Editor In Chief and Publisher Vincent Abrams firstname.lastname@example.org Counsel President Jose Maria Aznar Deputy Editor D.L Osborne Business Editorial Advisors Lord Marland of Odstock Lord Beecham Lord Glentoran CBE Baroness Prashar CBE Lord Popat Baroness Thornton Baroness Greengross Lady Massey of Darwen Lord Soley Lord Watson of Richmond CBE
The Editor’s Letter Welcome to I-MAGAZINE’s mid - year newsletter, publishing and the world has been thrown into upheaval because of the whole COVID 19 pandemic taking its toll on countries from Asia to the America’s, we decided early on that we would only publish one issue this year and it has shaped our business as I-MAGAZINE is now an annual magazine, no longer bi-annual
Political Editorial Advisors Lord Jones of Cheltenham Baroness Perry Lord Smith Baron Grenfell of Kilvey Lord Chidgey Lord Haselhurst PC Lord Willoughby de Broke
and will be supplemented by this, mid – year newsletter.
Advertising Enquiries Denise Woodfield email@example.com
mised. In fact, we have already started working on the January 2021 issue
Contributing Cultural Editor Henry Hopwood Philips
As Publisher and Editor of I-MAGAZINE I have in recent months and weeks thrown off many attempts by firms to buy Merlin Publishing, the company I set up to publish I-MAGAZINE in 2005, which is flattering, but I want all of our readers to know, there is no chance whatsoever that I-MAGAZINE will be sold to a third party, it’s quality and purpose will never be comproand its looking as promising as ever. In this newsletter Emmanuel Tahar, CEO of Third Bridge writes on The True Value of Opportunity, looking at how businesses should take opportunities as they are presented in a logical as opposed to emotional way, which is convenient when taking
Asia Editor Mathew Davies
what I wrote above into account. We interview Jessica Huie MBE, founder
Public Relations Alana Charlotte Panton
Designers Merlin Publishing Distributed by Send In Blue
of JHPR a PR company which looks after small and medium businesses in
She talks about how her upbringing and work experience influences her business approach. Lord Hylton a cross bench member of The House of Lords, writes on ‘Britain and The Middle East’, giving an historical perspective on the relationship between the two regions including ‘policy guides’, and ‘the burden of the past’. Baroness Perry of Southwark writes
Contributors Jessica Huie MBE, D.L Osborne, Vincent Abrams, Laura Blakeman, Roberto Gavazzi Emmanuel Tahar, Masseira San Domenica, Montblanc, Wine Source, Alexandra Wood, Cartier, Robert Lacey, Lord Hylton, Baroness Perry.
The Foundations of British Values. We also speak to Jon Snow, Anchor at
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the email address below and let me know what you think of I-MAGAZINE,
Channel 4 News who tells us about his experiences as a field journalist before becoming an anchor, he talks about how he gets in to work in the morning and his typical day. Your feedback is always appreciated so please feel free to email me via I would also like to invite you to join us on Twitter to do so search @IMAGAZINE_UK our website is imagazineuk.com, I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I-MAGAZINE is published by Merlin Publishing a Merlin Lott Group Company All reasonable e orts have been made to ensure accuracy of informa on at the me of going to press. The editor, publishers and Merlin Publishing can take no responsibility for inaccuracies due to changes a er that date. Nor can the publisher, editor of Merlin Publishing publica ons or contributors accept responsibility for loss occasione to any person ac ng or refraining from ac on as a result of any material in this publica on. The publica on of opinions, whether implied, solicited or unso- licited, does not imply endorsement by the publishers, employee, agents or any other indi- vidual associated with the publica on in any way, all rights reserved. No part of this publica on may be stored in a retrieval system, resold, lent hired out or otherwise reproduced or transmi ed in any form or by any means without the prior wri en permission of Merlin Publishing. Merlin Publishing, words and Merlin Publishing logo is a registered trademark and; copyright work is owned by Merlin Publishing Limited
Vincent Abrams Editor In Chief firstname.lastname@example.org
Emmanuel Tahar CEO of Third Bridge The True Value of Opportunity
The digital age has transformed the way we live, invest, and do business. In every corner of the economy, new technologies are revolutionising the way information is captured, processed and acted on, and this pace of change is only accelerating. For some, this transformation is an opportunity for bold new ventures and greater competitive advantage, while for others it presents a very real risk to their job security and even their way of life. What is certain is that this information age is now well and truly upon us; the sea of data that it brings is growing day by day, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to navigate when it comes to making critical decisions. For all its promise, this information-heavy world will always need the spark of human insight to uncover true value, to identify true opportunity. One look at the world of investment and finance and it’s clear to see how recent advances in computing technology are radically reshaping the battle ground. Digital innovators are arriving on the scene in large numbers, introducing new ways to find and filter information, and novel ways of processing transactions.
However, for most investors looking to consistently outperform their peers, computers alone usually don’t hold all the answers. It’s important not to overlook the prevailing need for human input in any trading environment. In the realm of retail investment, many fund companies have developed so called ‘robo-advice’ services to automate guidance on the more simple decisions made by individual investors. By introducing computer technology, they are broadening their distribution strategies and giving more people access to something close to the service traditionally provided by financial advisers, but those with a significant amount to invest continue to see the value in human advice and input. A recent survey by the CFA Institute found that 69 percent of UK investors believe they will still want the help of an investment professional, instead of the latest technologies and tools, in three years’ time; rising to 73 percent in the US and as high as 81 percent in Canada.
Across the board, this third industrial revolution is shaking large financial institutions into action, with many turning to grass roots innovation and company acquisitions to sweep up the most promising of these developments. Yet while these appear, on the surface, to revolutionise and improve the businesses they serve, the reality is not always that simple.
For large institutional investors, private equity companies, hedge funds and angel investors, the wealth of information provided by big data, search engines and social media presents an unprecedented opportunity to invest in companies and markets that were once unknown, or out of reach. But without the human judgment, the personal experience and vision to direct our minds and filter the facts, the sheer scale of data available is at best wasteful, at worst downright deceptive. The challenge is not too little data, or too few opinions, but rather to make sense of all that is available, to uncover the hidden piece of raw data or prime intelligence that can make the difference between a good decision and a bad one.
An increasing number of traders and large institutional investors now rely on algorithmic trading and mathematical models to make fast-paced automatic trades, with little to no human intervention on decisions to buy or sell. This type of trading is fast, efficient, and less prone to human error, and those buying or selling stocks in large quantities are able to do so without adversely influencing the stock price. In this way, computers are helping investors to execute complicated trades.
In the world of big investments, deals are usually brokered, based on biased information provided by those on the sell-side. In order to distinguish fact from fiction, it’s absolutely critical that those on the buy-side have reliable independent human insight to weigh up the reams of material they are given by the analysts involved in the deal. Ignoring those working on the ground in industry, in favour of data provided by third party analysts with indirect experience in business themselves, leaves clear gaps when
assessing an opportunity. Finding the people uniquely positioned to give this unbiased insight is one of the core responsibilities of primary research partners, and to my mind one of the most colourful ways to demonstrate how humans are best placed to reveal the true value of investment opportunities. To give you an example, when Lafarge and Holcim merged to form LafargeHolcim in July 2015, they created the largest manufacturer of building materials in the world, with a combined market value of more than $50 billion, and operations in more than 90 countries. The size of the deal raised regulatory alarm bells for the Anti-Trust Authority, which urged the two companies to divest somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of the company’s assets. When it was decided that Eastern European and Latin American plants were to be sold off, prospective investors in these newly available sites approached Third Bridge to assess the underlying value of these plants. When investors faced the daunting task of establishing this value, a whole host of factors such as macro-trends, growth trends, consumption split, plant capacity and pricing evolution all played their part in landing on a trustworthy figure. No search algorithm or computer programme could have told you what the sites were worth, but recent former plant and operational managers had judgement and experience which would help determine this. By arranging one-to-one consultations for investors with former employees in Hungary, Turkey, Romania, Serbia, Brazil and the Philippines, it was possible to build a reliable patchwork of the investment opportunity. In the end, human insight was the final piece that allowed the right decisions to be made. Success in the LafargeHolcim deal required an understanding of true value in a complex and underreported sector, an obvious area where people with the right experience can have an edge over computers. And it’s not just in underreported sectors where the right information can be hard to access. It is also true that it can be difficult to determine where to look for opportunity in the first
place, especially if in unknown or otherwise unconnected places; taking a situation and applying the creative spark to see there is financial or economic gain to be had by following a certain course of action. A few years ago, a private equity client approached Third Bridge seeking answers about an abandoned oil field in Kenya that had appeared on their investment radar. The site had been discovered in 1974, but subsequently closed for unknown reasons. While the lack of available information had led others to turn a blind eye, the prospective investors wanted to find out why it had closed, and whether it presented a lucrative opportunity for both themselves and the community. Finding out why it had closed was no mean feat, but after turning over a few stones, we eventually tracked down the person who had actually discovered the oilfield back in 1974. A meeting was set, and as the expert entered the room, dressed in a white suit and cane with a scroll of geological maps under his arms, our client was intrigued. At that moment, the investors learned not only why the site had been abandoned, but could now contemplate how new technologies could change its prospective economics. For the expert, who saw the site’s closure as unfinished business, it was a proud moment to reveal what he saw as the scope of the site’s opportunity. For the investor, who was able to get a comprehensive appraisal of the topography and geology of the area, the discussion was a revelation. While it’s true that human insight may be fallible, it can often provide the key to a level of understanding simply unobtainable through desk research. For investors on the hunt for an un-brokered opportunity, or looking to get an angle on a deal, it’s this sort of intelligence that results in truly transformational investment opportunities, or indeed in the important knowledge that a deal does not have the potential that it first appeared to have. Deep understanding of how the overlapping cogs of an industry turn to produce productive, profitable businesses is another area where personal insight and experience speaks volumes over the data that analysts are able to bring to the table. On Dragons Den, when budding entrepreneurs stand up in front of the dragons to pitch their business plans, it often leads to more than one investor putting forward an offer. Despite the dragons’ calculated efforts to put the most attractive investment on the table, time and again we see those selling part of their business opt for the investor with the proven experience and deep knowledge of the sector, even if this means securing less money for more of their business. In an ideal scenario this experience is lived, but for investors that don’t have this track record, it is still possible to strengthen your hand by proving that you know something that others do not. Whether this is knowing
how consumer behaviour is shifting in the UK pet retail sector; or having clear sight of how critical pitch controls are in the value chain for the production of wind turbines; or the vision to see what product innovations are coming over the horizon in the Scandinavian dental implants sector, a small but significant truth can soon become the competitive advantage. There is no one size fits all solution to the questions we are posed by investors, and as such, without considered human input no computer algorithms or data models can realistically tell you what opportunity lies around the next corner. Similarly, speaking to people with direct experience is the best way for investors to comprehensively assess the impact of change on an organisation, and therefore how attractive it is as an investment opportunity. When Time Inc, the publishing company behind Time magazine, was spun off from Time Warner in 2014, prospective investors in the newly autonomous entity were curious as to how the company would fare without a parent company calling the shots. The surest way to determine the health of the current setup was to learn more about how other successful publications structure their editorial departments – information only accessible by speaking to the former editor-in-chiefs at some of the biggest names in the publication world. It was only once the client had spoken directly to former holders of this position at Forbes, ESPN Magazine and Conde Nast, that the complexities of building a sustainable management structure could be fully understood. Only once everyone involved in the restructure had a clear view of what the future held down this new path, was it possible for the right decisions to be made with confidence. All business and investment decisions are underpinned by financial information: the company’s own valuation information, spreadsheets, transaction multiples to name a few, but those can quickly become misleading and open to interpretation by those with a biased view without a good understanding of the economics of the asset. The quantity of information available grows exponentially, making it all the more important to have ways of cutting through the noise. It’s time to acknowledge that informed human insight and judgement will always complement what technology and automation do for investors. When we speak to clients about what drives superior returns, they rarely mention the ability to build better spreadsheets. Rather they mention the ability to get to understand companies and market dynamics better than others. Without this, without the human touch, it is rarely possible to determine the true value of an opportunity.
Jessica Huie MBE Founder, JHPR Interviewed by Vincent Abrams
What made you want to set up a PR agency? I served my time as an employee in media, and had ten solid years of experience as both a journalist and PR consultant before I considered setting up for myself. I wanted to be in control of the clients I represented, and saw PR as a wonderful platform for sharing the stories of brilliant individuals. Enterprise changed my life and I pride myself on running an agency which represents inspiring people who deserve to have their stories shared so that the next generation has access to these stories. What challenges do you face on a daily basis working in PR? My challenge comes from learning how to be the best leader I can for my team, and making sure that the individuals who work for JH PR share our company values. The PR industry is evolving and I think that ten years from now the current model of agencies who simply secure coverage across print and broadcast platforms will be long gone. Today you have to be adaptable and evolve, so I am constantly looking for ways in which JHPR can evolve to improve our client offering and ensure we provide a service where clients are satisfied they have received a great service. I understand with PR you (or your team) are always chasing down avenues in which your clients can have in input on some form of media, generally, do you find this challenging hence rewarding or stressful at all? PR can be stressful but ultimately this is why it’s so important to feel passionate about the clients you represent. All of our clients are talented in their own right, brilliant innovators, exceptional business minds, inspiring individuals whose stories deserve to be told.
How important is networking, etc in PR? Partnerships are unquestionably key in growing any business. JH PR recently partnered with the British Library and the government’s Startup loans initiative to help us meet our objective of making PR affordable for Startups. I am passionate about how I can support the brave people who embark on an entrepreneurial journey, and host a monthly workshop at the British Library’s BIPC centre teaching startups and small business owners how they can do their own PR until they can afford to retain an expert. Networking is a tiresome term, but positioning yourself in environments with people of like-mind and shared values and objectives is absolutely key to broadening your contact list. Are you in any way involved in mentoring programs either now or perhaps in the future for people who might want to get into business but who might face several barriers to entry? I am not an official mentor but I try to share my time as much as possible whether it’s at the tail end of my British Library workshops or just via email. I am always conscious that I have two children waiting for me at the end of a working day who need ‘mentoring’ first and foremost, so the ongoing challenge is to share my journey as much as I can and still be a present parent. As the owner of two businesses, you obviously have a ‘’can do’’ business personality type; do you have any other businesses you aspire to run?
Thank you very much I appreciate that. I have never considered politics. My belief system revolves around our innate power as individuals first and foremost, regardless of the governing political power, and I hope to be able to make positive changes and impact on a community level whether through schools or business forums, even moreso in the future. What are you political affiliations? I.e. Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem etc. My vote changes from season to season! As a business owner, politics obviously has an impact on your operations. I love the fact that the current government has placed such as emphasis on the importance of supporting entrepreneurialism, and I think the Startup loans scheme has been a great opportunity for many individuals to start a business, who may not have had access to funding in the past. Who are your business and if applicable, political role models? I don’t have political role models but in business there are a host of individual’s who use their success as a platform to effectively contribute positive change. These people inspire me. Entrepreneurs with strong principles and value systems, the late Steve Jobs, Russell Simmons, Richard Branson, Sir Bob Geldof and of course Oprah Winfrey.
I have no firm plans beyond the growth of JH Public Relations and Color blind Cards, but I will absolutely embark on other projects and possibly businesses in the future. I am excited by the possibilities and for everything that is to come. I think you are a fantastic role model for women and young girls, in terms of having achieved much when statistically perhaps you shouldn’t have, have you ever thought about a political career?
Jessica Huie is Founder of JHPR – www.jhpr.co.uk
Masseria San Domenico Cuisine - Golf - Tranquillity By D.L Osborne
It’s easy to see why the Knights of Malta chose the broad plains and low hills in Puglia to construct their watchtower. Equally so, it’s not difficult to see why owner Marisa Melpignano restored the crusader’s 15th century structure and incorporated it into a five star residence; such is the charm of this south easterly tip known as the heel of Italy. No other facility in this Italian peninsula offers the understated sophistication and top amenities that this family owned hotel provide. Simply put Masseria San Domenico is a stunning mixture that’s rich in ancient history, culture and natural beauty. To reach the hotel, you must first drive through serene, winding olive groves of the native Leccino tree that seem to go on forever, until you reach the Hadrian-type walls that surround the woods. As your car meanders up and around to the entrance, the tower’s impressive bastion of white stone is guarded by enormous palms and prickly pear and orchard trees. However it’s the sense of space that surrounds the beautiful piazza next to the watchtower that creates a serenity equalling privacy and relaxation at its very best. Masseria San Domenico is also a child free zone. Roughly 500 metres from the Adriatic coast, the hotel has 40 rooms and suites of traditional rustic chic. All rooms have views over-looking the grounds and the sea. The estate is fantastic for luxurious wandering in amongst its sixty hectares of olive groves, bicycle rides, sandy beaches, tennis courts and an exquisite cascading outdoor pool. The terraces are discreet and beautifully designed with stunning vistas; perfect throughout the day for lunch, afternoon tea or aperitifs. They have a saying that Puglia has a tree for every citizen of the country. The area’s relationship with the majestic trees is everywhere. The pitted fruit of the southern
Mediterranean has graced man’s existence as far back as five thousand years and Puglia produces one third of the global Italian market of olive oil. It has the highest concentration of ancient olive groves in the world with sixty million trees gracing the region. The restaurant’s Apulian cuisine is rich and varied in seafood from the Adriatic Sea, the Ionian Sea, the Strait of Otranto and the Gulf of Taranto. But the simple preparation of the local produce: legumes, fennel, artichokes, tomatoes and figs; seasoned with olive oil from its own plantation, enables you to sense the working relationship between the land and food production. This restaurant serves the best of the inspirational and celebrated Mediterranean diet. Combine this with a wine list that is three quarters Apulian, served in an 18th century room with a dramatic vaulted ceiling and enormous fireplace and you have a setting of near perfection. One of the finest Thalassotherapy spas in Italy is here at Masseria San Domenico. Its treatments are based on the 20th century biologist Rene Quinton. His revolutionary studies of temperature and salt combination led to the discovery of the ocean waters’ similarity to blood plasma. Purified seawater and seaweed found in Puglia’s green sea – its salt percentage is on par with the Red and Black Seas – is used in their revitalising hydro-massages, sea water steams and seaweed therapy. A luxurious indoor salt water pool of Grecian splendour is central to the spa design. Nestled in and around ancient olive groves, between agricultural land and the sea, is San Domenico Golf. If this sport is your passion, then the year round 18-hole course will give you the challenge you’re looking for. San Domenico Golf is a par 72 course and designed by Andrew Haggar from European Golf Design (Celtic Manor, Portmarnack in Ireland and PGA Catalunya). This world class course is home to the PGA European Challenge Tour Grand Final and its reputation precedes itself as the favourite des-
tination for the Rolex Trophy Final, the 2nd Conde Naste Golf Challenge, BMW Drive Golf Invitational and the Jaguar Golf Trophy. If you want to venture beyond the estate, the hotel’s location is a perfect base for exploring the mediaeval neighbouring town of Ostuni and the fascinating UNESCO sites of the Trulli in Alberobello. Not to be missed is: Lama d’Antico’s Rupestrian caves and their untouched 13th century frescoes and Masseria Brancati’s protected farmhouse with its underground Roman olive press in the Agrarian Reserve in the countryside. Masseria San Domenico offers a luxurious, quintessentially Apulian experience; uniquely charming and uniquely different. It has an elegant and timeless character which inspires another visit to be put in your diary. Masseria San Domenico offers boutique-style intimacy bound with first class facilities such as a magnificent outdoor free-form swimming pool. After a careful restoration, completed respecting the old shapes and the original building materials, the tower was converted into a 5 star deluxe resort in 1996. The building itself dates back to the 15th century, when it was used by the Knights of Malta as a watch-tower. An impressive free-form seawater pool flows its way through the lush gardens and the 2 exclusive beaches (one sandy one rocky) allows guests to soak up some sun without the crowds
72010 Savelletri di Fasano (Brindisi) Tel: +39 (0) 80 4827769 Fax +39 (0) 804827978 www.masseriasandomencio.com Email: email@example.com
Alexandra Wood Tailor, AW Menswear Savile Row’s First Female Tailor
When did you first realize you wanted to be a tailor? I tend to class myself as a Designer and Visionary over being a Tailor specifically. Style, cut and fabrics have always been my obsession. My Father used to say: ‘’Alexandra, it’s not a Fashion show’’ to which of course I would dispute. When I was younger I would shop my Father and advise him on what looked best. I like to have an overall understanding with everything I do. What I do is rounded, I can pattern cut, design and make clothing. I also understand colours and fabrics and how they perform. Some of it instinctive, some trained. In answer to your question when I was 14 I decided that one day I would start my own business in Fashion and it just so happened that I fell in love with Tailoring; the precision, the detail and the history that surrounds it and most of all how it can truly transform a man’s image and ultimately his success.. Does being known as the first female tailor on Savile Row has its benefits? And do you feel responsible as an example for young women who might want to take up the profession. It certainly interests people. Like most professions, you remain unknown for an incredibly long time, it takes perseverance and resilience to become well known. My customers like the eye I have with being a female and are very open about that. There’s a high level of trust there. My clothing does have a feminine touch, with elements of cut and colour that aren’t always the norm and I would say those were the main benefits. Being a female with no clients whatsoever when I started 13 years ago wasn’t particularly welcomed and I was told directly to my face that I would never make it and that suppliers wouldn’t touch me if I had no database. I took it as a compliment, I love a challenge, so I have them to thank for never taking no for an answer. I welcome and encourage women to enter the industry, I think we offer a different edge that is part of the future of Savile Row. I’d
happily offer guidance should anyone need it. I love business as a whole and if someone’s passionate and has a talent, I think that’s fantastic. I hope I’m setting an example. I like to do business with integrity, kindness and passion. How do you think you would have felt growing up if you had other women who had come before you? It’s a strange thing, as I never saw myself as a woman going into a ‘man’s industry’. I just saw it as something I loved. I’ve never been mindful of any barriers in my way. I just always knew what I wanted to do and would just get on with it. It was only when I had an older customer in the early days who said – ‘’Oh, you’re a woman!’’ and before I said anything, he’d already told himself off. Rather than be irritated by it, I choose to be amused by it. Did you have any tailoring role models growing up or even now? Be they individuals or businesses. I had a bizarre obsession of endlessly looking through books about the fashion and style of the Royal family. My grandparents had left my parents many books on the way the royals dressed and I was completely absorbed. I’ve always loved the fact that clothing can transport you into another world, it makes you feel things and it’s clever how clothing can do that. I’ve always seen that. I admire Ralph Lauren for the incredible empire he’s built. He always says that he’s not a Designer, he just creates, he knows how to place things together so that they just work and I completely relate to that. You really do just have it, or you just don’t. I admire Edward Sexton when it comes to Tailoring. He bought that cool, sexy edge to tailoring. He’s certainly more ‘far out’ than me but I like that he clearly stands from that and isn’t afraid to shy away from it. Describe a typical, but busy day at Alexandra Wood. I love making the most out of my days and have to keep them varied to keep myself energised. I start the day off with breakfast with my three children, then it’s the school run
and at 9am my work day begins. I try and do a lot of exercise to keep my mind sharp so tend to start most days with some sort of activity whether it be running or Pilates. I have a default diary, so I’m always goal focussed each day, one day may be designing new collections, the other may be looking at how we can make our processes sharper. At the end of the day, my focus is always on ‘how can we make this really fun, engaging and appealing to our customer. As a business owner your day never really starts or ends, it’s what I think about most of the time. I’m not sure if it’s normal but I absolutely love it! What two or three books would you say have had the biggest impact on who you are today, if not books, people? I have to admit that I’ve ready hundreds of business books but find a lot of them are click bait and really don’t offer the depths I was hoping for. The e-myth I think is a really great book to understand how streamlining processes can make your business more effective. I wrote my entire company manual on a holiday in Greece after reading it. A book should inspire you to take action. I’m actually yet to find a book that really guides someone in the fashion industry to reach their dreams with practical, goal driven moves. Maybe, I’ll just write it but I have another one to complete first… My business coach John has been phenomenal, he knows my strengths and weaknesses and has guided me through to reach higher successes. What aspirations do you have for the Alexandra Wood brand? For example, would you like to have international offices in New York? I’m currently designing limited edition ranges that are in keeping with the bespoke ethos of what we stand for. I don’t want to mass produce clothing and short change the customer by not giving them what they’re paying for – it’s insulting. I want our customers to feel special and valued and we’ve got some really great pieces coming out this Autumn.
Pictured: Camen Dellâ€™Oreffice
Book - ‘Model Woman’, By Robert Lacey An Indepth Look at FORD Models Founder, Eileen Ford
Between 1947 and 2007 Eileen Ford created the largest and longest lasting model agency the world has ever seen, famed for its blonde and slinky beauties whose thighs would stretch for miles. If you booked a Ford model, you got Ferrari and Porsche glamour—with Rolls-Royce prestige and prices: Jerry Hall, Lauren Hutton, Christie Brinkley, Christie Turlington, the young Naomi Campbell – and, most enduringly of all, Carmen Dell’Orefice, who first modeled for Vogue in 1947, and is still modeling today, with two new hips and two new knees, at the age of 84. Carmen Dell’Orefice was barely sixteen years old when, skinny, and flat-chested, she attracted the attention of Vogue photographer Erwin Blumenfeld, who took her round to Second Avenue, where Eileen Ford was just opening her new agency over a funeral parlor with her recently de-mobbed naval officer husband Jerry. “This young lady is going to be a star,” announced Blumenfeld. “Take my word, the camera loves her.” “If you say so, Blumenfeld,” replied Eileen, not totally convinced by the shy bag of bones in front of her, but happy to poach this young talent from New York’s rival agencies, which were all run in those days by middle-aged men. “I had been earning seven dollars fifty per hour,” remembers Carmen, who also remembers plumping herself out for the encounter with tissues in her bra. “Eileen doubled my rate at once. In my first week, I worked five days at thirty dollars a day. But she also told me that she didn’t mind if I took work from other agencies. She knew that my mother and I needed the money.” Dell’Orefice came from a broken home. Her father, a symphony violinist, had left the family when she was a baby, endowing her only with her extraordinary surname and her still more extraordinary cheekbones. The thin, sickly little girl—she was bedridden with rheumatic fever for most of a year—grew up with her mother in a fourth-floor walk-up beside the elevated railway on Third Avenue.
When Vogue needed her for a job, the magazine would dispatch a message via a runner, since her apartment had no telephone. Her mother earned pin money as a seamstress and made her daughter’s clothes from precut Vogue patterns. “It was deeply embarrassing,” remembers Dell’Orefice today. “I still looked like a coat hanger. But we could not afford anything else. When I got paid for a job, it meant we could pay the power bill for another month—and I was able to pay for my own braces.” Eileen Ford became the young model’s confidante and mentor, while Jerry Ford (no relation to the US senator and President) became effectively her business manager, teaching Carmen how to set aside part of her income to pay her taxes. “Eileen and Jerry were truly a class act,” Carmen recalls today. “By some happy instinct—taste, nose, eye, or however you might describe it—Eileen could pick out the talent, while Jerry handled the business side. He was such a quality guy, and they had this ability to make everyone feel like family.” She fondly recalls the riotous Ford Christmas parties, complete with balloons and streamers, at which Eileen would call out a name and fling her present across the room, with everyone cheering or jeering wildly depending on whether the recipient caught the present or dropped it. “Eileen and Jerry worked hard and played hard,” she recalls, “and they were very generous to all of us. Eileen organized a huge wedding shower for every one of my three marriages—until I worked out that I didn’t have to marry the guy every time.” From the start of her career Eileen Ford prided herself on shielding her “girls” from the predatory males who lurked in the fashion business, from lascivious photographers to clients looking for extra favors. “She could be really fierce,” Carmen recalls. “If a girl came back to the office with any story of trouble, Eileen would get straight on the phone and bawl the guy out. He would be lucky to hire a Ford model again.”
Nor was Eileen afraid to direct her fierceness in her own models’ direction – making sure they got up early every morning to get to their first jobs on time. Ford models became the aristocrats of their profession not only on account of their extra sparkle and slenderness, but also for their mental discipline and punctuality. “We were known in the business,” recalls Carmen, “for arriving on time with every accessory needed in our model bags, from spare eyelashes to extra hairpieces. In those days we usually did our own hair – and our make-up too.” It all made for a sisterliness in which Eileen and Carmen became close friends, sharing secrets that ranged from family problems to locating the best plastic surgeon to keep the years at bay. “What else can you do,” Carmen liked to ask, “when the ceiling of your living room is falling in? Don’t you call the plasterer?” Shortly before Eileen’s death in the summer of 2014, the two women celebrated her ninety-second birthday at her favorite watering hole, New York’s famed Le Cirque restaurant, with her children and a small group of friends. “She was looking magnificent,” remembers Carmen—“happy and laughing, and as Escada-ed as ever.” In October that year, the New York Times’ Bill Cunningham shot a charming video of the glamorous guests at the great agent’s memorial service, a parade of beauties who lit up Fifth Avenue – and he singled out Carmen in particular for her poignant choice of clothes. Like her fellow Ford model, Christie Brinkley, Carmen had chosen to wear an elegant black trouser with a long, brightly colored silk scarf in tribute to her best friend. The vivid splash of color, declared Cunningham, showed “celebration amidst the mourning.” Extracted and adapted from Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty by Robert Lacey, published by HarperCollins:
Britain and the Middle East – An Historical Perspective. By Lord hylton
Now is the time to take stock of Britain’s policy as regards the Middle East. In regards to The Arab Spring, the changes underway in Tunisia and Egypt, the conflicts that have taken and are still taking place in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, demand no less than a thorough re-examination. The Burden of the Past We should remember that the last hundred years bring with them a burden of errors and misjudgements. The First World War caused us to make contradictory promises and under-takings. The Sykes-Picot Agreement divided the Arab parts of the Ottoman Empire into semi-colonial spheres of influence. The Balfour Declaration cast Britain as the sponsor of a Jewish National home in Palestine. These policy statements, and our role in Egypt, made this country appear to be the enemy of Arab nationalism. The old empire was being replaced by new hegemonies, thus losing for us the benefit of the work of Lawrence and others in freeing the Arabs from Turkish domination. The Second World War was more favourable to Britain’s reputation. We successfully defended the Middle East against Nazi aggression and Italian fascist imperialism. This benefit was, however, partly undone by our hasty withdrawal from Palestine, which paved the way for the Nakba, the disaster that befell the Palestinians, driven from Galilee and from hundreds of villages in what is now Israel. The resulting problem of Palestinian refugees, principally in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria is one that the rest of the world has managed in a fairly humane way, but has totally failed to resolve. The Suez affair of 1956 was a further setback for Britain. We were then seen to collude with France and Israel in resisting a popular Egyptian leader. More recently, our involvement in Afghanistan from 2001, and in Iraq from 2003, took place as extremely minor and junior partners of the USA. In
neither case did our long experience of these countries modify the not always well-informed policies of the US. Policy Guides Since 1945 British policy has been largely guided by two considerations - energy sup- plies, and sympathetic feelings for the plight of the Jewish people. The former caused us to support whoever happened to be the ruling power in an oil-producing state at any given time. Saddam Hussein was thus backed during his atrocious and long drawn out war against Iran. A blind eye was turned to his internal brutality and only when he turned against Kuwait, did he fall from grace in our eyes. Sympathy for the Jews, increased by our inability to prevent Hitler’s “final solution”, led to early recognition of Israel. And for some years that State could do no wrong. During the Cold War, Soviet support for the Arab armies ensured western approval and backing for Israeli self-defence. Israel was able to present itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, and as a pioneer in making the desert bloom. The influential Jewish diaspora used these points to bind the US, and to a lesser extent, Britain, to the interests of Israel. I suggest that we have been over-influenced by Israel, despite or because of its remarkable talents and achievements. After the 1967 war we failed to understand or appreciate the consequences of the Zionist policy of creating colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. We should have objected to, and condemned more strongly, the illegal Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem. At the time of the Oslo negotiations we somehow did not grasp the complete disparity in negotiating power between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. We missed the importance of re-connecting Gaza with the West Bank, so that there might be an effective Palestinian Authority, with its own communications to the outside world. We completely underestimated the
difficulties of building an effective Palestine, while its territory remained under Israeli military occupation, and while Israeli settlements continued to expand (with their own exclusive road network). Yet at the same time, we were content to pay for the social costs of a status quo, which benefitted Israel. We paid, and still pay, by subscribing to UNWRA and contributing to EU aid to Palestine, World Bank loans etc. The Terrorist Factor Terrorist activity has been another factor adversely affecting our judgements in foreign policy. It began as a nationalist phenomenon – something carried out by stateless Palestinians or Kurds, both frustrated in their desire for self-determination. After the defeat of the PLO in Lebanon in 1982 and Saddam’s repression of the Kurds from the time of Halabja in 1989, straightforward nationalism ceased to be so strong a force in motivating asymmetrical war- fare. It was overtaken by religious motives, in particular by jihad, seen essentially as a defensive form of war or liberation struggle. The success of Hezbollah in bringing about the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon (2000) as seen to justify this point of view. Origins of Islamist Violence Islamist violence in fact has deeper historic roots. The bitterness left by the defeat of the Indian mutiny led to a strong anti- colonial popular movement among some Indian Muslims. In the Arab countries, the Muslim Brotherhood was opposed to the semi- colonial situation in Egypt and to the secular character of left wing and military successor governments. The Egyptian Muslim Brothers gave birth to Hamas (the Islamic Movement for Resistance) in Gaza, and to political parties and movements in other states with Sunni populations. Hezbollah emerged as a militant Shia resistance, aided and abetted by Iran.
Demonization It is deeply regrettable that Islamist movements have been so widely demonized. For a parallel one might imagine Soviet intellectuals reviling the Christian-Democratic parties in France, Germany, Italy etc. as the religiously inspired incarnation of evil. I have met much of the leadership of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and of Hamas in Gaza. They both struck me as being well-educated, responsible and cautious people who genuinely care for the well being of their people. Evidence for this is to be seen in the school buses, refuse collection and street lighting, which Hamas made to work in Gaza, as soon as they gained power in the city council. The Secular Mentality Part of the western difficulty in understanding the influence of Islam on politics probably comes from the secular mentality of policy makers and analysts. They conceive of religion and politics as two distinct and different modes of thought and behaviour, which must be kept rigidly separate. They cannot conceive of anyone wanting to combine the two, or allowing their theology to guide their politics. They see religion as something exclusively personal, which should not be allowed to spill over into collective endeavours or institutional practice. When in January in 2006, Hamas freely and fairly won the Palestinian elections; pre- conditions were immediately imposed on it. It should have been obvious that Hamas had learnt from the mistakes of Arafat and the Fatah party. Sadly the western powers went ahead with impossible demands and then failed to accept the government of national unity, which Saudi Arabia helped into being in 2007. To make things worse, a coup d’état was organized against Hamas later than year. The disproportionate Israeli offensives against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 and against Hamas and others in Gaza in 2008/9 were tolerated by the west.
Demography of the Middle East Another serious western and British mistake has been to pay insufficient attention to the demographics of the Middle East and its neighbours. From Morocco to Pakistan about half the people are aged under 25. Many are educated, but an alarmingly high proportion is unemployed or only has poor work prospects. At a time of rising food and fuel prices, there was therefore ample tinder awaiting any available spark. We should not have been surprised by what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, and by what is trying to happen in other neighbouring states. The results are unlikely to be the same in all cases. Monarchies enjoy real popular approval in, for example, Morocco and Jordan. We should learn to distinguish between real and artificial states. Some have a strong national identity and culture. Others are more ad hoc assemblies of tribes, with a veneer of common language or religion. In both cases there are often large submerged groups, who do not enjoy full citizens’ rights. The Kurds This is particularly the case for the Kurdish populations of Turkey, Iran and Syria, while in Iraq the Kurds have a large degree of regional autonomy. Taken together, the Kurds probably exceed 25 million in the Middle East, with a large diaspora in Europe. We need to understand this situation, which overlaps so many recognized frontiers. In doing so, we should not overvalue the significance of Turkey, as a NATO member and as a EU applicant. We should recognize that Kurds are ethnically and culturally different from Turks and Arabs, and religiously distinct from most Iranians. British Interests The material interest of Britain, which our foreign policy should promote, lies in expanding the worldwide demand for our exports, both of goods and of services. A prosperous Middle East is therefore something that will benefit us, in the same sort of way that we gain from prosperity in India, China or Indonesia. A world, which accepts the rules of national and international law, is
something for which we should strive. This means that we should work harder than ever before, for the resolution of the seemingly endless confrontations between Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab states. We should seek to persuade the European Union that this is in our common interest. We should try to influence the United States to give just and lasting peace a far higher priority than it has yet received. We should learn from history and not be blinded by secular shortsighted- ness, which fails to understand the importance of religious influences, throughout the world . Soft Power Britain’s military strength has decreased sharply in recent years. Its soft power, on the other hand has increased, and is probably still grow- ing. Soft power can give us valuable influence and persuade people in the Middle East to do business with us. English as an international language is an enormous asset. Already it is the lingua franca of air travel and is dominant in other spheres. The BBC World Service, Al Jazira in English, and the British Council all increase knowledge and use of English. British universities attract students from all over the world, including the Middle East. Our football teams are known everywhere and much more use could be made of football diplomacy. We should build on the London Olympics of 2012 and use all kinds of sport to increase goodwill and positive links with Middle Eastern countries. A Coherent Strategy I believe that Britain is well placed to favour the development of the rule of law and the emergence of more democratic systems in North Africa and the Arab World. What is needed is a coherent and strategic approach, making maximum use of our soft power. Once again the need is for teamwork between all our government departments, combined with the fullest cooperation by other organizations. We should encourage secular interests and political parties to cooperate with those inspired by Islam.
The Foundations of British Values By Baroness Perry of Southwark
‘Values’ are dear to politicians. In recent years we have heard much about ‘British Values’ from the Conservatives in the concerns about extremism, as well as passionate statements about ‘Conservative Values’.
ment or imprisonment or being sent to the gallows’. Strangely, for a principle we now take for granted, this was not enunciated formally until a politician called John Hobhouse framed the idea in a speech in 1826 attacking George Canning.
to challenge and criticise government, exposing the misuse of power where such can be found. The people who elect their government have an absolute right to know the truth about those to whom they have given power.
The ‘Values of the Labour Party’ have been urgently debated by Labour in these turbulent times, and the Liberal Democrats tell us that the country needs their ‘Liberal Values’.
We cannot overestimate the importance of this hard-won principle. Here we have the single most fundamental condition for a genuinely free and tolerant society.
Listen carefully, and it is unsurprising to hear that these values are all strikingly similar.
We should not forget how hard it was for it to be achieved over centuries when opposing the rulers of this country and many others led to imprisonment, torture or death. Nor should we fail to recognise how many parts of the world still operate a system of repression of all opposition, often by the most brutal and evil means.
The ‘loyal opposition’ principle is also a condition for the benison of Britain’s ‘neutral’ civil service. The neutrality does not, of course, mean that individual civil servants have no political views; it means, much more importantly, that regardless of their personal views, they are ready to serve loyally whatever government has been chosen by the democratic will of the people.
They embrace tolerance, harmony, fairness, equality, freedom, the rule of law and so on - the list could be written not only by anyone in Western society but also in the rhetoric of many leaders in even the most repressive regimes. All the major religions espouse the values of tolerance, love and care for one’s neighbour, yet all have been at times in history responsible for violent oppression, persecution and hatred. Reciting a list of ‘values’, therefore, is not sufficient to lead us to an understanding of what it is that constitutes the kind of society where the values we espouse are genuinely displayed and lived. We need to go back and ask what are the conditions, developed over centuries, which allowed Britain and much of the Western world to become societies where the values we cite so readily are, however imperfectly, widely accepted and practised,? Here I defer to the formulation of a vital principle, put forward in a brilliant speech in the House of Lords in July by the Lord Addington. (yes, the House of Lords does still sometimes rise to be what is called one of the world’s best debating chambers). He spoke eloquently of the ‘concept of a loyal opposition ….which can oppose the government, criticise them and state publicly that they are prepared to replace them while still not being considered traitors’. He praised ‘The concept that we could criticise the government without risking impeach-
A loyal opposition which is tolerated and indeed respected, given status and influence, is, I would suggest, the foundation of all the other values we espouse. Without it there can be no real tolerance, no freedom of thought or speech and action, no hope of equality. I would further suggest that without that concept embedded into the way our society and our government conducts its business, there can be no freedom under the law. When one speaks of freedom under the law, one assumes that government itself is subservient to the laws it creates. But without a loyal opposition government has supreme power and can ignore the law with impunity. Freedom of speech, under the law which sets the proper limits for such freedom, is certainly one of the most often cited values of our society, indeed it is the key ingredient of a free society. Free speech embraces a free press and media, whose freedom can only thrive within the tolerance of opposition and a belief in the acceptability - the ‘loyalty’ - of that opposition, however uncomfortable its views might be for any government. For me, a responsibly self-regulated and genuinely free press is essential to a free society. The danger of media misuse of freedom, real though that has been shown to be in recent times, is still a lesser evil than the danger of any move to curb the media’s right
Although there are democratic countries who do not hold this view, where senior civil servants are chosen for their sympathy with the politicians of the day, I am deeply proud of this country’s neutral civil service and the continuity and loyalty which enables Ministers to trust completely those who serve them, from the earliest days after an election, through the years until a new election is called. Ministers do not investigate, test or seek out the dissenters; they accept that those who serve them will include a loyal opposition with the emphasis on loyal. The same principle applies most tellingly to our judiciary, who now are appointed through a much more transparent process, with less influence from politicians, and a commitment to serve justice not politics. Whatever their personal or political views, it is our trust that they will remain impartial, even where they may dislike the laws they must administer. It is to our judges that we look to preserve the supremacy of the law, from which no-one is exempt. We have been celebrating Magna Carta this year, and although historians warn us not to overrate the importance of its terms, there is no doubt that it did two vital things. It established the concept that no-one, not even the King, was above the law, and it established the principle that no-one can be punished - imprisoned, fined, exiled,
ruined or executed, ‘except by the lawful judgement of his peers, his equals and by the law of the land’. These principles do indeed underpin the freedom of our lives in this country, and we look to our judiciary to defend them. It behoves our judges, as it behoves our civil servants and the other great public service professionals, to preserve the concept of neutrality in every act and word, for it is on them our free society rests. I have argued that the values of a free society rest on the various agencies that preserve the concept of loyal opposition. The press, the civil service, the judiciary all have their part to play. Parliament, though, has perhaps the most significant role of all. Not only must Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition play its part in challenging government, but parliament as a whole must be free to call the executive to account, at times to act collectively as a loyal opposition, ensuring that no government has absolute and untrammelled power. Even in a democracy the dangers of absolutism always lurk. We should always remember that the great dictator Adolph Hitler came to power through a democratic process. In this country’s parliament, Select Committees have played an increasingly confident role in challenging government in recent years, but there is always a danger that the executive, who control so much of the careers of parliamentarians, can press ahead with measures without real challenge. One of the most interesting committees of which I have been a member is the House of Lords Delegated Powers Select Committee. This committee scrutinises all legislation before it comes to the floor of the House to see if a Bill contains any ‘Henry the VIIIth’ clauses - that is, clauses which give inappropriate, untrammelled power to the executive. The reports of this committee are published as the Bill begins its progress, and it is then for the members of the House to challenge the government’s proposals. It was a lesson
to me to see how many items of legislation do indeed contain these ‘Henry VIIIth clauses, and how important is the vigilance of parliament in challenging them. Such careful scrutiny is an important process of ensuring that even the most benign of governments do not usurp their proper role, taking powers to themselves which are contrary to the constitutional balance of the executive to parliament. In the British Constitution, the executive derives its power only from the people, through their elected representatives in parliament. No one government must take absolute powers, in no matter how small an area, for once a power is taken it can be almost impossible to take it away, and thus the barriers to totalitarian control are breached. It is the job of parliament to ensure this cannot happen, even in small areas which seem not to matter very much. We are engaged today in what many see as a battle against extremism. We abhor extremism because it denies any opposition, and could never recognise the wonderful value of loyal opposition. The battle is a difficult one, and a necessary one. In fighting this battle, though, it is vital that as a country we avoid the pitfalls of eroding the very principles for which we fight. Suppressing free speech, however well intentioned the suppression, can be dangerous and indeed counter-productive. As the philosopher Locke reminded us, the function of the state is to deal with what he called ‘matters temporal’ that is life, liberty, health and property. It is not a function of the state to meddle in thought and belief. Perhaps we should be prepared to be more tolerant of what people say, however distasteful their views, as long as their words do not incite to violence. The law exists, like the state, to deal with our life, liberty and estate, not with our thoughts or opinions. Freedom derives from tolerance, and tolerance of opposition is the foundation on which the society we cherish rests. In our legitimate fight to root out the enemies of our way of life, should we not pay close attention to the need to fight with the tool wherewith our present free society was built - the concept of loyal opposition?
Jon Snow Anchor, Channel 4 News Interviewed by Vincent Abrams
What do you think is special or unique about the way Channel 4 News delivers the news? We have an hour where most other TV news programmes have to settle for less than half that time. It means that we can go into subjects in depth and interview newsmakers at length. On the night the Paris attacks occurred in January we were able to devote more than half an hour to all that had happened and to exploring the implications. Most other news programmes could only devote half that time Tell us more about your work and what we can expect to see in the future. My work is changing all the time. Sometimes I will be out in the field reporting from a major news event as during the Gaza conflict last summer. Advances in technology are making it easier and cheaper to anchor the news from anywhere in the world. In the last year I have anchored from Greenland, Iran, Israel, Gaza and Paris, to name but a few.
In 1989 he was nicked by the BBC and left in a night. I was pulled across from ITN’s News at Ten, where I was a reporter, and asked to fill in until they found someone up to the job. I was pretty grim in those early days – there’s a huge contrast between foreign reporting and anchoring a one hour news programme. At first I missed the excitement of reporting and felt I wasn’t yet ready to leave ‘the road’. I also couldn’t imagine ever getting the job permanently. Then I realised that if I didn’t get it someone else would and I’d have missed my chance. So I really worked at trying to secure it. Eventually after three or four months they ran out of options and had to offer it to me. Now I’ve been in the presenter’s chair for over 25 years. How passionate are you about news and current affairs? Extremely. Online and radio are my fore sources. I listen to radio news from 6.00am every morning and usually catch the midnight headlines before I turn in. I believe as journalists we can change the world.
The big challenge for all UK journalists and broadcasters will be the General Election, not least because no one has a true sense of what will happen. But the biggest challenge is the evolving digital age. We are tweeting, blogging, facebooking and broadcasting.
We can right wrongs; we can speak truth to power; we can give space to new ideas. It’s a magical job.
The working day is becoming ever fuller, fuelled in part by the growth of the social network which finds me regularly blogging and particularly active on twitter.
I love painting water colours – it’s extraordinarily therapeutic – I get completely lost in what I’m doing, and forget everything else. I enjoy walking in the hills and like to play plenty of tennis.
Where do you live and spend most of your time? I live in Primrose Hill, North London and work near London’s Kings Cross. I cycle every-where – it’s efficient, it’s green, it keeps my blood pressure low, and my spirits high. How did you end up working for Channel 4 News? There have only been two main presenters of Channel 4 News. The first, Peter Sissons, started when the Channel launched in 1982.
When you have spare time, what do you like to get up to?
Do you support any charities? Yes I’m Chair of the New Horizon Youth Centre, a resource for homeless and vulnerable 16 to 21 year olds. I worked there before I became a journalist and have been involved for 40 years. I’m currently also Chair of Tate Members. What has been your favourite OR most memorable news posting abroad and why? Reporting the Iranian Revolution in 1979. An amazing insight into a great civilisation in
turmoil, exacerbated in no small measure by ham-fisted interference by outside powers. Where can you see yourself in five years’ time? I hope I shall not be chosen to be the first news anchor to be sent into space – one of my recurring nightmares. Describe your typical working day? I leave home on my bike at 9.00am, pick up a tub of porridge with honey and raisins. Get to the editorial meeting for 9.30am and consume said porridge. Mornings can involve seeing contacts, attending informative events, or researching interviews. Another editorial meeting at 2.15pm, start writing scripts, help book interviews, deal with email, tweet, research, get made up, write my headlines, go to air at 7.00pm, 8.00pm post mortem on how the programme went.
Jon Snow Hon FRIBA (born 28 September 1947) is an English journalist and television presenter. He is best known as the longest-running presenter of Channel 4 News, which he has presented since 1989. Although Channel 4’s news programming is produced by ITN, Snow is employed directly by the broadcaster. Snow has held numerous honorary appointments, including Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University from 2001 to 2008. On 14 June 2011, Snow presented the multiple award-winning investigation documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, directed by Callum Macrae, which documented war crimes committed in the final days of the Sri Lankan conflict in 2009. T The second part, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished was broadcast in March 2012.
Roberto Gavazzi CEO, BOFFI Interviewed by Laura Blakeman
Founded in 1934 with a focus on kitchens in its native Italy, Boffi is today recognized as a global design brand for the home and contract markets, known for its innovative blend of modern aesthetics and traditional craftsmanship. A conversation with Boffi CEO Roberto Gavazzi. When you entered Boffi in 1989, the company was a traditional family business. What key steps did you take to transform it into a contemporary design brand? It was a multi-phase approach, focused on the offering and international expansion. The starting point was to expand the offering and sell more than just kitchens – when I arrived, kitchens made up 96 percent of sales. We diversified into bathrooms, wardrobes and now furniture after our acquisition of De Padova (a prestigious Milan furniture brand acquired by Boffi in 2015). We moved away from a company that was simply selling “products” to one that was offering systems. The idea was to create systems that could be adapted to meet the desires of a highend clientele. Our range revolves today around three concepts: standard, modular and customized. Take kitchens, for example. The main offering is a traditional setup with standard cabinets and different kinds of finishes; then there are technical pieces like the Salinas kitchen, where we have a wide offer of materials but a specific number of possibilities since you put your kitchen together with a configurator choosing from a series of modules; lastly, we have Boffi Code, which is based on a totally customized solution for those who want to stand out from the crowd. The same concept is applied to our entire product offering. What are the key elements of your brand strategy in terms of marketing and communications?
A key role was and is played by the monobrand showrooms we have in major cities like Milan, London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, to mention just a few. It’s a vehicle that other successful brands, such as those in fashion, have used. Showrooms played a key role in our successful internationalization – today, 85 percent of our business is done abroad.
What challenges do you see for the brand?
The Boffi brand and style are recognizable here. The interior design is clean but emotional. They are places that attract developers, press and VIPs. It’s where clients meet our network of architects who can work with them.
Online things become flat, you don’t experience the products in the same way.
Clients need to feel special and see they are getting the best treatment. A Boffi showroom must be in a strong, charismatic location. It should surprise customers, make them want to come inside and learn more. And the know-how of showroom staff must meet the same high standards as our products: staff are trained and regularly updated at our factory headquarters in Italy. How would you describe the brand’s personality? What keywords do you want people to associate with Boffi? We want to be seen as a solution provider not a furniture seller and be associated with sophisticated, contemporary, long-lasting design. It’s the same with De Padova, which has always promoted timeless products. You are certain that our products will still be appreciated 20 years from now. For Boffi and De Padova, it’s about creating something that has a clean look but that is not minimalist: solutions can be combined with different styles and materials that can fit together in harmony. How has the industry changed? Apartments are now much more open. Walls are falling in the kitchen and bathroom. Space is an added value. Homes integrate the kitchen with the living room and dining area. People want to show off the kitchen. It’s about creating a pleasurable environment.
We have to pay more attention to digital technology, web and social media, but we will also need to be careful since too much tends to be accessible online. We try to create mystery and intimacy around our brand and we communicate this via our showrooms.
We want people to enjoy the atmosphere in our showroom and make them feel secure. It’s not just about showing a nice product but introducing them to our world. It shouldn’t be so attainable or accessible, but itshouldn’t be snobbish either. It’s about sophistication. Boffi is globally renowned as a brand linked to the world of design kitchen and bathrooms, with collections of a unique style and a strong personality that transform a kitchen or a bathroom into the centre of a home and of our daily life. In its history the brand can boast three very famous art directors namely Luigi Massoni, Antonio Citterio e Piero Lissoni. Together with them, Boffi has developed a sophisticate array of products that has been able to conquer the international market over the years. The 60 single brand showrooms located across the world and the various retails guarantee the customers a qualified personnel, able to transform any aesthetic requirements in ideal and bespoke solutions in line with Boffi strategy and through the customization of shapes, dimensions and materials. The History of Boffi In the Italian Design The first Boffi artisan business was founded in 1934 by Piero Boffi. However, it was only in 1947, when his three sons joined the company that the real factory was born. In the ‘60s under the guidance of the first art director Luigi Massoni revolutionary projects took shape, among which Joe Colombo’s Minikitchen, exhibited at the Moma museum in New York. The launching of the collection dedicated to the
bathroom and the collaboration with Antonio Citterio who signed the Factory collection date back to the â€˜80s. In 1990 Piero Lissoni became the new art director. From that moment on, thanks to the business strategy and to his creative and innovative wit, the brand started its endless ascent into the international market, which reached its apex with the prestigious Compasso dâ€™Oro for the career awarded in 1995. Several Boffi flagship stores sprouted in Italy and across the world, first among those abroad, the one in Paris. In Italy the store in Milan, in the Brera neighborhood, was the one that perfectly reflected Boffi style. The kitchens, the bathrooms and the new wardrobe systems were all displayed in a way to show an example of the versatility and complexity that characterize Boffi production. In parallel with the flourishing of single brand showrooms around the world, Boffi has collected plenty of acknowledgments over the years. In 2004 the Cut taps collection won the Red Dot Design Award, while in 2007 the Table System kitchen signed by Piero Lissoni was awarded the Good Design Award. 2010 was the year in which Aboutwater was launched, the collection of bathroom taps and overhead showers born from the collaboration between Boffi and the Fantini company. Another eminent collaboration was the one with the De Padova company, which resulted in 2015 with the fusion between the two brands in one group. An excellence in the scenario of the Italian design, the group was born with the intention to expand each brand visibility and widen each market of reference to all the furnishing categories in the domestic and contract domain. 2017 saw the partnership with the Danish start up MA/U Studio, a young producer of innovative furniture
solutions and shelves systems for the home and office environments. In the most recent years, Boffi has also opened to the outdoor furnishing with a series of products conceived to be used both indoor and outdoor. Boffi Production Between Tradition and Innovation A nexus between creative passion and innovation, with respect to the tradition, Boffi created kitchen collections apt to be customized and tailor-made thanks to a large variety of formats and finishes and to the top quality materials available on the market such as wood, steel, stone and marble. Next to those, bathroom fixtures and bathroom taps and avant-guarde appliances form a complete and comprehensive offer. With 60 single brand showrooms spread over 60 countries in the world, Boffi also offers a service of project development, advising and assistance able to sort out any aesthetic, technical or functional problem in the most ideal way. Sustainability is ever since a dear aspect to Boffi. Sustainability is approached not only as related to the environment, but also from an economic and social angle. As a matter of fact Boffi works in synergy not only with all its employees, but also with its territory of belonging, Brianza, which traditions and values it strongly cherishes. This harmonious climate also invests the interactions with designers, suppliers and customers at 360 degrees. Boffi is solidly bound to its territory and makes of sustainability its added value, together with creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial wit. Sustainability is core to any choice made by the company, at all levels of planning, production and control. Boffi complies with all the rules on environment in force in all the countries where it operates. The objective is to make the final product a sustainable one, improving its environmental performances thanks to innovation, as not uniquely related to the product, but also to the work methodologies and systems.