The lifestyle issue: A classic investment; Roksanda Ilincic’s colourful creations; and the evolution of London’s luxury real estate market
Towards the end of September, a great debate raged among the members of team Luxury. Moschino had just unveiled its My Little Pony capsule collection – a selection of bags, T-shirts, dresses and trousers inspired by those equine toys so adored by little girls the world over.
We fell quite firmly into two camps. Those who couldn’t believe that a baggy, oversized tee featuring a childlike rendition of a colourful-maned pony could carry a Dh850 price tag. And those who couldn’t decide whether to buy the pink minidress or the one emblazoned with four different characters from the series. I’ll just say that the 6-year-old me would have had a full-blown tantrum if she’d seen the baby-blue backpack and not been allowed to own it. The 36-year-old me felt much the same.
Moschino knew exactly what it was doing. There have been various incarnations of the much-loved mares since they were launched in 1981. The most recent versions are taller, with longer legs, bigger eyes and more carefully styled locks (even cartoon horses have to subscribe to unrealistic ideals of female beauty these days, it seems). But the ponies that appeared on Moschino’s clothes and accessories were the chubbier, stubbier ones of my youth – a reported 150 million of which were sold in the 1980s alone. And that’s no coincidence. Moschino, like many brands before it, was trading in nostalgia.
The emotional component of a luxury purchase should never be underestimated. Whether we are talking to auctioneers, art collectors, jewellers, real estate consultants or classic car dealers, they generally have one pertinent piece of advice for potential investors: buy what you love.
Whether you’re talking about a Dh2,685 My Little Pony bag, or the 102.54-carat yellow diamond, which is estimated to sell for up to Dh51 million in an upcoming Sotheby’s auction, emotion will always inform purchasing decisions – and nostalgia is a paticularly beguiling emotion.
The continued buoyancy of the classic car market is an interesting example of this. On page 16, we look at how values of some classic cars have risen by 180 per cent over the last decade. A fair amount of this growth is being driven by car enthusiasts who are now in their 40s and 50s, and in a position of financial security, so are finally able to buy the cars that they so coveted when they were young. “Never underestimate the power of being able to relive your youth,” says the writer of the piece, Kevin Hackett.
There’s an emotional element to the continued trend of UAE buyers investing in second homes in London, too. As Panna Munyal points out, now is a good time to buy in the UK capital, particularly at the very upper end of the market. A new generation of buyers from the Middle East are following in the footsteps of their fathers “who had invested in prime central London in the 1980s – during the last major dip in the property cycle,” explains David Adams, director of Humberts Mayfair. “The offspring are familiar with the areas of Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Belgravia because of family excursions in their younger years.”
And as luxury brands well know, that kind of nostalgia can be incredibly powerful – and profitable.
Selina Denman, editor
Cars don’t necessarily need to be money pits – choose the right classic at the right time, and you too might turn a profit, advises Kevin Hackett
Eventually every bubble bursts, no matter how long it’s been around, or how beautiful it might appear. One day – and who knows when – like a Monty Python parrot, it will cease to be.
Over the past few years, we have seen various types of investment portfolios rise and fall. Not that long ago, the “dotcom bubble” burst, instantly turning multimillionaires into paupers. We’ve seen the prices of oil and gold increase and then decrease in dramatic fashion, and we’ve watched people get rich and then poor after amassing massive property collections.
One thing, however, that has proved to be a fairly steady path to consistent profit over the past couple of decades, is classic cars. Admittedly, even this segment of the market has had its fair share of ups and downs in the past, particularly in the late 1980s, when exotic cars were viewed as the ultimate symbols of success in a capitalist world gone mad, and prices rocketed.
What had previously been a market kept afloat by enthusiasts was wrecked by speculators who only cared about the bottom line. “I saw [Ferrari] Dinos that had been ‘restored’ using sections of Pepsi cans,” says Nick Cartwright, a United Kingdom-based specialist in classic Ferraris. “One had its chassis tubes stuffed with old newspapers and was painted up to look nice, but, in reality, it was rotten to the core.
“Many of these cars were bought as wrecks by unscrupulous investors, made to look pretty, and sold for vast profits to people who should have known better. To put them right again, owners either spent staggering sums of money, or they just counted their losses and sold them for a fraction of what they’d bought them for.”
Those were crazy times and, in the early 1990s, the classic car market went through a much-needed “correction”. It took another 20 years to get to the point where it’s at now, but the market certainly seems different – values are experiencing a steadier rise, affected more by enthusiast collectors than those out to make a quick buck. Over the past couple of years, the market has continued to grow at a rate of between eight and 10 per cent, and the past decade has seen a swell of approximately 180 per cent in the values of some classic cars.There are many different factors that affect any car’s value, but, when it comes to “modern classics” built from the 1970s onwards, there is undoubtedly a nostalgic bent involved. Car enthusiasts who are now in their 40s and 50s, for instance, are often in positions of financial security – the kids have grown up and left home, the mortgage might have been paid off, and there may be a healthy disposable income to spend on that car you used to have on your bedroom wall.Inevitably, some models that had, up until quite recently, only ever been viewed by the market as “used cars”, have experienced spikes in interest and demand, with the best examples now fetching big money. We’re seeing drastic upward shifts in the values of models such as Ferrari’s 308 and 328 (a 150 per cent rise over the past six years alone) and Porsche’s early 911 Turbo (another 150 per cent). Even hot hatches such as Peugeot’s genre-defining 205 GTI and the early Golf GTIs are making previously unimaginable sums at auction.
Never underestimate the power of being able to relive your youth. So if you’re in the UAE and fancy a dabble, what’s the best first step? How do you spend smart when it comes to buying a vehicle that might be more than half a century old?
Generally, the rarer the car, the more it will be worth, especially if it’s an early example of a model that could be considered a game changer. Values of original Range Rovers and Audi Quattros are going through the roof as the motoring world comes to recognise their importance to the landscape. Significant anniversaries also affect values – evidenced when Jaguar’s maligned XJ220 turned 20 years old in 2012. Only 275 were ever made and, within months of the motoring media turning a spotlight on this Jag’s history, values had increased by some 50 per cent – and they’ve kept on climbing over the past five years.Originality is also key. One of 64 road-going McLaren F1s has just surfaced in Japan, completely unused, with its interior still wrapped in protective paper, squirrelled away for 20 years after its patient owner paid approximately Dh3.5 million for it. Industry experts are speculating that, when it sells, it will go for more than Dh95 million. “Without a doubt, this is one of the most important road cars ever to be offered for sale,” says Tom Hartley Jr in London, who is selling it on behalf of the anonymous Japanese businessman, “and if preserved, is highly likely to be the most valuable road car in the world in years to come.”You needn’t spend vast sums, though, to make a decent return on a car. For sale in Dubai at the time of writing is a 1992 Porsche 928 GTS – the most desirable variant of a model that has seen a significant resurgence over the past couple of years. It’s covered 115,000km from new, and the asking price is Dh80,000. To buy an equivalent example in Europe you’d need to spend nearly Dh260,000.Air-cooled Porsche 911s are almost always a safe investment – and the rarer they are, the better. Currently there is a 1994 964-generation Turbo available in Dubai that’s showing 54,000km, for Dh920,000. Elsewhere, that car would be going for about Dh1.1 million, and values will only increase over time. There’s a Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster advertised for Dh799,000, while in Germany, an identical car is listed at Dh1.2 million – the disparities between countries are often even greater.The laws of supply and demand apply here as much as anywhere else in the world, so in a country where there are more used Ferraris on sale than Volvos, prices will naturally be keener than they are in regions where these supercars are in shorter supply.
The same can be said in reverse: buy a car in Europe or in the United States, where there’s no shortage of models like old Triumphs and Austin Healeys, then ship it over here, where they’re often worth much more due to their scarcity.Assyl Yacine, head of Dubai’s leading classic car dealership Tomini Classics, has seen the market here shifting over the past few years, with increasing appreciation for older, collectable models. “People are starting to wake up to the appeal of European classics,” he says. “American and Japanese classics have always been in demand here, understandably, as those were the brands available in the early days of this country. But now, as more and more expats are turning to classic cars as investments rather than property, art and the like, prices for certain models are falling into line with other countries.”It’s a market like any other– you need to be shrewd, fully clued-up and ready to spend when something worth buying appears for sale. The classic car bubble could burst at any moment, obviously, but there’s no sign of it doing so anytime soon. In the meantime, especially now that the temperate winter months are upon us, perhaps it’s time to take the plunge and put some money into something you’ll actually enjoy while knowing that, when the time comes to sell it, you’ll make a tidy return. How many other investments can you confidently say that about?
View from the top
Sentiment is divided when it comes to investing in mid-level London residences. However, while the property-buying frenzy of 2013 may have abated – owing to political uncertainty and an increase in stamp duty charges – the city continues to attract a large number of luxury-home hunters. Indeed, Central London is abuzz with high-end developments. These are residences that carry the coveted W1 and SW1 postcodes – spaces that promise owners every conceivable luxury. Awe-inspiring views? Check. Well-appointed amenities? In droves. Opulent interiors? At every turn. Concierge services? Twenty-four hours a day.
International investors look to London for its transparent legal system, cosmopolitan populace, excellent cultural and education offerings, and widespread usage of English, the uncontested lingua franca of the world. Property buyers from the Middle East have long favoured London for their second-home and investment decisions. Enness, a London-based mortgage brokerage that opened its fourth office in the UAE earlier this year, reported a 31 per cent increase in inquiries from GCC clients in the past six months, while a survey conducted by YouGov last year found that London was second only to Dubai as a preferred destination for Gulf investors. “We are seeing a rise in interest from a younger set of buyers from the Middle East, as a new generation is being educated to follow in the footsteps of their fathers, who had invested in central London in the 1980s – during the last major dip in the property cycle. The offspring are familiar with the areas of Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Belgravia because of family excursions in their younger years,” says David Adams, director of real estate agency Humberts Mayfair.
“Of course, some investors are looking outside of traditional locations, especially if they can buy six bedrooms for the price of one. The properties in demand are lateral two, three and four bedroom apartments between £2 million and £7m [up to Dh34 million]. For the UAE, the currency devaluation – the pound has lost more than 10 per cent of its value against the dollar [to which the dirham is pegged] – is a window of opportunity to put a portion of money back into London’s bricks and mortar.”
Saul Empson, director of one of London’s oldest independent real estate agencies, Haringtons, adds: “Right now, the selection of luxury real estate is good, and prices are better than they have been for a while. The pound is low and I can’t stress strongly enough how important it is to take advantage of these periodic hiatuses in the London market – the clever man always buys counter-cyclically. When looking for a home in prime London postcodes, buy the best of the best. Prime property always performs well and is easiest to sell in a downturn.”
The recently announced Broadway community is a good example. Developed by Abu Dhabi Finance Group-owned Northacre property company, in collaboration with Squire & Partners, The Broadway is inspired by 1920s jewellery. Its towers are named after the famous Sancy, Paragon and Cullinan diamonds, and feature shimmering facades. The properties offer spectacular views that take in the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Horse Guards Parade, St James’s Park and Green Park.
“Each of The Broadway’s buildings has been designed and positioned to protect the viewing corridors related to the neighbouring heritage assets, whilst the materials used reflect the sandstone and brick of the wider area,” says Michael Squire, founder of Squire & Partners.
In addition to the grand entrances and lobbies, trophy apartments and entertainment spaces exclusively available to homeowners, the 1.72-acre site will also include a 20,00-square-foot pedestrianised square, a 26,000-square-foot retail collection and 118,000 square feet of office space, upon completion in 2021. Niccolo Barattieri di San Pietro, chief executive of Northacre, says: “While London property prices have indeed started coming off since 2014, what we’ve seen is a flight to quality. Whenever the market slows down, quality is always gold.”
Other top-notch mixed-use communities include One Blackfriars, due to be completed next year, and the ready-to-move-into One Tower Bridge. The former, by Berkeley Group developer St George, incorporates 274 homes, a boutique hotel, a landscaped piazza and 24-hour concierge services through Harrods Estates.
Another Berkeley property, One Tower Bridge in South Bank, has one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, plus two show apartments designed to encapsulate the work of three fashion designers: the Burberry master bedroom uses a palette of the brand’s ivory, beige and grey hues and is designed after key elements, such as trench coats, scarves and bags. The Paul Smith bedroom features a multicoloured striped headboard in keeping with the menswear designer’s oeuvre. And the Alexander McQueen room displays an original, hand-painted, pale silk scarf framed on the wall, as well as a lace-motif wallpaper.
Not all community developments run into multiple towers and hundreds of homes, though. Centre Point in the West End has 82 apartments, while the 16-storey Chiltern Place in the vibrant Marylebone area has 55 apartments and one four-bedroom town house. Chiltern is the first residential project by fashion designer Tomasz Starzewski, who has previously only ever created interiors for the royal family. His first commercial design project is all bronzed façades, floor-to-ceiling glazing and bespoke hand-set terracotta.
In fact, when it comes to design, Rory Cramer, head of consultancy at Marsh & Parsons, says that developers can no longer create cookie-cutter schemes aimed at the many, rather than the few. “Buyers at the top end are more discerning than ever; they want both quality and craftsmanship. In particular, the joinery is not an area where developers should cut corners. We always advise using the best trade craftsmen to ensure show-stopping design that will stand the test of time, and that owners will be proud to show off.”
Ian Bayliss, co-founder of interior design firm Bowler James Brindley, adds: “Quality craftsmanship can really bring a development to life. Every apartment should tell a story and take the viewer on a journey. World-class artisans, who are the best in their trade, should be called upon to conjure bespoke pieces of furniture and joinery.”
The firm also places an emphasis on local sourcing, as is evident in its current projects: a penthouse at the Nova Building in Victoria that uses London-based furniture makers including Justin Van Breda; and the One Crown Place, where “it is our intention to use local silk manufacturers”, says Bayliss.
Another example of evocative design, Clarges Mayfair sits plum on Piccadilly, and its 34 premium residences reference the area’s tailoring and craftsmanship heritage. The gates, for instance, take inspiration from the “piccadill” ruffled collar. Interior firm Martin Kemp Design has also created conditions that allow for the year-round running of fur fridges and cosmetics fridges within the electrically powered wardrobes placed within each residence.
Lead interior designer Martin Kemp says: “Our stylistic inspirations came from fashion, industry, style, geography and location. This manifests itself in the design and attention to detail, from the entrance doors through to the tight-knit upholstery, and rich luxurious fabrics and detailing in the carpet. Welcoming the neighbourhood back into the building, we have designed a series of art deco lift doors using embossed metals, depicting a map of Mayfair. The result is as intricate as a tailored textile, informed by the traditions of the area.”Likewise, Beau House on Jermyn Street in St James’s takes inspiration from Beau Brummell, the celebrated arbiter of men’s clothing. Its seven apartments are replete with fashion-inspired pieces, including a striking poppy flower wall hanging by Alexander McQueen. Antique mirrors hang on walls upholstered in panelled calf skin leather, while intricate glasswork is integrated into bespoke cabinetry.Community living aside, London also recently welcomed the world’s first stand-alone and independent Four Seasons Private Residences, brought to the historic Twenty Grosvenor Square in Mayfair by design and development firm Finchatton.
London’s second largest garden square has been a famous haunt for lords, ladies, dukes and knights since it was developed in the 18th century. The new 250,000-square-foot property houses 37 apartments in three-, four- and five-bedroom formats, which will be ready next year. The residences will be serviced by Four Seasons employees and offer five-star-hotel-style luxuries such as in-residence dining, salon and spa services, a fitness centre, and housekeeping and concierge desks, as well as a cinema, garden room, child and pet care, and even grocery-stocking staff.“Buyers quite rightly expect world-class amenities when purchasing a luxury property. Partnering with Four Seasons to deliver this, and more, at Twenty Grosvenor Square, will bring the very best to one of London’s most distinguished locations,” says Andrew Dunn, co-founder of Finchatton.For homeowners who prefer to live or holiday in a completely stand-alone space, the city also has a handful of luxury apartments and historic mansions on offer. A one-bedroom town house in Queen’s Gate, Kensington, recently came on the market for £4m, as did a restored Victorian mansion in the leafy village of Highgate.
The 10,000-square-foot Highgate property maintains its original red brick façade and period architectural details, while within lie contemporary interiors, a home cinema and a leisure suite with a pool, hot tub, sauna, gym and bar. Technology lies at the heart of this £10m home: Creston touchscreen panels control the temperature, music and security systems; underfloor heating runs across the length of the house; and a passenger lift serves the six floors. Simon Edwards, a consultant for Savills real estate, says: “It is unusual to see a property of such spacious proportions, both inside and out, in this area. Surrounded by excellent schools, a thriving local community and the ancient Highgate Woods, this property will appeal to local and international buyers who value period houses with contemporary interiors.”
Options, then, are aplenty; it’s just a matter of which location and luxuries appeal.
Even members of the sporting elite need role models. And for Zara Tindall, one of Britain’s top equestrian athletes, that role model was Pat Smythe. “I can remember reading about Pat Smythe when I was a child,” Tindall recalls. “She was highly regarded in Britain, and the inspiration for a lot of young women who went on to become top riders. She was one of the first to establish a path for women in the sport, and to prove that equestrianism had the global popularity to be massively successful.”
Smythe was the first woman to travel the world competing internationally, winning major Grand Prix events on her own horses in more countries than any man or woman had ever done before. In 1956, she became the first woman to ride in an Olympic showjumping event and the first to win a medal. In addition to blazing a trail for female athletes, in 1957, Smythe also became the first equestrian Rolex Testimonee – a further mark of her success. The concept of Testimonees came about in 1927, when Mercedes Gleitze crossed the English Channel wearing a Rolex Oyster, the world’s first waterproof wristwatch. Since then, Rolex has championed athletes across a range of sporting disciplines.
There is a neat symmetry in the fact that Tindall went on to also become a Rolex Testimonee, in 2006, the same year that she won an individual gold and team silver at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen.
One of the other unarguable highlights of Tindall’s career was winning a team silver at the 2012 London Olympics. In this, she followed in the footsteps of not only her idol Smythe, but of her own parents as well. Her father, Captain Mark Phillips, won team gold at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, while her mother, Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, rode for Team Great Britain at the 1976 Olympics, becoming the first member of the British royal family to compete in the Olympic Games.
“Riding in London was very special for me – especially in front of a home crowd,” Tindall recalls. “Great Britain won team silver, and I was presented with the medal by my mother, due to her role as president of the British Olympic Association.”
Given her pedigree, Tindall’s chosen career path is hardly surprising, she admits. “With my parents excelling in equestrian sport, it was probably inevitable that I would end up involved one day.”
She first came to the attention of the eventing world with victory as a junior rider at the Under-25 Championship and an individual silver medal at the European Young Riders Championship. In June 2003, at the age of just 22, she finished as runner-up at the Burghley Horse Trials in the United Kingdom.
As with many leading equestrians, Tindall attributes much of her early success to her horse at the time, a handsome chestnut gelding called Toytown. “I think the best advice I was given was to try and build a strong bond with your horse. Over the years, this has helped in my career, and it is still relevant today.
“Toytown was a once-in-a-lifetime horse,” she continues. “He wasn’t the most natural eventer at the start, but as our relationship grew, success followed. You ride horses and hope they have the potential to make it – Toytown just excelled in every area and we went from strength to strength.”
Of course, as with any sporting career, there have been as many lows as there have been highs – most notably in 2008, when Tindall was selected to ride for Great Britain at the Beijing Olympic Games, but was forced to withdraw when Toytown suffered a training injury. “There are more low points than highs with horses, so it makes the high points even more special. Injuries happen all the time and there’s very little you can do about it,” she says.
Toytown was retired in 2011, leaving Tindall to ride a new horse, High Kingdom, in the 2012 Olympic Games. The duo went on to win team silver at the World Equestrian Games in August 2014 – a particularly impressive achievement given that Tindall’s daughter, Mia, was born in January, just seven months before the games.
“What surprised me about having a baby is losing all your fitness, and how tough it is to get it back to a high level again. I do have help with Mia, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to ride. Eventing is physically demanding, but I try to do extra exercise, like swimming and cycling, to stay fit.
“The eventing circuit is great for children and families, so I expect Mia will grow up with horses around her – just like her mum.”
This unassuming bowl comes with a hefty price tag: Dh138,473,000
The brush-washer bowl dates back to China’s Song Dynasty (960 to 1279). And yet, despite being an estimated 900 years old, it is in pristine condition. Brush washers were traditionally used by the artists of the imperial court in ancient China, to clean their delicate calligraphy tools and paintbrushes.
The imperial court commissioned this piece from the most notable of the era’s five great kilns in Ruzhou, which was known for using the rarest – and hence most desirable – ceramics. The bowl is defined by its classic proportions and three “sesame seed” depressions, where it rested on kiln supports.
The bowl, which has a five-inch diameter, is a rare example of Ru guanyao or Ru-ware, which is known for its intense blue-green glaze and ice-crackle pattern. The glaze is applied in several layers, as well as over the rim.
Ru-ware is revered in Asia, where it has almost mythical status, due to its short-lived production period (these ceramics are generally believed to have been created by a few kilns over a period of only 20 years). In fact, only four pieces of heirloom Ru-ware are known to currently exist in private collections.
This example from the Le Cong Tang collection was formerly owned by the Chang Foundation. It sold at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction last month, going for more than double its pre-sale estimate of US$13 million, and set a world record for Chinese ceramics. The sale beat the previous auction record of $36.3m, held by a “Chicken Cup” from the Ming Dynasty.
Other notable pieces from the celebrated collection at the Sotheby’s
Hong Kong auction include: a peony box and cover with floret appliqué from the Yaozhou kilns (Dh2.3m); a rare and exceptional imperial heirloom brown-splashed, black-glazed lobed dish (Dh6.8m); and a Dingyao ribbed tripod incense burner (Dh8.5m). The auction garnered total sales of Dh171.8m.
Into the badlands
Alexander McCall Smith
The 69-year-old Scottish author of The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has sold over 40 million copies of more than 100 titles, ranging from mysteries and short stories to children’s books and academic texts. An avid sailor and art collector, McCall Smith says he manages to maintain his passions despite a strict work regimen.
The author will host a talk at next year’s Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature in Dubai
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would you be?
I would like to find myself in the Australian bush – around Western Australia. When it is not too hot, the air has a lovely dry quality and the trees have the scent of eucalyptus. I would love to wake up to the extraordinary sounds of birdsong, which is absolutely gorgeous. I normally wake up at 4am and write till 7am every day.
Your perfect meal: where are you and what are you eating?
I am in Tuscany in a small and simple Italian restaurant. I would begin with tasty bean soup – they love their beans in Tuscany – followed by an elegant pasta with olive oil and lots of garlic.
Your dream home: what does it look like?
An old building in France with stone floors and a view of the mountains.
What does luxury mean to you?
To me, it means the aesthetic satisfaction that comes with well-designed surroundings. I am not one to demand water flowing from golden taps, but I would like some beauty in the design. And you know what? That can be simple, too. Simplicity and luxury can go hand in hand.
What’s the most overrated luxury, according to you?
Designer clothes – they are totally overrated.
What was your first-ever luxury purchase?
I bought myself a mottled green fountain pen when I was really young, and I remember being so proud of it.
Are you a collector?
I do have a nice collection of paintings. They are very important to me, and I get great pleasure from looking at them. I have a particular interest in early Scottish paintings and portraiture.
What are you reading at the moment?
I tend to have a whole lot of books on the go, one of which is On Betrayal by Avishai Margalit. This is quite interesting as it is a philosophical study on betrayal and what it means to betray people, locations or causes. Also, every so often, I return to the works of Homer, and I am presently working my way through the Iliad. Before, I read excerpts of it – now I plan to read the whole thing.
Do you use an e-reader?
I tend to read physical books because I love the experience of holding one. But I do understand that on-screen reading is more convenient, and I do think there is a world for both.
What’s your next holiday destination?
Sri Lanka is next on the list. I have been looking forward to exploring this beautiful country for a while.
Three things you always travel with?
A copy of W H Auden’s collection of poems, a portable kettle and supply of redbush tea, as well as Marmite. I find that hotels don’t often have kettles, and instead they have a coffee maker – you can’t be having tea from an appliance used to make coffee.
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?
There are two lines in one of the poems by W H Auden, which to me encompasses my philosophy in life. He wrote: “If equal affection cannot be, then let the more loving one be me.” You can go through life with just that, and it would answer a lot of life’s philosophical questions.
What’s your favourite song?
A piece from Mozart’s opera Così fan tutte called Soave sia il vento. It’s the most beautiful piece of music ever written in my view, and its message is lovely. The message of the aria is, effectively, may the winds of your voyage be gentle, and may all your desires in life be met.
Time for change
Sarah Maisey speaks to Luc Pettavino, the dynamic founder of Only Watch, a unique auction that he founded to raise funds for a cause close to his heart
It’s not every day that you come across a story that combines high-end excess and raw, human emotion – but Only Watch does precisely that.
Even though most people won’t have heard of Only Watch, it has evolved into one of the biggest watch sales in the world, and the work it is funding has the potential to benefit us all. The sale, led by auctioneers Christie’s, will take place on November 11 in Geneva, and will feature incredible one-of-a-kind timepieces that have all been made and donated by the world’s major watchmakers.
The biannual sale, now in its seventh edition, is the brainchild of Luc Pettavino – the dynamic and personable founder of the Monaco Yacht Show. He set up Only Watch to raise funds for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a severe and progressive degenerative disease caused by a deficiency in the protein dystrophin, which helps keep muscle cells intact. Dystrophin is essential for maintaining muscle function and, without it, the body cannot renew itself. The result is a relentless decline in muscle mass, for which there is no cure.
Although women are carriers of the defective gene that causes DMD, sufferers are almost exclusively male, and it affects one in 3,500. Following a diagnosis at birth, the average age for survival is just 26 years. Unfortunately, it is not only newborns who are at risk, as the gene mutation that halts the production of dystrophin can develop at any age.
In 2000, Pettavino and his family received the devastating news that their 5-year-old son, Paul, was suffering from this disease. “Imagine having muscles that work less and less, until finally they don’t work at all,” Pettavino says when I meet him in Dubai. “This is muscular dystrophy. It is a change in DNA, and it is an extremely severe condition. Thanks to medical care, we have extended the lives of patients, but there still is no cure.”
Confronted with the reality of this life-changing diagnosis, the Pettavino family was faced with a decision: to collapse under the hand of fate, or to stand and fight – and they chose the latter. “As always, when you tell a story, you reduce it to its best, but life is much more difficult than that,” Pettavino says. “Daily life is made of ups and downs, but we are a joyful family. Our DNA was to say: ‘OK, we, not only Paul, have received this challenging data. Do we have the capacity to not be victims? Can we override that and try to transform it into possibilities?’
“After the first wave of shock, I thought: ‘What are my skills? What are my abilities? What can I do?’” he continues. “So I went to see researchers [specialising in DMD] and asked if there was anything we could do that did not already exist.
“They said: ‘We should have a place where we can all come together, share results from our labs and be very open, and challenge and discuss.’”
This led Pettavino to set up two entities, the Monaco Round Table and the Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies, both dedicated to bringing different – and often rival – research bodies together to work towards a common cause. To make such organisations work effectively, however, it soon became apparent that huge amounts of money would be required.
After some initial fundraising efforts, Pettavino decided to reach out to contacts made through the Monaco Yacht Show, in particular watch manufactures, with the seemingly outlandish request that they each donate a timepiece that could be put up for auction. Paul Pettavino’s story clearly struck a chord, because not only did the houses each donate a piece, but they also began to create unique and one-off items specifically for the sale. From this generosity of spirit, Only Watch was born. “I do not want to make a personal story into a personal event. I want to transform it into a universal story. The idea was to have a very direct, positive, creative discussion with all these watchmakers, and try to find a cure for DMD together,” Pettavino says.
“During Only Watch, it is never a question of one family fighting for their boy, but a question of can we transform this, and apply a beautiful creativity and bring people together, with no contract whatsoever? There is nothing signed with anyone, it is just by word of mouth. It is good for all of us because it shows that it is possible. Each one of us has an open heart and the capacity to give – it is just how you connect with this reserve of altruism and goodness. It is just there, in every human being.”
It is now 12 years and €25 million (Dh107.9m) later. To help build momentum ahead of this year’s edition of Only Watch, Pettavino embarked on a world tour with all 52 of the unique pieces up for auction, stopping in 10 cities, including, for the first time, Dubai. When I visit the exhibition at The Ritz-Carlton Dubai International Financial Centre, glass cases are filled with rare and extraordinary timepieces by the likes of Arnold & Son, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Jaquet Droz, to name a few.
Present at the event is David Linley, the honorary chairman of Christie’s for Europe, Middle East, Russia and India. I ask him what it means for the auction house to be involved. “This year, Christie’s is the auctioneer, and it’s a huge honour and privilege for us to do it. This is the reason we are all so keen to be involved, for the positivity and the results of the research. I am a great admirer of what Luc has achieved, and I am one of the ambassadors for this project,” he says.
In addition to donating timepieces, this year Pettavino has made a further request of each of the brands involved. To appeal to non-watch-collectors who are also keen to get involved, he has requested that the maisons also offer, wherever possible, an experience to complement their watch.
Remy Julia, head of watches for Christie’s Middle East, India and Africa, explains: “Luc is the centrepiece, and he pressed a special button this year for the brands and manufacturers to try and come out with a special experience. We can take the example of Piaget, which is a very traditional brand, but they are coming with a special treat linked to their collaboration with Art Dubai. Another is Blancpain, which has a very well-known 50 Fathoms timepiece, so it is linking this watch to an experience with a world-champion freediver.”
Among other items and experiences is a Chopard Superfast 8Hz Power Control Porsche 919 Only Watch 2017, which carries with it attendance to the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix in the company of legendary driver Jacky Ickx. It’s a steal at an estimated US$19,000 to $26,000 (up to Dh95,505).
Ulysse Nardin has crafted the Marine Tourbillon Only Watch piece, and will offer the winning bidder an additional two-day trip to the Monaco Yacht show, while Hublot (which has supported the auction since 2005), is offering a meeting with Olympic athlete Usain Bolt alongside its Big Bang Unico Sapphire Usain Bolt for Only Watch. Anyone interested in this should be prepared to spend between $52,000 and $83,000 for the privilege.
Closer to home, Bell & Ross’s BR-X1 R.S 17 Only Watch timepiece comes with a trip to the Abu Dhabi Formula One as the guest of Renault, including a meeting with the racing team and a gift of Nico Hülkenberg’s race gloves.
Even those not offering experiences have strived to create something unique. MCT Watches, for example, teamed up with the artist Anish Kapoor to create the S200 VantaBlack – named for a material that absorbs 99.96 per cent of light, making it the blackest material in the universe.
Linley shed some light on why such collaborations are so important. “As a frustrated designer and inventor of watches myself, it is the inventiveness that triggers the next development phase. I think the reason a lot of watch brands want to be involved is the opportunity to show what they are capable of, even if they never make one again. That is the point about watches, isn’t it? They are sculptures, works of art and a whole process of engineering.”
Although the sale will raise even more money, tragically, any inroads into research will come too late for Paul Pettavino, who passed away late last year, just before his 21st birthday. “Paul was a very wise soul,” Pettavino tells me. “He was resilient and joyful. He had a very subtle and constant light, and any time you were in his surroundings, you felt OK. I saw what life imposed on him – heavy operations, his spine needed 36 devices to hold it because his muscles were wasting away, but Paul was very quick to say: ‘OK, what are we doing today?’ The idea is carpe diem. Be afraid, be scared, but go on. Don’t be held back by your fears.”
Monique Pettavino, wife of Luc and mother of Paul, sums it up beautifully: “Using watches is a good parallel because of the time element there is with every illness. With DMD, it is a race. This illness, because it is genetic, can happen to anyone, like cancer. You hope something can save you instantly,
Resurfacing with great fanfare
If they’re lucky, front-row guests at fashion week shows will walk away with all kinds of branded memorabilia. In the case of Christian Dior’s autumn/winter 2017 haute couture show this summer, front-row VIPs like Celine Dion, Kirsten Dunst, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lawrence and Chiara Ferragni were treated to traditional folding fans, stamped with the words Dior Couture Fall 2017. Many were pictured using the stylish giveaway over the course of the rest of the week, since it provided a fashionable way to seek relief from the heat, while also attracting picture-hungry street-style snappers.
This isn’t the first time that a fashion house has appropriated the age-old, hand-held fan. A season earlier, for spring/summer 2017, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele styled his male and female models with Japanese-inspired iterations. Crafted from bamboo and silk, his Gucci fans were emblazoned with a red flower and bordered with the name of the Italian fashion house in a bold, gothic text. Those who wrote the fans off as runway gimmicks may have been surprised to see them in-store, where they retailed for Dh1,515 each. Beyoncé proudly displayed hers at an NBA All-Stars basketball game in New York.
Rihanna’s Fenty line for sportswear label Puma also included a fan for spring/summer 2016. Hers was a folding, accordion-style version, and featured the word Puma spelt out in pink lace, layered over lighter pink lace with scalloped edges.
These modern, designer-made fans offer a more sophisticated way to cool down – but while it may have now cemented its status as practical handbag essential for concerts, sports games and the crowded front rows of fashion weeks, the accessory has been dipping in and out of the limelight for years.
Though they may be associated with Spanish flamenco dances or Japanese geisha performances, fans were first used for more fundamental purposes. Historians believe that rudimentary renderings of fans were utilised in prehistoric times to swat away insects or direct air towards a flame to keep a fire going. But portable, hand-held fans as we know them, originated in East Asia. The two main types are pleated or foldable fans, and the rigid variety – Rihanna’s Puma Fenty design is an example of the former, while Gucci’s popular style is a recreation of the latter. It remains uncertain whether the fan was invented in China or Japan, since both countries claim ownership of the idea. The foldable version was originally created from strips of bamboo, and was used by members of the middle class, who weren’t fortunate enough to have hired help to fan them – a luxury enjoyed by the upper class.
In the 1500s, they were introduced to Europe by the Portuguese, who had discovered fans in China and exported them for trade. The fan quickly became a trend, with its use peaking during the Elizabethan period – in her many portraits, Queen Elizabeth I is often depicted with a lavish fan in hand. Designs two generations later would be adorned with gold, silks, feathers and gemstones. Special varieties were created for funerals and widows, and these usually featured black lace.
Previously reserved for royalty and aristocrats, fans became accessible to the bourgeois when printing became popular in the 18th century. Formerly decorated with Biblical illustrations, new fans were printed with lighthearted riddles, fortunetelling games, maps and greetings.
Although they went out of fashion for a while, in 1827, Jean-Pierre Duvelleroy launched his fan house in Paris, eager for his couture creations to inspire a rebirth of the trend. The notion of a “fan language” was born. According to Duvelleroy, if a woman fans slowly, it signifies that she is married, and if her fanning is fast, it means she is engaged. If she carries it in her right hand in front of her face, it means “follow me”, and if she twirls it in her left hand, it means “we’re being watched”.
By the 20th century, fans became a fundamental form of branding and advertising, and were often used for promotional purposes. These mass designs, sometimes fashioned from plastic as opposed to wood, lacked the couture touch and intricate artwork of their predecessors, and were used to present menus, catalogues and recital programmes.
Now, in 2017, hand-held fans are back in vogue, and promotion is yet again at the heart of the movement. After all, fans that feature covetable designer logos are hardly purchased for their practicality. If you’re going to wave your hand with a flourish to expose the inner secrets of your fan, what would you rather show the world – or your social-media followers? A picturesque cherry blossom pattern, or the name of a world-famous fashion house?
Panna Munyal rounds up five of the coolest digital solutions that earned a nomination at the 8th Wearable Technologies World Cup Series this year
Keep an eye on the kids with Wanderwatch
This outdoor-play smartwatch for kids has a GPS and Wi-Fi tracking device, and a smart locator to ensure parents know where their kids are at any given point. It also has a protected chat function that enables secure communication, as well as fun features such as a camera, flashlight, colourful screen options, chat doodles and games such as treasure hunts. Parents can preset the watch with a password to set it to “school mode”, which locks down all but the device’s time-telling and GPS-tracking functions. Above all, the deceptively lightweight Wanderwatch is designed with security in mind. All communication data and a child’s whereabouts is encrypted. Even if someone were to get their hands on a parent’s account and password, the app would restrict them from logging in from a different phone.
Track your valuables with Looper
You don’t technically need to wear this gadget on your person, but you can tack it on to valuables – from bags and car keys to kids and pets – that you’re worried about losing or leaving behind. The smartphone app, developed by Idio Creative Works, connects with Looper’s Bluetooth sensor, which is cleverly disguised inside a tassel crafted from Italian leather. If the tracker detects that you’ve strayed too far from the item, both your phone and the device will sound an alarm. To locate items that may be close, yet hidden, you can push the app’s Find It button to activate a ringing sound. Should you happen to leave your belongings behind, you can check the map on the app to find out your Looper’s last location, and even share this with friends. And, if you lose your phone, you can reverse the process and press a button located on the gadget, which will cause your phone to sound out.
Anti-snoring armband by Sleep AI
In computer displays, filmmaking, television production, and other kinetic displays, scrolling is sliding text, images or video across a monitor or display, vertically or horizontally. "Scrolling", as such, does not change the layout of the text or pictures, but moves (pans or tilts) the user's view across what is apparently a larger image that is not wholly seen. A common television and movie special effect is to scroll credits, while leaving the background stationary. Scrolling may take place completely without user intervention (as in film credits) or, on an interactive device, be triggered by touchscreen or computer mouse motion or a keypress and continue without further intervention until a further user action, or be entirely controlled by input devices. Scrolling may take place in discrete increments (perhaps one or a few lines of text at a time), or continuously (smooth scrolling). Frame rate is the speed at which an entire image is redisplayed. It is related to scrolling in that changes to text and image position can only happen as often as the image can be redisplayed. When frame rate is a limiting factor, one smooth scrolling technique is to blur images during movement that would otherwise appear to "jump". The term scrolling is also used for a type of misbehavior in an online chat room whereby one person forces the screens of others in a chat to scroll by inserting much noise or special control characters.
Brainy bracelet by EJoy
Made in Italy from Murano glass and Carrara marble, this bracelet incorporates two key functions related to the world of wearable technology: it tracks your health and doubles as a contact point for your smartphone. The former includes such functions as heart rate monitoring, pedometer and calorie counting, while the latter ensures control over your phone, as well as displaying your daily to-do list. It also includes features such as contactless payment and medical data storage solutions for emergencies and health insurance purposes. Available in a range of colours and LED display screens, the EJoy (Emotional Jewelry On You) bracelet was launched at Venice Design Week last year under the smart-jewellery category. www.ejoyjewelry.com
Life-saving head gear by SmartCap Technologies
This fatigue-monitoring smart cap works in tandem with the Life app, which enables users – notably, long-distance drivers – to prevent the onset of “microsleeps”, by providing accurate alertness measurements in real time. Microsleep, or unintended lapses in or loss of attention, is a condition induced by monotonous tasks or brought on by staring continuously in the same direction or at the same object. The app links with a LifeBand that uses predictive EEG, which is a non-invasive sleep-science brainwave technology, to track exhaustion levels, which can be viewed on a “speedometer” style graphic. The app sets off a warning alarm when it detects that the wearer is about to nod off, and also alerts wearers when the band is fitted incorrectly. The headgear is available in the form of a cap, hard hat or beanie that can be attached to the band, which can also be worn by itself. The app has Bluetooth connectivity and adjusts the mobile screen for night and daytime settings. www.smartcaptech.com
“I believe in the handmade and the heart-made,” says Nada Debs. It’s more than just lip service – the Lebanese creative was one of the first to incorporate traditional Middle Eastern crafts and motifs into contemporary furniture design. Her most famous pieces feature arabesque patterns carved into rich maple and ash woods; mother-of-pearl inlay sweeping across the front of cabinets, or juxtaposed with resin to stunning effect; and buttons shaped like traditional Ma’amoul pastries adorning headboards and sofas.
Given her support of “makers”, her most recent collaboration, with the Fatima Bint Mohamed Bin Zayed Initiative (FBMI), is a perfect pairing. FBMI was launched in 2010 and employs local Afghani women to hand-weave carpets using age-old techniques that might otherwise cease to exist. Since its launch, FBMI has hired more than 3,000 Afghani artisans, 70 per cent of whom are women, and 35 per cent of whom are widows, and thus the sole breadwinners in their families.
Carpets are crafted using vegan dyes and materials sourced from within Afghanistan – either fine hand-spun cotton sourced from the northern regions, or wool sheared from free-range and hormone-free sheep that live in the country’s mountains and plains.
“Nada Debs’s essence resonates with that of FBMI,” notes Maywand Jabarkhyl, the executive director of the initiative. “Her interest in producing and working closely with artisans and authentic craftsmen made it an obvious choice for us to enlist her,” he adds.
FBMI commissioned Debs to create a series of contemporary rugs titled You & I, and the fruits of their collaboration were unveiled at Abu Dhabi Art. They will go on to be shown at Dubai Design Week from November 13 to 18.
Debs visited FBMI’s production site in Kabul on various occasions, where she met with the weavers. “It is impossible for me to design in a vacuum,” she says. “I draw much of my inspiration from sitting with the craftspeople, feeling the material and feeding off the energy emanating from the process.”
The resultant series of carpets seeks to strike a balance between the old and the new – and to highlight how design can act as a bridge between different cultures. The carpets are defined by their atypical shapes, consisting of overlapping circles, squares and rectangles. What starts as a plain colour scheme gradually darkens as it moves from one end of the rug to the other, and ends in a crescendo of pattern. According to Debs, the effect is representative of a line from Rumi’s poem A Moment of Happiness: “Apparently two, but one in soul”.
The designs are in keeping with FBMI’s efforts to reinstate carpets as prized items, rather than mere accessories. As Debs explains: “It is with this mandate in mind that we have designed the rugs; the different approach to patterns, the varying levels of wool and, most importantly, the unconventional shape focuses the attention and establishes the rug as an anchor around which the space is set up.”
This month’s names, numbers & events of note
LOUVRE ABU DHABI
Ten years in the making, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has opened its doors to the public.
The museum will launch with almost 700 exhibits, approximately half of which will belong to the museum’s permanent collection, while the other half will consist of loans from 13 major French cultural institutions, including the Louvre Museum, the Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The loans will include Monet’s La Gare Saint-Lazare, a self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronniére (Portrait of an Unknown Woman), which will leave Europe for the first time to become the first painting by the Renaissance polymath to be exhibited in the Middle East.
“Abu Dhabi has put its hand on its heart and said that the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s messages are ones that it wants to send to the rest of the world: messages of unity, acceptance, connectivity and tolerance,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. “These were messages that were important 1,000 years ago, but are even more important today and Abu Dhabi is the beacon that will broadcast these messages to the Arab world and to the rest of the world.” www.louvreabudhabi.ae
Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels’ School of Jewelry Arts, L’Ecole, is running a public programme developed specially for its “nomadic campus” in Dubai, which is located at Hai D3 in the Dubai Design District until November 25. The initiative by the French jewellery maison is a first for the Middle East, and follows successful activations in New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. As well as classes for adults and children, the school is hosting a number of events that are free to attend, including exhibitions, evening conversations on a wide range of cultural topics and outdoor classic cinema screenings – all carefully selected to appeal to anyone with an interest in the history and traditions of fine jewellery. Guest speakers from around the world will lead discussions centred on Emirati adornment culture, pearls and minerals, while the cinema screenings pay homage to Hollywood’s love affair with jewellery, with Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1955), as well as the epic Cleopatra (1963) scheduled to be shown. The school is holding 14 classes for adults, for which a donation of Dh400 per person will be required, and five workshops for youngsters that are free of charge. All the money collected will be donated to Dubai Cares, the philanthropic organisation that helps millions of children around the world.
Sotheby’s will be holding its Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels auction at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Geneva on November 15, during which a pair of extraordinary yellow diamonds will be sold. Expected to fetch between Dh33 million and Dh51 million, the 82.47-carat and 102.54-carat stones were formerly part of the princely Family von Donnersmarck collection, and were the stars of the show at Sotheby’s inaugural Noble Jewels auction 10 years ago. The pear-shaped and cushion-shaped stones, known as the Donnersmarck Diamonds, belonged to La Païva, Countess Henckel von Donnersmarck, one of France’s most famous 19-century courtesans, whose penchant for fine jewellery was legendary. La Païva, who was born in Russia and relocated to Paris at the age of 18, was married to Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck, a Prussian industrialist and one of Europe’s wealthiest men, who sated her appetite for exquisite jewels with one of the finest collections in the world. The pair of fancy intense yellow diamonds remained in the Donnersmarck family until 2007, when they were auctioned, and became part of a private collection. Demand for “noble” jewellery with impeccable provenance is at an all-time high, and few stones have such fascinating histories as these exquisite ones.
Kartell x Paula Cademartori
Brazilian designer Paula Cademartori has partnered with Italian design brand Kartell on a new capsule collection that will be exclusively available through Sauce in the UAE. The bright totes and beachwear sandals are inspired by Rio de Janeiro’s vibrant landscape, vivid colours and street art vibe. Known for her unique handbags, Milan-based Cademartori has a background in jewellery design, which is evident in the sculptural metal buckle that has become a trademark of her luxury purses. The designer has partnered with Kartell in the past, as have Christian Lacroix and Moschino, through the nearly 70-year-old brand’s Kartell à la Mode collaborative concept. The Sauce range also includes the Knot footwear from Kartell x N°21 – a multicoloured collection of sandals embellished with the signature N°21 mark: a bow in a glossy finish. www.shopatsauce.com
Paco Perez x Ritz-Carlton Dubai
The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Centre, is hosting a winter pop-up curated by Catalan chef Paco Pérez, who has been awarded five Michelin stars in three of his restaurants in Spain. For the Dubai pop-up, which is on until January 22, Pérez has put together a menu of Spanish delicacies, which will be offered for lunch and dinner at Center Cut restaurant. The chef will also often fly in himself to welcome diners and take them through the menu, which includes both small and sharing dishes, taking in fresh veggies, exotic seafood and the finest cuts of Australian and American beef, prepared in traditional styles. Sharing options include anchovies in olive oil from the generations-old company Nardin; blue lobster with lobster roe mayonnaise; Picón octopus; and creamy artichokes and truffle. Seafood lovers can sample pickled tuna caught using the age-old Almadraba fishing technique; king prawn with penny buns; roasted turbot served in its juices with polenta and shallots; sea cucumbers in pil-pil sauce; and sole meunière with black trumpet mushrooms and egg yolk. Meat eaters have three options: goatling shoulder; pigeon in autumn circle; and Wagyu beef loin roasted with forest juices, black garlic and truffle.
In this day and age, the coffee-table book is both a novelty and an anomaly. In a digital world where consumers can effortlessly browse through art and fashion content on their computers, tablets and smartphones, it can be hard to find tomes that are captivating enough to splurge on.
A new book, titled Women Jewellery Designers, makes the cut. Its cover image, an ornate, art-deco-inspired necklace featuring layers of diamonds and aquamarines, set against a minimal white background, makes it covetable from the outset – and its pages contain fascinating details about female jewellery designers from around the world.
Starting from the 20th century, the book offers readers insight into the history and workings of the fine-jewellery industry. Author Juliet Weir-de La Rochefoucauld reveals that prior to the two world wars, the industry, was in fact, dominated mostly by male designers – even though jewellery was almost solely worn by women.
Olga Tritt, the Russian-born designer of the dazzling necklace on the cover, French jeweller Suzanne Belperron, and the imitable Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel are some of the early creatives who helped pave the way for the female jewellery designers of the future. The author brings a unique perspective to the topic. Weir-de La Rochefoucauld is the great-granddaughter of Thomas Weir, the founder of Dublin-based jeweller Weir & Sons, which was established in 1869, and is a fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain. She worked at Sotheby’s in London, and wrote a previous book entitled 21st-Century Jewellery Designers: An Inspired Style.
In her latest book, she explores the wearable works of notable designers such as Marina Bulgari, Paloma Picasso, Alma Pihl and Juliette Moutard, and also examines the roles of Jeanne Toussaint, who reigned as the artistic director of Cartier’s jewellery department for a decade, and Renée Puissant, the daughter of Van Cleef & Arpels founders Estelle and Alfred, who served as the maison’s artistic director in the early 1920s. Contemporary female jewellery designers such as Taiwan’s Cindy Chao, Turkey’s Aida Bergsen and Los Angeles-based Cynthia Bach are also featured within the illustrious hardcover.
In keeping with tradition
Piaget’s Traditional watch, which is hand-engraved using the Swiss brand’s intricate Palace technique, is a classic example of age-old craftsmanship that has remained relevant over the years, Selina Denman discovers
As a general style rule: if it was good enough for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, it is good enough for us.
When it came to capturing the former first lady’s inimitable style for Pablo Larraín’s 2016 film, Jackie, starring Natalie Portman as the wife of president John F Kennedy, the accessories and jewellery she wore were as important as the clothes. As such, Portman appears in the film wearing a selection of creations by Piaget, including an original Traditional watch once owned by the style icon herself.
The oval watch-face is encircled by 20 brilliant-cut diamonds. A simple, unadorned dial is crafted from jade, and set with green tourmalines at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock. The hands are two simple strokes of gold. But it is the timepiece’s strap that really steals the show. Handcrafted by Piaget’s skilled artisans, the yellow gold bracelet is weighty and substantial, and a striking example of the brand’s mastery when it comes to working with the precious metal. The bracelet is hand-engraved in Piaget’s so-called Palace style, which creates an almost iridescent effect, as if it were embedded with microscopic gems. Inspired by techniques from the world of haute couture, the Palace design consists of countless interwoven links that come together to form what Piaget refers to as “a golden fabric of unrivalled lightness”. Inside the watch sits a 56P quartz movement, also manufactured in-house. With its pure lines and uncluttered design, the overall effect is deceptively simple.
Part of Piaget’s Traditional collection, this classic jewellery-watch is one of the brand’s most iconic creations. The standard version comes with a silvered dial, paired with either a white or pink gold strap, and 24 diamonds circling the oval-shaped dial, which measures 27 millimetres by 22mm. To coincide with the international release of Jackie, at the beginning of this year, Piaget launched two new editions of the timepiece — one with a natural turquoise dial paired with a white gold bracelet, which is priced at £56,500 (Dh273,900), and another featuring a natural red cornelian dial perfectly complemented by a pink gold bracelet, which is priced at £51,000 (Dh247,200). The addition of these bold stones adds a new dimension to an already striking design.
More recently, the watch was used as a source of inspiration by the Dubai-based Lebanese accessories designer Nathalie Trad, who created two clutch bags that take their design cues from iconic Piaget watches. In an ode to the Traditional watch, Trad references the intricacy of Piaget’s goldsmithing techniques in a wave-like rectangular clutch that intersperses smooth and craterous surfaces. Trad also created a clutch inspired by Piaget’s Limelight Gala timepiece — the round pearl-toned shell bag is bordered in gold-toned brass that mirrors the distinctive asymmetric lines of the watch. “Doing a collaboration like this has always been a dream,” says Trad. “I’ve always been a fan of Piaget, so designing these pieces, based on a brand that has so much history and so much richness to it, was so organic and so easy; I could almost design a whole collection based on it.”
This isn’t the first time that the luxury brand has endorsed Dubai’s emerging fashion talent. In 2016, Piaget hand-picked local fashion designers to create stylish ensembles to correspond with the launch of its Limelight Gala Milanese watch. Regional designers Asma and Amna Khaled Saif of AKS, Asma Al Matrooshi of Epiphany and Manaal Al Hammadi were asked to design ready-to-wear looks inspired by the watch, along with couture outfits inspired by the Traditional timepiece.
Furthermore, during this year’s Art Dubai, Piaget joined forces with the Cultural Office of Her Highness Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and announced the launch of a new art project targeting untapped talent in the Middle East. Artists had a chance to submit their works, inspired by the theme The Sunny Side of Life, to the Cultural Office, and the winner’s creation will be exhibited during Art Dubai in March 2018.
Artistry has always been at the heart of the Piaget promise – and this is particularly true when it comes to its watches with gold bracelets. “Here, gold yields to precious stones giving the wrist exceptional sparkle,” says the company’s website. In the way it combines fine goldsmithing techniques and precious gem stones, the Traditional watch is evocative of a golden era in Piaget’s history, and is a symbol of what has long been the brand’s defining USP – it is a watchmaker and a jeweller in equal measure. The brand more poetically refers to this duality as “the fusion of time and light”.
Piaget is a watchmaker-jeweller in the purest sense. The brand was first established in the Swiss municipality of La Côte-aux-Fée in 1874, when Georges-Édouard Piaget set up a workhouse in the family farmhouse and proceeded to create high-precision watch movements. By the 1950s, Piaget had set about designing and manufacturing the ultra-thin movements that would become one of its trademarks (its Calibre 9P hand-wound movement and Calibre 12P self-winding movement were both the thinnest in the world in their categories, when they were launched in 1957 and 1960, respectively). It was also around this time that the brand developed its now signature style – a bold combination of intricately worked gold, explosive colours, precious gems, unconventional shapes and dials made from hard stones.
Today, more than one million precious stones are set each year in Piaget’s specialised high-jewellery workshops; and the watchmaker still reigns as a master of the ultra-thin movement (over half of the movements currently developed at the manufacture are currently ultra-thin, and some are barely as wide as a strand of human hair).
For generations, Piaget’s workshops have preserved and developed crafts that have all but disappeared elsewhere. Over 40 separate professions are practised within the Piaget manufacture, from master gemmologists, jewellers and gem-setters, to designers and goldsmiths. In the workshops, high-tech devices sit alongside traditional wooden buffs; links, gadroons and miniature shafts are carved from gold, one by one, millimetre by millimetre; finishes are handcrafted to the nth degree; and specialist craftsmen carry out over 14 different decorative techniques, including circular-graining, bevelling, circular Côtes de Genève, polishing and engraving the Piaget coat-of-arms.
The end products are works of art that are as relevant today as they were in the late 1800s, or the mid-1900s, when they sat on the wrist of Jackie O, one of the most stylish women in the world.
In fine feather: a luxury collaboration
The Bulgari Diva’s Dream collection pays homage to the majestic peacock, while reinterpreting the iconic fan-shaped mosaics of Rome’s Caracalla Bath
Bulgari Diva’s Dream necklace in pink gold with a pink tourmaline and pavé diamonds
Bulgari Diva’s Dream necklace, front, and bracelet, both in white gold with lapis lazuli, chrysoprase and pavé diamonds
Bulgari Diva’s Dream necklace in white gold with an emerald and pavé diamonds. Bulgari Diva’s Dream ring in pink gold with a pink sapphire and pavé diamonds.
Pride of place
Bulgari Diva’s Dream necklace in pink gold with amethysts
‘Covering the body feels more mysterious and appealing’
Serbian fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic speaks to Hafsa Lodi about her penchant for creating modest wear for modern women
As I am being introduced to designer Roksanda Ilincic, she is finishing up a FaceTime call with her 7-year-old daughter, Efimia, who is upset because they didn’t get a chance to speak the night before. Ilincic waves goodbye to the screen and snaps back into business mode. In this way, she is emblematic of the woman she designs for – one who leads a multifaceted life and juggles a successful career with an active personal life, and perhaps motherhood.
Ilincic’s clothes target the contemporary woman who favours tasteful glamour over gaudiness, and looks for comfort and ease of movement when buying a garment. “I don’t like to use restrictive things, like corsets or inner supports, which may slow down a woman in her busy life. I like to use things that are done in a very light and fluid way, similar to how architects build houses without the walls; they’re just supported on pillars,” she explains.The designer studied architecture and applied arts in her hometown of Belgrade, Serbia, before moving to London, where she specialised in womenswear at Central Saint Martins. In 2002, she debuted her namesake label at London Fashion Week, and it has steadily gained traction ever since. Last month, Ilincic was the designer of choice for the royal wedding gown of Danica Marinkovic, who married Prince Philip of Serbia. Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and former first lady, Michelle Obama, have opted for Ilincic’s structural dresses on numerous occasions, and the red carpets have seen a myriad of Roksanda designs, on celebrities such as Emma Stone, Rooney Mara, Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett and Keira Knightley, to name but a few.When we meet, the designer is ensconced in a bright yellow maxi dress from her upcoming spring/summer 2018 collection. Although her designs are worn by royalty, and her runway shows are frequented by the fashion elite, the Serbian creative is grounded, practical, poised and slightly reserved. As we sit in the Mall of the Emirates during the annual World of Fashion event, Ilincic is wearing slip-on pointed flats from her collaboration with London footwear brand Malone Souliers, and our conversation starts with small talk about how flat shoes are essential when walking through shopping malls.Naturally, Ilincic’s background in architecture shapes her approach to design. Landscapes, legendary photographers, and sculptural, abstract and expressionist philosophies have served as sources of inspiration over the years, and her models take on almost statue-like qualities as they walk the catwalks robed in her creations. “I have a big love for shapes and silhouettes, and a garment that is perceived 360 degrees all around,” she says.Not only does she play with silhouettes and proportions in hemlines, but Ilincic also frequently adds a theatrical touch to the sleeves of her garments – from sheer with tiers of trim and bell-shaped with overstated peplums, to balloon-like, almost reaching down to a model’s knees. “It’s that possibility to create a shape and volume, in maybe a place that is slightly more unexpected than, for example, a skirt,” the designer explains.Though Ilincic is renowned for her bold yet feminine cuts, she’s equally acclaimed for her unconventional use of colour. The average fashion designer might not pair corals with periwinkle blue, navy with yellows, or limes with pastel pinks, but Ilincic embraces unexpected colour combinations, and makes them extremely covetable. “I like to experiment with the mixture of colours, and how they are talking to each other – something that maybe in the past was considered a no-go area,” she says. “I wanted to bring a new view of using colours, not just [combinations that are] classic, that everybody knows and that go well together, but also to challenge the perception of how we wear and combine colour.”She gestures towards the purse that she has brought with her this morning. It is from her own handbag line, which she launched last year. It’s a deep shade of magenta – an unusual colour to pair with bright yellow – with two handles on opposite corners: one made from wood and the other from Perspex. “My bag is pink today, so I like that kind of clash and unexpected element,” she says.Although colourblocking has been a defining feature of the label for years, the designer has recently turned to a new method of achieving a similar effect – by layering dresses over trousers. When I see her later that evening, she is wearing a long, coral dress, with a hemline that stops just a few inches above her ankle, on top of wide-leg trousers, mimicking a styling technique she introduced at her spring/summer 2018 runway show during London Fashion Week.Azure trousers peek out from underneath a pink and red spliced dress in one look, and in another, nude, spotted trousers are styled with a with a dress in marigold orange. Though she says this reflects a transition into a different way of colourblocking, Ilincic’s new approach is quite deliberate, and isn’t merely a new way to combine contrasting pigments.“I think trousers are great alternatives to dresses. When women are moving and have many things to do, trousers are particularly easy to wear in our busy lifestyles,” the designer explains. “Like dresses, they cover a lot, and at the same time, they’re really cool and fashion forward in a good way; I think trousers are having a moment right now.”
The designer tells me that while creating a collection, she starts with her research, and then immediately begins sketching ideas as they’re formulated in her mind. But, concurrently, she’ll be draping designs on a dummy. “I think it’s very important that it’s happening at the same time as sketching, so it’s never just two-dimensional,” Ilincic says. “And I keep changing it up until the last minute, because I’m constantly creating, and constantly changing – even a week before the show, I’m still designing and adapting different styles.”
When Ilincic talks about her craft, it becomes evident that she is not only passionate about her design process, architectural influences and colour concoctions, but also about what she believes is the inherent purpose of the garments she creates. “It’s actually something that is protecting us from the outside world,” the designer says. “I don’t like to expose too much skin, and I feel that actually covering the body feels much more mysterious and appealing, than showing too much flesh.”
I highlight that this notion of shielding a woman and her body aligns with the purpose of the abaya, and ask the designer whether the traditional Arabian silhouette has ever been a source of inspiration for her. “I don’t think that it was directly, but the idea of sheltering and covering the body is similar,” she tells me. “It’s just my aesthetic, and in this case, I’m very lucky that it resonates with the aesthetic of this region as well.”
While modest silhouettes have been trending in high fashion over the past few seasons, they have featured in Ilincic’s collections for far longer. But the designer believes that although many designers have jumped onto the covered-up fashion bandwagon, the fad may not last much longer. “Modesty is in right now, but fashion is like a circle,” she says. “It’s going to go back to showing skin.”
Trends aside, Ilincic is committed to her clients, and she has diversified her label to include quirky handbags, abstract jewellery and even charming childrenswear. This is all in addition to a collaboration with Malone Souliers and a partnership with eyewear brand Cutler & Gross. She is constantly coming up with new ways to use colour cleverly in silhouettes that may be conservative, but are nonetheless innovative. “I always want to maintain the same DNA,” the designer explains. “It’s something that is timeless and beautiful; clothing that is appealing not just to one generation, but hopefully to a few generations.”
Luxury Editor: Selina Denman
Deputy editor: Sarah Maisey
Art director: Emma Tracey
Picture editor: Olive Obina
Assistant editor: Panna Munyal
Contributors: Aarti Jhurani,
Hafsa Lodi, Kevin Hackett, Saeed Saeed