Tag Archives: China

US Cruise Liner Sets Sail for China

China’s population of 1.3 billion seems to hold great promise for the US-based cruise liner Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCL), who announced Tuesday they were to venture into China next year with a ship tailor-made for the market there. The Norwegian Joy plans to go into service in March 2017, where it will be based at Shanghai and Tianjin ports, and provide services geared towards Chinese tastes like food options, casinos, mahjong rooms, as well as duty free shopping. The 20-deck liner will have a capacity of 3,900 passengers and joins 12 other liners that have homeports in China, nine of them foreign-owned

The country’s burgeoning middle class spells a large potential for rising demand, noted Steve Odell, NCL senior vice president and managing director for the Asia Pacific. Data from the Cruise Lines International Association reported that China accounted for about 50 percent of the cruise trips within Asia that same year. Cruise operators are eager to grab a slice of the Chinese market, which could grow to nearly $10 billion in cruise package sales by 2018 from around $6.8 billion in 2013.

Odell has plans running already, with an office open in Singapore for the Southeast Asian market. “If you think of things on the macro scale, there’s a lot of confidence that (ships) going to China (are) going to get filled up. What will happen probably is that there’ll be a lot more pressure on price than before, but that is normal supply and demand economics,” he said. Further data showed that about 2.2 million, or 10 percent, of the 23 million passengers who made cruise trips worldwide in 2014 came from Asia, with this figure only set to rise.

Odell notes that they’re “still in the… infancy of developing a cruise market in China”. Hopefully, this development will lead in to further and more interesting developments for the Asian industry.

Bang & Olufsen: New Major Shareholder from China

Chinese billionaire Qi Jianhong, is now the biggest shareholder in Danish company Bang & Olufsen. His stock in the brand that produces luxury stereo systems and TVs is now held through two companies that he owns. Sparkle Roll Group Ltd. BVI and Sparkle Roll Holdings Ltd.BVI now own a total stake of 18.7% in the company.

Negotiations of the purchase by China’s 422nd richest man who has a net worth of 8 billion Yuan, came after a drawn out sales process by other shareholders. With bleak results that resulted in no strategic buyers and one suitor — who eventually bought the stakes, the successful sale was unconfirmed up until Wednesday. His purchase of 5.67 million shares at a price that is 14% higher than the closing price, now allows management to shift its focus on turning the fate of the company around and in turn increasing sales.

While revenue at the upmarket consumer electronics firm is far from shabby, the company reported a net loss for December to February. The net loss is attributed to the high-cost of the electronics where a television can set you back nearly $8,000 at a time when prices of flat screen sets continue to take a dive. The healthy sales is thought to be due to the strong performance of B&O PLAY — a line of standalone, portable products targeting a generation that listens to music on smartphones instead of home hi-fi systems.

This article was written in-house based on an article in Bloomberg Technology.

Huawei Reaches to Leica for Flagship Phone

The Chinese company Huawei has announced a partnership with the respected camera company Leica for its next flagship phone in a bid to better its premium smartphone selection. At a time when Chinese firms are struggling against market dominators such as Apple and Samsung, this partnership is a milestone for Huawei.

“We are going to launch our P9 flagship phone very soon and this is a product that we worked with Leica to produce,” Huawei deputy chairman Guo Ping said at a press conference held at their Shenzhen headquarters. This was also parallel to an announcement that there was a jump in profits from their consumer division. Since its founding in 1987, Huawei has become one of the world’s top manufacturers of network equipment, operating in 170 countries and expanding rapidly into consumer electronics such as smartphones.

Huawei-Leica-P9-Phone-AFP

But the company remains mired in controversy with certain governments. US officials view Huawei as a security threat due to links to the Chinese government, while Australia barred them from bidding to build its national network due to warnings from security agencies. With this partnership, they hope to gain the prominence required to help win broader global consumer appeal.

The reveal of the Huawei P9 will take place on April 6 2016, where all the secrets the phone has to offer will finally be on full display.

China Beauty Standards Under Spotlight

In a world where some people fork out thousands for double eyelid surgery and other such “improvements”, model Ju Xiaowen, with her distinct face and single eyelids, seems to be anti-thetical to all that. The Xi’an model was chosen as the new face for L’Oreal Paris in February, indicating a clear divide between what Asians themselves think is beautiful, and what Westerners look for in Asian Beauty. On the other hand, on the runways of China Fashion Week, which concluded on Thursday last week, many models seem to fit into what is known as the ‘Chinese Traditional Aesthetic’ – “big eyes, double eyelids, and a pale & serene beauty.”

The above conception of the Chinese Traditional Aesthetic was “diagnosed” by Roye Zhang, chief agent for China Bentley Culture & Media. The company has been operating since 2003, exactly when China’s fashion industry was still in its infancy. “There are big differences between eastern and western aesthetics – a face we find beautiful in China won’t necessarily work abroad, and vice versa,” he said.

Overseas shows sought men with “single eyelids and small eyes, who are thinner and not so tall”, and women who “look like Mulan from the Disney cartoon — she’s not exactly pretty, but she’s memorable at just a glance”. In an interview with Vogue, Ju Xiaowen herself noted the beauty schism by stating that “In China, we still like big eyes and a high nose—that’s the classic beauty in China, although I think that’s going to change”. She revealed that she herself took measures that other women took when she was still living there, such as curling their eyelashes and putting double-stick tape on their eyelids.

The gulf in perception is to the point that Zhang’s agency has to bring in foreign CEOs and bookers to look through their pre-vetted Chinese talent. “The vast majority of our models are more suitable for the Chinese market – there’s only a very few of them who will be able to go abroad,” he said.

One such model who seems to fit the criteria for being both locally and internationally suitable is the 21-year old Xu Naiyu. She’s been a frequent walker for the runways during the Fashion Week, showing off everything from a simple green top to a pieced-together dress accessorised with protective goggles and a yellow-streaked wig. Xu wanted to be a model from a young age, and is currently in her second year at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology studying modelling and design. She booked her first professional gig only in 2014 but has since walked shows both in China and abroad at the star-studded Milan and New York Fashion Weeks.

“If you want to get to the next level, you still have to go abroad to fashion capitals like Milan or Paris, because this profession is one that came into China from the outside world,” Xu said. Indeed, the Chinese version is a pale shadow of the overseas Fashion Weeks. There are no major foreign brands, and only simple sets with just two locations. The fashion industry of the world’s second-largest economy is full of brands unknown elsewhere, and few designers are integrated with the international fashion buyer system.

“In this industry, luck is so important,” Xu said in between events at the Beijing Hotel, a longstanding establishment near Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital. She also noted that the industry was “torturous” at times, lamenting that “I’m not that kind of single-eyelid girl who’s instantly recognizable”.

This may serve as a sharp and ironic jolt for those coveting some form of idealized Asian beauty. Before you put your own eyelids under the knife, you may want to take some time to ponder whether other people might see it differently.

Chinese Prefer Paris for Luxury Shopping

According to a recently released report, Paris will supplant Hong Kong as the destination of choice for Chinese consumers snapping up luxury goods.

Prepared by the Boston Consulting Group, the report states that more Chinese tourists are expected to take advantage of the weak euro this year and book a trip to Paris in search of monogrammed bags and red-heeled shoes.

For the report, 1,000 Chinese affluent consumers were asked to name the city where they expected to make a luxury purchase in the next 12 months.

Paris ranked first, followed by Hong Kong and Tokyo. This is unsurprising of course considering the Chinese customer revealed this pattern in 2015 but the story will get to that later on.

While proximity has traditionally made Hong Kong the first choice, this year consumers are expected to make the trek to the French capital, which is upheld as a dream shopping destination for the affluent Chinese. Great news then for swanky Paris hotels!

Nearly one in four Chinese respondents said they buy luxury goods abroad because they can find better selections.

One in three respondents said they believe it’s important to buy goods in the country where they’re made. The same ratio of respondents said the shopping experience abroad is superior to the experience at home.

The latest forecast hinges on expenditure stats from 2015: Last year, of the 100 billion euros spent on luxury goods, only 23 billion was spent domestically in boutiques in China.

Chinese consumers poured the most money at luxury boutiques in Europe (€35 billion) followed by the US (€14 billion).

According to the report, consumer spending among the Chinese rose from €70 billion in 2012 to €100 billion in 2015.

Analysts also offer insight into the demographic profile of consumers over the next four years: 81 percent will come from the upper middle-class and upper classes, while 65 percent of consumers will be Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1990).

Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of where wealthy Chinese consumers bought their luxury goods in 2015:

Europe: €35 billion

US: €14 billion

Hong Kong: €13 billion

Russia and the Middle East: €13 billion

Macau: €2 billion

Insight: Resilience of Bangkok Property

Despite being hit by political turmoil, the robustness and resilience of the Thai market proved to be stable throughout the various turbulences. According to Suphin Mechuchep, managing director at JLL, part of the strength in the Bangkok market comes from a good balance between demand and supply in the market, as well as the political stabilisation in the second half of 2014.

Moreover, there are other factors that will add to the optimism of the market. For starters, Thailand’s reform roadmap—amidst the stability so far—will enjoy more clarity in policy and direction, and all of this will bolster investors’ and businesses’ bullishness and overall consumer confidence. Moreover, the military government had gone ahead with various major capital spending initiatives, seeking to stimulate the economy through major infrastructure investments, all of which are expected to lift the country’s macro-economy soon, which will in turn help to grow the capital’s various property sectors.

The main property players remain well-funded and have the means to acquire income-yielding assets, or to grow their land banks. In fact, some of these developers have launched their own real estate investment trusts (REITs), which are in turn partly funded by a vibrant stock market in the country. All these ensure a sustained institutional demand for property further upstream, which keeps the market growing at a healthy pace. Beyond local factors, global trends including a low interest rate and low oil prices translating into residential markets having improved household balance sheets (as energy costs now take up less income) are expected to bring about a boost in the local property market.

The trends seen in the market corroborate these observations. According to data from Colliers, over 11,000 condominium units were launched in the city in the second quarter this year, about 9.5 percent more than in the first. Over 75 percent of these new launches were in the area connecting Bangkok along new subway lines. Moreover, significant numbers of luxury condominium units were bought up by investors despite selling prices being high and a competitive leasing market (with investment yields only hovering at about 3.5 percent, based on JLL estimates). Most of such investors have bought for capital appreciation, as opposed to seeking rental income, since prime condominiums in central Bangkok see an average of 20 percent price rises between when they were offered for sale off-plan, and when construction is over.

Some fret about the weakness seen in local demand. According to the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the confidence of new home buyers (also known as the New Residence Buyer’s Confidence Index) fell from January to June 2015 to 63.9, the lowest in the past year. The weakness is said to be due to various factors, including a dim outlook that Thais in general have taken about their own economy. However, that gap is increasingly filled by foreign buyers, as many major Thai developers have gone overseas to market their projects, particularly in China, Hong Kong and Singapore. This has led to a rise in the average take-up of condominium units, especially for units in the price range of $260 to $520 psf, which registered a rate of 90 percent. Those in the higher range of $651 psf also did well, at 80 percent. What is clear therefore, is that the demographics and dynamics of the Bangkok market is changing, and that could be just where the next big opportunity is.

Story Credits

Text by Willy Teo

This story first appeared in PALACE.

Asia’s Top Bar is in Singapore…

There is a new bar capital of Asia and it is Singapore, according to a new ranking of Asia’s top watering holes. The city-state has four entries in the top 10 – the most of any country – and the top spot of course, for 28 Hongkong Street.

In the inaugural edition of Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards– a spinoff of the World’s 50 Best Bars– a panel of 154 judges including “high-level” bartenders, bar consultants, brand ambassadors, journalists and global bar hoppers weighed in to pronounce the best drinking hotspots across Asia.

Taking the top spot is a Singapore bar famous for its discretion. Since opening in 2011, 28 Hongkong Street has built up hype by playing itself down in the manner of a secret, clandestine speakeasy.

Tucked away in a downtown thoroughfare, the bar is non-descript with nothing but the street number to identify itself: There is no awning, no flashing lights, or swanky, velvet-roped entrance.

But once inside the beige doors, the bar’s swish clientele sip on cocktails like the Modest Mule, made with lemongrass-laced vodka, ginger beer, lime and rosemary, and the colorfully named Whore’s Bath, made with manuka honey vodka, umeshu (liqueur made with Japanese apricots) poire liqueur, lemon and Hawaiian lava salt pickled ginger.

“28 Hongkong Street is an emblem of the region,” editors write. “A benchmark of quality across drinks and hospitality.”

Overall, Singapore and Hong Kong tied with nine spots each on the list, followed by Tokyo, which scored eight spots.

But with four of the top 10 spots, including the No. 1 ranking, Singapore is the big winner this year.

The results also surprised editors, who predicted Shanghai to finish fourth after Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo with the number of bars represented.

Instead, Bangkok nabbed the spot with six addresses including Vesper, the city’s top-ranked bar in 17th place.

“Bangkok’s people have a serious case of cocktail fever and, with the number of international ‘tenders setting up in the city and locals opening up their own places, it is only going in one direction from here.”

Here are the top 10 bars in Asia, according to Asia’s 50 Best Bars:

  • 28 Hongkong Street, Singapore
  • Speak Low, Shanghai
  • High Five, Tokyo
  • Lobster Bar & Grill, Hong Kong
  • Manhattan, Singapore
  • Quinary, Hong Kong
  • Operation Dagger, Singapore
  • Jigger & Pony, Singapore
  • Union Trading Company, Shanghai
  • 10. Omakase + Appreciate, Kuala Lumpur

Slump in Chinese Art Sales Reported

A report end March revealed that the Chinese art market was in a slump, with auction sales of living artists’ works falling by 45%. Even so, China surpassed the US as home to the largest population of billionaires in the world last year, which indicates an increase in the pool of super-wealthy art collectors. The reasons for the reported slump may slowing growth (the world’s second-largest economy slowed to its weakest in a quarter of a century last year at 6.9 percent) and the widely reported corruption crackdown by President Xi Jinping.

“A heady mix of the continued anti-corruption campaign, which has put a stop to gifting art to government officers, and a slowdown in the economy have combined to see both sales and the number of top works at auction pretty much halve,” said Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf.

The Hurun Report collates the auction results for the 100 most lucrative artists and slowdown in sales was first captured here. For this report, the sales for the 100 artists totaled $56.5 billion, with only three female artists on the list. The most valuable artist was ink painter Cui Ruzhuo, known for his large scale traditional landscapes. Cui’s works fetched $120.4 million, far ahead of second-placed oil painter Zeng Fanzhi, who saw his sales value crash by 62 percent. There were no figures on whether the average price of individual works had decreased. An odd entry included Jack Ma, CEO of Internet giant Alibaba, who was included solely for a collaborative painting he did with Zeng Fanzhi that sold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for $5.3 million.

Some artists seem to be unfazed though, preferring to stick to the merits of their own work over material gain. Huang Jiannan ranked seventh on Hurun’s list and saw the auction value of his works drop by 45 percent last year, but he shrugged off the loss. “These statistics measure the flow of my works in the market – it has nothing to do with me. I don’t get the money from these sales directly,” he told AFP.

Critics such as Xie Chunyan believe that focusing on auction values is a poor judge of Chinese artists’ worth, noting that “Just because this little British guy Hoogewerf says he wants to find a common standard to measure things 1, 2, 3 doesn’t mean that this is the best method”.

Though many believe China’s art market has been overheated in recent years, Cui seemed positive and had a message of proactivity to other artists. “Our current downturn and backwardness shouldn’t discourage us; we artists should unite together and for the sake of our art market and our nation walk out towards the world, hand in hand, striving ardently together,” he said. All this seems to indicate one thing, no matter what happens to the market, and no matter whether for sales, aesthetics, or national sentiment, artists will still make art.

French Wines Find Favor in China Again

For a wine-grower, precision and luck are elements of the utmost importance to ensure that the best harvest is reaped for a full-bodied and hearty glass of wine. Right now, French wines face the twin perils and opportunities of climate change and China, both of which offer strong challenges. Bordeaux was one such region flanked on both sides by various new developments, both good and bad, from both science and the marketplace.

China Profits

After reaping a meagre harvest in 2013, Bordeaux wines faced depressed sales in 2013 and 2014 to China because of a frugality drive that made officials wary of opening high-end bottles of wine.

But Saint-Emilion wine merchant Philippe Casteja said last month that the Chinese market was stabilizing. Exports were up 3.0 percent to 1.83 billion euros ($2.05 billion), according to the Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB). After two years of dropping, sales jumped 37%.

Overall turnover was 3.8 billion euros last year, up 1.0% over 2014 with 640 million bottles sold.

“The Chinese speak of a ‘new normal’ – and now instead of proposing exceptional wines we are targeting a consumer market.” Casteja noted, speaking of the Bordeaux region in general.

Climate Pressures

Yet, with the release of a new and somewhat alarming study by Nature Climate Change, Bordeaux’s current short-term sales may be the least of their worries.

Grapes are extremely temperature sensitive fruits. Exceptional vintages are generally produced when an early harvest develops from a rise in heat due to things like hot summers or a late-season drought. “For much of France, local climates have been relatively stable for hundreds or thousands of years,” said Elizabeth Wolkovich, an assistant professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of the study. Looking back through records dating all the way to 1600, it was found that harvest dates have moved up by two full weeks since 1980 compared with the average for the preceding 400 years.

Droughts helped heighten temperatures just enough to bring in the harvest a few weeks early, said lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York City and lead author of the study. These were uncommon circumstances in the past. “Now, it’s become so warm thanks to climate change, grape growers don’t need drought to get these very warm temperatures,” Cook added.

In the short term, the resulting growth in temperature has caused some beneficial effects through certain stand-out years. For Bordeaux, 1990, 2005 and 2010 have all been described as once-a-century vintages, while in Burgundy 2005 and 2009 are said to hold exceptional promise.

Yet, in the long term, the result may be unsustainable. In 2003, the same year where a deadly heat wave hit Europe leading to thousands of deaths, grapes were picked a full month ahead of their time but did not produce particularly exceptional wines. “If we keep warming, the globe will reach a tipping point,” said Wolkovich, pointing to what happened in 2003.

“That may be a good indicator of where we are headed,” she added. “If we keep pushing the heat up, vineyards can’t maintain that forever.”

The result could be an identity crisis for French wines. While other wine producing regions like California and Australia can head for a new ‘terroir’ better suited to these grapes, France has an elaborate structure of rules and special areas dictating which grape varieties are to be grown in what proportion. French wines such as Champagne, Sauternes, Margaux or Saint-Emilion are grown only in such authorised areas. For many wine-makers, changing these rules is tantamount to changing the core aspects of the wine. Among the grapes that may no longer be well-adapted in the future includes signature grape varietals — Pinot Noir in Burgundy, and Merlot in Bordeaux.

The ability to adapt to such revelations gained from information sources, whether about the market or the climate, will be the key decider in which wine producers can ride the market with the best possible produce and the best possible profits.

This report was compiled by in-house writers, in combination with a wire report and image from the AFP. Find out if any of these winning wines are on Epicurio now. Download the app on iTunes or Google Play now.

 

Interview: Alessandro Michele for Gucci

As with everything else, and very much so in fashion, timing is everything. In this seasonal trade, the relevance of any collection undoubtedly moves with the times. By the words of English author, critic, curator, and fashion historian James Laver, “When a trend is in fashion, it is ‘smart.’ A year before this, it is ‘daring.’ And 20 years later, it becomes ‘ridiculous.’” Fashion clichés aside, in this rapidly changing business, what’s in may be out faster than you think.

Timeliness is demanding and that’s all part of the business. Most of us don’t get the opportunity to witness this creative process, but we can appreciate the intricate affair of combining foresight and craft to produce collections. Before any designer showcases his or her collection for the world to see, he or she has the daunting task of forecasting what’s in for that season before he or she starts to design the pieces.

It’s this notion of timeliness that Gucci’s No Longer/Not Yet exhibition explores. Curated by its creative director, Alessandro Michele, and Love magazine’s editor-in-chief, Katie Grand, the exhibition invited seven artists (Cao Fei, Li Shurui, Jenny Holzer, Rachel Feinstein, Glen Luchford, Nigel Shafran, and Unskilled Worker) from all over the world to offer their takes on what is contemporary through their creative works including paintings, photographs, sculptures showcased in separate rooms at the Minsheng Art Museum in Shanghai. The exhibition also includes a piece by Michele titled The Boy In Red.

Since Michele took control of the house, he was inspired by the attitudes of youth and the contemporary images presented by great fashion photographers. According to the designer, “it is a state of temporal flux, where relics of the past merge with signs of the future, and where there is freedom to construct new meanings at this intersection of divergent paths.” It is with this appreciation that Michele’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection encapsulates traces of pre-existing worlds and glimmers of worlds in the making.

According to Michele, his work has been largely influenced by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s take on the subject. “Those who are truly contemporary are those who neither perfectly coincide with their time nor adapt to its demands… They are never at home in the present moment.” With the prevailing theme of exploring the notion of contemporary as well as Agamben’s writing as a starting point, the seven artists got to work.Gucci-Tian_Full-View_Courtesy-of-HE-Yuchao

How did the two of you put this exhibition together?

Alessandro Michele: It began with a brave idea – we did not have a lot of time to tell the story. I wanted to show my personal approach to what time and contemporary meant. It is not a very precise idea, but I shared it with some people, and we began with this idea. When you have to work on a show, it is such hard work. It is about long hours, people waiting, and focusing on all the minute details. You see a beautiful picture that people love – and this is an accumulation of effort. I understand people just want to see the posh side of fashion, but it is something that comes with a lot of work. When I started working at Gucci, I tried to destroy everything and create something new. We changed the space completely, and the way we worked transformed with the space, along with our working attitudes. I tried to push another design language as well. It was a bit of a crazy place to be at the time, but if you want to create something new in the fashion or art world, you have to go a bit mad first. That’s when you can start your own little revolution.

Katie Grand: And this is something extremely different to what Gucci was before, where it was greatly focused on luxury and travel.

AM: I wanted to liberate Gucci from the cage that is fashion. I was very inspired by the attitudes of youth and the contemporary images presented by great fashion photographers. This was the beginning where I felt like I needed to clean up Gucci. But I am not a minimalist designer, I am more maximalist. I need more and more. It is a way to communicate, I feel. I like this invention of a super sleek language.

What does the title of the show, No Longer/Not Yet, mean?

AM: It is about the now. It is a beautiful sentence that says, “I need to talk about the present, the contemporary.” My point of view on this is very personal. If you want to talk about what is contemporary, you can’t use something succinct and present, you also have to look to the past, which I do with my designs. It is a way to see where we are now. It is a philosophy that I follow, even though it’s difficult to explain.

Katie, what is your take?

KG: When people talk about modernity so much in fashion, it becomes a word that has been used too often.

AM: People in the fashion industry are very sensitive to the future, but I am not too much. My work is much more of a process. I really love talking about what is contemporary; in the way everyone can use a minimalistic expression to explain what contemporary means to them. The future is not something I am interested in very much, because I see value in using what is in the present to build the future instead. You can dream about the future, but the most inspiring thing about the present is truly the now.Nigel_Courtesy-of-XIE-Yingjie

There is a piece by you, Alessandro. What is it about?

AM: I decided to talk about the idea of beauty, and decided to construct a space with a cube to translate the illusion of beauty. Placing it inside a mirrored box and coupling it with a reproduction of an old Tudor painting in my home. I wanted to let the past talk to the present. I tried to put some meaning to allow differing points of time to communicate – beauty becomes an open space and it becomes an idea that the beauty you value is the one that you don’t wholly understand.

Your works amplify the effect of gender-blurring. So is this a reflection of how you think we dress ourselves?

KG: I think it is interesting as when I first walked into the Gucci store, and it was the first time Alessandro’s collection was in the store. And for someone like me who knows the brand inside out, I was confused as to whether what I was seeing was for men or women. And he answered, it is whatever you want it to be. It’s an elegant way to merge differing aesthetics that we adopt into our daily lives.

AM: It is a way to live. I try to push the question of gender, and I think it was very clear in my show. My personal idea of beauty is reflected in this statement. Even when I shop in my own time, I find myself being drawn to beautiful pieces from women’s collections. It is to say that you can liberate yourself, and be free without prescribing to gender norms. If you’re free, everything is fun.

Story Credits

Text by Lance Lim

This story was first published in Men’s Folio.

China-Only Volkswagen Phideon Debuts in Geneva

The result of a joint venture between Volkswagen’s German and China design teams, the Volkswagen Phideon is the new flagship model of the company that will be going for sale at the end of 2016. Unfortunately, despite being shown at the Geneva Motor Show, it will only be available in China. Don’t fret, though since the Phideon provides an inkling of what might be behind VW’s next global flagship model, the second-generation Phaeton…when it launches before the end of the decade.

For the exterior, the car’s front grille aims to be a new design used to distinguish all future flagship VW sedans. Whereas in the interior, with the car being over five meters long, has plenty of room for back-seat passengers. The dashboard and interior architecture is sporty and elegant, including electrically adjustable seats, integrated seat ventilation and heating as well as a massage function. A wrap around ambient light strips that can switch between three colors creates a permeating and cool atmosphere.

But this one is all about the tech. It happens to be the first VW to use a night-vision camera and to get HUD (projecting information onto the windscreen) as standard. Probably out of consideration for humongously crowded megacities like Shanghai, the Phideon allows the driver to have a 360-degree view of his or her surroundings for maneuvering. All this is on top of active driver safety systems including lane departure warning. Infotainment features that support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included.

As for the rest, Volkswagen hasn’t provided any figures but the car on display in Geneva, the range-topping 3.0TSI, boasts a 300PS turbo-charged V6 engine and permanent all-wheel drive. Milder, two-wheel drive gas-powered models plus a plug-hybrid version are also planned. It also uses the same air-suspension set up found in Bentleys.

Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design Volkswagen Brand took note that the car was “designed in Europe for our style-conscious Chinese customers.” We should be seeing some of its European flair in those Asian streets soon enough.

Interview: Paolo Vitelli for Azimut Benetti

Paolo Vitelli, direct and powerful, a native of Turin, has a passion common to many true Piedmont natives: the mountains. A passion so strong it propelled him to revive old mountain chalets, creating the Champoluc luxury resort Hotellerie de Mascognaz, at the foot of Italy’s Monte Rosa. But this is not Vitelli’s only great interest or what has made his name synonymous with luxury and finesse. It is simply his love of boats that has transformed him into one of the world’s most dynamic and famous Italian shipping entrepreneurs. In 1969, at 22 years of age, Vitelli founded the Azimut sas. firm as a charter company hiring out sailing boats.

The following year, Azimut began to import and sell boats on the market before the production venture began from artisan-built boats to industrial production; from one single boat to a series of boats. After 10 years of steady growth Vitelli bought the Benetti firm, one of the most famous mega yacht builders in the world, solidifying his status in the industry as a visionary. Today the Azimut Benetti Group is the most important European motor yacht builder and the leading mega yacht builder in the world. YachtStyle met the CEO at the Azimut Benetti Yachting Gala staged in Portofino in June 2015.

What have been Azimut Benetti group’s latest developments?

We have launched several new models, all with a very high level of finish and quality. We sold 12 of our new 34 Atlantis; our new Azimut 54 also is having brisk sales. Another new model is the beautiful Azimut 84. We sold six or seven of our new 43 Magellano. We also have had three new orders for our flagship Magellano 76 that was presented as a world premiere at the Portofino Yachting Gala. Not new, but a consistent seller is the Azimut 116—we sold two of them recently, it is a very popular boat. As for Benetti, we are booked for the next three years and we have new orders pending.

What is Azimut’s share of the world market?

We estimate our Group has a 12 percent share of the world’s yacht market. We certainly have been doing better than our competitors, many of whom are suffering and disappearing. We are doing better primarily because we are a company very strong financially, capable of going long without being hit. Many companies owned by financial institutions or borrowing too much money have been heavily hit. So we are taking the opportunity of the tide to gain market share and become stronger.P.Vitelli-article2

You survived the economic crisis rather well. What are the key elements of this success?

We have always had the trust from our customers. They know we are solid and operating with a long-term vision. No doubt it is critical to keep up with new models and quality. Also, perhaps because of the crisis, we have chosen better dealers and because of the crisis, we have a more integrated team that is more efficient; we trimmed the fat. We are proud to be a family company and there has always been a lot of continuity. Azimut Benetti is not for sale and we are not dependent on the banking world.

You love to talk about the “Italian touch”, tell us more?

Italian design is all about enduring style, all around the world. People want Italian design, Italian quality, Italian craftsmanship, Italian fabrics, Italian brands, Italian food. So…we have the opportunity to export our interpretation of luxury into the world without compromising our principles. I feel that everybody respects Italian luxury… and Italian style and design are a symbol of luxury all around the world. This is especially true in the fashion and yachting world.

Biggest challenge ahead?

The biggest challenge as well as necessity ahead is innovation! The necessity to become more productive and more cost-efficient now is pushing companies like ours to reinvest in the process of production. We are increasing the number of boat models, and therefore jobs, and are reinvesting money to improve the process, both in terms of efficiency and gaining a higher level of quality in the yachts. As an example, 10 years ago, a boat was laminated by hand using glass and resin. Today we use infusion, which means no one is touching the resin and no one is breathing in the resin, so it’s better for the environment and for the people. Because we now cut the glass using machinery—putting the glass on the mold and injecting the resin—the process is 10 times more engineered and sophisticated than it was 10 years ago.P.Vitelli-article

The innovations you feel proud of?

I will cite a few. Azimut Benetti was the first to put big windows in the hull, to put the garage in the back and to make a living area in the front of the yacht; and we were the first to use a really large flybridge. And today we’re seeing that people like to get closer to the water in every respect—just look at how many yachts now have balconies opening from the side, bridges in the back and easy access to the water. People want to be more sporty, they want to swim and they want to dine under the stars. In terms of technology, I would say comfort has been the prime requirement in the last 10 years. If you consider the noise level on a yacht 10 years ago, today that noise is a fraction of what it was. We’re also working on the stability of the yacht in bad weather and sea conditions if you’re sailing or at anchor. People like innovation, but they don’t want to abandon comfort.

What is your growth strategy? More acquisitions ahead?

It is not said that we have to grow, it is not said that we have to acquire companies in order to grow. At the moment we have the opportunity to grow because the market is good. When we see the market is stable, we might concentrate our efforts into industrial organisation, so acquisitions are not a necessity for growth. We take opportunities to enter new segments of the market primarily to give stability to our group. Take for instance the acquisition of Fraser Yachts. This acquisition has enabled our group to provide Azimut Bennetti owners Fraser Yachts’ services; management and servicing of yachts, chartering of their yachts when not used.

What is your view on the Chinese luxury yacht market?

I would say “work in progress”. While there is a lot of interest from the Chinese in our yachts, our sales have gone down a bit there. We have even designed models with karaoke rooms and such to attract their attention, but in my opinion, the Chinese yachting mentality is simply not developed enough. Education about the benefits of yachting is key in the years to come. Benefits of taking your family and friends for a happy day cruise. Benefits of taking business partners on board. We trust that the Chinese market can burgeon at any time and we are fully prepared for such with a strong team and a well-organised dealership network across this huge country.

Paolo and Givanna Vitelli

Paolo and Givanna Vitelli

What is your sentiment on the Indian boating scene?

The Indian boating scene is behind every market at the moment but it has a huge opportunity to catch up. It is behind China because China was quicker in building infrastructure. It is behind Brazil because they too have been building infrastructure and they love the sea. It is also behind Thailand, where we have a lot of marinas and tourists on the water. So India has to catch up not just in infrastructure but fill in the psychological gap and nurture a love for their water, which I see happening slowly but surely.

What about the rest of Asia? Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia?

Hong Kong has a healthy yachting mentality, no taxes on yachts, yet there is a problem there with lack of berthing. We tried to work with the authorities there on a marina, but the bureaucracy is very conservative. They need a few years to even study a plan, let alone make a decision. Singapore with four marinas has been an interesting and growing market over the past years for Azimut. Malaysia has some buyers for big units. Thailand is becoming a charter destination and has an active boating scene. Indonesia has incredibly beautiful waters and potential, yet taxes are very high as in China and there are not enough marinas in operation. Infrastructure is key to healthy market development. So overall, despite some serious infrastructure issues, we maintain a strong focus on South East Asia.

With your daughter in the company and having an operational role, any plans to prepare a well-deserved retirement?

No I am not slowing down, I like working and I am passionate about my company. Naturally I enjoy boating, I had my own Azimut 103 for several years. However, this summer I cruised aboard a brand new 93ft Delfino. We had 10 people on board and I am happy to say there was not a single defect even though we were the first to use the boat. We had an idyllic cruise all up and down the Italian coast, Sicily and the Amalfi Coast without one problem. Now, that made me proud to be owner of the company.

Your last words for today?

The market for pleasure boating is continuing to expand, but not as in the past. Growth will still take place thanks to development in emerging countries, but in the West a phase of stabilisation is anticipated, with a very low development rate. Competition in such a market becomes always more selective, and customers become more and more wary and hard to please. There is no room for making any mistakes: you always have to be the best. The only change with respect to the past will be the fact that we will need to concentrate all our energy on the quality of the product and services that we offer to our customers, always introducing more value to what we do.

This interview first appeared in Issue 32 of Yacht Style.

The Titanic: A New Beginning

All Aboard the Titanic II! No, you are not in 1912 and no we have not let the Monday blues get to us. We are in fact talking about the Titanic replica that Australian billionaire Clive Palmer is creating.

Back in 2012, Palmer had announced his plans to recreate the Belfast liner that sank on its maiden voyage across the North Atlantic Ocean, and set sail this year. However, the plans have now been pushed back to 2018. A little over a century after the Titanic began its journey the replica will mirror the ship —with a few modifications. To meet modern maritime safety regulations, the vessel will measure 4 m wider and the hull will be welded, not riveted, reported The Belfast Telegraph.

When complete, the Titanic II will measure 270 m long, 53 m high, and weigh 56,000 tons. Like its predecessor, the Titanic II will have three cabin classes. The ship will span nine floors and be able to carry 2,400 passengers. Other features will include Turkish baths, a swimming pool and gymnasium. As far as we know, Kate and Leo are not scheduled to be on it.

As an aside, it is important to note that as far as cruise liners go, this one is far from the largest, with gross tonnage these days clocking in at above 100,000. The largest such ship in the world, Allure of the Seas, has 2,700 staterooms, for example, and weighs in at an incredible 225,282 tonnes. For the truly curious out there who may wonder if this is a coal-powered ship, given that the original boiler uptakes will be recreated, in fact it is diesel-powered. Four diesel engines power three azimuth thrusters and two bow thrusters.

Instead of Southampton to New York, however, the ship’s maiden voyage will be between Jiangsu, China, where it’s being built, to Dubai. This story remains a work in progress as rumors continue to swirl around Palmer and the health of his businesses but we are tracking it closely. The key question remains, if the project is actually completed, would you book passage?

Profile: Artist Zhuang Hong Yi

Chinese contemporary artist Zhuang Hong Yi has been based in the Netherlands for more than two decades but was originally born in 1962 in Sichuan, China. Living and working in two different environments, it is no surprise that his works take influence from both Chinese and European techniques. As an artist who embraces both the past and the present, his contemporary creations demonstrate the clear presence of his Chinese roots in the use of colors, themes, shapes and materials (specifically rice paper).

After graduating from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, he and his wife Lu Luo, also an artist, moved to Groningen in The Netherlands where they studied at the Minerva Academy. His shift from a country with well-established artistic traditions to a more liberal one saw him incorporating more daring colors and Western styles like impressionism into his practice. Even so, Zhuang still utilized the traditional Chinese material of rice paper. This gives his works a strong traditional Chinese aesthetic, becoming meditations on color, nature and form while emphasizing the uniformity and focus in handing material (all of which he acquired from his experience in China). Overall, his ‘messy’ and ‘chaotic’ mix of impasto strokes of bright acrylic and oil paints on top of rice paper characterises most of Zhuang’s work.

The flower motif dominates Zhuang’s work and he usually works patiently and religiously year after year on the subject alone. This is because the flower motif symbolizes many different meanings and emotions in both the Chinese and European culture that Zhuang seeks to explore through his art. Different flowers have various spiritual and social representations in Chinese culture. Flowers also hold strong significance in Western literature and customs. Furthermore, flowerbeds are exceptionally iconic features of The Netherlands.

Zhuang Hong Yi with his creations

Zhuang Hong Yi with his creations

Inspired by the flowerbed, Zhuang bends and folded hundreds of tiny buds from painted rice paper to form his flowerbed sculptures (pictured top). The three-dimensionality of the paper flowers invites the audience to appreciate the tactile nature of his vibrant tapestry of colors and form.

Transitioning from the uniformity and technique of his past training in Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, where he focused on traditional skills such as printing techniques like wood carvings, to the new found freedom of expression he achieved in Europe presented a challenge for the artist. Zhuang enacts this personal struggle visually, vacillating between phases of controlled planning and emotional gesture.

Zhuang’s more popular works include his ‘Head’ series of portraits that feature an abstracted shape of a head on a large canvas. He only began exploring the rice paper flower motif towards the end of the 90s, and became more recognized in the international art market for his ‘Flowerfield’ sculptures (below) from 2005.

Zhuang Hong Yi Flower Field 2015

Flower Field. Acrylic and rice paper. 2015

“Zhuang is a renowned artist with a well-established collector following in the world’s major art markets of New York, Miami, London and Paris,” says Chris Churcher, MD & Founder of REDSEA Gallery. To date, Zhuang has exhibited his works in renowned exhibitions throughout Europe such as the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam in 1999, and a solo show in 2001 at the world famous Groninger Museum in The Netherlands. In 2007, the Groninger Museum honored him and his wife with a large duo exhibition called ‘Atelier Beijing’. His work is held in numerous renowned public and private collections worldwide.

*For more information, please visit www.redseagallery.com. If you are in Hong Kong in March, REDSEA Gallery has organized a showing of Zhuang Hong Yi’s work at Art Central Hong Kong. From March 23-26, visit the Central Harbourfront Event Space at 9 Lung Wo Road, Central, Hong Kong, for a direct experience.

Story credits

By Tyen Fong

Going Home Alone: Chinese Passenger Flies Solo

Is it still cattle class if you are the only passenger? While news reports continue to filter in about 100,000 people stranded at Guangzhou train stations this week, trying to head home for the Chinese New Year holidays, one woman had a random experience with true luxury: a commercial flight to Guangzhou all to herself. The short version of this tale is that the woman, whom the AFP names as Zhang, simply outlasted all the other passengers on her China Southern flight, which was delayed for 10 hours.

Zhang made a star of herself on social media, posting photos showing row after row of empty seats on the China Southern plane as it flew from Wuhan. Apparently, the other passengers could not handle the wait-time and did the sensible thing by finding other flights; Zhang toughed it out and had the Boeing 737-700 plane all to herself in the end.

On her social media feed, made public now by multiple news reports, says the experience was tuhao, using a slang term for the nouveau riche.

The AFP reports that China Southern schedules show the flight is normally operated using a Boeing 737-700 aircraft, which generally seats 137 passengers. This got us curious about how much this flight would have actually cost, with just one passenger. Apparently, the one-and-a-half-hour flight would have cost more than $10,000 (stats sourced from here) and that is just based on the cost of keeping the plane in the air for that amount of time. For some context, that amount will fly you long-haul on first, with a return ticket included.

Nevertheless, a social media troll pointed out a little niggle: despite all that extra room on the China Southern flight, Zhang was not upgraded from cattle class. To be fair, we have no idea if the flight was one of those all-economy propositions and really, to have an experience like this one is something money can’t normally buy. We think it might just be priceless.

This story was written in-house, based on news reports, with an image supplied by the AFP

Dior and I documentary

3 Must-See Paris Haute Couture Week Shows

As usual, Paris plays host to the biggest celebration of high fashion on earth even as the big chill rules the streets. Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week officially kicks off today, January 24, and runs till January 28 with around 30 catwalk shows lined up on the official schedule. Certain shows will be of particular interest to the fashion world this year, including one show staged with no creative director and the first steps of a fledgling fashion house in the world of haute couture.

The fashion world will cast its gaze on Paris to spot upcoming trends for spring/summer 2016/2017, even though haute couture is notoriously difficult to read. We recommend simply sitting back to enjoy the shows and the sneak preview of the gowns due to grace red carpets throughout 2016.

However, all eyes will be on three fashion houses in particular at the 2016 Haute Couture Week: Christian Dior, Yiqing Yin and Guo Pei.

AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT

AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT

Christian Dior post-Raf Simons

The departure of Raf Simons as creative director at Dior in October sent shockwaves through the fashion world. Eyes will be fixed firmly on this haute couture show, which is taking place on January 25 with no creative director. The design team alone has been in charge of this collection, as it was for the autumn/winter 2016-2017 ready-to-wear collection. This isn’t a first for Dior, which saw itself in a similar situation after parting ways with John Galliano in 2011, but this preview will still no doubt be one of the most closely watched. Dior could even take the opportunity to make its much-awaited announcement of Raf Simons’ replacement.

© AFP PHOTO/ROSLAN RAHMAN

© AFP PHOTO/ROSLAN RAHMAN

Newcomer Guo Pei

Haute couture’s “Chambre syndicale” announced back in November that Chinese designer Guo Pei would be joining the Paris catwalk for the first time as a special guest this year. Guo Pei’s January 27 preview will be the closing show of this prestigious fashion week (only jewelry will be shown the final day, January 28), and it’s definitely one to watch. A new arrival will understandably pique the interest of the fashion world, but Guo Pei is also known for creating a huge buzz last year when Rihanna wore her enormous yellow coat-dress to the 2015 Met Ball. Pictures of the red-carpet outfit went viral around the world and on social networks within just a few hours. As a result, this spring/summer 2016 collection is even more keenly anticipated.

© AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT

© AFP PHOTO / FRANCOIS GUILLOT

A new era for Yiqing Yin

The fashion house created by Chinese-born, Paris-raised and Paris-based designer Yiqing Yin was awarded “haute couture” status back in December. Although this isn’t the first time the label has presented its collections during Haute Couture Week, it was, until now, only doing so as a guest member. This marks a new era for the young designer, who recently quit her role as creative director of Léonard to concentrate on her own label. She was also named “Best Fashion Designer” at France’s “Globes de Cristal” awards ceremony in 2015. The front row of this show is sure to be a hot ticket.

Mystery Electric Car Prototype at CES

It is a day of carbon-friendly news for us as the enigmatic Faraday Future reveals its first ever prototype vehicle January 4 on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Faraday Future, which seeks to “redefine mobility,” is named after renowned experimental physicist Michael Faraday (he of the Faraday Cage fame). The company made waves with its secrecy in the lead-up to CES and finally unveiled its first prototype vehicle while continuing to offer scant details on its ownership and structure.

Going by the shape and structure of the prototype though, we are wonder if the firm is from Gotham, with funding from Bruce Wayne. Faraday future took the wraps off its Batmobile-style vehicle (just look at it), which is part of a plan to compete against the likes of Tesla and reshape the auto sector. This baby is a 1,000 bhp monster that The Verge calls both “ridiculous” and “pretty cool,” which also sounds to us like a fair description of the mythical Bruce Wayne.

“We are embarking on a complete rethink of what mobility is,” said the company’s senior vice president of research and engineering, Nick Sampson, unveiling the “FFZERO1” prototype car on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company actually calls this a “hypercar” and given that it theoretically crushes to race to 60mph in 3 seconds and tops out at 200mph, that is fair. For some context though, the McLaren P1 hypercar has fewer horses but goes quicker in every way. Of course, the P1 is also a real car so there is that.

Sampson said Faraday intends to move “very fast” on its plans and has already announced a $1 billion factory to be built near Las Vegas.

In just 18 months since its founding, Faraday has 750 employees and intends to produce its first car within two years. Faraday will move fast because it will act “more like a technology company than an automotive company,” Sampson said.

At the event, Faraday confirmed a “strategic partnership” with China-based media and tech firm Letv, but did not elaborate on its ownership or even indicate the identity of its chief executive.

The company told AFP that Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting is among its investors and popular speculation has it that the company is a Chinese venture. What is known though is that its employees include former executives from Apple, BMW, Google, NASA, Tesla and other prominent firms.

Sampson said Faraday has created a variable architecture platform to create multiple vehicles, and is using techniques such as virtual reality to speed up development. He also said Faraday was exploring “new types of ownership” for the vehicles, but did not elaborate.

Based in California, Faraday Future announced its factory plans in early December, saying it would be a “first phase” for the new company, which is yet to get a vehicle on the road.

The facility is “something more than an ordinary ‘assembly line,'” according to its announcement, and will include three million square feet (280,000 square meters) “for passionate creators and diligent visionaries, where new concepts will be refined and implemented.”

It will create 4,500 jobs in the region.

This report was compiled by in-house writers, in combination with a wire report and image from the AFP.

13 Hotels We are Waiting for in 2016

From the highly anticipated opening of a Toy Story-themed hotel at Shanghai Disney, to the grand reopening of two iconic Parisian landmarks, 2016 will be a big year for the luxury hotel market. While tens of thousands of new properties will open their doors for the first time in 2016, here is a selection of properties that are noteworthy for raising the bar in luxury, marking a milestone, or helping to transform the local tourism landscape.

Europe

In the last few years, Paris saw the temporary shuttering of two of its most iconic and luxurious hotels, the Ritz Paris and Hotel Crillon. This year, they will compete for attention as both are slated to re-open their doors after extensive and lengthy renovations.

Ritz Paris (March, 2016)

The hotel has been undergoing renovations since July 2012 – the biggest makeover in the hotel’s 117 year-old history. The refurbishment includes a new spa by luxury fashion brand Chanel, called “Chanel au Ritz Paris.” The hotel began accepting reservations for stays starting March 14, 2016.

Hotel de Crillon, Paris (2016)

With a history dating back to 1758, the Hotel Crillon (pictured above) is a veritable institution in Paris, located at Place de la Concorde where the Champs-Elysees begins. In 2013, it was announced that Rosewood Hotels & Resorts would take over the management of the property. The restoration will entail a contemporary overhaul led by Lebanese artistic director Aline d’Amman and architect Richard Martinet. It was also announced that Karl Lagerfeld has been commissioned to design two suites. An exact opening date has yet to be disclosed.

Nobu Hotel, Shoreditch, London (First quarter of 2016)

Nobu Hospitality (pictured below), co-owned by Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa and actor Robert De Niro, has announced plans to open its first European hotel in London’s trendy Shoreditch area in 2016. Expected to open in the first quarter of the year, the hotel’s five storeys are fractured into angular balconies and cantilevered steel beams using printed layered, glass and reflective facades to play with reflection and light. The hotel will be comprised of 156 rooms while the dining options will be helmed by chef Matsuhisa.

Il Sereno Lake Como, Italy (Spring 2016)

This five-star boutique hotel will be the sister establishment of the luxurious Le Sereno Saint Barths. Located 6 km from the center of Como and 50 minutes from Milan, the design of the new 30-room hotel has been overseen by Patricia Urquiola, who has focused on natural materials to create an aesthetic that is both timeless and full of character, intimate and casual. Urquiola’s studio will also design the interior of the ferry that will shuttle guests around the lake. Room rates will range from 600 to 4500 euros.

nobu shoreditch

Nobu Hotel

Africa

The Oberoi Marrakech (Third quarter of 2016)

Located 20 minutes from the city center, the luxurious property is built within 25 acres of citrus orchards and ancient olive groves. Each villa and suite comes with a private pool and views of the Atlas mountains, while rooms are spacious, modern and feature handcrafted Moroccan design features. The brand’s signature spa is built on a private island on a lake within the orchard, and offers Ayurvedic and Moroccan-inspired treatments. Facilities also include Moroccan hammams, yoga studio and outdoor pavilion.

Americas

Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown (mid-2016)

Billed as the little sister to its flagship New York property in Midtown, the second Four Seasons hotel will open in the Tribeca district, a short stroll from the new World Trade Center, Wall Street and the Soho neighborhood and serve as a dual residential and hotel property. The 185 rooms are designed by Yabu Pushelberg. Dining will be provided by Wolfgang Puck and his CUT steakhouse restaurant and bar.

The James Hotel, Los Angeles (2016)

Once construction is complete in 2016, The James Hotel will open the doors to the first new ground-up hotel in West Hollywood in 30 years. The boutique property will open in the heart of Sunset Strip at the corner of Sunset and La Cienega Boulevards, and house 286 rooms, two restaurants and a rooftop and lobby bar. The LA location will be the third for the brand after locations in Chicago and New York. The brand’s philosophy embraces wellness, sustainability, local art and culture.

Il Sereno Lake Como

Il Sereno Lake Como

Middle East

Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, UAE (2016)

Located in the heart of the new Central Business District, the opening of the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island will mark the first hotel for the chain in the Emirati capital. The property will open along a stretch of prime waterfront, and house a retro-modern Chicago steakhouse, cocktail bar, and poolside restaurant. Along with 200 rooms, the property will also feature 124 private and serviced residences.

St. Regis Cairo, Egypt (October 2016)

Organized as two towers, the St. Regis will house 292 lavish rooms that includes 63 suites. The mixed use property will also offer 99 guest apartments and 117 residences. Located on the north end of Corniche Road, rooms will offer views of the Nile River and in proximity to the pyramids and retail area.

Asia

Wynn Palace Cotai, Macau (June 25, 2016)

Originally scheduled to open in March 2016, the ambitious Wynn Palace Cotai will be delayed by another three months for a set date of June 25. The $4.1 billion, floral-themed property features 1,700 rooms spanning 28 storeys, and an artificial lake. To enter the grounds, guests will board air-conditioned SkyCabs that cross the 8-acre Performance Lake into the heart of the resort. Like its predecessors, the Wynn Palace will house an opulent spa, salon, luxury retailers and gourmet dining restaurants.

Mandarin Oriental, Bali (End of 2016)

Located on the southern Bukit peninsula, the luxury hotel group’s newest property will be built on elevated terraces to offer commanding views of the Indian Ocean. The resort will be comprised of 97 villas, each with a private pool and 24 guestrooms. The signature restaurant will be a cliff-top, cantilevered dining space with sweeping ocean views. Guests will also be able to indulge in luxurious spa services that include Balinese treatments.

Shanghai Disney (Spring 2016)

After experiencing construction delays, the opening of Disney’s third theme park in Asia after Hong Kong and Tokyo is expected to open its pearly gates in spring. When it does, the park will also open the doors to two highly anticipated themed hotels, The Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and a Toy Story Hotel. Not particularly encouraging is the image supplied for this story but we digress! At the Art Nouveau-inspired Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, guests will be greeted by bronze statues of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, while Toy Story fans will find Woody and Buzz Lightyear at the hotel courtyard.

Rosewood Phuket (2016)

To open on Emerald Bay in Western Phuket, the luxury property will be comprised of 80 villas and 32 residences that are designed to blend in with its natural hillside forest surroundings. Retractable glass walls will provide guests with unobstructed views of their environment, while garden rooftops and cantilevered structures will help the villas meld with the landscape. Dining options include a rustic Thai seafood eatery on the beach, poolside eatery, bistro and terrace bar, while a Sense spa will feature six spa villas and a swimming pool.

Shanghai Disney

Shanghai Disney

Dior Opens Largest China Flagship

Christian Dior has opened its largest flagship store yet on mainland China. The Beijing ‘China World’ boutique is split across two levels, featuring a floor-to-ceiling, double layer glass façade that emulates fine feminine fabric in the fashion house’s ‘Cannage’ print.

Designed by Peter Marino, the interiors blend inspiration taken from the brand’s Paris flagship, dotted with a carefully curated group of artworks by contemporary artists. Each of the 10 pieces, which include a bench by Terence Main and a video art wall by Yorame, reflect the codes of the house. There is also a sculpture “Siamese Metal 5” from British artist Richard Deacon, the work “Waterwall, Roselyn” by Gregory Ryan and table lamps by Véronique Rivemale are also displayed in the store. On the second floor, the footwear section is adorned by a “Gaia Imprint” Low Table, designed by Vincent Dubour.

Classic furniture pieces from Guillaume Piéchaud, Paolo Giordano and Timothy Horn have been placed strategically throughout the space, and the store also features a private VIP salon garnished with two Mineral Commodes designed by Juan & Paloma.

dior_boutique2_.9f0f0111137.original-r50

Dior will launch limited-edition products to be sold exclusively in the China World boutique to mark its opening. Products include the Diorama bag in metallic lizard or blue and pink python, a Dior VIII Grand Bal “Plissé” watch, a “Rose des Vents” bracelet or necklace in pink gold, ruby and mother of pearl, and the “Diorelita” Zodiac Monkey collection in gold and red lacquer.

Located in the city’s Chaoyang district, the store opened on December 21.

dior_boutique1_.5732b110803.original-r50

Contempo Chinese Art at Fondation Louis Vuitton

Anyone who has paid even passing attention to art auctions in the last 10 years cannot have escaped the power of contemporary Chinese art. It is surprising to us then to hear that the upcoming exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in January is the first time an entire exhibition has been devoted to contemporary Chinese artists in France in 10 years. The exhibition, running though the spring, brings together 12 Chinese artists and their work.

Entitled “Bentu,” it references the concept of motherland or native land, which is what the term refers to specifically. Make no mistake though, this is not about national boundaries. Instead, it represents a dialogue between local and global and a process of self-discovery.

Works on display will examine a changing Chinese society with artists from different generations employing a wide range of techniques and materials. Alongside the installations, there will be classical and contemporary musical performances, as well as films and poetry.

liu_shiyuan_fro.b1e32160626.original

Liu Shiyuan; “From Happiness to Wherever”; 2015

Among the veteran artists on display is Liu Xiaodong, who has experimented with both acting and painting. Also exhibiting is artist Cao Fei, who has directed and produced experimental documentaries. Liu Shiyuan, of a younger generation, will be also showing her work.

The exhibition examines local cultures, tradition, new technologies as well as the interaction between urban and rural. The focal point being identity.

The “Bentu” exhibition is not meant to give an overview of contemporary Chinese art.  Rather, organizers want to present the multifaceted aspect of it and how its forms are constantly evolving.

The exposition will begin on January 27, 2016 and run until April. Music, poetry and films will continue until September 5. The Foundation Louis Vuitton will also highlight a selection of its permanent collection of Chinese art from January 27 until September 5.

cao_fei_strange.afbb0160340.original

Cao Fei; “Strangers”; 205-2016