Online shopping may be thriving, but the world is awash with swanky boutiques offering indulgent fantasies of every type to the wellheeled and the dreamer synthroid tablets online. KARYS WEBBER picks some of the best

Chanel, Paris


For fashion lovers, no one tops Chanel of course, and while a visit to any of the iconic fashion house’s worldwide boutiques is a treat, for the most hedonistic experience it must be the Avenue Montaigne store in Chanel’s home city, Paris. A stone’s throw away from the legendary Coco Chanel’s old living quarters at Rue Cambon, the 600 square metre store, designed by Chanel’s resident architect and interior designer Peter Marino, is in fact partly inspired by Mademoiselle Chanel’s apartment, echoing the timeless modernity and elegance which epitomises the brand. Tweed wall panels, rock crystal chandeliers by Goossens, pearl embroidered curtains and Ingrid Donat coffee tables come together inside the store which centres around a theatrical double height space devoted to the most precious of accessories and exceptional pieces from the Métiers d’Art collections. Adjoining rooms offer up two spaces dedicated to watches, two to accessories, one showcasing shoes and a VIP salon, whilst the first floor houses the ready-to-wear collection. The classic Chanel colour scheme of pearly whites, glossy blacks, beiges and gold is as evident as ever with contemporary works of art from the likes of Idris Khan, Jean-Michael Othoniel and Mark Swanson thrown in for good measure.

Harry Winston, Paris


Arguably the most hedonistic item to purchase, diamonds are of course a girl’s best friend and nowhere more so than at Harry Winston’s Shanghai Pavilion. The 80-year-old luxury brand, renowned for being the jeweller to the stars, opened the unique store in the prestigious XinTianDi district in 2012, designed with the aim of creating “an experience that was both intimate and monumental”, according to New York-based architect William Sofield. The freestanding boutique aptly shimmers like a jewel from the outside with much of the façade clad in zigzagging panels of clear and misted gold glass, and features a carved stone gateway (a reinterpretation of Shanghai’s historic Shikumen style). Inside, shoppers are greeted by a soaring two-storey oval atrium with a black and white marble floor that references the brand’s Fifth Avenue store. Chinese architecture and its shape-shifting approach to space is cited as part of the design inspiration and as a result few of the shop’s walls are set at right angles and no room is perfectly square, meaning the store appears to evolve before your eyes. Dedicated areas for the brand’s signature collections (such as Sunflower and Cluster) and the High Jewellery collections are each designed with individual materials and colour palettes to compliment the pieces. The store also features a custom-designed Bridal Bar and, for the first time, a designated Timepiece Salon complete with LED screens which display behind-the-scenes footage of the watch development.

Gastón y Daniela, Madrid


Founded in Bilbao in 1876 and still owned by the same family, Gastón y Daniela is a treasure trove of textiles housed in a grand former mansion in Madrid. The store offers over 40,000 fabrics ranging from contemporary designs (like the new Uptown collection inspired by the use of geometric patterns between the 1930s and 1960s) to unique heritage fabrics from their extensive archives. You can peruse luscious silks, intricate brocades and rich damasks at your leisure whilst enjoying a cup of coffee or a glass of sherry (depending on the hour), which the staff will whip up for you. Alongside the swathes of tactile fabrics, the store also impeccably displays their own wallpaper designs, upholstered furniture and Persian carpets, making it a haven for interior design lovers. Plus, with plush sofas sat in front of fireplaces and a beautiful private garden accessible via the sitting room, you’d be hard pushed to find a more pleasurable retail experience.

Fortnum & Mason, London


One of London’s most iconic and oldest emporiums (and not to mention grocer to the Queen), Fortnum & Mason has been a foodie favourite since it was established over 300 years ago, when it was famous for offering up exotic delicacies from around the world. The quintessentially English store (it stocks over 200 varieties of tea if you were in any doubt about its British heritage) sells everything from cheeses and preserves to macaroons and fudge in its vast food hall, which spans two floors connected by a grand spiral staircase. Gourmet gift hampers are Fortnum & Mason’s forte with signature hampers including the ‘Mayfair’ and ‘West Country’ although bespoke versions can also be stashed with an array of sweet or savoury treats like champagne truffles and beluga caviar. The store also houses five restaurants across its seven floors including the 1707 Wine Bar (named after the store’s foundation year), designed by David Collins, where you can order any bottle of wine from the extensive collection in the adjacent wine department for just a £10 corkage fee. Alternatively, head to The Parlour on the first floor for a naughty Knickerbocker Glory.

Alfred Dunhill, London


Alfred Dunhill’s flagship store (or ‘home’ as the brand likes to call it) is a former Georgian mansion in the heart of swanky Mayfair, which was previously the residence of the Duke of Westminster. The British luxury label has been dressing the most discerning gentlemen with their exquisitely crafted goods for over 100 years and everything from leather brogues to silk pocket squares are available over three spacious floors, alongside a bespoke tailoring room for custom-made garments. Not just an impeccable shopping experience however, the grade II listed building also doubles up as an exclusive members club with other on-site offerings including a marble-clad spa and an intimate, traditional barbers where men can treat themselves to a classic wet shave. The Cellar Bar meanwhile serves up a perfectly spicy Bloody Mary as well as providing the food for the charming courtyard restaurant. Plus, for film buffs bored of the generic multiplex experience, there’s a luxurious subterranean private cinema room, equipped with the finest visual and audio equipment from Meridian, which is available for hire.

Bijan, Beverly Hills


Unashamedly billed as “the world’s most expensive store”, Bijan is an exclusive appointment-only boutique housed in an extravagant Mediterraneanstyle palazzo on Beverly Hills’ famous Rodeo Drive. Founded by Iranian designer Bijan Pakzad in 1976 (though now run by his business partner Dar Mahboubi since Pakzad’s passing in 2011), Bijan is predominantly a menswear store offering ‘one of one creations’ of the utmost opulence and finest quality (a coat made out of vicuña wool for example, the rarest and most expensive material in the world, for an eye-watering USD 15,000). The store counts the most powerful men of politics and fashion as clients, including Presidents Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin and designers Oscar de la Renta and Tom Ford. Alongside fashion, Bijan is also known for its perfume range (currently consisting of 14 unique scents for both men and women, all contained in elegant Baccarat crystal flaçons) and custom-designed accessories with past requests including bulletproof lined jackets, chinchilla bedspreads and, naturally, bespoke yacht and private jet accessories. The last and most lavish string to Bijan’s bow however is luxury supercars, born out of Pakzad’s personal passion for them, which has culminated in a series of limited edition and highly bespoke Rolls-Royce and Bugatti Veyron cars being designed exclusively for the store.

Lane Crawford, Greater China


Originally a provisions trading post for the navy in 1850, Lane Crawford is today a benchmark for innovation due to its retail concepts and design. Spearheading retail indulgence across the region since the 70s, the retail mogul brings the world’s most luxurious and coolest brands to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, and soon to Chengdu. With more than 602,000 square feet of prime real estate across five stores in three of the world’s most expensive cities, Lane Crawford doesn’t have branded shopin- shops like many other department stores but instead whisks its Louboutin-clad customers across its meticulously curated displays – much like reading a magazine from cover to cover. Clean-cut, contemporary and sleek, the stores house menswear, women’s wear, beauty, homewear and even a dedicated music bar where patrons can order complimentary coffee while sampling the world’s newest tunes on iPods. Oh, and the next time you’re looking for that perfect gown or clutch, you might want to check in and ask for the collection that won’t be shown on the racks.

Roja Dove, Harrods, London


Offering a welcome respite from the never-ending stream of mass-market fragrances, esteemed master perfumer Roja Dove (regarded as the ‘connoisseur’s connoisseur’) creates scents that are full of emotion, sophistication and ‘grounded in memories of love’. At the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie, nestled in a hard-tofind enclave of iconic department store Harrods, scent is regarded as powerfully evocative and incredibly personal. Customers seeking true fragrance fulfillment can embark upon a unique journey to ‘unlock their perfume personality’ in the intimate space which is lavishly decorated with mirrors and black lacquer furniture. If you don’t fancy the completely bespoke service however, elaborate crystal decanters containing pre-made Roja Dove fragrances are still created using the finest and rarest raw materials in the world including Jasmine de Grasse and Rose de Mai (both from the South of France and more expensive than a gold bullion). The store also offers Mr Dove’s own personal edit of the most luxurious fragrances from other renowned perfume houses including Guerlain and Clive Christian (the latter famous for producing the world’s most expensive perfume, the Clive Christian No. 1, the bottle of which was decorated with diamonds and cost a whopping £115,000).

Level Shoe District, Dubai Mall, Dubai

levelshoeDubai doesn’t often do things by halves so it’s no surprise that the cosmopolitan city boasts the world’s largest shoe store, within the world’s largest shopping centre. The Level Shoe District is 96,000 square feet dedicated purely to luxury footwear and is home to over 250 brands, of which, over 100 are exclusive to the region and 40 are stand-alone designer boutiques. To avoid overwhelming shoppers with such a vast shoe metropolis, the store is divided into four more digestible sections: Women’s Designer, Women’s Contemporary, Men’s and Trends, with each quarter designed with its own distinct aesthetic and ambience. Among Women’s Designer – a chic boudoir-esque space with gilt birdcages and a powder pink colour scheme – you’d be hard pushed to find an international designer brand missing with everything from Valentino and Louis Vuitton to Miu Miu and Alexander Wang elegantly displayed. Women’s Contemporary meanwhile features the more cutting edge, up-and-coming luxury designers like British exports Nicholas Kirkwood and Sophia Webster. Men have everything from Berluti to Oliver Sweeney at their fingertips as well as concept store The Cobbler, which is designed like a gentleman’s club and offers traditional shoe repair and a bespoke service workshop. On top of this, visitors who are exhausted after a hard day’s retail therapy can indulge in a treatment at the Sole Lounge by Margaret Dabbs (the renowned celebrity podiatrist’s only foot spa outside the UK) or treat themselves to high tea at the region’s first Vogue Café, which is decorated with iconic photography from the fashion magazine’s archives.

Hajenius, Amsterdam


Housed in a historic Art Deco building on Amsterdam’s Rokin boulevard since 1915 (though the company dates back to as early as 1826), the renowned House of Hajenius is widely regarded as one of Europe’s leading cigar houses. With the interior remaining virtually unchanged since Hajenius’ inception, cigar aficionados are greeted with a remarkable backdrop of fine Italian marble, oak panelling and colossal chandeliers that date back to a time when Amsterdam was still lit by gas, before so much as a whiff of a tobacco. Venture further in and the finest selection of cigars are available, from Hajenius’ own brand to an entire room dedicated to Havanas as well as cigars from Sumatra and Brazil, plus smoking accessories ranging from lighters and cigarette holders to handmade clay and ceramic pipes. In addition to the retail aspect, the grand building also houses an exceptional walk in humidor that features a richly decorated vaulted ceiling – the doors are activated by a key fob held by staff members who screen entrants – and regular cigar and whisky tasting evenings are held at the venue.

Reading time: 10 min

bali-5 Where is the best place to combine a proper luxury holiday, ancient, unknown temples and one of the most unique dining experiences? Bali resident MARY JUSTICE THOMASSON would tell you it’s right at her doorstep. Naysayers that say the ol’Bali charm has left the island are, quite frankly, full of it. As a 10-year resident of Bali, I can testify Bali’s never been better. Our culture remains beautifully intact and the Balinese thrive in the luxury of knowing that they are living in a form or paradise where, if they play their cards right, balancing good with evil in their Hindu ceremonies (translate, parties), things generally work out.

Sashaying palms, stunning girls and smiling, happy people abound and while pretikins line the beaches, in the distance are verdant mountains of terraced rice fields and varied volcanic landscapes that dot the island, lending well to multitudes of choices for surf and turf activities.

Bali continues to win travel awards like ‘world’s best island destination’ and ‘best island getaway’ and when you consider that 20 years ago the options for food were nasi goreng or nasi campur (noodles or rice with a little meat and veg thrown in), it’s nice to know that our international restaurants, including top new players like Bambu, now compete on the stage for culinary excellence. It’s true the south of Seminyak is teaming with faddish bars, boutiques, night clubs and parties that pop all day and night so if you want to see more of the ‘ye olde’ Bali, put those pretty little pedicures to the metal and explore. In the main areas of town there are several new delights that await you but many an enlightened visitor will head for the hills of Ubud and the coasts of the North to further explore the island. bali-1 A good start is in the northwest where English-born, Cordon Bleu chef and interior designer Diana Von Cranach cranks it up a notch or two at our perennial favorite resort, Puri Ganesha. Here, Diana has opened what must be one of the smallest and most unique restaurants on the island. Liperu (which in Bali slang literally means ‘where the hell is Peru?’) seats only 10 and has a small daily menu that tantalises diners with amazing combinations of Balinese-cum-Peruvian flavours, using purely local ingredients served on small bamboo baskets that reflect the seasons. True to her favourite vegan words, it’s all “rawfully good”.

Heading for the hills of Ubud, Von Cranach also teamed up with a friend and colleague, Dutch-born Anneke Van Waisberghe, whose colonial tents à la ‘Out of Africa’ overlook the river south of Ubud and where you can dine on the edge of the world. This is a romantic and ideal setting for Diana to showcase her culinary skills and reach a larger audience, far from her tiny laid-back luxury up north. They call it Dining Within Tent and it is splendidly theatrical with a natural grandeur that sets the tone for the evening. Here, the noises of the rainforest co-exist happily with the sentimental sounds of Waisberghe’s collection of prewar songs played on an old record player that wafts out into the night, mixing with the cackles of the guests’ laughter and the katydids outside.

The lucky night I went, the dinner party theme was the ‘Happy Valley Set’, aka ‘White Mischief’, a largely hedonistic British and Irish group of aristocrats and adventurers who settled in Kenya between the 1920- 40s. My character given in advance was party girl and socialite Lady Idina Sackville and my date was given the title Josslyn Hay, 22nd Earl of Erroll. Hedonistic and hilarious it was indeed, and our linens and silks from the evening had to be sent out for cleaning post haste in the morning. This evening should be pre-booked before your arrival and it will go down in the memoirs as memorable. We certainly enjoyed ourselves, from what we can remember.

And why not continue the theme of tented extravagance and check out Glamping Sandat where two stylish Italians have created glamping tents on the outskirts of Ubud. Our tent was complete with our own infinity pool perched on the forest edge and a private deck for sunbathing ‘au naturel’ in total privacy – perfect for those keen to reconnect with nature while not necessarily chipping a nail. We enjoyed our chandelier-lit tent and all the mod-cons which we didn’t end up using as the open air was far more refreshing. There are five tents and two traditional Balinese Lumbung villas laid out like a rabbit’s warren, with plenty of room for roaming. It has perhaps one of the prettiest gardens I’ve seen in Bali – more English in style than Balinese – with a wonderful assortment of flora and fauna that had been carefully thought out while remaining charmingly chaotic.

Bali continues to surprise me and I recently toured the ‘7 Temples of Enlightenment’ with the charming Professor and Curator of The Sukarno Centre, Enong Ismail, who has partnered up with one of the most exclusive and professional tour organisations on the island, My Private Concierge. To say we were gobsmacked is a gross under exaggeration. On this tour we visited seven world heritage temples and monuments that have recently received their UNESCO certification and for the first time, fully understood the origins of Balinese Hindu religion ‘Hindu Darma’. Our journey took us through the temples as we traced the evolution of this fascinating culture. Many of the temples and meditation places we visited are not even known to locals, let alone visitors and it was a rare opportunity to be one of the first visitors to these sites which are all part of the Pakerisan world heritage listed area. bali-2 bali-4 bali-3   Our day began with tea and smart talk with Pak Ismail at his charming home amongst rice fields on a ridge just off the sacred river of Pakerisan. Pak Ismail’s passion is infectious and he has been documenting Balinese culture since 1979. He sees his rare tours as a way to give back to the society he loves and to share his wealth of information. Most of the temples have been untouched other than the weather playing a role in their appearance. After a few sights, a lovely picnic lunch was laid out in the fields, and just when I thought I couldn’t be more blown away, we went into a 10th century meditation temple that is carved into the side of a stone hill and hidden amongst the rainforest. I wondered whether Indiana Jones might make a quick appearance just to add to the unreality of it all. While there, we were met by a local priest who conducted a blessing for us, wishing us well on our onward journeys in life. His appearance, as Pak Ismail wisely told us, belied his Balinese heritage as there was a distinct Indian flair to his features. Our priest was a sixth generation priest, and indeed I felt blessed. The day finished in a large temple that, in the 12th century, leaders of the Buddhist, Hindu Shiva and ‘respect your ancestor’ religions met and agreed to create one religion for all Hindu Darma, or Balinese Hindu, as it is known today.

Bali continues to be blessed with hidden treasures that can be explored for generations to come and that is what makes this island, in my opinion, one of the best destinations in the world.;;

Reading time: 6 min
China’s cities have come a long way from its heydays of bicycles, spittoons and Mao

China’s cities have come a long way from its heydays of bicycles, spittoons and Mao

A government crackdown on conspicuous consumption may have slowed China’s luxury market, but opportunities still abound at the top end of the market. CASEY HALL investigates where China’s most wealthy will be spending their money in 2014

There’s little doubt that China’s luxury goods market has slowed from its boom years of double-digit growth, in fact, growth has slowed to a crawl. According to data from Bain & Company, Mainland China’s luxury goods market has slowed from seven per cent growth in 2012 to around two per cent in 2013, with expectations of similarly slow growth in 2014.

The Chinese government’s recent crackdown on corruption and conspicuous consumption, led by President Xi Jinping, has been one highly publicised reason for this slowdown, but it’s not the only factor. In recent years, the number of wealthy Chinese travelling overseas has grown exponentially, as international travel increasingly becomes a symbol of status and visa restrictions for Chinese travellers are eased. Worldwide, Chinese nationals remain the biggest luxury buyers, with purchases that make up 29 per cent of the global market, a four percentage point increase versus last year.

Not only are luxury goods more affordable overseas (in many cases around 40 per cent cheaper, thanks to China’s VAT tariffs for imported luxury goods sold on the mainland), they also come with the added cache of being purchased in exotic locales. According to China watchers, if there is a single desire that unites wealthy Chinese consumers desire, it is a need for newness – the next big thing, whether it be a product or experience, which will impress their friends. It’s all very well to hit up European capitals and American centers of commerce, but increasingly, just seeing the sights on a generic guided tour is not enough for Chinese travellers.

Filling the gap for a niche market at the pointy end of the pyramid are a number of experiential travel agencies organising ever more elaborate experiences for Chinese travellers. Whether they desire a round of golf with Tiger Woods, or even a trip into space, it seems the sky is the limit for big spending Chinese travellers.

The fashion-forward Shanghai label has enjoyed the boom years and envisions even better growth

The fashion-forward Shanghai label has enjoyed the boom years and envisions even better growth

Michael MacRitchie is the founder of MGI Entertainment, an agency that specialises in bringing celebrities from the East and the West together with brands from both sides of the Western/Chinese divide. They have recently launched an ‘Ultimate Experiences’ division, which organises all-encompassing travel experiences, often involving the opportunity to rub shoulders with celebrities.

“This is a niche market, the reason we came up with this is that we saw more and more Chinese people who were interested in this niche travel market and we have some key relationships in place which allow us to do these types of things, and it sort of complements our main business, which is working with celebs,” MacRitchie explained. For example, Ultimate Experiences organises trips to the Cannes Film Festival (available to a maximum of 10 travellers), which include a private concierge, tickets to premieres, entry to after-parties and an invitation to an event on Hollywood über-producer Harvey Weinstein’s yacht, followed by a helicopter ride to the Monaco Grand Prix – all for the bargain price of USD 30,000 per person.

“Chinese people want the best of everything around. They want to drink Château Lafite Rothschild; they want to go to the most prestigious events around the world. They have money to burn and want to do stuff they weren’t able to do previously. Part of it is face, part of it is showing off, and part of it is about experiencing something different,” MacRitchie said.

As international travel becomes the norm for wealthy Chinese, they are increasingly acquiring the habits of the wealthy worldwide, including sunning themselves by beautiful beaches and carving up powdery white slopes.

The new lifestyle development by KOP Properties will offer yearround winter activities, including the world’s longest indoor ski trail

The new lifestyle development by KOP Properties will offer year round winter activities, including the world’s longest indoor ski trail

A reflection of this latter desire is a new development from Singaporean real estate company, KOP Properties. Winterland Shanghai will be housed within an 18-hectare development that will include the world’s longest indoor ski trail. A new generation of ski bunnies from Shanghai and around China will have year-round access to winter sports activities, ice sculpture competitions and more, including a ski-in / ski-out hotel, gardens, retail, food and beverage, as well as an entertainment center with a 4-D theatre offering movies, theatrical shows and concerts.

“Our Winterland Shanghai project represents the next landmark in lifestyle-focused developments and furthers our mission of spearheading breakthrough ideas from conceptualisation through building and management,” said KOP Properties Chairman Chih Ching. “We believe Winterland Shanghai can serve as a magnet for Shanghai tourism and Shanghai itself is a perfect city in terms of size, scale and its level of development. We are excited to bring this to the city of Shanghai.”

Real estate developers looking to capitalise on the developing leisure pursuits of wealthy Chinese are not the only ones being lured to the Mainland. Thanks to big spending Chinese collectors who have been making their presence felt in the international art highworld for the better part of a decade, big auction houses are now heading to mainland China.

In 2011, China overtook the US as the world’s largest art market as wealthy new buyers paid top prices for works from Ming vases to contemporary Chinese paintings. Michael Plummer, a New York-based art market financial analyst, told Chinese media early in 2013 that new collectors in China were buying “recklessly”, to snap up objects – not only for investment purposes, but also for the image of wealth these artistic objects conferred.

By the middle of last year, the steam had begun to go out of the buying spree, though experts stress the market in China remains hot.

As Bruce MacLaren, a Chinese art specialist with Bonhams auction house in New York, said, “Things are not going for 50 or 100 times the estimate, but they are still selling very well.”

Well enough to lure big guns, such as Christie’s, the world’s largest auction house, which netted $25 million as collectors snapped up bottles of Château Latour, a ruby necklace and a painting by Pablo Picasso at their first Mainland China auction in Shanghai last September.

Art isn’t the only object of beauty wealthy Chinese consumers are investing in, especially for the women who have been evolving their stylish sensibilities at a rate which has come as a surprise to many international brands and fashion mavens. Even as the growth of the luxury market has slowed over the past 12 months, women’s wear and luxury accessories have continued to surge ahead comparatively strongly. Long overshadowed by luxury menswear in the Middle Kingdom, women’s wear grew at a rate of between 8 and 10 per cent last year, according to Bain & Company.

Men’s and women’s share of luxury spending in China reached equal levels in 2013, a rapid evolution from a starting point of over 90 per cent spending by men in 1995. “The mindset among global brands here is changing from men’s categories and accessories to women’s categories and fashion. Brands are preparing for this major shift,” said Bruno Lannes, a Bain partner in Greater China and lead author of the Chinese edition of the study.

Alison Yeung, the woman behind Shanghai-based luxury shoe and accessory brand, Mary Ching, has seen first-hand the evolution in taste of Chinese women with means. “There is a move away from that branded, inyour- face bling. The people coming into new money will still be at that bling level, but the wealthier China becomes, the larger the number of discerning customers who will be moving away from that kind of ultra-bling,” she said.

The next big thing in fashion for Chinese consumers, according to Yeung, will be customisation, as wealthy women want something special they can show off to their friends, who now all have Louis Vuitton bags, Burberry trench coats and well-tailored Gucci pants suits. “I absolutely believe that personalisation is something that is interesting and liked here. Chinese love that tailor-made and handcrafted element,” she said. “Recently at our events, I have been autographing by hand, each pair of shoes purchased, which has been very popular; it makes the purchase a little bit more special. Beyond the service of welcoming someone to your retail space, you have to go the extra mile to make customers feel valued.”

Service is also becoming increasingly important to winning customers in the sphere of high-end entertainment. Traditionally the domain of China’s clear spirit, Maotai, long beloved by official banqueters, the high end spirits market has taken a significant hit from President Xi Jinping’s mission to curb conspicuous consumption. According to the Hurun Report, which annually surveys Chinese High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) with a personal wealth over 10 million yuan, there are still expensive alcoholic gifts doing the rounds in China, with red wine rating among the most popular gifts for men priced at under RMB 20,000. Imported spirits such as whisky and cognac are also on the up.

Reminiscent of elaborate jewellery from the 1920s, the marble bar at CICADA UltraLounge is the longest in town

Reminiscent of elaborate jewellery from the 1920s, the marble bar at CICADA UltraLounge is the longest in town

Beyond the official crackdown, the increasingly international focus of Chinese drinkers is another main reason for this shift in high-end alcohol consumption. It’s also the reason a couple of long-term expats in China with past success in Beijing’s F&B scene, decided now was the time to open a high-end ‘ultra lounge’ in the nation’s capital.

Catalin Ichim is one of the co-founders of CICADA UltraLounge, with its 20-foot marble bar and a focus on the very best in food and mixology. The 2,700-square-foot venue caters to a wealthy Chinese clientele looking to recreate the luxury nightlife they may have experienced on their travels to Milan or Paris.

Jeffrey, editor at Beijing-based Lifestyle Magazine and Juli of Mario Testino’s studio, regularly frequent CICADA

Jeffrey, editor at Beijing-based Lifestyle Magazine and Juli of Mario Testino’s studio, regularly frequent CICADA

“There was a gap in the market where nothing similar to what is happening overseas was happening in Beijing; this is what got us started,” Ichim said.

Although Ichim says they have been somewhat insulated from the crackdown because their focus has been less on politically powerful, wealthy consumers, those that have come through the doors thus far have shown an incredibly developed sense of what they want in terms of service.

“The pattern of consumption has changed a lot from being focused on the product itself to now being more focused on the service and experience that you get,” he said.

Across the luxury spectrum, it seems, it is the experience that counts for wealthy Chinese consumers in 2014. “It’s a little bit of soul-searching, or enlightenment happening. People are looking to and discovering new things in all aspects of their life, including art, design, drinks, food and anything that would make their life richer, that would enrich their life experience,” Ichim said.;;

Reading time: 9 min
The Balmoral
Clyde Auditorium

Clyde Auditorium – Seating 3,000, it is also referred to as “The Armadillo” by Glaswegians

Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital, Glasgow is its biggest city. Ahead of this year’s vote on independence, RJ MALONE explores what each has to offer in terms of hospitality and soul

Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city and Britain’s second city after London (at least, until the Scots decide whether or not they wish to remain part of Britain later this year), is often gifted with slightly backhanded epithets. “Gritty”, “real”, “friendly” and, worst of all, “down-to-earth”, for example, compared with Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital 40 miles down the M8 motorway, which is “beautiful”, “historic” or “traditional”.

I rather like spending time in Glasgow. It doesn’t have the visual drama of Edinburgh’s Castle as viewed from Prince’s Street, or the tourist-postcard dream come true of the Royal Mile. But it does have plenty of striking architecture around its university, West End and central areas, a fizzing cultural program, and some fantastic, and well-priced, restaurants if you like seafood, simply rendered.

To experience the city properly, you either need to stay in a place where you can escape from its very real harshness – no creative cultural program can obliterate the bands of rain sweeping on crystal clear air from the Atlantic, whatever the month – or revel in it.

The first of these is the Hotel du Vin, One Devonshire Gardens. Fans of the boutique town hotel group will be familiar with its cleverly designed, gourmand-friendly, contemporary-cosy properties around the UK; but this is another level altogether. The group’s only effectively five-star outpost (only the vagaries of staircase connections between the grand townhouses that comprise the hotel rob it of an official five-star rating), it is on the edge of the city’s restaurant-and-bar-packed West End. Step inside and you shut the wind, rain and streetscape out, both visually and physically.

Hotel Du Vin

Hotel du Vin – The iconic hotel is known for both its service and style

It’s all about a series of grand drawing rooms, created with a very contemporary blend of pared-back chic and ornate swank. My bedroom, facing an internal courtyard, was all about swoothing swathes of drape and fabric, and a bedroom that felt like you had been whisked into a 19th-century boudoir (but with no mustiness or dustiness; everything was perfectly up-to-date). The best part of the stay, though, was an evening spent in the bar: this was another ornate drawing room, with sofas and chaises longues and coffee tables, with a bar along one side. The lighting, so often the killer in bars in drawing rooms (there’s usually too much of it and you expect your maiden aunt to drop in for tea and biscuits, not very seductive), was just dark enough. The array of single-malt Scotches would have kept a whiskiphile going for weeks; the wine list was peppered with interesting red Burgundies and new-wave new-world points; I enjoyed some local Scottish craft beer, while picking at a very pleasant board of charcuterie.

Glasgow’s heyday was at the height of the industrial revolution, when it was a port, centre of commerce and ideas, and shipbuilding centre: a sort of 19th century version of contemporary Shanghai. Its more recent reinvention involves some interesting architecture also, and a way to both see and experience it is at another of my favoured hotels in the city, the Crowne Plaza Glasgow. This sits in the middle of a new cultural and conference area, a former industrial zone across the curiously quiet Clyde river (the great shipyards were further downstream, where the waterway is mightier) from the BBC’s new Scottish headquarters, and next to a mini-Sydney Opera House known as the Clyde Auditoriam, designed by awardwinning architect Sir Norman Foster. At night, the area has a kind of Twilight Zone beauty about it, and I enjoyed sitting in the silent efficiency of my corner suite, which had a double outlook, drinking a Schiehallion beer, looking out across the river and over to the outline of the Southern uplands beyond, feeling like we are on the edge of Europe. The bar, downstairs, is pretty lively too, in a very Glasgow way.

Edinburgh has a much more formal way about it, and a far more formal beauty. I prefer the cheerful gruffness of a semicomprehensible Glaswegian taxi driver to the clipped and chipped service of an Edinburgh driver, but that’s personal. And if you are going to see Edinburgh, there is one place to see it from: its grandest hotel, the Balmoral, which sits directly adjacent to Waverley Station, diagonally facing the Castle, and at one end of Prince’s Street. Prince’s Street itself is a shopping boulevard flanked by unremarkable retail in grand stone buildings on one side, but the gardens on the other side, dropping into a dip, and then rising up to the great rock hill on which the Castle is perched, give the impression of being on the edge of the sea, the Castle a fortress rising beyond.

The Balmoral

View From The Balmoral with views of the Edinburgh Castle by night

My room had a view of all this, and an enormous amount of space besides, a mark of this grand edifice of a hotel. A small measure of Highland Park 12-year-old whisky with a single cube of ice made from Highland Spring water (why put chlorinated tap water in your whisky, in the form of a melting ice cube?) enhanced the view.

The public areas of the Balmoral are a tourist attraction in themselves; the domed Palm Court a place where locals and tourists congregate for afternoon tea, Ritz-style (be sure to book in advance) and no doubt talk of places where palm trees don’t need central heating in order to grow properly. More my style was the spa, where a chatty therapist gave me a very effective scrub and massage, amid generously proportioned surroundings.

Reading time: 5 min
Marc Chagall, Dos à dos, 1984

Marc Chagall, Dos à dos, 1984

Marc Chagall’s star still shines bright today: the Russian-French Modernist is coveted by collectors and connoisseurs alike. Our columnist explains why JEAN-DAVID MALAT

opera1Personally, Marc Chagall is by far my favourite Modern artist. His paintings are somewhat like dreams and they remind me of my childhood: indeed, my grandfather was Polish and my grandmother’s family originally from Russia. Growing up, I listened to their stories and traditional tales and, in my mind, these resembled the colourful and oneiric scenes depicted by Chagall.

I think that up to today, he has influenced a lot of Israeli and Russian contemporary artist. He stayed true to his own style all his life. And even Picasso – who is known for being very critical of fellow artists – was a lover of Chagall’s works. I believe it is all down to the combination of colours, and the love and family values he put into his paintings. These are unique.

And the market seems to have picked up on this too. The presence of artworks by the late Master Painter in every major Modern Art auction around the world since the mid-2000s illustrates the recognition that his art has gained on the art market and with art collectors alike. An example of how this artist’s value on the art market has been reinforced since 2005 can be observed in the results of “La Femme du Peintre” (1970). In 1996, this 100 x 65 cm oil on canvas was auctioned at Sotheby’s New York for USD 650,000 (within the estimated USD 600,000 – 800,000). In 2012, the exact same painting was auctioned again at Sotheby’s New York. It was then sold for a hammer price of USD 1,800,000. That’s almost three times more than in 1996, the kind of trend more usually seen by living artists these days. This tendency is due to the fact that the demand for quality paintings by the Master Chagall keeps getting higher, while fewer and fewer pieces are available on the market.

Marc Chagall,Le coq sur fond Noir, 1968

Marc Chagall,Le coq sur fond Noir, 1968

To this day, the record price for a Chagall artwork to sell at an auction was at the August 2013 Christie’s New York sale, when “Les trois acrobates” (1926) sold for USD 11,500,000; well above the estimate between USD 6,000,000 – 9,000,000.

Considering all of the above, it is no surprise that the art market statistics website has evaluated that USD 100 invested in 1999 in a Marc Chagall work will have an average value of 178 USD in September 2013.

But beyond that, the world’s most respected art institutions are constantly paying tribute to his great heritage: In 2013, two major UK institutions hosted Chagall exhibitions – Tate Liverpool and Manchester Jewish Museum – that looked into the Jewish heritage and modernist influences that shaped his career; while the Grand Palais in Paris hosted an exhibition of self-portraits at the Musée National Marc Chagall in Nice.

As for 2014, the first major retrospective in Spain devoted to Chagall will take place at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, curated by President of the Comité Chagall, Jean-Louis Prat.

At Opera Gallery, we have been sourcing artworks by Chagall for our collectors since around 2003-2004. And thanks to our international network, we have access to numerous Chagalls, via international collectors.

Marc Chagall,Maries au village,1969

Marc Chagall,Maries au village,1969

In 2006, we hosted our first Chagall solo exhibition in London, which was extremely well-received by our public and collectors. Later, in 2011, we had a Chagall exhibition in Opera Gallery Monaco, then in Geneva. And in May 2013, we decided to bring our collection to Asia and hosted a large retrospective exhibition in Opera Gallery Hong Kong.

It is with great pride that we will also be hosting a retrospective in London, opening on the 15 May 2014 and with which we aim to highlight the prominent role the Russian painter played within the history of art; and also to reinforce even further his value and recognition on the current art market.

Jean-David Malat is Director of the international Opera Gallery group. The Opera Gallery’s Chagall retrospective shows in London in May 2014 and in Singapore in autumn 2014.

Reading time: 3 min

It may be the most ancient of all building materials but it’s holding its own in the modern world. go back to basics with these stunning pieces that prove you just can’t beat the power and beauty of nature.

Reading time: 1 min

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.


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.

Reading time: 4 min

The Hedonism Issue 01/2014

Footwear from Mary Ching’s Chinese Whispers collection

Reading time: 1 min