for any space — be it the lobby of a hotel or the dining room of a private home; but more importantly, they have the ability to translate your desires into designs that articulate your message.

‘liquidkristal’ - Developed in collaboration with Ross Lovegrove, the panels explore the innovative use of the material.

liquidkristal’ – Developed in collaboration with Ross Lovegrove, the panels explore the innovative use of the material.

Fine-tuned through rounds of revisions with the client, the designs are then detailed through construction drawings and crafting. Each piece of handmade glass is created at the Lasvit facilities in Novy Bor at the Northern part of the Czech Republic — a pine-forested region steeped in glassmaking traditions since the 13th century. There, master glassblowers from families who have been making glass for generations, and who have honed their personal skills over decades, create what is known as Bohemian glass, known best for its inimitable sparkle.

The creation of every handmade piece remains a very basic process. The glass is made as how grandmothers cook: by feel, rather than by following recipes or formulas. In six ovens roaring at 1600°C almost 365 days of the year, glass is kept at a molten state, waiting to be blown, fused, flameworked, sandblasted, engraved or even hand-painted on — waiting to be transformed into wondrous forms.

The craftsmen labour in the glass studios, sipping on beer — it is the supplied drink preferred for its nutritional value and cooling abilities given that the studios burn at about 40°C all the time. They might look a little rough on the edges, and seem a little brusque in their mannerisms, but they work with glass with the tenderness of fathers cradling their newborn. The organic nature of the medium gives it a temperament that is not to be learnt from books, but to be understood from interaction — just as a child is to be known.

Yet this human element is apparent even in technical glass — machine-made pieces ranging from dainty crystal-cut glass beads to Liquidkristal from Lasvit’s Glass Architecture Division — transparent, undulating crystal walls that lend a mesmerisingly dynamic dimension to still structures. The human expression manifests itself in the creativity and artistry of applying these pieces, of transforming cold, hard components into works of art. “Glass is one of the most interesting materials that a designer can work with,” shares Táňa Dvořáková — a veteran designer who has been with Lasvit for six years, and also the creative mind behind masterpieces showcased at the likes of The Ritz Carlton DIFC Dubai, Shangri-La Tokyo, and now The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Singapore. Even for the seasoned designer, every piece holds a new surprise. “There is always a certain excitement — because when I finally illuminate the sculpture and see it installed, a new and more beautiful surprise is always revealed to me, often one I didn’t even expect,” she enthuses. For the piece at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, she took her inspiration from flowers, “particularly poppies and wild flowers: their freely growing petals have always fascinated me”. With childlike wonder, she expressed the delicateness of the subject in the form of a light sculpture composed of petals formed from a lattice of crystal-cut glass beads — “as if, unable to deal with the ephemeral beauty of this wild flower, someone had transformed it into an eternal diamond”.

The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Singapore, Cairnhill A Lasvit piece hangs as the centrepiece in the dining area

The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Singapore, Cairnhill
A Lasvit piece hangs as the centrepiece in the dining area

Indeed the process is really as artistic as it is technical. The designers are often at the factories during the crafting of a piece, because it is one thing to follow technical specifications, and another to realise an artistic expression. Lasvit’s expertise is not just in the production of glass pieces — they also know exactly what it takes to mount an installation for safety and your peace of mind, and they even produce all the components, from metal structures to hanging materials. They also know just how to light a piece to bring it to life. Because when you love light as much as they do, you don’t just produce light — you capture the soul of it.

Reading time: 5 min
Thomas Wong - ‘Shi Fu” has been in the tailoring business for 56 years

Thomas Wong – ‘Shi Fu” has been in the tailoring business for 56 years

Master tailors are not confined to the town houses of Savile Row or the ateliers of Italy; with the boom in Asian prosperity has come a boom in Asian style. Erica Wong speaks to a Singapore-based tailoring maestro about his unique style

Shi Fu, or master, as Thomas Wong is commonly referred to, asks if I’d like a cup of tea as I take a seat next to him at a quaint coffee shop along Orchard Road. His tone is calm and certain, almost Mr. Miyagi-like. Chairman of the Master Tailor Association Singapore for the last two terms, lecturer at the LASALLE College of the Arts, and owner of one of the oldest tailor shops on the island, Wong has been making suits for the regions’ elite for well over four decades. The industry has changed much but the fundamentals remain the same, as Wong explains…

EW You’ve seen the industry through thick and thin…

TW I started in this line of work when I was 16. I was an apprentice and at that time shops in Singapore were in shophouses. Each shop housed their entire ‘production line’ from start to finish. Tailors trained their teams to do everything from scratch in their own character using their unique methods. As a result every shop has their own style, their own ideas about how to make a suit. The team would discuss the orders or any problems that arose, work out solutions together, which would reflect the philosophies of the brand. If a customer finds that ‘chemistry’ with Tailor A or B or C, they would consistently return to them. There was no competition between A, B or C because they each had their unique cut, style, quality and fit which was very different from one another. Without intentionally doing so, each tailor was a ‘brand’.

Today, the shophouse ‘all under one roof’ concept is gone. Tailors outsource the different parts of the job to independent workers who at times sub-outsource out, since there are only a handful of craftsmen who know how to do each job. Most of these independent workers accept jobs from a number of tailors so you can imagine how the original set up of the tailor ‘brand’ has been lost, the traditional collaborative production lines severed and the uniqueness of each brand has been diluted. The tailor’s role has become that of a coordinator who charges a middle-man fee. In my mind, that’s not a tailor. To be a bespoke tailor, you need to make a particular garment per a customer’s particular request. Instead, tailors are now middle-men who take the request and pass the garment around to various parties who make it in whichever way they know best. This isn’t a very responsible way of offering the bespoke tailoring service.

EW What is at the core of your design ethos?

TW I’ve always been interested in illustration and so naturally in [Chinese] calligraphy. I believe that when people are interested in the visual arts they have sensitivities towards the minute details. Whether that dark green is the right tone or the stripe is slightly too wide, the demand for perfection is innate. When it comes to designing or making patterns or cutting fabric, I apply that same temperament and attitude. Throughout every step of the process I keep thinking about how the suit will fit on the client. Should this cut, length or even shadow appear on his frame? Will the suit look forced or natural on him? Wearing clothes need to be a comfortable affair. If the suit isn’t comfortable or doesn’t make its owner feel better about himself, he winds up as a hangar for the clothes. Then he might as well not wear it at all. The person cannot be a mannequin for the suit, the suit must highlight the man’s strongest features. Of course as a bespoke tailor I need to adhere to the client’s requests so I also need to fit my design into the parameters of his request. This is the challenge.

For example if a larger man wants a double-breasted suit even though most tailors might think it a bad idea, I try to figure out how to not only defy the theories against it but to make him look slim in the cutting of his choice. How should I do the cutting? What kind of fabric should I recommend? What fabric patterns will be the better option? The quality of the fabric also makes a difference. So, in-depth knowledge about all these factors is imperative for a bespoke tailor. Even before you take the job, you need to offer your professional opinions. If you don’t have the fundamental basis and you deliver exactly what the client asks for, then you’ve escaped your responsibilities.

Every aspect — the cut, darts, seams, fabric and accents — plays an important role in the final product

Every aspect — the cut, darts, seams, fabric and accents — plays an important role in the final product

EW With 40 years of accumulated knowledge, what are the main lessons that you relay to your students?

TW Firstly, never take short cuts. Not in any step of the process.

Equally important is to work with integrity. Other players in the field have asked why suppliers provide me with top quality work and lesser quality to them. The answer is very simple. An analogy I often give is a woman who sees her friend’s perfect glowing skin after leaving the spa and requests to achieve the same results. But if she’s not willing to pay for the same top quality skin care products or use the same top aesthetician, how can she expect the same results? It’s just not possible. The same applies for my craftsmen. Everyone may share the same pool of talent but if I pay top prices for top quality and others aren’t willing to do the same, who do you think will be given priority? It’s a simple formula. I always tell my students that we can’t deliver anything sub-par because the dollar notes customers give us are not partial dollars. The $1,000 they give us is $1,000, no less. So if you charge $1,000 you can’t provide a $100 product.

EW There seems to be less and less people who fit into your traditional sense of a tailor. Where do you see the industry heading?

TW Last year, the Asia Tailor’s Congress was held in Singapore and it was Loro Piana who noted that Singapore’s tailors aren’t charging enough. Times have changed and yet we continue to charge low prices so our pricing strategy benefits the end customer, and we don’t pay our workers enough. That’s why less and less people are entering the field and those who are skilled have turned to other lines of work such as driving taxis, which is more lucrative.

What’s more, there’s an interesting phenomenon at play today. Technically the more affluent the country, the better their know-how ought to be and the more demanding the customer, and yet they try to take shortcuts. On the flip side, the poorer the country, the more traditionally trained craftsmen they have, and yet the market generally can’t afford the good fabrics and infrastructure to produce the suits. Over the long run, I hope to see a revival of the traditional crafts and skills, applied in modern contexts. That’s why I teach, in hope that my students will pick up some of the things I learnt many years ago, and apply them in their future careers.

Reading time: 6 min
An expert team of make-up artists and beauticians make every request happen

An expert team of make-up artists and beauticians make every request happen

Does make-up all look the same to you? Are you tired of telling your Revlon from your Lancôme? If that’s the case, you might want to pay a visit to a small boutique where every foundation or eye-shadow is bespoke, says Caroline Davies

Near the coffee shops and restaurants of Motcomb Street, in a quiet corner of London’s Knightsbridge, sits Cosmetics à la Carte, small and unobtrusive. Cream carpeted with soft furnishings, make-up displayed plainly on the small table in the centre, it has the reassuring feel of a store that has no need to shout; the people who know about it, know it well.

Cosmetics à La Carte began in 1973, founded by Christina Stewart and Lynne Sanders. The two originally met in the lab, working for Unilever Research and moved together to Yardley where they formulated Marks and Spencer’s first make-up range and various Vidal Sasson hair products. Bored of the mass production line, they left to start their own make-up revolution — tailor-made make-up. Need a lipstick to match your dress, an eye-shadow to suit your floral arrangements or a foundation that, well, matches you? Stewart and Sanders had the know-how to whip one up.

In the company’s laboratory in Battersea, two large white rooms are piled high with carefully marker-penned cardboard boxes, neatly sealed bags of multi-coloured powders and Bunsen burners. I find Sanders, dressed in a white lab coat, bent over the hob. It isn’t a hob of course, but to my untrained eye, this is the closest I can come to describing the black heated pad where she is carefully melting a blood red waxy chunk.

In her 60s, the founder still works in the lab

In her 60s, the founder still works in the lab

Now the sole proprietor since Stewart retired in 2009, Sanders is still in the laboratory although she is in her 60s. Her lab coat flaps around her neat skirt as she swirls across the room and I am surprised to notice only a touch of makeup, a slight line of carefully applied blue eyeliner over her wide eyes. She greets me with a broad smile and a brisk, perfect Received Pronounciation ‘hello’ before energetically enlightening me on the contents of the bottles on her worktop. She is currently melting me a lipstick, a mixture of ‘Santa’ (“we used to call it ‘blood’ but that proved an unpopular name”) and ‘Tulip’, combined together to make the colour of a red hat I brought into the shop a few days before. My eyes wander along the surface to the small glass beakers, filled with varying shades of beige to brown liquid and marked in black pen with household names; foundations in progress for famous faces.

“She requires a thick layer to cover the marks on her skin,” says Sanders, pointing to one such pot. “You would never know though.” She is right, you wouldn’t.

Cosmetics à La Carte did not meet with immediate success. When the revolution proved rather slow to pick up, Stewart and Sanders found themselves without much income and without a team. Undeterred, Sanders found a job in a wine bar to pay for the bills and keep the business afloat.

“Can you imagine?” she says. “Well, it all seemed rather jolly at the time.”

Bizarrely, it does sound it, although perhaps because Sanders’ bright, matter-of-fact manner, not dissimilar to a retired old-school Montessori teacher, means most things sound enjoyable. The grand tour continues into the other laboratory where she pops open tubs of brightly coloured pastes and gels, rubbing them on the back of her hand to show the colour and the consistency before explaining the science. She speaks about polymers with much the same interest and passion as a new parent talks about their child. Jumping from science to backstage anecdotes at fashion week and film sets, Sanders’ enthusiasm for her profession is infectious if occasionally over my head.

Cosmetics à La Carte’s luck started to change and gradually the pair began to gain recognition. Make-up artists hunting for an exact historical shade, ravaged screen sirens looking to replicate the dewy complexion of their youth, trendsetters pushing beyond the palette; the drip feed of visitors to the little shop grew. Sanders still remembers the late afternoon in the 80s when Princess Diana dropped by.

“She wanted a nude lipstick, a very particular colour that would suit her,” she says. “We tried out a few selections, made them up and put it together. We still sell her shade today.”

Picking up on the popularity of bespoke make-up, other companies began to try to mimic Cosmetic à La Carte’s model, but none of the large make-up brands have sustained it. The company’s size has fuelled its success — small, but precise.

While most tailored services rely on remixing pre-existing colours, chopping a little more crimson with peach to roughly suit, Cosmetics à La Carte goes a step further. Arrive in store with the remnants of an old lipstick, blusher, foundation or eye powder and they will remake it, from scratch, to suit. Allergies, sensitive skin, thicker consistency; they can accommodate it. Perhaps this is why they are such a success with pedantic period dramas; I am told the Downton Abbey girls adore it.

As she rummages into another corner, Sanders suddenly stops. A look of horror creeps across her face and with a small gasp, she runs from the room. “Oh no, no, stupid.” Bemused, I follow to find her sighing over the hob.

“Singed. That was not the shade we were going for.”

Apparently, the bloody red wax has now gone past the point of return. She throws it away with an air of sadness. Despite spending over 40 years in the laboratory, Sanders’ attachment to her work and her creations is touching. I watch her carefully dissect the wax again, keeping a suspicious eye on it as it melts into a dark red liquid. She pours it into a mould, cuts it out and fastens it into a gleaming new case, complete with a hand written label.

“I’ll keep this with the others,” Sanders says, slicing away a small section of the remainder of the lipstick still in the mould and sealing it in a bag marked with my name. “For when you come back.”

She opens a drawer under the cabinet and I glimpse a host of names and titles that would rival a royal wedding party guest list, all written in the same handwriting with fresh waxy off-cuts. It seems I’m not the only one expected to return to the little cream shop in Knightsbridge.

Reading time: 5 min


The elite British education system has never been more in demand. Yet some wonder whether educating boys and girls separately is an anachronism in a 21st century environment where they will work together in their business lives. Our columnist outlines her views on why sending your child to a top single-sex school could still be the best move you ever make Helen Pike

A businessman told me recently that in his native China, two British luxury brands are well-known: Harrods and Eton. It seems that elite single-sex schools not only dominate the cultural landscape and the league tables in the UK, they are part of what makes Britain distinctive globally. Some elite single-sex schools have moved into international education, an export market which amounts to £17.5bn annually, by opening in Asia and the former Soviet Union, markets hungry for top-quality education. For parents of boys, Eton, Harrow and the like are brands with resonance around the world.

That said, elite single-sex schools are a minority, even in the UK. Only 7 per cent of UK pupils are educated in the private sector, of which 20.9 per cent comprises single-sex schools: just over 250 schools in total. So what gives them their resonance internationally — what drives ambitious parents to steer their children towards schools like the above (or the school I am fortunate enough to head)?

I have spent my professional life thus far in five highly academic single-sex schools, three of which are within spitting distance of the River Thames. (Not that any pupils of these schools would do anything so vulgar as to spit, of course.) If anything, single-sex education has become more controversial globally since I did my teaching practice in a single-sex girls’ inner London state school. Elite single-sex schools in the UK are indeed cosmopolitan, exciting places in which to work and learn, the envy of the world, as witnessed by the stiff competition for entry; but in 2013, can we justify that so many of the UK’s finest schools continue to segregate girls and boys?

The most obvious answer is history. The oldest and most famous schools were for boys only; schools for girls came centuries later. So we can contrast the foundation of Eton in 1440 and St Paul’s School in 1509 with that of The Cheltenham Ladies’ College in 1853 or South Hampstead High School (full disclosure: my employer) in 1876. A serendipitous combination of grand tradition, location, favourable education policies since 1945, and dynamic school leadership has meant that some — but by no means all — of the oldest schools have remained at the top of an ever-growing pile and become vanguardists in education across the sector.

Elite single-sex education can provoke the glorious British cultural schizophrenia which defends tradition with a sword in one hand, while threatening to take a hatchet to it with the other. Surely the British should not continue to champion segregated hothouses, when all but those who join enclosed holy orders will live and work in a resolutely coeducational world?

Single-sex schools have responded to this in a number of ways. On one side, the Girls’ Schools Association in the UK has been more vociferous, in part because some of its members are defending a market share in the face of boys’ schools which have recently become fully or partly coeducational, and in part because girls’ schools have always been more focused on righting the inequalities which women can encounter — which was why they were founded in the first place.

Meanwhile the International Boys’ School Coalition does what its name suggests, and organises research and an annual conference which brings together schools from the UK, USA and Australia. It argues that it is single-sex boys’ schools which are the endangered species, while girls-only institutions are more numerous and surer of their niche.

And they are right to be: there is much evidence that boys and girls — and particularly girls — make greater progress in single-sex schools and have better life chances than their counterparts in coeducational schools.

I make this point when parents of both boys and girls ask me why they should choose single-sex education. High-achieving single-sex schools are the intellectual and emotional equivalent of elite training for athletes. Crucially, children are not adults. There is so much to be said for an education which, in preparing them for the world they will inherit, does more than simply allow boys to be boys and girls to be girls: it consciously plays to their strengths and needs. Some might regard the idea that children are being sexualised at an ever-younger age is a species of moral panic, but the commodification of girls in particular continues apace. To put it more simply, there is less fuss about dress in single-sex schools.

Single-sex schools also avoid helpmeet syndrome: in boys-only schools which admit girls, for example into the Sixth Form at 16, the girls can become the facilitators of the boys’ progress in the classroom, deferring to the boys rather than testing out ideas of their own. In single-sex schools, gender roles are less marked; there is no opportunity for boys to dominate the brass section of the orchestra while girls tootle fragrantly in woodwind.

If we take the 26 schools of the Girls’ Day School Trust, of which my school is one, we find that GDST girls are over twice more likely to study A-Level Physics or Chemistry than girls nationally, and overall nearly half the students in GDST Sixth Forms take at least one science A-Level (the highest level of school qualification in the UK). This carries forward into university choices, where again over 40 per cent of GDST students do Science, Medicine or Mathematics as part of their degrees. If girls in the UK as a whole sat as many Physics, Chemistry or Maths A-Levels as girls at these 26 GDST schools, there would be nearly 9,000 more school-leavers with A-Level Physics, 20,000 with A-Level Chemistry and 21,000 with A-Level Maths in the population every year. By way of comparison, a recent study by the Institute of Physics found that in nearly half of co-ed schools there were no girls studying A-Level Physics at all.

None of this comes cheap. Annual boarding fees at Eton are now over £32,000 (and Eton is by no means the most expensive), while more competitively-priced day schools charge between £10,000 and £15,000 per year. Is it worth it in a world where a woman can be Chancellor of Germany or head of the International Monetary Fund (although this is not to say workplace equality is with us)? My view is that parents and pupils recognise that it is precisely because the rest of the world is so overwhelmingly co-ed that a single-sex education has such value.

Helen Pike is Headmistress of South Hampstead High School, London, which is ranked among the top five girls’ schools in Britain by the Financial Times;

Reading time: 5 min

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

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Reading time: 1 min
Ergonomics, style and sound. Sports car technology, intelligently combined.

Ergonomics, style and sound. Sports car technology, intelligently combined.

In which Darius Sanai experiences the latest model of the most iconic sports car of all, and an updated version of a modern legend 

Porsche 911 C4S Convertible

Pity is not an emotion that has commonly been projected onto purchasers of Porsches over the decades. Envy, loathing, awe, respect — all of these have their place. But pity?

Yet I do feel for purchasers of the latest Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet, and, more particularly, for the car’s makers. They are judged by an impossibly high standard.

When comparing benchmark wines against each other, it is standard practice, among professionals and amateurs, to do so ‘blind’, in a quasi-scientific setup that ensures each product is (theoretically) judged on its virtues alone, and not its reputation.

It is impossible to do so with cars. Even if you were to blindfold a driver until he was seated, and to cover up the badges in the interior, most driving enthusiasts would recognise the interior style of a new sports car as belonging to a brand with which they are familiar: whether it’s Aston Martin’s architectural cool, AMG’s metallic chic or Ferrari’s boyish flair. In the case of the Porsche 911, one look at the rev-counter dominating the instrument pod and the sweep of the interior door handles is enough. Even though the latest 911 may have no visible parts carried over from its predecessors, it is plainly a 911.

And that means it is judged as a 911: not just an icon but a benchmark, the 911 is to sports cars what Château Lafite is to wine or (currently anyway) what Bayern Munich is to football. Everyone wants to try and beat it; everything else is the underdog.

Even the most ostensibly unbiased enthusiast may fall into the trap. Drive the latest Aston Martin, or speedy Jaguar, or Audi, and you err on the side of the positive. You forgive. The steering that is not quite right is ignored in favour of the handling balance that is. Traction that may be questionable is overlooked in favour of blowout mid-range performance. Back seats that aren’t really usable are less relevant than the machined finishing on the dashboard. You are constantly thinking: is it as good as a Porsche? Is it better? Parts of it are better!

Porsches, like all cars, are constantly improving: each generation is faster, smoother, more economical, roomier, more efficient. And the 911 can only be benchmarked against itself. I climbed in to the 911 C4S Cabrio, and, instead of marvelling at its stunning exterior — stretched, slicker, smarter than before — and modernised, roomier interior, immediately asked myself whether the electronically-aided steering system would be as alive as the wonderfully tactile steering in its predecessor model.

I realized I was preparing to judge the 911 on a different standard to any other sports car: not asking whether it was fun, fast, well-made and complete, but whether it was perfect: whether every element of it was an improvement on every element of every one of its predecessors.

And that would be falling into the trap I outlined above. So, instead, here are my views on the new 911 C4S Cabrio — at the moment the fastest of Porsche’s convertibles, with an uprated engine, as well as four-wheel drive — as if written by someone encountering the brand for the very first time.

Firstly, it looks stunning. Mine was in silver with a crimson roof, and matching crimson interior — every centimeter of the seats, doors and dash leather was crimson. Very, very cool. Even in more standard colours, the extended back and elongated light cluster on the rear give it an elegance that adds to the 911 squatness (necessary because the engine is in the back). It instantly makes all the previous models look a little squitty.

The interior is functional and purposeful, rather than chic: the red dash leather is a good idea because I imagine that in black it might look a little basic. There are lots of switches and the instrument display is absolutely clear and crisp. There is a surprising amount of room: much more headroom than in any other sports car (even with the convertible roof) and so much rear legroom that my long-legged 11-year-old could happily sit straight while my long-legged wife sat in front with her legs stretched out.. The downside, according to the rear seat passengers, is that the seat squab itself is flat and you have to sit very straight up. Fine for a fit nearly-teen child, not so good for a bibulous adult.

You may imagine that the slim front area of a 911 doesn’t offer much of a boot/trunk and it’s certainly an odd shape, stretching deeper than it does long, but it’s surprisingly commodious. It can take a couple of weekend bags, tennis rackets and other bric-a-brac with ease — apparently golf clubs fit comfortably in it (although I would think that if you are keen on golf perhaps a Jaguar might suit you more).

The convertible roof is very quick and easy to raise and lower electrically, and you can now do so while outside the car by pressing a button on the key, which makes for a good show on the street if you are hiding behind another car. You do need to keep pressing hard, though, or it stops and reverses its movements next press; in the end I found it easier to do so using the button in the car.

Instantly noticeable on driving the 911 is the beautiful purity of the accelerator’s response. There is no mechanical connection these days between the pedal and any engine — it’s all done by computer, like flying an Airbus. As a result fast cars can suffer from one of two ailments: over-eager programming that sends the car spurting forward as soon as you brush the pedal, which is both tiring and inauthentic; and turbo-response, which means wildly differing amount of go per touch on the pedal depending on where you are in the rev range.

The 911 suffers from neither of these. Instead, you feel like you are coaxing that powerful six-cylinder engine gently from a prowl to a growl and then finally a wild sprint.

I spent the first couple of days with the Porsche driving it like a sports car: engaging the Sport option that speeds up responses and firms up the suspension, measuring my way into corners and blasting out, noting with satisfaction that, pushed hard, it has a wonderfully interesting tendency to remind you the engine really is at the back — the 911 thrill, although I shouldn’t be noting that as I am playing the 911 novice here. I can’t think of a better sports car.

On the last day I had an early-morning journey entirely within central London, so I flipped it into lazy-automatic mode. Comfort suspension, automatic gearbox. How would it cope? Would it feel like a caged lion? Would the automatic gear changes to maximise engine efficiency mean you never got into the speedy range of the engine, and thus lacked performance to zip into gaps in traffic?

It was surprisingly good: quiet, smooth, with enough low-rev muscle to remind you that you were in a seriously fast car. Not as intuitive as a sports car with a proper automatic gearbox like an AMG Mercedes, perhaps, but this is technically an automated manual, not a traditional automatic, although the differences are becoming increasingly moot.

And how was the steering? It is precise, well-weighted, intuitive, and gets more communicative the harder you drive. I suspect that on a circuit it would be brilliant. Compared to all the other super-sports cars out there, it’s near the very top. Putting the 911-critic hat back on, I would, if pressed, say it’s not quite as tactile as the previous version of the 911 that went off sale last year. It means the car, as a whole, is perhaps a tad more grown up. Less instantly loveable, perhaps, but a better machine. And if you want fun, all you have to do is lower the roof, punch Sport, and the (optional) exhaust button that makes the car sound fabulous, and take off. At the price, the 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet is impossible to beat.

LUX Rating: 18.5/20

Chassis control systems make a key contribution to the 911 driving experience

Chassis control systems make a key contribution to the 911 driving experience

Porsche’s iconic 911 celebrates its 50th birthday this year. To mark the occasion, LUX spoke to Vic Elford, former racing and rally legend and one of the most famous 911 drivers of all time, for his view on how the icon has developed over the decades.

LUX: What is the defining driving characteristic of a 911?
Vic Elford: Unlike many ‘luxury’ cars of today which apparently think for themselves, the Porsche 911 can not be left to just wander around on its own — it needs a firm, knowledgeable hand in control at all times!

How does it compare to its peers when driven on track?
The simple answer is, it has no peers! There is no other car like the 911 in what it can do and how it does it. Sure you can make some Ferraris go fast, even some modern Corvettes, although they do it by brute force and not engineering superiority.

Is each generation of 911 better than the last, in what way?
I would say, “I would say different, but not necessarily better”. For example, in my ‘Porsche High-Performance Driving Handbook’ originally published in 1994 and still selling well in it’s second edition today, the chapter on ‘Driving in Unusual Conditions’ explains how to drive fast on snow or ice; but since the advent of on-board electronics which take over when they think the driver has overstepped his or her ability, some of those manouevres are impossible to do with a modern car. And you can’t switch them off; they are always waiting in the background ready to switch on again when they think something is wrong.

Have they become less thrilling even as they have become more sophisticated?
In some ways, yes, as noted above.

Which are your favourite 911s to drive in the real world, and why?
Older versions where I decided what the car was going to do, not the car itself!

What are your favourite 911 memories?
In 1967, only the second time I had driven a 911, I should have won the Monte Carlo Rally, but quirky regulations meant that although we were leading as we approached the Col de Turini for the very last speed test before the finish, I had no snow tires available when it started to snow heavily. I finished third. So my favorite moment was the following year, 1968, when for the first time the Monte Carlo Rally was a pure scratch event — fastest driver in the fastest car wins. I did! First time for Porsche, last time for a Brit!

911s used to have a reputation that they needed handling with care — do you think this is still true?
Years ago the 911 had a reputation created by people who had no idea what they were doing. A 911 is a very gentle understeering car but early ones, especially the short wheelbase which was so effective in rallies in the late 1960s, were extremely sensitive to the input from the driver, especially in the way it affected the balance of the car. Modern versions are too, but to a much lesser extent as improved chassis engineering and having tires that fit the performance of the car iron out most of the problems for normal drivers.

Would you encourage 911 owners to get onto the track?
Sure; why not? Just make sure you read my book first and then get really expert tuition from an approved driving school or from the expert driving consultants at a Porsche Experience Centre.

If you could have one 911 from any era to race, which would it be?
A 1967/68 911R with a 2 litre four-cam engine!!! (If you have never heard of that engine, look it up. I think I am the only driver who ever used it).

If you could have one 911 from any era to own and drive every day, which would it be?
Since I discovered and analysed the need for it and then wrote the original specification, I would have to say, ‘The Porsche RS America’, 1993. Preferably in Sky Blue, my favourite colour!

World Class Dynamics - The new revised V12 engine makes this the most powerful DB9 every produced

World Class Dynamics
– The new revised V12 engine makes this the most powerful DB9 every produced

Aston Martin DB9 Volante

It is hard to believe it has been 10 years since Aston Martin launched the DB9. Motoring experts point to its predecessor, the late 1990s-issue DB7, as the car that saved the company, selling more units than all Aston models before it put together. But the DB9 was something else. While the DB7 still had hints of old-fashioned English sports car about it — parts of it were based on the 1970s Jaguar XJS — the DB9 was strikingly, brilliantly modern.

Here was a British sports car which you wouldn’t dream of specifying with walnut wood on the dash and black piped Connolly hide on the seats accompanied by a Racing Green Exterior. It had to be metallic grey or black, with anthracite leather, all the better to show off the metallic-chic dash. The DB9 belonged to an industrial-chic, minimalist, modernist school of design — indeed, it was at its vanguard. It was equipped only with a V12 engine, looked superb with brushed aluminium and carbon fibre adorning its interior, and was a quantum leap over any other Aston in terms of driving appeal.

It was developed with a personal passion by Dr Ulrich Bez, the transformational CEO of the company who is also a successful racing driver. My first experience of the car was in a pre-production model driven on the country roads around the factory between London and Birmingham by Dr Bez himself.

Brilliant and highly desirable though it was, the DB9 was not perfect. Its imperfections were minor and masked by those wonderful avant-garde looks and that beautiful-sounding engine. They crept up on you slowly. In my first drive with Dr Bez, I couldn’t help notice that for such a sophisticated-looking car, its ride seemed ever so brittle. Drive onto a change of road surface and you could feel the change with a thump, and seemingly no suppleness in the suspension.

I drove an early DB9 to Scotland and back and returned with a blend of exhilaration and doubt. This was an involving, entertaining car to drive; but pushed like a sports car, its responses weren’t as progressive or intuitive as they should have been. It wasn’t agile, like a Porsche 911, and it wasn’t as relaxing as a Bentley.

It did look beautiful though.

Now, a decade later, there is a new DB9, although in terms of its looks it is strictly evolutionary. It looks like a sleeker, updated version of the original, particularly from its mean, flat front end. But there’s no mistaking what it is. The interior has also had the touch of a gentle magic wand: you know things have changed, but it’s unmistakeably a DB9 and you would be hard-pressed to say what, exactly, has changed.

Nearly 50 per cent of all parts and more than 70 per cent of all body panels are new

Nearly 50 per cent of all parts and more than 70 per cent of all body panels are new

The engine, still a V12, has 60 horsepower more than the original, taking it to 510, and while this sounds like a lot, it is worth bearing in mind that the lead two-seater super-convertible at the time of the Aston’s original launch, the Mercedes SL55 AMG, managed more or less that kind of output a full 10 years ago. (Its successor has even more now.) And the Aston is not a lightweight car.

For the purposes of an honest assessment, I took along as a passenger a friend who bought one of the first DB9s to appear in 2003 and who still owns it, among numerous other cars. (His is a coupe, while my new test car was a convertible ‘Volante’ version). His immediate response a few seconds after we set off down a central London road was that this model was far more refined, quiet, and smooth in its ride. “It’s like being in a saloon car,” he said. “Mine is like a wooden go-kart in comparison.”

The actual driving experience is also very different, although subtly so. The car sounds the same — that is to say, magnificent — and you still know you are at the helm of a long two-seater super-sports car. This DB9’s responses are smooth, accurate, progressive: it is a relaxing car to drive slowly through traffic, especially when you hit the D button for fully-automatic mode. It heads into corners with gentle determination, or with gusto when you push it, although at speed you are more aware that this is quite a heavy car, despite the admirable flatness of the suspension. What is new is the suppleness to both ride and handling: there is no crashing of suspension, no unnecessarily sudden responses. It makes for a far more satisfying and relaxing experience.

The engine wails mellifluously when you accelerate, and this, combined with the looks which are as striking today as on the previous model, means it scores highly on the head-turn-o-meter I use while driving among tourists in central London. (Most accurately measured by the scientific measurement of cp/h, or cellphone pictures per hour.)

The Aston also has two back seats, although you need very understanding children if you are planning to sit them there (adults won’t fit) and they are best suited to Hermès and Chanel bags, including the larger sizes.

It seems almost all the niggles of the previous DB9 have been ironed out in this new model, although I should mention one factor that will be of concern to a minority of readers. The acceleration is fast, true and smooth, as a V12’s should be: but the car lacks the ultimate punch of today’s latest cars of this price, most of which would leave the Aston behind on cross-country blast (I am thinking in particular of the Ferrari California and Mercedes SL63 AMG). This may only make a difference of mere minutes to a journey, but it also means that an overtaking manoeuvre that is accomplished easily by those other cars might be tight in the Aston: and that’s not necessarily what you might expect from a car with an Aston Martin badge and a V12 engine and a price tag to match.

If that doesn’t worry you — and in most places, you won’t be able to use the car’s full power in any case — then the new DB9 Volante is as beautiful as it gets, and now refined, sophisticated and modern to go with it.

LUX Rating: 18/20

Reading time: 15 min
Theaster Gates Photo: Sara Pooley Courtesy White Cube

Theaster Gates Photo: Sara Pooley Courtesy White Cube

Theaster Gates is a phenomenon — one of the world’s most influential artists, he features at number 56 on Art Review’s list of the most powerful people in art. Gates is also a plain-speaking social commentator and activist. Some of his most powerful work is on display this fall at simultaneous shows held at White Cube’s galleries in Hong Kong and Sao Paulo, Brazil. The shows are dominated by ‘salvaged materials’ — found objects, including junk, in layman’s terms— and speak of homelessness, forced migration, and religious and political persecution.

Gates comes from Chicago’s notorious South Side, where he still lives and works. His voice voice is a clear and powerful call connecting art, urban chaos and decay (he trained as an urban planner) and social issues that interweave the world. They are impossible to understand unless seen up close and personal — as anyone who saw his powerful ‘12 Ballads for Huguenot House’, created for last year’s dOCUMENTA (13) fair in Germany, can testify. Now you have a very good excuse for that visit to Hong Kong or Brazil.

More Interesting Articles
Pinacothèque de Paris’ – From Paris with Love
The Art Pioneer – Tim Etchells

Reading time: 1 min
Test Kitchen - A specially designed on-site ‘test kitchen’ allows for constant experimentation

Test Kitchen – A specially designed on-site ‘test kitchen’ allows for constant experimentation

Customisation continues to be the craze that consistently dominates the top of food trends and chefs are constantly challenged to satisfy and suit individual taste buds while balancing kitchen work flow and costs. Our columnist questions whether science can help and delves into the thorny issue of whether the menu is a thing of the past STACEY TEO

I had a dream.

A first-time patron walked through the door of the restaurant and immediately the kitchen knew. ‘Filets de perche, sans beurre’. Guest is ushered to the seat and after waiting for a short while without ordering, the maître d’ appears with the desired dish. Service is seamless; the diner is left totally in awe and completely satisfied. If only the dream would come true.

But what if it was actually possible? In the not-so-distant future, it is predicted that the exploration of neuroscience in food would perhaps provide a breakthrough in determining and detecting diners’ desires with exacting accuracy. Imagine: a device, like say, a gantry that scans the brain as a guest walks through the door and immediately profiles every preference, whims and fancies, known — and unknown — food allergies and transmits them on the spot into the system. But until such technology is developed — a matter of time, surely — perhaps science, though able to solve such perennial problems for the kitchen, will however still not be the best answer for restaurants because the dining experience will be impacted forever and the people behind service would lose their purpose. Let’s keep in mind, the human side of dinner service is, after all, pretty sacred.

I firmly believe that cooking is more art than science. Wholesome cooking that titillates the senses to evoke an Anton Ego moment like in Disney favourite Ratatouille would require something rather special, a creation that is out of the blue. I recall one such ‘wow’ moment of opportunity occurred some time ago; my most memorable career challenge came in the form of a themed birthday party ‘Suzie Wong style’ (yet Dubai camels were involved) featuring an exciting modern Australian menu with a distinctly Asian influence, incorporating fresh western ingredients and cooking techniques. How then do we incorporate such specifications in a considered, detailed, quantifiable manner?

Enter stage right, the menu. Throughout the ordering process, the menu serves as a tangible tool that is part and parcel of the meal experience. However, a number of restaurants have ventured further to the extreme end of the spectrum when they decided to ditch menus altogether. Fuad’s in Houston, Texas has been successful with the ‘No Menu’ concept for 37 years and running (cheekily enough, when customers check out their ‘menu’ on their website, it would reveal itself as a blank white page). The pioneer Parisian steakhouse, Le Relais de l’Entrecôte still simply serves steak frites where you just have to indicate your desired doneness. Tetsuya Wakuda’s eponymous restaurant in Sydney surprises with his 10-course degustation menu albeit keeping a few firm favourites alive. Personalisation at these institutions are pretty much non-existent and yet they pack in a solid crowd day after day, week after week, so what gives?

Sydney Tetsuya’s consistently ranks as one of the world’s best restaurants

Sydney Tetsuya’s consistently ranks as one of the world’s best restaurants

Customisation has and will continue to drive customer satisfaction, as guests are offered more opportunity to control what is served to their table. However, chefs would prefer to exercise that same element of control to express a certain level of creative culinary freedom, so there has to be a balanced approach. The key is to break down barriers between the kitchen and the table. In order for restaurants to understand and grasp guests’ preferences better, there has to be greater interaction and direct communication between the chef and diners.

Does that mean more restaurants ought to join the fray in exiting stage left by removing menus altogether and leave the choice to the chef completely? Or should diners dictate the dishes on their table? That will depend on how willing consumers can relinquish control and be open to surprises. I say go ahead, trust the chef. But like Fuad’s menu or a Japanese omakase, the verdict is wide open.

More interesting articles
Eating Right
A Feast for the Eye

Reading time: 3 min

Red is autumn’s punchiest colour so surround yourself with bright flashes at home and out  and about to keep your spirits lifted. View the slide show above.

Reading time: 1 min


Moynat could justifiably claim to be the world’s most luxurious bag maker, but it doesn’t. It is both historic and brand new. It is owned by the greatest luxury tycoon in history, who doesn’t talk about it. Darius Sanai gets an exclusive insight into the luxury brand of the future with its CEO and its creative director in their Paris flagship store

“Luxury is the time taken to make something. It’s about the effort put in to every element of making something, it’s not just about a label or a brand. It’s about taking it to the limit of the best that I can be proud of.”

Ramesh Nair is talking animatedly in a hushed boutique on the Rue St Honoré in Paris. If luxury were a religion (and it might be) the St Honoré would be its equivalent of the Vatican: where pilgrims the world over come to worship. The striking, sweeping boutique we are in, with its open, circular design and leather goods displayed as artworks on plinths and up walls, is metres from the global flagships of Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Goyard and Chanel.

Nair’s colleague Guillaume Davin takes up the thread. “From the very beginning, we felt the object had to be beautiful, so beautiful. This house is only about superior craftsmanship; we concentrated on the product and only the product because that was all there was.”

For Davin, a former highly successful marketeer, this is a striking statement in itself. But everything about Davin and Nair’s business is striking. We are at the flagship (and to date, only) store of a very particular luxury brand, Moynat. And if you haven’t heard of Moynat yet, prepare to be very surprised.

The heritage archive trunks are displayed alongside the modern-day creations

The heritage archive trunks are displayed alongside the modern-day creations

Wander up to the Moynat store on the Faubourg St Honoré unaware, and you would be forgiven for being a little intrigued, or even confused. You would be correct in assuming you hadn’t heard of it because it hasn’t spent a cent on advertising or product placement: which puts it among numerous tiny niche brands trying to carve a place out for themselves in a growing market with limited budgets.

But the huge, striking storefront on the most prime piece of retail real estate in the world is not something that a niche brand could possibly contemplate. Equally, the artistry and the scale of the shopfit and arrangement inside seems too perfect, more museum of contemporary luxury, than something a non-advertising niche brand could manage.

Take a closer look at the goods on display. Pick up one of the signature Pauline bags, for example. The leather is lustrous, thick, unblemished, perfectly grained, and all of one piece. The detailing shows the bag is plainly hand-made, and yet it is also perfect, minimal, classic contemporary. No niche operation could source leather of what is plainly Hermès standard, in unmarked single pieces big enough, and find the craftsmen to create them.

And yet everything about Moynat’s marketing, or lack of it, is entirely niche. It is not affiliated with any other brand; it sells through word of mouth only; it has no ambitious store opening program, and not a single celebrity has been given one of its products. Somehow, though, uber-model Natalia Vodianova and Chanel creative guru Karl Lagerfeld both proudly display their Moynat bags.

For Moynat is the new private brainchild of Bernard Arnault, Chairman of LVMH, the world’s biggest luxury goods conglomerate and unarguably the most important luxury tycoon in history. Arnault owns Louis Vuitton, Dior, Marc Jacobs, Givenchy, Lanvin, Bulgari, Loro Piana, Dom Perignon, Veuve Cliquot, Château Cheval Blanc and numerous other brands at the top of the luxury tree (most of them through his holding in the LVMH parent company).

But Moynat is different. Conceived in 2010, launched in 2011, but dating back to 1849, Moynat is a trunk and bag maker — a malletier, in French — taken by Arnault, privately, and revived and relaunched by him for the 21st century. It is, plainly, a vehicle for Arnault to conquer the very highest peaks of the luxury market, currently claimed only by Hermès, the family-owned company he would love to get his hands on, but can only (currently) hold on to a 23.1 per cent stake in. Moynat is the attempt by the greatest entrepreneur in luxury to create the most rarefied — not the biggest, or the best known, or widest-selling, but simply the best — brand in luxury.

Nair and Davin are leading the charge for Arnault. Nair, formerly of Hermès and Maison Martin Margiela, is the creative director, charged with oversight of the designs and the small atelier in the French countryside where Moynat products are currently made. Davin, as CEO, is in overall charge. Formerly the highly respected director of Louis Vuitton in Japan, he says he had left LVMH when a call came out of the blue from Arnault.

Moynat re-opens its doors at 348 rue Saint Honoré

Moynat re-opens its doors at 348 rue Saint Honoré

“The very beginning for me was Spring 2010, when I got a first call from Monsieur Arnault, and he said he wanted me to come to Paris to see something,” says Davin. We are sitting in the salon privé of Moynat on its upper floor, enclosed from the tide of luxury on the street outside.

“He was not very…he did not disclose the name, he did not disclose the project, it sounded like a precious house or a little gem, and he had just bought the name. And he was undecided about doing something, but he wanted to just share some of the elements about the archives of the house.

“So I came to Paris to see what he had to show, and of course I did not recognise the name. Moynat was really a forgotten house, and only trunk and vintage car collectors knew about the house. They also had one concave-based trunk (in the archive), and you know, I had spent a few years at Vuitton and I had never seen this. And then I heard the house was founded and run by a woman, I started understanding the feminine side of the trunk, and I felt, oh, there is something different. And the fact that the house was a bit older than Vuitton or Goyard was also very interesting.”

Arnault had bought the name and archive of a defunct Parisian trunk maker, so long gone that not even his own directors at Vuitton knew its name: but Moynat had proper heritage. In the Belle Epoque era of the early 20th century, archives showed it was one of the most desirable trunk and bag makers in the world. “It started with a little atelier in 1849,” says Davin. “In 1854 — that’s before Louis Vuitton is even created — Moynat patented a waterproof trunk using materials from Indonesia.”

Nair takes up the tale of the creation of the modern Moynat from when he joined, recruited by Davin in 2010 from a senior craft position at Hermès. “It all seems to be a bit of blur now! Monsieur Arnault wanted to open the store at the end of 2011, so we had just a year to work everything out. So I had to quickly come up with something, study as much as possible, collate the archives because we really didn’t have anything much, so I feel that we needed a strong base, we needed the roots to really come up with everything and be authentic.

“I’m a minimalist, and I find ideas everywhere. For instance, Pauline (the signature bag) became the profile of a trunk… I, a purist, I prefer going towards high-end leathers; I love leathers, I love skins, I love the textures and the odour, so I’m more into high-end leather. And of course our construction is really, really, really good. (With my background at Hermès) when you’ve studied with the best, you cannot take a step downwards, it’s very difficult. And it’s a question that which I used to ask myself at Hermès, was ‘What next?’ Quality is something which really fascinates me; there are times when I’m still not happy enough, I still want to keep pushing, to see what more I can do.”

And were they confident from the start or were they nervous about creating a new brand for a boss as demanding as Bernard Arnault?

“We still are nervous,” says Nair. “It’s a market which I would say is almost saturated, and you’re trying to battle, I mean whatever has to be done, has been done. So you’re just reinventing the wheel, and yes, we’re always nervous. But I always feel that if you go high in, if you go with what we call the know-how, the workmanship, the savoir faire, and excellent quality, I don’t think there’s a reason you could go wrong.”

Moynat opened its first boutique in 1869 at 5, place du Théâtre Français

Moynat opened its first boutique in 1869 at 5, place du Théâtre Français

I suggest that it is unusual for Bernard Arnault, the undisputed emperor of luxury marketing, to launch a brand with no marketing at all. They both smile slightly wryly in agreement, before Davin suggests that Moynat is more a labour of love, a personal passion, a creation for the history books, for Arnault than it is another money-spinning venture.

“It is quite mysterious to people, that Monsieur Arnault is not talking about it at all. He never made any announcements, yet he keeps us under his wing. He calls like twice a day, but it’s the tiniest business he has.”

Is it about a personal desire from Arnault to create something that is simply the very best? “We think so,” nods Davin.

“It’s also I think like his little baby, and his little experiment,” says Nair. Presumably, I suggest, they have access to the vast expertise of Louis Vuitton and the rest of the LVMH group in terms of leveraging suppliers, craftspeople, sourcing hides…

“Nothing. Nothing. Nothing,” says Davin, as emphatically as one can in a hushed private space. “Even on the materials, the leather… we are on our own!” In fact, they say, it works the opposite way: some of the materials and techniques Moynat is using are so high-end and so original that they are filtering down into the LVMH brands.

“It was not like Monsieur Arnault ever pushed this and said, let’s open a store every 10 months. In a way …it’s a different M. Arnault I see here,” says Davin.

Because it’s a personal project?

“It’s a personal project. It’s very small. And he wants to take it step by step.”

Nair adds, intriguingly, “And I think also, for (Arnault), I would say, it’s the very first campaign that he’s starting from zero. A luxury house which is his own creation effectively, so he’s also interested in a very personal way, it’s almost like a baby. It’s interesting, he would see a bag and he’d say is this really good quality? Where is this leather from? Things you normally wouldn’t find a CEO asking, and he’d really be interested in knowing where the leather came from, in a certain type of finish…”

“It is a luxury startup,” agrees Davin, “but it is also for him a piece of savoir faire, a piece of the French patrimony. He is very interested, really going into questions like should the edge be a bit thicker or slimmer, or how do you polish it. He’s incredibly in tune with the little details, and these are questions, because we are so small, we can adjust from one product to another product. Ramesh will say oh let’s do a contrasted edge, or let’s do same coloured edge, and we can adjust and show different things, because it’s one craftsman doing the bag from A to Z, so if we want to just ask a different colour combination we just do one unit.

In an interesting insight into the modus operandi of the LVMH chairman, Davin points out that while Arnault is interested in the product detail of Moynat, this is not unusual.

“I have known him for a long time; I was in cosmetics (as head of Dior cosmetics in Japan), and when he was coming to Japan, we had a little lab, and he was always coming and saying ‘try using this… don’t you think this is still a bit sticky?’, or whatever. He was smelling things, he knew about it, he is obsessed with products, and the weight of the packaging. I think that one of the reason why he is so successful today, is that he has an incredible eye for products and quality. I mean, yes, Hermès is supreme quality, but I think M. Arnault has a sense of this.

“And it’s true at the same time he’s leading a group that now have so many brands, so I’m sure some times of the day he’s also focusing on other elements of the company, but he is completely driven by products and stores. He’s obsessed with what the client sees and touches. You know, when he was coming to Japan he was coming three days, and it was two and half days visiting stores and touching products. And business reviews was one hour for three brands — three hours, then finished. The numbers he can access them any time. It’s all product. Stores. And he has an opinion on absolutely every single piece, you know if he feels it’s a bit too matte, or if it’s a bit too shiny, or if there is a powdery feeling he does not like he will tell you, ‘are you sure about this? Try to show me something different next week’. I think there would be no success (for LVMH) if he was not completely obsessed, he knows that product quality is essential. So we try not to disappoint him on this that’s for sure!


“And with Moynat, Monsieur Arnault doesn’t want to advertise, he doesn’t even want us to communicate, he wants to concentrate on the products, on the atelier, on hiring more craftsman, he’s more obsessed with this — that if the product is right, the house will be right.”

And what are the products? The signature product for women (they don’t describe it as such, but it is plainly so) is the Pauline bag which comes in various sizes and can be bespoked in any colour you like; the Rejane is a smaller city bag, the Quattro more of a super-luxe tote. For men, the curved Limousine cases (as purchased by Karl Lagerfeld) are the standouts, in various sizes and styles. Up in the workshop, I also saw a couple of one-off works in progress, attaché cases and portfolios, not yet released, but which looked sublime.


And where, I wonder, are their clients from, these highly-well-heeled, highly knowledgeable customers who are so sophisticated they wish to carry a brand nobody else will recognise? “The number one nationality is the Americans,” says Davin, “but Asia is also a very big proportion. Japan is probably around 10- 12 per cent, South Korea is six or seven percent, Greater China (including Hong Kong) is around 20 per cent but mainland China is quite small, but South East Asia is big. Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines. It is all word of mouth.”

And will Moynat remain the luxury world’s best-kept secret? There was a pop-up at the Galeries Lafayette in Paris this summer, and there are unconfirmed rumours that the brand will open a second and even a third store somewhere in the world in 2014. “We cannot accelerate, we are doing everything we can to hire craftsmen, to train them, but this will take time,” says Davin. “We hope that Moynat will really be a beautiful house in 10 years, or 20 years. I am not sure Monsieur Arnault is joking when he says it’s for your grandchildren.”

A privately-owned luxury house sitting atop the world of leather goods and bags, passed down the Arnault family from generation to generation, whatever happens to the megabrands of LVMH. That would be a legacy. And you can witness its birth now, on the Rue St Honoré. Just don’t tell anyone.

Reading time: 13 min
Former Exhibitions - ‘Van Gogh, Dreaming of Japan’ and ‘Jackson Pollock and Shamanism’ were about transversality

Former Exhibitions – ‘Van Gogh, Dreaming of Japan’ and ‘Jackson Pollock and Shamanism’ were about transversality

This autumn, Singapore hosts two notable events: a Formula One Grand Prix, and the Pinacothèque de Paris’ first ever pop-up museum in the region. Marc Restellini, the owner of the fabled museum, talks us through its collection and his philosophy

“A museum must not become a cemetery.” André Malraux’s remark underlines a fear, which unfortunately, has been well-founded for years, not only in France, but also all over the world.

Marc Restellini - The academic and Modigliani scholar owns and runs the Pinacothèque de Paris

Marc Restellini – The academic and Modigliani scholar owns and runs the Pinacothèque de Paris

His statement raises a fundamental question: what becomes of an artwork once it has left a collector’s walls to take its place in a museum? Whether they have donated, sold or loaned artworks, collectors are the wellsprings of museums. The Louvre, the MoMA, the Hermitage or the NAMOC for example, there is no museum in the world that has not come into being by virtue of private collections.

I have never ceased to wonder why an artwork loses its power as soon as it is exhibited in a museum. Being fortunate enough to have seen the works in the collectors’ homes and being stunned by their splendour, I cannot understand why, when I find them years later inside a museum, that they have lost that magic, that aura which I found in them previously.

Is this the fear that Malraux tried to express? He was, after all, an enlightened art lover who knew collectors so intimately, and who was for so long the head of the French museums as the country’s first Minister of Cultural Affairs from 1958 to 1969.

But what is a museum? In the past, collected objects were kept and exhibited privately. The great collectors such as Barnes, Morosov, or Chtoukine, just to mention some of the best-known, allowed public access to their collections once a week. Is the private museum not an extension of the Curiosities Cabinet? The Curiosities Cabinet first emerged during the Renaissance and was a place to house collections of a variety of objects. The term ‘Chamber of Wonders’ was used later for collections that primarily held works of art. Curiosities Cabinets finally disappeared in the 19th century when they were essentially replaced by museums.

Pinacothèque de Paris,  The art gallery is located at place de la Madeleine, in the 8th arrondissement of Paris

Pinacothèque de Paris, The art gallery is located at place de la Madeleine, in the 8th arrondissement of Paris

The idea today is to bring back everything the museum had lost of its essence and meaning. Indeed the name of the museum that will open in 2015 in Singapore is called La Pinacothèque de Paris. Etymologically, ‘pinacothèque’ means ‘box of paintings’, and connotes intimacy and secrecy. To provide visitors with a taste of what is to come when the Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris officially opens, a pop-up exhibition will open this year on 14 September. Entitled ‘The Art of Collecting, Masterpieces from the Pinacothèque de Paris’, the exhibition will span over five hundred years of art history through prestigious works of art by 20 world-famous artists including Botticelli, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Monet, Renoir, Modigliani, Picasso and Chu Teh Chun among others. The museum in Singapore will mirror that of France, a fine art museum known for its critically acclaimed exhibitions that celebrate transversality and the dialogue between different works of art.

‘Transversality’ is a term that goes some way towards explaining how a small, timeless, community of artists, from all periods, cultures and origins, are united by a similar way of thinking and behaving. By its encyclopaedic approach, every museum tends to make us forget its main role: to ensure that the works stay alive. They all speak of beauty, have identical references and the same historical narrative. But these works have to be placed together in order to set up a dialogue — beyond borders and periods — for they summon up what we all have in common.

Pablo Picasso Jacqueline, Undated

Pablo Picasso, Jacqueline, Undated

That is why, for the first time, I have chosen to show works together without classifying them by period or artist, or even by category like in other museums. By combining them according to my sensitivities and with an iconographic, and aesthetic logic, I have attempted to re-establish the original dialogue found within the art lover’s cabinet, that timeless place wherein the works can converse, dialogue and come to life again.

So forget everything you have been taught, or all you have not learned; let yourself go with the intermingling, the combinations, and try to find the keys you are offered in order to hear the works speaking to each other. You will enjoy, without any complexes, works that are usually impossible to see side by side. You will see Botticelli, Van Dyck or Renoir representing the worthies in the same way, be they Italian in the 16th century, Flemish in the 17th or French in the 19th century. You will also notice that Botticelli and Pierre de Cortone’s circle saw religion in an identical way; and that the landscapes by Picasso, Monet and Ruysdael were constructed in the same fashion.

Chaim Soutine The Bellboy, 1927-1928

Chaim Soutine, The Bellboy, 1927-1928

A singular experience in today’s world, a museum exhibition serves as a reminder that understanding can be framed in an attractive and playful manner, as long as one liberates one’s sensitivity. The artworks shall not be contemplated individually, but should be observed together, within their referential aspects. Future visitors of the Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris will be invited to enter the precious lair of a collector’s passion and experience a repository of wonderment and beauty.

Singapore, a country with numerous museums, shows a strong interest for culture(s) and a serious involvement in community outreach and education. That was therefore natural and logic to implement the Pinacothèque de Paris in Singapore. And as a matter of fact, the Pinacothèque de Paris will offer the first network of museums making the connection between Asian and Western art. We are excited to welcome you to our first show in the Red Dot.

About the Pinacothèque de Paris

Pinacothèque de Paris, the largest private art museum in Paris, will open its first venue outside of Europe in Singapore. Set to fully open by the first quarter of 2015, the Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris will be located at the Fort Canning Centre, within Fort Canning Park. Pinacothèque de Paris is well-known for presenting world-class exhibitions by master artists the likes of Rembrandt Harmensz, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch and Jackson Pollock among others. These masterpieces are borrowed from private collections not normally seen in a museum setting and the way they are presented is unique.

Reading time: 5 min
Stubai Valley - Four family-friendly skiing areas cater to all aptitudes

Stubai Valley – Four family-friendly skiing areas cater to all aptitudes

Jackson Hole or Hokkaido? Courchevel or St Moritz? None of the above, says Darius Sanai, rediscovering a childhood passion for why Austria offers one of the most involving ski experiences of all

For a sport that essentially involves the same thing, namely gliding down a mountainside with your feet attached to fiberglass boards, skiing divides opinions quite dramatically among its connoisseurs. If you play golf, you will more likely than not admire the same courses as other golf savants; mountaineers agree that Nanga Parabat and K2 are likely to exercise you more than any other peak; drivers aspire to the Nürburgring.

But ask 10 experienced and affluent skiers their opinions on where the best place is to ski and you will likely receive 10 opinions. A powderhound might insist on Jackson Hole. A lover of open pistes (and diamonds) will cast her vote for Courchevel. Fans of vertical drops (and gourmet lunches) will urge you to visit Zermatt. Heli-skiing fanatics will go for the Alberta back country; expert ski/socialisers will favour Aspen. And so on.

And they may all be correct, for skiing has so many sides to it, both on the slopes and in terms of what happens before, afterwards and in between. One of the prominent categories of aficionados is the Austria-lover. While this may seem a rather broad church — affiliated to a country, rather than a single resort — it shares a common range of loves, and I have to admit that I am becoming part of it.

To be an echt Austriaphile, you need to satisfy various conditions. You need to be an admirer, and consumer, of that country’s unique tradition of gastronomically high-achieving, comfortable, familyrun, small luxury hotels. These are never part of a chain, and often idiosyncratic, but are run to exacting standards of hotel keeping that would make many a luxury chain blush. They are as precise in their standards as Swiss watches; indeed Switzerland has a similar tradition, although its luxury mountain hotels tend to be bigger, grander, and more generic (and less gastronomic) than the Austrians.

Spa Facilities - Relax in the indoor or outdoor pool with views of the Tyrol mountains

Spa Facilities – Relax in the indoor or outdoor pool with views of the Tyrol mountains

You need also to admire wood-panelled cosiness, in quantities that can sometimes be kitsch, and are now sometimes melded with contemporary chic. You should favour friendly Alpine village-style service over highly trained service staff who could be replicated from an island resort. And you have to tolerate idiosyncracies: slopes that do not link up as well as some of the slickest purpose-built resorts and mountain areas that sometimes require a walk from your hotel (although the advent of ski depots on the mountain has taken the pain away from this element).

I am not new to Austria. I learned to ski there, in the era of long skis and Franz Klammer, and having since skied pretty much the best of Europe, North America and Africa (although not Japan’s Hokkaido, which remains on the must-ski list), find myself irresistibly attracted to it again now I have a family of my own learning to ski. Partly it is because of the superb standard of the Austrian ski instructors; partly it is because the country is so well served by Crystal, the excellent UK ski tour operator; and partly it is for all the reasons outlined above.

And as it is time to be planning your winter’s hit of snow and mulled wine, I can heartily recommend you replicate our own experience last winter; if you are not an Austriaphile already, it is likely to convert you.

Our chosen destination was not one of Austria’s world-famous names (St Anton, Lech, Kitzbühel), but a village (Neustift) in a valley (the Stubaital) that was previously unknown, even to me. The decision was informed by the fact that Neustift has a highly-rated family-run luxury hotel, the Jagdhof, with indoor and outdoor pools; it also has snow-sure glacier skiing at the Stubai glacier, a few kilometres down the valley; and it is amazingly near Innsbruck airport — a mere 25 minute transfer, which, when you have car-sick children to worry about, is a holiday game changer to the three to five hours each way required by many of the big resorts in France.

The Stuben - Enjoy an extensive breakfast spread and award-winning cuisine in the expansive restaurant

The Stuben – Enjoy an extensive breakfast spread and award-winning cuisine in the expansive restaurant

The Jagdhof appeared slightly unprepossessing at first, as it is tucked on a road exiting the village of Neustift; it is only on entering that you realise that its gardens, views and open spaces are on the other side, onto which our room, a family suite in the annexe, fortunately looked. Our balcony was vast, big enough to cross country ski on, and it sat above meadows and parkland covered with thick snow, and a view down the valley towards the glacier on which we would be skiing. The bar at the Jagdhof, where we went every evening for the pre-dinner aperitif, is all alcoves, wooden panels and super-professional bartenders, exactly as an Austrian hotel’s bar ought to be. There was no attempt to mimic urban bar chic in terms of décor, and although there was an extensive cocktail list, we delved instead into the quite superb list of Austrian and other European wines. Occasional wine drinkers may be familiar with refreshing Austrian Grüner Veltliners and fruity Rieslings, but Austria also has an array of distinctive, characterful, soft and layered red wines that don’t see broad distribution outside the country. They go very well with post-skiing evenings, sitting in the intimate restaurant across the corridor from the bar, sipping as temperatures drop outside. Blaufrankish and Blauburgunder from Burgenland, Pinot Noir from the Wachau: these warm but approachable reds also matched the intricate cuisine served in the restaurant. Char, trout, salmon and turbot were fragranced, always perfectly cooked, and nuanced rather than overwhelmed by their accompaniments; lamb was a mountain staple. Desserts were Austrian-sweet and creamy. (One observation: if you are not too fond of dairy, it is worth letting them know, as this is a chef who is fond of his cream and cream-based foams, from the amuses onwards.)

Hotel Jagdhof - Expect traditional Tyrolean hospitality in the five-star hotel

Hotel Jagdhof – Expect traditional Tyrolean hospitality in the five-star hotel

And then, there was the skiing. The Stubaital, or Stubai valley, of which Neustift is the main village, has a number of skiing areas, the most extensive and snow-sure of which is the glacier, at its southern end. The journey to the lifts takes 20 minutes by road and you take the gondola up to the glacier’s hub, you can fan out in a number of directions: everything from nursery slopes to black runs are available.

The children advanced from the nursery area to the longer blue runs fanning around the hub within a day or two; I enjoyed the couple of black runs, although I should note that this is not an area for a group of skiers who only wish to bash the blacks. Some longer reds were exciting also, and the star piste was the 10km (challenging) red run, with almost 2,000m vertical drop, from the top station, through a hidden valley, to the valley station of the gondola. The altitude difference was quite breathtaking, and if you did stop to catch your breath halfway down, you found yourself in a valley with no sign of human hand or habitation (apart from the piste), far away from the lifts and restaurants.

If you are a mixed-ability family or group, and enjoy the convenience of getting together on the mountain for lunch every day and not splitting off from each other for the entire day, the Stubai glacier is one of the best options I have come across in the Alps. There is one caveat: the main gondola serving the glacier is quite old and low-tech, and on a windy day it can close, as happened to us. This is being addressed by a new hi-tech gondola that will open at the start of the 2014 season.

The other areas of the Stubaital are notable more for their cute, tree-lined pistes cutting through the forests (they are at much lower altitude) and excellent mountain huts serving fondues, hearty salads and mountain meat dishes, than their world-beating skiing. For a gentle family meander interspersed with a meal incorporating high-quality ingredients at reasonable prices (I hope the French are paying attention here) they are memorable.

In the end, the blend of traditional warmth, exacting standards, excellent organisation, convenience of transfer, and catering to all standards of skier, is something the Stubaital has down to perfection. If and when our children become experts themselves, we will look elsewhere; but it is heartening to know that varying standards of ski ability do not need to mean an inconsistent standard of holiday.

A number of operators offer five-star packages in Austria; of them Crystal Ski ( is probably the slickest and most experienced. Crystal offers half board at the Hotel Jagdhof including airport lounge passes, flights, transfers, and all the extras you might expect, including the excellent childcare from the kids’ club, which in our experience goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Reading time: 7 min


Lanvin is a great French fashion house that no longer (since 1992) creates Haute Couture, the most exclusive and bespoke of all the collections. However, some might say the artistry of its revered creative director, Alber Elbaz, makes couture irrelevant. When LUX asked Elbaz for his thoughts on the relationship between the house’s couture past and its high-end readyto- wear present, he gave us these measured — and exclusive — thoughts:

“For the latest collection [Winter 2013], I wanted to take the time for once and to treat it like real luxury. I wanted to go back to the preciousness, to the emotion, to the know-how of the French atelier.

“I wanted to show that couture is an experiment and it’s a laboratory of forms, of shapes, of colours, of fabrics. I wanted to show that it is something that is relevant and you can wear it with flat shoes. I wanted to bring that Parisian French feeling to it, of workmanship.”

“An atelier for me is mostly a laboratory with amazing people that in a few years will be retired. So we might as well enjoy it while it’s there. When I arrived at Lanvin, I realised that the ateliers were the same as the time of Haute Couture at Lanvin. Today, there are still people who have worked at Lanvin for the Haute Couture. This savoir-faire is extremely important. And I have a very close relationship with the people at the atelier. I don’t work with a head of seamstress like the other couture houses usually do.

“I found that it was better to speak directly to the ‘modéliste’ (pattern maker). So I am like the head of seamstress. I work with them every day, speaking of the problems they have on a dress, doing fittings three, four or five times on a model. And the studio is just at the top floor of the atelier, so it is very easy to meet each other. I love these amazing people who help me to realise my dreams day after day.”

Reading time: 1 min
Nautical Celebrations on Aqua Voyage

Sunseeker – The craft has a capacity of up to 14 cruising guests and comes with three en-suite cabins

Have your private, personal boat party — without having to fuss over the small things. ANDREA SEIFERT shows how

There is something about a sea voyage that lends itself to a celebration. Cruising the water on a luxury yacht is a true escape, and a welcome hiatus from the drudgery of everyday life on land.

So what better way to celebrate my husband’s impending 40th than with an intimate gathering of close family and friends on the water? The occasion needed to be marked with a show-stopping celebratory event, and a tailor-made journey on the sea with luxury yacht charterers Aqua Voyage seemed the perfect solution. With a myriad of options and destinations available, an overnight stay was eschewed in favour of a day trip on a sleek Sunseeker to Riau island in Indonesia. This would allow a full day of Saturday fun without cutting into busy schedules for an entire weekend.

Being a devoted epicurean, the adventure began with the most important aspect of the party – the menu. A consultation with the Aqua Voyage Executive Chef revealed that the culinary aspect of the event could be entirely tailored to personal preference; whether it be full onboard catering by a specific restaurant, or a bespoke menu prepared by Executive Chef Stacey Teo. As this was a day to spoil my better half, we devised a menu with a mixture of his favourite dishes from all around town and a few new surprises thrown in by Chef Stacey.

Wild Diver Scallops

Wild Diver Scallops with Orange Jam, Almonds

We set sail for Riau Island early in the morning, slightly bleary-eyed. Butlers were on hand to serve up decadent, buttery pain au chocolate and croissants from the Joel Robuchon bakery, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and espressos. Departing from Singapore, the scene was set with a pre-programmed iPod on the stereo system playing soft bossa nova tunes, and mimosas swiftly followed the coffees to get the party going.

The cerulean waters and white sands of Riau island beckoned, and a lazy morning of swimming in the sunshine soon came to an end as the boat docked a lazy dozen or so meters from the beach, just in time for a luxe picnic lunch. There’s nothing better than an assortment of zesty salads in the tropics, and we started with a salad of handpicked crab, avocado, citrus fruits and toasted sunflower seeds from the newly opened restaurant, The Black Swan. This was accompanied by Chef Stacey’s Wild Diver Scallops with Orange Jam, Almonds and Micro-Cress Salad with Egg Dressing. Creamy, indulgent burrata and vine ripened tomatoes followed alongside home-made duck rillete and crusty baguette. The grand finale was my very own famously gooey brownies.

Nothing defines a tropical getaway like a pampering spa treatment. This was a day for sybarite excesses and pleasure, so two therapists from our favourite spa in town were recruited to come onboard and pamper us with aromatherapy oil massages and foot reflexology to ease any work week tensions. A few guests then retreated to the luxurious mastersuite complete with fine Egyptian cotton linen and fluffy duvets for a heavenly post treatment snooze. Given my husband’s provenance, Afternoon Tea at Sea was a given and served in delicate bone china cups with a selection of refreshing herbal Gryphon iced and hot tea, scones with jam and clotted cream, and an assortment of Indonesian tidbits as a tribute to the location.

Dock at the Marina

Dock at the Marina – Ready to set sail for a day out on the seas

Expertly timed fireworks alongside the brilliant scarlet sunset brought the day to a dramatic and triumphant close. Our favourite mixologist from a premium cocktail bar in Singapore had been drafted as a surprise to prepare hubby’s signature drink and arrived onboard to act as our very own flair bartender, dazzling us of gravity defying bottle juggling and glass pouring set to music. The final culmination of the perfect day was a round of our Aqua Voyage cocktails to toast the birthday boy with, and a unanimous group decision, to celebrate many more birthdays on sea.

Reading time: 3 min

LUX Issue 3 /2013 - The Bespoke Issue

Just launched – The Bespoke Issue

Reading time: 1 min