Brexit, Trump and China
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THE END OF REASON?
With Trump, China, Brexit and the rise of populism, is global trade under threat?
THE AUTOMATION RACE
The players who are aiming to win the race for the next generation of driverless cars
Can a new British CEO fix the ailing New York subway system?
FACEBOOK, PRIVACY AND YOU
Do the recent Facebook scandals spell the end for the tech revolution
MILAN’S PROPERTY MARKET
Does Italy’s fashion and industrial capital offer good value for high-end investors?
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The language wars From Duolingo to Babbel, a new generation of apps is changing the way we learn languages. Josh Riordan examines the market
anguage learning has never been a bigger business. In just the UK alone, students studying English contribute more than £2bn to the economy. China has more than 100,000 native English instructors and South Korea spends more than $15 billion a year on private English education alone. For many years, this market was traditional: native speakers were hired and they taught in a traditional classroom environment. Much of the learning was rote, and progress was slow. There were, of course, plenty of hucksters in the pre-internet age, who claimed their technique would help you learn your language of choice in super quick time. Then came the internet, and like in many industries, it started to revolutionise how languages were learned. Cassette tapes morphed into CDs, where companies such as Babbel and Rosetta Stone dominated, and now the medium of choice is the mobile app. Even Rosetta Stone
now claims it’s a ‘mobile first’ company, although it’s lost a lot of momentum, and market share, to the newer arrivals. And there’s a lot of them – with more than 350 language learning apps listed on the Apple app store alone. Technology has increased not just the number of language options available, but the type. The likes of Duolingo, Busuu and Babbel offer more traditional courses, while apps such as TripLingo, HiNative and HelloTalk are focused more on Q&As and chat. Then there are sites such as Memrise, which feature thousands of usergenerated videos and multiplechoice tests. One of these newer arrivals is Duolingo, which claims to be the most popular way to learn a language. Founded by Luis Von Ahn, a Guatemalan, and Severin Hacker, a Swiss national, in 2011, Duolingo now has more than 200 million users and features
courses in 31 languages. One of the reasons for Duolingo’s success has been timing: it launched as a mobile phone-based learning system at the same time mobile phone (and app) usage exploded.
The apps use the latest techniques to get users hooked, utilising ‘gamification’
Another reason is its business model: free. There is no gated content, everyone can access the same courses. Those that do pay don’t see advertising on the app, and can use the site online. What Duolingo did best, however, is take advantage of the technology of ‘gamification’ whereby users get points after completing certain tasks on the app. As Von Ahn recently told Monocle magazine, this taps into humans’ competitive nature. The more frequently someone uses the app, the longer the strength bars get, showing your progress as you learn the language. If you don’t use the app often enough, these bars diminish, something that Von Ahn discovered offered a revenue opportunity. He said that he would be inundated with e-mails from users who had lost their ‘streak’, which is what happens when you don’t use the app every day. These users would beg to get their streak reinstated and Von Ahn soon realised there was a revenue opportunity there. The company now makes $5,000 a day from people who pay a small fee to regain their ‘streak’. Many of the other language learning apps use similar techniques to get people hooked into using the app daily. The business models are similar too: free and paid apps, with users who pay avoiding ads, getting access to
advanced levels and courses and – so the companies would claim – increasing your chances of gaining fluency in your chosen language. The criticisms of the language apps are many. Many of the companies make big promises about the time it takes to learn a language. Babbel, for example, claims you can “have a conversation in a new language in three weeks”. The usefulness of some of the apps in the real
world has also been called into question. For example, some of the sentences that emerge in lesson 52 of French on the Duolingo app, according to one language site, are: “We needed fire. You have to be big. You must eat more.” As one reviewer at a language learning site said: “The sentences are so far removed from anything that you might actually want to use in conversation, that I doubt how much value there is
JUNE / TECHNOLOGY
NVIDIA RIDES BULLISH AI SENTIMENT Chinese company Nvidia is riding the wave of a “tectonic shift” in computing, with every unit of the graphic processors’ business exceeding expectations. As firms around the world upgrade their GPUs for AI and machine learning, Nvidia is reaping the benefits of the data centre industry. Another area proving rewarding is its core gaming business, and even the rising cryptocurrency trend is proving profitable. All of this means the company’s outlook for the second quarter of the year is very positive. Nvidia reported first quarter net income of $1.24 billion, or $1.98 a share, up 66 per cent from a year ago. The company is projecting revenue of $3.1 billion for the second quarter of the year. Investors would do well to back this company with all of the areas it specialises in looking set to keep performing at high levels.
in rote translation.” Indeed, on many of the apps, the sentences seem far removed from a sentence you would ever have in real life. Of course, many of these apps are in their infancy, and as the technology and AI improves, so will the usefulness of the content. There’s only so much an app on your phone can do. For those who really want to learn a new language, the most effective way is still immersion. Head to the country of your choice for a few months and speak nothing but the native language. Supplement it with an app, sure, but apps alone will probably not get you to fluency, no matter what claims their creators make. But, with 800 million people around the world attempting to learn English, and more and more of them with access to the internet, the rise of mobile language learning is only just getting started.
THE PLAYERS BABBEL Launched in 2007 as a website, this Berlinbased app is the topgrossing language app in the world. It’s currently available in 14 languages and is one of the most technologically advanced of the language apps. A subscription-based app, its business model has been copied by many rivals.
DUOLINGO A free language learning app, Duolingo claims it’s the most popular way to learn a language. Launched in 2011, it offers 23 languages, and even offers Klingon for dedicated Star Trek fans. Part of its success is due to treating the learning of a language as a game, and charging to reach different levels.
BUSUU Founded by an Austrian and named after the Cameroonian language, Busuu uses interactive courses and a social network of native speakers to teach users. There’s a free and paid version of the app, the paid version costing $6 a month. The app has more than 65 million users and is growing by more than 25,000 a day.
MEMRISE Featuring usergenerated videos and memory learning techniques, Memrise was founded by two Oxford University graduates. After getting US funding, the company is now profitable and has seen its user base grow to more than 20 million. There are free and paid apps available, with the latter costing $60 a year.
TANDEM An app that partners language learners for video conversations, it now has more than 1.75 million downloads and is experiencing month-by-month growth of nearly 20 per cent. While the app is free, Tandem charges a 20 per cent cut of fee for professional language tutors who use the site to teach students.
The fashion cleanse Vanessa Friedman examines the new trend of downsizing your wardrobe
orget fringe and feathers; forget saying no to fur. It is possible that the biggest trend in fashion is about to become getting rid of all of your… fashion. Next week Cameron Silver – the founder of the Los Angeles vintage store Decades, famous peacock, fashion director of H by Halston and its QVC face – will use his store and website, decadesinc.com, to sell off 400 pieces of his own wardrobe collected over the last 35 years. Soon after that, another 100 to 200 pieces will be offered
Amid it all were smaller selloffs by Chloë Sevigny along with Khloé and Kourtney Kardashian, and sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner, all of whom had special “pop-up shops” on therealreal. com, with the Jenner Kardashians divesting themselves of over 500 gently worn items last year. The age of the colonic cleanse is giving way to the age of the closet cleanse. You can focus on the bizarre numbers involved and beat your breast about the evolution of a culture in which one is driven to ask: Who needs so many clothes ?
After years that gave rise to accessible luxury and spurred a collecting binge, have we reached a tipping point?
on grailed.com. This follows the wardrobe auction in February of 30 pieces from the closet/apartment of the street-style star Anna Dello Russo at Christie’s, along with the sale of 150 additional pieces on Net-a-Porter. And that followed the 2008 sale by Daphne Guinness of approximately 1,000 pieces of Chanel, Versace, Valentino and Saint Laurent (among other names) at Kerry Taylor Auctions.
Yet while it is a legitimate question, a more relevant one may be: After decades in which fast fashion gave rise to accessible luxury and spurred an accelerated seasonal cycle that in turn spurred a binge of accumulation, be it shirtdresses or sneakers, Supreme or Hermès, are we finally reaching a tipping point? “I hope so,” said Silver, who had a wardrobe of “thousands” of pieces scattered between his
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Fashion journalist Anna Dello Russo in her home in Milan
Right: Cameron Silver and some of the jackets he is getting rid of
homes in Los Angeles, New York and Pennsylvania, including, he said, “50 man furs in storage in LA, and I don’t even wear fur. It’s what I spent money on instead of buying a house in Malibu.” He still loves clothes, but he has some new mantras, and he regards them with the same passion he once regarded a hot pink Jil Sander by Raf Simons suit. Specifically: “It’s chic to repeat” and “The best new clothes are old clothes.” “Owning Decades was like opening a weird Pandora’s box for me,” Silver said. “I was obsessed with clothes growing up, but it was the store that made me a collector. I looked for pieces that represented a season, or told the story of the time we were living in. But then it took over my life.” It was the joint chronological landmarks of the store turning 21 and a looming 50th birthday (Silver turns 49 later this month) that served as motivation, he said, “to liberate myself from all these possessions”. It’s tempting to blame it all on Marie Kondo, and her best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and there is something symbolic and cathartic about shedding wardrobes. Many of the sellers cited personal, emotional reasons for divesting themselves of their clothes: Guinness sold hers in part as a reaction to the end of her marriage to Spyros Niarchos; Della Russo did so after the deaths of her mentors Manuela Pavesi and Franca Sozzani, and the beginning of a new relationship.
The need to fill the digital void with more crazy outfits has begun to drive consumption to unsustainable levels And many, though not all, attached the proceeds of the sale (or at least a portion) to a charity, almost as a form of penance for the indulgence. But just as the clothes themselves often reflect specific moments in time – Silver
noted that his wardrobe is “an opportunity to see how we got to this menswear-focused moment”, with pieces from designers like Paco Rabanne, Stephen Sprouse, Issey Miyake, Haider Ackermann and Alexander McQueen – the sell-offs themselves may tell us
porcelain and then left them to a museum like the Met’s Costume Institute or the Palais Galliera in Paris, understanding that they would become cultural relics. Now they can divest earlier, and with purpose. Valerie Steele, the
People (and heirs) are increasingly trying to monetise their fashion collections
something specific about our particular moment. They are not, for example, part of the same continuum really as the sales by celebrities like Liza Minnelli and Jane Fonda, which have also become something of a thing but which relate more to Hollywood mythology than fashion (or, say, the recent Russell Crowe divorce auction, which was mostly about the value of his own celebrity, and buying a piece of it). Instead, the sales by Silver and his ilk seem more purely related to the current consumer culture. They are products of the way in which visual consumption and the need to fill the digital void with More Crazy Outfits! and Even Wilder Looks! have begun to drive actual consumption to unsustainable levels. Not in the ecological sense, though that is part of it, but in the psychological sense. It’s a peculiarly contemporary vicious cycle: If your personal brand and your professional brand are increasingly interchangeable, and part of that brand is dressing in a seriously eye-catching way, and that kind of dressing then causes
photographers to seek you out and take pictures, that in turn creates pressure to dress more crazily and change more often and get more stuff, which gets more pictures and so on and so on ad infinitum. “The expectation that whenever I showed up, I would wear something that turned heads or dropped jaws was really strong,” Silver said. “Every Met Gala had to be a bigger fashion moment, which in turn encouraged me to be extra social and go out like crazy. It was like performance art, but at a certain point I felt like my wardrobe took over my authenticity.” This phenomenon is what has led on a smaller level to the explosion of the resale market, and sites like Vestiaire Collective, the RealReal and (on a more accessible level) ThredUp, where fashionistas sell their seasonal splurges to make room in their closets and help finance the next ones. On a bigger level, it has created the sell-off situation. Once upon a time, great fashion plates – Nan Kempner, Jacqueline de Ribes – collected clothes the way they collected jewellery and
director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said that auctions used to sell only 18th-, 19th- and early20th-century pieces. “But now ‘vintage’ means anything more than three seasons old, and even less sometimes,” Steele wrote. “There is no incentive for collectors waiting until their clothes have ‘aged’ into fashion history, especially when the latest fashions are on display in museums. And it’s certainly true that people (and heirs) increasingly seek to monetise fashion collections.” Besides, Silver said, “not every museum wants everything.” Indeed, before he decided to sell off his clothes, he donated a number of pieces to the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art for ‘Reigning Men’, a show on menswear that opened in April 2016. And it’s not like he won’t have anything left. There are still 300 pairs of shoes, he said, “and suits in 50 shades of grey from pretty much every designer you can name”, since gray suits have become his new uniform. But, Silver said, “it feels great to be free from the pressure to figure out who’s the hottest new designer or what’s the most important new silhouette.” It’s a monster of our own creation. But there seems to be a growing (and welcome) consensus that it’s time to cut off its head.
FASHION ECOMMERCE CONTINUES TO BOOM The fashion e-commerce industry continues to grow, with Lulus the latest retailer to secure backing from investors. The US brand, which caters to women in their 20s, raised $120 million from the VC firm IVP and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. A big part of the brand’s success has been due to its social media acumen, with it building a loyal following on Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. “It would be very hard to go out to Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest – look for fashion in our demographic and not find something from Lulus,” said Colleen Winter, the CEO.
Michael Tortorello explores the world of miniature botany
icture a redwood forest. The trunks like monoliths. The tree canopy like clouds. The fallen needles: a shag rug piled centuries deep. Now imagine someone has left a broken refrigerator somewhere in the scene. If you were to Instagram this natural tableau, what would your friends identify as the subject? An abandoned fridge, right? A term exists in conservation biology to explain this odd selectivity in how and what we see: plant blindness. The concept, developed 20 years ago by James H Wandersee and Elisabeth E Schussler, describes the human tendency to ignore what the two scientists describe as “the aesthetic qualities of plants and their structures”. We habitually overlook such obvious elements as colour, size, spacing, symmetry and tactility. The consequence for ecological awareness? Would people notice the majesty of trees if they were, paradoxically, smaller? That premise guides the practice of botanical miniatures: tiny plants sculpted in 3-D. Say what you will about the challenges of growing a shrub in the garden, replicating a plant in miniature demands a lot more ingenuity. The attempt to fabricate a simple tiny twig or leaf has inspired designers and artists to experiment with
anything and everything: polymer clay, wax, wood, glass, copper, paper, vellum, resin, foam, cotton, sponge, feathers, fake fur, artificial crocodile skin and parsley. Botanical miniatures belong in a cabinet of curiosities: They invite a level of scrutiny that makes the everyday appear not just unfamiliar but exotic. Occupying the border between science and art places them in the land of design. It’s a small niche, with few practitioners. And yet the work is making a sizable footprint: in botanical sanctuaries such as Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans, and Callaway Resort & Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia; in museum shows in New York, Miami and Palo Alto, California; and in natural history museums, such as the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York. These curiosities invite us to see plants – their colour, size, spacing, etc – for the sake of seeing plants. No small feat. Patrick Jacobs, 46, began his career in sculpture by studying old pest- and weed-control manuals. Next, he recreated the demonstration photos – a cellar floor, an empty path – as dioramas of dead space. Eventually, Jacobs added the latex rubber cast of a yellow-splotched
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The artist Patrick Jacobs, at his studio in Brooklyn
Botanical miniatures occupy the border between science and art, placing them in the land of design “broad-leafed plant”, soon to be poisoned into oblivion. A few decades later, the weeds have won out. (They always do.) The viewer observes Jacobs’ teeming green worlds through a custom-ordered biconcave lens. The diorama may measure just a foot wide by 10 inches tall and deep. Yet objects farther from the lens appear smaller, creating the illusion of great depth. A sealed steel box becomes a sort of holodeck, transporting the visitor to a wide-open meadow. This bit of enchantment works just as well once you’ve learned the trick. A work like ‘Field of Dandelions’, for instance, reveals some 300 dandelions overrunning a lawn of grass and clover. But each margarine-coloured flower presents a handmade fabrication by Jacobs:
an assemblage of vellum, styrene, glue and acrylic paint. The hoary dandelion seed heads? These tufts come from individual white cat hairs, glued into distinct seeds, then arranged together into a globe. Nature, of course, produces dandelions everywhere, in effortless abundance. With his miniature, Jacobs seems to be exploring just how much labour it takes to get someone to notice. However small they may be, botanical miniatures don’t fit neatly in the taxonomy of conventional botanical art. Carol Woodin runs the exhibition programme for the American Society of Botanical Artists, headquartered at the New York Botanical Garden. Nearly all the group’s 1,700 members work in watercolour, pencil or pen-
After collecting a glacier lily from 11,000 feet up in the Colorado Rockies, McQuilkin will rush home and fabricate the flower for days on end
and-ink. “Over the years that I’ve been involved in botanical art,” Woodin said, “I’ve seen maybe half a dozen botanical sculptors.” Classic botanical art puts a premium on technical accuracy. This emphasis dates back some 500 years, to when botanical illustrations would introduce newly discovered
species in scientific papers. “You wouldn’t want to find alternate leaves on a maple whose leaves should be opposite,” Woodin said. The acknowledged masters of botanical sculpture were a father-and-son team, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, 19th- and early20th-century German artisans
who created more than 4,000 plants out of glass. A tiny number of botanical sculptors continue to abide by this same spirit. Thai artist Supawadee “Pa” Ngamhuy, for example, formed 128 plants out of polymer clay for the Wild Center, in the Adirondack Mountains. But good luck trying to find them. With few exceptions, Ngamhuy’s reproductions appear indistinguishable from living specimens. A handful depict colourful woodland mushrooms, such as the rosy russula. She has smuggled dozens of native wildflowers and orchids into a 20-foot-long display of a sphagnum moss bog. Stephanie Ratcliffe, 59, the executive director of the museum, said that sculptures like these, in a glass cabinet, could help visitors recognise the plants on a hike in the field. “There’s only so much you can learn in two dimensions – cameras and phones and flat screens,” Ratcliffe said. Botanical sculptor Trailer McQuilkin, 71, shares that belief. The only way to render a wildflower with his extreme level of accuracy is to work from a living model. “I take these plants apart and dissect them, and count each stamen,” he said. After collecting a rare glacier lily from 11,000 feet up in the North Pole Basin of the Colorado Rockies and stashing it in a cooler, McQuilkin will rush home to his studio on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Then he’ll fabricate the sundry plant forms – the buds, the flower, the calyx – for days on end. If the plant dies first, he needs to return to the alpine meadow to dig up another one. If it’s not in bloom? See you next year. One business advantage of McQuilkin’s method is that almost no one else would have the patience to try it. In part that comes from his supremely unforgiving material: sheet copper, copper wire and oil paints.
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For almost 50 years, he’s been employing a tool set that includes shears, surgical scissors, pliers, a rubber mallet, an anvil and a butane torch. (At this autumnal stage in his own life cycle, McQuilkin also relies on jeweller’s glasses.) He works at life scale, but the plant parts can be minute. To paint the fine veins on a leaf, McQuilkin said, “I’ll take a sablehair brush and cut it down to two or three hairs.” Many of the finished pieces go to botanical gardens. “Artists have art critics,” he said. “My critics are botanists.” An even better endorsement comes when a bee or hummingbird dive bombs his copper flowers in search of pollen. How much verisimilitude is too much? Imagine being enticed to bite into the replica salad in a deli display case. Now think how the bee must feel. One of the great virtues of botanical art, Woodin said, is “you’re never going to run out of
subject matter.” But then no law of the jungle says the artist must stick to existing plants. In recent years, Matthew Albanese, 35, has recreated oaks and willows from his memories and imagination. This Eden turns out to be the northwest corner of New Jersey, where he lives. But for the past few months, Albanese has been studying paleobotany for a diorama called ‘The Hottest Day on Earth.’ The garden includes vanished genera such as Tempskya (a trunkless tree fern of the Cretaceous period) and Sigillaria (a spore-bearing tree of the Late Carboniferous period). “You may think it’s a normal jungle, but it’s actually quite alien,” Albanese said. “If you look closely, you’ll say, ‘I’ve never seen a tree like that.’” The plan for the finished model involves hundreds of specimens staged on a plywood platform the size of a ping-pong table. “It’s more a bigature than a miniature,” Albanese said.
Trailer McQuilkin, the botanical sculptor, at his studio in Ocean Springs, Mississippi
In preparation, Albanese has been stocking a fake tree nursery on a wire shelving unit in his parlour workshop. He’s been getting good results so far with artificial snakeskin for the trunk of an extinct cycad relative called Williamsonia. Through his previous botanical miniatures, Albanese has concluded that you can make a convincing replica of just about any environment on Earth if you have $200 to spend at Hobby Lobby. Willing to travel a little further afield? Albanese has discovered through trial and error that the dust surface of the planet Mars looks like a mixture of cinnamon, chili pepper and paprika. Sciencefiction movies were his first love, and his finished art takes the form of highly staged cinematic photographs. Albanese constructs his landscapes as they appear through the lens of his Canon 5D. From this angle, Albanese isn’t just goofing around with dyed feathers and fake fur; he’s building a movie set. Albanese doesn’t sweeten the shot in postproduction (or Photoshop, as it were). He prints what he shoots. The artistry comes from a mastery of lighting and forced perspective (plus a little dry ice). “Without the photographic aspect,” he said, “the illusion would never be able to exist. The miniatures themselves would not hold up.” For all his inventiveness, there are two approaches that Albanese won’t try. One is working at a fixed scale (“I can’t add two numbers together,” he said). The other is gardening (“I can’t keep a plant alive to save my life”). The irony here is that plants make some of the most versatile and convincing materials for imitating other plants. Think of it as the equivalent of fashioning poetry out of a shredded newspaper, or a jean jacket out of old Wranglers.
Chelsea living A townhouse in the heart of a swinging district
3 full baths
Single family home
ccupying one of the key houses on the preferred western terrace of this popular address, this elegant Grade II listed five-bedroom property is a stylish – and homely – family pad. Set over 340 square metres, this spacious house also has a large west-facing garden, perfect for those summer parties. Another highlight is the classical first-floor drawing room, which is perfect for entertaining. The property is set back from the road and benefits from its location in the heart of Chelsea. This borough is filled with world-class restaurants, bars and shopping and close to much of London’s wonderful cultural and entertainment options.
PRICE $6.7 million
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WINE TOOLS RACK The ultimate tool box for wine lovers, it features one chic monsieur, one cork opener, one foil cutter, one bubble cork and one cork stopper. L’Aterlier du Vin; from $220; madeindesign.co.uk
IPHONE CASE Made from quartzite mined in Italy, which is then transformed to ultra-light marble and added to a Alcantara interior, this is about as luxurious as iPhone cases get.
Roxxlyn; from $220,000; roxxlyn.com
SAVOIR BED The Amelia is upholstered in a dusty pink wool finish, with its trademark tall, curved headboard oozing class. There’s no easier way to sleep in style. Savoir; from $10,000; savoirbeds.com
TAG HEUER WATCH Tag Heuer enters the smartwatch fray with this stunningly detailed gold piece of kit that marries the latest technology with Tag Heuer’s trademark style. Tag Heuer; from $4,747; tagheuer.com/en
DOUBLE VICE CUFF A stunning piece of jewellery from designer and jeweller to the stars, Lynn Ban. This is made of black rhodium silver with 3.42 carat fuchsia rubies. Lynn Bann; from $6,800; lynnban.com
HOTELS EXPERIMENT TO ATTRACT NEW AUDIENCES Luxury hotels around the world are experimenting with ‘pop-ups’ in order to win new customers. Everything from pop-up restaurants to shops to museums are being set up in hotels in order to remain relevant in the sharing economy. For brands, hotels offer great ready-made spaces to promote their products. For hotels, it offers them the chance to attract a new type of customer and generate revenue from sales. Expect lots more tie-ups in the future between hotels and innovative brands.
UPFRONT / SPEND
Grace and Favour Lauren Razavi meets one of the UK’s most interesting beauty companies
he focus of most beauty companies is only skin deep – at least in terms of their business priorities. So when a luxury brand sells itself on a social mission as well as desirable products containing the highest-quality ingredients, it’s enough to turn heads. UK-based The Soap Co is one such luxury brand, and it’s attracting global attention for all the right reasons.
The Soap Co is a sister organisation to the London charity Clarity, whose purpose is to provide employment for blind, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged people. The charity was founded in 1854 by Elizabeth Gilbert, who lost her sight aged three as a result of scarlet fever. She held a strong belief in empowering and creating opportunities for those with disabilities and
Current number of The Soap Co’s employees
serious illnesses – a mission that continues to this day thanks to her ambitious work. Patrons over the years have included well-known British figures such as Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens and numerous members of the British Royal Family. In 2015, Clarity began a new endeavour and pivoted to launch a luxury beauty brand: The Soap Co. Needless to say, it was quite a radical move for a charity
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with a rich history and a longestablished identity. “We’re doing something quite different within the social enterprise space and creating a huge amount of employment. Our social impact is directly linked with the products. That means if a big order came in today, we could instantly employ more
people – it’s a really short link between the money coming in and the social value that’s created,” says Camilla Marcus-Drew, a former management consultant who joined Clarity three years ago to found The Soap Co, and currently works as the brand’s head of commercial. “There are a lot of people sitting in vacant
Kevin, one of The Soap Co’s employees
boardrooms trying to figure out what their purpose is right now, whereas our purpose has always been to provide employment for those who are blind, disabled or disadvantaged. We see soap as a vehicle for social good.” After working with disabilityfocused charities overseas in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Philippines, MarcusDrew was keen to bring her skills as a management consultant to the non-profit sector. “Not many people with a commercial mindset have experience in the charity sector, but I had been working actively to help people with disabilities start their own businesses and access employment opportunities in developing countries,” she explains. “It has always been a real passion of mine to help people with disabilities into work and The Soap Co was the perfect opportunity to do this in the UK.”
“I had been working actively to help people with disabilities start their own businesses and access jobs” Over the past three years, that’s exactly what Marcus-Drew has done in establishing a loyal customer base of customers for the brand. Today, The Soap Co employs more than 100 people in roles stretching beyond factory work into all other aspects of the organisation including finance, IT, sales and marketing. While the brand’s focus has remained primarily on soap, the product range today includes hand wash, body wash and lotions – and they’re developing new products all the time.
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UPFRONT / THE BUSINESS
“The ingredients we use are all vegan, readily biodegradable and safe to aquatic systems”
“We’re a very small team doing a lot. The beautiful thing about soap is that everyone uses it, but there’s something very special about our soap,” Marcus-Drew explains. “It’s a small demographic that buys The Soap Co because the price point is higher, so we target those who have extra income to make conscious choices about where their fashion comes from or the food they consume. Now they’re starting to think about the products they put onto their skin too.” The minimalist branding of The Soap Co reflects a focus on quality ingredients and an authentic story over glitz. As a company with
concern for the environment, The Soap Co goes the extra mile to ensure that more than 90 per cent of the ingredients used are sourced from British suppliers and that each one is eco-certified. The production process is truly “craft” with a single product taking around three weeks to make. Quite obviously, automation is not on the agenda - that each bottle or bar of soap is handmade by workers and features braille as part of its branding is what makes the brand’s offering something special. “We won’t scale in a way that compromises what we stand for, so while many other companies are thinking about automation, we have
Ricky, another of The Soap Co’s employees
different priorities. By that I mean we know that one bottle creates one hour of employment and that’s our ultimate objective,” MarcusDrew says. “We’re also doing the right thing from an environmental perspective. For example, we grow the flowers for our products in UK fields to cut down on our carbon footprint and we choose the ones that bees love to pollinate. The ingredients we use are all vegan, readily biodegradable and safe to aquatic systems.” Sustainability is a key priority for the brand’s future too. Building on its success so far – The Soap Co has produced perfume for actress Sarah Jessica Parker and shampoos and conditioners for The Ritz-Carlton, for example – the next objective is to crack the international hotel market. But Marcus-Drew is keen to emphasise the challenges involved and how The Soap Co intends to stay true to its values. “We’ve been approached by a number of international hotel chains and begun some exciting conversations. We’re not quite ready yet, but we could be very quickly. One of the biggest concerns for us is balancing business opportunity with ethical standards,” she explains. “Hotel groups tends to want small plastic bottles but there are a lot of individuals out there who are thinking about the environmental impact of those little bottles.
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partnership with the Michelin-star restaurant Cornerstone in East London, it seems like there’s a bright future ahead for the brand and its team. Combining an ambitious commercial mindset with an important social mission truly is business with a purpose, and by doing things differently, The Soap Co is winning hearts and opening minds. As Marcus-Drew so aptly puts it: “People don’t expect that a luxury product can be made with a workforce primarily of people with disabilities, and I love proving them wrong.”
THE PRODUCTION PROCESS · Each bar of soap begins life as part of a small batch in the market town of Keswick at The Soap Co’s cold-process production facilities. · The soap is hand-mixed and then dried for around two weeks. · Next, the bar of soap is hand-cut and hand-stamped with The Soap Co logo and the name of the person who made it. · Each one is then hand-wrapped in a bioplastic made from wood pulp. · Finally, a biodegradable sticker is used to seal the product.
ARTISAN STYLE FOR LUXURY SHOEMAKER John Lobb, the luxury shoemaker, has launched five new styles – ranging from lace-up oxfords to loafers – starting at $7,500. A collaboration between the brand’s artistic director, Paula Gerbase and the master craftsman of its bespoke atelier, each of the shoes have been made from a single piece of leather. Since the Artisan Series styles are produced through the Bespoke Atelier, the heel height, along with many other details, can be adjusted to exactly fit the rest of your wardrobe. This is just the latest in a growing trend of luxury brands embracing artisan production values.
We believe you don’t need to compromise the environment to do great things. In this instance, you can use processed consumer regrind in your bottles and source them locally. We’re trying to approach this with an absolutely no-compromise attitude to ensure we’re doing the very best – by people and by planet, and in doing so, generating a profit that is reinvested back into training and employment for those we serve.” With a national retail range ready to hit the shelves by the end of this year and a new high-profile
UPFRONT / THE BUSINESS
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UPFRONT / CLASSIC READ
Rework by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried
keeping your day job can provide all the cash flow you need. You don’t even need an office. Today you can work from home or collaborate with people you’ve never met who live thousands of miles away.” Many entrepreneurs would disagree with that, although it’s possible they could be working smarter. One of the joys of Rework is the straightforward language – there’s no business jargon or management speak here and it’s all the better for
The authors’ distaste for tech culture is reflected in their lack of jargon
omething of a favourite among budding entrepreneurs, Rework rewrote the rulebook when it came to setting up a business. Eschewing the timeworn advice given in most business books, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson put forward a series of counterarguments: why business plans are harmful, why you don’t need lots of staff, why you don’t need lots of meetings and why you don’t even need an office. Both the authors came from the software space – Fried co-founded a company called 37 Signals – and the book reflects the culture of the software industry. Based on the authors’ experiences of building their own businesses, and the hurdles they faced along the way, the book follows on from their ever-popular blog, Signal v. Noise. These days, many of these ideas have gone mainstream – the idea of ‘bootstrapping’ a business and keeping overheads as low as possible
is just one example of a popular truth among entrepreneurs. Broken into 30-plus sections with headlines such as ‘Learning from failure is overrated’ and ‘Interruption is the enemy of productivity’, its bite-size layout is no doubt one of the reasons for its popularity. Some criticism of the book has claimed these sections lapse into generalisations. For example one section, ‘Meetings are toxic’, fails to take into consideration the fact that some meetings are good, some meetings are bad and some meetings fall somewhere in between. Every business is different and every founder is different and so one size fits all advice rarely works. And it’s true the book is drenched in optimism. Take this passage about working hours: “You don’t have to work miserable 60/80/100-hour weeks to make it work. 10-40 hours a week is plenty. You don’t have to deplete your life savings or take on a boatload of risk. Starting a business on the side while
it. That is reflected in their distaste for the idea of a company culture, something embraced in the tech world, to often (unintentionally) hilarious effect. They write: “Instant cultures are artificial cultures. They’re big bangs made of mission statements, declarations, and rules. They are obvious, ugly and plastic. Artificial culture is paint. Real culture is patina. You don’t create a culture. It happens. This is why new companies don’t have a culture. Culture is the by-product of consistent behavior. If you encourage people to share, then sharing will be built into your culture. If you reward trust, then trust will be built in. If you treat customers right, then treating customers right becomes your culture. Culture isn’t a foosball table or trust falls. It isn’t policy. It isn’t the Christmas party or the company picnic. Those are objects and events, not culture. And it’s not a slogan, either. Culture is action, not words.” If you are looking to set up a business, Rework is a must-read. Take what you need from it and discard the rest – the authors wouldn’t have it any other way.
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Redeveloped, reimagined and remixed David G Taylor examines the increasing role design is playing in the high-end property market
ake a Swiss-designed Spanish office block built in Germanic Bauhausstyle in Barcelona. Import a world-class Brazilian neo-modernist architect to re-edit the space. Into the mix, noted designers from Europe, Australia and America are blended seamlessly. It’s a multicultural formula to rival any dance-floor remix. Legendary architect Mies van der Rohe famously said: “God is in the details,” and the luxury apartment complex known simply by its address, Francesc Macia 10, seems out to prove it. This is the world of highend property in 2018. The right address is no longer enough: buyers expect ‘name’ designers to have worked their magic on the interior. Bold interior choices are in, as are collaborations with artists and fashion designers. The competition at the top end of the market is tough, and developers are doing what they can to elevate themselves above the competition.
Back to Barcelona, and it’s no surprise that in a city famed for its Gothic Quarter and the otherworldly modernism of Antoni Gaudi, bold design endures. Inside the recently completed residential redevelopment each apartment takes up an entire floor. With a host of on-demand services, it’s been billed as Barcelona’s “first superprime fully serviced real estate”. Squircle Capital is the luxury developer behind the project and already well known for its Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona – a chic five-star hotel that counts French designer Christian Louboutin among its clientele. The word ‘squircle’ derives from a mathematical shape that, as its portmanteau name suggests, is part square, part circle. A squircle is also a type of ellipse, which coincidentally, so is the landmark building, its listed oblong facade girdled by curved floor-to-ceiling windows that provide 180-degree views of the imposing Tibidabo Mountain and
neighbouring districts such as Sant Gervasi-Galvany. Originally designed in the 1960s by Marc-Joseph Saugey, its 21st-century redevelopment is headed by brilliant San Paulobased architect Marcio Kogan and his Studio MK27 team. “It took us a lot of time in the office to work out the logic of the design,” Kogan said. “I like to use squares and straight lines, but this is 100 per cent curves.” “Its oval floor plan was very challenging [but it brought] the opportunity to innovate,” agrees project co-author Suzana Glogowski. “The rational and peripheral structure of the building allowed us to work with large and fluid spaces, elements that are characteristic of our work.” Studio MK27’s solution was to carve the building into seven full-floor 6,458 square foot apartments, topped by a 9,687 square foot duplex penthouse with a 360-degree terrace. Sold shell and core, even unadorned the apartments are stunning. Subject to Kogan’s modernist touch, however, the show apartment and communal spaces are a study in restrained opulence with a simple yellow and grey colour palette. “Barcelona is an architecture icon,” explains Glogowski, so the city itself provided much of the design inspiration. “The marbles were inspired by van der Rohe’s Pavilion [designed, 1929]. “The brass was used to highlight the difference between the new and the existing architecture, as if it to mark where an intervention took place.” And the wood, she
adds, “brings the necessary warmth for the transformation of the building’s purpose, from corporate to residential.” The attention to detail is incredible, with bespoke lighting by London-based Michael Anastassiades and custom-made furniture by Italy’s Vincenzo De Cotiis, who contrasts new and salvaged materials, and Australian-American brand BassamFellows, who honed their skills in former careers as an architect and the creative director of Swiss-brand, Bally. “We call our design philosophy Craftsman Modern,” Scott Fellows says of its impeccably crafted designs, carved using disappearing skills by a network of “second and third generation family businesses”, from regions such as Veneto in Italy and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in America’s Midwest. The craftsmanship at Francesc Macia 10 is designed to impress, but how important a role does design play in attracting property investors now? “Today’s educated, savvy and design-centric consumer will pay more for good design, especially in the high-end of the market,” says Stephanie Anton, President of Luxury Portfolio International, the largest global network of locally branded premier real estate. “However,” she adds, “design is far from the first element that drives ROI [Return on Investment]. ROI tends to be first and foremost driven by location, size (how many beds and baths, for example), quality (what kind of finishes have been added), and condition (has everything been maintained well?). “If all of these factors are equal, design is definitely a differentiator that can drive price and ROI,” she explains.
Francesc Macia 10’s interior
In the US, a new-build residential development is underconstruction that’s just as particular about its design pedigree. “An elegant, liveable sculpture, soaring over Biscayne Bay,” is how Russian real estate mogul Vladislav Doronin, describes it. Florida’s Missoni Baia is a 649-foot-tall tower, occupying a 200ft expanse of waterfront in mainland Miami’s East Edgewater district. Sited close to the city’s upmarket Design District, the 57-storey building has spectacular views but it’s the design that is most interesting.
Doronin is Chairman and CEO of OKO Group, the Miami-based firm behind the project and also the owner of Aman Resorts, the luxury hotel group. The team he assembled is no-less accomplished. The building was designed by pioneering Egyptian architect Hani Rashid and his NYC-based studio, Asymptote Architecture. A visionary, Rashid’s won awards for merging art and architecture, such the 2004 Frederick Kiesler Prize. “Rashid and his partner have worked on globally significant projects,” Doronin says,
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“including the Yas Viceroy Hotel Abu Dhabi and the Hermitage Modern Contemporary Museum in Moscow.” And what of the involvement of Italian fashion dynasty Missoni, famous for its multicoloured knitwear? “We chose to collaborate with the Missoni family because their brand is synonymous with bright, happy colours,” Doronin says. “This perfectly matches the bright, sunny and happy lifestyle of Miami and illustrates clearly to potential buyers what it will be like to live in the Missoni Baia residences. Angela and Rosita Missoni bring with them another level of recognition, prestige and heritage. They oversee the interior design with [NYC-based Australian] Paris Forino.” In 2015, the New York Post named Forino among ‘The 20 Biggest Power Players in New York City Real Estate’.
On completion, Missoni Baia will boast 249 one- to fivebedroom furnished residences ranging in size from 776 to 3,788sqft and will be priced from $596,000 to in-excess of $3.5 million. Given Doronin’s background, amenities such as its Olympic-sized lap pool and 1,700sqft gym compare with a luxury resort. Rumours abound that Doronin is planning more. With all that developing experience to draw upon, I can’t resist asking what it takes for a design to be a success? “The three most important aspects of design to consider for a project of this nature are enhancing the location, choosing the right collaborators, and ensuring you have finely tuned floor-plans for the proportions and the layouts of the residences,” Doronin says. “We enhanced the waterfront
location of Missoni Baia,” he says by way of example, “with an architectural design inspired by the sails on mega yachts. The elegant columns on the corners of the building are tapered, just like the sleek sails of the boats on Biscayne Bay.” With such notable designers involved in both Missoni Baia and Francesc Macia 10, I’m curious to what extent big names bring big sales? “‘Name’ designers absolutely help,” says Anton, “because wellknown designers already have a following and a known aesthetic, so much of the guesswork or unknown about investing in a new space is immediately removed. This is especially true when a buyer is buying ‘off-plan’ or before anything has been built because a name designer provides peace of mind. Whether it’s a purse, shoes or an apartment, when you purchase something designed by a name, it immediately ensures quality, taste and a space in place and time. Another benefit is that there is already an established ‘audience’ and that almost guarantees the property will hold its value upon resale.” “It is fair to say that these global ‘celebrities’ carry enormous weight,” agrees Mark Harvey, Head of European Sales at Knight Frank, who represent Francesc Macia 10. “Innovative and ground-breaking designs perpetually redefine the norm and help attract a following of ardent ‘collectors’ eager to secure what might be deemed a ‘limited edition’. As the super-rich set out to find the rare and exceptional, the drive to perfect and innovate continues. Whether for investment or personal pleasure, at this end of the market, there is no room for compromise.”
THE END OF REASON? Jesse Onslow Norton examines the increasingly fractured nature of Chinaâ€™s relationship with the US and what it means for the global economy
THE END OF REASON?
he free flow of goods and services across borders has become one of the defining features of the modern global economy. Throughout the 20th century, nations everywhere recognised the advantages of open commerce and made efforts to reduce barriers to trade. Globalisation has created prosperity for the world’s richest nations and resulted in the rapid growth and modernisation of some of the most underdeveloped economies, but now the trend towards global free trade is reversing. The early 21st century has witnessed a rising tide of populist opposition to the principles of globalisation. In Europe, this has resulted in Britain rejecting the principles of the Single Market and initiating the process of withdrawing from the European Union. In the United States, once the greatest champion for global free trade, the election of Donald Trump has been propelled by a platform of protectionist and even isolationist policies. Despite these trends, this year the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced in its annual report that global trade has seen a rapid increase over the past six years. According to their figures, growth in global trade volume reached 4.7 per cent in 2017, its highest level since 2011, but is expected to drop to just four per cent next year. This is the result of what the WTO describes as the re-emergence of “tit-for-tat tariff wars” between the world’s leading economies. In March, the Trump administration announced the imposition of a 25 per cent tariff on US steel imports from countries such as China, as well as a 10 per cent tariff on aluminium. This followed US tariffs introduced earlier in the year that applied import taxes on solar panels and appliances such as washing machines. In response, the Chinese Communist Party has ramped up tensions by imposing its own tariffs on US products, filing a formal complaint of unfair treatment with the WTO, and threatened further legal action against the US. The rhetoric of both the Trump administration and Chinese officials has concerned world leaders and dampened the mood of global markets. In April, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), warned that global trade is “in danger of being torn apart” by the return of punitive tariff regimes.
Donald Trump and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping
President Trump, however, doesn’t believe that trade is inherently beneficial to all parties. Instead, he views trade as a battle and has declared that “trade wars are good and easy to win”. But if the world is returning to a period of trade wars, what lessons can be learned from previous conflicts? Harold James is a professor of history at Princeton University, as well as the university’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He has written extensively about the economic implications of globalisation and in
THE END OF REASON?
2016 was appointed as an official historian at the IMF. James believes that the IMF has a duty to its members to ease trade tensions between the world’s most powerful economies. “When the IMF was established in 1944, the major figures behind Bretton Woods wanted to learn from the lessons of the inter-war period, particularly from the Great Depression in America, which nearly destroyed democracy and the international order,” he explains. “The introduction of the Hawley-Smoot tariff was identified as having been catastrophic for everyone involved, so the IMF was established as a framework for negotiating and settling tariff disputes.” The Hawley-Smoot tariff was introduced in 1930 and raised US tariffs on more than 20,000 imported goods. Even before the act was passed by congress, US trading partners began retaliating with their own boycotts and import taxes, exacerbating the looming economic crisis. The failure of the tariffs to prevent the Great Depression created a backlash against trade wars in US political thought that would last throughout the 20th century. But now, the world’s largest importer is once again looking inward and China may not be the only trading partner that suffers as a result. “The issue with a potential tariff war is that it impacts different sized economies disproportionately. Large blocs and big economies like the United States
A steel worker in China and above, Hungarians protesting against their new government
are able to protect themselves, but the smaller you are the more vulnerable you are,” explains James. “That’s exactly why an international institution with universal membership is a good forum to talk about the issues. The IMF has a clear duty to think about the interests of all its memberships, and not just for the interests of the bigger economies.” As well as smaller nations being nervous about the potential resurgence of international trade wars, investors and speculators have been expressing their concern across global markets. In March,
THE END OF REASON?
“China seems to be digging in its heels in order to protect its own ambitions. If a settlement can’t be reached, there could be a big negative impact”
when President Trump announced a $100 billion tariff plan the S&P 500 Index quickly dropped by two per cent. A survey by the financial services firm Seeking Alpha found that more than 65 per cent of investors believe that a trade war between the US and China would negatively impact market returns, with nearly a quarter believing that markets will fall as much as 15 per cent as China retaliates. James Rickards is a lawyer, economist and author of The New York Times bestseller Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Cr isis.
He worked on Wall Street for more than three decades, advising the US intelligence community on international trade and financial warfare tactics. Rickards believes that investors are underestimating the potential impact of a trade war between the US and China. “There seems to be an assumption that Trump likes to make threats, but doesn’t always follow through and somehow we’re in for a soft landing. I’m not so sure that’s correct,” he says. “In these situations you always have to evaluate the counterparty. China seems to be digging in its heels in order to protect its own ambitions. The US trade deficit is running at about $500 billion a year, and Trump is looking to reduce that by $200 billion or more. If a settlement can’t be reached there could be a lot of negative impact moving forward for the global economy.” In May, President Xi’s top economic advisor, Liu He, visited Washington to discuss ways of reducing the US trade deficit. The US is the world’s largest importer of Chinese products, accounting for 23 per cent of the country’s total exports. Liu made it clear that his primary goal is to ensure that China is able to avoid what is known as the middle-income trap. “When I studied developing economics in the 1970s, we used to think the hard part of development was getting from poverty to something like middle income. Turns out it’s actually not that difficult if you have strong leadership like in China,” explains Rickards. “The hard part is getting from middle income to high income because once you’ve achieved middle income you’ve taken the low hanging fruit, which is mobilised in the
THE END OF REASON?
Some of China’s tech giants have relied heavily on the country’s loose enforcement of intellectual property laws to drive growth
labour force. You need something more high value added – you need to actually have technology, apply technology and drive innovation.” Unless China’s tech sector is able to innovate and create consistent growth, there’s a risk the entire workforce could be trapped in middle income. But innovation tends to happens more slowly behind the Great Firewall of China. Some of the country’s tech giants have relied heavily on the country’s loose enforcement of intellectual property laws to drive growth, but as more and more tariffs are imposed this may no longer be a viable strategy. Already, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) has taken national security measures against Chinese tech companies. In March, President Trump used CFIUS to block the semiconductor company Broadcom’s $117 billion hostile bid for Singapore-based Qualcomm on national security grounds. CFIUS declared that such a takeover would negatively impact Qualcomm, and therefore the US, in its race against China’s Huawei to develop 5G internet technologies. In addition to preventing deals with Huawei, CFIUS has imposed strict restrictions on the firm’s subsidiary ZTE. The US Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence claimed that the smartphone manufacturer had close ties with the Chinese military and could not be trusted on national security grounds. With tensions rising between the US and China, other significant trading partners are growing concerned about the prospect of friendly fire. “Canadians export steel, aluminium, solar panels – and the US is putting tariffs on all of
THE END OF REASON?
Top and bottom: Huawei has been accused of being in bed with China’s intelligence services; a money changer in Hong Kong
them to really penalise China. But Canada is caught up in this and will be the biggest loser,” claims Rickards. “It’s easy for China, for example, to redirect orders for types of commodity like soybeans. Of course, that would come at the expense of other soybean exporters such as Canada and Brazil, even though the US and Canada are pretty good friends.” Central to the problem facing the US is its currency’s status as the global reserve currency. Meeting global demand for the dollar as a reserve currency creates structural trade and currentaccount imbalances with the rest of the world. Last year, this imbalance reached a deficit equal to 2.4 per cent of US GDP. As a consequence of tax cuts and increased militar y spending at home, inter national investment from the US is expected to deteriorate over the coming years. The IMF estimates that the country’s net liabilities will reach 50 per cent by 2025. Some economists believe that this combined with a climate of rising tariffs could trigger immense volatility in the global monetary system, particularly in countries that hold large amounts of dollar reserves or peg their currency to it. Andrew Sheng is a distinguished fellow at the Fung Global Institute, a Hong Kong-based think tank. He previously served as chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission. Sheng believes that the solution is to introduce a new global reserve asset to offset the volatility caused by the dollar. “When the United States say they have the trade deficit with China, it’s a simplification. As long as you use a national currency as the global reser ve cur rency
Some economists believe that rising US net liabilities and rising tariffs will create huge problems globally
you will create this dilemma. What is needed is an extra currency, which is set out in the second amendment of the IMF’s articles of agreement as a special drawing right (SDR),” he explains. “The SDR allows nations to denominate their currencies to a new asset made up of the dollar, the euro, sterling and yen. So it’s like a box of the primary currencies of the world. The dollar may account for 60 per cent of the denomination but if you left it, it would still comprise of 40 per cent, which could be redeemed.” Replacing the dollar as the global reserve currency has been a contentious idea in the past. One of the principle challenges for adopting the IMF’s SDR has been disagreements over who would reserve the privilege of issuing the currency. Sheng believes that the same technology that powers cryptocurrencies could be the key to solving the dispute. “Well previously the SDR could only be issued if the major shareholders are in agreement. But cryptocurrency has created a situation where it is quite cheap for the private sector to issue what would be an official currency. This would allow for an electronic SDR to be created without official involvement, which could be a quite useful currency for payments or value,” explains Sheng. “If the electronic SDR was constructed with ETF rights, it would have less volatility than the individual component currencies. So basically the dangers of a trade war, and the volatility that would result, would be reduced. That way you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket.” The introduction of a new global reserve asset would face significant opposition from the US, but to other nations it may seem like a useful solution. As trade tensions rise across the Pacific, currency volatility is a major threat to the stability of global commerce. Both investors and central bankers will be hoping that current tensions can be eased through further negotiations and that they will be able to look back on the current trade war as more of a trade squabble. Whether that will be the case, remains to be seen.
THE RACE FOR AN AUTONOMOUS FUTURE Anthony Tierney examines whoâ€™s winning the selfdriving car race
here was a time, not too long ago, when to talk about mass produced self-driving cars would be to mark you out as a lunatic. They were the preserve of Bond films and scifi novels. Yet innovation marches forward almost imperceptibly. What was once unthinkable becomes common place, and the self-driving car market is filled with competitors all attempting to get to number one, and all at different stages in their development. Unsurprisingly, it’s Alphabet Inc’s (formerly Google) Waymo that is leading the self-driving charge. It reached a deal earlier this year to buy thousands of Chrysler minivans, which will be kitted out with sensors that can see hundreds of yards in all directions. The company plans to roll out its driverless ride-hailing service later this year, with Arizona the first state given the go ahead. Passengers will book a ride on an app (much like with Uber) and with thousands of vehicles, the roll-out in Phoenix should answer some questions about how a fleet of driverless cars will affect pedestrians and other road users. There have been some mishaps. Earlier this year it was reported that two of the six collisions involving driverless cars in California were on purpose. In January a San Francisco pedestrian shouted at a driverless car and attacked it, leaving minor damage. Later that month just a few streets away a motorist got out of his car and scratched the window of the self-driving car beside him. Whether this is just the beginning of human-robot conflict, or some understandable early teething pains remains to be seen. Although not surprising that Google is out in front, there’s plenty of traditional car makers who are eyeing their lead. GM is probably the closest competitor, and it said it plans to start a ridehailing service using the Chevrolet Bolt – which has no steering wheels or peddles – late in 2019. Everyone else is playing it safe, citing the existing poor regulatory framework, and targeting 2020 or later to start introducing their services. There’s a lot at stake. It is estimated that the autonomous ride sharing industry will be worth more than $ 285 billion by 2030. And without
Elon Musk and Waymo CEO, John Krafcik
THE LEVELS OF AUTONOMY Autonomous driving is broken down into six levels: each level a different rung on the autonomous ladder
drivers, operating margins are estimated to be more than 20 per cent, twice what most car manufacturers generate at the moment. And someone is still going to have to build all those self-driving cars. As the cars come on stream, the theory is less people will need to buy cars, particularly in places like Europe, where cities are becoming increasingly anti-car. Car companies are scrambling to ensure they don’t miss out on what could be a new era in public transport. And, as Br ian Collie, head of Boston Consulting Group’s US automotive practice, told Bloomberg, it matters who gets their first. “There won’t be a ton of companies doing this. There will be a select few. Being there first establishes consumer trust. Brand value matters.” Much like Uber is now a byword for ride-sharing services, whoever gets there first will establish themselves as the ride sharing app. That sort of brand recognition is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and is why many of the established car companies are eyeing Google warily. Investors too are figuring out who to back. GM shares are up 20 per cent since an announcement last June that a plant to build driverless cars was operational. Zoox, a start-up aiming to challenge the bigger brands, has raised more than $ 360 million, despite never making a dollar in revenue. So far the state of California has granted selfdriving car testing licences to 50 companies. Clearly, not all of these companies will succeed, and the path from idea to self-driving execution is fraught with danger. The technology needed to build a self-driving car is expensive, far more expensive than the actual car. There are also the ethical problems. If a driverless car runs someone over, who is at fault? If the choice is between the safety of the occupant and an oncoming driver, who does the driverless car choose? While Silicon Valley will claim that ‘deep learning’ will enable AI to make almost any decision, it’s hard to see how a driverless car can be programmed to react to every conceivable situation. These issues are not going to stop the legion of car manufacturers from investing in driverless cars, and they may see any potential lawsuits outweighed by the huge profits on offer.
Level 0 No Automation
Level 1 Driver Assistance
At this level, the driver performs all the tasks from steering to braking.
The driver handles all the functions, but the car can assist, for example, braking extra hard when you get too close to another car on the motorway.
Level 2 Partial Automation
Level 3 Conditional Automation
Most car makers are building cars at this level right now. At this stage, cars can help with steering, acceleration and braking, so the driver doesn’t have to do everything. However, the driver has to be ready to take control back at all times.
A big leap from level 2, at this stage the car controls all monitoring of the environment using sensors. Many cars at this level require no human attention under 37 miles an hour. Audi is just one carmaker set to launch a car at this level later this year.
Level 4 High Automation
Level 5 Complete Automation
At this level, the car can steer, brake, accelerate and respond to outside events. It can’t operate in more unexpected events such as traffic jams, and the driver would only switch into driverless mode when conditions are safe.
This level requires no human involvement at all – there is no need for brakes, pedals or a steering wheel as the car controls all tasks. This is what most car manufacturers are working towards.
THE PLAYERS Waymo
Formerly the Google self-driving car project, Waymo is the front runner in the field. Google first started testing self-driving cars way back in 2009 and has already done live testing in Phoenix, Arizona, with plans to roll out a service there later this year.
Nissan has already developed a ProPilot system which stops the car if the car ahead stops unexpectedly and keeps the car in lane. It showcased a concept self-driving car called the Symbioz, which can switch between driver and driverless modes. The company has also tested a ride-hailing service in Yokohama and will do the same in Paris. Like many of the big-name car companies, it’s making moves, but cautiously.
GM Chevy Bolt Manufactured in partnership with LG, the Bolt is GM’s autonomous gamble. Available across the US in the summer of last year, sales started slow but ended the year by selling more cars than any other company.
Aptiv One of the dark horses when it comes to driverless cars, the company has been testing ridehailing services in Singapore since 2016 and will launch them in 2021. The company currently uses the Renault Zoe electric car and it estimates it will reach full autonomy by the end of the year.
Zoox One of the top-funded driverless start-ups, Zoox was founded in 2014 and has raised more than $250 million. Unlike its competitors who are relying on existing car technology, Zoox is planning to rethink the car altogether. This means no steering wheel, seats that face each other, and a host of cutting-edge safety features. The most exciting of the new breed of start-ups, Zoox will either dominate the market or fail in a big way. Watch this space.
Volkswagen Audi, which is now owned by Volkswagen, is betting big on an autonomous future, with the company budgeting more than $8 billion on research. It’s A8 currently has the most advanced autonomous system on the road, with its Traffic Jam Pilot letting drivers go hands-free up to 37 miles an hour. It has also signed a deal with Aurora, a self-driving software start-up, although Volkswagen hasn’t revealed when or how it will launch its first truly autonomous model.
BMW BMW is currently testing a fleet of 40 fully autonomous cars and has earmarked an annual budget of more than $600 million to the project. The company has been rather circumspect about its plans in the field, although does say it should have self-driving cars in production by 2021.
Toyota One of the dark horses in the race, Toyota has been developing self-parking technology since 1999. In last year’s CES, Toyota showcased it’s e-Palette concept car, which comes in three sizes and will be deputed during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
However, clearly not all the car companies will succeed, and indeed the real winners will probably be the companies providing the technology for the cars: the likes of Nvidia, Intel and AMD. While the likes of Zoox may be exciting investors, the established brands are all moving towards an autonomous future, albeit more cautiously. Part of this is down to the cost. While it costs GM $35,000 to build a Chevy Bolt for humans, that spirals to more than $ 200,000 when building the autonomous version. That cost differential is roughly the same for all the big manufacturers, and they all have ploughed money into the technology, desperate not to be left behind if and when driverless cars dominate the roads. Mercedes-Benz, for example, has been exploring this type of technology for years. It was
All the big car brands are getting involved, all betting that their driverless car will succeed
back in the late 1990s that it sold an adaptive cruise-control system on its S-class sedan. This meant that the system would automatically slow down if the car was getting too close to the bumper of the car in front. The company uses its Intelligent Drive system in all its new cars today, which helps the driver avoid pedestrians and other unexpected dangers. The company is currently partnering with Nvidia, a California-based artificial intelligence company, to develop an autonomous vehicle. So far the test cars can operate at Level 4 or Level 5 autonomy – Level 5 meaning the car doesn’t need a steering wheel or pedals. Look across the biggest names in the car industry and you will see a similar story: lots of money on research and development, some small scale testing, some partnerships with AI and
The autonomous future will be based on a ride-sharing model; individual ownership is simply too expensive
software companies, but a real sense of wait and see. And it’s not just the traditional big names who are exploring this new technology. The ridesharing company Uber has already made the plunge. It bought the self-driving trucking startup Otto in 2016 in a bid to stay ahead of the competition. It didn’t exactly go to plan. Otto, was run by former employees of Google’s self-driving car unit. Google’s parent company Alphabet hit back, filing a trade secrets lawsuit against Uber. The lawsuit revealed that some of Otto’s staff had downloaded copies of sensitive work e-mails and files at Google. Uber eventually had to settle for $245 million in equity, and Otto’s four co-founders all left Uber, a big setback for the company. Things went from bad to worse, when, in March this year, a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian in
From top left: A self-driving Uber in Pittsburgh; GM North America president Alan Batey in front of the Chevy Bolt; a self-driving minibus at a Shanghai university; inside a semiautonomous car
Arizona. The company quickly suspended all of its public self-driving testing while an investigation took place. While Uber may have been the first company to be involved in a tragic incident such as this, they almost certainly won’t be the last. Another high-profile company that has been involved in a tragic accident while testing driverless technology is Tesla. It’s Model X SUV crashed into a concrete highway lane divider and burst into flames, earlier this year, killing its driver, who had its Autopilot feature turned on. That hasn’t deterred Musk from ploughing ahead, and he is not using the Lidar technology that almost all other carmakers are using. “They’re going to have a whole bunch of expensive equipment, most of which makes the car expensive, ugly and unnecessary,” Musk said in February. “And I think they will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.” Musk wants to develop his own technology, which allows the cars – using image recognition technology – to ‘see’ road signs and read the road. If Musk succeeds, then Tesla could be the real winner in the battle of the carmakers. The future, at least in the near term, is not a driverless car in every driveway. The cost is simply too expensive. That’s why all the car companies are focused on ride-sharing services. While still expensive in terms of initial start-up costs, the lack of a driver means these type of services will quickly break even. Of course, there are huge issues in regards to the regulatory framework that will differ from country to country and even state to state. Witness the issues that Uber has had across the world – if taxi drivers lobbied hard against Uber, imagine their reaction to driverless cars. Yet, it seems unthinkable that in, say, fifty years, driverless cars won’t be a common sight on our roads. And, once the cost of producing them goes down, it will very likely be the case that most of us will prefer them over a traditional car. The question now is not whether they will be the future, but which of the world’s biggest car brands will be the big winner in a new era of automation.
TUNNEL VISION David Whelan explores the challenges facing New Yorkâ€™s ageing subway system
h e n t h e N e w Yo r k subway was created it was a modern marvel, designed to be a symbol of America’s futurism: transport for all in the most glamorous city on the planet. At exactly 2:35pm on October 27, 1904, City Mayor George B McClellan took control of the city’s first ever subterranean train journey. While London boasted the oldest system in the world and Boston had already established its own subway in America, New York’s was to be the world’s largest. A flood of 100,000 passengers took the train that day. It was to change the face of the city. It remains to this day, by number of stations, the largest system in the world. However, in April 2018, another flood came – a natural, leaking overflow from the street after heavy rain that was documented thousands of times by dissatisfied New Yorkers. It was the perfect symbol for the devolution of the system. Previously the most revered system in the world, it was now slow, old and falling prey to entropic collapse. It has to be fixed – but the question is how. On average, 5.6 million passengers take the New York subway every single day. It remains the only major city with a 24 hour service – a fact that did more than help towards New York’s reputation as the city that never sleeps. Veins are a usual metaphor for transportation systems, but it is without doubt most apt here: without the subway, New York would die. The floods of this year were just a single moment in a history of errors that stretches back almost as far as its inception. In June 1970, New York Magazine ran its very first cover story on the system, entitled Subway Roulette: The Game is Getting Dangerous. As Thomas R Brooks wrote, “Delayed trains, begrimed windows, broken lights, incorrect signs, tattered advertising posters, the detritus of
Nearly 5.6 million people take the subway every day and it’s the only major subway that operates 24 hours
thousands of shifting, shuffling feet, a swaying, tortured ride with every man’s elbow your enemy – can anything be done about the appalling dayto-day state of the New York subways? Roughly a third of the stations, mostly on the oldest line, the IRT, for example, are without running water. ‘Confidentially,’ a cleaners’ supervisor told me, ‘We use the closest hydrant.’” Hearing reports from this year, and it seems that little has changed. In fact, it seems things have got worse. Step forward Briton Andy Byford, who has been handed the grimy keys to the system with one single objective: fix it. Byford, 53, made his name for a series of rapid improvements throughout London, Toronto and Sydney. Byford’s work in Toronto was his finest – incorporating a five-year corporate plan in 2011 to renew systems, update processes and undergo an entire toe-tohead rejuvenation of the culture. It worked. In 2017, Toronto’s subway system was awarded the APTA’s Transit System of the Year. Byford himself also collected IABC’s Communicator of the Year for, in part, his on-the-street approachability. He was often known during his time in Toronto for heading down to stations and encouraging discussion with commuters about what direction to take the service. Byford is the gamble the Metropolitan Transit Authority hope will pay off – he is New York’s first ever non-American head of the City Transit Authority. It is a big step. Toronto’s budget of $ 1.52 billion pales in comparison to New York’s $15.75 billion, as do the annual passengers. Toronto has 222 million, New York has 1.76 billion. It’s like managing Arsenal and then moving to Real Madrid. Expectation, size and financial power are almost incomparable. It did not start easy and has not got any smoother. In February, he had to apologise for a five-hour delay on six lines in Queens due to
signal failure; the systems signalling has not been updated since the 1930s, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared the system within a state of emergency. The issue is only getting worse. According to a study conducted by the New York Independent Budget Office, time lost due to delays increased 45 per cent between 2012 and 2017. Cuomo, for his part, has promised $1 billion in support, but it’s doubtful that will be enough. Rebuilding the New York subway is the modern day equivalent of the myth of Sisyphus: the boulder always seems to roll back down to where you started. Once the signals are fixed, the ceiling gives way to rain. As Howard Roberts, who held the job of NYC Transit chief from 2007 to 2009, said: “Incompetent politicians are a big problem for anybody that’s trying to run the Transit Authority.” One man cannot cure the ills of one hundred years.
Time lost to delays increased 45 per cent between 2012 and 2017, as the system ages fast
“I grew up using the subway, and from a very young age, I have always expressed an interest in it,” says Max Diamond, aka DJ Hammers, who operates a website documenting the New York subway that has collected millions of views. “I spent a lot of time in grade school drawing track layout diagrams of the subway system from memory, memorised all of the types of subway cars, and amassed a significant amount of knowledge about the system’s history and operational structure. There has certainly been a noticeable decline in the subway service quality in the last 10 years or so, which is even more apparent to those who have an operational understanding of it. Combined with the high visibility of the issue provided by social media, this has led to a massive amount of attention being given to the state of the subway system.”
In the past year alone, a train has gone off the rails in Brooklyn; a track fire in Manhattan sent nine commuters to hospital; an F-train stalled during rush hour, leaving passengers without air-conditioning or light for over an hour; then, another derailment, this time in Manhattan, injuring thirty-four. The New York Times, in a report prompted by this startling accumulation of accidents, discovered that the budget for the subway, when adjusted for inflation, has not increased for 25 years – despite rapid growth of the city in all other areas. Alongside this, a great chunk of mechanic positions have been cut, and 65 per cent of trains arrive late. This makes it the least efficient system of all major cities. Seventeen per cent of the MTA’s annual budget now goes into paying off debt – debt that it has been levied with after two decades of political interference, which seemed designed to cream off as much money from the bottom-line as possible. Budgets were slashed in 2008, which resulted in the MTA having to make compromises concerning vehicle inspections, overhauls and maintenance. The issues have stacked up over many years, but it’s almost as if they were like water against a dam, such is the way they are all exacerbating each other are now in 2018. In 2007, for example, over 90 per cent of trains across all lines reached their destination on time. A decade later, and an on-time train is a small bureaucratic miracle. “There is no one silver bullet to fixing the subway,” says Diamond. “The types of issues facing the subway are very diverse; both nittygritty technical issues, as well as procedural and policy-based human factor problems have slowed the system down. Improving the reliability and speed of the system is not as simple as just securing additional funding for subway repairs. A comprehensive approach is needed that looks at all of the causes of delays, both ones caused by technical issues and procedural issues.” This is not the first time the subway has felt like a reanimated corpse. In the 1970s, the subway was a national embarrassment – more OJ Simpson than the Juice. A decade of spending began; trains began to arrive on time, tracks no longer bent like over-cooked spaghetti, train cars travelled further before breaking down. It cost, in modern terms, $50 billion. That is, of course, a sum far higher than the one Cuomo is promising to invest now. About fifty times higher. The city’s taxation contribution to the subway has dropped 75 per cent since 1990, where the MTA was provided $1 billion. In 2017, it was given $250 million. The state only exacerbated this, directing
Right: Andy Byford talking to accessibility campaigners Below: Passengers passing through a ticket booth in the summer of 1948
funds away from the MTA with the desire to make it run on fares and tolls. “If a signal is failing, why is it failing?,” adds Diamond. “Is there water dripping on the signal from the tunnel roof? If so, ensure that appropriate equipment, manpower, and funding is available to repair both the damaged signal and the leak. Work to repair dilapidated infrastructure needs to be scheduled more efficiently to reduce the amount of time required to rectify problems and rebuild tracks and signals. For instance, instead of scheduling a weekend in June to repair a platform edge, and another weekend in September to do track replacement, piggyback both repairs to be done on the same weekend.” In 2002, however, the MTA was forced into a crucial financial mishap. It took $12 billion in loans from Bear Stearns – attaching itself to a doomed Wall Street player that would go under during the financial crash of 2008. This has led to a culture where the MTA is seen by some as a piggy bank of leverage; 52 per cent of its funding now comes from external bonds. “On the procedural side,” says Diamond, “efforts need to be made to make sure that train crews are more comfortable with operating faster and more consistently. Signals that restrict the speed of trains slow down service and increase speed variability between trains; evaluate these speed signals and see if some can be tweaked or even eliminated without negatively impacting safety. Furthermore, procedural inefficiencies in train dispatching and service management need to be evaluated and rectified.” The 2008 crash naturally hit hard – with a 75 per cent drop in real estate tax resulting in a massive dip in revenue for the system. To cover for this, the MTA altered a variety of maintenance procedures, and never changed them back. Scheduled maintenance on trains was extended to 73 days, and large scale overhauls are now seen to every seven years. “Some dispatching towers have no way to positively identify trains quickly,” continues Diamond. “At 36th St on the D, N, and R lines, for example, it can be difficult for the offsite dispatchers to figure out if a train entering the station is a D, N, or R train without contacting the train crew on the radio. Technology to
better positively identify the train’s assigned routing needs to be installed to rectify these sorts of issues. Generally, the subway is a victim of a thousand cuts – there is no one big issue that needs to be solved. Rather, there are many small issues that delay trains by a few seconds here, a minute there, etc. that add up to a large aggregate reduction in speed and service regularity. In many cases, the solution to a problem may not be just new technology – sometimes we can look towards the past to find solutions to modern problems. The original private operating companies that ran parts of what now comprises the NYC Subway experienced these same issues and came up with procedural and technical solutions to many of them.”
Fulton Street station ended up costing more than twice its original $750 million price tag
Another issue was one of beauty. Stations throughout the system have been the site of expensive, glamorous overhauls – that often end up costing double the projected amount, such as Fulton Street which was eventually renovated for twice its $750 million price tag. Naturally, none of these renovations approached the true issues of train cars, tracks or signals. But they looked pretty. A confusing lack of specificity by the MTA in terms of delays also makes the water murky – in 2017, 30,000 delays were blamed on overcrowding, yet last year saw a drop in the system’s use. In other words, there may be a category error occurring, or just general human sloppiness. This vague language also allows politicians to leverage the system publicly – praising its popularity as a reason for its slowness and twisting the language to make it sound like a positive. All in all, the subway is in a bit of a state – but not irredeemably so, believes Diamond. “Byford’s currently working on a comprehensive corporate plan that will take a look at all of these problems and fix them, and I truly believe that he is capable of bringing decisive improvements,” he says. “And I definitely think that it will get better, but it’s going to require a non-trivial amount of time, effort, and money to get there. It won’t happen overnight though, for sure.” Lucky the subway exists in the city that never sleeps.
The THEfuTure FUTURE of OFprivacy PRIVACY Iain Iain Akerman examines whether thethe recent Akerman examines whether recent scandals involving social media companies willwill scandals involving social media companies change consumers value privacy change thethe wayway consumers value privacy
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There’s a feeling that we’re losing control of the tech that we have – that these companies are doing things on our behalf, with our data, that we wouldn’t necessarily want them to do,” says Danny O’Brien, international director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The economists call this a ‘principalagent problem’ – we outsource so much of our life to these tech companies but they don’t always have the same motives or goals as we do.” We are in the midst of a tech backlash – one that is firmly focused on the companies that are increasingly controlling and monitoring every element of our lives. That such a backlash is taking place at all should not come as any surprise. For year s Google has been plagued by concerns over privacy, extremist content, brand safety, corporate tax avoidance and the dissemination of political misinformation, while Facebook has been
rocked by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the harvesting of user data. It’s a scandal that has resulted in the testimony of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, at two congressional hearings, the closure of Cambridge Analytica, and the widespread accusation that Facebook is not only a threat to democracy but to our children’s welfare. In short, there is a prevailing view that tech giants have become too big and too powerful. At the heart of that concern is the belief that internet monopolies not only distort markets and political systems, but can’t be trusted either. During Senate committee hearings in Washington, for example, following revelations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, Google admitted that the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency had spent $4,700 on advertising as part of a misinformation campaign. It also revealed that 1,108 Russian-linked videos uploaded to YouTube had generated 309,000 views in the US. Facebook, mean-
“We outsource so much of our life to these companies, but they don’t have the same motives as we do”
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“There’s more than 300 million data points for every human on the planet daily”
Above left: Mark Zuckerberg Above: Moscow, which has been accused of using social media to interfere in the US elections
while, said Russian-backed posts had reached as many as 126 million Americans during and after the 2016 presidential election. Although both have since launched initiatives to help quell public concern and to counter ‘bad actors’, their reputations have been undermined and a deep apprehension and suspicion remains. Nowhere has this suspicion been more clearly felt than with the Cambridge Analytica fallout and the collection and use of our personal data for nefarious political means.
It is no surprise then that a backlash is underway. A recent survey in the US suggested that as many as 10 per cent of Americans have deleted Facebook accounts in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, while calls for government regulation have intensified on both sides of the Atlantic. There has also been a deluge of advice aimed at ensuring people take back control, or at least limit the level of information they release. As Charli Ursell, senior director of digital at media agency PHD, points out: “This age of digital disruption and huge technological change has turned all of us into ‘walking, talking data points,’ with an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day.” “That’s more than 300 million data points for every human on the planet,” says Ursell. “Daily.” Facebook tracks where you are, what applications you use, why you use them, and stores your call history and every message you’ve ever sent or received. It can also access your mobile camera and microphone. Google, too, knows pretty much everything about you. Where you’ve been (provided you have location tracking on), what you’ve done, what you’ve searched for, the music you listen to, your shopping history, the videos you’ve watched. Essentially, everything you’ve ever done online or on your mobile phone is logged. As such, one of the recommendations in the wake of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal has been to turn off location tracking, an act that may well make some feel happier, but effectively eradicates the possibility of whole swathes of future technology, including augmented reality and GPS-based communication.
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“Underlying the reason that people delete Facebook is a loss of control – there’s a sense they don’t have any other options”
“One of the tensions in this discussion is that personal data is collected by big tech companies in ways that people find surprising, and sometimes disturbing,” says O’Brien. “It’s not a shock that people reach for a big off switch when they find this out – especially when a big off switch is all they have. That’s why you hear a lot of people saying that they’re going to #deletefacebook or give up their smartphone. Or turn off location tracking entirely. Underlying a lot of these reactions is a real sense of a loss of control. People consider these actions because they don’t have many other options.” The danger with backlashes, however, is that they can be self-defeating. “One of the most impor tant things to understand about any major technological advancement is that it takes a society a very long time (usually several decades) to adjust to a point where that technology can add most value,” says Dave Coplin, chief envisioning officer at The Envisioners. “This has been true of every single major technological advancement from fire, agriculture, industrialisation, electricity, the mobile phone and so on. The internet, social media, and more specifically the internet’s primary economic model of advertising-funded, free-to-use services, are no exceptions to this. “What we are witnessing now is, in my view, an understandable knee jerk reaction to the reality of how things actually work. The real danger, however, is that the current focus on the negative outcome of this powerful technology runs the risk of distracting us from its positive potential. We seem to forget that billions of people walk around every day with a device that (governments permitting) enables them to access every single
Above: The ‘Delete Facebook’ campaign has gained traction in recent months Right: Much of the mainstream media’s influence has been usurped by social media
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fact and opinion our societies have ever known. Many of those billions also have access to phenomenal computing power and storage that is driving innovation and change, such as groundbreaking medical technology and education that is quite literally changing our world for the better. The real problem we face is that we are actually failing to help those billions use that technology to effect a positive difference in our society.” According to Coplin, we are incorrectly concluding that this is a technological issue, whereas it is in fact a societal problem. “Sure, the technology may have amplified the problem, but at their heart the issues we face are not technological in nature,” he says. “Switching the technology off does not stop any of the societal challenges we face today but it does make it impossible for us to fix them.” A major sticking point is the way organisations such as Facebook operate. They are opaque, partly because their approach is relatively new and hard to comprehend, but also because they haven’t been entirely forward about what it is
they do. They have also been dismissive and arrogant in the past, particularly when challenged by any form of authority. “The problem we’ve had until recently is that no one has really taken ownership of data and privacy issues on behalf of the global population,” says Ursell. “This is why the rollout of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is so important – it both raises awareness among the general public who are anxious but not equipped to safeguard their own data interests, as well as highlights the need for accountability from the companies and entities using their data for profit. “The Cambr idge Analytica scandal has therefore expedited a conversation that we all knew we needed to have. Without having trusted and knowledgeable bodies acting on our behalf, the natural reaction is a call to stop everything without a clear assessment of where people benefit and where they are being exploited. Although Facebook has been held to account, they are not the only party to have not considered fully the implications of having so much data on individuals and the responsibility that comes with it.” Are the main issues then privacy and trust? “Absolutely, but I’d add a third – understanding,” replies Coplin. “Right now, not enough people understand how the technology works and therefore its implications on our society and how we live our lives, and this is true for every stakeholder group in the conversation. Governments, tech companies, specialists and citizens/consumers all need a greater understanding of how things work, what’s on offer and what’s at risk in order for us to be able to find the right path forward.” The concept of privacy is a curious one because the issues surrounding it are so complex. It is, after all, an ambiguous, personal, and subjective concept, with divergent views on what is and what isn’t considered private and personal. “We cannot cling on to old ideologies of privacy (i.e. before the internet), but equally we cannot allow new technologies and organisations to run
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roughshod over our values,” says Coplin. “What we need is an open debate that compares the value being offered with the impact on privacy, along with the tools and controls that allow individuals to make their own informed choices.” For O’Brien, however, the central issues are control and autonomy. “We need to put tech back under the control of the user,” he says. “Your computer and your phone should be tools made for you, not you and Mark Zuckerberg. Digital technology has always had the capability to centralise power, or empower the edges of society. That’s always an ongoing battle, and this is just the
“We need to put technology back under the control of the user”
latest stage. You can choose not to play, and that’s an understandable choice. But that risks handing the knowledge and the tools of the future to some other power base, whether that’s bureaucrats and governments, the behemoths of Silicon Valley, or some new faction with the smarts to seize the promise and the threat of future tech.” Of concern to the proponents of data and future tech is the knowledge that we have still only scratched the surface of what is possible. Ursell cites a study by the International Data Corporation that found that, of the 2.8 trillion gigabytes of data that had been created by 2012, only 0.5 per cent was actually being used. “Just imagine what we could do with the remaining 95 per cent,” says Ursell. “If we consider people’s needs first, a common truth is that we all thrive on meaningful experiences and interactions. In
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“We need an open, honest debate where the potential of new technology can be understood and explored”
theory, technology can help us become more fulfilled in the long-term but it needs data to run and location tracking is an essential component of relevance and accuracy.” The problem, however, is that for all the good intentions, such data can be used for bad ends just as easily as it can for good. The question, therefore, is how to regain the future of communication and ensure that technological advancement is not suppressed. For Coplin, that can only be achieved with a focus on three key areas. “The first thing we need to do is to facilitate an open, informed debate, where the potential of new technologies and communication platforms can be understood and explored,” he says. “This is going to require more than just tech companies and governments coming together, it needs input from other stakeholders like citizens and consumers as
Left: Cambridge Analytica former employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie is sworn in before he testifies at the Senate hearings Above: A typical modern coffee shop
well as other topic specialists as and when required. What’s crucial in this debate, however, is that we find a common language that we can use to ensure we all have the right level of understanding to make the right kind of choices, decisions and laws. Today, the people making the technology often don’t speak the same language as the people that use it or even pass laws on it, and until that changes we’re going to find it hard to win the trust we need (on all sides) to move forward. “Secondly, we need to be absolutely transparent as to how the services we come to rely on every day work and, more importantly, how the data they use as fuel is generated, accessed and transmitted. This is going to be increasingly challenging, not just because it requires organisations and governments to be more open than they’ve ever been in the past, but also because increasingly the technology being used (in particular machine learning/AI) is becoming simply too complicated for any single human to comprehend. The AI community is already grappling with this issue (often referred to as AI’s ‘black box’). “Finally, we need to make the value proposition as explicit as possible, such that we as individuals, governments and societies at large can decide whether we feel the service is worth whatever cost it may infer.” For Ursell, there must be agreement on what is desirable and what needs to be stamped out, “otherwise regulations will be placed on the industry and produce side-effects that will most certainly limit the effectiveness of marketing and turn back the clocks by at least 10 years”. “When we achieve a model in which people feel that we are operating in a data-transparent world that places their interests at the core, then we will be able to navigate the opportunity that comes with data and technology more effectively,” she says. “This human-centric future must rely on fair, transparent guidelines that have been clearly and democratically outlined. The goal must be a fair value exchange.”
MILAN’S 21ST-CENTURY RENAISSANCE David G Taylor explores Milan’s high-end property market
n Milan, the plan to convert an abandoned trade fair grounds into a vibrant new residential district and business hub is currently taking shape. Designed by worldfamous architects including London’s Zaha Hadid, Tokyo’s Arata Isozaki, New York’s Daniel Libeskind and Milan’s own Andrea Maffei, the massive CityLife development is due to be fully completed in 2020. Spanning an area of almost 400,000 square feet, it’s Milan’s largest new civic space for 130 years and boasts facilities ranging from landscaped public parks to a luxury residential area of around 1,300 apartments. Milan’s newest landmark, the
It will span 400,000 square feet and will feature 1,300 apartments
Generali Tower is built and due to open there this summer, once the interiors are finished. Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), the 558ft, 44-storey building is the third tallest in Milan. Nicknamed ‘Lo Storto’ (‘The Twisted One’), ZHA’s extraordinarily shaped str ucture is such that each ascending floor rotates slightly. The helical twist means that no two floors are completely aligned and its uppermost floors, facing Milan’s historic city centre, offer radically different panoramas from its ground floor entrance. The tower will have a public plaza, shops and restaurants at its base, as well as providing office space for more than 3,200 employees from
Italy’s largest insurance company the Generali Group; one of the largest financial institutions on the planet. From its upper floors they’ll enjoy views of the 15th-century Duomo, the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, built from pink Candoglia marble, which took slightly longer in its construction of around 600 years. ‘Lo Storto’ is one of a trio of skyscrapers that form the centrepiece of the ambitious CityLife development. It sits alongside the 50-floor ‘Il Dritto’ (‘The Straight One’), designed by Isozaki and Maffei, now Italy’s tallest skyscraper at 686ft and serving as the headquarters of financial services provider the Allianz Group. The 574ft Libeskind designed ‘Il Curvo’ (‘The Curved One’), which will be the Italian headquarters of multinational company PricewaterhouseCoopers, will complete the threesome when it opens next year. Hadid and Libeskind are also behind a collection of modernist luxury apartments in CityLife’s dedicated residential district. Hadid designed seven serpentine residences with curved balconies that range from five to 14 storeys topped off by penthouses with extensive terraces overlooking the new park. The five-building Libeskind complex nearby has an asymmetrical design clad with light grey tiles. It’s centred around a courtyard and has what they’re calling ‘sky villas’, a series of double-height geometric penthouses that boast equally generous terraces. Out of 536 residencies built so far, prices range from $7,642 to $13,136 per square metre.
Below: An interior shot of one of CityLife’s luxury apartments
“The buildings themselves create extra value by deserving to be part of the view,” wrote Architect Magazine, journal of the American Institute of Architecture, when it waxed lyrical about the apartments. “In contrast to the asphalted surroundings and vinyl-windowed cheapness of even high-end American developments, these assemblages dynamically engage the greenery and kaleidoscopically choreograph sun and shadow through the day. American residential developers should take note.” Situated on the northeastern edge of Milan, CityLife follows the Italian trend for eco-friendly buildings and developments and is the largest car-free area in Milan, giving precedence instead to cyclists and pedestrians. It is, however, well connected to the city centre by road and a new metro train line that was completed in 2015. Elsewhere, there are more signs that Milan is booming. Last summer saw the opening of Tiffany & Co’s third Milanese boutique in Piazza del Duomo and the new boutique of Venetian fashion house Bottega Veneta’s on Via Montenapoleone. A new generation of luxury hotels has also been springing up, said to be less “stuffy” than their counterparts, such as the five-star Fifty House – a former city centre boarding school transformed into a modern boutique hotel and the ultra-modern Hotel Viu, a 124-room minimalist hotel in the “up-and-coming” neighbourhood of Porta Volta. “A city synonymous with high fashion deserves luxury hotels that are equally, if not more, stylish and experiential and smart hoteliers are beginning to deliver,” travel news website SkiftX said of these newcomers, while in a 2018 piece reviewing ‘The Best New Hotels in Milan’, Bloomberg commented: “Fifty House and Hotel Viu are fun, playful, and creatively designed,” attracting, it said, “a new generation of posh travellers.” No doubt some hotel guests will have attended the 57th Salone del Mobile (Milan Design Week), an international fair for the furnishing and design sector. April’s event drew as many as 300,000 visitors and this year continued its ongoing expansion with the inaugural Ventura Future exhibition. This new edition is dedicated to showcasing the varied and visionary work of next generation of graduate and student designers. Among them, exhibitor Alissa Rees showed off her IV-Walk project, a wearable alternative to traditional hospital drips. ‘Rubdish’, meanwhile, was a memorable conceptual food project that saw ingredients washed up at Rotterdam port or discarded in the city’s bins transformed into artistic and thought-provoking, if not quite as claimed “appetising” dishes. The project put
Giorgio Armani loved Milan, calling it a ‘true metropolis: it’s a city that’s strong and fearless, but welcoming too’
together by Netherlands-based designer Diederik Schneemann and photographer Aldwin van Krimpen demonstrated how rubbish might go from “from waste to a plate”. Ventura Future, incidentally, was held at Loreto district venues that included the Loft gallery, once a meeting place popular with the futurist art movement founded in Milan in 1909 by poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. You can see a number of Futurist works, including some by the influential painter and sculptor Umberto Boccioni, at the 18th-century Brera Art Gallery. Famous for its collection of Italian paintings, the gallery also houses masterpieces by Raphael and Caravaggio. It’s situated in Milan’s bohemian Brera neighbourhood where today a two-bedroom penthouse is on sale for $7 million. The loft on Via Mercato is offered by international property broker Tranio and boasts 4,413 square feet of living space on two levels and a rather large 2,432sqft terrace. The apartment is situated close to Porta Nuova, an old industrial area that was redeveloped in the late 1990s with its Corso Como, an arty culinar y and retail destination, founded by former Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Carla Sozzani. Nearby, a new skyscraper, Gioia 22, has just begun construction that’s designed by the studio of Argentine-American architect César Pelli and aims to be the most energy-efficient building in Italy. Apparently, the Milanese appreciate costeffectiveness. The late Italian journalist and author Enzo Biagi once quipped: “In Milan, everything is regulated by money. They say ‘cappuccio’ in bars instead of ‘cappuccino’ to save a syllable.” Salone del Mobile is just one of several world-class design fairs that take place annually, Milan Fashion Week, MiAr t, a showcase of modern and contemporary art, the artisan crafts of L’Artigiano in Fiera, and the international lighting exhibition, Euroluce, being notable examples. The city, which is also Italy’s banking capital and economic engine, is rather big on design it seems. Well-known as the epicentre of
Above: Piazza Gae Aulenti in the centre of Milan Above right: Via Giotto 5’s penthouse terrace
Italian fashion, it’s also responsible for Moleskine notebooks and Alfa Romeo cars. The many fashion labels based in Milan count Prada, Costume National, Pucci, Fiorucci, Versace and Armani among them. Giorgio Armani told W Magazine that he “hated the noise and the crowds” of Milan as a child. It was only later, when studying medicine there, that he realised what an important city it is. “Milan is a true metropolis: strong and fearless but welcoming, too,” he said. “Little by little, I came to realise that I could become someone here.” And didn’t he just? Armani’s global reach now spans fragrances,
“Property prices in Milan fell by 30 per cent but prices have risen and it’s still a buyer’s market”
cosmetics, eyewear, watches, home interiors, restaurants and luxury hotels, both in Dubai and at home in Milan. Quite a few prodigious talents have been nurtured in this city of culture. Luchino Visconti, the legendary film director, was Milanese and Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci spent decades there. He left behind many of his greatest works, including his 15th-century mural The Last Supper, which you can visit in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. And let’s not forget composers such as Giuseppe Verdi, who premiered works including Otello at the city’s
18th-century Teatro alla Scala, the largest opera house in Europe where each performance can accommodate more than 2,000 spectators. That Milan has much to offer is clear, but is it a good time to buy property there? Savills’ recent study Spotlight on Italy suggests so. “Hard hit during the global financial crisis, Italy’s economy is emerging from a period of financial and political challenges,” it reported. “The country’s property markets suffered and residential prices fell by up to 30 per cent. However, after several difficult years, stability is now in sight. Transaction volumes have risen 33 per cent from their 2013 low, while prices are beginning to level out. In the prime sector, there are high levels of stock. This makes it a buyer’s market.” “It is a good time to seize the opportunity to buy in Milan and make a good investment in the short-term,” says Amy Redfern, senior negotiator on Knight Frank Italian desk. “The market is showing signs of recovery and prices are expected to rise. In the second semester 2017,” she told Portfolio, “there was a recovery in the luxury properties market with a growing demand for the residential areas within the historic centre such as Brera, Magenta, Porta Venezia, Pagano, Castello and Porta Romana.” Situated in the heart of Milan close to its main retail street Corso Vercelli, a renovation project at Via Giotto 5 saw up to 50 per cent of its
residences sold within three months, according to Redfern. There’s still time to get in on the project, however. Its “jewel,” a four-bedroom penthouse with two spacious terraces, recently went on the market for around $3m. There’s been a strong interest in developing residential areas in neglected parts of Milan too, Redfern says. “New residential construction sites are increasing throughout the city with 2.9 million square metres [about 31 million square feet] of developable area.” These include
“Sant’Ambrogio is one of the most prestigious areas in the city. Milan’s wealthy families love the areas period buildings”
the redevelopment of seven former railway stations that have fallen into disuse, while “some emerging areas”, she adds, “will soon benefit from the new metro line connecting Milan city centre to Linate airport.” The new line also improves connectivity across the metro network, enhancing investment potential in a number of areas by intersecting with stations such as San Babila, Sforza Policlinico and Sant’Ambrogio. “Sant’Ambrogio area has always been recognised as one of the most prestigious residential areas in the city, highly populated by the Milanese bourgeoisie,” says Redfern. “It is located within the first ring road of the city, close to Cinque Vie, a luxurious district of Milan at the crossroads of the ancient Roman trade centre packed with ateliers, workshops, art studios and elegant boutiques. Milanese wealthy families are attracted by the typical period buildings of the district, and by the outstanding location with its wide range of facilities.” What, though, is it about living and working in Milan that sets it apart from other world-class cities, I asked Andrea Jarach, publisher and editorin-chief of the visitors’ guide, Where Milan? “What is most noteworthy is the history and the small size of the city,” Jarach says. “Milan dates back 2,000 years… while the city’s physical size means you can get around Milan by walking or using trams. The city’s position is also unique,” he says. “It’s less than three hours by fast train to Rome, two for Venice or Florence, half an hour to the lakes and one hour to reach the seaside or
Above: A render of the CityLife’s shopping development
the Alps to the north. Everything about Milano is an experience,” he says, counting shopping and its countless fashion outlets, trying some of its 3,000+ restaurants, “walking in the Brera district” and exploring the “Navigli (water channels) area at night” among his recommendations. With property investment it’s sensible to be aware of what’s on the horizon, so is Milan’s luxury property market subject to trends, I ask, and what else might affect it in the near future? “In general the luxury property market in Milan is not subject to particular trends any more so than other cities,” Redfern says. “But it can be affected by big events. For example, Fashion Week and Salone del Mobile can influence short-term rents.” One key factor that might affect the market is the new flat tax, she explains. “Last year the Agenzia delle Entrate introduced this tax,” she says. Its objective: “To attract foreign, high-net worth individuals to move their tax residence to Italy.”
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Island Escape Experience the ultimate in laidback luxury at a secluded island retreat
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LIVING / HOTEL
ENCHANTED ISLAND RESORT
WHERE TO STAY
PRICE From $614 per night
et in the Sainte Anne National Park, just off the coast of Mahé, the Enchanted Island Resort is almost hidden from the outside, blending in amongst the tropical surroundings. Nestled throughout a dense jungle canopy, the resort is comprised of 10 villas, each named after trees found on the island. The aesthetic of each villa is in keeping with the resort, which houses more than 100 pieces of antique furniture typically seen in island homes of the early 20th Century. The layout has been mapped out to make the most of sweeping sea views with king-sized beds positioned opposite the windows. Along with high beam ceilings and spacious walk-in wardrobes, the air-
Nestled throughout a dense jungle canopy, the resort is comprised of 10 villas
conditioned villas are also equipped with Bose sound systems and Wi-Fi. The bathrooms feature double sinks, open rain showers and outdoor mother-of-pearl bathtubs overlooking the ocean. Each villa has a private infinity pool and decking, complete with sun loungers and a dining veranda, along with winding steps leading down to your own secluded patch of beach. There’s a fitness centre for those who want to keep active during their stay, but most guests are content just to drink in the tropical calm. While the resort is small in size, there are plenty of facilities to keep guests in relaxation mode during their stay, ranging from a spa to a yoga pavilion.
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FROM THE CONCIERGE
Explore the beautiful Moyenne Island, accessed by a 10-minute kayak paddle or boat ride.
For those who want to experience nature, go for a hike in the Sainte Anne Marine National Park, where you will see giant tortoises, as well as a number of spectacular viewpoints over the ocean.
Enjoy your meals in the privacy of your villa or wander over to Bounty restaurant where Chef Suman Napit and his team create a range of international and Creole-inspired dishes.
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JUNE LIVING / INVESTMENT
Model Cars Get it right and investing in model cars can be child’s play
Networking is key. Contact other collectors and get the inside track on the latest events and sales. For many collectors, the excitement is meeting like-minded people and finding the occasional gem.
Choose the right size. Models come in a variety of sizes: 1:8, 1:18, 1:24, 1:43 and 1:87, with the most popular being the 1:43 scale. Most collectors stick to one size, although you may want to diversify in order to have the best chance of making a profit.
Be creative. Look around for second-hand models – everywhere from flea markets to eBay are great for finding models for a fraction of their market value. Do your research on eBay and the bidding techniques.
odel cars have been growing in popularity as an investment choice but potential investors need to be realistic about the returns that can be gained. The market is broken down into two segments: die cast model cars and model vehicle kits. In terms of die cast models, it’s important to focus on limited-edition releases. Put simply, the less of a certain model manufactured, the more that model will be worth in the future. The most beautiful models were built during the 1920s and ’30s, but bargains can be had from any era. Most important is that you enjoying collecting the cars – these are very much investments for the long run.
LIVING / STYLE
What to pack ...for summer weather in Santiago and beyond
Buenos Aires Montevideo Cape Town Harare
ALSO WEAR IN...
13°C 12°C 14°C 15°C
Chance of rain: 15%
WHAT TO SEE
CAJÓN DEL MAIPO A spectacular gorge southeast of the capital that is a favourite of weekend hikers. It’s home to the remarkable El Morado Natural Monument, a huge mountain reserve with trails to the San Francisco Glacier and Laguna Morales. Expect to see a huge array of wildlife including the
spectacular Andean condor. Another attraction is the Baños Morales thermal springs. Chile is a place of astounding natural beauty and this whole area is well worth a few days of diversion from the capital. It gets cold here at all times of year, so make sure you bring lots of warm weather gear and never hike alone.
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1. Moncler Gamme Bleu check quilted down shirt $1,372, matchesfashion.com 2. Skinny-fit zip-fetailed paint-splattered selvedge denim jeans $1,102, mrporter.com 3. Gucci tiger-print cotton T-shirt $494, harveynichols.com 4. Ralph Lauren Purple Label pleated linen and mulberry silk-blend shorts $441, mrporter.com 5. Berluti alessandro démesure leather Oxford shoes $2,123, matchesfashion.com 6. Tom Ford colorblock leather-suede runner sneaker $1,065, neimanmarcus.com
81 Tom Ford men’s leather bi-fold wallet $473 neimanmarcus.com
JW Anderson leather-trimmed denim holdall $1,492 matchesfashion.com
Gucci eagle’s head sterling silver ring $626 mrporter.com
LIVING / STYLE
What to pack ...for summer weather in Brisbane and beyond
Sydney Auckland Dublin Glasgow
ALSO WEAR IN...
14°C 12°C 13°C 12°C
Chance of rain: 15%
WHAT TO SEE
LONE PINE KOALA SANCTUARY Founded in 1927, it is the world’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary and is a haven for lovers of these native animals. It’s also home to kangaroos, wombats, Tasmanian devils, and a platypus. Visitors are allowed to hold koalas for free, and they can also feed the free-roaming
kangaroos in the beautiful five-acre reserve. The sanctuary is about 20 minutes’ drive from Brisbane and is a favourite of both residents and tourists alike. It’s one of Australia’s best wildlife reserves and a definite must-see for anyone visiting the city, whichever of the animal kingdom is your favourite.
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Clive Christian original collection 50ml $888 net-a-porter.com
Fendi logo expandable cardholder $360 matchesfashion.com
Globe-Trotter 20 inch trolley case $1,626 harveynichols.com
83 1. Emilia Wickstead Amelia wool-crepe midi dress $1,668, matchesfashion.com 2. Giorgio Armani silk-organza halterneck top $1,387, net-a-porter.com 3. Loewe pinstriped belted cotton skirt $1,346, harveynichols.com 4. Manolo Blahnik Hangisi 105mm satin pump $1,071, neimanmarcus.com
LIVING / FOOD
The lie of the land James Brennan explores the world of terroirnomics
hen Elena Arzak gives a talk about farm-to-fork dining and the social and economic impact of local food, people listen. The chef at the three Michelin-star Arzak Restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain, may be renowned for her cutting-edge dishes, but her modernist creations have a firm basis in local ingredients and the Basque culinary tradition. They tell the story of a place and its people. And so it was in Toronto recently, where Arzak took to the stage to address the 12th annual Terroir Symposium – a gathering of Canada’s food and hospitality glitterati. Terroir is no stranger
A Terroir Symposium participant
to big names, having hosted the likes of Rene Redzepi, Albert Adria and Dominique Crenn at previous events. As such, it has won a reputation as a prominent platform for top food industry professionals to network and share ideas – a kind of TedX for food. It’s a format with international appeal. Terroir has hosted forums in Berlin, Budapest and Warsaw, and has plans for an eight-day event in Tuscany in November. But its spiritual home is Toronto, a diverse city with a vibrant food and drink scene that’s only just beginning to discover the value of its own unique larder. This year’s symposium, themed ‘Terroirnomics: The Powerful Economics of Local’, showcased how businesses and communities can profit from what comes from the land, lakes, rivers and oceans. But it also shone a light on the importance of education where local food is concerned. According to Arzak, increased awareness is vital. “Some people don’t know the seasons. When are the raspberries? They have no idea. [At Arzak] we always serve squid in the summer. We would never serve it in winter because the waters are not warm enough. Fish is most important in our culture. For me it’s important to know what is local and what is not local,” she said. In case anyone had forgotten, the advantages of eating local, seasonal food are manifold. For a start, because the food has less distance to travel it’s often
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LIVING / FOOD
fresher and therefore more flavoursome and nutrient-rich. Buying from local suppliers supports the local economy, and allows money to be distributed more evenly in the community. And by supporting local farms and producers, you are helping to maintain the land, which shapes the unique character and flavour of the food through its topography and climate. But as well as the ‘terroir’ or expression of the environment in the produce, there is also a human aspect. Eating local food brings people together and promotes cultural understanding through the stories behind the food. To borrow a Terroir buzzphrase, eating local offers a taste of place. Also speaking at Terroir was the Canadian writer and academic Dr Sylvain Charlebois. Known as ‘The
Food Professor’ for his Canadian Grocer blog of the same name, and for his work in food science and policy, Charlebois recognises the need for education while advocating change in the food economy. “I’ve been asked once: ‘Where do you get gluten-free beef?’ I’m still looking. We are dealing with a lot of Canadians that are not well versed in food, generally speaking. Is it their fault? Not necessarily. It’s our economics.” Industrial farming and global supply chains have changed our relationship with the food we eat, but Charlebois believes local producers and restaurateurs can help rebuild that connection. “As a business you have to consider what your food means, not just how it tastes,” he said. “When you actually embrace the terroir movement, you’re not just selling calories and proteins;
you’re selling a meaning. There’s a story behind the food you’re serving. It’s about emotions transferring themselves through the supply chain to our plates.” The province of Ontario is a prolific producer of food, drink and stories. Lanark County is the self-proclaimed capital of that Canadian favourite maple syrup, and blueberries grow wild across the north of the province. There are wineries to be explored in the Niagara Peninsula, on the north shore of Lake Erie, and more recently on Lake Ontario’s northern shore in Prince Edward County, whose Taste Trail showcases the best farmer’s markets selling everything from local cheese to craft beer and cider. Norfolk County was once regarded as Ontario’s tobacco belt, thanks to its moderate climate and well-drained sandy
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and gravelly soil. In recent years measures were taken by the government to diversify crops away from tobacco, and Norfolk has now repositioned itself as Ontario’s Garden. It’s one of Canada’s top producers of apples, tart cherries, asparagus and cabbage, as well as some special high-value crops like ginseng and black peanuts. There are wineries too, such as Burning Kiln, whose head winemaker Lydia Tomek was once heralded as Ontario’s youngest. The daughter of hardworking immigrants, she is now celebrated in her craft, making premium wines on a former tobacco farm. Norfolk is also home to livestock producers such as VG Meats, a family
business run by four brothers specialising in “small herd, high care beef” with no added hormones or antibiotics. The Van Groningens pride themselves on producing Canada’s first and only “tenderness tested” beef, which always promises to be closer to butter than shoe leather. And their rich and toasty whiskyaged beef, made with Ontario’s own Forty Creek whisky, deserves legendary status. But the company has humble origins. The Van Groningens’ grandfather escaped the ravages of World War II in the Netherlands, and emigrated to America with all the know-how but few opportunities to set up his own
“In North America, farming and butchery is a dying business. It feels really good to carry on something that my dad and grandfather started decades ago”
operation. It wasn’t until 1970 that the family business was founded in Ontario, and the four boys grew up with it. “My family has a rich history and tradition in farming with grandpa learning to butcher out of necessity during the war. He was a black market butcher in his local community in Holland,” said retail sales manager and third-born grandson Kyle Van Groningen. “In North America this is a dying business, both farming and butchery. It feels good to carry on something that my dad and grandfather started. I hope that we can do the same for our children.” But while the connection between local producers and restaurants is gradually being rebuilt, it doesn’t work for everyone. Adamson Barbecue is a rising star of Toronto’s restaurant scene, selling its sumptuous brisket, ribs and house-made sausages to a growing band of loyal customers out of an industrial unit in the suburb of Leaside. Co-owner Adam Skelly travelled to Texas to learn the intricacies of a “legit” woodfired barbecue. But while some of the vegetables he uses are from Ontario, most of the thick-slab speciality meat is not. “Hardly any of our products are local,” said Skelly. “Our beef comes from Arkansas. When produce is in season in Ontario we end up with local product, but that’s tough through the winter.” Few food economies can function on local products alone, but according to Rebecca Mackenzie of the Culinary Tourism Alliance in Ontario the terroir movement can help redress the balance. “The relationship between the agriculture, fishing and aquaculture industries and the hospitality industry has been eroded by globalised and industrialised food systems,” she said. “There is a fundamental need to reconnect these industries, to educate and inspire them to build relationships and showcase their products and talents to locals and visitors alike.” In a time when more and more consumers want to know the narrative behind their food, it makes perfect sense for businesses to satisfy the desire for that connection. In places like Ontario the world over, there are lots of local producers just waiting to tell their stories.
LIVING / ART
Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier London’s Design Museum hosts a tribute to a fashion legend
onceived and co-curated with Alaïa before his death in November 2017, the exhibition, from London’s Design Museum, charts his journey from sculptor to couturier, his nonconformist nature and his energy for fashion, friendship and the female body. The Tunisian couturier and shoe designer epitomised the magic of the
1980s fashion scene and made a name as the designer of choice for stars including Naomi Campbell, Greta Garbo and Grace Jones. In more recent years, he teamed with Michelle Obama and Rihanna, displaying a longevity many of his peers could only envy. This exhibition is not a retrospective, rather it weaves stories of his life and career alongside
personally selected garments from the early 1980s to his last collection in 2017. Billed by The Guardian as “couture’s rebellious outsider”, Alaïa’s work was always playful and innovative and this is a lovingly curated tribute to one of fashion’s biggest names. Design Museum, until October 7th Designmuseum.org
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Clockwise from opposite: A portrait of Alaïa; Peter Lindbergh’s shot of Alaïa’s work; four dresses from his Andrea & Valentina collection; an Alaïa-branded bag.
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LIVING / COLUMN
How to Get Unstuck By Matt Perman
ision is essential for true greatness, properly understood, because vision is the definition of what true greatness is. What Jim Collins has said about companies and greatness is also true of individuals: “Vision isn’t necessary to make money; you can certainly create a profitable business without it. There are plenty of people who have made a lot of money, yet had no compelling vision. But if you want to do more than just make a lot of money – if you want to build an enduring, great company – then you need a vision.” Collins’ point for organisations also holds true for individuals: if you want to do more than simply make money in your life or be well liked, if you want to live a life that makes a difference, then you need to have a vision. It is ironic that if you simply want to do what our culture often defines as success – namely, make money – vision is not necessary, but if you want to do something more than that, it is essential. Vision not only leads to the right kind of accomplishment in life; it also tends to lead to high accomplishment. By this I don’t mean that the endeavours in your life have to be vast. If that’s not your vision, then that’s probably not going to be a good way to go. What I do mean is that clear vision leads to performing at your potential, which is indeed a good thing and something you are designed to do. In fact, vision has been shown to be incredibly powerful in every aspect of life. Experience backs this fact, and it has been verified by studies. Consider the following. Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, says: “People with a high level of personal mastery share several basic characteristics. They have a special sense of purpose that lies behind their visions and goals. For such a person, a vision is a calling rather than simply a good idea.”
Likewise, Stephen Covey notes: “One of my favorite essays is ‘The Common Denominator of Success,’ written by EM Gray. He spent his life searching for the one denominator that all successful people share. He found it wasn’t hard work, good luck, or astute human relations, though those were all important. The one factor that seemed to transcend all the rest [was]… putting first things first.” Putting first things first requires a vision. As Covey notes: “Discipline derives from discipline – disciple to a philosophy, disciple to a set of principles, disciple to a set of values, disciple to an overriding purpose, to a superordinate goal or a person who represents that goal.” Perhaps the greatest illustration of the power of vision in individuals’ lives is that of Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychologist who survived the Nazi death camps of the Second World War. During his time in the concentration camps, he was sustained by his vision of reuniting with his wife and lecturing after the war on the psychological lessons learned from the concentration camps. He also observed how others endured, intrigued by the question of why anyone at all survived when most did not. Stephen Covey summarises his findings very well: [Frankl] looked at several factors – health, vitality, family structure, intelligence, survival skills. Finally, he concluded that none of these factors was primarily responsible. The single most significant factor, was a sense of future vision – the conviction of those who were to survive that they had a mission to perform some important work left to do.” Survivors of POW camps in Vietnam and elsewhere have reported similar experiences: a compelling, future-oriented vision is the primary force that kept many of them alive. Frankl summarized his experiences – and his approach to psychology that resulted from it – in his book Man’s Search for Meaning.
Vision not only leads to the right kind of achievement, it leads to high achievement
90 From Unstuck by Matt Perman © 2018. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
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