Luxury magazine: June 2019
Style statements on the streets of Córdoba; how Beirut became a couture capital; and an exclusive interview with Halima Aden
'These ideas will help create the world we want to see'
Is modest modelling an oxymoron? That was the headline of an article that we ran in The National in July 2017. The modestwear movement was gaining traction and Halima Aden was its poster child. The Somali-American model was becoming a fixture on runways and magazine covers, leading to discussions about whether the hijab, a garment specifically intended to deflect attention, had any place on such highly visible platforms. “The root of the question is: if modesty is a fundamental attribute of a Muslim woman, can modelling, which is all about drawing attention to oneself, be acceptable?” wrote the article’s author, Hafsa Lodi.
This debate was brought into sharp focus last month, when Aden became the first hijab-wearing model to appear in Sports Illustrated’s famous Swimsuit issue. Her decision to pose (in a burkini) for a magazine that has long propagated one-dimensional, hypersexualised depictions of female beauty was deemed groundbreaking by some and appalling by others.
Here, Lodi meets Aden to find out for herself whether the model has any problems reconciling her faith with her chosen career. It appears not. “I’m not Rapunzel, stuck in a castle,” was the crux of Aden’s response. The 21-year-old immigrant comes across as strong-willed, level-headed, independent and confident on the journey she’s on, and vigorously denounces the “haram police” who try to pass judgement on her via social media.
To meet a group of similarly formidable women, Sarah Maisey flew to San Francisco to attend the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, which were conceived to specifically support female entrepreneurs. “We discovered that women were having more trouble than men starting a business, with many having difficulties getting financing,” explains Cyrille Vigneron, president and chief executive of Cartier. “Only three per cent of startups run by women get funding. So there was a big imbalance, and for us to help support the redressing of this inequality made sense.”
We meet the three entrepreneurs from the Mena region who were recognised at this year’s awards ceremony. Their ideas address pressing and locally relevant issues – from employing Syrian refugees to give Arabic lessons via Skype; to teaching children in the region how to create video games, so they become creators rather than just consumers; and developing early learning centres that allow autistic children to live a normal life.
In the words of Lupita Nyong’o, a speaker at the event: “Awards are a time to reflect on where we are and where we want to be, by saying these ideas will help create the world we want to see.”
Selina Denman, editor
RiRi's fashion takeover
Rihanna has unveiled her first fashion designs. AP Photo
Is there anything Rihanna can’t do? Her music career needs no introduction, she heads up one of the fastest growing beauty brands around, and her size-inclusive lingerie line has won praise from women around the globe. Now the star has turned her hand to high fashion, with the launch of her own clothing brand, Fenty.
Since the label was announced earlier this year, the fashion world has been waiting with baited breath to see how her designs would take shape. As predicted, they caused quite a stir when they were unveiled last month. Think structured tailoring, washed denim and killer accessories – Rihanna’s debut collection has all the hallmarks of her own edgy signature style, while remaining entirely wearable, versatile and timeless.
A creation from Rihanna's Fenty. Reuters
The colour palette is fairly muted, with monochrome, pastel and neutral hues running through the collection, while the style is described as a feminine twist on traditionally masculine pieces (during the Paris launch on May 23, Rihanna wore a white structured blazer as a dress).
Ahead of Fenty’s official launch on May 29, Rihanna – real name Robyn Fenty – set up a pop-up boutique in Paris, the city where the maison was conceived. Fenty launched under LVMH, the company behind Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Celine and Dior, and in doing so, has made fashion history. Rihanna has become the first black female designer at the helm of a house within the company, as well as the youngest, a huge feat for the 31-year-old. Adding to that, Fenty is the first brand to be launched from the ground up by LVMH since Christian Lacroix in 1987.
Of course, the singer is no stranger to design. From her Fenty Beauty line to her lingerie collection and her hugely successful collaboration with Puma, the Bajan star has been laying the groundwork for her own label for years.
“Designing a line like this with LVMH is an incredibly special moment for us,” Rihanna said. “Mr Arnault has given me a unique opportunity to develop a fashion house in the luxury sector, with no artistic limits. I couldn’t imagine a better partner both creatively and business-wise, and I’m ready for the world to see what we have built together.”
A Fenty suit jacket, bumbag and pleated pants. Courtesy Fenty
“Everybody knows Rihanna as a wonderful singer, but through our partnership at Fenty Beauty, I discovered a true entrepreneur, a real CEO and a terrific leader,” said Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH. “To support Rihanna to start up the Fenty Maison, we have built a talented and multicultural team supported by the group’s resources,” he added.
Fenty is operating on a see-now-buy-now basis, releasing a number of special pieces that will only be available for limited time periods, as well as core collections. The brand’s main drive will be its “online flagship”, although pop-up boutiques will coincide with special launches.
Rolls-Royce's Phantom frieze
Artist Helen Amy Murray’s work sculpts textiles into three-dimensional decorative surfaces. Courtesy Rolls-Royce
Gadgets of all kinds are a standard fixture on even the most basic forms of motor transport these days, but far less common are vehicles containing something that might be termed a work of art. It’s a concept Rolls-Royce is pioneering, though, and bespoke designs have become a key aspect of its new Phantom range.
As part of an ongoing bid to personalise its products, the renowned car manufacturer has collaborated with seven artists to come up with a number of unique compositions that are designed to sit behind a sheet of glass on each vehicle’s dashboard – a space that the marque has termed The Gallery.
The idea is to curate and commission individual works and, in the process, give customers something a little more interesting than a speedometer and satnav screen on the inside of their cars. Clients can choose from a range of concepts that the artists have already formed, or become involved in creating their own individual works.
Michael Bryden, Rolls-Royce’s lead designer, introduced the idea to aficionados of the brand in the Middle East at a suhoor in Abu Dhabi’s cultural hub, Manarat Al Saadiyat, last month. “We wanted customers to be able to put their own fingerprint on their cars,” he says. “We wanted a space to exhibit fantastic artworks and use materials that can never normally be used in an automotive context.”
Design work started on the project around five years ago, and British artist Helen Amy Murray was one of the first creatives selected to take part. She joined Bryden at the suhoor and showcased a series of her own unique designs, two of which were unveiled for the first time.
Murray’s work sculpts textiles – mainly leather, suede and their synthetic counterparts – into threedimensional decorative surfaces. The first of her new pieces is a bright blue canvas depicting a design resembling peacock feathers (pictured), while the second, likely to appeal to local clients, creates the impression of rolling sand dunes.
The car company has collaborated with seven artists. Courtesy Rolls-Royce
A key motivator for Murray was the source material for Rolls-Royce’s famous bonnet sculpture. “I was inspired by the ethereal quality of the illustrations of The Spirit of Ecstasy by Charles Sykes,” she says.
Murray, who works from a studio in east London, has been involved in producing hand-sculpted works of art for use in interior settings. This is one reason Bryden and the rest of the design team felt she would be a good fit for the project. “Customers may already know Helen from works on their super-yacht or private plane,” he says.
To this end, the size of the artworks Murray has produced so far for The Gallery has been a challenge, as her previous work was geared for display on walls, rather than dashboards. “I had to put my mindset on an entirely different scale,” she says. “A lot of my work now is minute in comparison.”
Bryden sees the project as the latest in a long line of innovative design by Rolls-Royce, and is not blasé about what the team needs to achieve. “Everything has to be perfect,” he says. “We have a reputation and a history and we need to make sure we preserve that.”
The trend: Tent dresses that enfold and flatter
With folds of smoke-patterned fabric hanging from the neck, this voluminous dress is technically demanding yet beautifully flattering.
The designer merges Victoriana with volume, delivering cascades of tiered fabric caught with bands of ruffles. It shrouds, but still feels feminine.
The Dubai designer reworks masculine suiting into an ankle-length coverall. Left fluid and loose, the wrap-over front adds to the appeal.
This bulbous dress is enhanced by a quirky print and huge sleeves. While cut deep at the front and leg, its shape masks as much as it reveals.
Halima Aden with fellow models, backstage at the amfAR Gala Cannes 2018. Courtesy Getty
A patterned blue and green kaftan is hitched up to the thigh, revealing a cobalt-coloured bodysuit underneath. Lounging in the water, her hair wrapped in a matching turban, Halima Aden sports a beaming smile – perhaps understandably. The Somali-American is making history as the first hijab-wearing model to be featured in Sports Illustrated’s famed Swimsuit issue.
While a burkini-clad model on the pages of a publication best known for displaying lithe, semi-clad bodies may sound contradictory, Aden has made a habit of shattering perceptions and leaving a touch of controversy in her wake. The model, who I meet at a quaint hotel on the banks of the Bosphorus, is strong-willed, level-headed, independent and confident with the journey she’s on. She’s a Muslim, she’s a refugee, she’s American and she wears a hijab, and she sees no conflict at all between her faith and her career.
Aden’s story is widely known. The 21-year-old Somali was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and moved to the United States when she was six. “I think any time you go from being a refugee to moving, you have a wide range of culture shocks; you almost have to reprogramme your entire life,” says Aden, who spoke fluent Somali and Swahili, but had to learn English from scratch when she emigrated. Today, she has the animated drawl of a born Minnesotan.
In high school, a teenage Aden was voted homecoming queen and, in 2016, she competed in the Miss Minnesota beauty pageant, becoming the first hijab-wearing contestant in the competition. She was a semi-finalist and, for the swimwear sequence, opted to wear a burkini – making headlines nationwide at a time when post-9/11 Islamophobia was still rampant, and niqabs and burkinis were being banned in many places. After signing with modelling agency IMG, she made her first real foray into fashion in 2017 when she featured in Kanye West’s Yeezy presentation at New York Fashion Week, followed by runway appearances for Max Mara and Alberta Ferretti in Milan.
Coming from a Muslim background where modelling is often considered taboo, some of Aden’s family members were sceptical at first. “I think that’s something that girls relate to me on,” she says. “I do have a very traditional Somali Muslim mum.”
In Aden’s family, occupations such as nursing and teaching are considered to be more suitable for women. “They don’t necessarily understand that modelling is a real job; I think that’s what I struggle with culturally,” she says. The model remembers calling her aunt after walking the runways in Milan. “I told her: ‘Oh my gosh, I just walked at Milan Fashion Week; this is kind of a huge deal, I’m wearing a hijab and on top of that I’m wearing braces, so who would have ever thought I’d be walking in any show?’”
“In America, walking around in heels is considered a job?” was her aunt’s response. Now, she jokingly calls her famous niece “Halima the hanger.” But Aden sees herself as much more than a mere clothes horse. “Today, I think what’s considered as modelling has changed so much. With social media, I feel like modelling has become so much more; it’s no longer about photo shoot – model – buy,” she says.
Aden walked the runway for designer Sherri Hill at New York Fashion Week this year. Courtesy Getty
Her work now involves public speaking at university campuses, as well as being an ambassador for Unicef. “It doesn’t pay me, but it fulfils me in the places that really matter,” explains Aden. The young model is also excited about her latest venture – her first design collaboration, with popular modestwear website, Modanisa, which is known for its stylish, hijab-friendly apparel. The collection focuses on sculptural turbans in jewel tones, metallic finishes and graphic patterns.
As modest fashion has gained popularity in recent years, vloggers have taken to YouTube to post hijab-tying tutorials, and intricately wrapped turbans started trending among millennials who cover their hair. But achieving these looks took time, concentration and a handfuls of pins. What’s unique about the Halima x Modanisa turbans is that they are already tied and knotted, rather than coming as long scarves that require constant pinning and adjusting.
“Pre-tied, and no more pins,” says Aden, telling me that she has, in the past, walked into an event with her turban facing one way, and left with it looking completely different. “People ask: ‘When did you have time to change?’ Girl, it slipped! You know how there’s bad hair day? I’ve had some really bad hijab days.”
Aden says that for women, the process of getting ready is already time-consuming enough. “So your hijab, your turban, your scarf, should not be something that brings hassle to your life; girls should be able to put it on and take 20 seconds, max, to fluff it out,” she says. “The Halima x Modanisa turbans are for girls to feel their absolute most comfortable; they’re effective and practical, but also fashionable, and I think that’s something that was maybe missing.”
The target market for the collaboration, explains the model, is not just hijab-wearing Muslims. The turbans can be treated like hats, and worn by all women, for any occasion – be it a day at the beach or a formal gala event. Head coverings are not a solely Muslim style, after all – Aden tells me she has witnessed the headscarf’s gradual emergence into the mainstream over the past few years.
When she first started modelling, Aden would have to bring her own hijabs when travelling to European fashion weeks, but for her second runway show with Max Mara, she was presented with a headscarf that he had designed just for her. “And coming back the third time, he had 10 or 12 of us girls – I wasn’t the only one with her hair covered; it became part of the look.”
For his spring/summer 2018 show, designer Marc Jacobs also incorporated headscarves, wrapped as turbans, on every model on his runway. “Headpieces were being celebrated,” says Aden. “It’s no longer a ‘Muslim women head covering’ thing, you know. Turbans are in.”
While Aden has built up an enormous fan base, not all fellow Muslims applaud her actions. Take her appearance in April’s edition of Sports Illustrated, for instance. While the portrayal of a burkini-clad model in a traditionally skin-baring publication was celebrated by many Muslim women, others within the community found the photographs to be at odds with the inherent purpose of the hijab.
Aden has come to embody the debate that lies at the heart of the whole “modest” fashion movement: the hijab is essentially viewed as a veil of privacy, while having your image printed in magazines attracts attention in the public sphere. But does Aden see any conflict between her Islamic values and modelling career? Certainly not.
The Halima x Modanisa collection features pre-tied turbans. Courtesy Modanisa
“I’m not Rapunzel stuck in a castle,” she says defiantly. “In today’s society, you’re out and about, and you’re visible, no matter what. So why is it OK for me to be visible in a classroom? Why is it OK to be out in a mall, or just outside, but I can’t be seen in a magazine?” she asks.
Aden also points out that some critics are two-faced – the ones she calls the “haram police”, who leave nasty comments on her Instagram photos, for example. “This actually does bother me, because people will say modelling is haram, but then they’re the ones commenting on my photos on Instagram and they themselves have photos on public platforms – it’s just the hypocrisy of it all. I’m really learning now you have to live for you, and that’s the advice I give to girls, because if you listen to every single person who has an opinion, you’re going to be stuck not living at all.”
Another controversial aspect of being a hijab-wearing model is the non-segregated nature of the fashion industry. Many popular photographers and make-up artists are male, and some Muslim models stipulate that they’ll only work with all-female crews for shoots. But Aden raises the point that in all sectors, men and women work together, so why should rules be any different for Muslim women working in fashion?
“That’s part of being in today’s society. Women and men work alongside each other, and even if I was a teacher, or a university student, those [men] would be my peers and my colleagues,” she says.
Religious debate aside, there’s absolutely no denying that Aden’s entrance into the mainstream fashion world helped open doors for other young hijab-wearing women. Names such as Mariah Idrissi, Shahira Yusuf and Feriel Moulai, for instance, are now covering magazines, starring on runways and featuring in campaigns with luxury brands across the globe. And the movement isn’t just confined to the fashion industry – American Muslim fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad and congresswoman Ilhan Abdullahi Omar are also hijab-wearing females in the limelight.
“There’s a whole wide range of hijab-wearing women who are doing incredible things with their professions; who aren’t necessarily getting the clicks on Instagram, who aren’t trending on Twitter, but they matter,” Aden says.
While she may have fashion to thank for her fame, Aden has become an ambassador for inclusion and diversity. Having taken a break from attending college to explore opportunities in modelling, public speaking and perhaps some more design collaborations, she hints, Aden doesn’t have a solid plan for the next few years. She tells me that she’s spontaneous, and likes to go with the flow, and what more can we expect from a 21-year-old? But if there’s one thing she’s unapologetically certain of, it’s her identity. “I’m a proud Somali-American refugee, and I’m a proud Minnesotan – those are titles I’m proud to have,” she says, “and being a hijab-wearing model is something that I’m always going to treasure.”
Out of the shadows
A modest renaissance amid the Islamic architecture of Córdoba in southern Spain
Photography: Ezra Patchett
Fashion director: Sarah Maisey
Model: Julia at Mikas
Hair and make-up: Isis Moënne-Loccoz
A luxury jewellery brand and a children’s charity may not seem like obvious allies, but a 10-year partnership between Bulgari and Save the Children has yielded life-changing results,
Selina Denman discovers
One hundred years ago, as Europe emerged from the horrors of the First World War, a British social reformer, Eglantyne Jebb, came up with a radical proposition. As a result of Allied blockades, millions of children in enemy territories such as Austria and Germany were starving to death. Jebb set up Save the Children to try to alleviate some of their suffering.
“The cause she was fighting for was extremely unpopular,” reflects Claudio Tesauro, a member of the board of Save the Children International, when we meet in Dubai. “She was asking British people who had lost lots of young men in the conflict to assist the sons of their enemies, who were dying.
“The idea of assisting the son of your enemy is certainly visionary. But she always argued that there is nothing more international, in terms of language, than the cry of a baby.”
This year, Save the Children is celebrating its centenary – an occasion that is, in many ways, bittersweet. “My wish for Save the Children is that we only celebrate one centenary; that in 100 years, we will no longer exist, that the world won’t need us [anymore],” says Tesauro.
At present, the need for the organisation is as great as it was in Jebb’s lifetime. As Tesauro points out: “The challenges that children face today are unfortunately very similar to those that they faced 100 years ago. Maybe from a geographical point of view, a few things have changed but, still, an incredible number of children under the age of five die for reasons that are unacceptable.”
According to Save the Children’s 2018 annual report, an estimated 5.4 million children under the age of five still die each year from preventable causes – that’s about 15,000 everyday. Ill health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labour, child marriage, early pregnancy and violent death are just some of the many issues that Save the Children is trying to combat.
Immigration patterns are bringing many of these issues back to Europe – and creating a series of other complex challenges, Tesauro highlights. “How to help people at home? How to distinguish between immigration and human trafficking? How to make sure that those immigrants, once they reach a country, become a resource for that country, and not a problem to be dealt with?
“The argument has become very political. Politicians all over the world have leveraged people’s fear of immigrants to support their political manifesto and propaganda. Certainly it is a very complex argument and needs great attention, but I don’t think the answer of any civilised country can be to just close the door to people who have risked their lives to reach a better future,” he says.
In 2018, the charity helped 134 million children in 120 countries. Its campaign promise is “every last child” and its aim is for all children “to learn, survive and be protected” by 2030. Is this feasible? “Yes,” Tesauro responds, without hesitation. “We have to.”
In the meantime, Save the Children will also have to help rebuild trust in the NGO sector, which has been tarnished in recent years by reports of inappropriate, unethical and even illegal activities. NGOs have come under increasing scrutiny, with calls for greater transparency and accountability.
“Our founder was the first to say that an NGO has to be run like a company,” says Tesauro. “It has to have a transparent and clear balance sheet; you have to prove the origin of the money you receive and how you spend it. The success of the organisation is not actually the success of the organisation itself – it is the success of the action and scope you are trying to achieve.”
And this cannot be achieved in isolation, Tesauro maintains. “We know we cannot do it alone. We need to work with institutions; we will never be able to replace government action; and we need private stakeholders to support what we do.”
One private stakeholder that has supported the organisation’s efforts over the past decade is Roman jewellery brand Bulgari, which, through sales of its dedicated Save the Children jewellery collection, has raised almost $90 million (Dh330.5m) globally since 2009. This has been invested in 114 projects in 34 countries, primarily in the field of education.
Last month, Bulgari added a new piece to the collection – a disc-like pendant in sterling silver and onyx, topped with a red ruby from Mozambique. This fourth addition to the line retails at $770, with $100 from each sale going directly to Save the Children.
With the aim of boosting its overall donations to the charity to $100m within a year, Bulgari also unveiled a local campaign called Give Hope, featuring celebrities, influencers and community figures such as Lebanese actress Nadine Nassib Njeim, Saudi singer Aseel Omran, Tunisian model Rym Saidi and TV personality Diala Makki, shot by British photographer Rankin. It was also announced that, starting in Dubai this year, Bulgari Hotels and Resorts will be introducing a fundraising programme, encouraging hotel guests to make a donation upon checking out. “The relationship with Bulgari is historical,” Tesauro explains. “In 10 years, we have done an incredible number of things.”
He acknowledges that the partnership had to be handled delicately in the beginning – that an NGO and luxury brand do not immediately appear to be obvious bedfellows. “I mean, combining a fashion brand with a non-profit organisation was not an easy issue. It could have opened us up to the criticism that this large luxury brand just wanted to do something to make its image more acceptable. The true story is that the commitment of Bulgari has been unique since the very beginning – in terms of support, money, activities, flexibility and the people in charge.”
Importantly, Bulgari offered the NGO an immediate minimum guarantee – if sales of its Save the Children jewellery collection did not reach the pledged amount, it would cover the shortfall. It was also able to leverage its relationships with celebrities and influencers, to help spread the word about Save the Children’s initiatives worldwide – enlisting about 300 high-profile individuals to become involved on a pro-bono basis.
“Those people can make the world aware of what we are doing,” says Tesauro. “They have a capacity that is unique, to speak to a vast number of people around the world. That is very strong.”
The fashionable filmmaker
Created in collaboration with Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli,
The Staggering Girl seals Luca Guadagnino’s status
as the fashionista director, writes E Nina Rothe
Not since Alfred Hitchcock has a filmmaker channelled such an impeccable sense of aesthetics as a means of telling stories on the big screen. And in his latest film, a venture with fashion brand Valentino, produced by the maison’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, Luca Guadagnino turns that concept up a notch.
The Staggering Girl premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, in the Directors’ Fortnight section, and stars Americans Julianne Moore and Kyle MacLachlan, along with Swiss actress Marthe Keller. It is everything we crave in a movie – intriguing storyline, glamorous characters and spellbinding images – packed into a minimalist 37-minute package. I walk away from the screening yearning for an all-new wardrobe and a trip to Rome.
I meet Guadagnino, Piccioli and their leading ladies at the JW Marriott hotel in Cannes, during a mini press conference. The event is being held inside a nightclub, which in the daylight looks anticlimactically kitsch, complete with large potted plants and a baroque-inspired carpet stamped with an oversized fern pattern. Yet, the cast and filmmakers still manage to look perfectly elegant within that setting, the men in essential black, Keller wearing a black suit and a T-shirt featuring the famed “VLTN” letters, and Moore in a short, silver, sequinned Valentino number.
“I’m so interested in the fact that we feel compelled to decorate our bodies and our surroundings,” the actress admits. “We don’t have to… but we have this compulsion. I mean, I feel like wearing a short, sequinned Valentino dress at four o’clock in the afternoon, and so I’m going to!”
Fellow actress Keller chimes in with her own interesting take on fashion. “My mother always said: ‘We are not rich enough to buy cheap stuff.’ It stayed with me, and if I open my closet, I have things from 40 years ago, still lovely because of the way they are cut and their quality.”
The Staggering Girl is a story told across continents – in New York City and Rome – about a complicated mother-daughter relationship that also travels across time. The film stars only one male actor, MacLachlan, who is surrounded by all these exceptional women. “It is very unusual that you get to have a story with only one man, one guy playing all the parts,” Moore acknowledges.
Guadagnino is an interesting blend of cultures. Born in Palermo, Sicily, his mother is Algerian and his father Italian. He spent his childhood in Ethiopia, studied film history and literature at La Sapienza University in Rome and now lives in an ancient palazzo outside Milan. He speaks various languages, but always regretted not learning Arabic. Piccioli says of the talented director: “I’m a big admirer of Luca and his power, because for me, he possesses a kind of beauty that already has a story.”
One only needs to watch the film that first put him on the cinematic map, I Am Love starring Tilda Swinton, to realise that Guadagnino has a special relationship with beauty. The austere grey-toned architecture that is typical of Milan and its surroundings, the clothing worn by the film’s bourgeois heroine, designed by Raf Simons for Jil Sander, and the men’s chiselled Italian good looks, all conspire to tell a compelling tale of missed passions and an unfulfilled life.
In the films that followed, features like A Bigger Splash (where Guadagnino also called on Simons, then at Dior, to outfit his favourite leading lady Swinton), Call Me by Your Name and Suspiria, fashion also plays a starring role. It is a delicate balance between style and substance – and no one does it quite as well as Luca Guadagnino.
Famously, Suspiria costume designer Giulia Piersanti had to recreate a mixture of 1970s-inspired patchwork, prints and outfits straight out of the West German period magazine Sibylle – think “a socialist version of Vogue” – for the 2018 retelling of Dario Argento’s supernatural vintage horror flick. The result was visually stunning, a sort of Rosemary’s Baby meets the films of German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, all dyed in maroon Rajneesh cult-inspired hues. There were even dresses made of hair extensions.
But Guadagnino’s own love affair with fashion has less to do with clothes and more to do with those who create them, he explains. “We have to discriminate between fashion as an industry and the creative people who make fashion and inspire it – like Pierpaolo and many others who represent, for me, the power of creativity, the power of the idea of the person.” For the Italian filmmaker, fashion has more to do with “the profundity of the character, than with the surface”.
This profound connection with the people behind the way we dress is the reason that in 2012, the filmmaker founded his company, Frenesy Film, which focuses specifically on collaborations with fashion brands. Among his best works are short films for Giorgio Armani, Sergio Rossi, Cartier and Salvatore Ferragamo – Guadagnino has directed a documentary about the iconic shoemaker to the stars that will be out later this year.
The spark for The Staggering Girl came from Piccioli himself, Guadagnino confesses. “It all started with Pierpaolo and his staggering work. I have been an admirer of his for so long and have been kindly invited to see some shows. And every time I’ve been seeing the shows, including the haute couture one, I could tell there was something so powerful and resonant that was transcending the mere beauty of the dresses,” the filmmaker says.
The project came together when Piccioli invited the director to watch the Valentino haute couture show in Paris last July. Guadagnino took with him “a brilliant filmmaker, Michael Mitnick, who is a writer, and we sat through the show together. At the end of it, we were mind-blown and started to have so many ideas and thoughts. We really felt we [had]experienced a great novel in the shape of a great couture collection – and the same night, Pierpaolo, Michael and I said: ‘Yes, let’s try to translate this narrative into another narrative, and everything came together.’”
Piccioli’s own inspiration for the autumn/winter 2018/2019 haute couture Valentino show came from cinema. “I was working on this collection about the idea of a stream of consciousness; of how deep you can go to understand a character and I was thinking of Medea, [Italian film director, poet and writer] Pier Paolo Pasolini and Greek myths altogether,” he explains.
About making The Staggering Girl, Piccioli admits that: “I didn’t want at all to have a movie about fashion – that would have been a documentary maybe, but it’s not interesting for me.” So what is interesting to the lithe, soft-spoken Rome native? “For me, what’s important, even in fashion, is the power of dreams and emotions; that’s something that really delivers your personality, not how many hours you can use to make a dress, or how many beads.”
Piccioli was in NYC on May 21 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for a talk about the narrative power of fashion – so I ask him how clothes can tell a story. “Doing a collection, doing a show is in a way like making a movie,” he begins. “When you see a runway show, I hope you’ll get the emotions I have and the values I believe in and my idea of beauty.
“For me, fashion works when it delivers more than just clothes; when it delivers beauty and through beauty you can deliver emotions and dreams; and you can allow people to talk about something else.”
One concept that comes up time and time again with Piccioli is gracefulness. “Grace is a word that is perhaps forgotten today, because we talk about surface, the moments, but grace is something that comes from inside.”
Guadagnino elaborates on his own use of fashion within the entire narrative process: “I think when you do a movie, and particularly when you build a character with your partners, it is crucial and essential to start from the way these people look and then how they behave.”
On the corner of the tree-lined Avinguda Diagonal and Passeig De Gràcia, Spain’s answer to New York’s Fifth Avenue, work is currently under way to strip back an existing 1950s bank and remodel it into 34 luxury apartments. Situated in the heart of the city, Mandarin Oriental’s first stand-alone branded residence is a short distance from restaurants, bars, fashion houses and architectural masterpieces such as Gaudi’s Casa Milà.
The apartments have oak timber flooring in all living areas. Courtesy Savills
Designed by Spanish architect Carlos Ferrater, construction of the Residence project started in September 2018 and is due for completion in the final quarter of 2020. The finished 20-storey building will be unusually high for the Spanish city, offering rare 270-degree views across Barcelona’s multifaceted landscape. With mountains to one side and the sea on the other, the vista also takes in all of Barcelona’s architectural highlights, including the famous Sagrada Família.
Exclusivity is the undertone for the entire development. With no advertising campaign the project had already received more than 300 enquiries from the Middle East alone, and four units had been sold as of April. Josep-Maria Farre, owner of KKH Capital & Property, the developer behind the project, took a hands-on, detail-orientated approach to every element of the property. The brochure alone took one year to perfect – in which time no other person was allowed to see it.
There are bespoke large-format windows to capitalise on panoramic views. Courtesy Savills
The windows are all bespoke large-format, and designed with in-built seating to capitalise on the panoramic views. What was once a Spanish regulatory restriction has become a feature in itself – inset balconies offer inside and outside living space, complete with fireplaces in the larger apartments. The homes will be kitted out with oak timber flooring in living areas and bedrooms, bespoke marble flooring in the entrance halls and full marble in all bathrooms and powder rooms. Underfloor heating and cooling will also be fitted throughout the space. The interiors are, however, fully customisable.
The interiors can be fully customised. Courtesy Savills
The project incorporates advanced technologies for energy efficiency and sustainability, targeting Leed Gold environmental certification, as well as the EU Energy Efficiency Rating “A”. Lutron lighting and curtain control, along with a PBX telephone system complete with intercom to the concierge, will be standard throughout.
The building will comprise four one-bedroom apartments, 17 two-beds, nine three-beds, three full-floor penthouses and one grand penthouse, and will be serviced by 24 members of the Mandarin Oriental staff. Each abode will boast generous floor space, with a one-bedroom property measuring 123 square metres and the grand penthouse measuring in excess of 500sqm. Service charges on the freehold properties will be €16 (Dh65) per square metre.
Exclusivity is a cornerstone of the project. Courtesy Savills
There will be a five-storey public building attached to The Residences, housing a restaurant on the fifth floor, an exclusive sixth-floor lounge, a wellness and fitness area, and a rooftop garden and swimming pool. The connected walkway will feature a garden and artworks. Owners will also have access to the services and facilities of The Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, including the Michelin-starred restaurant Moments, situated less than ten minutes’ drive away.
Mandarin Oriental’s The Residences will come on to the open market this summer.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards recognise that small ideas can have an enormous impact. Sarah Maisey meets some of this year’s finalists
“Awards are a time to reflect on where we are and where we want to be, by saying these ideas will help create the world we want to see,” the Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyong’o said at the recent Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards in San Francisco. As a guest speaker at the event, Nyong’o’s words neatly encapsulated the mood of the evening: we were all there to witness dynamic entrepreneurs pitch ideas that could make the world a better place.
This year, the initiative received a record 2,900 applications from 17 countries, whittled down to 21 finalists. And although there are countless awards open to entrepreneurs around the world, what makes the Cartier Women’s Initiative so interesting is that it was unapologetically conceived to support women-led businesses. As Cyrille Vigneron, president and chief executive of Cartier says: “Cartier started this because we have mainly women customers.
“We discovered that women were having more trouble than men starting a business, with many having difficulties getting financing. Only three per cent of start-ups run by women get funding. So there was a big imbalance, and for us to help support the redressing of this inequality made sense.”
Since it was launched 13 years ago, the Cartier Women’s Initiative has had 219 winners from 51 countries. The globe is divided into seven regions, with three finalists selected from each. The seven winners each receive a $100,000 (Dh367,250) cash injection and 12 months of guidance and mentorship from industry leaders who offer expertise in the fields of business, marketing, management and finance. Partly thanks to this vital support, an impressive 80 per cent of the winning businesses are still going, despite a grim US start-up failure rate of 50 per cent within five years, and 70 per cent within 10.
The finalists for 2019 are a dazzling bunch. Take Ran Ma from America, for example. The founder of Siren has developed smart socks that detect fluctuations in the wearer’s temperature, pre-warning diabetes sufferers of potentially serious health issues. Or the investment platform InvestEd, set up by Carmina Bayombong when she realised that low-income students in the Philippines were being denied access to universities. The three finalists from the Mena region are equally inspiring, with each tackling pressing – and locally relevant – social issues.
Here, the three female entrepreneurs talk about their projects in their own words.
Mena finalist: NaTakallam by Aline Sara
NaTakallam, Arabic for “we speak”, was co-founded by US-born Lebanese national Aline Sara in 2015. Using Skype, it connects students eager to learn Arabic in one country, to Syrian refugees who are able to teach them in another. Students get private lessons, while refugees gain an income and a sense of purpose.
“I don’t think any of us grasp what it is to be a refugee today. One in four people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee, and 65 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes,” Sara tells me. “The overwhelming majority of these are stuck in limbo. They are stuck at border crossings and refugee camps, often in countries bordering the violence they fled, but don’t have any form of work permit. They have no way to restart their lives.
“I graduated from Columbia in human rights, social justice and conflict resolution, at the same time as the Syrian refugees were crossing into Lebanon, an already fragile state plagued with religious tensions and complexities. I realised this combination was catastrophic, because without economic opportunity, people turn to radicalisation and violence.
“Looking for a job, I knew I had to brush up on my Arabic, and then it hit me. I had always wanted to go to Damascus to study Arabic, but now all of these Syrians were in Lebanon. I realised I could hire them as my tutors and pay them informally. It would be win-win: I would get access to affordable, flexible language practice and they would get an income and dignity.
“When I first explain this to people, though, they assume it is the refugees being tutored, because we are so used to thinking of them as passive recipients. We are trying to flip that around.
We help a lot of middle-class refugees who aren’t served by the NGOs. These organisations have a mandate to look after the most vulnerable, so the middle class community is caught in limbo, trying to survive on their savings.
“The rest of the world didn’t wake up to the refugee crisis until Alan Kurdi, the little Syrian boy who drowned. Suddenly, our website went viral and we had 300 people signing up for Arabic classes.
“It is typically men fleeing because they have either been drafted to fight by Assad or by the militia. The regime keeps their passports, so when they flee, they have no way of proving who they are. They have been uprooted and have lost everything.
“We help a lot of middle-class refugees who aren’t served by the NGOs. These organisations have a mandate to look after the most vulnerable, so the middle class community is caught in limbo, trying to survive on their savings.
The work we are doing is urgent. We cannot just ignore displaced people, but political leaders are using refugees as scapegoats. “It is hard to wake up to that every morning, but I still have the refugees who told me I saved their life, or the students who told me they never thought they would meet a Syrian who liked Pink Floyd.
Khadija is one of our language partners and she fled [from]
Syria to Iraq, which tells you how bad the situation really is. She has been in the camp for three years, she has two kids and she has cancer, yet she is amazing. We recently did a lesson between her and nine-yearolds in New York and, at the end, the children wanted to donate to a refugee organisation.
“In another case, one of our tutors in Brazil broke his laptop, and a student mailed him a new one. I had no idea. He never told us. It’s that sort of thing that matters. It’s the non-tangible, the non-monetary, because ultimately it’s human connection.”
Mena finalist: Spica Tech by Reine Abbas
Reine Abbas, from Lebanon, started her company Spica Tech because of her son. “He knows I produce games and have my own gaming company, and he asked me to teach him and his class. So I spoke to his teacher and created a 14-hour course in game design. We had 25 four-year-olds creating their own video games. They learnt game design, coding, storytelling, implementation and how to test it,” Abbas recalls.
“Later, one mother told the teacher her daughter could now explain how a washing machine works. Her daughter had understood the logic, the orders, the conditions and she was able to explain it all to her mother. When I heard this, I knew I had to do something bigger.
“Kids in the Mena region are the biggest digital consumers in the world; they are digital junkies, but they are consumers, not creators. As a game developer and university professor, I know the industry in this region is poor – we just Arabise existing games. “This huge industry will be worth $100 billion (Dh367.25bn) in two years, creating thousands of jobs, but in this region, there is no education to help kids get into it as a career.
“Mixing my experience with my child’s education, I founded Spica Tech. It is an academy for children and teenagers to learn how to make their own video games. I am not teaching them coding – everyone is teaching coding – instead, I am giving them professional knowhow of highly complex production, using real industry software. In two years, we have taught more than 500 kids, and had more than 50 of their games published online, which is so empowering for them.
“We work with NGOs to also give an opportunity to refugee children, girls in particular. Only 15 per cent of this industry worldwide is female, so I really want to encourage them, because for many refugee girls, marriage is their only future. But I know that if we can give them the skills with coding and design, they will be able to do anything.
“We use the same software the industry uses, so I am creating real game developers, with real skills. I have created an online platform with a game engine to reach more kids, and have also designed a system for artists and developers to submit their courses. We have just signed a deal with the App Store and Google store, so our children can submit their games for free. Apple really believes in us, so Spica kids can publish their games without review.
We are giving these children a life-long gift, because too many kids in the Middle East have low self-esteem. We have had kids with dyslexia and ADHD who didn’t notice they were coding, because we were using their passion for video games. The same for kids with cancer. We are helping to change lives
“Our secret is project-based learning, and offering courses in three languages. Arabic, to teach refugee children and at Lebanese government schools; French, because there are more than a thousand French schools across the region; and English because it is the main language.
“The name Spica means two stars that exist in the solar system, but are seen as only one. This is exactly what Spica Tech is; it is art and science together. We are giving these children a lifelong gift, because too many kids in the Middle East have low self-esteem. We have had kids with dyslexia and ADHD who didn’t notice they were coding, because we were using their passion for video games. The same for kids with cancer. We are helping to change lives.
“We help kids become resilient and creative because too often, the education system blocks and boxes children. Spica gives them confidence and instils entrepreneurship. I see how it opens their minds.”
Mena winner: Maharat Learning Centre by Dr Hibah Shata
Dr Hibah Shata scooped the top honour for the Mena region at the Cartier Women’s Initiative 2019 Awards. The Saudi Arabian national, who lives in the UAE, founded the Maharat Learning Centre after discovering that her youngest child had austim.
“My daughter Sarah was one-and-half years old when we discovered she was autistic. The doctors suggested a special needs school – but I had heard successful stories of parents being told their child would never have friends, would never learn, would never go to school, but who are now professors and founders of organisations. I wanted that for my daughter and for other children. I wanted to remove them from special needs centres and let them live a normal life, supported by peers and friends.
“Early intervention and applied behavioural analysis therapy were not available in the UAE, so I had two choices. Either immigrate to a new country, or do something myself.
“I started the first medical centre in 2008 for early intervention, with individualised programmes to help the kids go to mainstream school. By 2010, we had 10 students ready, but schools refused to take them. So I set up a child learning and medical enrichment centre as an alternative.
“To have an academic programme, I knew I had to engage the government, so we started the ‘I want to go to school’ campaign, which brought in the government for discussions on inclusion. “We started focusing on what was needed to bring children to school, like assessments, working with behavioural problems, modifying the curriculum and communication skills. And for every autistic child a school accepts, we give the school free training.
"Early intervention and applied behavioural analysis therapy were not available in the UAE, so I had two choices. Either immigrate to a new country, or do something myself."Add a quote source (optional)
Dr Hibah Shata
“The beginning was not easy. There were so many barriers and every time we achieved a milestone, we still had to build a bridge to the next step. In Dubai, we now have 150 students, 70 per cent of whom are in mainstream schools. For those children who cannot access mainstream education, we have programmes in technology, and app or graphic design, so young adults can find jobs later. Now Dewa is hiring adults with autism, and we are in negotiations to train, coach and support them, so they can have a career.
“The problem with autism is that it is increasing; when we started 20 years ago, it was one in 1,000. Now it is one in 59. In 2015, the American government spent $265bn on treatment, with the majority going to adult services because these kids didn’t have early intervention, they didn’t go to school and they now need lifelong support.
“I have seen families give up on their children and that hurts me. I know these children can do much better if their parents engage with them, but some parents feel it is hopeless and just give up. My daughter spoke her first words when she was five, she first told me she loved me when she was eight, and first hugged and played with me when she was nine.
“I called her this morning and she said: ‘Mummy, I really miss you,’ and now I am starting to feel I have a daughter. It is hard to have a disconnection between you and your child, and even now, I will ask her something, and she will say: ‘It’s too hard to talk, I want to sleep.’ It’s hard for her to connect the words and make a sentence, but she is doing well, and I am very proud of her. She is now 13, is in grade 7, speaks Arabic and English, and is doing her Royal Academy exams in May.
“She still has challenges, but she inspires me, and I hope she inspires other families. We want to connect with all the families to tell them, all they need is to know how to work with their kids.”
The Dh143,000 snooker table
Here’s what makes The English snooker table with Ronnie O’Sullivan cues such a cool investment
The Metamorphosis English snooker table is from Boca do Lobo, a Portuguese design company founded in 2005, and known for its fun-loving furniture and innovative objets d’art. This piece is handcrafted using a combination of woodcarving, foundry and brass-casting techniques.
The ash table, Strachan red cloth and birch veneer framework are supported by eight eye-catching legs. The black turned-wood legs are adorned with the critters – casted brass bugs and gold scorpions – found in Boca do Lobo’s Metamorphosis series, and lend a playful air to an otherwise professional piece.
The table provides 10 feet of playing space, and comes with 9mm Ronnie O’Sullivan cues – named after the famed British snooker player – which are widely regarded as the finest of their kind. Additionally, the rails are in black lacquered wood, while the pockets are lined with leather.
The piece also comes equipped with a professional snooker kit made in phenolic resin, which comprises one yellow, one green, one brown, one blue, one pink, one black and 15 red balls, each with a distinct score; plus a wood kit with a triangle for the 52.4-centimetre balls and two fiddles – one 180cm long and the other 120cm.
While the customisation of this piece is more restricted than other Boca do Lobo pieces – “We have dimensions to respect for this to be considered a competition table,” say the designers – the colour of the Strachan cloth can be changed from its standard red to green, black, grey or pink.
The Metamorphosis snooker table was unveiled at this year’s Milan Furniture Fair and is now available to order for €35,000 per table. Boca do Lobo’s Metamorphosis series also includes mirrors, wall lamps, sideboards and dining tables.