Q U I N T E S S E N T I A L L Y 1 0
ACCESSING THE INACCESSIBLE • WINTER 2010 • £5
ISSUE 27 • WINTER 2010
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Murray Motor Company Bankhead Drive, Sighthill Industrial Estate Edinburgh, Scotland, EH11 4DJ, UK Tel: +44 (0)1314 421 000 www.rrmc-murray.com
17//EDITOR’S LETTER alex bilmes sets the scene 17//INSIDER a decade of decadent game changing venues 28//Just as I planned! quintessentially members’ most unusual requests 32//my, how we’ve grown lucia van der post charts the prodigious growth of Q 38//5am boys simon mills and harry becher fix up, look sharp in london 42//militant zac goldsmith meets his eco idol sir david attenborough 46//requiem for a dreamland fast rides and fast women fast disappearing on coney island 52//fantastic fortunes dbc pierre’s risky business 54//shanghai tony parsons emigrates east 60//the ground beneath her feet wilderness walking in south africa 67//red dawn chinese art 70//design for living deyan sudjic on inviting the architect in 76//grand, eternal and demanding of respect snowdonia 83//Q10 Fashion our top ten most stellar shots 96//q gifted inspiration from the experts 98//Q toasted Q wine say thank you for the drinking 102// Q LAVISH outlandish events 104//luxe list the need to know 107//i-q society partying with quintessentially 112//social wire aaron simpson slips on his spats for a night at the savoy COVER; Illustration by Ifan Bates. Prints of the artwork will be auctioned in December 2010 in aid of Quintessentially Foundation. For more information please contact Lindsay Davis on 0207 758 3389
Garden Rooms ...anywhere
Individually designed. Individually made 00 44 (0) 20 7 881 5700 | 194 EBURY STREET LONDON SW1W 8UP | www.marston-and-langinger.com
Alex Bilmes Editorial director
Lucia van der Post Creative director
Tempus fugit, said the Romans: “time flies”. It’s there in Virgil. Later, Chaucer concurred. Smokey Robinson suggested a modification, with added horn section: “Time flies when you’re having fun.” (He wasn’t the first to say it, just the most mellifluous).
This issue commemorates Quintessentially’s tenth birthday. Since
we very much hope you have been having fun during that time, chances are the past ten years
Sophie Walker Sub editor
may well have gone by in a blurry eye-blink of hi-jinks and big spending – “bling” being, at least
until late 2007, the decade’s lamentably inescapable aesthetic. Still, ten years is still a substantial
chunk of change in anyone’s life. Nostalgia is for wimps, but celebrating the triumphs of the past is
Shirley Freeman Art director
Lauren Robertson Layout & design
Lauren Robertson Philip Randall Photographic adviser
Mark Welby Managing director
Nigel Fulcher Publishing director
important and irresistible. And a tenth anniversary is not to be sniffed at. In business terms, it’s an achievement in itself.
This issue, then, is devoted to a decade of inspiration and innovation.
Quintessentially was launched, in 2000, at a time of great upheaval – the turn of a new millennium, no less. If, in hindsight, that moment feels like it belongs to another world, that’s because it does. In 2000 Tony Blair was in his pomp, George W. Bush “beat” Al Gore to the presidency, give or take a few hanging chads, and only spooks and security correspondents had heard of Al-Qaeda. Time-
Warner merged with AOL, Tate Modern opened in London, Sydney hosted a spectacular Olympics, the
anti-globalisation protests continued their march around the world and the Second Intifada erupted in
Ken Hutton Advertising sales
Jerusalem. At the cinema, American Beauty swept the Oscars and Russell Crowe wondered whether
Rachel Eden Tel: 020 7399 9585
we were not entertained. Britney and Christina battled it out in the charts and J Lo helped pioneer the
put down Zadie Smith or Dave Eggers. In Chicago, little known Illinois State Senator Barack Obama (age
New Barn Fanhams Grange Fanhams Hall Road Ware Hertfordshire SG12 7QA Tel: 01920 467 492 For Quintessentially
Aaron Simpson, Founder & Group Executive Chairman Ben Elliot, Founding Director Paul Drummond, Founder & Group Commercial Director Leanne Simpson, Creative Director Lindsay Davis, Group Sales & Marketing Manager 10 Carlisle Street Soho, London W1D 3BR Tel: 020 7758 3300
irritating celebrity acronym. Everyone who was anyone was glued to the Sopranos and no-one could 39) lost a Democratic Primary run for the US House of Representatives. Lady Gaga was a convent girl. Wayne Rooney was playing for the Everton youth team. Mark Zuckerberg was a 16-year-old high school geek and Facebook wasn’t even a glint in his beady eye. Meanwhile in London, as Lucia van der Post explains on page 32, two young men were plotting their own form of world domination – with a smile and a handshake (and tickets to the hottest show in town, reservations for the best table in the finest restaurant and introductions to more social movers than you could shake a stiffy at). Ben Elliot and Aaron Simpson’s Quintessentially global concierge service spawned a school of sister businesses, of which this magazine is just one. Over the following pages we spotlight some of the very best openings of the past decade, as well as republishing some of our own greatest hits. Sadly for me, I can’t take any credit for these – I’m new to the team. I’d like to, though, because they’re quite extraordinary: bestselling novelist Tony Parsons in Shanghai; Booker Prize winner DBC Pierre on Mexico City; Zac Goldsmith’s terrific interview with David Attenborough (neither knowing at the time that one day the latter would be among the former’s constituents); plus brilliant, incisive reporting and superb photography from Snowdonia, Africa and all points between. And, of course, cutting edge fashion and design.
Here’s to the next ten years – and beyond.
Alex Bilmes, Editor
Quintessentially Magazine is produced on behalf of Quintessentially (UK) Ltd by FMS Publishing, New Barn, Fanhams Grange, Fanhams Hall Road,
Ware, Hertfordshire. Printed in the UK by Buxton Press. Origination by FMS. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is strictly prohibited. Prices and details correct at time of going to press but are subject to change. Quintessentially Offices Abidjan | Abu Dhabi | Abuja | Accra | Athens Bahrain | Baku | Bangkok | Barbados | Beijing | Beirut | Bogotá | Brussels | Buenos Aires | Cairo | Casablanca | Copenhagen | Dubai | Dublin | Geneva | Hong Kong Istanbul | Jeddah | Johannesburg | Kiev | Kuala Lumpur | Kuwait City | Lagos | Lisbon | London | Los Angeles | Manama | Maputo | Mexico City | Miami | Milan Munich | Moscow | New Delhi | New York | Oslo | Panama City | Paris | Port Harcourt | San Francisco | São Paulo | Seoul | Shanghai | Singapore | St. Julians Stockholm | Sydney | Tokyo | Toronto | Vancouver | Vienna |
Sam Parker counts down the ten most influential international openings of the decade, from London to LA, Moscow to Marrakech
The Box (2007) Boldly burlesque in New York
Since opening in 2007, Simon Hammerstein’s The Box, a nightclub-cum-theatre on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has managed to pull off almost as many tricky feats as its cast of risqué burlesque beauties, circus oddities and daring dancers. Chief among its many achievements was becoming a nightclub that is genuinely sexy, without a stripper’s pole in sight. Today, the trend for nightclubs in all major party cities to incorporate live burlesque and avant-garde performance into their entertainment feels commonplace. But The Box was the first major nightclub to do it well, and it remains a much-copied pioneer of the scene. Resplendent in prohibition-era decor – sepia walls, twinkling chandeliers and the odd merry-go-round horse – The Box puts a state-of-the-art stage and a programme of intricately executed, anything-goes late-night performances at the heart of what it does. The celebrity names that have come to be associated with The Box are too numerous to list in full, but within weeks of it opening, Beyonce was booking her own VIP areas and several music and Hollywood A-listers followed suit. Any fear that The Box’s showbiz credentials were on the wane were roundly dismissed when, just this year, rapper Kanye West performed a secret show to a small crowd, including David Beckham. “Hell of a night, hell of a life,” Kanye is said to have remarked afterwards – which sums up this nightclub’s appeal quite nicely. Why so influential?
For pioneering a fresh and exciting period in high-end nightclub entertainment. The London
branch opens this year. 189 Chrystie Street, New York, NY 10002-1202, +1 (212) 982 9301, theboxnyc.com
The Setai (2005) Tasteful extravagance on Miami’s South Beach
At first glance, a glistening, 40-storey skyscraper made up of steel and glass seemed like the quintessential addition to Miami’s occasionally brash South Beach hotel scene. But while The Setai is certainly one of the most expensive luxury hotels in the area, it is also in many ways one of the most discreet and private places to unwind on the whole coast. Let’s deal with the extravagance first. The penthouse suite is complete with its own recording studio, personally designed by Lenny Kravitz. With two master bedrooms, the services of a former Buckingham Palace butler and its own master swimming pool, it’s no surprise that one of its few regular patrons is Madonna. The Caviar, Champagne and Crustacean Bar is merely an accompaniment to The Setai’s first-rate restaurant and royal jeweller Asprey have a residence downstairs, from which they sell bar sets for £19,000. However, unlike many American hotels of its scale and price, The Setai does an excellent job of protecting its guests’ privacy. For all the flamboyance of the food, you can choose to enjoy it in one of several small dens that act as private dining areas. Away from opens spaces like the set of three pools (all set to different temperatures), the interior is a series of small refuges and intimate hideaways. It is this marriage of external extravagance and subtle, internal touches that made The Setai’s launch in 2005 a landmark event for luxury hotels. For proving that extravagant services provided on a giant scale can still be executed with good taste. Why so influential?
2001 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139-1913, +1 (305) 520 6000, setia.com
Unlike most London restaurants that hope to compete with the very finest the city has to offer, The Wolseley opened in 2003 with a minimum of fuss. Critics received no press release. Celebrities were not invited to any launch party. And yet immediately and ever since, the grand old building in Piccadilly has been booked solid. The reason the Wolseley could afford such an understated opening was the reputation of its owners, Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, who together had already illuminated London’s fine dining scene with Le Caprice, The Ivy and J Sheekey – three huge success stories that the pair had sold five years earlier. On their quiet comeback that day in November, King and Corbin managed not only to match the best locations for an evening meal that the country had to offer, but shine an interesting new light on what has always been considered a dark corner of British cuisine: breakfast. From the magnificent central horseshoe eating space (invariably populated with famous faces), the most important meal of the day is transformed in a sumptuous event, involving seasonal and exotic fruit salads, flaky croissants garnished with almonds and cheese and perfect bacon sandwiches to name just a few. For making breakfast a meal London can be proud of. And proving that the size-zero fashion crowd do actually eat, after all. Why so influential?
The Wolseley (2003)
160 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EB, +44 (0)20 7499 6996, thewolseley.com
Bringing breakfast to London
Mandara Spa (2008) A new level of luxury in Cairo
In ancient times, no one knew how to ‘do’ pampering quite like the Egyptians, and it is partly their decadent practices that inspired the Mandara Spa in Cairo – in our opinion, simply one of the most relaxing places in the world. The 2,500 square mile expansion that took place before its reopening in 2008 didn’t just add scale to this beautiful hotel, it allowed it to offer something that other so-called luxury establishments often struggle to get right – a genuine sense of privacy. At the Madara Spa, guests have access to 30 different spa treatments, all carried out in private single (or couples) rooms. So while you’re easing your way into a milk and honey bath – inspired, of course, by Egypt’s most famous advocate of beauty treatments, Queen Cleopatra, you can do so without the intrusive sight of a stranger towelling himself dry or another couple’s whispers distracting you from your thoughts. The spa’s signature ‘Epic 24 Karat Gold Facial’ is exactly as its name suggests – a facial treatment that culminates in a gold leaf mask being placed over you. Like so many of the other treatments available at Mandara Spa, it would seem to set new standards in shameless extravagance – if it wasn’t for the fact that it works a small miracle on your sense of well-being. Why so influential?
For redefining our expectations of luxury and relaxation.
JW Marriott Cairo, Ring Road, Heliopolis, Cairo, 11757, Egypt, +20 (2)2406 5890, mandaraspa.com
Manon (2008) A global menu in moscow
Before Manon’s opening in 2008, restaurateur Andrey Dellos had already done much to hasten Moscow’s transformation from a city with a struggling reputation for fine dining, to a capital brimming with restaurants envied the world over. This was the man with the vision to create, amongst others, Turandot, one of the most arresting restaurants of recent times. And yet for all its undeniable charm – the soft-lit chandeliers, the stripped terracotta walls, the beautiful antique mirrors – Manon shares nothing of Turandot’s flamboyant aesthetics. No matter. As we soon realised after the doors were open, Manon’s true creativity, style and sense of adventure is to be found on its menu.
Royal Mansour (2010) A King’s vision in Marrakech
The blending of different culinary styles and influences is central to the work of many great chefs, but rarely does such an eclectic mix of international dishes come together with such aplomb as when in the hands of Manon’s resident genius, chef Michel del Burgo. Traditional French dishes share pages with Spanish tapas (a nod to del Burgo’s Iberian roots). European classics jostle with sushi. Oysters in mango sauce are served with beetroot soup. To describe his kitchen as an explosion of cultures would be inaccurate only in that it implies chaos: everything in Manon’s complex list of flavours and ingredients come together in harmony. Thanks to this, in 2008, the great city of Moscow had yet another jewel in its culinary crown. The eclecticism of Manon’s menu was not just a triumph for Moscow, but for fine dining the world over. Why so influential?
1905 Goda ul., 2, Moscow, +7 (495) 651 8100, manon-club.ru
When King Mohammed VI paid a visit to the Royal Mansour while it was still being built, he took one look at the entry gate – four tons of awesome bronze that could be operated electronically – and demanded they remade it because it was ‘too small’. This incredible, sprawling medina – opened only this year in Marrakech – didn’t go over budget for the simple reason that no budget had been agreed. Instead, over a thousand craftsmen worked with the finest materials in Morocco for four years to realise their King’s dream – a hotel that would be the pinnacle of Moroccan luxury, service and design – at any price. Expectations for the Royal Mansour were therefore huge before it opened, and yet in the event, the final product actually exceeded them. While the 53 individual riads placed around open-air courtyards – each with their own roof terrace, plunge pool and open fire – were to be hoped for from such an ambitious project, the genius of the rest of the design was a surprise to everyone. Winding paths – each one a unique stroll past beautiful ornate fountains, zellige tile work and other decorative flourishes – tie the complex together, while an intricate maze of underground tunnels enable the staff to be attentive whilst almost invisible. The Michelin starred food, the spa (set into a moat) and the general world class facilities are there too, but none of them are what makes the Royal Mansour one of the few genuinely unique hotels in Africa. It is the hard work of the finest designers in Morocco – and the realization of a King’s dream. Awe-inspiring in scale and execution, the Royal Mansour has set a new standard in hotel design. Why so influential?
Rue Abou Abbas El Sebti, 40 000, Marrakech, +212 (0)529 80 80 80, royalmansour.com 22
SLS (2004) A hotel revolution in LA
One man’s vision can be a powerful thing, as Sam Nazarian proved many times in his previous role as a nightclub creator. Back then, he was responsible for opening some of the hottest nightspots in LA – including the Hyde Lounge and Area. But it was by opening the doors to his first hotel in 2004 – the SLS – that Nazarian proved something different. That an entire team of visionaries can be an even more powerful thing again. Onboard with Nazarian was design guru Murray Moss, whose primary vision was for a modernbazaar to go in place of the standard hotel gift shop, Spanish chef Jose Andres, who quickly developed an astonishing range of signature dishes and cocktails for the hotel, and Nazarian’s fellow progenitor Philippe Starck, who insisted on flourishes such as the SLS’s ‘floating’ bed. As a result of their creative teamwork, the chairs in the SLS occur in 177 different styles. Moss and Andres’ lobby, known as ‘The Bazaar’, is a combination of a restaurant, a lounge and a patisserie decorated with various shoes, hands and faces encased in brightly lit glass. Freshly made bonbons are shared out over fairy tale-length tables. A solid-glass deer head looks down from above. The SLS, in short, is no normal hotel. It’s a beguiling labyrinth of unexpected features and convention-thwarting design – and a luxury hotel that remains one of the most unique in the world. The SLS proved that imaginative and daring design can coexist with world class service and facilities. Why so influential?
465 South La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048, +1 (310) 247 0400, slshotels.com
Market (2007) Laid-back steaks in Panama
Sometimes a restaurant opens that reminds us how to do the simple things perfectly – or in the case of Market in Panama, show us how do them for the first time. It’s not that steak houses didn’t exist before in Belle Vista, Panama’s vibrant heart, just that there wasn’t one quite like this, where the finest cuts of meat have made their way from not just some of the best stock in the country but in the world. For residents and visitors to Panama, Market quickly became the first choice spot in the city to sample Philly steaks, sliders and fish and chips cooked to the levels of taste they dishes can reach when elevated by quality produce. And then there is the setting. Before you even enter Market, you’re immediately struck by the laid-back style of the outdoor terrace where people swarm to socialise throughout the year. The interior, meanwhile, is dominated by wall displays of Veuve Clicquot Champagne bottles that frame the relaxed dining space. It’s a wonderful, almost gastropub experience – only offset by world class cuts of steak, simplicity done to perfection. Exceptional dedication to impeccably sourced produce. Why so influential?
Calle 47 con Calle Uruguay, Panama, +507 264 9401, marketpanama.com
RIO Ipanema Beach, Topas Titanium, 2010 Germany Cologne, Munich, Brazil SĂŁo Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, BrasĂlia, USA Honolulu, Beverly Hills, Canada Toronto, China Beijing, Shanghai, Changsha, Hong Kong Hong Kong, Japan Tokyo, South Korea Seoul, Macao Macao, Philippines Manila, Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Singapore Singapore, Taiwan Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung. www.rimowa.com
Boujis (2002) A-listed entertainment in London
Boujis doesn’t just attract London’s passing celebrities, it attracts English royalty, which any regular reader of certain sections of the British media will happily tell you. This is the nightclub outside which Princes’ William and Harry, along with their other young blue-blooded relatives, are regularly ‘papped’ leaving in the small hours of the morning. Since its opening in 2002, it has also been the spot where Mickey Rourke nonchalantly sauntered off with a Ukrainian model to the horror of her furious boyfriend and where Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio and Owen Wilson once shared the tiny dance floor. And yet, for all that Boujis has become synonymous with London’s celebrity scene, it remains one of the least pretentious locations in the city. While the area’s other nightclubs attempt to engineer an ‘in’
crowd by imposing self-conscious dress codes, Boujis only draws the line at flipflops. Where its competitors fill their seating space with exposed tables primed for posing, Boujis’ homely leather alcoves and bespoke furniture give a sense of laid-back intimacy. And so the awards keep rolling in: nine in total from the London Bar and Club Awards and Nightclub of the Year from Quintessentially. After eight years at the top of its game, Boujis is still the nightspot anyone who’s anyone wants to visit: and not just for a photo opp. Why so influential? For showing London the right way to be ‘exclusive’.
43 Thurloe St, London, SW7 2LQ, +44 (0)20 7584 6678, boujis.com
Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée (2000) Ten years of excellence from the world’s most decorated chef
All of the openings in our list have at some point in the past decade brought something entirely new to their field, either in terms of innovation or standards. But only one can be said to have sustained that achievement for the entire ten years. Despite owning successful restaurants in London, New York, Paris, Tokyo (the list goes on) and being the first chef ever to be awarded a total of nine Michelin stars, Alain Ducasse remains faithful to the modest mantra that ‘cooking is 60 per cent product and 40 per cent execution’. If that is true, then Ducasse’s ten-year residency at Plaza Athénée has been a core ingredient to the hotel’s success since 2000. For on every day since then, guests in the elegant ivory dining room have enjoyed unfaltering standards of service and exceptional contemporary French haute cuisine. While Ducasse has travelled to survey his empire, his staff have executed house classics like the langoustines with caviar or pigeon fillets in shallot-mustard sauce to his precise standards for satisfied customers from around the world. Wherever Ducasse has cooked, he has quickly shown why he is one of the world’s most revered chefs. But it is at the Plaza Athénée where his skills have been demonstrated with an unparalleled level of consistency. Ten years on, Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée is still one of the great events in international fine dining. Why so influential?
25 avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris, +33 1 53 67 66 65, plaza-athenee-paris.com 26
a l l y o u ne e d i s
l ve LONDON LIVERPOOL MANCHESTER CHESTER SOUTHPORT ALTRINCHAM
A BATCAVE IN YOUR BEDROOM? consider it done, sir. no dream is too outlandish to realise in the world of quintessentially... 28
You’d be hard pressed to find a successful 20, 30, 40 or 50 something in London who has not heard of Quintessentially. After 10 years dedicated to giving its Members ‘the best that life has to offer’, there really is little that a Quintessentially Membership can’t do for you. And the strange requests just keep getting stranger…
JUST AS I PLANNED! It’s all about jumping over the mundane and second-best, and getting right to the heart of what’s important in life. Saving Members time and a great deal of money, it is a service that effectively caters to the every need, whim and pernickety requirement of wealthy and time-short individuals. Okay, so you know that Quintessentially is good for those hard-to-find topnotch seats to the New Year’s Eve Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and for those VIP tickets to all the best events in the social calendar. But what about the things that take a little bit more organisation with a dash of imagination thrown in for good measure. Say you happen to be a huge fan of comic books, and after some thought, asked a friend to build you a Batman-style cave in your house, just because, well you like Batman and want to hide out for a couple of days pretending to be him. You’d most likely be met with a furrowed brow, before being told you’re better off in a padded cell. But ask one of our Member Assistants, and they’ll ask you for the exact dimensions of your room, if you want some bats thrown in for good measure, and whether you want to be kitted out like the Dark Knight himself.
MEANWHILE... somewhere In the Mediterranean... Quintessentially delivers a fresh pair of bongos to a Member’s yacht.
You see, here at Quintessentially, we believe that no request is too fantastic or too bizarre. This often leaves our Members asking “Now, really! What can’t Quintessentially do?” Their minds start to turn over, and so you end up with two guys on a yacht, somewhere off the coast of Italy. The non-Member says to the Member, “Bet Quintessentially can’t get me a bona fide set of bongo drums onto this boat within the hour,” and then, only half an hour later, a very handsome Errol Flynn-type character strides onto the boat beating a victory march (this actually happened, though we took some poetic licence with the Errol Flynn part). Here at Quintessentially, assistants are on hand 24/7/365, fielding calls from Paris to Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi, always expecting the unexpected from their Members. On a normal day, they might be asked to pick up the latest gadget from the Apple store in London, or source a much coveted Birkin handbag and deliver it by hand to a Member’s special someone. Then suddenly they will be saving someone from a snowed-under chalet in the Alps, or Buenos Aires will all of a sudden disappear under a cloud of smoke and a thousand requests will come in for gas masks, or 300 happy revellers want you to fix them up a party at The Pyramids – and make it completely private of course. In Sydney, one Member has the sudden desire to propose to his long-time girlfriend at the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge. We find him the perfect diamond engagement ring, and then later on that night, he’s there, spilling his heart over a sea of glittering light. So what do our MAs really think when they pick up the phone and someone says, “Hey, I’m having this crazy jungle party for my best friends and need, say, five tiger cubs just to spruce things up a bit.” Paul Hassell from the Dedicated Membership team says: “It’s a bit of a misconception that our Members are all playboys constantly jet-setting around the world. Rather, they come across as
The North Pole is here somewhere, I just know it !.
THE END. 30
fun-loving people with very little spare time. If we can help them through their day and help them enjoy their spare time then we are doing a good job.” Veronika Vikkisk, another fun-loving Member Assistant, loves the feeling she gets when a particularly unusual request is accomplished: “You sit down to find the rare 1960s vinyl has been returned personalised and signed by the (reclusive) artist and you know the Member will be absolutely thrilled.” And the most unusual request ever? Well now let’s see, there was that time we pulled together a troupe of dancing dwarfs and a few polar bears for a bachelor party in Ireland (hey, we don’t ask questions). And then there was that member who wanted to be the youngest person ever to stand on the North Pole wearing a kaftan. Or someone who had an obsession with fluorescent men’s business socks, and needed a new set sent over to him in Hong Kong for a date. As Walt Disney rightly said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
©2010 Ebel - www.ebel.com - Tel : +44 (0) 870 781 1911 - Ref 1215607-1215769
my, how â€™ we ve grown 32
A decade ago, Quintessentially was just a glint in its founders’ eyes. Today, their bouncing baby is a flourishing global concern with offices in 57 countries and a thriving portfolio of diverse businesses. Lucia Van Der Post talks to Ben Elliot and Aaron Simpson about ten years at the top
So Quintessentially is 10 years old this month. The tiny, fragile baby that I so remember welcoming into the world, fussing over its health, terror-struck every time it hiccupped, is now a bright, bubbly and extremely healthy ten-year-old –filled with energy and on the cusp of thrilling things. How, you may be wondering, did it all begin? Well, way back in the year 2000 the young Tom Parker Bowles, then working in the film industry, introduced film producer Aaron Simpson to his cousin Ben Elliot. At first sight they might have seemed an unlikely pairing, cheeky chappy Aaron meets polished charmer Ben but, as in all the best partnerships, they each brought something quite different and valuable to the party. The times, you may recall, were tumultuous. The internet was thrilling new territory and buccaneers everywhere were exploring it like latter-day Indiana Jones’s after the holy grail. Wherever one turned dot-com fortunes were being made. Last-minute.com, then just a few years old, was floated for well over £400 million, Natalie Massenet launched net-a-porter.com. The internet was the place to be. Ben and Aaron were two young men in a hurry – in a hurry to do something interesting, worthwhile and profitable. The first idea was to have an upmarket online 3D mall, a very raffine, elegant, by invitation-only shopping experience. Here was where I came in. I was to be the ‘taste’, the ‘eye’, the smoother of paths to luxury brands, helping to bring on board some of the most lovely and beautiful things we could find. Tom P B was running round like a scalded cat organising benefits, Paul Drummond, a lawyer whom Aaron had met at Oxford, joined to handle the legal and commercial side and a whole host of younger
charmers did whatever needed doing at the time (“at one time,” says Aaron, “we had five of London’s most handsome and eligible bachelors working for us”), whether it was sweet-talking reluctant providers of services, persuading swanky CEOs to do the impossible or smoothing over the inevitable blips. Then just as our little module was coming along nicely – or so we thought – boo.com went spectacularly bust. Over $300 million down the drain. The dot-com boom had gone spectacularly belly-up. Ben and Aaron moved fast. They changed the business model and in the blink of an eye Quintessentially had become one of the very first Lifestyle Management companies, a private members’ club dedicated to making the lives of its members easier, more comfortable, more adventurous and above all much, much more fun. As a mark of our dedication to the discerning and the elegant (our mantra was that nothing but the best would do) invitations were accompanied by a bottle of the purest water on the planet and were sent out to a raft of London’s glamorous movers and shakers to come to our launch party at the crack of dawn at Tiffany in London’s Bond Street. They came in their hundreds and Quintessentially was on its way. Of course in some ways it was lucky. It caught the wave of the new band of entrepreneurs who’d made a lot of money in the boom times and for whom London was planet central. London was a natural hub that attracted wealthcreators like honey and many of them were new to the city and anyway were frantically busy. They were short of time – though not of money. What they
wanted was exactly what Quintessentially could provide – access and information. Quintessentially could tell them not only where they could find the finest and the best, whether it were cashmere sweaters, bongo bongo drums, yachts, seats at the opera, a Birkin handbag or a bottle of wine, but also it eased their paths. It took the hassle out of their daily lives. It could fix air tickets and villas, chauffeurs and personal trainers, cooks and apartments, theatres and restaurants. And besides they could help them have a lot more fun. It’s no secret that if you look at the list of its members you’d come across some very starry names indeed. I certainly remember, in the early days, one of the handsome young boys around the place getting on his motorbike and haring it up to North London to track down some rarified Chinese herb for a globally-famous film star. And if they could do that in London why not New York, where many of their members anyway spent a great deal of time. And so Ben headed off to New York
for several fruitful years. And from there it spread organically around the world so that today they are in 57 countries and whether you want to find somewhere to live, a restaurant to eat in, a club to visit, a helicopter to get you from A to B, or the most remote beach in the world in which to propose, Quintessentially can fix it. And from there it seemed natural to start Quintessentially Wine to give its members access to some of the best vinous deals around as well as some insider tips and top-notch advice. And now there are some 27 sister businesses encompassing Quintessentially Driven, Quintessentially Estates, Quintessentially Aviation, which between them look after almost all the interests of its members. What drives them is the desire to be the best. As Aaron puts it, “We’re not a systems driven business – we’re a people driven business. We get to know our clients very well and so we know how best to look after them.” It’s hot on
it’s no secret that if you look amongst the names of the members you come across some seriously starry names. i remember, in the early days, one of the handsome young boys around the place getting onto his motorbike and haring it up to north london to track down some rarified chinese herb for a globally-famous film star
new technology, when it is seriously useful, and is just about to launch a ground-breaking app which will enable its members to source everything – a restaurant, a hotel, car, a ring, a pop star to sing at dinner – whilst walking along the street. Like all the best enterprises there were some hairy moments along the way. Aaron recalls that the day Paul Drummond joined them, having been persuaded to leave his high-flying job in a posh legal firm, a £1 million contract they’d been due to sign fell through. Then there was the glamorous New York opening – how I remember it, filled with the glamorous, the great and the good – when just as the starry guests arrived some official threatened to bar their entrance because they hadn’t got the right insurance. It took a call from Ben to the Chairman of Sotheby’s to sort that one out.
H n SB o tIw h iLcu l’ Both are hugely proud of what they’ve done with Quintessentially Soho at the
afford to restore itself after a fire a couple of years ago. Quintessentially took it on, originally temporarily, and they’ve turned it into a wonderfully chic and welcoming club for its members. It has also metamorphosed into a life skills programme, training young people whose futures otherwise looked hopeless. Out of the 50 who passed through St Barnabas some 38 have gone on to have proper jobs. It has also, both Ben and Aaron freely admit, done wonders for their brand. “It’s added enormous value to our company as it’s just a lovely place to be,” says Aaron. “We hope it will be just the first of quite a few similar ventures in places
like Geneva, Brussels, Stockholm, New York, Hong Kong.” Today Quintessentially is a $100 million a year business, but whilst there’ve been several approaches to buy them out Ben and Aaron aren’t interested. “We’ve got lots more we want to do,” says Aaron. “We’ve got another 20 or 30 countries to look at – Libya, Tunisia, Angola, Spain…. I think we can grow it to being a $1 billion business.” As for Ben, he says, “I feel we’re only just beginning. I don’t look at it in terms of finance but in terms of how well we’re doing for our members. When I hear at third hand from somebody who heard from a friend that we’d made a difference – that’s what makes it all worthwhile. I want above all for the brand to be lodged in the hearts and minds of our members – that’s what matters to me.”
today quintessentially is a $100 million a year business, but whilst there’ve been several approaches to buy them out Ben and Aaron aren’t interested. “We’ve got lots more to do,” says Aaron. “wev’e got another 20 or 30 countries to look at...”
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So, a night out with Harry? Well, it would be silly not to, wouldn’t it? We take our first fast black cab to Berkeley Square for an early evening sharpener at Annabel’s. The staff, most of whom appear to have been here since decimalisation, offer a semi-clairvoyant level of service. A stiff one arrives for me and Harry courtesy of young Richard O’Hagan, a new face at Annabel’s, as we take time to admire the club’s super smart townhouse décor – Paul Colin prints, Batemen cartoon originals and a beautiful wooden model of a Riva speedboat in a glass case. Annabel’s is not just a club. “It is a dining club with a dance floor,” insists its owner Mark Birley, “definitely not a disco.” It is a kind of well-upholstered womb, a jet-set institution and a home from home for its members. Everyone from Joan Collins to Princess Diana has patronised its starched tablecloths and Elizabeths Hurley and Windsor both dropped in recently. Shirley Bassey once got herself banned for slapping a waiter and The Beatles were refused entry for not wearing ties. It’s part of Harry and the team’s job to buzz around town, striving to form good relationships with maitre d’s, doormen and managers. And their hard work seems to be paying off. At Drones Club on St George Street, W1 – a private dining club (membership is £350 a year) owned by Piers Adam and Marco Pierre White – we are treated like kings. Maitre d’ Franco Deiana sorts us out with a plum table right in the middle of the room within earshot of John Malkovich’s table. Despite the fact that it has not been open long, the club has a well-established feel. It offers a deluxe brand of austerity, a clandestine intimacy.
Photographs: Guy Hills
“Come on,” says Harry. “Let’s have a night out together.” You don’t know Harry? You should. Fresh-faced Harry Becher is one of Quintessentially’s top fixers. He is also a marketing whizz, a consummate social engineer and a highly skilled ambience coordinator. When he invites you for a night out you know it’s going to be a high-rolling pub-crawl taking in numerous different venues. You also know that top tables will be a given, that velvet ropes will part and clipboard doyennes will welcome you with open arms. Harry has worked with names such as Cartier, Dunhill, Jil Sander and Marc Jacobs as well as many VIP clients from all over the world.
“Private clubs like this are part of the culture in Britain and pretty much unique to London,” says Franco. “With each passing year the rich feel less safe. They are paranoid about terrorism and are always looking for secure private places where they can drink and dine. I’ve been working in this business for a long time. People know me. I know them. That makes them feel part of a secure, inner circle.” “If people are paying a membership fee, you have to give them something extra,” says Drones’ co-proprietor Marco Pierre White. “Here the table is yours all night. We don’t say ‘we need it back by nine-thirty’. We build a sort of social jigsaw every night, making sure that neighbouring tables get on with each other.” Our heads too fuzzy now to do any more of Marco’s intricate jigsaw, we move to the dark and lovely Purple Bar at the Sanderson Hotel on Berners Street for a quick one (rather like drinking inside a jewellery box) before hailing another cab to The Wellington, Knightsbridge. This is the boite favoured by Kate Moss, Nicole Kidman and many more big names (gossip columnists gravitate here too). We hang out in the Damien Hirstthemed back room which has a sign over the door which reads: ‘Is Mr Death In?’ – an anagram of Hirst’s name. This being a quiet week night we get special treatment but some punters aren’t so lucky. A couple of weeks ago a wealthy businessman requested entrance. He’d heard all about the club and wanted a piece of the action too. “Sorry, members only, sir,” said the doorman. “How much
is membership? I will pay now,” said the man hopefully. “£300 a year,” came the reply. “But membership is closed.” “I will pay you £500. Cash,” offered the man. “How about £1,000?” Nothing doing. “£1,500?” Eventually the poor chap gave up. “As soon as he started offering us wads of money, we knew he wasn’t the type of person we wanted in the club,” says The Wellington’s proprietor Jake Panayiotou. “We are very selective about our members. It’s not about being famous or having money. It’s about what you bring to the party. Anyone who is flash, badly dressed, boorish and badly behaved isn’t welcome.” On to Boujis, a subterranean disco in South Kensington, where we meet manager Jake Parkinson-Smith and the pulchritudinous stylist Amanda Shepherd. With the help of marketing man Leo Davis, Boujis is busy giving SW3’s indigenous, redux Sloanes exactly what they want – a harmlessly bacchanalian, raucously good time in decadent surroundings… and lots of pretty girls. “Boujis is a very sexy, horizontal type of place,” says Leo. “This suits our clientele who are people who like to work hard and play hard. With the economy the way it is at the moment, it doesn’t seem right to be too elitist.” The private club set-up that we now know and love was originally put in place – in rather less libidinous fashion, it has to be said – by Zanzibar in Covent Garden, which swung during the late 1970s. Zanzibar’s brazenly elitist membership policy, lapped up by yuppies and advertising executives, set a standard. Without it there would probably have been no Aura, our final port of call, next to The Ritz, where perky Pilar Boxford, erstwhile PR for Cartier, is holding a lavish leaving party to celebrate her new post at Richemont. Pilar likes a party. And so do we. It is very late when Harry decides to call time on our big night out.
“it’s not about being famous or having money. It’s about what you bring to the party. anyone who is flash, badly dressed, boorish or badly behaved isn’t welcome”
Veteran naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough was Zac Goldsmith’s boyhood hero. In 2004, the environmentalist and future MP jumped at the chance to interview the great man for Quintessentially As a child, the excitement of exploring Richmond Park, where Sir David lives, was heightened considerably by the possibility of coming across the great man. I imagined that we would crouch together at the edge of a puddle, and he would tutor me in the ways of the smooth newt, or something equally impressive. Now, decades on, I find myself in his sitting-room, fumbling with a tape recorder. I insert a tape, but not being an accomplished gadgeteer, I push the Play button on my machine, instead of Record. Sir David is briefly exposed to an interview with Baroness Young, head of the government’s Environment Agency. “How did you find her?” he asks. A tricky question. Mid-interview, Young had angrily assembled her notes and left the room following what I had regarded as an anodyne question. She had just informed me that compost was a greater pollutant than incinerators. “Compost?” an incredulous Attenborough bellows, before shaking his head in a ‘the-youth-of-today’ kind of manner. As an opener to our discussion, I show him a copy of that day’s ‘The Guardian’, in which he is featured. “I was quite startled by the headline,” he says. (It reads: ‘David Attenborough joins campaign against cruelty of whaling’.) “There is a new report on whaling and I was asked to write the foreword. I’m normally wary about getting into cruelty issues, but this was horrific. I thought: ‘oh… come on, you can’t sit on the fence all the time.’ What the report says, simply, is that you can’t kill a big animal kindly. We just about manage it with cattle. But what is meant to kill a whale is the shock of an exploding harpoon, and it can go on for such a looong time.” His eyes bulge with the emphasis. Doesn’t he find it depressing, I ask, that even with a lengthy campaign, this issue won’t go away? “Victory is never going to be complete,” he says philosophically, “and the fate of whales is certainly better as a result of the campaigns. But what is more depressing, if we’re competing for depressing things, is that any six-year-old understands that if we keep taking adult fish out of a pond, there will be no more baby fish. It’s absolutely clear. But that’s exactly what’s happening in the North Sea. That,” he stresses with a trademark pause, “is depressing.”
Attenborough is a national institution. He invented the modern wildlife programme when televisions were few and far between. Decades later, when tawdry ‘Big Brother’ contestants win more public votes than prime ministers, he still, at 78, dominates British television. But for environmentalists, he is a source both of frustration and awe. Awe because whatever Attenborough says resonates profoundly, and frustration because he will invariably highlight the behaviour of a field mouse rather than the threats to its existence. He can even make a few people angry. One Guardian columnist, for instance, recently accused Attenborough of allowing ‘the camera to lie on his behalf’. It is true that Attenborough is non-confrontational. Famously so. “I’ve had unprecedented access to television,” he says by way of explanation, “and it would be improper for me to use it to grind axes all the time.” But abuse of privilege is not his only concern. “I don’t often go out on a limb,” he says, “because I don’t feel sure enough of my knowledge and convictions. I am a film-maker. I don’t know the arguments and I am not going to pretend that I do. I will eagerly attempt to coordinate the experts. However, I am not the expert.” But what was odd about the Guardian article was that it appeared shortly after the release of his new series, ‘State of the Planet’, whose grim message directly answered the charge that Attenborough turns a blind eye to the world’s problems. We have entered an era, it warned, where one species threatens the viability of the planet itself. The final scene sees Attenborough standing among the vast abandoned statues of Easter Island. Once a rich and fertile land, it was transformed by the Polynesian settlers who arrived there 1,500 years ago into a ‘barren desert’ following warfare, overpopulation and logging. It is a powerful metaphor, and is magnified by Attenborough’s final caution that our own behaviour, globally, may lead us down the same path. For many, this was Attenborough joining ‘the campaign’. He doesn’t see it that way. “People are increasingly out of touch with the natural world,” he says. “Many viewers of my programmes will not have seen a single wild creature in their day! In 24 hours! You’ve got to believe that the natural world is important if you’re going to look after it.”
Photographs: Guy Hills
WILD SUMMER 2004
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Attenborough’s job, then, is to make people care. And in that regard he has worked miracles. But behind the scenes he is involved in numerous campaigns, and has been for years. “I didn’t start out as a crusader. But the moment you discover that some of these creatures are under threat, you have an obligation. “And you think: ‘oh God, I’ve just got to do this’. I mean, it’s boring. It’s boring sitting in committee meetings. It’s boring asking people for money. It’s boring standing up on your hind legs in a dinner jacket. But you have to do it!” The doorbell rings and a man appears at the window dressed in tartan plus-fours, woollen tights and a noisy red scarf. It’s the photographer, and he looks like a young Benny Hill. Giggling loudly, Attenborough lets the man in. We wander over to the window overlooking his garden. It’s a clear day and the tree directly opposite has been colonised by a pair of Indian Ring Necks, descendants of escapees roughly 80 years ago. “You see,” he says, “they struggled on for years, and then, all of a sudden, who knows why, they flourish. Nature is never static.” Despite the interruption, Attenborough is happy to continue. So I ask him the big question: what are our chances? “All I know is that things are bad and it behoves all of us to do what we can. It may be that we’re just fiddling at the fringes – but I don’t know where the centre is. If I knew where the button was I’d push it. But it’s not like that. It’s multitudinously complicated. But then, over and over again, you see the capacity of the natural world to just bark back.” So is he, on balance, an optimist? “Well, you can certainly make an optimist into a pessimist.” He looks at me accusingly. “But there’s quite a lot to rejoice in. Every so often, I have to pull myself up and say: ‘Come on, there’s this happening or that happening’. But if you allow yourself to be overwhelmed… you may as well jump over Beachy Head.”
In State of the Planet, Attenborough argues that change is desperately needed “in our politics, economics and society”. How does he imagine that can be achieved? “I don’t know. Look at the US. They don’t even accept that humans have evolved. How do you start with that lot? I’ve lectured at universities there, and these gum-chewing, T-shirted great Wasps sitting in the front row just say” he twists his face in preparation for an unconvincing American accent ‘I don’t believe it’. To be an optimist, we must hope that the human race will slowly decrease and give itself more room.” What does he make of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s massive housing plans? They are at least partly based on a view that Britain’s population needs to grow. “I know,” he bellows, exasperated. “Then you move into another area of lunacy: economics.” Economics, he believes, doesn’t accurately define wealth. If the world’s natural jewels, if essential biological systems are given no value, then we need to “change the way we measure things”. Attenborough has been a feature of the BBC for more than 50 years, initially providing commentary for 30-minute productions compiled by ‘people just starting out in journalism’. But, some time during his reign as BBC2 Controller and then Programme Director, he began to develop the idea for what was to become his seminal ‘Life on Earth’ series. It was an extraordinary accomplishment by any standards. Attenborough, though, is remarkably modest about it. “It’s quite easy, really – with the facilities of the BBC. Let’s say I want to do a duck-billed platypus…” He cuts himself short. “That’s a silly example.” Without quite knowing why, I happily agree. “Okay, let’s say I want to do spider-hunting wasps. Who is the man in spider-hunting wasps? Then you find the bloke who’s spent 25 years looking at spider-hunting wasps and he’s overjoyed that someone in television is interested. He tells you what to do, and you do it. It’s quite practical.” As I take a moment to change the cassette, I can see him eying the cover of ‘The Ecologist’ magazine, which features a story on genetically modified crops. Does GM worry him? “Certainly it does. I would never underestimate man’s capacity to screw even the best things up. When I joined television in ’52, I thought: ‘This is human beings talking to human beings. Democracy is going to happen and war will become impossible. And what do we use it for? We use it to sell breakfast Cereal. With lies.’ For a man who dislikes “going out on a limb”, I’m amazed by his strong views. On the basis of this interview, at least, he stands diametrically opposed to the establishment on most issues. I ask him if his experience in the natural world has coloured his political thinking. “I think economists can make all sorts of predictions about what will happen if the people of Yugoslavia or Eastern Turkey have the same votes as the people of the Hebrides. But what I do know is that human beings aren’t like that. Human beings require to live in communities and to vote for leaders on a scale that they can deal with. Nobody is going to accept cuts in their earnings on the grounds that someone 1,000 miles away is going to be better off – unless they do so voluntarily. And so I am gloomy about internationalism of that kind.” But if that is the direction in which the EU is going, I say, what does he think will happen? Will it all simply break up? “Absolutely.” But how does something like the EU break up? “Look at Scotland. How can we talk about closer integration when the Scots are saying they won’t accept anything dictated from Westminster? Centralisation doesn’t work.” I arrive home that evening in time to read my children a story. The house is uncharacteristically silent, and as I approach the sitting-room I realise why. They have been hypnotised by the spectacle of Sir David Attenborough, perched on the branch of a giant tree, revealing to them, as he did to me, the wonders of our natural world. As a crusader. But the moment you discover that some of these creatures are under threat, you have an obligation.
a dreamland New York may have cleaned up its streets in recent decades but thereâ€™s one outpost of the city where the glorious low-life carnival continues. For now. Gabriel Cohen catches Coney Island before it disappears
When I first saw the Freak, he was looking spry and cheerful, which was surprising, considering that his boss was exhorting passers-by to shoot him. “Step right up!” the man growled in a fierce Brooklyn accent. “Shoot a Live Human Target!” Customers peered over the edge of the sun-broiled Coney Island boardwalk, down into a vacant lot between two small brick buildings. There the teenage freak dodged and darted, ducking occasionally behind a rusted old water heater to escape the line of fire. (Actually, the bullets were just paintballs, but they still hit with a loud smack!) There was clearly something raffish and disreputable about this ‘amusement’, but such traits have long constituted part of the appeal of one of the most legendary playgrounds on earth. For nearly a century the residents of New York City have been able to ride a subway train to the end of the line and emerge in a seaside
One notable attraction was a hotel in the shape of a giant elephant, with rooms distributed throughout its body, but the fantastical apparitions that would make Coney Island world-famous did not reach their peak until the first two decades of the next century, when three major parks, created by rival impresarios, began competing for huge crowds. First came Steeplechase Park, famous for an attraction that let delighted customers jockey mechanical horses along an undulating metal track, and for its Trip to the Moon ride, which simulated a voyage to a green-cheese planet populated by midgets. Then came Luna Park, which featured a chute-ride down into a magnificent lagoon, as well as a Great Naval Spectatorium, in which American ships fought simulated battles against the rest of the world. And finally there was Dreamland, a classical extravaganza in white, which offered Venetian canals, a train ride up the Swiss Alps, an erupting Mount Vesuvius, a wild animal pavilion, real tribespeople from all over the world, 600 veterans of the Boer War recreating their most famous battles, and – its most popular attraction – an Infant Incubator, which publicly displayed prematurely born babies. At night, the parks were so brightly lit that Coney Island gave off a glow that could be seen 30 miles away out to sea, earning it the title ‘City of Fire’. Unfortunately, it lived up to its name: one after another, the great parks, built of lath and cheap plywood, succumbed to cataclysmic infernos. (The morning after the devastation of the original Steeplechase Park in 1907, its adaptable creator George C. Tilyou posted the following sign: ‘To enquiring friends, I have troubles today that I did not have yesterday. I had troubles yesterday that I have not today. On this site will be erected shortly a better, bigger, greater Steeplechase Park. Admission to the burning ruins: 10 cents.’) The Golden Age did not last long, and fires were not the only reason. The booming technology of the new century soon gave city residents new means of diversion. They didn’t have to leave their own neighbourhoods in order to be transported by television or by air-conditioned movie theatres. And they didn’t have to flock to Coney to be treated to mock exotic locales; they could travel by automobile and aeroplane to discover the real deal for themselves. Still, the resort continued to draw citizens eager to escape the city heat, and to visit the great rollercoasters, the Cyclone and the Thunderbolt and the Tornado; to take a spin high above the beach on the mighty 150-foot-tall Wonder Wheel; to scream in glee as they plummeted from the even-taller Parachute Jump, which resembled the skeleton of a giant mushroom and was fondly known as ‘Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower’. The crowds reached record capacity on 4th July, 1947, when 1,300,000 sweating New Yorkers blanketed the beach. The visitors liked to smooch it up too, inspiring the hit song ‘Under the Boardwalk’ and the euphemism ‘Coney Island whitefish’ to refer to the groups of used condoms often to be found floating offshore.
for nearly a century new yorkers have been able to ride a subway to a seaside zone populated by carnies and freaks. It’s the city’s unrestrained id zone populated by carnies and freaks and wild women, a place where they can be temporarily freed from mundane responsibilities. With Times Square now stripped of its peep shows and made safe for tourists, Coney Island has for the past few years reigned supreme on the low-life stakes – it’s the city’s great unrestrained id. The legendary Cyclone rollercoaster still writhes and rattles like a twisted snake, and sideshow barkers coax passers-by to gawk at Insectavora and Ula the Painproof Rubber Girl, but this summer has marked a crucial turning point in the resort’s history: it risks being tamed like its Manhattan cousin. A stone’s throw from the boardwalk, a long blue plywood wall conceals a newly vacant lot, former site of a good chunk of amusement property. ‘For rent’ signs emblazon the facades of souvenir emporiums on nearby Surf Avenue. Thor Equities, a prominent New York development company, has already acquired $120 million of land beneath the current entertainments and is doing its best to buy up what’s left. Coney fans turn a wary eye on the company’s touted vision of a safe, gleaming, and grit-free new resort. Speaking of visions, if I could have witnessed only one moment in Coney Island’s history, I would have stood on the boardwalk at eight in the evening on 16th May, 1903, when 250,000 incandescent bulbs suspended on magical strings suddenly winked on over the boardwalk, outlining the minarets and pleasure domes of an enchanted Moorish village, a new attraction called Luna Park. Coney Island was about to enter its Golden Age. By the late-1800s, resort hotels and a few primitive amusement parks had already begun springing up on a sandy Atlantic peninsula at the southern tip of Brooklyn, nine miles from Manhattan. It was named after the rabbits which used to proliferate there. Crime and vice soon also ran rampant, earning it the sobriquet of ‘Sodom by the Sea’.
By the mid-1970s, though, Coney had reached a sad low tide. The great amusement parks had all closed down, New York City suffered a major financial crash, and the boardwalk plunged into a severe decline, populated by roving gangs (as seen in the film ‘The Warriors’) and junkies (‘Requiem for a Dream’). In the 1980s, as so often happens in New York, boisterous and energetic artists spearheaded a revival of the crumbling neighbourhood. They mounted shows and painted murals, staged concerts and wacky events, reinvigorated the art of the sideshow, and drew a whole new generation to the area. In 2001, a new minor league baseball stadium opened (featuring the Brooklyn Cyclones); it proved to be a major crowd-puller, giving the quarter another much-needed boost. Today, the amusement area is relatively humble, comprising just a few square blocks. Though the Wonder Wheel still spins, only one rollercoaster remains, and the other limited, rather shabby attractions – two small parks crammed with kiddie rides, video arcades, and modest games of skill – can’t begin to rival those of the resort’s glory years. Even so, Coney Island still throbs with life. Families pack the boardwalk, and children cram the rides. The boater hats and bow ties of the early years have been replaced with basketball shorts and baseball caps, but – as always – New Yorkers continue to come out in search of an ocean breeze and a few cheap thrills.
postcards from the future
There have been a number of ambitious regeneration proposals mooted for Coney Island since the 1960s but all of them eventually stalled. The latest scheme seems more auspicious thanks partly to the support of New York City Hall which has pledged $83 million. The project’s centrepiece – a giant new amusement park – is the brainchild of entrepreneur Joe Sitt who has patiently been buying up parcels of land for the past 10 years. He now controls a prime 12-acre site adjacent to the island’s famous boardwalk which he plans to transform, with the help of architect Stanton Eckstut, into a futuristic $1.5 billion development. The scheme, which will incorporate a luxury hotel and shopping centre, is scheduled for completion by around 2010.
whatever happens in the next few years, the beach will remain popular, the cyclone will still awe riders. but change is transforming the rest When I was an adolescent, on a family vacation, I was once delighted to witness a pretty woman casually shed her top on the beach at England’s Brighton Pier, and I’m always reminded of that sexual highlight every June when the Mermaid Parade passes along Coney Island’s Surf Avenue. This friendly and amusing annual bacchanal features throngs of hip young women in skimpy sea-themed costumes, with bewitching mermaid tails and clamshell bras. (Near-naked mermen, meanwhile, serve to provide eye candy for the ladies in the crowd.) Another diversion was watching Diamond Donny V, aka The Human Blockhead, hammer a long nail up into his nose. Last Sunday, though, I went out to roam the boardwalk, to merge with the great river of humanity that still promenades there, squinting into the sun. Coney Island is the ideal place to witness New York’s staggeringly international makeup. I wandered among Indian women in bright saris, cute Japanese girls sporting Hello Kitty T-shirts, and barrel-chested Russians, who had strolled over from neighbouring Brighton Beach, which has become known as Little Odessa for its large community of émigrés. Near the defunct but still-towering Parachute Jump, a group of Puerto Ricans huddled together – as they do every weekend – for an impromptu salsa jam session. Suave white-haired couples spun each other around to the beat of congas and cowbells. Coney on a weekend is a crazy cacophony of sounds that would overwhelm a blind visitor: seagulls caw into the breeze, rides buzz and whir and clang, kids scream, and bumper car rides blare the latest R’n’B hits.
Feeling hungry, I considered buying a hot dog, a mass-market treat pioneered here by Charles Feltman way back in 1867 (he called them Coney Island Red Hots). This summer, 30,000 people showed up to witness the 92nd annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, a world-renowned event that adds gluttony to Coney’s other low-rent vices. Winner Joey Chestnut managed to cram 66 dogs (and buns) into his maw in just 12 minutes. The thought did little for my appetite, and I opted instead for a little sidewalk taco stand presided over by several stocky Mexican women endowed with the regal faces of their Mayan ancestors. I capped my meal at a gruff open-fronted boardwalk bar called Cha-Cha’s, where a wall bore a cast photo from ‘The Sopranos’; I enjoyed an ice-cold can of cheap beer alongside some paunchy, grizzled regulars who could also have easily passed for cast members. We gazed out across the boardwalk to the sunstruck beach, packed with New Yorkers gyrating to boomboxes, playing volleyball, or just lying on the sand like small beached whales as a week’s worth of workaday tension seeped away into the sand. Whatever happens to Coney in the next few years, the beach will remain popular, the Cyclone will still awe riders, and both the Wonder Wheel and Parachute Jump will escape demolition. But change is inevitably transforming the rest. Bulldozers are at work; they have already demolished a go-kart track, a miniature golf course, and some baseball batting cages. The rest of the existing rides and games will also soon disappear. Some local business owners have been happy to sell out – it has not been easy for them to eke out a living from properties that only produce revenues during the warm summer months, one amusement ticket at a time. The new developer promises to create a world-class, year-round theme park, but the future might also bring hotels, shops, high-rise apartment buildings, and franchise restaurants. These might be an economic boon for a depressed area, but local historical preservationists, concerned that the national treasure may be turned into a glorified shopping mall, have joined with members of the city administration to try to conserve some elements of what makes the area unique. They seem to be having some success, but it’s tough to imagine the new resort tolerating all the gritty bars, salsa jam sessions, or raucous amusements such as Shoot the Freak. It’s easy to make a case for Coney Island’s importance as a bastion of urban accessibility, democracy, and brotherly love, but harder to explain how a little raw and seedy charm can prove a valuable tonic for the soul. Before I leave, I stand on the boardwalk and watch a bunch of seagulls poised in mid-air, beating against a strong sea breeze. Like them, I feel suspended, waiting to see what the winds of change may bring to the Coney Island I love. Gabriel Cohen is the author of several novels including ‘Boombox’, ‘Red Hook’ and ‘The Graving Dock’.
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Man booker prize winner DBC Pierre takes us for a ride round his old neighbourhood in mexico city, where tigers run wild and survival is by the luck of the dice
The house on Rain Street
In the neighbourhood where I grew up I was only once ever sniped with a Gun. Only one Bengal tiger ever threatened me there, and of all the earthquakes only one was ever strong enough to throw me out of bed. One raccoon lived there, who was my pet. And despite our house at Two Seventy-Three Rain Street being immense, still only one child was ever discovered hidden in an upstairs room for over a decade who neither I nor my parents knew anything about. Among the neighbour’s daughter’s wedding presents were thirteen cars; but it wasn’t that neighbour’s Bengal tiger which threatened me. Later in this same lifetime, in a more humdrum place, I was called a dreamer – and that without me mentioning this upbringing at all. If I reality-test poorly in our more predictable place and time I trust you’ll understand – my central challenge in life is that all the above and more still, is actually true. The neighbourhood of El Pedregal is still there, including the house on Rain Street. Ask around and you’ll see what went on. Eleven volcanoes hug Mexico City. In its South one of the world’s richest neighbourhoods sprawls over a lava field, a showcase of modernist mansions behind steep walls, of uniformed servants walking roads that snake over and around solidified eddies of black lava. A place of armed guards, ex-presidents, exiles and junior hooligans with eight-cylinder cars. I was a junior hooligan. But before getting to the point of this confession, I’ll briefly explain the anecdotes above, so as not to be accused of teasing: I was sniped from the rooftop opposite my house by a slightly older lad who attended boxing classes with me; we’d fallen out after a class. Later we were friends again, just before he vanished into the military. His father used to hunt jaguar in the southern jungles, and kept a fine armoury in the house, which his son put to use on me. He missed. There were also stuffed cats which the father kept in his consulting room. He was a psychiatrist. Picking up my car from a mechanic’s yard one day, a Bengal tiger leapt over the wall. Much later I found out it belonged to the Mauna Loa, a Polynesian themed restaurant and cabaret that backed onto the mechanic’s yard. It also had a kangaroo, for some reason. Apparently it wasn’t the first time the tiger had escaped. Mechanics and I ran into the office and stayed until the cat went over an adjoining wall into a plot of wasteland. After a few minutes we hazarded a look over the wall into the lot – and in the far corner a labourer was having a crap. He hadn’t seen the cat, but it was on its way. We yelled out, and my last memory is of the labourer sneering back at us when we shouted, “Tiger.” 52
The house on Rain Street had three storeys, the topmost comprising the servants’ apartments and laundry. It happened one day that the cook, housemaid and laundrywoman were all off for the day, and I went up to find something, scissors I think. I heard noises from one of the rooms, and looking in found a young girl. She was minding a baby. It turned out the girl was the cook’s daughter. She had been born during the cook’s time with us, and had spent her life a fugitive, minding the cook’s other child, only moving around at night. My family’s long annual travels made it possible for a pregnancy to escape notice. We were aghast. I suppose my plea in this writing is that it’s impossible to make sense of such a life with the purely pragmatic tools and notions we enjoy today. Even the media at that time had no role in shaping a sense of cultural or moral structure; for us its soap operas and advertisements were directed at maids. We juniors had to make up the world as we went along; we weren’t religious, but we could see more than purely random factors around us. We eventually became loosely spiritual – thanks to the notion of Fortune. Fortune as a concept didn’t come to me until my teens. But by then I needed something, and that was it. I’d lived long enough to notice patterns around me; and in the world’s largest city there was a wild intricacy of patterns to notice. Here today it might be easy to consign life to coincidence, determination, cause and effect. But in El Pedregal at that time other natures seemed to be at work. Callous, whimsical, ironic, imperious Fortunes – sometimes just, sometimes unjust. Around this time I was taught to play backgammon by a man who insisted we play for money from the outset. I learned quickly. After a while, hot dice in hand, in the fever of a game I began to see that I could influence outcomes. Some burning quality above confidence could call numbers onto the dice. Among the many pure mathematicians who played, I found I had an edge. And before long I found friends among a different breed of junior hooligan: Juniors who understood Fortune. Together then, we learned about that quality beyond confidence. We tested Fortune. Luis, for instance, had a simple policy: he refused to stop for traffic lights. Any traffic lights, anywhere. This wasn’t impossible in a place where the law could be bought. But added to his other policy of never slowing down, even if it meant using footpaths, gardens or one-way streets, a ride with him really made you think. About life, about death; and mostly about Fortune. Luis had Fortune in his pocket – he never wondered, he just knew. Cesare was an Italian count and, until he broke most major bones in a motorcycle accident, an Olympic-standard butterfly swimmer. He even walked as if swimming butterfly, arms churning around him. He was at school with me, a couple of years up. Although he was known there by sight, there was such an air of danger about him
DBC aged 17 (left) with Cesare at a cabaret
Police queue for bribes
that he had no visible clique among classmates. I got to know him afterwards. We became firm friends the first time he moved in with me at Rain Street, having been banished from his place – I’m not sure if that was the time he impregnated his maid, or the time he was kicked out of a hotel management course for throwing a typewriter at the lecturer, then having a friend come brandish a gun and make death threats. At all events, in his car, unlike Luis, Cesare had no policies. He drove like a thunderbolt at all times, one arm locked at full stretch on the wheel, the other crooked across his face so he could chew his hairy forearm like a dog. Cesare had no policies with Fortune – but unlike Luis, he seemed to intuit omens from nature. “Only one more life to go,” he said after his eighth major accident. I remember wondering if this was a good notion for him to have. Between seventeen and twenty-odd years of age we tore up the city day and night in our cars, often in packs, with easily 16 litres of engine between us. Cars and backgammon showed us the ropes of Fortune. What follows is one rope, utterly true – I leave the meaning to you to decide:
Luis flattened the pedal and aimed for the gap. We shut our eyes. The car tore chunks and panels off the Volkswagen’s side, as well as mirrors and door-handles off parked cars on the other side. But with a screech we made it through. Adrenaline seized Luis’s faculties, and he sped off up a zigzag of little streets towards the city’s ring-road, there to be lost among millions of drivers. After putting a safe distance and a good twenty minutes between us and the crimes, as an added precaution he came off the periferico and performed a balletic flight at high speed through the warrens of some dark, unknown neighbourhood. Night was falling. We finally coasted to a halt in the darkest cul-de-sac we could find. Who knows where we were. It didn’t matter. Luis turned off the car; we all lit cigarettes, trembling. And after a while in the quiet, marvelling at our survival, looking through glazed eyes at the small, darkened houses around us – we heard a car approach. The Volkswagen limped around the corner. Luis dropped his cigarette. It was impossible for the Volkswagen to have followed us through such a maze, in a city of even “only one more life to go,” he said after his eighth major accident. then nearly twenty million people. I remember wondering if this was a good notion for him to have Luis stepped up to greet the driver, who stepped One day I needed a lift, my car was at another mechanic’s waiting to be out complaining bitterly. Insurance and licence details were exchanged, the man picked up. Luis came around. When I climbed into his car, another pair of friends was eventually calmed. And finally we asked the only pertinent question: how did were there, slouched. One was an older American, a Vietnam veteran with a monthly he find us? disability allowance of Quaaludes (methaqualone is a sedative and hypnotic, the The man smiled, pointed to the nearest house, and said: recreational drug of a mellower yesteryear). “This is where I live.” A couple of blocks into the drive I realised Luis had taken one too. His policies Cesare, who had in his mind a system tying him to the lives of a cat, died in his were all in place – but his reflexes lagged two seconds behind the object world. car when he was twenty-four, passing through a red light. When we reached the major intersection over which my car sat waiting – I His ninth accident. could see it over three lanes of traffic – Luis hit the gas before the last car in front Within two hours, in the dead of that night I was compelled to phone him at of us had passed. home. His stepfather answered and told me the news. The next day’s press ran a We smacked into its side. photograph of the crash scene. The car was pulverised, but the driver’s seat and There was an eternity’s pause. Luis’s brain went through a decision-making routine Cesare were perfectly intact. He had one arm locked out straight, the other in his – but much slower than usual. He made no decision until the damaged car had pulled mouth like a dog’s bone. over. Then he slammed his foot down and shot around the back of the remaining Luis is alive and well today, a noble type with a beautiful wife and child. He had traffic, up the little one-way street where my car sat – but up it the wrong way. no system for admitting defeat, and has not been defeated in life. Cars were parked along both sides, leaving space for only one vehicle. It was a He still plays backgammon. long road, and seemed clear. Luis gunned us up it like a stunt driver. But once we’d After those times I stopped playing, and went through a general defeat of reached a frightening speed, an old Volkswagen Beetle nosed onto the road ahead many years. When I took up the dice again, cold as they were in the hand of my of us. I remember the driver’s face as he first registered us coming the wrong way mind, almost unfamiliar, from another world – it was to begin to write. In my mind I – then, slowing almost to a stop, edging the Beetle as far as he could to one side – as feverishly played the fortunes through each page of a first novel. he realised we weren’t going to stop. But there are no longer tigers next door to the house where I grew up. 53
NEW SPRING 2008
extracted from his novel ‘My Favourite Wife’, bestselling author
Bill must have fallen asleep for a moment. He was jolted awake by the limo hitting a pothole and suddenly there was Shanghai. The towers of Pudong split the night. He rubbed his eyes, and turned to look at his wife and daughter in the back seat. Holly, their four-year-old, was sleeping with her head in her mother’s lap, blonde curls tumbling across her face, dressed like some sort of Disney princess. He wasn’t sure which one. “She can’t be comfortable in that,” he said, keeping his voice down. Holly had been awake, or sleeping fitfully, for most of the flight. Becca, his wife, carefully removed the child’s tiara. “She’s fine,” she said. “Foreigners are very jealous they see this,” said the driver, whose name was Tiger. He indicated the Pudong skyline. “Fifteen year ago – all swampland.” Tiger was young, barely in his twenties, wearing a half-hearted sort of uniform with three gold stripes on his cuff. The young man bobbed his head with emphatic pride. “New, boss – all new.” Bill nodded politely. But it wasn’t the newness of Shanghai that overwhelmed him. It was the sheer scale of the place. They were crossing a river much wider than anything he had expected and on the far side he could see the golden glow of the Bund, the colonial buildings of the pre-war city staring across at Pudong’s skyscrapers. Shanghai past facing Shanghai future. The car came off the bridge and down a ramp, picking up speed as the traffic thinned. Three men, filthy and black, their clothes in tatters, all perched on one ancient bicycle with no lights, slowly wobbled up the ramp towards the oncoming traffic. One was squatting on the handlebars, another was leaning back in the seat and the third was standing up and pumping on the pedals. They visibly shook as the car shot past. Then they were gone. Neither Becca nor the driver seemed to notice them and it crossed Bill’s mind that they had been a vision brought on by the exhaustion and excitement. Three men in rags on a dead bicycle, moving far too slow in the fast lane, and going in completely the wrong direction. “Daddy?” His daughter was stirring from deep inside her ball gown. Becca pulled her closer. “Mummy’s here,” she said. Holly sighed, a four-year-old whose patience was wearing thin. She kicked the back of the passenger seat. “I need both of you,” the child said. Bill let them into the apartment and they gawped at the splendour of it all, like tourists in their own home. He thought of their Victorian terrace in London, the dark staircase and crumbling bay window and musty basement, holding the dead air of a hundred years. There was nothing shabby and old here. He turned the key and it was like stepping into a new century. There were gifts waiting for them. A bouquet of white lilies in cellophane. Champagne in a bucket of melted ice. The biggest basket of fruit in the world. For Bill Holden and family – welcome to Shanghai – from all your colleagues at Butterfield, Hunt and West. He picked up the bottle and looked at the shield-shaped label. Dom Pérignon, he thought. Dom Pérignon in China. Bill went to the door of the master bedroom and watched Becca gently getting the sleeping child into her pyjamas. She was quietly snoring. “Sleeping Beauty,” he smiled. “She’s Belle,” Becca corrected. “From Beauty and the Beast. You know – like us.” “You’re too hard on yourself, Bec.” Becca eased Holly into her pyjamas. “She can come in with us tonight,” she whispered. “In case she wakes up. And doesn’t know where she is.”
Tony Parsons offers a dizzying portrait of contemporary Shanghai
Photo: Greg Girard
He nodded, and came over to the bed to kiss his daughter goodnight, feeling a surge of tenderness as his lips brushed her cheek. Then he left Becca to it, and went off to explore the apartment. He was bone tired but very happy, switching lights on and off, playing with the remote of the big plasma TV, opening and shutting cupboards, unable to believe the size of the place, feeling like a lucky man. Even full of the crates they had had shipped ahead from London, the glossy apartment was impressive. Flat 31, Block B, Paradise Mansions, Hongqiao Road, Gubei New Area, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China. It was in a different league to anywhere they had ever lived back home.
Photo: Greg Girard
If they stayed on at the end of his two-year contract then they were promised a step up the Shanghai property ladder to an ex-pat compound with its own golf course, spa and pool. But Bill liked it here. What could be better than this? He thought of his father and wondered what the old man would say about this place. The old man would go crazy. The suitcases could wait until tomorrow to be unpacked. He carried the bottle into the kitchen and rummaged around until he found two glasses. When he came back Becca was at the window. “You should see this,” she said. Bill handed his wife a glass and looked down ten storeys to the courtyard below. Paradise Mansions was four blocks of flats surrounding a central courtyard. There was a mother-and-child fountain at its centre, lights glinting below the water.
He slept until first light and then abruptly he was wide-awake. He counted the things stopping him from going back to sleep. His body clock was pining for London time. Tomorrow morning at 8am the driver – Tiger – would take him to the Pudong offices of Butterfield, Hunt and West, and he would start his new job. He was curious to know where they were, and what their new life looked like in daylight. How could he possibly sleep with his head so full? As quietly as he could, Bill got up, got dressed and slipped out of the apartment. The courtyard where the men in cars had waited for the girls was empty apart from Tiger. He was sleeping with his bare feet on the dashboard of the limo, his legs either side of the steering wheel. He jumped to attention when Bill walked past. “Where to, boss?” he said, pulling on his shoes. “It’s Sunday,” Bill said. “Don’t they give you the day off on Sunday?” Tiger looked blank. And then hurt. “Where we going, boss?” “I’m walking,” Bill said. “And stop calling me boss.” The Sabbath may have meant nothing to Tiger but out on the streets of Gubei New Area it felt almost like Sunday morning back home, with nobody around apart from the odd jogger and dog walker, the neighbourhood shuttered and still. It was early June, and the heat was already starting to build.
Bill walked. He was hungry to see what he thought of as the real China, the China that was nothing to do with plasma televisions and Dom Pérignon. The real China was somewhere nearby. It had to be. There were blocks of flats as far as he could see in a bewildering jumble of styles, but broken up with patches of manicured green and oversized statues. There were strips of restaurants – he could see Thai, Italian, everything but Chinese – a Carrefour supermarket, and a couple of international schools, including the one that Holly would go to in the morning. Little parks. A nice neighbourhood. Gubei was greener and cleaner than the grimy, crime-ridden patch of London they had left behind. His family could live here. His wife and daughter could be happy here. He felt a quiet satisfaction, mixed with relief.
He glanced at his watch and decided he had time to explore before Becca and Holly stirred. So he walked towards the rising sun and as he left Gubei New Area behind, the streets quickly filled. Women selling bruised fruit stared through him from shaded side streets. Someone bumped into him. Someone else spat at his feet. There were men in filthy, dirt-encrusted two-piece suits working on a building site. On a Sunday. And in the streets there were people. A tide of people. Suddenly there were people everywhere. He stopped, trying to get his bearings. The roads were wide and traffic flew by, horns mindlessly beeping, ignoring red lights and pedestrians and the rest of the traffic. He saw a chic girl in sunglasses with her hair up behind the wheel of a silver Buick Excelle. There were flocks of VW Santana taxis. A muddy truck piled high with junk and men. And more trucks, lots of them, with their strange cargo of cardboard or orange traffic cones or pigs or yet more cars, so new they still shone with the showroom wax. As the sun got higher, and Bill continued to walk east, the city got noisier, adding to his sense of dislocation. A woman on a scooter mounted the pavement and just missed him, beeping her horn furiously. Schools of cyclists with giant black visors over their faces swarmed past. Suddenly he was aware of the time difference, the light-headedness that follows a long-haul flight, the sweat of exhaustion. But he kept walking. He wanted to know something about this place. He walked down alleys where thin men shaved over ancient metal bowls and fat babies were fed, and where ramshackle buildings with red-tile roofs were draped with drying laundry and satellite dishes. Then abruptly the jumbled blocks with their red-tile roofs suddenly gave way to the new shining towers and shopping malls.
Photo: Ryan Pyle
Photo: Peter Hvid
it was early june and the heat was already starting to build. bill walked. he was hungry to see what he thought of as the real china, the china that had nothing to do with plasma televisions and dom pĂŠrignon. the real china was somewhere nearby. it had to be
Photo: Ryan Pyle
Outside Prada, men with their skin darkened by sun and grime tried to sell him fake Rolex watches and DVDs of the latest Tom Cruise movie. Young women hid from the sun under umbrellas. Naked western models advertised skin-lightening products on giant billboards. And as Bill walked on, he felt something that he had never felt in his life, and it was an awareness of the sheer mass of humanity. All those people in the world, all those lives. It was as if he truly believed in their existence for the first time. Shanghai gave him no choice. Bill hailed one of the Santana taxis, impatient to see the Bund, but the driver didnâ€™t understand a word he said and dropped him by the river, glad to get rid of him. He got out next to a wharf with a ferry; not a sightseeing ferry but some kind of local public transport. Bill handed over his smallest note, received some filthy RMB in return, and joined the milling mob waiting to cross to the other side. He tried to work out where the queue began. Then he realised that it didnâ€™t begin anywhere. And as the ferry filled with people, and then continued to fill even more until Bill was hemmed in on every side, and fighting back the feeling that the ferry was overloaded, he saw that here, at last, was the real China. The numbers. It was all about the numbers.
the numbers were why he was starting his new job in the morning, why his familyâ€™s future would be decided in this city, and why all the money problems of the past would soon be over. the one billion customers, the one billion new capitalists, the one billion marketplace
Photo: Ryan Pyle
He knew that the numbers were why he would be starting his new job in the morning, why his family’s future would be decided in this city, and why all the money problems of the past would soon be over. They filled the dreams of businessmen from Sydney to San Francisco – the one billion customers, the one billion new capitalists, the one billion marketplace. He struggled to move his arms and glanced at his watch, wondering if he could make it back home to his girls before they woke up. The ferry began to move.
The Mercedes came out of the tunnel and on to the Bund. The famous road curved off ahead of them, a great sweep
Photo: Ryan Pyle Photo: Peter Hvid
of stout colonial buildings made of marble and granite, the architecture of Empire. “The West is finished,” Devlin said, watching the Bund go by. “The future belongs to the Chinese. They own it already.” He turned to look at Bill. “Do you believe that?” Bill smiled, shrugged, not wanting to disagree with his boss, but reluctant to concede the future to anyone. “I don’t know,” he said. “Believe it,” Devlin told him. “They work harder than we do. They put up with conditions that would make us call a human rights lawyer, or the cops. They make us – the West, the developed world, all the 21st-century people – look lazy, soft, the pampered men of yesterday. We haven’t seen anything yet, I promise you.” There were four of them in the car, with Tiger at the wheel. He had taken off his toy soldier uniform and was wearing a business suit. Bill sat in the back seat wedged between Devlin and a lawyer called Nancy Deng, one of the firm’s Chinese nationals. She had her briefcase open on her lap, examining some files, and she hadn’t spoken since the journey began. Shane sat up front, his wafer-thin mobile phone in his big meaty fist, talking in calm, fluent Chinese. The words didn’t have the barking sound of Cantonese, or the rural, West Country burr of Mandarin, and so Bill guessed this must be what Shanghainese sounded like. “What happens when the Chinese can make everything the West makes?” Devlin said, smiling back at Bill. “Not just toys, clothes and dinky little Christmas decorations but computers, cars, telecommunications – when they can make all that stuff at one tenth of the cost it takes our fat lazy work force?” “You want to pick up our Germans or meet them at the restaurant?” Shane said over his shoulder. “We’ll pick them up at their hotel,” Devlin said. “I don’t want our Germans getting lost.” He looked back at Bill. “The Chinese are united,” Devlin said, his eyes shining. “That’s the thing that nobody gets. They’re united. They have a unity of national vision that the West has lacked since, oh, World War Two. That’s why they will win.” Shane was telling the Germans that he would see them in the lobby in ten minutes. “I love the Chinese,” Devlin said simply, leaning back. “I admire them. They believe that tomorrow will be a better day. And if you are going to believe in something, anything, then that’s not a bad thing to believe in.” Bill watched the Bund go by, and silently agreed with him. Extracted from Tony Parsons’ ‘My Favourite Wife’, published by Harper Collins, © Tony Parsons 2008 www.harpercollins.co.uk 59
Photo: Trevor Barrett
ADVENTUROUS SPRING 2010
JEEP SAFARIS ARE THRILLING, BUT THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SIMPLY WALKING INTO THE BUSH. IN SOUTH AFRICA, LUCIA VAN DER POST EXPERIENCES THE WILDERNESS AS NATURE INTENDED
ADVENTURES, REAL ADVENTURES, WHERE YOU FEEL NICELY SCARED, WHERE THE ADRENALINE FLOWS, WHERE YOUR SENSES ARE PRODDED INTO HYPER-ALERTNESS, AREN’T EASY TO COME BY. You could, of course, scare yourself silly by doing
stupid things – driving too fast, jumping off high cliffs, that sort of thing – but what would be the point? I’m talking about that special sense of being preternaturally alive that comes from a proper adventure – and I don’t know of a better one than walking in a wilderness area alone with nothing but your fellow companions and wild nature all around you. Do it in Africa, where along with the wilderness comes a landscape filled with the iconic African animals, where down by the river you might see a whole troop of elephants coming down to drink, where at night the air is alive with the sound of lions
roaring, leopards coughing, baboons barking their group warnings, hyenas whooping and when there’s nothing to protect you except the campfire and a guide with a gun he is deeply reluctant to use, and then you’ll know what real adventure is like. And the wonder is that this adventure can be had for a fraction of the price of a stay in a swanky five-star establishment. Join one of the Wilderness Foundation’s trails either in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, walk with its Bushmen guides in Botswana’s Kalahari or camp by the side of the Imfolozi River in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal and you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime. More than an adventure – a lifechanging experience. One you’ll never forget. It’s 25 years since I went on my first wilderness trail in South Africa’s Imfolozi wilderness and it remains a more vivid experience than almost any other trip I’ve ever done. We had
Photo: Martin Heigan
WHEN THERE’S NOTHING TO PROTECT YOU EXCEPT THE CAMPFIRE AND A GUIDE WITH
an inspirational guide in Dr Ian Player, one of the founders of the Wilderness Foundation, but in my experience all the guides are inspirational. These are people for whom all the money in the world couldn’t buy them what they consider to be the greatest luxury they know, which is to spend their days and nights in wild and beautiful places. They love nothing more than to help bring the landscape alive to those who are willing to come along for the adventure, to listen to the beat of the bush, to learn about its ways and tune into a completely other way of being. You need to know this isn’t a soft option. It involves walking, slowly, quietly, carefully, for five days through officially designated wilderness areas with nothing but your backpack. And in case you’re wondering what exactly constitutes a wilderness area in Africa, it mostly refers to protected,
designated landscapes where nothing man-made may ever be built, where the bush is as pristine, as filled with its original flora and fauna as it is possible to find in these complicated, over-populated days. You take in everything you need and you leave nothing more than a footprint behind. The rivers are where you get your water, the bush is your loo and even the campfires you build at night, round which you bond with your fellow adventurers, have to be swept away before you leave each morning. You sleep under the stars in the sleeping bags you carry with you, cooking the (simple) food you’ve brought in. You take it in turns to keep watch around the campfire at night for there is nothing but the fire to keep the wildlife away, though in a truly dire emergency – and it would have to be a matter of life and death – the guide would leap to with his gun.
A GUN HE IS DEEPLY RELUCTA NT TO USE, THEN YOU’LL KNOW WHAT REAL ADVENTURE IS
Photo: Trevor Barrett
Nobody who has trundled round a game park in a minibus or even a four-by-four with what amounts to a khaki-clad chauffeur has the smallest idea of what it feels like to walk unarmed
through bush that is filled with all of Africa’s wondrous wildlife. These days wildlife in the much-visited safari parks see four-by-fours as natural inhabitants of the bush. They scarcely lift their heads as they swish by. But put your foot on the ground, with none of the protective armour of the four-by-four, and you are just another vulnerable animal in the wilderness. It gives one some idea of what it must have felt like to have been primitive man who had to learn how to inhabit the wilderness. Rules are strict. They have to be, for foolish behaviour can put the whole group at risk. The bush is a potentially lethal place but that, of course, is what gives the adventure the adrenaline rush that is the great draw of Africa but you wouldn’t want to go there unless you were very sure of who was taking you. If you come upon a lion, the golden rule is not to move so much as an eyelash. They are primed to attack by movement. Try that, as I’ve done, on rounding a dry river bed on an early morning walk and coming upon a group of three lionesses dozing in the sand and it was hard to tell who got the bigger fright – the lions blinked first and ran but it was a very near thing. The days are magic. They start at dawn as the sun comes up. Breakfasts are cooked over the remains of the campfire. Rivers are treated cautiously – in some, as Dr Player warned, you don’t put so much as a toe (crocs may be lurking) – and you choose carefully the spots where the water is clear and shallow. You pack the backpacks, clear the fire and then set out to learn about the bush. Much of the time, it is important to understand, you see very little. Some wilderness trails are in one sense quite uneventful. What gives them their power is that potent sense that you never know what is around the corner, that there in the bush are some magic birds, insects, butterflies, plants and animals and that you are wandering amongst them as man was originally meant to. When man is on foot, wildlife is very, very afraid because lodged deep in the animal is an almost genetic imprint that man is to be avoided, this is how primitive man used to stalk him. The great guides know every birdcall, every plant and they read the bush like a puzzle. Circling vultures tell them there’s been a kill. A kill means there must be predators nearby. Barking impala tell them there’s danger. The truly great ones can tell from a bird’s call if the bird is warning of a circling eagle or an approaching snake. They can tell from the ways twigs have fallen, from the colour and freshness of the dung when the elephant, the buffalo or the zebra passed by. All this you learn and as you do so, you change. I’ve seen grown men, tycoons back in their home cities, cry at the first sight of a herd of elephants. They hadn’t realised the world contained such wonders. I’ve met hedge fund entrepreneurs who’ve found in the wilderness a happiness and a sense of coming home that they never
got from trading a million dollars. One of them who, now he’s made his zillions, has given his life over to helping to restore Mozambique’s greatest wildlife park Gorongosa, told me just the other day, “I just realised that sleeping in a tent in the African bush, eating beans out of a tin, I knew then that I was happy.” A South African psychiatrist, Dr Ian McCallum, has long thought that wilderness is the finest antidepressant he knows. He believes our sense of ourselves is linked with a deep historical memory of landscape and that some low-grade depression is a form of ‘homesickness’ for these landscapes. So try a wilderness adventure – it’s not just a physical adventure, it’s a psychological one, too. It challenges thoughts, perceptions, all that one values in life. And although for my money the biggest adventure of all is to be had in Africa – there’s something about its weather, its night skies, its air, its abundant wildlife, its peoples, that make it irresistible – you can have a different sort of adventure in the wilds of Scotland. The Wilderness Foundation has set up trails there that can only be reached by boat, where you canoe down great rivers, where you camp out in small tents or, if the weather is dire, in bothies, in some very wild and untrammelled land. There may not be lion, elephant, cheetah and rhino but there are golden
I’ve seen grown men, tycoons back in their home cities, cry at the first sight of a herd of elephant. They hadn’t realised the world contained such wonders eagles and wild flowers, deer and the red-throated diver. What they all have in common is they put one in touch with these places that many of us, in our daily lives, have lost any real feeling for. Once we all used to inhabit the wilderness but these days, as Gary Snyder, the American Beat ecopoet, points out, “wilderness has been diminished to remote islands used mainly for recreation which we visit from time to time.” This dichotomy, he believes, is not only profoundly abnormal but he believes that it does a violence to man’s being. There’s nothing like a week spent in one of these magic places to remind us of why they are worth saving. wildernessfoundation.org.uk Wilderness trails start at about £500 a week, exclusive of airfares. Lucia van der Post is an Associate Editor of the FT ‘How To Spend it’ magazine and Editorial Director of Quintessentially.
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BY Emma Crichton-Miller
Ahead of the curve as ever, in 2005 Emma CM threw a spotlight on the exploding Chinese art market
red dawn BRIGHT
In 1996 Julia Colman and Ludovic Bois set up their gallery, Chinese Contemporary, in Mayfair. For the next eight years the most frequent question they were asked was: “Why a gallery, and why contemporary Chinese art?” Nine years on there is no longer any need to ask. Late as the majority of art lovers in Britain have been to catch up with the mounting excitement in Europe and America, now at last the UK too is becoming aware of just how fast, feverishly and fruitfully the art scene in China has burgeoned. If any single nation’s artists have the eyes of all contemporary collectors, curators and dealers trained on them, it is China’s. It was the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999 that saw the emergence of Chinese Contemporary Art onto the international map. There, one of today’s worldrenowned names, Cai Guo-Qiang, a master prestidigitator who works with gunpowder, won the Golden Lion Award. But now every major art fair across the globe has its sprinkling of Chinese artists. Even Frieze this year had one Beijingbased gallery among the scatterings of Chinese artists represented abroad, while this year’s Venice Biennale saw the first official Chinese Pavilion, curated by Cai. Betting on the future, the Cartier Foundation in Paris included two young Chinese artists in its survey of emerging talent, J’en Rêve. While the Royal Academy is hosting the sumptuous China: The Three Emperors 1662-1795, a landmark in East-West cultural diplomacy, and a celebration of China’s ancient tradition of collecting and connoisseurship, the V&A is showing Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China. This show, first seen in America, celebrates a different kind of negotiation: that between past and present, tradition and modernity, memory and loss, alienation and self-discovery. Over on the South Bank, the Hayward Gallery has invited one of China’s leading young sculptors, Zhan Wang, to create a glittering installation, a recreation of London in stainless steel pots and pans, as part of their Universal Experience: Art, Life and the Tourist’s Eye. Meanwhile the West’s auction houses have seen prices for Chinese art rise steeply. A recently sold installation by Cai Guo-Qiang with a catalogue estimate of $230,000 went for $586,344. A painting by the Chinese New Wave artist Zeng Fanzhi sold for $146,586 (catalogue estimate: $51,200). The traffic is by no means one way. As the Chinese authorities have woken up to contemporary art’s economic and political value, and its charismatic pulling power, so they have begun to encourage their own gallerists and curators. The Shanghai Biennale in 1996 was the first internationally styled biennale altogether in mainland China and marked that city’s eager openness to Western ideas and ways of doing business. It is in Shanghai, too, that Lorenz Helbling set up his hugely successful business ShanghART in 1994, which has launched the careers of many young artists. As news of China’s art scene has filtered through, so dealers, collectors and curators have been flying out to see for themselves. Some of the earliest – the Swiss collector Uli Sigg, whose collection went on show this summer in Bern; the critic/ curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-curator of this year’s Guangzhou Triennial – have witnessed the movement from the beginning. This year the Contemporary Art Society is taking out a party of their patrons to the Guangzhou Triennial. The Red Mansion Foundation, set up in London in 1999 by Nicolette Kwok to foster mutual cultural understanding through contemporary art, has been enabling British artists to travel out to see for themselves, as well as bringing Chinese artists over here.
Li Ji, Pets no. 73, Oil on canvas, 2004
For Colman, there is no doubt that all this excitement is justified by the freshness, technical skill and moral urgency of contemporary Chinese art. An art historian by training, specialising in post-war and contemporary Western art, she first started to notice contemporary Chinese work as it filtered into the West around 1993. In 1996 Colman and Bois finally took a research trip to China and were so bowled over by what they discovered that three weeks later, their gallery opened. After a couple of years they took over half the old premises of Anthony D’Offay in Dering Street, an announcement, if any was needed, that a new era in international contemporary art was about to open. I remember passing this gallery often in its early years, wondering about the strange, sometimes angrily strident, sometimes satirical, sometimes beautiful and otherworldly work on show there. I had no context then to comprehend the work. What did all this have to do with jade, calligraphy and scroll-paintings? What was it telling us about China, in an era of increasing economic freedom but still rampant cultural censorship? For Colman the Nineties were the glorious years. As she explains, the death of Mao in 1976 was for contemporary artists as much as anyone else a false dawn. A period of huge intellectual excitement followed, with artists enthusiastically recapitulating many of the theoretical and stylistic debates of the 20th century and nurturing the real hope that they might contribute to the making of a truly modern China. From early experimental groupings like the Stars and the Scars, 1985 saw the explosion of the avant-garde movement, encompassing around 80 different associations, including The Pool Society, Hunan Zero Art Division and Xiamen Dada, all wrestling with different reinterpretations of Western and Chinese cultural traditions, and other philosophical and political ideas. There was an upsurge in performance and radically conceptual work. This fervour of creativity culminated in the first nationwide Contemporary Exhibition at the China National Gallery in Beijing, China/Avant-Garde, in February 1989, under the brave slogan, ‘No U-Turn’. Within hours it was shut down by the authorities after the artist Xiao Lu fired two pistol shots into her own installation. Although it was reopened, its two-week run was marred by constant government interference and artist unrest. The events of Tiananmen Square in June provoked further cultural repression and resulted in an almost total clampdown on avant-garde art and art journals. Experiment and debate were crushed and many artists left China to work abroad, including Huang Yong Ping (who has a retrospective currently at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis), Hou Hanru (now a prominent critic in Paris and co-curator of this year’s Guangzhou Triennial) and Xu Bing, whose installation A Book from the Sky featured in the landmark 1999 US exhibition Inside Out: New Chinese Art. 67
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The crushing of optimism did nothing, however, to dent The huge popularity of video and photography among this younger generation the creativity of the artists who remained. Two main groups reflects the easy availability of electronic media in the new China and the emerged, the so called ‘Cynical Realists’ and the movement, ‘Political Pop’. Most daunting competition to enter art school. In her COSPlayers pieces, Cao Fei uses of these artists had grown up in the Cultural Revolution, banished with their photography to comment on her own generation’s addiction to video games, parents to remote parts of the empire or closeted within stifling proximity to the placing figures in fantasy costumes in contemporary situations. Xing Danwen Communist Establishment. As well as the devastation of their hopes for the new reflects another concern, the facelessness of contemporary society. She builds China, they found the rise of aggressive consumerism equally oppressive. Their maquettes of modern tower blocks and contemporary housing developments and work, whether suffused with a sense of loss like Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodlines then photographs them, inserting herself into these anonymous environments. or more robustly satirical like Fang Lijun’s skinhead self-portraits or Yue Minjun’s Among the proliferating movements – Contemporary Chinese Surrealism, laughing heads, has a strong humanist impulse – a belief in the value of each Gaudy Art and so on – a number of artists are turning old themes and techniques individual human life and an aggressive or subdued wrestling with the question on their heads. Miao Xiaochun has evolved an alter ego, an old Chinese scholar, of personal identity in a rapidly changing, increasingly globalised society. whom he impersonates, appearing like a disoriented ghost in photographs of A leading representative of Political Pop, Wang Guangyi’s Great Criticism series contemporary scenes. Xu Zhongmin makes contemporary woodcuts; Xu Yihui has come to exemplify contemporary China’s ambivalent relationship to rampant and Liu Jianhua, with dazzling skill, completely subvert the polite tradition of consumerism, while Wang Qingsong’s recreations of the heroic monuments of ceramics, and a number – Lu Peng and Wei Dong, for instance – work vividly the past has a more complex take on both the Maoist past and the consumerwith Chinese ink on paper. As the title of one of Yang Maoyuan’s inflated animal branded present. The Lou brothers Weidong, Weiguo and Weibing use those pieces has it: Expansion is the Current Situation. If Beijing is the most conservative most ancient techniques – lacquer and ink on paper – to satirise China’s worship centre currently, as you move out to Shanghai and then to Guangzhou, the work of an Americanised modernity. gets fresher and more experimental. Two consultants I spoke to recently had These artists demonstrated that painting, far from being dead, could, in come upon their most exciting finds in Sichuan and Yunnan province. There the their hands, become a forceful medium again. As Colman puts it: “They have pressures of commercialism and conformity to Western norms are fewer. never had the issue with technique of Western artists.” Still educated within the traditional schools of painting, “as the first free generation, these artists have been able lacquer, sculpture, printmaking, their draughtsmanship to put on canvas for the first time things we take for and expertise is itself a revelation. But it is not just the granted - Fear, anxiety, joy, anger” technique that is thrilling. “The 1990s work is knock-out,” says Colman. “It’s like 1907 in Russia, with the Constructivists. The art is phenomenally powerful and the intensity of change in the country is Arthur Duncan, who takes collectors and other interested parties to China, argues reflected in the art.” For Colman this art already has its place in history. “As the first that the next challenge facing artists in China is the creation of a local community free generation, these artists have been able to put on canvas for the first time of collectors. Until very recently the major galleries – The Courtyard Gallery, things we take for granted – fear, anxiety, joy, anger.” Alexander Ochs and Factory 798 in Beijing, and ShanghART in Shanghai – have Another forceful strand in this early 1990s work was performance art and been run by Westerners for a Western market. The Chinese who were interested photography. Focused on a now-demolished area of dilapidated traditional village in contemporary art as opposed to the traditional high-value goods of jade, old houses outside Beijing, renamed by the artists East Village, artists from throughout furniture and porcelain, had for the most part been educated abroad and even China were drawn here to participate in an experiment in living outside official settled abroad. Now the younger generation of Chinese professionals are beginning society. Here some of the most daring and exploratory performance work and to deal and to collect. While this will push up prices – Christie’s have already found new photography was pioneered by artists such as Ma Liuming, Zhang Huan a footing in Beijing in anticipation and Sotheby’s will not be far behind – it may and Rong Rong. While Zhang Huan covered himself in fish sauce and honey and also allow Chinese artists to evolve ways of working that are truly Chinese. Up until sat completely naked on a stinking public toilet, Ma walked naked along the now they have been happy to find their place (and wealth!) on the international Great Wall in the persona of a feminised Fen-ma Liuming, until his feet bled. stage, but for the future, increasingly, it will be internal recognition that they crave. Both reflected a larger preoccupation among this generation with the naked So while for a period Western collectors still have an open field on an undervalued body, (for so long taboo), sadomasochism and with the crossing of social and market, there may soon be strong local competition. gender boundaries. An anxious relationship to the past and tenderness for the selves displaced by change fires the work of graffiti artist Zhang Dali. In the late 1990s he went about Beijing spray-painting a profile of a head on numerous walls, buildings and bridges condemned to be knocked down. The resulting photographs are poignant reminders of the human significance of all that is being razed. More recently, in 100 Chinese, he has cast the heads of 100 migrant workers in plaster, in the form of death masks. These are the forgotten people in Beijing’s current boom. For Colman, the next generation of Chinese artists – those born nearer the end of the 1960s and into the 70s, whose lives were barely marked by the Cultural Revolution – have yet to find so certain a way. Growing up much more comfortably in an overtly commercialised culture, they have been more inclined simply to observe what is going on around them than criticise it and some have been too easily tempted to fulfill Western expectations. Having said that, an artist like Yang Fudong, whose video piece Seven Intellectuals caused a sensation, is still making strong work. For Nicolette Kwok, he exemplifies a generation less concerned, perhaps, with the political ideals and despair of the Tiananmen generation, but more focused on how commercialism is corrupting the soul, a theme not exclusive to China. This generation too, sometimes referred to as ‘the lost generation’, reflects the particular loneliness and stresses of being brought up an only child, a ‘little emperor’ shouldering all the expectations of your parents. Already Zhao Bandi, one of the most sensitive and observant of the Realist artists, had begun in 1999 a series of photographs of himself with a small stuffed panda. Together they comment wryly on the current scene, but the panda becomes a poignant emblem not only of China, of course, but also of all those singleton children.
Xu Zhongmin, Mah- jong Box
design for living
Beautiful Spring 2006
Commissioning aN architect to design a house is fraught with danger and disappointment - for both buyer
I once spent a couple of hours on the telephone talking to the guitarist of a particularly well-known rock band about houses. He had bought what sounded like an impossibly beautiful plot of land overlooking the sea outside St Tropez, and he wanted to talk about how to find the architect he needed to build him a truly beautiful house. There was a whole list of things he wanted it to be. A house that would be an architectural landmark, but which did not dictate to him how he would live. A house that would meet the French heritage police’s tight regulations on fitting in with the pantile and plaster vernacular of the Côte d’Azur. A house that would connect inside and outside. A house that would have the zen-like tranquillity of an Aman resort hotel, but with plantation shutters, and be designed by Rem Koolhaas. He wanted a great house, and reckoned that he needed a great architect to give him what he wanted. He and his partner had done their research. It sounded as if they had whole boxfiles full of cuttings torn from shelter magazines. They had all the books on minimalism, and on modernism and post-modernism. But they didn’t want to be the victims of an architectural experiment, or to live in an architectural statement either. They wanted a house. They had looked at all the magazines, and seen everybody’s work from Renzo Piano, to Future Systems. And they hadn’t seen anything that was exactly like what they wanted. There were bits and pieces that they liked. But nothing that was exactly right. They wanted to square the circle, to get architecture with a capital A, and at the same time to get a house that reflected the things that they had in their boxfile. I tried to explain that there wouldn’t be much point going to Donatella Versace and asking her to produce an outfit that would be three parts Commes des Garçons, two parts Ralph Lauren and the rest Versace.
Richard Meier made his name 40 years ago by designing a whole series of cool, white, modern houses. Since then he has built museums around the world that have an uncanny resemblance to those purist houses. But he is still the first choice in America for his blend of modernity with luxury. South California beach house. Photograph by Scott Frances/Esto
and builder - but if you want to live in a brand-new work of art, the risk is worth taking. By Deyan Sudjic
Rem Koolhaas never gives his clients an easy ride. He is as interested in polemics as domesticity, but he is certainly the most talked-about architect of his generation, with his challenging designs for Prada in New York and LA, and his remarkable leaning towers for China TV. Maison à Bordeaux. Photographs by Hans Werlemann
I tried to suggest that the great thing about commissioning a house from an architect was the chance to create an original and authentic work of art by giving them the chance to design what seemed right. And if that wasn’t what he wanted, I explained that what he really needed was an interior decorator. The kind of designer that would sit down and listen to him about where he kept his suits, and whether he preferred not to be able to see the swimming pool from the living room. Above all, a designer who would be ready to build his client’s dream, rather than one of his own. My end of this conversation was conducted from the terrace of a house in the hills above Nice that I’d rented for a week’s holiday. And it was living proof of all the things about a house that you don’t want. An infliction of somebody else’s taste. And a lingering sense of the kind of insincerity that comes when a house is pushed into fitting an idea of what it ought to look like, rather than growing organically out of the brief. It was a mismatch that brought home the distance that there is so often to be found between the idea of domesticity, as celebrated by the decorator, and the architect’s idea of what that might be. “A good interior decorator,” the architect John Pawson told me, “will talk to the client about what it’s going to be like to wake up in the new 72
house on a bright summer morning, to feel the delicious texture of crisp linen sheets. They will ask them to imagine swinging a leg out of bed, and feeling the cool touch of Portuguese limestone underfoot, to catch the scent of coffee percolating down stairs, and get a glimpse of the ocean through the carefully positioned window in the wall next to the bed. Except that the window won’t be there because the architect never thought of the view from the bedroom.” It’s not surprising that people are careful about commissioning a house. When things go wrong, it is more than just another minor domestic problem, it’s like a traumatic divorce, a bereavement, and a libel action all rolled into one. And it can happen to anyone. Even Janet Street Porter, and the architect that she chose to design her house in London: David Adjaye, the most successful of the rising generation. After designing houses for Ewan McGregor and Chris Offili, among others, Adjaye took on Street Porter as a client. She had herself started out training as an architect before she set out on a career as a pundit, and had already commissioned one highly distinctive house built for her by the architect Piers Gough. Like many people who have commissioned a one-off house, she wanted to do it again, and went to Adjaye, looking for something even more striking.
But the result was anything but what she had imagined. She used her newspaper columns to lay into her architect. Her house has, she announced to the world, turned into “a horror story”. She complained of leaking roofs, cracked glass walls, kitchen shelves that open over sinks, and in her lowest blow she accuses Adjaye of having “an ego even bigger than mine”. Not since Mies van der Rohe was forced to go to court to sue Edith Farnsworth for the fees she owed him for the building of the allglass Farnsworth House, and ended up being branded un-American for his pains, has an architect-client relationship gone more spectacularly wrong. “She doesn’t know the difference between a builder and an architect,” says Adjaye. “It’s a real shame. She is a patron, but she misunderstands the process; she thinks I built her roof personally.” Individual houses do matter. They can have an impact that goes far beyond the individual for whom they were designed, You could tell the story of modern architecture almost entirely through a series of remarkable houses. Houses that somehow manage to float above the routine of domesticity, or the conventional fantasies of nostalgia and status that shape the image of what the house should be. An unbroken sequence of them stretches from Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos’s work in Vienna, to Eileen Gray’s own house in the south of France and Charles Eames’s studio in California. What makes this a particularly interesting moment in the history of the house is that the architect’s idea of what constitutes the house, and what is usually the rather different idea of what constitutes the domestic ideal, has converged. People build new houses in the optimistic belief that they will make possible a new and better way of life. People want their houses to say something important about themselves, to show how much self-confidence they have or how fashionable they are, or even what a happy marriage they have. And such houses demand a remarkably close relationship between architect and client, one which can see the architect turning into anything from licensed jester, to a trophy, or a therapist. An individual house may be relatively modest in scale, but it can be the most powerful kind of architectural expression. No wonder that there is now a collector’s market for the key modern houses. The property developer Peter Palumbo for example owned the Farnsworth House for a while, and then went on to buy Le Corbusier’s Maisons Jaoul, outside Paris. Joel Silver, the Hollywood producer has stuck to buying Frank Lloyd Wright. But commissioning your own architect is a more rewarding process. It gives you the chance to create architectural history yourself.
Among people who commission major architects to design houses for them, shrinking violets are conspicuous by their absence, as is false modesty. Peter Benjamin Lewis for example, was the chairman of the Guggenheim Museum’s board of trustees, and a man who has personally contributed $77 million to the museum, largely on the basis of the strength of his relationship with Frank Gehry. Which goes some way to explaining why Frank Gehry’s retrospective at the Guggenheim some years ago included a model for what the catalogue called “the Lewis residence”, which featured a shiny blue plastic fish, a pointed Moorish dome, folds of red cloth and strips of metal foil that had been collaged together. This particular project began as an invitation to remodel an existing house in Lyndhurst, Ohio, and was eventually abandoned, 10 years later, after the design had ballooned into what amounted to a palace sprawling over no less than 42,000 square feet. According to the catalogue, “The plan to renovate the original house was quickly abandoned in the face
of mounting needs that overwhelmed the structure.” Gehry portrays the architectural obsession that the design of the Lewis house represent rather differently. “Peter kept adding to the programme.” Lewis asked for a 10-car garage, and Gehry designed it. Then he said he needed storage for his art collection, and the design changed again. Then he needed a little museum. Later that expanded when Lewis said he needed space for a director for the museum, and space for a curator, and for a library. And of course for a state-of-the-art security system, including panic rooms and escape tunnel… From time to time, Lewis would cancel the project. But he always changed his mind. Costs soared from $5m to $80m. Gehry was dealing with that very special form of indecision associated with an excess of wealth, the kind that makes a grown man unable to make up his mind whether he needs one guest house or two. The house was never built. But Lewis did pay for the making of a film – complete with Jeremy Irons voice over – about how he spent 10 years not building a house.
Graham Phillips is a long-standing senior member of the Foster and Partners team. Skywood is the house that he built for himself, at Denham in Middlesex. He then launched the ‘Skywood House Project’ to find or commission works by various artists which might be suitable for display there – they work with the house, the house works with them. Photographs by Nigel Young
Norman Foster is perhaps Britainâ€™s most prolific architect, with a 600-strong office and a workload ranging from airports to skyscrapers. But he is still designing individual houses, in which he and his team treat the details with a precision normally reserved for jewellery. House in Corsica. Photographs by Nigel Young/Foster and Partners
Photo: Julian Calverley
adventurous spring 2010
and demanding of respect Just a few hours’ drive from the United Kingdom’s major cities, Wales’s miniature mountain range is among Europe’s most magnificent wildernesses. Experienced Snowdonian Kevin Braddock takes a hike A journey to the hills usually requires a leap of faith. The mountains of the British Isles may be mapped, but they nevertheless come entwined with their own vagaries and vicissitudes. You might run out of Kendal Mint Cake on the way up, or sprain your ankle scree-running down the other side. The very least you can expect is to get wet – perhaps sleeted on, possibly snowed over and very likely drizzled through. Dedicated Snowdonians say this is all part of the area’s damply autochthonous charm. There’s a leap of faith of an altogether more exacting order on the top of Tryfan, a forbidding, upturned fang of a mountain deep in the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales which, if successfully made, will win you not only the admiration of your climbing companions, but also, according to local myth, the freedom of the mountain itself.
Right up there in the firmament, a touch above 3,000 feet on Tryfan’s airy, angular apex (we’ll tackle the even more complex topography of pronunciation in a while), are two rock pillars named Adam and Eve. It’s long been a tradition for those who’ve ascended the mountain – not Snowdonia’s highest peak, but certainly its most impressive – to climb onto Adam and step across to Eve. The blocky irregular pillars are a couple of metres high, and the distance between them just over a metre. It sounds an easy feat, and it’s just as easy, as you make the gradual, crumbly ascent up Tryfan’s paths, terraces, and boulder-strewn slopes to persuade yourself that you’ll do it too: make the long step, the leap of faith, win the freedom, and survey the Ogwen Valley below and, on a clear day, far west into Lancashire and Merseyside, north to Anglesey, south to the earthy undulations of mid-Wales and west across the Irish Sea to the Emerald Isle. However, standing on the sharp summit, with Tryfan’s immense, near-vertical buttresses falling many hundreds of yards beneath your feet and the winds whipping pitilessly around, it’s just as easy to see your bravado denuded as straightforward foolhardiness. I’ve contemplated an attempt many times; I’ve seen people do it. But in perhaps half a dozen ascents of the mountain – some walked, others scrambled, and still others roped together and grappling through the gullies and overhangs with my dad – I’ve never found the resolve to make that final step. Merely reaching Tryfan’s summit is enough to occasion a racing pulse and a sharp intake of breath – it’s enough of a win in itself. Snowdonia is far from a hidden secret in the geography of Wild Britain. Some 10 million visitors every year are thought to enjoy its crags and hanging valleys, crisply outlined ridges, lakes, sights, tea rooms, rivers and pubs, and while there are plenty of infinitely more dangerous things to do in Snowdonia’s 800 square mileodd extent than climb Tryfan, there are lots of more sympathetic activities too. Snowdonia is packed right into the north-western pocket of Wales, a couple of hours by car from Liverpool and Manchester, but perfectly driveable from the Midlands and London if you’ve got a yen for wild and woolly weekends (leave The Smoke after work on Friday, and last orders at Dolwyddelan bar is a reasonable time target). It’s within spitting distance of the Irish Sea, yet a world apart from the dreary post-war holidaymaking centres that fringe Wales’s north and western edges.
Compared with the snow-capped European massifs of the Alps, Pyrenees or even the Cairngorms in Scotland, Snowdon is something of a ‘boutique’ range, easily negotiated but nonetheless grand, eternal and demanding of respect. The mountains of Snowdonia comprise a series of three dramatic ranges separated by two impressively yawning valleys: there is Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) itself, the sentinel mountain to the south-west section of the region. Its north and eastern flanks fall into the Llanberis Pass (which was made accessible by road only as recently as 1830), above which rise the Glyderau range, comprising the peaks of Y Garn, Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr, the blade-like Tryn and several others. Further still to the north-east is the huge glaciated expanse of the Ogwen valley which marks the separation of the Glyders from the dome-like massif of the Carneddau (Carnedd Dafydd, Carnedd Llewelyn and six other summits). Further to the west is a further range of satellite mountains, the Rhinogs. The loftier altitudes peter out as the Snowdonia National Park extends southwards through the Moelwyn range, down to the isolated but nonetheless striking Cader Idris, a horseshoe-shaped mountain near Machynlleth, a popular destination for walkers and fell-runners. Throughout, Snowdonia embodies the wild, the beautiful and the mythic: walk, climb or drive through the valleys, bluffs, amphitheatres, waterfalls, meadows and ridges of its Silmarillion-ish topography, and even on a dull day you would not find it hard to image Gandalf alighting from white steed on the shores of a lake, or a phalanx of Rohirrim charging through the town of Betwsy-Coed (more likely though, you’ll see crowds of Gore-Texed retirees descending from a chartered bus at, the town on the A5 that serves as Snowdon’s main tourist centre). Orientation is important in Snowdonia, and so is pronunciation, which is similarly perplexing to new arrivals. Welsh is a guttural, throaty language big on rolled ‘R’s and churning, almost Teutonically growled consonants. Yet it’s as
Photo: Mark Lacey
much in its place names as its sights that Snowdonia’s romantic, Middle-Earthy character really comes alive. Clogwyn D’ur Arddu, the colossal shattered crag on Snowdon’s northern edge, may be pronounced ‘clog-win-dur-are-thee’, but its translation, ‘the black cliff of darkness’, is worthy of a chapter in Lovecraft or Asimov. Similarly, visitors can get their heads and tongues round Pen yr Ole Wen, a peak whose name means ‘head of the White Light’, or ascend Glyder Fach to gain Castell y Gwynt – ‘the Castle of the Winds’. For those distracted (non-native Welsh-speaking) visitors, attempting the complicated pronunciations of locales such as Penrhyndeudraeth, Froncysyllte and Pen-y-Gwryd is almost as much fun, though it’s wise to draw the line at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Britain’s longest place name – and in any case, that particular town across the Menai Straits in Anglesey is beyond the Snowdonian perimeter. As a helpful guide, ‘dd’ is pronounced ‘the’, the ‘au’ conjunction as ‘eye’ and ‘y’ in general like the ‘i’ in ‘lift’. Thus the Carneddau are pronounced ‘car-neth-eye’. For a destination that has become increasingly popular since the post-war period, it is surprising that Snowdonia was only really ‘discovered’, in the tourist sense, in the 18th century, when the Wrexham-born naturalist and antiquary Thomas Pennant wrote his 1773 ‘A Tour In Wales’ survey. An early visionary of pastoral romanticism, prefiguring Wordsworth and Coleridge, Pennant’s writings helped define the way millions of visitors today experience places like Snowdonia, the Lakes and the Yorkshire Dales – not as inhospitable, forbidding zones full of threat and loneliness, but as areas of outstanding natural beauty. “The view from this exalted situation is unbounded,” Pennant wrote in 1773 from the slopes of Snowdon. “I saw from it the county of Chester, the high hills of Yorkshire, part of the north of England, Scotland and Ireland; a plain view of the Isle of Man; and that of Anglesey lay extended like a map beneath me.”
There are 14 peaks in Snowdonia that attain the magical elevation of 3,000ft (nothing like as lofty as the Alps, yet still high enough to feel like real adventure) and the area offers an abundance of opportunities for rock-climbing, mountaineering, scrambling or the more prosaic ‘walking’, though the bleed between each is often poorly defined. Those attempting to walk up Snowdon – a relatively simple four- to five-hour plod along the popular Pyg Track or Miner’s Track from the Youth Hostel at Pen-y-Pass – are unlikely to find themselves using their hands as well as their feet. However, braver souls can make for the same destination along the Crib Goch ridge, an altogether much more dicey proposition which is often closer to climbing than walking. Crib Goch – ‘the Red Ridge’ – involves scrambling up through the boulder fields to Snowdon’s north-eastern edge before making a long traverse along the spine of the ridge, which drops vertiginously away on either side. The first time I attempted this, as a teenager, I found myself frozen petrified as I watched my dad, a seasoned mountain habitué, skip away along the knife-edge, as nimble as a goat. Subsequent attempts have been more confident: as with skiing, staying relaxed is key. Listed as a grade I scramble, Crib Goch isn’t for the fainthearted or the first-timer; it is, however a perfect introduction to the aerated thrills of mountaineering, where the magic of altitude comes powerfully alive. Such is Snowdonia’s popularity these days that on summer weekends it is, sadly, not uncommon to find yourself queuing on the opening stretches of the popular pathways. Indeed, if you do end up queuing, you may quickly begin to wonder why you didn’t simply choose to take the train that runs from Llanberis to the summit and its newly built visitors centre. Nonetheless, despite its relatively small size, the mountains of Snowdonia offer an abundance of other adventurous possibilities. Consider ascending from Idwal Cottage in the Ogwen valley to the peak of Glyder Fawr via the ominous chasm of Devil’s Kitchen, on to the summit of Glyder Fach – with a brief
Photo: Mark Lacey
Difficult, V Diff, Severe, Very Severe and so on, all the way to Extremly Severe, and subsequent gradations of E1 and E2 to E9. Many Snowdonian classics were first ascended by the duo. It’s worth making the walk up from the Llanberis Pass roadside to the foot of Dinas Cromlech to contemplate upwards to the lines of two key Snowdonian routes, Cenotaph Corner and Cemetry Gates, both rated E1 and inscribed into guide books (climbers who bag a first ascent are awarded the honour of naming it) using rudimentary ropes and harnesses that are a far cry from the advanced technical equipment available in the adventure shops of Betws-y-Coed. Climbers have always had a precarious relationship with the precepts of risk and safety, and perhaps even sanity itself; no climb can ever really be 100 per cent ‘safe’. Those relationships were tested anew in the 1980s when a succeeding generation of sinewy daredevils – anarchic figures such as John Redhead, Johnny Dawes and Jerry Moffatt – pushed technical climbing in Snowdonia yet further into the reaches of athletic impossibility. A more gymnastic and semi-professional clique, one of their key battlegrounds was an unfinished route named ‘Master’s Wall’ on Clogwyn D’ur Arddu, first climbed by Joe Brown. After attempts by Redhead and Moffatt to complete what Joe Brown started, it was only in 1986 that the diminutive Johnny Dawes finally finished off the iconic climb, renaming it ‘Indian Face’ and claiming the first E9 in British climbing history. Any fall would have meant certain death, and the route has only been repeated twice since. “It was a complete trouser-filler,” Dawes recently observed. Perhaps more than any other route, Indian Face symbolises Snowdonia’s past, present and future as an mecca for the brave and fatalistic. Needless to say, none of this should be attempted without expert guidance, such as the kind offered at Plas y Brenin, the National Mountain Centre not far down the road in Capel Curig which began promoting outdoor pursuits in the 1950s. Today PYB offers instruction in mountain biking, kayaking, paddlesports, skiing and orienteering alongside rock-climbing. However, for a taste of the area’s unique lyrical magic, there is no need to throw yourself at rock faces or scramble across its serrated summits. A day trip to the summit of Snowdon is within almost any walker’s capacity, and while the mountain will never match, say, the Pyrenees for scale or sunshine, its cloudy, shrouded and mutable character has an allure all of its own. It rains a lot in Snowdonia, but it’s precisely in those turning moments, perhaps somewhere beneath the gargantuan slabs of Lliwedd or atop the satellite peak of Y Garn, when sun pierces the clearing clouds as if for the first time in eternity, that the area reveals itself a mythic place suffused with romance, drama and adventure. From day trippers to the most hardened of rock gymnasts, most who return from Snowdonia would agree the leap of faith is always worth taking.
Even on a dull day, you wouldn’t find it hard to imagine Gandalf alighting from a white steed on the shores of a lake, or a Phalanx of Rohirrim charging through town photo-opportunity bestriding the Cantilever, a huge suspended plank of rock – before completing the horseshoe by descending via Bwlch Tryan, or if you’re questing for more thin air, via the summit of the adjoining Tryfan itself. No ropes are required, but mountaineering basics – food and drink, maps and compasses, first aid kit, waterproofs, serious footwear and some instinct for the Welsh weather’s native changeability – shouldn’t be neglected. Alternatively, try the 10-mile-odd trek across the spine of the Carneddau from Conwy to Idwal Cottage, taking in the summits of Foel Fras, Garnedd Uchaf, Foel Grach, Carnedd Llewellyn, Carnedd Dafydd and Pen yr Ole Wen. The ascents and declines may be less sharp and pronounced as the Glyderau horseshoe, but the visual optic and sensory atmosphere are just as dramatic and invigorating. For people with something to prove, meanwhile, there’s the challenge of the 14 Peaks – a 52km odyssey encompassing all 14 of the area’s 3,000ft summits in under 24 hours (the current record stands at around four and half hours). Given the growth of rock climbing as a substantially indoor sport today, with the profusion of artificial walls in urban sports centres, it’s worth adding that Snowdonia was once its key heartland. In the post-war period, a generation of working class climbers from the north-west and Midlands conurbations focused on the crags, walls and slabs of Snowdonia – places like Dinas Cromlech and Dinas Mot in the Llanberis Pass, the Idwal Slabs in the shadow of the Glyders, and on Snowdon’s Clogwyn D’ur Arddu – and fast established a reputation as fearless hardmen able to rival the achievements of any continental alpiniste. Formerly, climbing had been a somewhat rarefied activity pursued by poetryreading gentlemen and cloistered idealists. By contrast, gruff Mancunian figures such as Joe Brown and Don Whillans, both plumbers, subverted the sport’s elitism and cleaved it open to a broader audience, spending their afternoons pioneering desperately tough, fingernails-or-death ‘routes’ on the sodden Welsh rock, and their evenings drinking in the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel (that particular hostelry remains the ultimate Snowdonian outdoorsman’s hangout – a place of cultivated, whiskery legends with the signatures of Sherpa Tenzing, Sir Edmund Hillary, Sir Chris Bonington and Chris Brasher carved in its ceiling.) In the 1950s Brown and Whillans pushed rock climbing to new peaks, literally and figuratively. Rock routes are graded according to difficulty – from Easy, to
Kevin Braddock is a journalist based in Berlin and London. He is editor of Manzine: themanzine.com
> GETTING THERE Snowdonia’s nearest international airports are Manchester and Birmingham, while Bangor is the closest mainline rail station. Car journeys from London are in the region of four and a half hours, and around two and half from Manchester and Birmingham. > Snowdon Railway Return fares to the summit are £25 from Llanberis. The railway runs every day from late March to October. Snowdon’s new summit visitor centre, Hafod Eryri, was opened in 2009, offering local information, food and drink. snowdonrailway.co.uk
> Staying in Snowdonia Nearby towns of Betwsy-Coed, Dolwyddelan, Llanberis and Capel Curig offer plenty of B&B accommodation, though diehard mountain types wouldn’t dream of anything other than camping: farms in the Ogwen Valley at Gwern Gof Uchaf and Gwern Gof Isaf offer cheap pitches. The area has three Youth Hostels – the Snowdon Ranger at Rhyd Ddu, Pen y Pass at the head of the Llanberis Pass, and Idwal Cottage in the Ogwen Valley. All require YHA membership and tend to get booked up quickly.
> Parking Pen y Pass is the most popular departure point for Snowdon’s Pyg and Miner’s Track routes to the summit. Arrive very early for spaces in the car park. For the Glyders and Carneddau, park in the Ogwen Valley, where spaces are plentiful. > Safety The Snowdonia National Park authority offers advice on safety for walking and mountaineering in the area at eryri-npa.co.uk
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FASHION TEN SHARP SHOTS FROM A DECADE OF STYLISH SHOOTS AND CHIC OUTFITS
DEcepTIVE winter 2008
LYNCHED PHOTOGRAPHER: MATTHEW SHAVE
free summer 2008
BREAKOUT PHOTOGRAPHER: JASON McGLADE
bright winter 2005
treasure PHOTOGRAPHER: mike diver
A D V E N T U Rous 10
fantastic winter 2009
crazy world PHOTOGRAPHER: uli weber
pure winter 2005
shades of pale SHADES OF PALE WINTER 2005
PHOTOGRAPHER: Jonathan Glynn-Smith
PHOTOGRAPHER: JONATHAN GLYNN-SMITH
ADVENTUROU 10 S A D V E N T U Rous 10
secret spring 2007
the orientalist THE ORIENTALIST SPRING 2007
PHOTOGRAPHER: jason mcglade
PHOTOGRAPHER: JASON McGLADE
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A D V E N T U Rous 10
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on the fly PHOTOGRAPHER: richard stow
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funhouse PHOTOGRAPHER: chris dunlop
A D V E N T U Rous 10
adventurous spring 2009
animal magic PHOTOGRAPHER: Uli Weber
Where do you go to find the real Mauritius? Shanti Maurice, a Nira Resort, can tell you. It’s to be found on the relatively little-known, unspoilt and undiscovered south coast, where the sights, sounds and sensations of the island’s unique blend of African, Indian, French and Chinese cultures abound. Here you can experience the colour and vivacity of abundant plant and animal life. Feel the peace of the island as it has always been. See the local people engage in centuries old customs and taste the riches of the surrounding seas as lobster, sea bass and prawns are brought up the beach by fishermen and placed onto the smoking barbeque in front of you. Shanti Maurice, a Nira Resort, knows that the south coast is the best place to experience Mauritius, as that’s where it has made it’s home. This balmy boutique resort is clustered around a pristine, crescent-shaped coral sand cove with the turquoise blue of the Indian Ocean and the vivid green of swaying sugarcane fields on either side. It’s an oasis of elegant escapism spread across 36 acres of lush, tropical landscaped gardens, cascading with plants and fragrant blooms. The lawns are scattered with paths inviting you to wander from your sumptuously appointed villa or suite to the perfect, palm-fringed beach, one of the three restaurants or perhaps to an ayurvedic treatment in their award-winning spa.
REAL MAURITIUS Believe it or not there’s somewhere else to be besides your sun lounger on the tropical paradise island of Mauritius, and we know where it is…
There’s much to keep you here, lazing away the hours in this tropical paradise, but there’s more beyond that’s simply begging to be explored. Wildlife blossoms like the frangipani plant on the island of Mauritius, in a myriad of species, sizes and shades. Why not watch the pink flamingos picking their way across the shallow waters of the pond in the picturesque wildlife sanctuary of Casela Park, or perhaps spot the baby lion cubs there as they doze in the shade. Casela Park’s tours go right up close in the petting farm, which is just perfect for eager little ones, or at a more respectful distance from the big cats roaming the trees and grasses with safaris on open top minibuses. La Vanille Reserve is another tropical green reserve that’s ideal for nature lovers, featuring giant tortoises, crocodiles and a kaleidoscopic collection of butterflies. After your roaming, Shanti Maurice, a Nira Resort, recommend you rest and restore at the nearby St. Aubin, a charming 19th century plantation house which has been converted into a restaurant serving classic Mauritian cuisine. This lunch will leave you ready to admire exotic blooms of the rare “oilcloth flower” in the Reserve’s Anthurium greenhouse. Water babies could opt for a more aquatic wildlife experience and hop onboard the catamaran cruises to Ile aux Benitiers, a large coral island off the South Coast. Here you can watch the cooing and swooping dolphins as they play in the surf, and take a dip yourself in the crystal clear waters.
Returning home for the evening, why not join the locals and chefs on the beach at sunset, and tuck into freshly seared tuna, snappers, king prawns and more at the Shanti Maurice’s celebrated Fish and Rhum Shack. This fabulous rustic barbecque has become an instant hit with guests and discerning locals alike, and is probably the most authentic Mauritian evening on the island. Sega dancers wow guests with their vividly patterned dresses, shimmying to the captivating beats and rhythms of the national song and dance. With a cold local beer or rum cocktail in hand, the sound of waves breaking on the reef, the smells of fresh fish cooking and the warm, illuminating glow of lanterns all around, this is a taste of the real Mauritius that’s simply not to be missed.
7 nights in an Ocean View Junior Suite at Shanti Maurice including 3 free nights, free half board & free golf daily from £1660 per person. The price includes economy flights with BA from Heathrow and private return transfers in Mauritius. Valid for travel 10th January – 30th April 2011. For bookings through Quintessentially Travel at a saving of £950 per person please contact email@example.com or +44 (0)845 224 6915.
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A special piece for a special someone can be found at Lisa E Moss, a British jewellery designer whose collections of one-off statement pieces using precious metals, stones and other quirky materials make the perfect gift. Lisa offers a bespoke service so you can help create the perfectly tailored piece, or leave it in her very capable, creative hands. Pictured is a silver necklace from her latest ‘Strange Fits of Passion’ collection. From £100 Necklace pictured, £600
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QUINTESSENTIALLY Toasted Chris Orr of Quintessentially Wine raises a glass to his beloved Members whose passion and eccentricity make all that bothersome drinking worthwhile
“Go on, go on, try it. You’ll love it,” said the young man I was sat with. “I always drink my Krug like this.” I stared at the glass in front of me. It was Krug alright, but with a little addition – half a champagne glass of Red Bull added in for good measure. “It’s particularly good when you’re out clubbing.” I didn’t want to point out that as a 42-year- old father of two my clubbing days were more or less over, so the need to counteract the soporific effects of too much fine champagne with a shot of a glucose-based energy drink was perhaps less of an attraction for me than it was for him. Still, he was a thoroughly nice young man, and you have to try everything once, so I did. It was… different. In the five years since we launched Quintessentially Wine, we’ve met lots of ‘thoroughly nice’ Members. It sounds ridiculous, but that was one of the biggest surprises for me – namely how lovely our Members were. In 20 years in the
wine trade, I’ve had lots of clients, many of whom were absolute rotters. With Quintessentially Wine I can count the number of ne’er-dowells on one hand, and that’s pretty remarkable. Perhaps it comes from the fact that, like any elite club, there are rules for entry. Mind you, we do have the odd eccentric. Like the American gentleman who enquired if we knew anyone who would be willing to knit woollen covers for his favourite bottles of Latour. The Russian client who ordered two of everything – one to be delivered to his family home, the other to the flat he
drive the majority of decisions to buy. Don’t get me wrong, we help our Members make a pretty penny out of their wine purchases at the top end of the market – but they are just as likely to get excited by the £25 bottle of Barolo that is fabulous value, that Matthew Jukes, our wine expert, has plucked from some obscure winemaker in the Piedmont, as they are over the long term investment value of the Lafite 2009s – in many cases actually more so.
we are especially gifted, but because we have a great team behind us that do all the hard work, and great Members in front of us who make it all worthwhile. Five years on things are great – but I’m particularly looking forward to the next five. Hell the next 50!
matthew and i make it all look easy and there’s a reason behind that. it’s not because we are especially gifted but because we have a great team behind us and great members in front of us shared with his mistress. The Frenchman who buys significant amounts of California wine, but stores it off site with us – so his fellow nationals don’t see it when they tour his cellar. But mainly, over the last five years I have been struck by the generosity of our Members and their genuine passion for wine. They tend not to be interested in just piling cases of investment wine high in some faraway cellar, only to sell it several years later without ever having set eyes on it. They are consumers who enjoy consuming. Sounds silly but that’s an increasing rarity these days in the wine world, where investment and future profits
That’s what makes it fun for us, and hopefully for our Members too. I’ve lost count of how many times our tastings that are meant to finish at 9.30pm have ended up moving venue and continuing until the wee small hours. Matthew and I make it look easy, effortless, and there’s a reason behind that. It is not because
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Stretch out and savour the space, sanctuary and indulgence of South Australia, before you even get there, with singapore airlines
Above; The A380 Suite interior on Singapore Airlines and menu choice Below; The Great Room in the Southern Ocean Lodge
Breathtaking scenery, incredible wildlife and warm, genuine Aussie hospitality have long drawn holidaymakers to the wide-open spaces of South Australia. Now on top of these allnatural offerings there’s a level of sophistication and luxury in food, wine, accommodation and experiences to surprise and delight even the most discriminating traveller. Eco-lodges, luxury wildlife tours and perfectly appointed, self-sustaining vineyards offer conscientious options for escapism with unsurpassable rest, relaxation and indulgence thrown in. A unique brand of laid-back luxury awaits you in Australia and the good news is that you needn’t even wait until you’ve touched down in Adelaide to begin to experience it. Singapore Airlines invite you to lie back, literally, in the full-length beds of their A380 Suites, which you can find flying on the twice-daily service from London Heathrow to Singapore Changi (thence connecting with the daily service from Singapore to Adelaide). The spacious, secluded, sliding-door cabin, which is exclusive to the super-jumbo A380, is the last word in sky-high luxury; a haven of tranquillity furnished with a sumptuously upholstered seat, a stand-alone fold-down bed and a 23 inch LCD screen on which to enjoy the most impressive in-flight entertainment package yet to enliven the skies. Your choice of Dom Perignon or Krug champagne at takeoff adds to the frisson of gourmet excitement as you anticipate being served an exquisite meal, painstakingly conceived by an ‘International Culinary Panel’, made up of some of the world’s most famous chefs. These are carefully matched with wines good enough to grace the finest cellar. What better way to embark on a restful trip packed full of gastronomic delights? For visitors with great food, fine wine and stunning natural scenery in mind, the awardwinning Southern Ocean Lodge on the coastal cusp of Kangaroo Island is most definitely a destination venue. Once you’ve been greeted by the stunning panoramic vista of their widewindowed reception, this elegant cocoon of contemporary architectural design makes a cool backdrop to the dramatic wilderness scenery without. The Lodge is a stylish operation that’s careful to stand out in its excellence, if not in its environment. Kangaroo Island is known as the ‘Galapagos of Australia’ due to its teeming natural wildlife and the Lodge makes sure that it imprints as lightly as possible on this fragile and beautiful habitat, by keeping ecological values at the heart of its concern. Like the incredible free-roaming wildlife on the island, local ingredients are so varied and abundant here that the chef need not stray far to stock his kitchen cupboard. The menu is crammed full of cheeses, meats, vegetables and fish sourced on the island and artisan ingredients such as gnocchi and bread are baked nearby. Fantastic local ingredients are also central to the fine dining philosophy at The Louise, a verdant vineyard retreat nestled deep in the heart of the world-famous wine-producing Barossa Valley. Executive Chef of the award-winning Appellation restaurant, Mark McNamara, changes his menus daily to centre on freshness, seasonality and locality of ingredients with delectable results. The wine, obviously, is the star attraction here, encompassing not only the very best of the surrounding vineyard, whose undulating rows of green foliage you can watch the sunset over as you dine, but also selected from the best vineyards all around the world, to partner your meal to perfection. For getting closer to the supreme wildlife of this region of Australia, tours and safari trips are becoming ever more sophisticated too. Especially well-equipped are the Gawler Ranges Wilderness Safaris on the Eyre Peninsula, Banksia Adventures journeying through the ancient and rugged Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island Wilderness Tours, all of whom offer 4x4 conveyance and excellent food when out in the bush, so exhilarating, educational and comfortable experiences are guaranteed. With jet lag a far and distant memory and all the delights of ‘Wildlife, Outback and Wine’ on offer, it’s clear that South Australia is the place to indulge and experience quintessential Australia. And Singapore Airlines is the only way to get there. southaustralia.com/uk/singaporeair
QUINTESSENTIALLY Lavish David Whitehouse meets Q Events’ Caroline Hurley and Anabel Fielding to ask just what IS IT THAT makes a perfect party
It’s a perfect Soho morning outside
Quintessentially HQ. The air is crisp, the sky bright, the streets busy and littered with that unique brand of magic the old place has. It’s so perfect in fact, you’d think it had been organised by Caroline Hurley and Anabel Fielding, the team that in five years has made Quintessentially Events the most revered events company in Britain. See, perfect days are what they do, but perfect nights are what they do even better. Events don’t get any more
glamorous, opulent, lavish or downright decadent than the ones Caroline and Anabel throw. It’s why in such a short time they’ve attracted some of the world’s most esteemed clients; people who really know how to party. Their events include the visually stunning 2010 Elle Style Awards in consultation with design visionary Fiona Leahy, Vogue’s Fashion Fantasy Party and throwing the opening night celebrations of the V&A’s Golden Age of Couture Ball – the single biggest party on London’s fashion calendar in 2007 – as Caroline explains. “It was the most star-studded party, 460 people, almost all of them famous, all in the V&A. We worked with the designer Michael Howells who does a lot of work with Dior and Galliano. He put together this inspired look based around classic couture images and the traditional flowers of the fashion houses. It was eight months in the planning, all for one incredible night, and the guest list
included Lily Cole, Thandie Newton, Kate Moss, Mario Testino and Prince. He created such a buzz. In a room full of hundreds of celebrities, when Prince walks in, everything stops. It could not have been more fabulous.” “It has to be said,” agrees Anabel, “there was nobody there that wasn’t a somebody.” Having worked together for more than 10 years, the pair are the obvious, nay only, point of call for anyone that wants the ultimate bespoke evening, be it a wedding, a birthday or an excuse to gather 400 friends for the night of their lives. However, they admit that there is only one special ingredient needed in the making of a great party, no matter how big it is: the guests. “It’s all about the guests,” nods
Caroline. “If the guests want to get involved and have fun, that’s what you need. We make it so that it’s all but impossible not to have the best time. Some guests have a harder shell to crack before they start to have fun but we always find a way to manage it.” “We are also firefighters,” explains
Anabel. ‘We are there to keep problems away. It’s only very occasionally that we get to sit back and talk about how cool or glamorous it all is because anything can go wrong at any time. And that’s why we are there, to make sure that they don’t. We are ultimately responsible for the very big days of some very important people, so you need to get
it right the first time. Even the smallest things cannot go wrong. If one person is a little bit rude as you check in your coat, it’s simply not good enough.” It’s this attention to the finer
details that means theirs is a bespoke service unmatched by any other. It is, as Quintessentially aims to be, a very personal exercise throughout. “We work extremely closely with people. We can be friends and confidantes or their party pals, whatever it takes to make their event perfect. We can help them be brave enough to make the one bold gesture that will make their day really special, and although we have visions for most elements, we work with each client to make sure every aspect is perfect for them. It’s the ultimate in bespoke event planning,” says Anabel. “Even if it takes nine months,” laughs Caroline. “In that respect it’s like a pregnancy. Nine months of hard work, but at the end it is so, so worth it.” Each party, they agree, is completely
different, as is the entertainment provided. Only recently, at the request of a client, they had a tented village built on a Devonshire beach for a pirate-themed birthday bash. Their events have ranged from a champagne reception on a private yacht in the middle of the Monaco harbour watching the Grand Prix cars fly by, to a night which ended in observing scores of ultra-high-powered City lawyers cautiously stumbling across a lawn in drag.
They have built a small-scale
replica of a stage from a U2 world tour, complete with big screens and pyrotechnics on a private beach in the South of France, and they have somehow commandeered ‘a giant inflatable jellyfish-style thing with a woman doing an aerial trapeze act inside it’. There is one party that stands out among a whole diary full of great nights though: their own. “The Diner des Tsars was our coup
de grace,” smiles Caroline. “We sat down and decided to do the most brilliant party for charity. We did an Imperial Franco-Prussian-themed celebrity dinner in the Guildhall, which is a gorgeous stone building, very grand. We had Cossacks on horseback, models in full Russian costume serving caviar and an eight-course meal presented by Tom Aikens, all inspired by this original feast from 1867 that we based the event on. It was massively ambitious.” “And it was amazing,” continues
Anabel. “To have the opportunity to go to someone with the reputation of Darcey Bussell and ask her to dance for us in such an intimate setting, well… It makes for an exceptional night. We really pulled it off!” And as we step back out into the morning sunshine, you somehow know they will again. And again. And again after that.
+44 (0)870 845 8400 quintessentiallyevents.com
LuxeList whether you’d like to wed overseas in a sunbleached tuscan castle or browse the world’s finest pre-loved fashions from the comfort of your own home, the luxe list is a guide to this season’s pleasures that Are guaranteed to transport you
high fashion society
Introducing the new and exclusive High Fashion Society, the ultimate online members-only club for those with a weakness for high fashion, where you go to ‘Sell, Style, Shop’ in one. Selling pre-loved designer clothes, bags and accessories at High Fashion Society is very simple and they always ensure you get the best price. It’s a great way to recycle fashion and the revenue you receive from the sale of your goods can be used to either purchase new-season, on-trend items, or you could donate some of the money to their favourite charity ‘Kid’s Company’ which supports vulnerable inner city children. High Fashion Society’s style services department is what makes them unique. Here London’s finest fashion stylists, renowned for translating impeccable looks right from the runway, are on call for all your bespoke personal shopping and personal styling needs with VIP service and exceptional ongoing style support. To join the club, start selling or to book a personal consultation contact; +44 (0) 845 504 9115, highfashionsociety.com
eyewear centre Some of the world’s most famous and prestigious eyewear brands are now being fitted for clients in the comfort of their own homes. Lindberg, Chopard and Cartier are among the luxury brands offered to private clients of The Eyewear Centre. Their exclusive service operates within the South and Midlands in the UK, where clients benefit from an experienced specialist optician visiting them in their home or workplace. A full eye examination, including all health tests, can be carried out in an optical practice before you can browse thousands of pairs of high-end glasses and sunglasses made from the most exclusive precious metals, wood and diamonds.To book your appointment or visit one of their luxury clinics in Brookmans Park or Waltham Abbey please contact; +44 (0) 800 118 5728, eyewearcentre.co.uk/lindberg-glasses
Why not create an utterly unique gift this Christmas with a personalised bottle of Glengoyne Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky? Award-winning Glengoyne Highland Single Malt is made with knowledge and passion, using methods handed down over generations. Glengoyne has perfected “The Authentic taste of Malt Whisky untainted by Peat Smoke”. Nursing the spirit through the stills slowly, around one third the normal rate, to create Glengoyne’s distinctive apple fruitiness before the spirit is matured in carefully selected handcrafted sherry oak casks. The result is a high quality, smooth and complex whisky. Only the slowest distillation process, untainted by peat smoke creates Glengoyne’s ‘Real Taste of Malt’. Personalised bottles are available on awardwinning Glengoyne 10 Years Old (£34.99), 17 Years Old (£58.99) and 21 Years Old (£92.99). Each bottle and its packaging is designed to your specifications, including a one-off message and picture of your choice, making it a gift with a truly personal touch. Like the whisky itself, all labels are prepared by hand, encapsulating the quality and craftsmanship Glengoyne pride themselves upon. Postage and packing within the UK is £6.50, orders over £50 are free, please allow 10 working days for delivery. +44 (0) 1360 550 254, glengoyne.com
ULYSSE NARDIN El Toro is the latest masterpiece to emerge from the ateliers of fine Swiss watchmaker, Ulysse Nardin. A high-tech perpetual calendar with a dual-time function driven by Ulysse Nardin’s legendary in-house, self-winding movement, El Toro is the most consumer-friendly perpetual calendar ever produced. It has already passed the tests of time. The striking aesthetic of El Toro combines modern materials with the timeless dial design that inspired its name. Its bezel and pushers are even crafted from ceramic – a notoriously difficult material to work. El Toro is the only perpetual calendar that adjusts forwards and backwards in seconds, using the quick corrector position of a single crown. The hours hand is adjusted instantly to a new local time with pushers (+) or (-) without needing to remove your watch from your wrist or interfering with its timekeeping. The arrow keeps track of one’s home or reference time. What’s more, the oversized date, the day, the month and the year change instantly forwards or backwards when the hours hand is moved to a new local time across the dateline with pushers (+) or (-). El Toro is available in a limited edition of 500 pieces in 18-carat red gold and platinum. +41 (0) 32 930 74 00, ulyssenardin.com
love and lord
Fine tableware is the mark of a fine home. If it’s plain white, uninspiring bone china you want, then you will need to look elsewhere than De Lamerie, maker of some of the world’s finest elaborate china, crystal and silver. This is tableware for the grandest tastes – 18th Century-inspired masterpieces in the style of the English silversmith, Paul de Lamerie (16881751), whose original works can be seen in museums the world over. The intricacy of the gilded 18th century scrollwork is shown to great advantage in this classic formal ‘Robert Adam’ pattern that is perfectly complimented by the marble green ground colour. Many of his original designs and moulds are still used by the firm that bears his name today. This is tableware in the grandest tradition, with hand-raised gold and handpainted decoration fit for kings, sheikhs and emperors. De Lamerie design exclusive table settings with individual crests or colours to suit the owner’s dining room. Colours and patterns from dining room fabrics and carpets together with plasterwork and furniture are just some of the elements that can be considered in producing a dinner service that is in complete harmony with its surroundings. +44 (0) 1494 680 488, firstname.lastname@example.org, delamerie.com
For unique, stunning, tailor-made weddings throughout Europe, why not get in touch with expert and innovative wedding planners Love & Lord. Be it an English stately home, a Tuscan villa or a French chateau that you picture in your wedding dreams, Love and Lord will have the perfect venue for your perfect day. Their ten years of experience in planning exquisite weddings gives them a unique insight into the requirements of the discerning bride and groom and tackling the daily challenge of re-inventing the wedding wheel. To discuss your specific requirements contact; +44 (0) 20 7183 9944, loveandlord.com
Purely Cosmetic Welcome to Purely Cosmetic, the UK’s leading aesthetic concierge. If you are considering a cosmetic or non surgical procedure their consultants provide a bespoke service, helping you to select the specialist who best suits your individual needs. Purely Cosmetic only work with top UK accredited specialists to provide you with the peace of mind that you are in safe, experienced and professional hands. All our recommended Cosmetic Surgeons, Doctors and Dentists provide the latest in Facial Rejuvenation, Body Contouring, Non Surgical Treatments and Cosmetic Dentistry, and offer excellent aftercare services. To learn more about the wide range of procedures available contact; +44 (0) 844 504 7760, purelycosmetic.co.uk
Dr. Jhonny Salomon
dancing apsara The Apsara is a supernatural and seductive muse in Hindi and Buddhist mythology, and the inspiration for Dancing Apsara fine jewellery. Designed by a team of two modern-day adventurers from London, this exclusive jewellery firm are the creators of uniquely ornate pieces, fusing ancient Eastern jewellery tradition with Western design and their own deep-rooted love of precious stones. During a trip to Cambodia in search of unusual gems, the two gemologists discovered the legend of the Apsaras. Inspired by the tales of these seductive divinities, the designers continued their journey to source genuine, rare precious and semi-precious stones throughout the Far East. At the end of their adventure the idea was formed for a line of jewellery that could have been worn by these Goddesses, the Dancing Apsara. Using ancient techniques that have been passed down through generations each piece is carefully created by hand. Each necklace, bracelet and ring therefore becomes a piece of deeply personal art to its owner, enhanced by an array of precious stones such as Carved Aquamarines, Emeralds, Pearls and Sapphires. Dancing Apsara pieces are meant to bond with it’s wearer and provide exotic, careless beauty for the world’s most interesting women. dancingapsara.co.uk
“One of the most gratifying moments in plastic surgery is the unveiling of a facelift” says surgeon Dr. Jhonny Salomon in Miami, Florida. Achieving a natural result where you still look like yourself, only 10 or 15 years younger, is quite challenging and can only be mastered by surgeons that are true artists. A sense of threedimensional analysis, superb craftsmanship, and a well-defined artistic vision are key elements involved on the surgical journey to an exceptionally rejuvenated look. And Dr. Salomon is famous for doing it to perfection. As no two faces are alike, his complete analysis of details of the facial aging and unique combination of supporting procedures, such as eyelid surgery, forehead lift and neck tightening, make his results impeccably tailored and bespoke for every person. Caring for the skin which envelopes the face is key to achieving a younger look. He adds “It is vital to assist with resurfacing treatments such as chemical peels, like the Eclat Medical, or Cosmetic Lasers which are as effective as the Fraxel or CO2.” The best of the best is on hand at his MedSpa in Miami, Florida, undisputed Mecca of rejuvenation and wellness. Just remember you found him here first. +(001) 786 431 4502, email@example.com
British luxury skincare brand OSKIA launched recently at Liberty of London and has built a loyal following of beauty aficionados across the globe. The nutritionally-designed and beautifully textured products deliver uncompromising natural ingredients to boost skin cell health while also targeting ageing and lifestyle concerns. Offered in sophisticated, understated packaging, the award-winning range includes MSM supplements (a bio-available form of sulphur to promote collagen production) to work from the inside as well as the outside of the skin. Combining essential cell nutrients including vitamins, minerals and glucides with pioneering active ingredients, OSKIA brings an innovative and highly scientific approach to natural skincare. oskiaskincare.com
Home cinema specialist Prestige Audio is the first choice for discerning clients who require the highest level of service associated with the finest luxury brands. Prestige Audio has been creating award-winning private cinemas in London and the Home Counties for 24 years, ranging from an intimate space for two, right up to 30 seats and beyond. Solutions are available for apartments, family homes and even luxury yachts. The company’s countless awards and on-going commitment to attaining the highest qualifications available to the industry result in expertise that can be invaluable to the consumer in this fast-moving world of home entertainment. A recent addition to its accolades is CEDIA’s HCDS qualification. They are one of only six companies to achieve this worldwide. But perhaps most excitingly, Prestige Audio possess a rare skill in their ability to create a bespoke cinema that incorporates stunning aesthetics, clever design and the most current equipment available, while never forgetting it needs to be simple enough for any member of the family to understand and operate. All this allows their clients to relax in the confidence that their investment will not only deliver the best picture and sound quality available today it will continue to do so for years to come. +44 (0) 1923 801 400, prestigeaudio.co.uk
fraser yachts The words ‘exclusive’ and ‘luxury’ are bandied around pretty casually these days. They are, however, wholly appropriate to use when describing the powerfully seductive world of luxury yachts. These big boys’ toys can come with price tags upwards of £50m attached, so entry to the owners’ playground is understandably somewhat restricted. But why, we ask, buy when you can borrow? Fraser Yachts has been the world’s leading charter company for over 60 years, representing hundreds of owners who are willing to make their pride and joy available to you for a seriously memorable vacation. A fast, contemporary powerboat in the Med? A beautiful, classic sailing yacht in the Caribbean? An explorer vessel for discovering the natural wonders of Alaska? Whatever floats your boat, Fraser Yachts will provide access to the perfect vessel in your dream location. A stunning 111ft yacht such as Sudami (pictured) with 5 double cabins, 6 crew and 7 star service, can be yours for as little as £44,000 per week. Charter yachts are much more accessible than many people realise and offer levels of personal service that few will ever get to experience. Contact Fraser Yachts for a copy of their 2011 charter catalogue or visit the web site for more details. +44 (0) 20 7016 4480, fraseryachts.com
D.E.F London ‘diamonds in the sky’ benefit
the magnificent banqueting hall in london played host to a glittering array of stars from the diamond trade as well as stage and screen this November, to raise funds for the Diamond Empowerment fund supporting the education of underpriviledged children in africa. Co-chair of D.E.F and CEO Of the diamond Trading company, Varda Shine, was named ‘humanitarian of the year’ by celebrity guest russell simmons and the live auction raised over £320,000 for the charity. A sparkling success.
Diamonds in the Sky team with auction lot winners
Adair Curtis, Nicola Breytenbach and Maria Olivas
Varda Shine, Russel Simmons and friend
Noelle Reno and Zandra Rhodes
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charitable pop-up club in hong kong
Marisa Zeman and Matt Hermer
Yuen Yuen Wong
People on the work-hard play-hard island of hong kong sure like to party, and now, thanks to quintessentially, they’ve started to put their love of having a good time to good use. the island’s first charitable pop up club in aid of Quintessentially foundation popped up at hip shueng wan nightspot, space, for five nights. One for each year that Quintessentially has been rocking in the capital. Boujis flew over their resident DJ and the crowds raised over HKD600,000. Now that’s a good party.
Simon Birch and friend
Joseph O’Konek, Yenn Wong, Matt Hermer, Mandy D’Abo, Donna Leong and Emma Sherrard
Illustration: Mark Welby
The social wire quintessentially group chairman aaron simpson
Here we are then. Would you believe it? I think we better all just take a moment and pinch ourselves. Ten years older, ten years wiser. Well, I suppose we are older. I suspect we try to be wiser but still make the same mistakes, though we probably don’t worry about them as much as we used to. So we made it through the birth – the terrible twos which were really
a worldwide scale is less of a roller coaster ride and more of a marathon, with the odd detour on the way. Sometimes that means going into a nice B&B for a short break and a full English brekkie in comfy surroundings, and at other times it means striding onto a highway of incoming 40 ton trucks all heading right towards you. It’s amazing how on those days it also feels like it’s
now we find ourselves about to enter our teenage years, so expect an overdose of hormones and first loves in the next decade, coupled with a fabulous amount of angstdriven navel gazing on what to do next terrible because of the dot-com bust – and then began toddling around the world creating mini footprints wherever we went, and now we find ourselves about to enter our teenage years. So expect an overdose of hormones, slamming doors and first loves in the next decade, with further uncomfortable growth spurts coupled with a fabulous amount of angst driven navel gazing on what to do next. When people ask if it’s been a roller coaster ride, I always think that the question implies a sense of exhilaration, fun, excitement and that vague feeling of nausea. But actually building a family of businesses on 112
raining, that everything’s uphill and you’re running backwards at the same time! But we made it through, and only due to the amazing people that have made Quintessentially tick. And that isn’t just the people who have helped us, but equally, those that have hindered us too. For they are the ones who we’ve learnt valuable lessons from, never to be repeated. And to those that have helped, we sincerely thank you from the bottom of our hearts, because you have all been wonderful and continue to be so. So if you have a glass of champagne in your hand like I do at all times, cheers to you and yours.
As the three musketeers, Paul, Ben and myself have had to watch each other’s backs and have very rarely had disagreements lasting more than a few hours. It’s good having partners. Not only do you get to share the experiences on a level that only they can understand, but when we have a chance to laugh about it all, it’s hysterically funny, mainly because it’s so bizarre that we have arrived here. And so for The Savoy Hotel. The wonderfully revamped London icon will be host to a fantastically suitable ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ party theme in 1920s clobber. We have all been lucky enough to have some input into the 10th Anniversary party and it’s going to be a really huge celebration. Expect fireworks, birthday cakes, naughtiness, sexiness, arrests and enough entertainment to raise the Phoenix. I hope The Savoy don’t mind revamping again afterwards! Well, we do have quite a good painter and decorator division within Quintessentially. Just ask the folks at The House of St Barnabas. So what does the next ten years hold for us at Quintessentially? Well looking into the crystal ball (a Q branded one of course) I can see far-flung places like Angola, Peru and Indonesia becoming part of the family. I can see through the
mist a number of new births coming along including a Family Office, Quintessentially Hotels and more Quintessentially Clubs worldwide. I can sense a couple of weddings, plenty of new babies and a host of new faces. And through this ever growing family I feel a real sense of community and unity with a common purpose to have fun, work hard and play harder. So if you have that glass of champagne in your hand and it’s half full, let’s top it up a bit. This is a time to celebrate the success of a British company on a global scale through some tough economic times. It’s a great pleasure working for you and with you, creating something you’ll agree is quite magical. Here’s to you and yours and much love from Quintessentially. Cheers!
A RACING MACHINE ON THE WRIST
CAlIbER RM 019
Manual winding tourbillon MovEMEnt black onyx movement plate Power reserve : circa 50 hours variable inertia, free sprung balance barrel pawl with progressive recoil Ceramic endstone for the tourbillon cage From ÂŁ 281 500 (vat 17.5%)
Published on Jan 12, 2011
This issue commemorates Quintessentially's 10th Birthday. This issue is devoted to a decade of inspiration and innovation. Quintessentiall...