HTSI editor’s letter: a new serenity
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Over the course of recent months, I have watched with fascination how quickly some brands in the luxury sector have recovered from their pandemic losses. While there have been countless casualties in the mid-market sector, and among brands who have been tardy in ironing out their online distribution, the buoyancy of certain heritage brands has been extraordinary. The tectonics of spending may have shifted – plummeting tourist numbers and sequential lockdowns have seen Chinese consumer spending directed towards its domestic market – but even in the quiet tundras of Europe’s former retail empires, there remain brands where clients are prepared to queue around the block. And one of those is Hermès.
At a time of economic crisis, the consumer “flight to quality” cliché has proven to be enduring. Hermès’ revenues had already returned to pre-pandemic levels by spring this year, and profits have been soaring. Perhaps its success, harnessed to the house’s rich mythology around its artisanal expertise and craftsmanship, has been in its refusal to surrender to current retail norms. Something I admire enormously about Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski, the brand’s head of womenswear, and the subject of our cover interview this weekend, is that despite her quiet perfectionism and obsession with the makings of a garment, she resists the pull of modern sensibilities and tastemakers in order to do what feels more real and authentic to her. Over the course of several meetings, she describes a design philosophy that is avowedly in the service of the name that goes on the label, but also reveals her own subtle reinterpretations of the prevailing point of view. She also invites us inside her home to get a better perspective on the artists, works and influences that continue to inspire her. The resulting images by photographer Matthieu Salvaing are a gorgeous portrait of Vanhée-Cybulski’s humour, avant-garde aesthetic, intelligence and grace.
Another creative sanctuary is unveiled by Harriet Quick, who travels to Comporta and the home of interiors legend Jacques Grange. Grange arrived at this near unspoilt stretch of coastal Portugal, just south of Lisbon, 30 years ago, and has made it a creative base camp ever since. With its simple architecture, rice fields, pine forests and massive sandy beaches, Comporta has become a secret destination fiercely protected by its fans. Grange was so fearful about the possibilities of new developments in his back garden that, alongside the German real estate developer Dietrich E Rogge, he has helped establish the 10-hectare Atlantic Club, comprising 21 new Grange-designed villas just footsteps from his door. I suppose there can be no greater guarantee of tranquil living than the discovery that the man who helped steer the project is still practically a resident on site.
Those familiar with Alice Cooper will already know that lurking behind that punk-rock exterior, there lies a zen-like guru with the gentlest of souls. Ahead of an auction to sell an Andy Warhol that has spent the past few decades rolled up in his garage, the “Godfather of Shock Rock” talks to Maria Shollenbarger about the arts foundation he’s created to support teenagers, working with Salvador Dalí, and life in Paradise Valley, Arizona, where he gets to hang out with his four grandchildren and hone his handicap at golf.
Finally, to Eden, via Nairobi, and another place of respite. Anna Trzebinski built her home almost 30 years ago with her first husband when they were newlyweds. Personal tragedy, a further marriage, a career as a designer, a couture business and one pandemic later, Trzebinski has decided to turn her home into a hotel. Part cultural meeting house, part community centre, and all wrapped into a permacultured garden, Trzebinski’s Eden Project is an attempt to galvanise a community hobbled by the post-Covid fall in tourism to Kenya, and as a way to start conversations about identity and what people mean when they talk about home. Catherine Fairweather speaks to Trzebinski about the people who inspired it, her ambitions for a new kind of hospitality in Africa and what she hopes will come to be a healing cultural hub.
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