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Coffee with...


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Coffee with...


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Coffee with… Jacques Godfrain


When people think of a trip to Paris, they immediately think of the fabulous shopping, a trip to the Louvre, a show at the Moulin Rouge and a stroll along the banks of the River Seine. But there’s so much more to discover in the city, particularly in its rich history. Take the Fondation Charles de Gaulle, whose mission is to preserve the legacy of the famed French statesman. In March, it released an acclaimed book, Dans les Pas de Charles de Gaulle (In the Footsteps of Charles de Gaulle), published by Artélia. Jacques Godfrain, the foundation’s chairman, discusses the close connections between the general and China, as well as the popular tourist spots that honour his storied legacy

Coffee with… Jacques Godfrain


When people think of a trip to Paris, they immediately think of the fabulous shopping, a trip to the Louvre, a show at the Moulin Rouge and a stroll along the banks of the River Seine. But there’s so much more to discover in the city, particularly in its rich history. Take the Fondation Charles de Gaulle, whose mission is to preserve the legacy of the famed French statesman. In March, it released an acclaimed book, Dans les Pas de Charles de Gaulle (In the Footsteps of Charles de Gaulle), published by Artélia. Jacques Godfrain, the foundation’s chairman, discusses the close connections between the general and China, as well as the popular tourist spots that honour his storied legacy

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Coffee with… Jacques Godfrain

June 30, 2017 / by Philippe Dova

You’ve just returned from a trip to China. How closely does the Fondation Charles de Gaulle work with the country?

General de Gaulle’s decision to recognise the government of the People’s Republic of China as the legitimate government of the country, leading to the establishment of diplomatic relations on January 27, 1964, means that to this day he enjoys unparalleled prestige among the Chinese – those in government as well as ordinary citizens. 

So, as the embodiment of this legacy, the Foundation has a special relationship with the Chinese authorities, especially since the year 2000, in the context of celebrating what Sino-French friendship owes to General de Gaulle, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. The Foundation’s Chinese partners take an exceptionally strong interest in this, and this interest needs to be encouraged and developed so that it directly serves France-China relations. 

And how does the foundation help build this relationship?

We work regularly with our partners in setting up economic projects and cultural events such as the Charles de Gaulle: l’Homme des Tempêtes exhibition held in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Chengdu in 2004 and 2005, and events organised in Beijing and Shanghai in 2014. We’ve also been developing university exchange programmes since 2007 with the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs and that will be expanding after the various meetings we’ve just had. 

You mentioned economic projects; could you go into a bit more detail? 

Our Chinese partners would also like to learn more about France through our crafts. The various regions of France are home to some excellent craftspeople, including lace-makers in Calais and Puy, and glovers in Millau; we can put them in contact with our friends in China. We have a large network of contacts with elected officials in France and with French companies. When there are opportunities for companies – large or small – to approach the Chinese market, our role is to help facilitate the procedures. 

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Tell us about some of the most distinguished people who have visited. 

Like his predecessor Hu Jintao, when President Xi Jinping came to Paris on an official visit in March 2014, he asked to go to General de Gaulle’s office to reflect and pay tribute to him. This was a very significant gesture and a true mark of affection for the general. 

Where do other Chinese people like to go when they visit? 

They’re interested in visiting the places where General de Gaulle lived. For them, a trip to France isn’t only about the Moulin Rouge and Versailles. Certain places have a mythical quality for them – such as Colombey-les-deux Églises [de Gaulle’s last home as well as his final resting place] – because the man who brought worldwide recognition of their country lived there. So we help organise bespoke tours of those places.

How is this new book different from other publications about the man?

This book is intended to get the public interested. We didn’t want to write a guidebook or yet another collection of historical facts. Some renowned writers, including Denis Tillinac, Alexandre Jardin and Hua Wang – now 80 years old, he was one of the group who came to France in 1964 to set up the new embassy of the People’s Republic of China – have written about how it felt for them when they visited these places. It’s more of a literary approach and we’re very happy with it. 

Why should people be interested in visiting these historical sites? 

It’s very important to situate an individual in a place. [French intellectual and politician François-René] Chateaubriand just wouldn’t be Chateaubriand without his castle in Combourg, Brittany. And de Gaulle wouldn’t be de Gaulle without the immense forests around Colombey-les-deux-Églises, which he admired from his window. This book takes the reader on a sort of historical tour, explaining the modernity of de Gaulle – and that visiting the memorial is not about stepping back in history, but about finding an anchorage in today’s modernity. 

What important places has the foundation been involved with?

Our first major project was building the Cross of Lorraine in 1972; now some 80,000 people visit Colombey every year. Our next project was buying and restoring the house in Lille where General de Gaulle was born. We also built a memorial in Colombey and created the Historial Charles de Gaulle [an interactive multimedia museum in Paris].

Of all the locations associated with his life, which is your favourite? 

The Lille house – because that’s where it all began. 

Of all the locations associated with his life, which is your favourite? 

The Lille house – because that’s where it all began.  

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Coffee with… Olivier Besson


Olivier Besson came to Hong Kong in 2005 as an automotive engineer. His lifelong passion for boats and his love of Asia led to the creation of Asia Yachting in 2007, with a mission of offering a range of yachts for fun on the water. The 10-year-old company also brought wakesurfing to Hong Kong and has recently entered the budding second-hand yacht market

Coffee with… Olivier Besson


Olivier Besson came to Hong Kong in 2005 as an automotive engineer. His lifelong passion for boats and his love of Asia led to the creation of Asia Yachting in 2007, with a mission of offering a range of yachts for fun on the water. The 10-year-old company also brought wakesurfing to Hong Kong and has recently entered the budding second-hand yacht market

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Coffee with…Olivier Besson

May 26, 2017 / by Philippe Dova

Can Hong Kong’s second-hand yacht market be compared to its second-hand luxury car market – meaning that when a new model comes out, customers here have to have it? 

Yes, that’s very much the case. One of the reasons we wanted to develop the second-hand market was to revitalise the market for new yachts. Hong Kong is a very, very mature market and a great many yacht owners want to upgrade or buy the newest model, but obviously they also want to be able to resell their current boat. So we’re present in both markets – we help them get rid of their existing boat and then we sell them a new one. There’s generally a second-hand clientele in Asia; some of our boats leave Hong Kong. It’s the biggest boating centre in Asia, with the largest fleet, and this generates interest. 

How long does it take to close a yacht sale? 

Six months to a year – it’s a very long process. And Hong Kong doesn’t make it easy for us, because moorings are hard to come by and clients always worry about finding a place to park their boat. At Asia Yachting, we guarantee that our clients will get a mooring – we’re probably the only ones in the market that do this. 

How does that work? 

When a client buys a boat from us, irrespective of its size, we guarantee them a mooring at Aberdeen Harbour. This is part of an overall customer-care strategy. We don’t just sell the boat; we aim to provide all the related services – the mooring, crew and maintenance – to make their boating experience as enjoyable as possible. It’s really how we differentiate ourselves. We try to position ourselves in a bit
of a boutique segment. This means understanding the client’s expectations and taking a personalised approach – in finding the best boat for them and offering the appropriate kind of service.

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Who are your customers? 

We have our repeat customers. An owner who loves boats will generally get a new yacht every three to four years. It’s a key market for us and that’s why we pamper our customers – so they think of us when it’s time to get a new boat. We also have some newcomers, generally Hongkongers or Mainland Chinese established in Hong Kong.

Is boating fashionable in Hong Kong? Is there a younger generation who invest in a yacht after they’ve bought one or more luxury cars, and before they invest in a private jet? 

We’re clearly dealing with three generations. First, there are the seniors, who have already had several boats and who keep upgrading. Then, there are the dynamic businessmen, who mostly look for very new, innovative things. Lastly, there’s the third generation – people who just love the water and want to enjoy the sea. Our customers range in age from 20 to 75.

So you need to offer a lot of choice? 

We try to offer the best there is for having fun on the water. Nautique, one of the brands we represent, has developed some extraordinary little boats that carve such a big wave behind them that you can surf on it without a rope – that’s called wakesurfing. We introduced this new sport to Hong Kong and it’s become very fashionable. Many owners also have a boat like this to have fun with when they take their yacht out. 

After the luxury electric car, is the electric yacht the market of tomorrow? 

There is a trend towards eco-friendly products. Advances in technology enable us to limit fuel consumption. The fuel consumption of a Monte Carlo yacht, which is the top-end line of the Bénéteau group, who we represent, is almost half that of a boat of the same size 15 years ago. But we mustn’t kid ourselves – a boat works by pushing through water, which requires energy and power, and this is pretty incompatible with all-electric operation in the open ocean.

How would you define Asia Yachting in three words?

Customer-oriented, hard-working and fair.

What’s your definition of luxury? 

Enjoying life on your own terms.

What would you take with you to a desert island? 

Is it just me on the island? [laughs] I’d take only one thing – my boat, a Monte Carlo 80.

A final, important question: Do you have your boating licence? 

Of course! I’ve always been on the water and I’ve always had a passion for it. I never sell a boat without trying it out myself. That’s one more guarantee of quality for our customers. 

Image: Mia Qi for Asia Yachting

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Coffee with… Linda Gry


In 1991, designer and businesswoman Linda Gry founded The Blue Factory, a garment company providing an all-in-one service from design to manufacturing, with 10 staff in Hong Kong and 100 at its factory in China. After working behind the scenes for some of the best-known global fashion brands, she has just created Ink, her own contemporary men’s clothing label

Coffee with… Linda Gry


In 1991, designer and businesswoman Linda Gry founded The Blue Factory, a garment company providing an all-in-one service from design to manufacturing, with 10 staff in Hong Kong and 100 at its factory in China. After working behind the scenes for some of the best-known global fashion brands, she has just created Ink, her own contemporary men’s clothing label

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Coffee with…Linda Gry

April 28, 2017 / by Philippe Dova / Photo: Parker Zheng

How did The Blue Factory get started?

I started it in 1991 because of my love of denim and indigo. By creating The Blue Factory, I could do a lot with indigo and dyeing – tops and trousers. From the beginning, we produced items for menswear brands like John Varvatos and Paul Smith. The idea was to create iconic pieces for the contemporary man’s wardrobe. 

After 26 years of designing, creating and manufacturing for other brands, why did you decide to come out into the spotlight by starting your own?

The inspiration came from Goldsign, the brand of Adriano Goldschmied, who is the “godfather of denim” and one of the founders of Diesel; I’ve worked with him since 1998. I wanted to start from scratch in the process of making a garment and I had a vision that I wanted to conceptualise. 

I think I’ve done this with Ink. I was approached a year and a half ago by an international brand that asked us to develop a collection, but they also wanted to buy the Ink licence – I’d just created the brand. I preferred to do it by myself and for myself, to create a collection representing my vision of the contemporary man, where every piece is perfect and comfortable.

Why wait 26 years? 

It was a long journey to understand what’s possible. Experience results in a better interpretation of true luxury and I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve improved my skills in washing, in getting the feel right. Technique and technology are very important. 

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What makes Ink different? 

It’s the quality of our washes, the feel of our textiles, and our use of the best fabrics and accessories. My father, who is a great chef, always says that when you have the best ingredients, you can create a work of art – like an artist with a blank canvas. 

For example, with the best cashmere, you can develop every sort of design: pullovers, sweatshirts, Henley shirts. You also need the best accessories and the ability to use them in unusual ways. Sometimes you have to push the boundaries and make the basics very sophisticated. 

Why did you choose the name Ink? 

Our logo was created on an old typewriter. Ink is a name that’s iconic and easy to remember. After completing a job, you sign in ink and put your personal signature on it.

How many pieces are in the collection and where are they available?

We created around 40 pieces for the first collection – 60% of these are indigo. We’re fortunate to be stocked at Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and Mainland China. Lane Crawford believed in Ink from the beginning; they started with our cashmere collection. We’re also sold at Smart, a reference for elegance in France. We’re in Italy and, very soon, we’ll be in the United States.

Will there be a standalone Ink shop soon? 

No, we’d rather focus on expanding with our partners like Lane Crawford. The brand is still young. 

What are your observations about men’s fashion?

It’s very interesting – for example, men buy one style in several colours, whereas women will buy several different styles. When they find something they like, they buy it in several colours. Our tops are the response to denim jeans. 

How about the current approach to fashion and luxury in China?

Chinese consumers are world travellers. They have become very demanding. They’re more interested in style and quality than brand logos – they’re more sophisticated and are looking for unique pieces.

Do you have plans to launch any future Ink collections for women and children?

It’s in the pipeline – probably in six months to a year. 

How many collections and pieces are you aiming to do each year? 

We’ll be doing four seasons – and we’ll be producing around 3,000 to 4,000 pieces after the first year. 

Sum up Ink in three words.

Eternal, contemporary luxury. 

What books do you love and what’s on your bedside table?

Visually, I love Tom Ford’s books. I also love l’Etranger by Camus and Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames, which I’ve just finished.

What’s your favourite film?

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, of course!

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Coffee with… Axelle Red


The Belgian singer-songwriter has sold millions of albums and has an array of awards to her name. Committed to numerous humanitarian causes as well, since 1997 she has undertaken missions to Africa and Southeast Asia as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. With the Fête de la Francophonie global arts and culture festival under way, Axelle Red kicked off her 10-stop Asian tour with her first-ever concert in Hong Kong

Coffee with… Axelle Red


The Belgian singer-songwriter has sold millions of albums and has an array of awards to her name. Committed to numerous humanitarian causes as well, since 1997 she has undertaken missions to Africa and Southeast Asia as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. With the Fête de la Francophonie global arts and culture festival under way, Axelle Red kicked off her 10-stop Asian tour with her first-ever concert in Hong Kong

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Coffee with…Axelle Red

March 31, 2017 / by Philippe Dova / Photo: Filip Vanes

At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to be a singer?

When I was six years old, I remember at school having to answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and I wrote “I want to be a singer.” By the time I finished five years of law school, my first album was ready. 

Why this first Asian tour? 

I’ve travelled a great deal in Asia and I have a close bond with the region, especially Southeast Asia. Apart from a private concert a few years ago at the Belgian consulate in Hong Kong, I had never played in Asia – so this was something missing for me. For an artist, performing in other places is always brilliant. This tour marks the end of an acoustic tour with more than 230 appearances. At the same time, this Hong Kong concert was a real first, because we had reduced the team and, for the first time, there were only three of us on stage. 

It seems to have worked out well.

Very much so! Having all of the ingredients for my music with very few people on stage gives me great freedom. Like my album The Songs (Acoustic), it’s a way of reintroducing songs whose melodies I’m very proud of – without rearranging them. 

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What was the emotional high point of this concert for you?

Seeing that the audience accepted my whole persona. They were happy to hear the really well-known songs, but also the lesser-known ones that are important to me because they represent a commitment through the music or the words. Realising that the audience totally accepted my style, without thinking about it, was very moving.

The audience at a concert isn’t there to analyse the music. When people who aren’t necessarily familiar with my whole repertoire accept all the different styles that I offer up to them, without analysing them, this really makes me feel I’ve succeeded in conveying my message. It would be frustrating for me to have to adapt to the audience in order for them to appreciate my repertoire. If I can make people love what I love and what I represent, then for me, the evening is a success.

Is that the secret of the acoustic formula? 

Acoustic is about the sound, of course, but it’s also about the intimacy, about what goes on between me and the audience. I often ask the audience to participate, to sing harmonies and rhythms that aren’t that easy. They really enjoy it; the emotion shows on their faces. This acoustic tour is definitely the one I’ve enjoyed the most. 

What are your plans after this tour? 

I’m finishing my new album and once it’s released, there will be another tour. For this new album, I’ve stuck with the theme of my last album, Rouge Ardent, which is a great source of inspiration for me. At first, I didn’t know what theme to write about, but I wanted the album to be positive. In Rouge Ardent, there are the notions of before, of after, of loss – a sort of tearing apart and, at the same time a lot of hope. This enabled me to write some extremely romantic songs. Before, my albums had either very committed or very romantic themes. This next album will be a kind of synthesis of these two themes – a bit like the way I am on stage now. Each album is a new adventure and I love it. I wouldn’t like to get to a point where I’m bored and lacking inspiration… For now, I’m still having fun and I’m still inspired. [laughs] 

Will you be coming back to Asia?

I’d love to come back to Hong Kong. Playing in Mainland China next time is also a dream for me. It’s very inspiring – and it’s a dream that I share with the audience. My audiences abroad are made up largely of people from French-speaking countries, but as was the case this time in Hong Kong, there are always local people in the audience who are very happy to see artists who are on the move, those who make the effort to come to them. These kinds of encounters always open my mind; they’re indispensable to my creative process. I’ve always travelled a lot for pleasure, for my commitments as a UNICEF ambassador and for my work. If I didn’t travel, I wouldn’t write the lyrics I do – I wouldn’t be the same person. 

Does your song “Le Monde Tourne Mal” [“The World Turns Evil”] sum up your philosophy of life? 

Yes – despite all of the horrible things that are happening in the world, the message is that we mustn’t forget to enjoy life. That’s why “let’s dance” keeps coming back as a leitmotiv.

Your favourite shower song?

Lovely Day by Bill Withers. 

Your favorite film? 

Boyhood by Richard Linklater.

Which book heroine are you most like?

A red-haired good witch.

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Coffee with… Pascal de Sarthe


French gallery owner talks Art Basel in Hong Kong and shares insights on the art market in Hong Kong and Asia

Coffee with… Pascal de Sarthe


French gallery owner talks Art Basel in Hong Kong and shares insights on the art market in Hong Kong and Asia

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Coffee with…Pascal de Sarthe

February 24, 2017 / by Philippe Dova / Photo: Roy Liu

What made you decide to be based in Asia?

I have been coming to Asia since 1981, doing business first in Japan and Korea, then in the early ’90s in Taiwan, China and Southeast Asia – Asia accounted for half of my business and I quickly started spending two weeks of every month in the region. I was approached by new collectors who were interested in both Western and Eastern art, who appreciated my long experience in dealing with artists of the Chinese diaspora such as Zao Wou-ki and Chu Teh-Chun. In 2010, staying in Asia and opening a gallery in Hong Kong seemed like the natural thing to do.

Why Hong Kong?

Even though there was nothing to indicate that Hong Kong would become the centre of the Asian art market, there was the geographical location, the tax advantages and the start of the art auctions – everything just came together.

Art Basel came to Hong Kong shortly after you did…

There was already Art HK, but Art Basel recognised that the art market in Asia was becoming increasingly important and could possibly overtake the art market in America. For Art Basel, it made sense to take over Art HK and establish themselves here with a solid foundation. 

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Is Hong Kong’s art market one of true art lovers or of speculators? 

Things have changed a lot in the past seven years. At first, the speculators were operating in a market that was tailor-made for them – Hong Kong was a financial hub, with capital flooding in from all over the world, and the art market took advantage of this. Then came a generation of collectors who were interested in art. Collecting is like catching a bug; it’s an addiction. A person can initially take an interest in art in order to speculate, but in the long run if he doesn’t develop a passion for it, then it’s not much fun. 

Does the gallery owner share the passion of the collector?

You can’t sell paintings if you don’t have a passion for art. Unfortunately, today more and more people are opening galleries as if they were luxury shops. They’ll sell artists like fashion trends, which means the life cycle of these artists is limited. When you’re representing an artist, he has to come first. You can’t turn him into a commodity and then abandon him. It’s easy with handbags or clothes, but an artist is a human being. My son has a close relationship with his artists in Beijing, with a dynamic I haven’t seen in a very long time. You can’t put a price on that. That’s how you create genuine art galleries and assume a genuine position in the art market. 

What will you be exhibiting at Art Basel this year?

We’ll be showing only post-war Asian artists and new-generation Beijing artists. At the same time, we’ll be opening our new gallery in Wong Chuk Hang on the south side of Hong Kong Island.

You’re leaving Central?

After six years in Central, I didn’t want to stay there any longer. The area is an aberration for galleries – we don’t have enough space, the ceilings aren’t high enough and the rents per square metre are the most expensive in the world. I knew Wong Chuk Hang a bit – I’d been there to visit some galleries – but I hadn’t realised how important the place was. Today, with its 30 or so galleries, the artists, designers and architects who live there, the new MTR station and with rents one-fifth what they are in Central, this neighbourhood is in the process of becoming the art district that didn’t exist before in Hong Kong. I would readily compare it to Chelsea in New York. We’ve taken a 10,000sqft space with the kinds of volumes necessary for real gallery work, as if we were in New York.

What do you think of shows like the Affordable Art Fair in Hong Kong?

I think it’s a very good thing, because contemporary art shouldn’t be expensive. The market is manipulated in such a way that works of art are worth this or that amount, with no basis in reality. With a few exceptions, a young artist who all of a sudden is priced at US$300,000 will be forgotten a few years later. I think it’s very good for people to be able to buy works of art for a few hundred or a few thousand. It’s fantastic – and it’s how lots of collectors get started. 

Any advice for future collectors? 

Don’t buy anything just yet – educate yourself first. It’s very important to establish a dialogue with a dealer to know what you’re going to like or not like about an artist, and to understand the market. Obviously, when y812ou know nothing about a market, you tend to follow the trends. Unfortunately, too many collectors buy with their ears, not their eyes.

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Coffee with… Franco Dragone


The director of numerous memorable Cirque du Soleil shows such as Ô, Franco Dragone founded his own production company in 2000. His productions have piled success upon stunning success, from the Las Vegas shows Le Rêve and Céline Dion’s A New Day to The House of Dancing Water in Macau – and he’s on to Dubai for his next project

Coffee with… Franco Dragone


The director of numerous memorable Cirque du Soleil shows such as Ô, Franco Dragone founded his own production company in 2000. His productions have piled success upon stunning success, from the Las Vegas shows Le Rêve and Céline Dion’s A New Day to The House of Dancing Water in Macau – and he’s on to Dubai for his next project

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Coffee with…Franco Dragone

February 3, 2017 / by Philippe Dova

Why did you choose Dubai for your next creation? 

The first time I went to Dubai, the city seemed like a laboratory where they were inventing the future. In April 2013, I created Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation in Abu Dhabi for the 250th anniversary of the Qasr al Hosn Fort. We’d done eight shows when the Al Habtoor hotel group, which was building a resort and three hotels in Dubai, asked us to design a theatre and create a new resident show; La Perle was the result. 

A bit like I did for Macau, I took my inspirations from history and my intuition for depicting the transformations taking place in the modern world, Dubai being one of the most striking examples of this. In expressing this vision of the future, I take technology to the furthest possible limits while, at the same time, working on an emotional level and putting human performance at the centre.

Extreme technology for the sake of artistic creation – is this a common feature of all Dragone shows?

Not in every case. The Dai Show in Xishuangbanna has practically no technology. The elements common to our shows are human performance, technology – without overwhelming the human aspect – and the emotions, triggered by images, that speak to people. Visual shows like ours have quite a subtle blend of ingredients and it’s not always easy to get it just right. I’ve often compared my work to that of a chef – give the same ingredients to different chefs and each will prepare a different dish with a different taste.

Water is omnipresent in your shows as well.

For me, water is always a soothing element, an element that brings you back down to earth. Water is something magical. Nothing can replace it. No matter what kinds of movements or virtual reality you create, water is an element that imposes its rhythm on you.

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Is the human-performance aspect a challenge since most of the people you cast aren’t traditional theatre artists? 

It’s an advantage as well as a challenge. It makes it easier for us to get them back to something more natural – to what they were before they became experts in their discipline. We deconstruct them and then give them other reflexes. This takes a lot of time because we have to deconstruct them and then reconstruct them to relate in a more artistic way. They’re interacting with beauty, love, affection and individual excellence – that’s what human performance is. It’s about exceeding the ordinary limits of what a person can do. With theatre and live performance, we can withstand the march of technology and still hope to sow some tiny particles of love, sharing and humanity.

This humanist, utopian dimension seems to be something that has been consistent since you first started creating in the late ’60s. 

Where would we be without it? In today’s world, the individual tends to be seen as a consumer, a commercial entity – but above all else, we are
sensitive beings. In all civilisations, in all cultures, human beings cry and laugh for the same reasons. 

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever had after a show? 

When someone tells me he’s wept with emotion – that means we’ve touched a sensitive chord and that’s immensely moving for me. 

Did the Dragone recipe work for The Han Show, your first show in Mainland China? 

It was my most difficult show because I first had to understand China’s subtleties and differences. Learning about China’s immense cultural heritage was scary – which is why I refused to do a historical show, because it’s something a Chinese person would be able to do much better than me. I wanted to talk about China today, about how it became an example, not because of the stories it told, but because of the things it did. To do this, I had to be very open. The way we work is by engaging the person, asking him, “What do you suggest?” rather than telling him what he should do. 

Sometimes I lost patience because I had to move mountains. Then, little by little, the Chinese performers came to understand that in the theatre, you have to contribute your ideas – you’re not just there to perform on command – and that imagination is the most important muscle. I came to appreciate all of their beautiful and touching qualities. China’s future rests on this generation of artists. They’re a generation in transition, still somewhat steeped in past history, but they’re building the future. 

So what are your plans after Dubai? 

We’re working with the Wanda Group in China on three more shows, as well as on a project for a theme park in Turkey. The most important thing is to release the audience’s own experience. With theme parks, I find this balance between sensation and imagination. That’s what I’m exploring right now – and it’s very exciting.

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Coffee with… Guy Martin


The renowned chef-owner of the two-Michelin-starred Parisian restaurant Le Grand Véfour for the past 25 years has acquired yet another distinction – his I Love Paris restaurant at Charles de Gaulle Airport recently received the Airport Food and Beverage award for Best In-Airport Restaurant Worldwide. On a recent trip to Macau, he discusses the unique French art de vivre

Coffee with… Guy Martin


The renowned chef-owner of the two-Michelin-starred Parisian restaurant Le Grand Véfour for the past 25 years has acquired yet another distinction – his I Love Paris restaurant at Charles de Gaulle Airport recently received the Airport Food and Beverage award for Best In-Airport Restaurant Worldwide. On a recent trip to Macau, he discusses the unique French art de vivre

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Coffee with…Guy Martin

December 9, 2016 / by Philippe Dova

I Love Paris has been named the world’s best airport restaurant. Is this just one more distinction among many for you?

On the contrary – it’s very important. Opening a gastronomic restaurant in an airport was a real challenge, and an exciting thing for me and my partners, Elior Group and Paris Aéroport. We’re very proud of it; it rewards all of the work that has been achieved by the team as a whole.

You’re an ambassador for Paris Aéroport. How did that come about and what is your role? 

Augustin de Romanet, the chairman and CEO of Paris Aéroport, had the wonderful idea of getting people from different backgrounds to be ambassadors for the Paris airports and, by extension, ambassadors for France. As the ambassador in charge of gastronomy, I travel the world to spread the word.

Which means? 

Making it known that France has some exceptional food products, and that we are here to pamper our guests and get them dreaming right from the time they arrive at the airport. For Chinese tourists, for example, we’ve developed a system in Chinese to help guide them through the airport. This makes it easy for them to get to the I Love Paris restaurant, where the menus are translated into Chinese.

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Tell us about Le Grand Véfour.

The place is full of history – it’s listed as a historical monument, a sort of living museum. Le Grand Véfour isn’t stuck in the past, though. We do a very contemporary cuisine that’s about pleasure and well-being, and our service is quite laid back. We’re really into detail, with the sole objective of making our guests happy.

The place is full of history… 

The souls of all of our historical customers float around Le Grand Véfour – Victor Hugo, Jean Cocteau, Alexandre Dumas, Maria Callas and even Napoléon Bonaparte – who, according to the historians, asked for Joséphine’s hand in marriage there. They’re benevolent souls who help me, who put up with me every day. It’s impossible not to be affected by the place. I’ve been there for 25 years, but it feels like yesterday.

Will there be special menus for the holiday season? 

The restaurant will be closed on Christmas Day – I’ll be in Savoie with my family. But on December 31, I’ll be at Le Grand Véfour and we’ll be honouring all the noblest products, like truffles. And we’ll be serving them without holding back so that it will be a real celebration for our customers. At Le Grand Véfour, at my restaurant in the Guerlain shop at 68 Avenue des Champs Elysées and at I Love Paris, we’ll have holiday menus to spoil our customers.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever been paid?

A customer’s smile. We’re happiness merchants, here to make all of the customers happy for the time they’re in our restaurant. The trust and loyalty of our customers – that’s enough for me.

Do you have any plans to open any future restaurants outside France?

Now, I’ve got plans for restaurants in France and in Saint-Barthélémy – my restaurant there will be called Aux Amis de Guy Martin. But I don’t open restaurants just for the sake of it. Every time I open a restaurant, there has to be a kind of friendship established between the investors and me. Choosing the right partner is important. 

Ultimately, what makes you tick?

Showcasing my country and its products around the world. I don’t approach it in a mercantile kind of way. I don’t want to be the richest man on earth. My choices have never been about money, but about what I can bring to a project, about the pleasure I can get from developing it. I’ve turned down some very big contracts that other people have accepted [laughing] because it would have meant losing my soul. Really, I have absolutely no interest in collecting restaurants.

I don’t ever want to lose my soul. I’m lucky to be able to choose my projects. I want the customer who comes to my restaurants to find the same quality, the same high standards. I think this might come from my upbringing. I’m from the mountains, and in the mountains we know that we can never have everything and that the tallest tree in the world will never reach the sky.

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Coffee with… Cute-Cute and Othello


For this special canine issue, we talk exclusively to Hong Kong newlyweds Cute-Cute and Othello. They discuss their relationships with humans, the evolution of dogs in contemporary society and their distinct personalities. Here, we’re presenting the full, unedited transcript – in all of its high drama

Coffee with… Cute-Cute and Othello


For this special canine issue, we talk exclusively to Hong Kong newlyweds Cute-Cute and Othello. They discuss their relationships with humans, the evolution of dogs in contemporary society and their distinct personalities. Here, we’re presenting the full, unedited transcript – in all of its high drama

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with…Cute-Cute and Othello

October 28, 2016 / by Natacha Riva / Photo artwork: Leung Pui Yee

Tell us about your background.

Othello: My ancestors come from Germany. They were deer, bear and wild boar hunters. Before the Second World War, they called us Great Danes because there were so many of us in Denmark. But in the ’20s, they started to call us German Mastiffs, to remind people of our origins.

What about you, Cute-Cute?

Cute-Cute: Oh my origin is from Yorkshire, England, but my ancestors were in Scotland at the beginning of the 19th century. If you want to know more, just Google me…

How did you two meet?

Othello: It was a sunny Sunday afternoon. I had just saved a kid from drowning, helped a blind person cross the street and rescued a cat stuck in a tree. Then I saw Cute-Cute on the opposite side of the road, crossing in a glamorous manner…

Cute-Cute (interrupting): I was just coming out of the hairdresser…

Othello: When suddenly, a car speeding at 100 km/h slammed on the brakes and stopped abruptly. A couple got out of the car, trying to kidnap Cute-Cute…

Cute-Cute: ’Cause I’m so cute!

Othello: So I jumped up and blocked the car with my paws, then smacked them non-stop with my tail to save her.

Cute-Cute: He was just like Bruce Lee!

Othello: That’s how we met – and why we decided to unite for life.

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Wow! What an amazing story.

Cute-Cute & Othello (in unison): Yes.

What are your personalities like?

Cute-Cute: I’m the smallest from the Terrier family – and the cutest. My hair is super-soft. Children and the elderly love me. I’m devoted, clever and (Cute-Cute seamlessly switches into French) a perfect chien de compagnie. I’m versatile, sporty, affectionate. I love nature. I’m the must-have item!

Othello: That’s why people wanted to kidnap you, Cute-Cute.

Cute-Cute: I know, I know…

What about you, Othello?

Othello: I can intimidate people with my size, but I’m actually very easy-going. I prefer a big space to a small apartment. I have natural charisma. But unlike Cute-Cute, I don’t need an acrylic bow in my hair to get attention.

Cute-Cute: Sorry?! What’s that? First, it’s not acrylic, it’s silk!

Othello: Woof-woof.

Cute-Cute: Woof woof woof-woof woooooof! Grrrrrrrrr…

Sorry, what’s going on – may I have a translator, please?

Translator arrives. Cute-Cute and Othello abruptly leave the room…

Translator: They had an argument and just split up. It seems to be
something personal.

Can they please wait until after the interview to split up? They can’t stop now! We have 50 million readers, 52 million views a day on our flagship website and we’re distributed on five continents. They can’t let our readers down over an acrylic tiff!

Translator: Let me talk to them.

Ten minutes later, Cute-Cute and Othello come back, all smiles.

Phew! Okay, shall we carry on? Next question: What’s the relationship between humans and dogs? Who wants to answer that one?

Othello: Humans and dogs have cohabited for more than 15,000 years. The wolf is our ancestor. We were the first species that was domesticated
by humans for hunting back in the Paleolithic period.

Cute-Cute (falling in love all over again): You know so much, Othello – you’re such an erudite beast!

How do you guys keep so fit?

Cute-Cute: I do yoga.

Othello: I don’t need yoga – as you know, I’m a hunter.

Cute-Cute: Me too, if you don’t mind! I’ll have you know the Yorkshire Terrier used to hunt mice and rats.

Othello: Our role has evolved over the years. In ancient times, we were used as fighters.

Cute-Cute: My great-grandpa was a military dog during the war in France. He used to detect explosives. 

Othello: Yes, he was really hard core, unlike Snoopy.

Cute-Cute: What’s wrong with Snoopy, you snob?

Let’s try to stay focused here. Can you sense the mood or the feelings of your owners?

Othello: Of course I can sense if a member of the family is going through personal issues. I’m always there – loyal, faithful and generous.

Cute-Cute: Generous? Not sure about that… woof-woof-Chanel, woof-Gucci, woof-Marc Jacobs – woooooooof… 

Othello: Woof-woof – grrrrrrrrrr.

Cute-Cute. A-woooooo-woo-boo-boo! 

Sorry, what’s going on again? Translator, please!

Translator: Othello didn’t get her the wedding presents she wanted. She’s heartbroken.

What a tragedy – poor Cute-Cute! Hmm, what about education; is it the same for all dogs?

Othello: We need to be trained and it depends on our speciality. I have some friends who are extras on movie sets or top models; they have to be well-trained and structured.

Cute-Cute: I like Lassie, Belle et Sébastien, Beethoven…

Othello: But the greatest was Laika – the first Soviet space dog and the first living animal to orbit the Earth.

Cute-Cute: She was part-Terrier, too, like me.

That was back in 1957.

Cute-Cute: Yes, but animals have been used in aeronautics since 1783. The Montgolfier brothers sent a sheep, a duck and a rooster up in a hot-air balloon as an experiment.

Othello (impressed): Wow, Cute-Cute – in fact, you know lots of things!

Cute-Cute (seductive): I know – I’m not just a pretty face…

Okay, let’s move on. Dogs seem to love to play. Is it just to please their owners? 

Othello: For our physical development, we need that to alleviate the tension… (glancing at Cute-Cute) Especially if you’re married to Cute-Cute.

Cute-Cute: Woof-woof – what?!?

Cute-Cute storms away in a huff and leaves the room again.

Oh no… let’s not start again. Cute-Cute, please, come back!

Cute-Cute sashays her way back in.

Alright, maybe a new topic… Have you heard about the link between dogs and mythology?

Othello: Yes. Dogs hold an important place in mythology; we guided humans’ spirits to the kingdom of death. The Chinese believed a white dog with a black head would bring fortune to its master, while a white one with a black tail would bring honour.

Cute-Cute: Wow, cool! Maybe dyeing your hair could be an option, Othello?

Uhh… it’s getting late, so let’s get to our last question. What is the general relationship between dogs?

Othello: We can be unpredictable with other dogs in terms of reactions. But we are sociable. We can suffer in solitude – and we are always looking for friends.

Cute-Cute: That’s why I have my Facebook and Instagram. I have lots of friends and followers. By the way, when will this interview be published?

October 28.

Cute-Cute: Can I have a PDF of the interview? I want to put it on my Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, Weibo, Twitter and Woof Woof-Woof.

Sure.

Cute-Cute: Can you also please ask your graphic designer to Photoshop my snout – my owner skipped my Botox session this week.

Othello: Woof, Botox grrrr, woof-woof!

Cute-Cute: Woooooof woof-woof woof.

Okay, let’s call it a day. May I have a dry vodka martini, please?!

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Coffee with… Wong Chun-ting


On October 3, Hong Kong’s ping-pong prince, Wong Chun-ting, won his first World Cup singles medal – the bronze in the International Table Tennis Federation Men’s World Cup in Saarbrücken, Germany. Standing on the podium, the new world’s No. 7 brushed off all feelings of disappointment from his performance at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where he was stopped at the final 16 in the men’s singles and in the quarterfinals of the team competitions – results that shocked many fans. But Wong, 25, is clearly back on the path in hot pursuit of his dreams.

Coffee with… Wong Chun-ting


On October 3, Hong Kong’s ping-pong prince, Wong Chun-ting, won his first World Cup singles medal – the bronze in the International Table Tennis Federation Men’s World Cup in Saarbrücken, Germany. Standing on the podium, the new world’s No. 7 brushed off all feelings of disappointment from his performance at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where he was stopped at the final 16 in the men’s singles and in the quarterfinals of the team competitions – results that shocked many fans. But Wong, 25, is clearly back on the path in hot pursuit of his dreams.

People > Coffee with...


 

Coffee with… Wong Chun-ting

by Luis Liu / Photo: Roy Liu

How do you feel after winning the bronze in the World Cup?

The week was perfect for me. I’m really happy, with the title being my first medal in the singles event of a major world tournament – and winning a medal in my first World Cup appearance is also cool. Not easy, not easy! 

This seemed especially important for you after a not-that-satisfactory Olympics.

Yes, I saw the Olympics as an inevitable experience to sharpen and harden myself. All that sadness will be transformed into energy for my next four years as I strive to win it back in Tokyo in 2020 – no fear. I said to myself that I will be back in Tokyo, no matter what happens, even if I lose all my matches in the next four years. I will put everything into the journey. Right now, all I want is to keep our team together, especially for my “big brother” Tang Peng [Hong Kong’s former No. 1 player, who is now 35 and likely to retire due to cumulative injuries]. 

What was the feeling when you made your first full appearance in the Olympics? You were the substitute on the team last time in London in 2012. 

The Olympics is the Olympics – the atmosphere and the crowd were so different from previous tournaments that I have attended. It naturally brings out emotions in athletes. Standing on the court, you feel the magic. Technically, 2012 was my first taste, but sitting on the bench and watch teammates play was like – you know. You’re excited, but can’t escape from the tension. In the first match, I was so energetic but simply couldn’t put up all my strength. The feeling was so strong and unprecedented – really unforgettable. 

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It must have been a dream come true for the little boy who wasn’t tall enough and had to stand on tiptoes to play ping-pong at his housing estate.

It’s already far more than I could have imagined. A late starter like me, standing in the world top ten – it’s a miracle. When I was a kid, I only dreamed of a chance to stand on the Olympics court. Now, I’ve made it.

You’ve rocketed to the world’s No 7 table-tennis player over the past two years. You were seen as the strongest after the Chinese national team players and were called the “Japanese terminator” by many local fans. Did you ever envision what eventually happened in Rio, where you lost three times to Japanese players?

To be honest, that was the worst result I could imagine. I’d thought about it before the matches. We had split the previous matches and whoever was in better form won. This time, it must have been their chance. Meanwhile, two of the Japanese players had competed in at least two Olympics, while I was a newcomer – their experience was priceless. It’s all about the confidence one has when standing on the court.

Didn’t you feel frustrated?

Yes, the greatest pity was that I couldn’t bring glory to my city. But there were still good things about it; now I know what it feels like to compete in the Olympics. This is something that almost all players have to go through – and I’ve gone through it now. I see Rio as a starting point and I think I’m ready to take it to the next level.

What is the next level, for you?

Becoming the world’s No. 5 player – usually the top four spots are occupied by Chinese national team players – and hopefully in the next year.

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Coffee with… Alexis Holm


The explosion of Scandinavian style and the rise of Sheung Wan as a stylish shopping destination can be partly attributed to Swedish native Alexis Holm, who opened his 15squarestreet boutique in 2010 in a historical area that features the Man Mo Temple and traditional coffin-makers

Coffee with… Alexis Holm


The explosion of Scandinavian style and the rise of Sheung Wan as a stylish shopping destination can be partly attributed to Swedish native Alexis Holm, who opened his 15squarestreet boutique in 2010 in a historical area that features the Man Mo Temple and traditional coffin-makers

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with…Alexis Holm

August 26, 2016 / by Kitty Go / Photo: Roy Liu

The 15squarestreet shop was originally an office for your product design business. Why did you turn it into a retail destination? 

This space morphed into a store almost immediately because we had products to sell. [Former business partner] David Ericsson had the watch brand Void and I had the footwear brand Gram. David hung watches in the front window and people started coming in. Later, we added hanging shelves to display our own jewellery – our first products after watches were sunglasses and jewellery. We also made small leather bags and accessories by hand in the store. Being Swedish, we wanted our store to be as utilitarian as the products we sold, so we started thinking of stocking other brands. 

Your merchandise mix is very tightly edited. How do you decide what brands to carry versus your own designs? 

Financially, it’s better for us to bring in brands. If I only sold what I liked, it would all be very beautiful, but no one would buy it. So I buy stuff, then test the market – it’s an ongoing process. Shoes and watches sell the best, but I won’t just buy anything that I know will sell. I also want something unique; I’m a designer and a buyer. Brands don’t have to just be Scandinavian or Swedish; we have Japanese, German and Australian brands. As much as possible, though, I try to keep it Swedish. 

Define Scandinavian style. 

Scandi style is utilitarian, mainly because of the harsh climate. It has a singular focus with an emphasis on one quality. For example, if there’s a “crazy” shoe, the shoe is crazy, but the material is normal – or you have a crazy pattern and a normal shoe. 

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What characteristics do you look for in your wares? 

There’s a unisex feel to our merchandise. Since I make stuff myself, I’m aware of what I want in terms of quality and its relation to utility. Let’s say you buy the best-quality stilettos and walk on cobblestones, or buy a watch made of acetate and bang it around. That’s not poor quality – it’s wrong usage. 

When you opened, the Scandi trend wasn’t as popular as it is today. Sheung Wan also wasn’t a hip shopping destination – in fact, Square Street is still a place for funerary supplies. What made you set up shop at 15 Square Street? 

We have no superstitious beliefs; we’re Swedish, rational and secular. If anything, we just think being here is cool. Next door is a company that has been dressing dead people for 100 years. We have done very well here and, seeing as the address is the name of the shop, we’re stuck! I definitely didn’t think Scandi style was going to become so popular, but we hoped it would be liked. Even back then, people told us how much they loved Swedish brands like H&M, COS and & Other Stories. 

Who are 15squarestreet customers? 

We aren’t a Benetton ad, but because of the neighbourhood, they aren’t typical. It’s split evenly between Hong Kong Chinese and Western people. I’m constantly surprised, because sometimes we even get 70-year-olds who gravitate to Gram. Anyone who comes in can find something grown-up. I don’t want it to be too stiff or too clean – it still has to be funky and fun. As a designer, my basic problem is connecting to a lifestyle. But if I do, then I limit myself, because we’re product-focused and not completely Swedish. 

Have you worked with any local brands on projects? 

We are starting to collaborate – right now, we’re working with an illustrator who deserves more attention. If there’s anything Hong Kong needs, it’s talented locals starting brands. It’s happening now and things are better than ever. I used to complain a lot about people not being creative enough, but along with the rest of Hong Kong changing, this has changed, too. 

What do you see as the future of Scandi style in Asia? 

The Scandi trend requires a certain level of appreciation and Hong Kong has to reach that level. China, which is a little further behind, will get to that level, too. It’s more than a product, but a lifestyle that includes clean air and open landscapes. Especially with social media and the fact that people now know everything instantaneously, it should speed things up for us. Indonesia is not there yet, but it will happen soon because trends are consumed very quickly. Thailand has its own version of this aesthetic: wood, white and plants. All their cafes look the same – organic, minimal and fresh. But they also bring country cottage-style cutesy from Japan, which is not my style. 

How have your tastes shifted over the years and is it reflected in your inventory at 15squarestreet?

Well, I’d say I got smarter. As I’ve grown up, we don’t do all the creative stuff that doesn’t sell. When I was younger, I’d look at older people and think, “I’ll never wear that.” Now I actually like that stuff. But I also want to stay connected, otherwise I’ll have to change demographics. Even if I’m 45, I have to know what 25-year-olds want.

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Coffee with… Scott Campbell


Scott Campbell has made a name for himself in the world of ink, carving out tattoos on everybody from celebrities to inmates. The Louisiana native, who has become a collectible artist in his own right, discusses his recent leather-tattooing project with Berluti

Coffee with… Scott Campbell


Scott Campbell has made a name for himself in the world of ink, carving out tattoos on everybody from celebrities to inmates. The Louisiana native, who has become a collectible artist in his own right, discusses his recent leather-tattooing project with Berluti

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with… Scott Campbell

June 24, 2016 / by Mary Kathleen Sutherland / Photo: Roy Liu

Your tattoo designs for Berluti this season started with an animal theme, but morphed into designs that are really graphic and seem Native American-inspired. 

I made them up, but the drawings are inspired by the trip we made to Marfa, Texas. [Former Berluti creative director] Alessandro Sartori was inspired by the environment and essence of the American southwest desert – sand, scrubs, grasses and dirt roads – and the Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum founded by American artist Donald Judd, known for his sharp-edged style. I designed with that in mind as a starting point and saw how it went. I created five graphic designs featuring symmetrical repetitions, but with a lot of movement. 

You have worked on many strange surfaces, including ostrich eggs and dollar bills. What’s the difference between working with human skin and leather?

Leather doesn’t move as much or complain. With people, it’s completely different because you have to put the ink into the skin but not damage it. For the Berluti leather tattoo project, they have craftsmen who have been doing it on leather for 20 years, which is a totally different skill. I personally am more comfortable tattooing on human skin than on leather. 

How did the project with Berluti come about? 

I’ve had a relationship with Marc Jacobs – including tattooing him – and Louis Vuitton for a long time. [Berluti CEO] Antoine Arnaulthas bought my art. Alessandro Sartori came by the studio; we talked about ideas and got along really well. The relationship felt really natural and organic. Then we had a conversation about starting it in Marfa. They were so generous with the freedom they allowed me. Now I am redoing the tattoo catalogue, for special orders, with 20 new designs this year and another 20 next year. 

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You came from a biochemistry background – what got you into tattoos? Did working at a bookstore also influence the decision and, given that, how important is text or lettering in your work? 

I started tattooing because I love drawing – and it gives me the freedom of drawing pictures all day while being able to feed myself. I fell in love with tattooing for the freedom it gave me. Text is a powerful tool in my work and I hardly work with colour. I usually do black and white just because it’s a matter of taste, like some photographers like to only work with black and white. It has a timeless quality to it. 

What would you say is your dream tattoo project – or have you already done it? 

I’m very lucky that my clients give me a lot of freedom. Every one I do is a dream design. People I tattoo now are very generous and yielding. I usually sit with someone for 30 minutes to an hour before doing the tattoo and talk to him, to get an understanding of his personality and to see what motivates him, so that what I design for him is an honest interpretation of his feelings. Motivation is an important part of the dialogue because I have to discover the emotional and decorative reasons for a tattoo, which are the two parts that comprise it. 

There are other tattoo artists who are cheaper than me who just copy designs, but people really come to me for my work. 100% decorative is boring and people get affected when they have big changes in their lives, like falling in love or the passing of a loved one. These big things make them feel that they’re out of their control. Getting a tattoo empowers you to feel that you have control of your life. I have this bird tattoo and, for the rest of my life, I have something permanent that reminds me of a change, yet it’s a reassuring symbol of control.

You’ve tattooed people from all walks of life, from street gang members and inmates at a maximum-security prison to international celebrities. Have you ever tattooed dead people?

No, I haven’t, but in memory of the dead I have mixed the deceased person’s ashes with tattoo ink that I used on a client. I thought Keith Richards snorting his dad’s ashes was amazing, so I thought I could use a similar idea in tattoos. 

What has been your most elaborate tattoo or one that you are most proud of? 

That’s like asking someone who their favourite child is! They’re all honest designs based on a particular time and place – it’s impossible to pick favourites. I like tattoos with a strong emotional connection. Elaborate doesn’t necessarily mean powerful.

Are there any specific trends in tattoo art? 

In the ’90s, there was less of it and it wasn’t so popular. Those that had it would get what others got. Now, since it’s not as scandalous anymore, people are motivated to get something different. The trend now is that no one wants a trend. There are no rules anymore in tattooing and there is no “usual” so it has become a medium that is being explored more than ever. 

Could you tell us what you were doing in a maximum-security prison in Mexico City? How did that visit contribute to your resulting watercolours show Things Get Better at the former Ohwow Gallery in Los Angeles in 2013?

I spent six weeks there, originally photographing tattoos because it had become part of pop culture. I’m always looking for tattoos that are powerful with meaning and purpose. Prisons have a population where people are dressed in orange suits and given numbers, which makes life homogenous and dehumanising. Tattoos claim your identity. I tattooed about 20 people in there, but to do that I had to make machines using materials only available in prison, since I wasn’t allowed to bring my own equipment. I had to make machines out of things like safety razors, pens, batteries, combs, VCR motor parts, toothbrushes. That effort resulted in makeshift machines, which I liked so much because they were symbols of ingenuity and illustrated what it was like to work with limitations. So I painted watercolours of them. 

At least to outsiders, there aren’t many role models for a tattoo artist. Who influences you the most? 

Tattooing is more folk art than art because it’s passed down from one person to another. I love Raymond Pettibon’s Black Flag album covers and illustrations. His sense of story in paintings resonates with a punk-rock kid like me; he’s what I hang on the wall in my house. German artist Hans Bellmer has clean lines that are deliberate and with great emphasis. Others I like are Cy Twombly, Jean-Michel Basquiat and cartoonist Charles Burns. And I admire the work of Baltimore-based tattoo artist Daniel Higgs, who doesn’t work very much anymore but is a real poetic folk artist. 

You once told The New York Times, “If the art world shuns me, I can still do tattoos.” Do you see your work as art or merely a craft? 

It has always been a craft. Tattooing has always been very blue-collar and working class. But I think it’s now kind of being more appreciated as an actual art form. It’s interesting that tattooing itself can only be spontaneous. You’ll never see one at Christie’s or Sotheby’s, and there is no secondary market. It can’t be mass-produced. If you do it on a sticker, then you go into the sticker business. It’s folk art, like people who make signs or pinstriping on cars. Tattoos are done by people who are good at drawing, but we are like plumbers, electricians and mechanics. It’s still a service industry. 

You mentioned stickers. What do you think about sticker tattoos? 

Stickers are aesthetic. I think tattoos are reserved for images and symbols that are at the core of people’s emotional beliefs. When someone gets a tattoo, he usually has a feeling so powerful that putting it on a sticker or on a T-shirt isn’t enough. It’s an idea that’s loved and embraced so completely, it can’t wash off. It becomes part of you and without it you feel uncomfortable. 

What’s the process when clients come in to get a tattoo?

First we sit down and talk about why they want one, and what they want to commemorate or acknowledge. I try to get an understanding of why they want it. I design something that looks good and represents this feeling. I have turned down commissions that are negative or self-destructive – those are messages that they may regret later. Then we have another appointment later for the designs. It takes me one or two days to work on a design. For large tattoos, I do an outline, then wait for the healing period of one to two weeks, and then they come back for the rest. Now I try to do everything in one day so people don’t have to wait because of my schedule. Getting a tattoo isn’t that painful because many people have multiple tattoos – and if it was so painful, no one would get it done.

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Coffee with… Howard Cai


The renowned Chinese food critic, whisky expert and international food judge discusses his latest Hong Kong venture, Howard’s Gourmet

Coffee with… Howard Cai


The renowned Chinese food critic, whisky expert and international food judge discusses his latest Hong Kong venture, Howard’s Gourmet

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with… Howard Cai

May 27, 2016 / by Emily Zhang / Photo: Roy Liu

Why did you decide to open Howard’s Gourmet in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong offers the confluence of East and West. It has preserved many good parts of Chinese culture while accepting a Western influence. So I think Hong Kong is a great place to develop gastronomy. 

Tell us the difference between this venture and previous ones.

I can only say it’s my first edition, second edition, third edition or fourth edition – because for me, good cuisine consists of three parts. The first part is classic, which will be ordered by many people. In my restaurant, this includes a sea cucumber dish and spicy-sour noodles. The second part is seasonal dishes and the third part is innovation. Every menu in my restaurant includes these three things. 

As for the difference between the Howard’s Gourmet in Guangzhou and Hong Kong, I think the latter is more international. Hong Kong has more people who understand the knowledge of eating.

Where can we see the standout qualities of your cuisine?

The first thing is the ingredients – they must be the best. Secondly, you need to have the best flavour. There are three layers of good flavour – a good balance of fibre, a good balance of protein and, most importantly, an aftertaste. Just like good wine, good food always couples with the aftertaste. When my guests come back, they always remember the delicious taste of my dishes.

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How would you define people who really know about eating?

Those who know about eating have the ability to appreciate good food. For some people, they prefer food with flavouring. For others, they don’t like too much process with the food. There are two concepts of taste. The first taste comes with good material. The second comes with very little process, which brings out the original flavour of the food. That is, respect for the ingredients. It’s very difficult, because the culinary experience for everyone is personal.

You managed a chemical factory in the US before opening your restaurant in Guangzhou. What was the biggest challenge in your career transformation?

For me, it wasn’t that difficult. Maybe because I am an ethnic Teochew, my heritage is evident in my cooking. But to be honest, I never expected to reach today’s success. I planned to open a restaurant after closing my chemical factory in the US. The most difficult thing for me was that I objectively thought people would all like my food. I spent seven to eight months to adjust this feeling, which put my personal preferences first. When everything goes to the market, it needs customisation.

Howard’s Gourmet doesn’t have a menu. Have you encountered any difficulties in promoting your style? 

For our new restaurant in Hong Kong, 50% of the customers are my returning customers, so they know what I am doing. Hong Kong is an open-minded city where it’s easier to accept new things. But I know many restaurants – especially Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong – are willing to offer the menu before guests arrive. We don’t do that. Some people have asked me to fax the menu to them. I said that we don’t have a menu and they were very surprised. I asked, “Would you require the chefs of a Japanese or French restaurant to fax you their menu in advance?” They said no. 

Some people think there’s no such thing as “fine dining” when it comes to Chinese cuisine. How would you respond?

The way Chinese people do business and see business is different from others. Fine dining is a kind of exquisite craftsmanship. The chef makes every dish very slowly and carefully. Chefs present different dishes every day, and there’s no regular pattern for that because dishes are not products. I have been in this business for ten years and have built up mutual trust with my guests. If you come to my place, you have to trust me. 

Who influenced you the most in your culinary career? 

My mother has had a very deep influence on me. She has a born gift with taste. She knows how many ingredients she needs and she knows about quantity management. Now she’s 78 years old and she can cook the same great dishes as she always does. I use this quantity management when operating the kitchen. That’s why we’re more efficient than traditional Chinese restaurants.

Your restaurant has been lauded by many celebrities. David Beckham even invited you to cook for him in London last year.

At first, his team invited me to attend the launch of his in-house whisky den in London as a whisky expert. Later, they asked me if I would like to make two dishes for dinner. I was happy to do so – but of course, they had to pay.

What did you make?

I bought all the fresh ingredients in the biggest seafood market in London. Because David likes garlic, I made lobster simmered in garlic; the other dish was made of pumpkin and scallop. Most importantly, they tasted even better with David’s liquor. He loved it.

What’s your overall vision for Howard’s Gourmet?

If I can keep doing it, I hope I can cook with my own feeling for the ingredients and flavours. I will come up with new ideas to create dishes, building up a platform to communicate with gourmets and diners. I want to make the most of my passion for creation and ingredients to do such things, step by step. 

If you had to choose a “last dish” in your life, what would you make?

I think it might be a bowl of Teochew congee. The feelings about congee are in the DNA of Teochew people. It might be the end of the life – and the best food you have ever tried. After having all gastronomic indulgences, everything comes back to a bowl of congee. Rice plays an important role in Chinese culture, especially in the southern area of the Yangtze River. I think when I’m getting old and can’t do anything else, I will make congee.

Photo taken at Iberico & Co, Central

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Coffee with… Ben Yung


The Hong Kong designer discusses launching his brand b.yu and promoting local fashion

Coffee with… Ben Yung


The Hong Kong designer discusses launching his brand b.yu and promoting local fashion

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with… Ben Yung

April 29, 2016 / by Babette Radclyffe / Photo: Edmond Tang

How did you end up becoming a fashion designer?

I was always interested in style and fashion as a kid, but was never artistic or dreamed of working in the creative industry. Growing up, my parents were the typical Chinese parents: “Do well in school and study hard.” I was working as an accountant when one day I threw caution to the wind, quit my job and moved to London to study fashion full-time at the prestigious London College of Fashion. After I graduated, I worked at American Eagle Outfitters in New York, and in London from high-street to more expensive labels such as French Connection and John Lewis. The rest, as they say, is history.

Where do you find most of your creative inspiration? 

I love looking at art, architecture and photography. I work with a lot of prints, so I concentrate on things such as lines, colours and textures, all of which I find plenty of in the city of Hong Kong. I try to push myself every season to try and do something different, which I do by going around the world, finding inspiration. My latest collection, Birds of Paradise, was inspired by the species of birds found in New Guinea, so there are a lot of feathers in the designs. It looked amazing on the catwalk – I really loved it.

What are some of your best-selling designs? And what can we expect from your next collection?

Our best-selling designs tend to be dresses that can be worn in the boardroom during the day and at the office party at night. Designs that aren’t too fussy and are flattering to the body will always appeal to the busy modern woman. In terms of what’s next, I’m still in the initial stages of designing my upcoming runway collection. I’m also working on an exciting project that will allow me to showcase my designs in mainland China and bring a whole new audience to the b.yu brand. 

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Is there a growing interest among consumers for new Hong Kong fashion designers? 

I think with fashion, there will always be a tendency or even an obsession to find the “next big thing” and the next new designer. So there will always be an interest to discover new designers locally in Hong Kong or overseas. What is positive, however, is that as designers, we are beginning to see that fashion lovers, especially in Hong Kong, are no longer just slaves to the big European and American labels and the typical high-street brands. More and more consumers are open to new designers and go out of their way to source locally, discover these creative people and judge their work based on their merit, rather than on the name or reputation of that label.

How does the Hong Kong customer compare to your clientele in the rest of the world? 

They’re just like any customer in the world. Technology and social media have enabled consumers to instantly find out everything about your brand. A lot of customers are very demanding now; they like to know the story behind the label, they want to have a connection and understanding of the design process, and they want to know how your brand can relate to them. I think for many designers, and especially a small independent label like mine, it’s no longer enough to just compete on pricing or volume. The b.yu woman is exactly what our brand name represents: being you and being your true self. She’s confident, stylish and not afraid to stand out in a crowd.

You’ve become quite a fixture at Hong Kong Fashion Week, most recently showing your fall/winter 2016 collection. How do you find
the experience?

To be completely honest, I have mixed feelings about Hong Kong Fashion Week. On the one hand, it’s a great opportunity to showcase my latest
collections to buyers and my clientele. But a lot of local designers find it increasingly difficult to attract regional and international buyers, maybe because Hong Kong has lost its competitive edge as a fashion capital in Asia. We are facing competition from Seoul, Shanghai and Singapore. So I think Hong Kong designers need more promotion and support from the industry and the local government to help us compete on the global stage.

What’s your favourite fashion memory?

I will never forget that feeling backstage, just moments before presenting a collection on the runway. I will always treasure seeing the models walking down the runway and the reaction of the audience seeing my designs for the first time. It’s a mixture of elation, excitement and ecstasy all rolled into one – and I can assure you, that feeling is addictive.

Photo taken at Iberico & Co, Central

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Coffee with… Dee Poon


The managing director and chief brand officer of luxury shirtmaker PYE discusses the importance of a good fit

Coffee with… Dee Poon


The managing director and chief brand officer of luxury shirtmaker PYE discusses the importance of a good fit

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with… Dee Poon

April 1, 2016 / by Kitty Go / Photo: Roy Liu

The PYE stores have a definitive style and are clearly very different from most luxury boutiques – tell us about that. 

Each of our stores has its own concept: Pacific Place, Shanghai, Urumqi and Guangzhou all look different from each other. We start with architects as opposed to interior designers because in a retail environment, you start with space. It’s also how my brain works when I think of how to engage with the world. I like architects because of their vision of space and their ideas. We worked with New York architects Leong Leong on our Central store, where the concept is mathematical and fluid, with a sense of openness but also fun. For our Pacific Place store, we worked with Ray Chen, a Taiwanese architect famous for building the Eslite stores. There, we moved through China’s dynasties within the space. 

How do you attract customers to the brand and stand out in the market? 

The reality is that when you start a brand, it’s an exploration of the way people live. We’ve always been different because we are a Chinese brand. I
started at PYE 10 years ago and have noticed that people engage more with what’s behind a brand. And a lot of the things we care about, other people also care about – such as a sustainable, environmentally conscious vertical operation. We embody modernity without excessive flashiness. It’s a male question of looking good but not being overly groomed. What it means to be masculine in the West is different in Asia and across our markets; the Chinese view is Confucian in terms of intellect. The hipster doesn’t exist in China, nor does the overly flamboyant. For the Chinese, the scholarly gentleman is an idealised form and the techie is an archetype people aspire to. Yet, people are looking to individualism. Elegance is not something American men generally use to define their style, but the Asian man understands that, and also aspires to it with grace and intelligence. 

What are your plans for PYE’s women’s line? 

It hasn’t been a core focus for us, but for autumn/winter 2016, we will have a clear direction. A lot of brands transition and move so fast. We did men’s first because we knew that’s what we do best. The collection is for women on the go who want to look good. What I wear shouldn’t be a monumental decision. I get up in the morning and spend a little time getting dressed, but I can’t spend an hour a day primping – so I want to make clothes that extend to circumstances that make your life easy, and that’s all it is. We’re not a peacock brand. If you compare the quality of men’s and women’s clothing, men’s is so much better – and I want to share this standard with women. We aren’t using a fast-fashion model. Casual and ladies’ will be delivered every two months and men’s shirts are delivered ten times a year. 

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PYE has existed in Hong Kong and China since 1984. Why did Esquel, the parent company and one of the biggest shirt manufacturers in the world, decide to enter the niche luxury retail market?

There were 100 stores in China and Hong Kong, then we rebranded in the year 2000 to focus on one product that we do best. I saw an opportunity to deliver an interesting product to the market. Esquel does a lot of research and development – 300-count yarns, special weaves using cotton, silk, yak, cashmere, a cotton-wool blend with nano-technology for a hoodie. We may not be ready to give that to a manufacturing customer, or they may not be ready to adopt it for themselves. This gives us a chance to use what we develop and bring things to market that more discerning people may like. We have the luck and luxury of being backed by a big company that does things well for the long term. From product development to returning customers who live with and use our products for some time, nothing is immediate – it’s a slow burn. We’re not about getting bigger, but getting more interesting and fun. 

We also really want to share our core values. When you mention a factory in China, people think sweatshops and polluters – but we’re none of that. We want to be a positive force, but without a consumer-facing platform, it’s very hard to share that with the world. PYE is in itself a business that is important to Esquel’s growth and we learn a lot from being in retail. But it’s also a laboratory for new ideas, materials and products – and a PR exercise. All businesses are PR exercises, because they have to communicate about their products. I think all brands start with a great product and not just dreams. If I don’t have a great product, I feel we are gypping people. 

What are your customers and the competition like? 

In China, of course they’re mostly local Chinese, but in Hong Kong we have 30% each of Mainland Chinese, locals and Westerners, and 10% from other places. They originally come to us out of curiosity and our marketing efforts, but what keeps them coming back is the product. I consider all brands that make shirts – Zegna, Boss, Canali, Ralph Lauren, Ascot Chang, and even J.Crew and APC – our competitors. What we have done really well is to provide great value without being ostentatious. Unlike most brands that have to buy fabric, we make everything from the fabric to the final product in our factories, and our customers know and appreciate it.

How do you deal with the fit?

Customers come to us because we have a great fit and we cut really well. Fit is a choice. Many find our fit better than specialist shirtmakers or tailors. Our shirts may not be individually tailored, but they’re cut really well. We have four body fits, 150 size combinations, and many combinations of collars, sleeves and cuffs. We have a lot of experience and take so much care – fitting, studying movement, distribution of body mass. But what people also forget is that a great tailor should not only know how to cut and sew, but also know the importance of the interiors and finishing such as pressing, interlining, and top-quality buttons and buttonholes. 

Your collars are named after mathematicians and earlier you mentioned the use of mathematical concepts in your store designs. Where does this interest stem from?

Math is universal and a foundation of knowledge. My mom was a mathematician. It’s a common shared language and for a global community, so we can share and have a dialogue. PYE is Chinese but also math, which is as precise as our dress shirts are.

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Coffee with... Thibault Pontallier & Arthur de Villepin


The brainchild of two good friends, Pont des Arts connects the world of wine and spirits with that of fine art. The dynamic duo are now aiming to connect the hearts and minds of oenophiles and convene art's cognoscenti, through a new lifestyle society

Coffee with... Thibault Pontallier & Arthur de Villepin


The brainchild of two good friends, Pont des Arts connects the world of wine and spirits with that of fine art. The dynamic duo are now aiming to connect the hearts and minds of oenophiles and convene art's cognoscenti, through a new lifestyle society

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with… Thibault Pontallier & Arthur de Villepin

February 26, 2016 / by Natacha Riva / Photo: Roy Liu

Tell us how Pont des Arts came about. 

Thibault Pontallier: When we met, Arthur said he wanted to do something different with art. Maybe not a gallery, but something special – he couldn’t put a finger on it. And I said I wanted to do something different with wine.
Arthur de Villepin: So we thought about our mutual interests and then said, “Okay, let’s do something together. Art and wine.”
And then boom – it started in one day!
TP: The key in business is to find a good partner. For Arthur and me, it was great; we met in Hong Kong and we have complementary qualities.

What can we expect this year?

TP: We’re doing a Corton grand cru and a Chassagne Montrachet premier cru with the Étienne de Montety family. We are also going to do some Lalande-de-Pomerol with the Thienpont family in Bordeaux – the name might not be as familiar, but they’re at the top in terms of wine. Then we’ll do a Champagne grand cru with Pierre Péters; I think we’re the first to do that.
AdV: Every year we have something new to announce – it’s just like Fashion Week. Since 2010, each year we have had a millésime [vintage] and an artist that will make sense for the project. For the next collection, we’re working with a Spanish artist, as we are probably doing Spanish wine. We also went to a whisky distillery in Japan; we’re going to do 1,000 bottles of whisky in Japan with a French artist – nobody’s done that before, I think.

Are you expanding into events, too?

AdV: Well, we’ve also created a “lifestyle society” – like a club gathering with art and wine. We won’t sell anything, but for one night we will explore an artist. One night, one wine and one artist. We don’t want to be just a retail entity. People used to be very loyal to brands, but today they want different things. Pont des Arts can also become a new platform for people who want to convene to discuss art and wine over dinner – and grow their network.
TP: It’s about the adventure and meeting amazing people. It’s an experience we want to explore and that’s why we created our lifestyle society. Pont des Arts is something that brings people together: to learn, network and, most importantly, have great fun doing it. Chinese clients who invest in Pont des Arts are people who want to be part of the dream – and we are the bridge to that.

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How did you come up with the name?

TP: We were searching for months. We wanted to represent France with the best in terms of wine and dreams.
AdV: I was speaking on the phone with my sister about it – sharing this knowledge of France, we would be like a bridge. I was writing names on a piece of paper while she was talking and when I wrote Pont des Arts, I knew that was it. I called Thibault 10 minutes later.
TP: And he said, “Thibault, I found it!” When he said Pont des Arts, I said, “That’s it! It’s perfect!”
AdV: I was raised in Paris. So for me, I mean, how many times have I drunk wine on the Pont des Arts with some friends and a guitar…
TP: And two years later in China, someone made the point that within this name is both our names – ‘Art’ like Arthur, and ‘Pont’ like Pontallier – we never even thought of that! We never wanted to give any personal identification in the name. We wanted to celebrate the artists, as we are the bridge for that. We don’t have big egos.
AdV: Yes. We are not the artists – that’s the key point. We promote artists. We bring people together. This is our job.

So it’s a wine combined with a dose of cultural enlightenment?

TP: Yes. When you’re in a shop looking at Burgundy bottles and you don’t know which one to buy, that’s where Pont des Arts succeeds. Great winemakers, great design, great gifts – you know what you’ll get. It’s not cheap, but you’re getting quality. So you open a case of bottles, discover six or seven different wines and spirits, and then you also discover different things about art; it’s like a miniature art and wine exhibition. 

It sounds like some sort of luxury counterculture…

TP: Wine is a more limited business. It’s always funny for me to see fashion brands doing limited-edition products. For example, if you are a bagmaker, if you have good leather, and if you employ the right people and train them, then you can actually produce as many bags as you want; it’s more a question of marketing. But, if you want to produce Corton or Chassagne-Montrachet, as we are this year, it’s called “limited edition” because it is – you just can’t do more than 1,200 bottles. Even if you wanted to do more, you couldn’t. It can be frustrating, but at least it’s a genuine limited-edition product; it’s not simply a marketing term. 

What are your combined strengths?

TP: Arthur is very artistic; he’s very sensitive to beauty and to art. We like the idea of being serious without being too serious.
AdV: We became business partners and friends at the same time. One thing he didn’t mention before is that he takes singing lessons – and when we launched the company, he used to sing our business plans! I have the recordings somewhere… and sometimes I feel like he could just leave and become a singer, or have a completely different life and live with a girlfriend in South America!
TP: That doesn’t make me sound stable! [Laughter] And Arthur used to play the guitar when I was singing, so it wasn’t only me!

Have you thought about any other wine-related endeavours?

TP: We’re discussing the possibility of composing a short piece for each wine with a pianist in China. Six wines, six musical pieces…
AdV: For example, Bordeaux is more intense, dynamic and energetic, whereas Burgundy can be softer.

Where do you see things heading?

TP: The way the company has grown is the way we have grown as people. At 25, you have so many desires. With Pont des Arts, we had the dream and desire, and now we’re starting to know how to make it happen. I know more about where I want to go in life with Pont des Arts – I’m celebrating my 30s in three months…
AdV: You learn a lot with the first company you set up. But you don’t want it to be a failure. We’ve gone through some tough times, but at the same time we think maturity brings greater strength. We know in the next five years that Pont des Arts will be a big player.
 

TP: And big player isn’t just in terms of numbers; it means developing in the lifestyle industry. We see this as our baby and something long-term. Art and wine are two of the oldest businesses in the world. We don’t want to revolutionise things and we won’t pretend we can change the world with Pont des Arts. But if we are recognised in 10 years as a new way to enjoy art, wine, spirits and lifestyle, I think we will have won.

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Coffee with… Kim Robinson


The Australian-born hairstylist to the stars arrived in Hong Kong in the 1970s and has recently released a new book focused on building women’s confidence through style

Coffee with… Kim Robinson


The Australian-born hairstylist to the stars arrived in Hong Kong in the 1970s and has recently released a new book focused on building women’s confidence through style

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with… Kim Robinson

December 22, 2015 / by Kitty Go / Photo: Edmond Tang

Your new book, Go Get Gorgeous, resulted from a real-life international modelling success story right here in Hong Kong, with a girl from China.

Her name is August and she’s now on the cover of my book. Two years ago, this young girl from a Chinese province was sent here – a regional agency told me not to touch her hair, just to trim and treat it because she was doing a shampoo commercial. She had no work for three months after that, so by the time she came back to me, the agency didn’t care what I did with her hair. So I styled it the way it appears on the cover because it looked like a disaster then – the before-and-after shots are in the book. In a week, she landed a job at Calvin Klein in New York, then another at Paris Fashion Week. Now she’s signed with Ford Models.

What do you plan to achieve with the publication of Go Get Gorgeous?

The aim of the book is to bring out the best in girls if they don’t know how to find their look. I can’t cut everyone’s hair, but you can find your look yourself. Young women have to develop confidence – the feeling of power that comes with beauty. If you feel beautiful, it affects your confidence and demeanour. Every woman can benefit from great hair, because it’s the frame for her face.

I may be serious about my job, but this book had to be fun. I didn’t want it to be rocket science or only for industry people – just for regular girls. It’s accessible rather than intimidating. We photographed more than 300 women, including celebrities such as Janet Ma, Rosemary Vandenbroucke and Bonnae Gokson. It’s not important to me whether the book sells or not. It is pioneering, though, because no other book like this exists to give women confidence.

Asian hair is generally very straight, and there don’t seem to be a lot of options beyond the bob or a very short cut. What do you feel is the best cut for Asian tresses?

Thirty years ago, I would have answered differently. Now, with the internet, Asian women want to be part of the global beauty experience. But Asian hair has a different texture that needs special technology and cutting skills – to achieve a nonchalant look with ease that doesn’t look “done.” The wrong bob can make a face appear heavy – and I don’t know any Asian girl who wants her face to look fat. There’s no rule with haircuts, but 90% of girls in Asia without the right cut look transparent and irrelevant.

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What do you discuss with your first-time clients? 

There’s a reason I can command my price and I don’t take new clients – only referrals. And they come back all the time. Twenty per cent of my clientele are powerful women from China, and the remainder are long-time clients and their extended families. We spend about an hour consulting with every new client and they’re automatically booked in for two appointments. Our customers are looking for quality, not a deal. 

Your look has to be gorgeous every day, not just when you leave the salon. Don’t go to a hairdresser and hope for the best. He has to be a good communicator. Forget about “Trust me, shampoo first, colour, then treatment.” This is the norm worldwide and I cannot stand this behaviour. 

I ask about her habits. What can she maintain at home? Does she blow-dry or wash every day? Some women never wash their own hair. I do generally attract educated women who want to invest in their style, but many others either don’t know or are intimidated into not asking questions. I have clients who go to bed with wet hair, but they still wake up with style. 

How should a woman approach change and convince herself that haircut is a good investment? 

A good cut must give you confidence, but you also have to be conscious of the power of the mind, which is something I learned in India. The hairstyle choices are unlimited, but for some girls I suggest a dramatic change. Your hair will always grow back. A lot of women invest in a blow-dry, but should be getting a great cut that you can wash and go, which is true value for money. 

Can you give us some easy tips on looking good every day and on social media – no matter your age, hair type or budget? 

Always face the light directly – no side or under-lighting. Stretch your neck out, look down and if you’re with someone, stand at the back; it will make you look smaller, slimmer and more beautiful. If you stand in front, you’ll look five kilograms heavier.

What’s the worst “bad hair” situation you’ve ever encountered? 

My worst nightmare is when a client doesn’t tell me how she really feels. Then, after I’ve listened to her, she does something else somewhere else. It’s more a disappointment than a disaster, because the client hasn’t told you the truth from the start. 

Would it be harder to have such success if you were to enter the business today? And what advice would you give someone wanting to be a stylist? 

Today’s world is different. I come from a time where you trained classically. It’s not easy for the younger generation because we demand a lot of passion and discipline. I love my industry and working with women; it’s such a pleasure to give them confidence. 

Aside from travelling and reading books, I would advise young people to join a salon with a great training programme. We have a two-year “zero-to-hero” training programme, which is salaried. They join our system, with which I am personally involved. 

How do you divide your time between business, styling and managing your overseas outlets? 

I have a speedy personality and I don’t spend hours contemplating. I’m very lucky to have built a foundation that supports me and will continue without me. I have neither the time nor the patience to work with learners when it comes to business management and administration. But when I’m investing in future stylists, that’s where I do have patience. 

Over your 40 years in Hong Kong, what was your “aha!” moment?

Being a Westerner in Asia is a daunting task. I never thought I would make it big, or that I would meet people like Princess Diana, Princess Grace of Monaco and Audrey Hepburn, to name a few. Opening a salon in a luxury development like Chater House, which usually never rents to salons, is a testament to my success. I’ve styled so many celebrities that I’ve become numb to them – but the greatest moment is when I make an ordinary girl with no hope look gorgeous and beautiful. Giving confidence and success to that young girl from a province in China, for whom without the haircut there would have been no career – that’s priceless.

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Coffee with… Fredrick Li


D-mop, established in 1998, is a firm favourite of Hong Kong fashionistas. Creative director Fredrick Li, 38, takes a break from continually touring global fashion powerhouses to show us around the company’s pure-white flagship store and share the secrets to the brand’s innovative – and enduring – success

Coffee with… Fredrick Li


D-mop, established in 1998, is a firm favourite of Hong Kong fashionistas. Creative director Fredrick Li, 38, takes a break from continually touring global fashion powerhouses to show us around the company’s pure-white flagship store and share the secrets to the brand’s innovative – and enduring – success

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with… Fredrick Li

October 30, 2015 / by Selena Li / Photo: Roy Liu

What is D-mop’s DNA?

It’s about being happy, free, casual and passionate… about being all you can be. D-mop is cool, hip and sophisticated. 

With changing customer preferences, how is it possible to ensure you’re bringing them what they want?

From travelling a lot. We travel to different parts of the world, viewing different kinds of products and assessing what’s suitable for our customers. We have a database, compiled from our sales, and we collect information on what has been purchased, by colour, style, gender and so on. By analysing past data, we get an idea of future trends, what will be a hit. It helps us plan our purchasing – from data and perception.

Aside from Fashion Weeks, what are your primary channels for discovering new brands?

Usually by word of mouth, through friends, the internet, my own network. They also sometimes approach us, pitching their story.

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How often do you travel overseas and how big is your buying team?

I travel to Europe or other parts of Asia at least once a month. My favourite European cities are Milan, London and Paris; in Asia, I like Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai. I was in Paris in July and I’ll be going back for Fashion Week at the end of the month. 

We have separate teams for each brand; a team for imported brands, another for labels such as Y3 and Evisu, and a regional team. We now have four Y3 and three D-mop stores in Taiwan.

You’ve worked with other brands on crossover products. Is it easy to get them on board?

It’s not too difficult, actually; you never persuade anybody. It just happens in the right place at the right time with the right people, the right partner. Usually we already know each other; we’re talking and decide to collaborate. From then on, you talk to the design team. We may also get ideas from friends, but there’s never a sense of having to plead with them. As long as it’s a platform, and D-mop is a platform, we can do it.

So presumably, you meet with the people in charge of the brands. 

At Adidas, for example, I don’t talk to the CEO. I communicate with those more directly involved on the creative side. Eighty percent or more of crossover projects happen naturally. 

Which recent campaign left you with a deep impression?

I think it was this shoe: the D-mop and Adidas cooperation. Ten years ago, we worked together for the first time, so they wanted to relaunch it for the tenth anniversary – they asked us. It’s my favourite shoe of the month. 

Do you find inspiration in any local brands?

I can’t name just one, but I get concepts from various brands locally, like Homeless or even Coffee Academics, a coffee shop in Causeway Bay, as well as other boutiques in different areas of Hong Kong.

You have worked with more than 150 brands. How does the company allocate resources for partner brands and its own labels, such as Blues Heroes and Loveis?

For our own brands, we have our own designers and they have their own merchant team. So, that’s separate. Buyers take care of all the other brands so they don’t involve any design. We treat them equally. It really depends on their performance – if they’re doing well, the sales figures tell the whole story. 

I talk to the design teams, too, but I don’t give much input on the designs. I want them to be creative by encouraging them to see what’s out there. They make a presentation to me before release and most of the time I agree. All the designers are Chinese but they’ve studied all over the world. 

These days, an online presence is crucial. In forming partnerships with the giants of e-commerce, would you say D-mop is a latecomer or a pioneer?

We do have online shops. A few years ago, we launched our own website. It will be relaunched next year and target customers worldwide – it’s a little dated at the moment, so we’re changing our website and our e-shop next year. As far as latecomers it’s never too late as long as we’re committed. 

What types of new items do you want to bring to the stores?

I want to bring more products from different brands around the world. I also want to give our partners the possibility to go big with us.

We got the idea of a concept store from our K11 store. We sell electronics, hats, stationery and other things – a variety of things and a selection of toys.

What’s your secret to keeping a fresh outlook?

It’s very simple: all you have to do is keep an open mind. We understand that we are colourful and stylish, different from other companies. 

What’s the last item of clothing you added to your wardrobe?

A pair of Fendi shoes I bought last week.

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Coffee with... Zou Shiming


A stellar Olympic career wasn't enough for China’s most famous boxer, Zou Shiming. Turning professional at 31 was a tough decision, he says, but it's one he doesn't regret

Coffee with... Zou Shiming


A stellar Olympic career wasn't enough for China’s most famous boxer, Zou Shiming. Turning professional at 31 was a tough decision, he says, but it's one he doesn't regret

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with... Zou Shiming

September 25, 2015 / by Luis Liu / Photo: Roy Liu

Which was your most challenging Olympic medal: the bronze in Athens 2004 or the golds in Beijing 2008 or London 2012?

After the bronze, I had to stay focused and keep on top form because opponents start studying your techniques. Younger competitors want to challenge your pre-eminence. In some ways it means more to knockout a champion than to win the title. Younger boxers have more stamina and power. I had to use my experience to defend my title.

How did it feel to win your first medal in 2004?

Actually I was very disappointed. I had prepared well and believed I could challenge for the title, but I made a critical mistake in the semi. In hindsight, I was too young and inexperienced. It was not my time.

That seems a common experience for athletes: losing at the first attempt, feeling dejected, applying more effort, returning and winning the title…

Yes, a boxer’s career is like life; all who succeed in life go through it, not only boxers. Looking back, failure to win gold in ’04 kept me calm and clear-headed for the following four years.

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Some pundits say you are more hardworking than talented. What do you think?

It’s true. I’m in the minority of boxers whose arm span is shorter than his height: in my case, 1cm shorter. This reduces my range of attack. Many other boxers enjoy a physical advantage over me and I have had to work hard on my footwork to create my own style.

After the London games, you went pro at the relatively advanced age of 31. What prompted that decision?

My childhood dream was to be a professional boxer. The seeds were sown in my mind when I watched classic boxing matches on my black-and-white TV. 

I was prepared to give everything for a taste of the dream. Maybe I was past my best, but I wasn’t concerned about the result; win or lose, experience is the most valuable thing in life. I don’t want to have regrets in life.

Still, it can't have been an easy decision to make.

My wife gave me her full support. That helped me decide. When I asked her what would happen if I failed and used up all our money, she told me to “go for it”, and said that everything would be fine whatever happened, as long as we were together. Then she quit her job as a TV anchor and travelled with me.

What is the biggest difference between Olympic and professional boxing?

The former focuses on technique. It is possible to win by earning points. The headguards, introduced in 1984, and break-times provide protection for boxers. Pro boxing matches are market-driven, more intense. I had to modify some of my techniques. Before turning pro I used more quick-moving hit-and-run routines; now I have to sit back more, throw more powerful punches. The flipside, though, is that pro boxing carries a greater risk of injury.

How have you changed since turning pro?

In the past I cared about winning so much that I sometimes put myself under too much pressure. I had to keep showing I was an Olympic gold medallist, so I often tried to appear intimidating in public, to give fans confidence and put fear into opponents. Now it’s more about fighting for my own dream; I’m more relaxed and have more inner peace. I don’t care what people think any more. I do my best; results and titles are no longer important.

You and your son are now in the TV programme Dad, Where Are We Going? What made you join up?

I missed many of my son’s lifetime firsts: the first time he said “daddy” and when he first raised his head, I was not around. I desperately wanted to make it up to him, so joining the show was a perfect way to build up some memories just between us.

He showed his potential for boxing on the show. Did you teach him or did he pick it up himself?

He is genuinely interested in boxing. He boxes with me for half an hour every day. He asked for it, and I like training him. I believe he could be a good boxer and I would be the best coach for him. I was also on the RTHK programme My Olympics, a Dream Come True, encouraging Hong Kong youth to get into sports.

Your professional status reduces the chances of China’s Olympic team winning any boxing medals in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. What do you expect from your former teammates?

It is tough but we must be confident and rise to the challenge. I hope we can discover the unique qualities of Chinese boxers, not just imitate what are known as the US or Cuban styles. We have to acknowledge that we have different physical qualities because we’re built differently. However, we have agility. We need to find our own way and make the most of it.

Is there a goal you feel you must achieve before you retire from boxing?

I’ve adopted a let-it-be attitude. I just want to enjoy the dream and give every match my best shot.

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Coffee with... Franz Harary


World-acclaimed American illusionist Franz Harary is bringing the magic home to Asia with the House of Magic, a giant magic-filled theatre complex he designed, curates and hosts. Ahead of the grand opening at Macao’s Studio City, he discussed connecting with sophisticated but challenging Chinese audiences

Coffee with... Franz Harary


World-acclaimed American illusionist Franz Harary is bringing the magic home to Asia with the House of Magic, a giant magic-filled theatre complex he designed, curates and hosts. Ahead of the grand opening at Macao’s Studio City, he discussed connecting with sophisticated but challenging Chinese audiences

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with... Franz Harary

August 28, 2015 by Selena Li / Photo: Edmond Tang

How did you first become a magician?

At 13 I got a magic set for my birthday. I was fascinated. I started trying to analyse it and then began inventing my own tricks.

In 1984 Michael Jackson announced his Victory Tour and I sent him a video of me making a car appear with a bunch of friends. I signed off the letter: “Franz from Michigan, I am 20 years old, I taught myself to do this and I can do it for you.” So I never finished my schooling; I flew to Los Angeles and we immediately become friends. For 26 years, I did the magic for all his concerts.

Define your brand of illusion. 

It is big – the biggest – and driven by imagery. I personally love to see big, cool things – to do something that I’ve never seen before.

Among all the big objects you’ve made disappear, which was the most difficult?

I made the Taj Mahal disappear before I was famous, when I couldn’t get permission. So I went with a group of friends and a tiny camera. We staged and shot the illusion guerrilla-style, completely under the radar. Everything went smoothly until a security guard stopped us and I found myself surrounded by 20 machine gun-toting guys. I had to explain what we were doing: just “a home movie, no big deal”. We got the video in the end because it only took about 30 seconds to make the Taj Mahal disappear.

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Has technology become the centre of your illusions?

Not for me. I love science-fiction movies, Star Wars and all that. I’m a geek. I grew up watching Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. Today I’m a space geek; I’ve done a lot of work with NASA. Because I love this, I’m excited by the technology of the future, but the truth is I never use technology for my magic.

Where does your inspiration come from? Have you ever been concerned it’ll drain away one day?

My daily life: from all I see around me.

And now you’re bringing the magic home to Asia?

I’m bringing the magic home to Asia because it started in China about 5,000 years ago. Then it was taken to Europe by a couple of explorers and eventually found its way to the US.

I’m very excited to bring my arts back to where it all started. At the same time, though, the pressure is on because Chinese audiences are highly critical. They’ve seen everything, so these days it’s very difficult to impress someone from China. I don't speak Chinese, so I can’t communicate verbally. Everything I do to connect with a Chinese audience has to be entirely visual. It needs imagery.

How do Chinese audiences interact with your shows?

In China magic is not considered as magic. It is seen as a craft, a puzzle to be deciphered and solved. So if you’re in an audience of Chinese people watching a magician, it’s all about: “Hey you over there, can you see the back door? Oh look, there’s a fake foot over there.”

I came to realise that it didn’t matter. If you look at who we are on this little speck, it’s nothing. So each time, I’m here to make this place as much fun as I can for as many people as possible. What I do is use technology and science, and lots of psychology, to create these illusions so that ordinary people can feel as though, just for a moment, they are like a small child again. That is what my creation is.

I discovered that the secret is visual: it lies in things that don’t need to be explained. [To demonstrate, Harary picked up the reporter's business card, squeezed it a little, opened his palm - and the card jumped up and kept floating in the air.] So you can see that my formula has been to work without words.

Who do you see as your main competitor?

James Cameron, absolutely, because what he produces is absolute magic. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas: when those guys produce a film, what you are watching is absolute magic. That’s what I need to compete with now. My competitors aren’t even magicians. It’s the film industry and television, because that’s what drives the imagery in people’s minds right now.

What can magicians do to protect their tricks?

It’s horrible. I am primarily a magic designer, an engineer, and secondly a performer. It takes me from six months to a year to create a new piece of magic. However, another magician can look at that and say, “Ah, I’ve got it”, and then they copy it.In China, there is no concept of intellectual property. Luckily I now have the excellent support of Albert Tam of the Magicians' Association 

Hong Kong. He’s bringing all the Chinese-speaking magicians together to form this union, which I’m fronting.

To what extent will magic change in the next 10 years?

Magic, by definition, is anything beyond the technology of our time. As technology pushes forward, magic needs to surf that wave; it needs to stay ahead. So this inspiration pushes technology forward, and technology pushes the art of magic forward.

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Coffee with... Vern Yip


American interior designer and former television host tells China Daily Lifestyle Premium how to make the best of small living spaces with some insightful home decor and design tips from his forthcoming book, reveals how he secretly rearranges hotel furniture and the likelihood of his putting down future roots in Hong Kong

Coffee with... Vern Yip


American interior designer and former television host tells China Daily Lifestyle Premium how to make the best of small living spaces with some insightful home decor and design tips from his forthcoming book, reveals how he secretly rearranges hotel furniture and the likelihood of his putting down future roots in Hong Kong

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with... Vern Yip

July 10, 2015 by Timothy Chui / Photo: Edmond Tang

Like many in Hong Kong, I have a tiny apartment.

Design culture is rapidly evolving to meet unique challenges. Hong Kong is “space challenged”, even compared to New York City. Items must serve multiple functions including providing storage space. Many make the same mistake of filling small spaces, with small furniture.  It’s the opposite of what they should be doing. Small spaces look larger if you have a few larger pieces. Instead of having a lot of things, a few substantially enhances the perception of spaciousness.

Where can I put my mini figurines and collectables?

Many cluttered things, even expensive things, look cheap; a coffee table covered with expensive things looks cheap. The opposite is also true; give an item presence and space and it appears more valuable. Three point lighting helps. You can store things and rotate what you have on view, but in Hong Kong you have to be more selective. You should only have items because you really love them, not because they were on sale, offered in magazines, or because of peer pressure or you like the brand. 

I don’t have much furniture and my place still seems really small...

Use a monochromatic colour scheme. This is linked to how our eyes perceive space and how easily our eyes are allowed to move. Every time the eye must stop because of contrast, the space appears smaller – basically chopping sections off. Everything needs to blend together. The floor should always be the darkest surface in such a space.

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Because it hides red wine stains?

Dark colours on horizontal surfaces depress volume; you would never want a dark ceiling because it would feel like it was coming down on you. When the floor is dark it essentially appears to push away from your body.

How do you find decorating in Hong Kong?

Over here they throw up buildings fast, but I always notice a certain disconnect between interiors and exteriors. 

Hong Kong has access to many products, but although everything is at your finger tips it can also be extremely expensive.  I’ve spent some time helping my sister with her place and going around shopping for things can be arduous.

And yet…

What’s really interesting about Hong Kong is that there’s so much from a design standpoint, at all levels from the street to the higher end of the market. Because there’s such a mix…people from all over the world living and working here, it creates a unique end product offering a great experience simply by being here.

Appealing to the appetite for the things of the “other side” would seem to be good business, why not market more to Asian clients?

I’d like to capitalize on that, but between my product lines and writing commitments I can’t be here on a regular basis but I'd like to be eventually.There are great opportunities. I love it and have real roots out here because of the family; I’ve always loved how East meets West so uniquely in Hong Kong, unlike any other place on the planet. As a creative person you always want to go where you see there is a need, and certainly when I’m here in Hong Kong, I do see a need.

How about the décor in your own home?

I travel a lot and find great value in layering my home with things which have had the human hand involved. I’ve noticed a decline in the quality of handicrafts and work, but there are still fine examples of carving, stitching, embroidery, painting and anything out there that you can call a true craft. It’s not something unique to Asia. It’s a global problem as more people are engaged in technology and less interested in traditional home décor.  Fewer craftsmen are practicing in the global marketplace and there is a huge surge of people paying for antique items that showcase old skill sets.  It’s appreciated and few people know how to make such items.

What are your thoughts on the impact of technology on traditional skills?

People are less engaged with each other. It’s now acceptable to sit at dinner and look at your phone. You couldn’t do that before. I feel until we get to the point where we’re no longer inhabiting our bodies and are just a brain somewhere, we’re still going to want to touch things that feel good. All my pieces have a story behind them. We are still going to want to meet in spaces that feel gracious. And we’re still going to want to come home.

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Coffee with... Ariane Zagury


After a career in finance, Rue Madame owner and retail maven on bringing French luxury to Hong Kong, the magic of the city, overcoming business challenges and the value of authenticity

Coffee with... Ariane Zagury


After a career in finance, Rue Madame owner and retail maven on bringing French luxury to Hong Kong, the magic of the city, overcoming business challenges and the value of authenticity

People > Coffee with...



Coffee with... Ariane Zagury

May 29, 2015 Photo: Edmond Tang

What was the inspiration for Rue Madame?

Back in 2010, in terms of shopping experience, I thought there was a big gap.  There was nothing between luxury and high street.  Lots of brands pretended to be French, but were not. So I decided to open a French concept store, bringing affordable luxury and true French fashion–Parisian brands.  I love fashion.  When people spend a lot on a Vuitton bag, it’s spending for appearances, not for fashion.

When you opened your first store, it must have been a big moment...

Oh yes! Our first store - in Lee Garden, opened as a concept store.  I wanted affordable pricing.  I was lucky, I found my customers.  One store became two… six months later we were in IFC, then another in TST, after that we realised certain brands were doing particularly well.  We thought they’d work well as stand-alone stores.

And how about being a French entrepreneur in Hong Kong...?

…to be an entrepreneur you must be always inspired.  

The French are bringing a “lifestyle culture” to HK related to where we are, bearing in mind the cultural differences. This is very important.  

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How would you describe HK customers then?

I think HK customers are fashion savvy, they like fashion, they read about fashion and they want to look good, which is crucial.

They are more concerned by the way they look than in Singapore for example.  They have discerning tastes, and now they are promoting mix and match more… to me they are sophisticated.

HK has changed a lot in the past five years...

Yes, there is an immense difference between 2010 and 2015.  The biggest changes have been in the market for affordable luxuries.  In 2010 there was nobody.  Now in 2015 the whole world is here.  But it’s not only French brands, also American brands like Theory, Alice and Olivia.  So in terms of the market for affordable luxury we think HK is quite saturated now.  That’s why we held a Phase Eight evening, for woman who can’t afford expensive evening dresses.

Aren’t there difficulties in renting?

Shopping mall landlords have strategies.  Believe it or not I find it easier working with them than individual landlords, who increase the rent when they see your success.  Mall landlords need different kinds of brands; they want a different balance of food, restaurants, luxury bags and also cinemas and supermarkets.  They need more traffic.  Yes, I find them easier to work with. Shopping mall landlords are my partners.  When they give me a location, I need to provide a high quality operation, we communicate what we are trying to achieve together.  Communication is key and this is multicultural communication.  So I’ve learned to communicate more effectively.

What about your team?

My team is entirely local. It’s a real pleasure working with them. My company is managed as a local company.  The mentality of a company is vitally important.  Some sellers become buyers.  I retain the best of European and Asian ways.  We have an open dialogue.  People have no problem telling me when they disagree with me, even if I’m the boss, that’s a very European way to work, and I think it’s important. 

You hold professional working women in high regard, and accept imperfection.

Yes because it is hard to do everything; it’s hard to be a mother, a wife, we all want to look beautiful, it’s hard… the kids can’t all be perfect.

The more you do, the less likely it is that everything will be perfect… the acceptance of imperfection is very important for me.  Women tend to be honest, they like to do things well, they are perfectionists, and I believe the more things you do the less perfect things are.

So how do you manage? 

For me I can do all these things because I have no problem with imperfection.  I love imperfection. We need to accept it.  Men, women, we all make mistakes, as an entrepreneur you learn how to do things, you learn by experience, not to be scared of making mistakes, this is crucial as an entrepreneur.

Could you give one piece of advice on doing business in HK?

It’s important to do financial plans, it’s essential when establishing a business to know how much you could lose.  So, this is what it’s going to cost me… and also how many units I need to sell to break even. 

Nobody can tell you if it is going to work or not, but you need to feel comfortable one way or the other, by raising funding, with the fact that if it doesn’t work you have some time to make it work. 

For many Europeans establishing a business here has a lot of appeal…

Yes, Hong Kong is a fascinating place.  I love the essence, the truth of the experience.  It’s important for me. I love authenticity. The whole experience is amazing.

We are meeting at le Relais de l’Entrecôte...

Yes, my husband and his business partners bought “Relais de l’Entrecôte” to HK. There are two families involved. It’s the first franchise in Asia, all the ingredients are imported from France. It’s a real franchise, authentic. I believe people want more authenticity, and more experience. And that’s what we want to bring.

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Coffee with... Uwe Opocensky


The Michelin-starred, Hong Kong-based Mandarin Grill chef discusses the collaborative culinary challenge of serving haute cuisine at high altitude with Cathay Pacific

Coffee with... Uwe Opocensky


The Michelin-starred, Hong Kong-based Mandarin Grill chef discusses the collaborative culinary challenge of serving haute cuisine at high altitude with Cathay Pacific

People > Coffee with...


Coffee with... Uwe Opocensky

April 24, 2015 Photo: Roy Liu

What’s the perfect airline meal?

Healthy, delicious and fresh- this is the biggest problem we have working with airlines. Preferably it’s organic and prepared at the last minute. That would be perfect.

What are the simple do’s and don’ts of preparing airline food?

Every airline is different but you have to consider the reheating process. Most airlines have hot boxes, meaning: “hot”, “super hot” and “burn” - so you have to work out which temperature to choose, how long it takes to reheat. It’s a steep learning curve for each airline.

That’s why fish is a commonly used food. We can’t use anything raw in the air, apart from vegetables of course. In general, there is no raw seafood, for health and safety reasons.  In a time where bacteria travel quite easily, you never know.

How is taste affected by altitude?

Our noses become congested.  The sense of smell goes. The sense of smell is a crucial part of taste.  There is a famous thing called the nasal douche, like a spray can, it cleans your nostrils so you can smell and taste properly. You can use it before your meal and before you drink wine. But nobody does that because they look silly.  Everything has less taste up in the air so you have to make food taste stronger. We use more sugar, salt and spices.

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What was your inspiration for the Cathay menu?

That depends on the season and availability.  One of our trademarks is our home smoked salmon and caviar dish and king crab meat, which is a classic in our restaurant. We put that in the air and had amazing feedback. Our bread and butter pudding also goes up in the air. We prepare lots of it here so we have the ultimate say over quality control. They assemble and produce a few things. I go and taste what they put up in the air. We have very good communication and quality control.

What specific dishes have you created?  Do you have to think differently to create airline food?

We didn’t create anything specific. We use what we serve here, and if we need to adapt, then we adapt it. It’s basically the DNA of the Mandarin represented in the air.

Is it easy to be a chef in the air?

I have never been an on-board chef, so I don’t know.  A few airlines are doing that. It’s a good thing for people who pay a lot for their tickets, and it’s become more like a service. We live in a society where expectations are higher, so it’s value for money. As for cooking in storms, well, it can’t be easy, but chefs adapt very well. Also, if you have a chef on board, you’ll have a better kitchen, with more space. So it’s a development.

What’s the futuristic idea of food in the air?

It will involve technology and innovation.  It’s about the technology you’ve got to prepare the food. That’s what the future will bring.

A last thought on the collaboration with Cathay.

It was a great collaboration. For Cathay, it was a steep learning curve and they’ve been amazing in terms of accommodating our requests. The only reason we went into the collaboration was because they were willing to be open-minded. For a restaurant or hotel chef your focus is different. For example, airlines are concerned with feeding the people, and not necessarily creating the experience. That’s why it was an eye-opener for them to work with us, and show what we wanted to take into the air.

It’s been a very interesting collaboration for both parties; the process of learning different things for them, and us, and having had the chance to work with different people and encounter their differing mindsets.

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