Fashion fit for a rock star;
how K-Pop is shaping the way we dress;
and the evolution of the superyacht
‘IN MY DAY, NOBODY VIEWED BOY BANDS AS HARBINGERS OF FUTURE FASHION TRENDS’
There was a time, not so long ago, when boy bands were considered to be the very antithesis of cool. Certainly, in my day, nobody viewed the Backstreet Boys or New Kids on the Block as harbingers of future fashion trends, let alone “cultural icons”.
But times have changed, as Sarah Maisey discovered when she set out to investigate how K-pop went from being “a musical oddity to a global cultural phenomenon”. The slick all-boy and all-girl bands of South Korean pop are now permanent fixtures on the front rows of fashion shows – Big Bang’s G-Dragon is such a Chanel devotee that he recently became an ambassador for the house. Savvy luxury brands know full well what kind of sway these megastars have. With their increasingly international, adoring-to-the-point-of-obsessive fan base, their millions-strong social media followings and their ability to communicate directly with fans, K-pop bands have unfathomable influence – and this extends beyond the sphere of fashion. As the number of K-pop fans continues to grow exponentially, English is being usurped as the dominant language of music, leading, in turn, to a massive spike in demand for Korean language lessons. For anyone, like myself, who is slightly perplexed by the whole genre, our story should offer some insight.
While K-pop bands have been busy influencing the way the world dresses, Vikas Khanna has been steadily changing perceptions of Indian food around the globe. As one of the first Indian chefs to have earned a Michelin star, he has been instrumental in raising the profile of Indian cuisine. In an inspiring and emotional interview, he tells us his remarkable story – from his poverty-stricken childhood to his move to New York, to starring on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, earning those much-coveted stars and cooking for the Obamas and the Dalai Lama.
The chef’s sphere of influence now extends well beyond the kitchen – he is a humanitarian, the author of 34 books and has added filmmaking to his already expansive CV. The Last Color, which has been doing the rounds at film festivals this year, was produced and directed by Khanna, and focuses on the plight of widows in the Indian cities of Vrindavan and Varanasi. Next up, he hopes to use his influence to produce a film about the issue of immigration in the US, a subject that is particularly close to his heart.
“There are so many people around me that have not had the same opportunities as me. There are things happening in that amazing, historic White House that influence families on such a minute level. We are giving permission to bullies,” are his thoughts on the current political situation in the US.
Influence is a powerful thing – and Khanna reminds us that it should be used wisely.
Selina Denman, editor
Star power: Michael B Jordan makes his fashion debut
Actor Michael B Jordan has partnered with Coach for his first foray into fashion design. For the Coach x Michael B Jordan collection, the Black Panther star was inspired by his community, as well as his love of Naruto, a popular Japanese anime and manga franchise.
Guided by Coach’s creative director, Stuart Vevers, Jordan has created a unisex collection of clothing, bags and footwear that includes parkas, pullovers, backpacks, utility packs and hybrid sneaker boots. Technical details abound – from removable sleeves to elastic closures – complemented by Naruto imagery and the series’s trademark “eye” motifs, reimagined with Coach’s Retro C graphic.
Echoing Jordan’s own story “as an outlier building bridges inside and outside Hollywood”, Naruto Uzumaki is a young ninja who begins his journey as an outsider and earns the respect of his community as he works with his friends to protect it.
Part of the campaign for the new collection is a film conceived by Jordan and directed by American cinematographer Rachel Morrison, who worked as the director of photography on Black Panther. It unfolds in a neon-drenched Tokyo street, and moves between moments of modern-day grit and magical realism.
“With my name on this collection, it was important to design pieces that represent my cultural influences and my community; pieces that I could see my friends, family and fans wearing with pride,” Jordan says.
“As with all aspects of my work, this collection is about bringing fresh perspectives and unique voices to the forefront. Expanding into the fashion design space was rewarding beyond my expectations. I’m grateful to Stuart and Coach for providing me with the opportunity and expertise to execute a collection I’m extremely proud of.”
The launch coincides with news that Jordan has become the first global face of Coach menswear. “Working with Mike is always a great experience,” says Vevers. “He’s a great collaborator because he always puts his heart and soul into everything he does, and because he brought something authentic and personal to the collection.”
If you are looking to create a hot musical anthem, you call RedOne. Over the last decade, the Moroccan songwriter, who is based in Miami, has produced over 30 hits for a range of top tier pop-stars. The list includes Lady Gaga’s career-defining tracks Poker Face, Just Dance and Bad Romance. He was also instrumental in Enrique Iglesias's move from balladeer to dance floor king with the hits Like How It Feels and Dirty Dancer. RedOne has also stepped out as a solo artist and released the successful single We Love Africa. He speaks to LUXURY while on a family holiday in Dubai.
If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you be?
I would like to go back in time. Not to a particular period, but a moment. And that’s back to when I was a kid in our family home in Tetouan, Morocco, and my dad would come to my room and wake me up to go to school. My father passed away, so for me to experience that feeling of waking up and having breakfast, which my dad would make, would be amazing.
You’re sitting down to the perfect meal. Where are you, what are you eating and who are you with?
I come from a family of nine and I am the youngest. I grew up understanding that family is love, so a perfect dinner or location is anywhere I am with the family. I have a pretty big house in Tetouan, where we occasionally gather and have an incredible meal. It is a love fest. We would have paella or couscous and many other things, of course.
What does your dream home look like?
I think I am blessed to already have that dream home and that’s my place in Cabo Negro. I’ve had it for nearly five years. It is on a hill overlooking the beach and you can also see Spain from there. My brother is an architect and he helped me do exactly what I wanted. It has a Moroccan hamam, a gym and three music studios – Daddy Yankee and Enrique Iglesias recorded there with me. But the real reason it is my dream home is because when I was young, I dreamt that I would win Grammies and take over the world and have a big place where everyone could gather together. This summer, I spent three months there, and my mum and all her sisters stayed with me.
Are you a collector?
I am collector of football shirts. I have the shirts of many great players, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Zinedine Zidane. I don’t view these shirts as an investment because there is so much more to them: they have emotions, victories and fights. These players are the gladiators of today, and they do it with billions of people watching them around the world.
What was your first luxury purchase?
It was a Porsche Panamera Turbo about 11 years ago when I was finding big success with my work with Lady Gaga and others. I bought is as soon as it came out. What I remember about it is, in America, when you lease something, you need to have credit and you need time to build that. I didn’t have enough credit, so I just bought the car in cash. This was the first time I felt: ‘Wow, I really bought something’. I felt grateful. Alhamdulillah, I thanked God for blessing me with the talent and giving me the patience and hard work to make things happen.
What is your most treasured possession?
My family and friends. Really, that’s it. I am not attached to material things. I love to enjoy them, but I’ve lost so many of them over the years; I was even robbed big time. My wife buys me a lot of expensive watches, and I’ve lost a lot of them in restaurants because I like to take them off while I am eating.
When it comes to producing music, who are your biggest influences?
It would be the producers Quincy Jones, Bob Rock and Mutt Lange. With Quincy, it is because of his sheer musicality. I worked with him on a couple of occasions and this man is a real professor. His knowledge, from the choice of sounds, instruments and songs, is just incredible. With Rock, he was a producer who understood how to make rock and roll sound accessible. He would take a powerful band like Metallica and make them sound commercial without losing their soul. Which brings me to Mutt Lange – he also made so many powerful records. When I was researching him, I realised he would record every guitar string separately. He is an architect of sound.
Long-time residence to ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard, this is a home that exemplifies the boxing champ’s triumphs over the years
Soon after winning gold at the 1976 Olympics, boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard was close to broke – a circumstance that led him to turn to professional fighting. He won his first pro match at the age of 20 in 1977, was declared Boxer of the Decade in the 1980s, and won 36 out of 40 fights in his career.
Sugar Ray even became the first-ever professional fighter to win more than $100 million in purses. He bought and built this villa, his dream home along the celebrity-studded Palisades Riviera, soon after. The estate has also played host to dozens of fundraisers that the five-weight champion – now a philanthropist and motivational speaker whose eponymous foundation provides patient care for children living with diabetes – and his wife, Bernadette, have thrown over the decades.
With its seven bedrooms, a living room, dining room, grand hall and chef’s kitchen, the Italian-style villa offers up 16,700 square feet of living space and sits on a two-acre plot. Unsurprisingly, the ever-sporty Sugar Ray custom-built a tennis court and a putting green on the estate, which also houses a gym, massive swimming pool and multiple landscaped lawns.
The grand-looking mansion, which sits behind double gates, is completely ivy-clad and comes with a clay-tiled roof. Other standout features include a formal foyer, a solarium framed with stone columns, vaulted wood-beamed ceilings, a terrace with ocean and canyon views, walk-in wardrobes, six fireplaces and stone floors imported from Jerusalem.
The home also features a movie theatre, while a separate two-storey guesthouse sits adjacent to the pool and a spa space is carved out in one corner of the main garden. “A peaceful oasis” is how Bernadette describes her home of more than 20 years, while listing agent Jade Mills underscores “the indoor-outdoor flow”.
Should Sugar Ray be able to claim the current $52 million price tag, this will become one of most expensive homes sold in Los Angeles this year – on the heels of the Manor in Holmby Hills, which sold for a record $119.75 million, and a Beverly Hills mansion that Uber co-founder Garrett Camp bought for $72.5 million. The most expensive Pacific Palisades home so far, meanwhile, is television executive Michael King’s estate at $33.85 million.
The Trend: Going green
It's loose-fit military styling at DSquared2, where a top in asparagus green is paired with oversized cargo pants.
Inspired by Italian marble, Dunhill has created a coat that seems to be carved out of it. In swirling earthy tones, it is as striking as it is beautiful.
There’s more marbling at Roberto Cavalli, this time framed by a slick teal suit. The single-breasted jacket is slightly drop-shouldered.
A slouchy jade cable knit jumper is mixed with a fluffy faux trim in lilac. Tucked into sage green trousers, it’s a surprisingly chic combination.
The K-pop effect
Sarah Maisey looks at how the rise of Korean music is shaping the way the world dresses
News that South Korean pop sensations BTS were taking a break over the summer months may have plunged adoring fans into an abyss of grief, but it gave the rest of us a chance to stop and consider how K-pop went from being a musical oddity to a global cultural phenomenon.
South Korean pop, or K-pop, is a well-oiled music machine that plucks photogenic teenagers from obscurity and hot-houses them through years of intensive training and choreography. Sculpted into slick all-girl or all-boy bands, they are polished to an immaculate sheen and equipped with the latest duds and sharpest dance moves. K-pop has been around since the mid-1990s, however, in recent years it has gone global. With a huge following in Japan, China, Thailand, the Philippines, the Middle East, much of South America and even Australia, the bands once dismissed as plastic pop stars are now world-famous.
With a fan base that borders on the obsessive, BTS is the most famous of them all – and arguably the most famous band on the planet today. As a collective, the seven members that make up the group, RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook, have 12 million YouTube subscribers, and 16.5 million and 20m followers on Twitter and Instagram respectively. They were the most tweeted-about celebrities of 2017, well ahead of Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift, and have fans who refer to themselves as the BTS army.
But while teenagers may enjoy the upbeat tunes, there is more to K-pop than first meets the eye. During the Japanese occupation of Korea in the first half of the 20th century, much of the country’s identity and culture was destroyed as part of so-called “modernisation” programmes. Only with the departure of the Japanese in 1945 were Korean ideas allowed to flourish again – and they enjoyed a creative upsurge. By 1957, the country’s first fully fledged fashion designer, Nora Noh had emerged.
In 1961, Brig Gen Park Chung Hee staged a military coup and seized power. Over the next two decades he would rule the country with an iron fist, placing tight controls on political opposition, the press and universities. He established the much feared Korean Central Intelligence Agency to spy on dissenters and control the populace through fear tactics, and in 1972 declared martial law.
For a generation of young people living under this oppressive regime, wearing western-style hot pants, mini skirts, jewellery, or, for men, having long hair and donning make-up, became a symbol of political rebellion as well as a rejection of authoritarian rule. Clothing thus became enmeshed in protest, and even after the fall of the military dictatorship, the first big K-pop band of the 1990s, Seo Taiji and Boys, merged American hip-hop with grunge in a style that would become known as “resistance fashion”.
Today, that idea of resistance lingers, and fashion in South Korea is about a declaration of independence. The aesthetic is firmly embedded in the cuts and colours of the 1980s and 1990s, and infused with meticulous, almost foppish attention to detail. Cuts are precise and the silhouettes are purposefully selected, combining sleek minimalism with playful exaggeration, or chopping proportions to unexpected effect. Slim-cut suits are worn with shirts that extend almost to mid-thigh, or shorts are worn under ankle length “duvet” coats. The palette journeys from monastic monochrome to a fanciful riot of colour, via every pattern under the sun. Seoul street fashion is all about dressing up, and there is no better place to witness this than on the stylish avenues of Gangnam, Hongdae and Myeongdong.
A stroll down any of these roads yields men in neon shorts worn with layered Hawaiian shirts, next to guys in T-shirts and slick suits or head-to-toe patterned hip-hop wear. In short, on the fashion-conscious streets of Seoul, anything goes.
This extends to K-pop stars, who shift effortlessly from hip-hop gangster to sharp-suited fashionista within a single music video. These videos are lavish and wardrobe is a key element of production, with stars cavorting in big-name designers as well as South Korean labels. This is perhaps best illustrated in Big Bang’s Bang Bang Bang video, in which the clothes segue from Mad Max, through wet-look latex, to the bearskin hats of the Queen’s Guard.
With their huge followings, the stars of K-pop have their every looked scrutinised, dissected and copied by millions via social media. They have an unprecedented reach and the ability to interact directly with fans. Global fashion houses have taken note. When Suga from BTS wore a Virgil Abloh chequered shirt, for example, online searches for the item spiked by 120 per cent. When rapper RM wore a pink Adidas T-shirt, sales rocketed by 97 per cent.
With such pulling power, it follows that brands increasingly place South Korean stars front and centre at runway shows, for the coverage it guarantees. Fashion consumers in South Korea will spend an estimated $15.33 billion (Dh56.31bn) this year alone, according to Statista, so leveraging connections with the biggest pop stars on the planet is good business.
In addition, with the huge following that K-pop has in China, the genre offers a crucial inroad to this highly lucrative market. According to a McKinsey report, China already accounts for more than 25 per cent of all luxury sales worldwide, a figure that is expected to grow. Little wonder, then, that the likes of Burberry, Gucci and Saint Laurent are eager to make the most of their relationships with K-pop stars.
Vogue declared EXO rapper Sehun as the best-dressed man at Louis Vuitton’s resort 2019 show, while all seven members of BTS arrived at the 2018 Billboard Awards in bespoke Saint Laurent. EXO’s main dancer, Kai, is a regular at Gucci events, and notably arrived at the spring/summer 2018 resort show in a fringed crystal headpiece.
Taeyang from Big Bang collaborated with Fendi in 2017 on a streetwear-inspired capsule collection entitled Young Bae, while the band’s lead singer, G-Dragon, is such a Chanel devotee, he was named a brand ambassador that same year, joining the ranks of Kristen Stewart, Cara Delevingne and Pharrell Williams. An almost permanent fixture at Chanel shows until his recent return to Seoul for mandatory military service, the flambouyant singer favours layers of costume jewellery and, with his slim frame, rocks a boucle tweed jacket better than most women. He is also a fan of so called guy-liner, brow fillers and lip tints, which is helping to drive the growth of make-up for men, with South Korea now thought to account for 20 per cent of the global market.
It is worth noting that for his first foray into designing tour wardrobes, Dior Men creative director Kim Jones chose this year’s Loveself tour for BTS. In an intriguing mix of masculine and feminine, Jones mixed tailoring and technical fabrics to create custom-made, military-inspired outfits that the BTS army will no doubt adore.
Likewise, when Givenchy designer Clare Waight Keller unveiled the first fully fledged menswear collection for the house earlier this year, it was inspired by South Korea and K-pop. “I find what’s happening incredibly vibrant,” Waight Keller said ahead of her collection debut at Pitti Uomo. “Particularly young men in Seoul, who are meticulous about fashion, sort of tribal, sort of cultish, and highly accessorised. They have a real passion for a look. Seeing them there reminded me of how we wanted to be in the 1980s and 1990s, of wanting to belong, to have the best of a look.”
Minimalist tailoring formed the heart of her collection, in soft pastels that echoed the foppish perfection of K-pop. Onto this, Waight Keller added boxier cut jackets and looser, more fluid sportswear. In a nod to gender fluidity, she even sent female models down the runway in men’s suits, and offered up 10 different cuts of trousers, so it was more akin to a women’s collection than a men’s.
Meanwhile, Giorgio Armani, the Italian master who has always championed emerging designers, handpicked Korean designer Munsoo Kwon to present at his Milan show space in spring/summer 2018. Having trained under Helmut Lang and Thom Browne, Kwon’s sharply modern tailoring carries a signature split back.
Sportswear-meets-punk label 99%IS, a brand based in Tokyo but founded and run by Korean designer Bajowoo, is stocked on Net-a-Porter’s male counterpart, Mr Porter; while 87mm, founded by two Korean male models and known for its savvy pieces that are functional and highly wearable (often in several ways), is a regular fixture on fashion magazines’ “brands to watch” lists.
And the K-pop influence is not limited to fashion. In September last year, BTS was invited to address the UN and gave a speech in Korean encouraging youths to “speak yourself”. It quickly went viral. This year BTS made history as the first Korean band to top the US charts and are the first band since The Beatles to have three No 1 albums in a single year. They are also the first K-pop band to headline Wembley Stadium (selling out in minutes), and their video for Boy with Luv was viewed a record 74.6m times at launch (an achievement controversially ignored by the MTV VMA’s this year in favour of Taylor Swift).
What makes these milestones more impressive is that while the songs may have a few English words, the majority of K-pop is sung in Korean, suggesting that many fans are listening to songs they can’t actually understand. With so many K-pop fans out there, this is having the effect of usurping English as the dominant language of music, much to the bafflement of record company executives. In turn, this has led to a spike in demand for Korean lessons, as teenagers worldwide scramble to understand the lyrics. It may be time to forget about learning French or Spanish at school, because the language of the future could well be Korean – especially if the BTS army gets its way.
Humble, sincere and driven, Vikas Khanna pulled himself out of poverty to become one of the world's most successful chefs. Selina Denman meets him
The day before I meet Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna in Dubai, one of his peers, Marco Pierre White, has been making headlines for claiming that women are at a disadvantage in the kitchen because they are more emotional than men, and incapable of carrying heavy pots and pans. “The real positive with men is that men can absorb pressure better, that’s the main difference, because they are not as emotional and they don’t take things personally,” is White’s antiquated view.
I ask Khanna, a long-time proponent of equal opportunities for women in his native India, what his thoughts are on the matter. And whether this kind of thinking is still prevalent in the world’s top-tier kitchens. “Marco Pierre White has proven himself, and his opinion is valid – to him, but not to me,” Khanna responds. “One of my protégés, Aarthi Sampath, is a girl from Bombay and she cooks better than me. And I am more emotional than her. But also, if we want people without emotions, why don’t we use machines to cook?”
Emotion is the thread that runs through my conversation with Khanna. It is emotion that drives him in the kitchen; emotion that inspired him to make a film about the treatment of widows in India; and emotion that bursts to the surface every time he mentions his grandmother, whose presence looms large over Khanna’s remarkable rise from a boy with club foot growing up in poverty in Amritsar, to a celebrated chef, author, filmmaker, humanitarian and TV personality who has cooked for the Obamas and the Dalai Lama.
But first, chai. “I’m sure you’ve had chai before,” the softly-spoken chef says as we settle into the private dining area of his new restaurant in Dubai, Kinara by Vikas Khanna at JA Lake View Hotel. “And I don’t mean to sound arrogant … but this might be one of the best chais you’re ever going to drink.”
He’s not wrong. The milky concoction is delicately laced with cardamom and saffron, with a tiny pinch of salt to balance out the sweetness. It is, in its flavoursome simplicity, entirely reflective of the overall ethos of Kinara. “We are not doing a lavish menu – I don’t want 200 dishes. I just wanted to bring a very simple way of cooking dishes that we all miss. Today, there is so much anxiety in the world, so food that gives us comfort is important.”
There are modern twists on classic dishes, with a strong focus on the smoky flavours of the tandoor. Examples include shakarkandi ki chaat, a sandalwood-smoked sweet potato with cumin labneh and strawberry-ginger dressing; anjari tamatar murgh, a chicken roulade with tomato-fenugreek gravy, roasted figs and coriander oil; and tawa fish, sea bass with spiced almond sauce and yellow mustard caviar.
Khanna is nervous ahead of the opening, he admits. But that’s par for the course. “I’m nervous all the time. Because you have to be. Cooking is something that’s alive. It’s not as if you make a product and it just exists there. Every day you have to start from scratch. Nature has such a hand in it – and then there is the human touch. Both are variables.”
There are plenty of variables – but also one constant in every single restaurant that Khanna has ever opened. “I will not turn on the gas until my mum comes and turns it on for me,” he explains, pulling out his smartphone to show me a video from the previous day, of his mother and grandmother in the Kinara kitchen conducting “a fire-lighting ceremony”. Khanna is quick to qualify: “It’s not religious. But it’s very powerful.”
Khanna attributes much of his success to his grandmother, who not only showed him how to make round breads, but also offered him refuge in her kitchen and taught him about food’s power to unite. “I was born with a club foot,” the chef reveals. “I used to be upset because I couldn’t run like other kids; the kitchen was the only place I felt equal.
“My grandmother said: ‘I’m going to teach you everything I know, but you have to understand that there has to be unification through food. People are going to have good days and bad days, but food has to provide comfort.’ In any restaurant I’ve done, I feel like yes, it’s a commercial venture, but it still retains its soul, which is what I always felt in her kitchen.”
So if he could bring any two people around a table and unify them with his cooking, who would he choose? “I would bring together the heads of India and Pakistan,” he says. “I’ve trained in both countries, so let me cook!”
Khanna’s new film, The Last Color, is an ode to some of the most ostracised individuals in Indian society – the widows of Vrindavan. The film questions an ancient but existing Hindu tradition where, after the death of their husbands, women in this holy town in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, are expected to forgo earthly pleasures and live out the rest of their days in worship, dressed in white, separate from society. In many instances they are believed to be cursed, and are treated as such.
“I was in this ancient city in India during Holi. There’s a temple where they celebrate this festival and I’d seen the pictures. I went there and as I was coming out, I saw hundreds of widows, colourless. I was walking by them and this guy behind me said: ‘Don’t look at them, they are inauspicious.’
“I was told that you had to treat them a certain way – I was told that they could never hold a child, couldn’t be at festivals, couldn’t touch colour, couldn’t eat food like us; that they would be condemned and punished for the rest of their lives. And we had accepted it. Everybody had. Nobody stood up to break the cycle.”
Khanna can barely contain his emotion as he explains how his eyes were drawn to one particular widow, about 90 years of age, and he subtly acknowledged her. “She was so happy. She put her left hand on her heart and looked around as if to say: I hope nobody sees me blessing you,” he tells me. “I felt like I was in a coma and I woke up. She was ashamed to bless me because she knew people would tell her to get out of the way, or tell her not to look at me. She had accepted being less.”
So Khanna wrote a story about being “colourless”, and turned it into a movie that is currently doing the rounds at film festivals around the world. “I felt like I was in so much debt because of that blessing. I couldn’t just let it pass. So I made the movie – and I got India’s best actress [Neena Gupta] to star in it.”
The chef is great a supporter of the underdog. Even when we discuss ingredients, he laments the misfortune of red and green peppercorns, which are so often overshadowed by the black variety. “One guy became so famous in the family that no one remembers the others,” he says with a laugh. “People just don’t realise the amazing beauty of red and green peppercorns. So I request that whenever people are creating their little spice mix, they should put different kinds of peppercorns.”
Other favoured ingredients are mulethi, or liquorice roots, and salt, which he also views as grossly underappreciated. “There are so many different varieties of salt and so many different tastes. It’s an ingredient that is always there. It’s like parents, always there, but when they are not there, you miss them. You take them for granted.”
After his early apprenticeship at his grandmother’s side and in the community kitchens of Amritsar’s Golden Temple, Khanna attended the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration in Manipal, before moving to New York, where through sheer grit and determination (“poverty teaches you everything – you become so strong and multifunctional”), he ended up starring on Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay, became one of the first Indian chefs to earn a Michelin star, cooked for presidents and authored 34 books, including Utsav – A Culinary Epic of Indian Festivals, the most expensive cookbook in the world.
“I used to sell food for $3 [Dh11] on Wall Street,” he recalls. “That would include one curry and one rice, or you could opt for one bread.” In 2012, he prepared the food for an event hosted by the Obamas that cost $39,500 per head.
“President Obama made a big contribution towards my career and growth in so many ways, because he was always such an admirer of Indian food and was such a cultural influencer. I cooked for them many times. You’d never expect an Indian chef to be invited to cook at the First Lady’s birthday at the White House.”
He is less complimentary of the current president. In the future, he hopes to turn his filmographer’s eye to the issue of immigration in America – to use his influence and platform in the public sphere to counter what he sees as bullying at the very highest levels of politics. “There are so many people around me that have not had the same opportunities as me. There are things happening in that amazing, historic White House that influence families on such a minute level. We are giving permission to bullies. I remember how bullies crushed my self-confidence and instilled so much self-hate in me. And now people are just accepting that as normal.”
His voices crackles with emotion once again – and I, too, am almost overcome. “I spent 30 years, using a different craft, rising above bullies. And it feels like I’m being thrown back in the dirt when I see people in the top offices on the planet speaking like that. If I keep quiet, I feel like I am silencing the woman who stood for me when the entire world did not. My grandmother would say: ‘Ah, don’t worry about those bullies. They’re just jealous of you, because you can make a round bread.’ She had to find something positive in me. And that’s what she found.
“People used to say to her: ‘He’ll never have proper legs.’ And she would say: ‘Oh no, don’t worry about it. He was never born to walk; he was born to fly.’”
Mixed tailored suiting and 1990s streetwear for a look that’s simmering with attitude
Photography: David Vail
Fashion director: Sarah Maisey
Model: Xavier at Select
Grooming: Maria Doyle
Superyachts: The ultimate indulgence?
How much more opulent can this expression of wealth get? Adriaane Pielou investigates
No one actually needs a superyacht. But nothing else is quite so much fun – or quite so eye-wateringly expensive. That’s why they’re the ultimate luxury.
Whether they’re kept moored close to home or off a classic hotspot such as St Tropez, Mykonos or Antigua, a superyacht offers some of the greatest privacy on the planet. And there’s always the possibility of adventure. With a range of 4,800 kilometres or more now standard, it’s easy to cross an ocean on a whim, or island-hop for months without needing to refuel.
But how much more opulent can this expression of luxury get? Will the next generation of zillionaires want something that projects privilege quite so unambiguously? And, when planetary pollution is so topical, something that guzzles – and belches – so much diesel?
For now, customisation is king; an owner’s wishes rule supreme. As they might when the price tag for a professionally crewed vessel more than 24 metres at the waterline (the definition of a superyacht rather than a regular old one) ranges from about $20 million (Dh73.4m) to $500m and beyond.
Ever since interior designers came on board in the late 1990s, most superyachts have looked more like a villa in the South of France or an apartment in New York than a boat. So it goes almost without saying that there will be a pool, about seven metres long, possibly transparent, possibly fed by a waterfall; reconfigurable internal entertaining spaces with walls that disappear at the touch of a button; guest suites with marble bathrooms; a large owner’s suite with an office, private breakfast area, dressing rooms and probably full-beam marble bathroom to provide a retreat within a retreat (and escape from your guests); a satellite dome; restaurant-quality galleys; a screening room; yoga space alongside the now-standard fitness facilities such as a spa, gym, massage room, sauna and steam room; and possibly an ice or snow room, too.
Fold-out balconies have become a thing. So too have fireplaces and, even more of a technological challenge, floor-to-ceiling windows. A main-deck “open” kitchen is becoming popular, so that guests can watch their (probably Michelin-star-wielding) chef prepare dinner. Lap pools aren’t unknown. A touch-and-go helicopter landing area has gone from being a rarity 20 years ago to a common feature.
For older owners or aged parents, a lift and medical area is useful. Hidden from sight are the quarters for the captain and crew (usually at least eight, possibly 80), and maybe a few Gurkha soldiers for security. (“The best,” a former yacht charter specialist in the South of France assures me.)
Then there are the water-toys. After all, what’s more fun than a JetSurf motorised surf board? Or skimming the waves on a SeaBob F5 SR at 22km an hour, then, at the press of a button, diving underwater? The answer is a £79,000 (about Dh358,000) JetLev-flyer, which shoots whoever has dared strap it to their back three, six or even nine metres into the air. Fun for everyone is an 18-metre slide that can be attached to the sun deck. And for those who never got those images from Jaws out of their mind, a tightly netted Fun Air sea-pool keeps jellyfish away, too.
So far this year, more than 60 new superyachts have taken to the seas. Dutch building yard Heesen delivered the 55-metre Vida, its glamorous centrepiece a circular three-deck spiral staircase with floating backlit white onyx steps wrapped around a central column of stainless steel. Amels’s 74-metre, 12-passenger Sixth Sense features an infinity pool and a spa spanning the width of the vessel.
On Abeking & Rasmussen’s 14-guest, 24-crew 74.5-metre Elandess, the above and below-water windows in its Neptune Lounge are billed as “the ultimate cinema”. The 93-metre Lady S from Feadship, part-owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH, has the superyacht world’s first two-deck Imax cinema. Included on the 1,000 square metres of deck space on Benetti’s 108-metre I J E is a 1.5-metre fire pit and concealed storage for eight jet skis that the 22 guests it can accommodate will just have to fight over.
Yet even those superstar superyachts might feel slightly under-dressed next to one of the German yard Lurssen’s three 2019 deliveries: the 95-metre Madsummer, with a 12-metre pool; the 136-metre Flying Fox, which has twin helipads and a 400-square-metre, two-level spa; and the 111.5-metre Tis. A kind of floating version of the 17th-century “Sun King” Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles, Tis has gilded mirrors, spindly French silk-upholstered furniture and innovation at every turn. Still, none of this year’s deliveries have outsized the world’s biggest beasts, the 180-metre Azzam, 162.5-metre Eclipse and Dubai, and the 156-metre Dilbar.
All this is certainly a far cry from the first superyachts. The oldest still afloat, the 145.7-metre El Mahrousa, powered by three steam-turbine engines, was built by a British yard in 1865. The large, stately, pleasure yachts, with their brass portholes and mahogany and teak interiors, of the early 1900s, built for royalty, have largely disappeared, as have the slim, elegant yachts of the 1920s and ’30s, a golden era for yacht design. In the 1960s, the invention of fibreglass revolutionised the way the hull was designed, although the material wasn’t robust enough for larger yachts, which saw hulls begin to be made of steel or aluminium (while white leather seemingly became obligatory for nautical-look interiors).
The 70 superyachts built in the 1970s were soon outnumbered by the record-setting 260 built in the 1980s. Most featured much glitz, with the star being the 86-metre Benetti yacht Nabila (now Kingdom 5KR), designed for Saudi Arabian businessman Adnan Khashoggi by the yachting world’s legendary “man who could design anything”, Jon Bannenberg. It was used as the setting for a Queen music video and the Bond film, Never Say Never Again.
As new owners scrambled into the market, 414 new vessels were delivered in the 1990s. Then came 2000 to 2010, with 479 superyachts delivered and interior designers arriving en masse.
The aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, however, meant numerous boatyards went bankrupt or were bought by larger yards. And with annual running costs alone amounting to about 10 per cent of the original cost, there’s been a glut of superyachts for charter or sale ever since. Look on the sites of top yacht brokers such as Camper & Nicholsons, Ocean Independence, IYC, Fraser, Northrop & Johnson and Burgess, and you can still find million-euro price reductions. That, no doubt, helps explain why only about 250 new superyachts have been delivered so far this decade.
Tellingly, although German yards are currently building 19 superyachts more than 100 metres long and Norwegian yard Vard is building the world’s largest yacht, the 181.6-metre Rev, equipped with laboratories for the World Wildlife Fund to gather scientific data about the oceans, 228 of those 250 are at the smaller end of the superyacht scale.
Semi-custom-built or off the peg, it’s €10m-plus (Dh40.5m) superyachts up to about 35 metres long that are attracting the new generation of owners. Vessels that can be run with just five or six crew and get into popular harbours that larger boats have to anchor outside, such as the Dubai-based Gulf Craft’s 31.7-metre Majesty 100. Set up in 1982, Gulf Craft has just delivered its seventh of these “made in the UAE” superyachts since launching the model at the 2017 Dubai International Boat Show.
“It’s a lot about stealth wealth now. That, plus sustainability and an awareness that family time is precious,” says Arthur Brouwer, chief executive of Heesen, which attracted much attention at this year’s Dubai boat show with its 49.8-metre superyacht Rocket. “New owners are often 15 to 20 years younger than they were 20 year ago. The young UAE buyers are also less conservative than their parents. They’re adventurous, increasingly aware of the preciousness of the natural world, of the possibilities a boat offers to escape and explore.
“So we’re seeing a desire now for connectivity with the ocean, an easy flow between inside and outside spaces, long sight lines, a lot of natural light. Owners are asking for just one dining area, for the family to use together, not a huge dining table for 20; an on-board filtration system to avoid single-use bottles of water, that kind of thing.”
When it comes to furnishings, Ewa Eidsgaard of designers Harrison Eidsgaard, who has worked with Heesen, finds owners’ preferences are now for ease and informality. “That translates into recyclable, washable, functional fabrics resistant to seawater, mould and light, used inside and out, so no one has to worry about jumping out of the pool and on to a sofa.
“We find more and more owners are not wanting artificial anything,” she says. “When someone walks on to one of our yachts, they want to smell the freshness of cotton and linen. Even fitted carpets are out. Wool is scratchy. Wood feels so much nicer under bare feet that we’re doing a lot of bare flooring.”
Smaller superyachts spell less fuel consumption – an important consideration as reducing carbon footprints is crucial. “Above all, a clean propulsion system is the aim now,” adds Brouwer. “Solar power doesn’t work on a superyacht: you need too much energy. You add so much weight with batteries that that’s not feasible. Hydrogen fuel is coming. And the dream is an electric yacht. We’re not there yet, but in 10 years we will be. And that will transform the entire industry.”
So the era of the superyacht doesn’t look like it is drawing to an end any time soon. Which is good news all round, when you think about it. Good news for the huge raft of skilled and talented designers, engineers, craftsmen, artisans, artists and suppliers of every kind whom the building and outfitting of superyachts keeps afloat. Good news, too, for the owners of harbourside restaurants, cafes and boutiques. Recent research by The Superyacht Group shows that when a 90-metre superyacht drops anchor in a resort, its passengers and crew will spend around $180,000 in a week on meals, shopping and entertainment ashore. That’s why around the world, from Montenegro to the UAE and Vietnam to Australia, deep-water marinas are being developed as tourist authorities wake up to the benefits of having these elegant money machines appear on the horizon.
As with all things, trying before you buy makes sense. Chartering a superyacht is the peak of ultra-high-end tourism. And it has become an experience almost anyone can sample now that Airbnb and Booking.com-type models have permeated this watery world. Borrowaboat.com has teamed up with Ocean Independence to put 100 superyachts on its site, Yotha.com links owners and wannabes directly, and Camper & Nicholsons has launched one-day charters from £1,736. Tempted?
Pokras Lampas mixes calligraphy with graffiti to create bold, dynamic art works brimming
with multilingual references.
Sarah Maisey meets him in Dubai
“Calligraphy is a tool, a style, but it’s not the only thing in my work. I am trying to connect with music, with fashion, with the digital world and with something more traditional,” Pokras Lampas tells me. The Russian artist is in Dubai to create a site-specific art installation at Base nightclub, and has been working all night to avoid the heat. of legal systems.
With his night-owl pallor and shock of bleach blonde hair, Lampas is at the vanguard of modern calligraphy. Born in 1991 in Korolyov in Russia, Lampas found notoriety in 2015 when he climbed on to a Moscow rooftop and covered it with huge, flowing lettering. Spreading out in concentric circles, the fluid calligraphy – created with a broom and tray of white paint – was so beautiful, it earned him hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and, capable of being seen by satellite, was the biggest art work of its type. It caught the eye of the Italian fashion house Fendi, and in 2017, 26-year-old Lampas was invited to similarly decorate the roof of the company’s building in Rome. A soaring marble edifice, it was unlike any project he had attempted before.
“Over four months we designed this project. It was very long and hard because the Fendi building is all marble, so we couldn’t just go and make art on it. So we had a lot of conversations with the director of the building and the whole technical team; we did a dozen different sketches, about how to create it, and how to remove it – everything.”
That same year, he was invited to collaborate with Dutch designer Dries Van Noten on his men’s spring/summer 2017 collection. “They did an awesome embroidery of my calligraphy, and it was one of my best experiences. Dries taught me about using colour – it doesn’t always have to be bright – and about the connection to tradition. Dries taught me about the importance of the human touch. Just like calligraphy.”
Represented in the Middle East since 2016 by Opera Gallery, Lampas is a disciple of his craft – both well-informed and articulate. “I am very inspired by Russian avante garde artists from the previous century, like Kandinsky who I love, but also Rothko and Pollock, and I am also very inspired by fashion, like Alexander McQueen and Martin Margiela. Modern calligraphy is a big inspiration for me, like [Tunisian street artist] eL Seed and Retna [from America] who mixes a bit of Mexican with a bit of Egyptian to create a very unique style. For me, inspiration is everywhere.”
A new art form, the terminology does not yet exist to adequately describe what Lampas is doing. He has been labelled a graffiti artist and a calligrapher, but the reality is somewhere between, closer to a genre dubbed calligraffiti. He has even made his own lexicon, creating what he calls calligrafuturism.
“Graffiti was the best way to explain what I used to do, but as I have grown as an artist there is more to it, more ideas, more culture. Every generation has new possibilities and we are now exploring technology and the connection with different countries via the internet and travel, so calligraphy is a new kind of communication. For example, if I come to the Emirates, how will I feel if I can see the Arabic calligraphy but do not have the skill to read it?
“My work is all about finding harmony between the modern and the traditional through letters. I use two languages, Russian and English, with an Arabic influence, to show that no matter what language we use, different styles can meet in the same image. I write in two languages and mix it, make it abstract. I don’t want it to be easy to read, because I think that if you can read it, you lose interest, and for me, my work is a success when people don’t just take one long look, but come back and check it again. I like to play with memory and play with the mind.
“I have no art education. I started doing graffiti where I grew up in Moscow, and learnt from the street everything that I would have learnt at art school. The scale, the sketch, the tools, colours, shadows, the light … everything. For me it was an easy flow through graffiti, graphic design and experimental art, and I started putting it all together.”
The Dh367,250 trumpet
When “the Picasso of jazz”, Miles Davis, was buried in the Bronx’s Woodlawn Cemetery in 1991, a black Moon and Stars trumpet was placed by his side. A red version of that same trumpet has remained with the musician’s family since his death, and a third, blue version is being put up for auction on Tuesday, October 29, as part of the Christie’s Exceptional Sale in New York.
Davis was born and raised in Illinois, moving to New York in 1944, where he joined Charlie Parker’s bebop quintet. After a star turn at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955, he was offered a long-term contract with Columbia Records. That partnership yielded a string of critically acclaimed albums, including Milestones, Porgy & Bess and Kind of Blue – which was recorded in just two sessions in 1959 and remains the best-selling jazz album of all time.
Davis continued to record and perform through the 1960s and early 1970s but, by 1975, a combination of exhaustion, personal demons and drug addiction had forced him to take some time out. He wouldn’t pick up a musical instrument again in earnest until the early 1980s – when this blue-lacquer Moon and Stars trumpet was created for him.
The trumpet was crafted by the Martin Company, which was founded in Chicago in 1865 by German-born Johann Heinrich Martin. By the mid-20th century, Martin’s instruments were favoured by some of the world’s leading jazz musicians, including American jazz trumpeter, composer and singer Dizzy Gillespie. Davis was a particular fan of the company’s Committee trumpet – to the extent that when the Martin Company was sold to a competitor in the 1960s and the production of Committee trumpets was stopped, Davis was the only artist who continued to receive custom-made versions.
The Committee horn being auctioned by Christie’s was one of a set of three by designer Larry Ramirez, who, at Davis’s behest, created red, blue and black versions of the B Flat, Model T3460 – each decorated with a gilt moon and stars, with the word ‘Miles’ inscribed inside the bell.
The 2015 movie ‘Miles Ahead’ chronicles Davis’s attempts to get his career back on track in the 1980s. The film stars and was directed by Don Cheadle, while contemporary jazz star Keyon Harrold was enlisted to play the trumpet parts.
Handling the blue Moon and Stars horn is, for jazz lovers, like handling a holy relic, says Harrold.
“The design is flawless and the gold engravings just beautiful. Davis was very detail-oriented when it came to his trumpets, and you can imagine he was heavily involved with the design of this one … It also gives out a beautiful tone when you play it – with very little resistance. Kind of like a free blow. The Committee horns were Miles Davis’s favourite, and any one that once belonged to him is a classic object.”
The instrument is expected to fetch between $70,000 and $100,000 at the upcoming auction.
* Selina Denman