Luxury magazine: November 2018

Celebrity interiors by Martyn Lawrence Bullard; Hubert de Givenchy’s lasting legacy; ghoulish cruise from Gucci; and the joys of owning an island

Editor's Note

Is there a greater luxury than owning an island? Surely not. To have an entire, self-contained parcel of land to call your own (and to be responsible for safeguarding that little piece of the planet) could well be the ultimate achievement.

Private islands sit at the very pinnacle of the luxury property market. Panna Munyal looks at some covetable options that are currently on the market, from the 11-acre Petra Island in New York State, to the 800-acre Lataro Island in the Pacific Ocean nation of Vanuatu, which is a steal for just under US$10 million (Dh36.7m).

We learn that the adage “less is more” is often applicable when it comes to island living, according to Chris Krolow, host of the HGTV show Island Hunters and chief executive of Private Islands Inc. As he points out: “If the acreage is massive, you’re not actually going to feel like you’re on an island – you may not even be able to see the water from your residence.”

What makes a private island so desirable goes far beyond its land mass or even its inherent promise of stunning topography and uninterrupted vistas. Islands are special because they offer an opportunity to retreat completely – a rarity in this hyperconnected, high-pressure, stress-infused age. You might still have Wi-Fi, but being on a body of land that is cut off from everything else has an immediate psychological effect, as anyone who has holidayed in the Maldives will probably attest.

An island of your own also allows you to reconnect with nature. And, perhaps best of all, it affords you complete and utter privacy, which could be the ultimate luxury for many. That is why a number of owners choose to keep their island abodes as uncomplicated as possible. “Even when people have tons of money, they often keep their island homes simple because they are there to enjoy birdsong and sun sets,” Farhad Vladi, founder of Vladi Private Islands, tells us.

One man who does not keep his homes simple is interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, who will be visiting the UAE to deliver a keynote speech at Downtown Design. The British-born, LA-based designer is a favourite with A-listers, and counts some of the world’s most fabulous (and, one would imagine, demanding) women among his clients, from Cher to Christina Aguilera, and Joan Collins to Sharon Osbourne.

Bullard tells us why Cher was “the ultimate design dream”, how Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian have almost diametrically opposing tastes when it comes to interior design, and why he loves to introduce “Moroccan moments” into his homes. Island or not, where we live, how we live and the things we choose to surround ourselves with are a reflection of who we are. Ultimately, a great interior is “a true extension of the owner’s style and tastes; a perfect window into their soul”, says Bullard.

Selina Denman, editor

Swizz Beats and Shok-1 for Bally

A collaboration between music producer Swizz Beatz and graffiti artist Shok-1 highlights how luxury brand Bally is still ingrained in hip-hop culture

“Fresh dressed like a million bucks. Threw on the Bally shoes and the fly green socks.” Who could have guessed, when Slick Rick rapped about wearing Bally trainers in the 1985 song La Di Da Di, that the same shoes would be central to hip-hop culture more than three decades on? Despite its long and distinguished history (the brand was founded in Switzerland in 1851), Bally is not the first name that springs to mind when you think about the hard-edged, urbaninspired musical genre that burst out of New York in the early 1980s. However, Bally trainers were being name-checked in verse a whole year before Run-DMC stepped out in their Adidas.

Names like Slick Rick, Doug E Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew were part of a lyrical energy that emerged from the broken landscape of New York. Still reeling from the city’s near-bankruptcy 10 years earlier, teenagers and twenty-somethings pushed back against their grim surroundings, creating a new style of music, dance and dress. Looking to each other for inspiration, words were spoken, not sung, over music stripped to the bare bones of percussion, using groundbreaking ideas such as beatboxing and scratching. Dismissing the stuffy fashion of the Upper East Side, these kids, hailing largely from the Bronx, adopted a dress code of tracksuits, Kangol hats and trainers.

A wallet from the Bally x Swizz Beatz x Shok-1 collection.

A wallet from the Bally x Swizz Beatz x Shok-1 collection.

As much a part of their persona as their nasal rapping styles, both Doug E Fresh and Slick Rick were loyal to their Ballys. Hard-to-get and with a distinctive design, the leather shoes were highly coveted, so it was no mistake that Fresh donned a pair on the cover of his 1986 album Oh, My God!, or that Slick Rick called out ‘Oh, yo Doug, put your Ballys on” on The Show.

Today, the big names in hip-hop may be different, but the link with Bally is still strong, thanks in no small part to the drive of music producer Swizz Beatz. For those who are unfamiliar, Swizz Beatz – real name Kasseem Dean – began his music career at just 16 and has since been pivotal in the career of many emerging hip-hop musicians. Kanye West dubbed him the “best rap producer of all time”. As well as music, Dean, who is a practising Muslim, has a deep passion for art, both as creator and collector. His own art work is sold to profit the Children’s Cancer & Blood Foundation, while his private collection, dubbed the Dean Collection, is regarded as a gauge of future stars. 

A child of New York, Dean tells us how he began working with Bally. “Bally was on the scene when I was growing up in the Bronx. The way that our culture is looking at Gucci now, Bally really set that blueprint. I bought four pairs of Bally sneakers at London’s Heathrow airport. Then I posted them on Instagram and people started going crazy in the comments section. Bally liked my post… and it went from there.”

A t-shirt from the collection.

A t-shirt from the collection.

That conversation culminated in a collaboration that launched last year, called Bally x Swizz Beatz, which saw Dean enlist Spanish artist Ricardo Cavolo to add his distinctive illustrations to Bally pieces. Buoyed by that success, a second tie-up has just been unveiled, this time with British graffiti-turned-fine artist Shok-1.

Shok-1 is already well regarded for his X-ray graffiti, which depicts animals, people and objects as huge X-rays (rendered with such photorealistic subtlety that it is hard to believe they are achieved using only a spray can), and the Bally project was a no-brainer for the British artist.

“Swizz Beatz first wrote to me a few years back,” Shok-1 says. “He had been a fan of my work for some time and wanted to talk about collecting my art for the Dean Collection. Later on, he called me up and invited me to collaborate with Bally.”

Dean is happy to explain his choice. “Shok-1 is a legend from the UK, and I wanted to switch it up. I’m honoured he wanted to do the collaboration with us. He also knew that what we’re doing is authentic and he was a perfect fit. He’s a master of the X-ray; he’s not just doing something regular, and what he does goes along perfectly with our vision.”

Fans of Shok-1’s work will see familiar codes running through the Bally x Swizz Beatz x Shok-1 collection. The circular skull of Pac-Man covers the front of hoodies and wallets, as well as being reduced to a polka-dot pattern across sweats and trainers. A skeletal hand is reworked to show a devil’s horn pose, on bags, tees and high-top trainers. Used to working in shades of greys, Shok-1’s palette is still monochromatic, but now extends to a peachy nude. 

Sneakers from the Bally x Swizz Beatz x Shok-1 collection.

Sneakers from the Bally x Swizz Beatz x Shok-1 collection.

Although his designs are more likely to be seen on huge canvases in art galleries, Shok-1 didn’t feel pressured to change his style, but rather continued to merge art with underground subversion. “Bally has an open and collaborative philosophy that I think lends itself to an artist-led project like our collaboration, and has treated me with the utmost respect, and given me a ton of creative control over the collection. It feels like friends who’ve worked closely together to make something special. Actually, I’m surprised that it was possible to be able to work so intimately with a big brand. I’ve really enjoyed it,” says Shok-1.

“Back in the 1980s, I was a teenager who was immersing himself in the subcultures of graffiti writing and hip-hop,” he adds. “Fashion was a big part of a subculture that brought young people together in a positive movement of music, dance and art, and Bally, to me, was a kind of hallowed, mythical thing that I heard about in rap lyrics. I especially associate it with the golden era of hip-hop, so Bally to me relates to a period when the music was less about violence and negativity, and more about skills and upliftment.”

Sarah Maisey

Launch pad: buy a bag that’s out of the blue

Bally delivers a retro-style bowling bag in powder blue. Finished with preppy white piping, this feels charmingly easygoing.

At Chloe, quilted bleu de France leather is curved into a seriously chic bag, finished with hard-edged, padlock-inspired hardware.

Christian Dior
Christian Dior prefers to play with texture, mixing shades of cornflower and steel blue on a bag entirely covered in embroidery. The name sums it up. J’adior.

Salvatore Ferragamo
Princely velvet is crafted by Ferragamo into a luscious shoulder bag. In a noble shade of palatinate blue, the soft silk fibres contrast against tough metal details.

Christian Louboutin
The master of play, Louboutin extends its irreverent touch to bags, with this pale denim offering. Faded like a cherished pair of jeans, the sequined “Love” makes light of the complex straps.

Behind the legend

As the fashion brand that Hubert de Givenchy founded enters a new era, Sarah Maisey learns about the late couturier’s lifelong friendships, inimitable talent and unending generosity, from one of his closest aides

When Hubert de Givenchy passed away earlier this year at the age of 91, the world of fashion lost one of its greats.

Despite having already left the house that carries his name, and long settled into genteel retirement, Givenchy was the last remaining link to a bygone era. One of the master couturiers, he hailed from a time when society ladies wore custom-made dresses, and when the dazzling visions of designers such as Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Givenchy, himself, quite literally changed the way women dressed.

Although the man himself has now gone, his legacy survives not only in his archive (his pieces can be found in fashion museums all over the world), but also in the memory of those who knew him. One such person is the acclaimed Spanish curator Eloy Martinez de la Pera Celada.

“We met 12 years ago, when both of us were working on the opening of the Museum of Cristóbal Balenciaga in Spain,” Martinez tells me during a trip to Dubai. “I was working on exhibitions where his name was always on the table. He was one of the biggest buyers of the artist Giacometti, and he adored Rothko. But for him, Balenciaga was the most important person, and he spent part of his fortune buying his creations at auction for the museum collection. He was such a generous person, always spending money for others.”

Eloy Martinez de la Pera Celada worked closely with Hubert de Givenchy.

Eloy Martinez de la Pera Celada worked closely with Hubert de Givenchy.

During a serendipitous meeting, the two men hit it off, and soon Givenchy tasked Martinez with staging a retrospective of his work. “I started to work on his first retrospective eight years ago, in Madrid. And from that moment onwards, I curated all his exhibitions – in The Netherlands, Calais, Switzerland. We spent the last eight years very close to each other and were preparing a trip to Marrakech to visit the Yves Saint Laurent Museum. I was constantly in Paris, as the exhibitions were based on sketches that Givenchy was making constantly. He was still sketching until 10 days before he died. Beautiful sketches.”

Givenchy’s other defining friendship was with actress Audrey Hepburn. However, his meeting with her did not start so smoothly. In 1953, already aware of his work, Hepburn contacted the designer to ask him to create clothes for her next film, Sabrina. Thinking he was speaking with Katherine Hepburn, who was better known at the time, he readily agreed. Only when the actress walked into his atelier did he realise his error, and could barely conceal his disappointment.

Unfazed, Hepburn took him to dinner, beginning a friendship that would endure until her death in 1993. With her cropped hair and boyish figure, the actress was beautiful, mischievous and gamine, and Givenchy relished dressing her. With her hint of androgyny, she was able to wear the most elaborate looks without being overwhelmed by them, and the two developed a close synergy. Givenchy went on to dress her for many of her film roles, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – which featured the sculpted gown that is perhaps the most iconic little black dress of all time. Hepburn once said of Givenchy’s designs: “His are the only clothes in which I am myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality.”

Through Hepburn, Givenchy was able to bring his beautiful designs out of the closed world of couture and on to the silver screen, where they were seen by millions of people. While only a charmed few could afford the luxury of a handmade dress, almost anyone could afford a cinema ticket.

Hubert de Givenchy, left, created many of Audrey Hepburn’s classic looks.

Hubert de Givenchy, left, created many of Audrey Hepburn’s classic looks.

“He changed haute couture and he changed fashion,” Martinez explains. “This collaboration between these two people, it was beyond a love affair. She never wore anything that was not Givenchy in public. She was very loyal and faithful to Hubert. It was such a beautiful relationship.”

As a token of this bond, Givenchy one day decided to surprise the actress with a gift of a bespoke fragrance. Totally unique, the one-off scent had notes of jasmine, violet and rose, over a heart of woody grasses. Around the same period, he was being advised by fellow designer Balenciaga to launch a perfume, so he could reach a wider audience. Immediately, all eyes turned to the scent created especially for Hepburn. Legend has it, however, that Givenchy was mortified at the idea, and dreaded asking Hepburn for her permission.

When he finally broached the topic, her response was: “Je vous nol’interdis [I forbid it].” Thankfully, her retort was taken in the spirit it was intended, and when L’Interdit was eventually launched in 1957, its name was taken from this exchange. Hepburn went on to became the face of the fragrance, and it was a tremendous success.

Now, 70 years after it was first launched, L’Interdit has fallen out of step with modern tastes. The delicate, almost powdery scent that characterised the fragrance feels outdated. In a move that is both bold and audacious, Givenchy, headed up by Clare Waight Keller, has taken the step of not only relaunching the fragrance, but reimagining it.

Calling on the expertise of master perfumers Dominique Ropion, Anne Flipo and Fanny Bal, a new scent has been created for the modern woman. Gone are the violet and rose notes, replaced instead with a light bouquet of orange blossom, jasmine and tuberose, with notes of patchouli and vetiver to provide an earthy contrast. The inclusion of vetiver is significant, not only because it is an ingredient traditionally only used in men’s fragrance, but also for its link to Hubert himself. “He smelt of vetiver,” Martinez reveals. “It was his favourite scent.”

The fragrance was completed in January, and the brand took the unusual step of presenting it to Monsieur Givenchy. Although no longer part of the company (he showed his last haute couture collection in 1995), it felt like it was important to have his blessing. Keeping to the house theme of contrasts, the perfume bottle is presented in a simple white cube edged in black, with the house’s four-G logo embossed on the front. Elegant and understated, it holds true to the codes of the maison, and when Givenchy opened the box, he was so delighted with the shocking red interior, he signed it. His signature has since been faithfully replicated on every box. “This perfume is very modern,” says Martinez, “and one clever thing is they kept the bottle. Givenchy participated in this perfume, and he designed the original bottle.”

The new L’Interdit. The original was created for Audrey Hepburn.

The new L’Interdit. The original was created for Audrey Hepburn.

Although close to the first design, the new bottle has been subtly updated, not least with the addition of a crossed ribbon around the neck – a touch added by Keller. It is telling that it is under her leadership that this project came about, as she is the only one of Givenchy’s successors that he ever met.

“When he quit in 1995, he never wanted to meet the designers,” Martinez says. Following the departure of the French founder, the role was first filled by John Galliano for a little over a year, followed by l’enfant terrible Alexander McQueen (who called Hubert de Givenchy “irrelevant” soon after he joined) and even Welsh designer Julien Macdonald, who all struggled to find their voice at the house.

“He realised he was not going to be honest. He was a person who says what he thinks, he never lied. So, he said: ‘I don’t want to get involved, I don’t want to criticise, I don’t want them to be forced to pay tribute to anything I have done before.’”

However, all that changed when Keller took over as the artistic director from Riccardo Tisci last year, becoming the first woman to head the label. “We organised a meeting between Clare and Hubert,” the Spanish curator recalls. “He had liked what she made for Chloé, and he thought she was a woman with a feeling of beauty. He thought that she made beautiful things for Chloé, and he said: ‘I have the feeling she is capable of making beautiful things for Givenchy.’ He was really keen on the designs that Clare was going to make, and he respected the love that she had for designers. Clare likes Balenciaga and Vionnet, and the designers that she is a fan of are the same names that Hubert adored. There was a connection. They liked the same beauty, and because of that he was happy to put his money on her.”

Under Keller, the house of Givenchy is undergoing something of a renaissance, not least because it created the year’s most famous wedding dress for Meghan Markle, a high-profile commission that has introduced the label to a new audience. A few years ago, Martinez famously declared couture to be a thing of the past. I inquire if he still feels that way with Keller at the helm? “Now, people are rediscovering the beauty of the artisans behind couture. For Meghan Markle, for example, when you see the workers of Givenchy working on the lace for the veil, you realise we discovered couture.”

A look from the brand’s autumn/winter 2018 collection.

A look from the brand’s autumn/winter 2018 collection.

Case in point, when the house of Givenchy revealed, after the wedding, that the embroiderers handling the veil had to wash their hands every 20 minutes to keep the silk pristine, it gave couture a real and profoundly human perspective. It also brought into the light the highly adept, but until now almost completely hidden, skill of the petit mains (little hands), who turn a drawn sketch into a gown, through hundreds of hours of painstaking work.

“We are starting again to love the artisans behind couture. The last show of Givenchy in July was a tribute to the artisans, and because of that, people are discovering what is behind a dress of haute couture – the hours of work and the talent in the atelier, all creating one beautiful dress.”

Today, Martinez continues to curate all Givenchy exhibitions, acting as part-guardian and part-candle-bearer of the Givenchy legacy, and tasked with introducing it to a new generation. Asked if he feels resentful of having to constantly explain the French designer’s huge contribution to fashion, Martinez responds that, on the contrary, he is delighted at the opportunity.

“The night before the opening, I call all the influencers and bloggers for a night visit to the show, so I can tell them the story of this man. I want them to understand that some of the things they are wearing are because of Hubert. When they wear fake animal print, it is because he was the first one to use fake animal print, in the 1960s. Or the fashion show where he used only black models in the 1970s. Then they realise how groundbreaking he was.

“For me, it is transmitting that behind those eight letters is a legend. Not just as one of the best designers of the 20th century, but because he was able to bring haute couture to millions of people. Christian Dior made 100,000 women dream with his clothes, but Hubert de Givenchy let millions of women dream.”

Today, the brand is once again about dreams. For the campaign for the reimagined L’Interdit, actress Rooney Mara is the face of the fragrance, and like her predecessor Hepburn, is an intriguing blend of delicate yet strong, gamine and sophisticated. Dressed in the latest couture, Mara wears a gown that blends sharp tailoring with feminine lace. Opposites. Hopefully, Givenchy would approve.

“I miss him very much,” says Martinez, as he prepares to leave. “He taught me to appreciate art and beauty. Givenchy changed the fashion world, and for me it was an honour.”

My luxury life: Gabrielle

The British soul singer and songwriter, who rose to fame in the 1990s with anthems such as ‘Dreams’ and ‘Rise’, has launched ‘Under My Skin’, her first album in 11 years. Gabrielle lives in London with her two children

What’s your favourite city in the world?

It has got to be London. I was born and raised in London and although I’ve travelled to lots of places and had amazing experiences, there’s nothing like coming home. It’s the diversity of the city, I think. 

 What’s your favourite meal?

Anything cooked by my mum.

 What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve started a book called Trunk Music by a guy called Michael Connelly. I’m not into girly books.

What’s your most treasured possession?

My kids, even though they’ll say: “You don’t own us” – so they are not exactly a possession. After my kids, maybe my awards, because they are accolades I never thought I would get. When I feel insecure, I look at them and am like: “OK, you haven’t done bad, kiddo.”

 The best journey you’ve ever taken?

Any skiing trip. When I was growing up, people like me didn’t ski. But I learnt to and I love going to Zermatt in Switzerland, even if I’m alone and I’m not the best skier. I’m never on time for anything, but when it comes to meeting my ski instructor, even if I’ve only had two hours’ sleep, I’m showered, dressed and downstairs. It’s the only thing in my life, apart from music and my kids, that I’ll be on time for.

 What’s your favourite item in your wardrobe at the moment?

I’ve had this Ted Baker feather cape for a few years, and every time I wear it, people go crazy about it. I’ve had it for a few years and always comment on it, as if I’ve got on the most expensive thing in the room. And quite often it’s the least expensive part of my outfit, but it doesn’t matter.

 What’s the best part of your day?

When I first get up, because it’s quiet, and I like to put on the radio and listen to some music. It’s before the whole hustle and bustle of the day begins and I get to see my kids and have my coffee. It’s my time.

 Who’s your favourite artist at the moment?

That’s a difficult one, but I’d say Drake because of that album, Scorpion. When it first came out, I didn’t really pay too much attention, but now I’m obsessed. 

 Are you a collector?

I love books and music, but I’m not really a collector. I love jewellery – if there’s a fabulous pair of earrings, I have to put them on. So I have lots of earrings.

 What’s life’s greatest luxury?

Just having the life that I’ve had. And I don’t mean that in a vain way. I get to do a job I love. My son says: “Mum, I wish I had a job like you, where you only have to work for three months of the year.” So that’s a luxury. Now I have an album out, I’m having to work more than that, but before, if I included my touring, in a year, I’d only really have to work for three months, and then I’d have time to enjoy my kids and my life. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but not many people get to just enjoy their lives like that.  

If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you be?

The Maldives, because my son thinks we should go there as a family, and I haven’t been.

The best piece of advice you’ve received?

When it comes to music, be true to you and everything will come. If you are not doing what you love and doing it the way you want to, you’ll never be truly happy. It has to be your way or the highway, when it comes to your craft. 

How would you describe your style?

Classic. And that’s musically and fashion-wise. Mind you, I say that, but my hairstyle is a bit funky. So maybe funky, with a little bit of classic thrown in.

Saeed Saeed

Ghoul’s errand

In a graveyard in the French town of Arles, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele proves his creative genius once again, writes Sarah Maisey

While they used to be a series of small, mid-season fashion drops, the cruise, or resort, collections have since morphed into huge-scale spectacles.

Cruise collections are where designers are given free rein to produce whatever they feel, and then unveil those creations in increasingly lavish presentations. We have witnessed cruise shows at the Oscar Niemeyer library in Brazil, courtesy of Louis Vuitton; in a replica of a ship, by Chanel; and as an ode to horsemanship, from Dior. However, for sheer creepy, atmospheric brilliance, nothing tops Alessandro  Michele’s Gucci cruise 2019 show, which was set in the ancient graveyard of Alyscamps.

Located in the southern French town of Arles (famously immortalised in the paintings of Vincent van Gogh, and known as the birthplace of designer Christian Lacroix), Promenade Des Alyscamps is a Roman-era necropolis – the final resting place of the rulers who once presided over this land. Derived from the Latin Elisii Campi (which became Champs-Élysées in French and Elysian Fields in English), the graveyard is situated outside the walls of the old city. It was this arena into which Gucci ushered 400 guests to witness the unveiling of its cruise offering.

As darkness fell, I walked – alongside Saoirse Ronan, A$AP Rocky, Salma Hayek and, fittingly, Lacroix himself – through the burial ground, which was illuminated by candles, against the haunting choral strains of Vespers of the Blessed Virgin by Claudio Monteverdi. We took our seats on mirrored boxes, casting nervous glances at the stone sarcophagi behind us, as smoke crept up from the sunken churchyard, lit a Dante-esque orange.

Amid an ominous clanging of bells, flames raced along the length of the runway, as models emerged from the mist. Normally, they  are spaced well apart on a runway – to better see the clothes – but here, all 114 looks (for both men and women) were packed tightly together, as if for protection.

Through the mist, a simple padded coat and skirt in pink – fastened at the neck by a crucifix – were quickly followed by a black gown that spilled off the shoulders. Fittingly for the setting, another black velvet dress swept past with a skeletal torso lavishly stitched across it, while a male model wore a bell-bottomed velvet suit, cut slim and worn with a pussy-bow blouse, carrying a funereal bouquet.

House signatures – including checks, florals and embroidered tigers – were abundant, seen on suits under smoking jackets, sequin jumpers over zebra- print trousers and skilfully clashing florals on both genders. One boy stepped out in head-to-toe sequins as sportswear, while a girl wore a shimmering crystal-strewn dress, amid a cacophony of brightly clashing tops and skirts.

Scattered throughout were tightly clasped belts, neon backpacks, headscarves, headdresses and eyewear. One model was Harris Reed, a rising young star from Central Saint Martins who  dressed Harry Styles on tour, and here wore a full-length brocade coat. So secure in his talent is Michele that he even handed Reed control of the Gucci social media platforms for the duration of the cruise event.

As a self-described fashion magpie, Michele drew from myriad influences, such as 1980s shell suits with thick-soled trainers, the murky past of the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles, and the Pan logo, which was splashed over sweat tops and bags. Set in a churchyard, there were inevitable Catholic references, such as rich velvets rendered into floor-sweeping capes, multiple riffs on vestment purple and endless crosses seen clasped at throats, stitched as bodices or carried reverently with two hands.

Amid all the ecclesiastical guilt underpinning the show, thankfully Michele also chose to nod to his free- spirited Roman forebears, seen in lighter moments as a plissé goddess gown and one-shouldered dresses.

But the creative director’s main draw is his adept handling of patterns and colours that, in the real world, have no place being seen together. Tiered green dresses, long trailing feather headdresses and double-breasted great coats – each came with its own twist. Lace appeared as dresses, tights and opera gloves, in lurid greens, pinks and Madonna Like a Virgin white. Seen as a whole, the effect is almost overwhelming but, broken down, the collection was filled with covetable pieces that will make millennials drool.

Neatly bow-fronted patent shoes gleamed, while midi-skirts swung sluggishly under the weight of beaded flowers. Even punk raised its head – as a Billy Idol leather jacket – placed next to a gossamer silver embroidered lace shift and cape. Elsewhere, snakeskin ankle boots sat with a brocade skirt, church embroidery and Indian phulkari silk-floss stitching – a combination I defy anyone but Michele to pull off.

To close the show, a boy wore an oversized jacket and little else, and as the closing bride (that all-white look that signals the finale of a collection) swept past – the crinolined skirts perilously close to the flames – her presence seemed to chase away the religious demons. Young, fresh and resolutely defiant, this sensory overload is what Gucci has made its own. There are many, many talented fashion designers in this world, yet none seem to conjure a moment like Michele. His ability to create an atmosphere that lingers long after the clothes have gone is remarkable, not least in this gone-in-an-instant Instagram age.

I have been fortunate to attend many fashion shows over the years, but for sheer hellfire and pestilence, for hairs-standing-up-on-the-back-of-the-neck transportation into the realm of Hieronymus Bosch and Dante, nothing has ever come close to Gucci’s cruise 2019 show. The most touching part of the entire evening came during the after-party, as Elton John played a mini concert for us all, and Michele – the darling of the fashion universe, the man with the world at his feet – sat on stage watching him play, as spellbound and awestruck as the rest of us.

‘Design is a global experience’

Ahead of his keynote talk at Downtown Design, Martyn Lawrence Bullard tells Selina Denman about his A-list clients, his love for ‘Moroccan moments’ and why lessons learnt in a London vintage market have held him in good stead

It’s there in the arched window and graphic, monochromatic tilework of California’s Sands Hotel & Spa; and again in the powder room of actress Ellen Pompeo’s Hollywood home, which is clad in antique terracotta tiles and cabinetry crafted from mashrabiya panels sourced in Tangier. It’s in “the modern Moorish fantasy” that is Khloe Kardashian’s Calabasas base; and in the screening room of Mr and Mrs Tommy Hilfiger’s Connecticut property, which features custom-made, red silk, Ottoman-style seating.

“I have always loved a little Moroccan moment, whether an inlaid table or a pierced lantern,” admits Martyn Lawrence Bullard, the British-born, Los Angeles-based interior designer behind all these projects. “I find these items create romance and exoticism. I love North African design elements, from the tiles to the colours and fabrics.”

He’s quick to clarify – these Moroccan touches are not his signature, per se. They are just one part of his eclectic, all-encompassing, worldly aesthetic. “Really, it’s more about a feeling than a place... design to me is a global experience. I am inspired by all design, periods and cultures.”

Bullard is also a great fan of fashion, although he admits that his laid-back LA look is perhaps more casual than that favoured in other cities around the world. “My uniform tends to be a black V-neck T-shirt, jeans or coloured cotton chinos, but always accessorised with cool sneakers, a belt and a watch from my collection. I often dress this look up with a great jacket or cashmere sweater.

“I do, however, look to fashion for colours and patterns. The looks on the runways will often translate into home fashions, and I love to decorate rooms in colours that my clients love to wear. If you look good in a certain colour when you wear it, you’re going to look even better in a room decorated in that colour.”

Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Proof of the interior designer’s versatility is perhaps best highlighted by the two very different homes that he designed for two Kardashian sisters with very different tastes.

When Kourtney acquired her 11,500-square-foot Tuscan-style property in Calabasas, California, a couple of years ago, she enlisted Bullard to help create a cosy but sophisticated family home that highlighted her penchant for classic 20th-century design pieces, from chairs by Pierre Jeanneret and Oscar Niemeyer, to a desk by Jules Leleu.

When Khloe snapped up a nearby, nearly 10,000-square-foot Mediterranean Revival house from Justin Bieber a month or so later, she wanted something far more rock ’n’ roll. Bullard created the aforementioned modern Moorish fantasy, featuring layers of Moroccan, Turkish and Middle Eastern decorative elements. A favourite nook in Khloe’s bedroom features a traditional star-shaped lantern and mother-of-pearl table, while a woman whose face is almost entirely covered in swaths of white fabric stares out enticingly from a frame on the wall.

Bullard’s portfolio of A-list clients extends beyond the Kardashian-Jenner clan to songstress Christina Aguilera, actress Eva Mendes, model Alessandra Ambrosio and legends such as Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, actress and author Joan Collins and singer Cher, who he tells us was “the ultimate design dream”.

He worked on two homes for the “goddess of pop” and, in a sneak peek into the bedroom of one of those Los Angeles abodes, Cher can be seen reclining next to a 17th-century Tibetan monk statue, with a 19th-century pure goldthread Burmese tapestry behind her. A statuesque bed made from antique Indian panels sits on a platform crafted from limestone, flanked by bedside tables made from inlaid doors. In her kitchen, mashrabiya screens are used to keep appliances tucked out of view, as Chinese lanterns drop dramatically from the ceiling.

A bedroom that Bullard designed for Cher, which features a bed made from antique Indian panels, placed on a limestone platform.

A bedroom that Bullard designed for Cher, which features a bed made from antique Indian panels, placed on a limestone platform.

“I couldn’t have had more fun decorating for you all these years filled with laughter, love, drama, fabric and feathers,” Bullard espoused in a heartfelt message posted on Instagram to mark Cher’s birthday in May.

Unfortunately, his dream project is one that cannot be realised, although this does not stop him from wondering about its endless possibilities. “I always fantasise about the idea of creating interiors for Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé,” Bullard reveals. “Their incredible style, love of all things decorative and extraordinary personal collections made them a designer’s dream. So much personal style and love for luxurious exoticism are so very enticing. They would have been dream clients.”

The starting point for Bullard’s career could not have been further from these celebrity circles. At the age of 12, he started buying decorative objects, or “oddments” as he likes to call them, and then selling them from a stall in London’s Greenwich Vintage Market. By the age of 16, he had developed a strong assortment of clients and collectors, including a buyer for Ralph Lauren Antiques. There were plenty of lessons learnt in those early years that have continued to inform Bullard’s career to this day, he says.

“The vintage markets of London taught me much that I have been able to parlay into my work today. Most importantly that grouping beautiful objects together not only enhances each one, but also creates a scene that’s alluring and decorative, no matter the origin or value. If they are beautiful and have a synergy, then they become magnificent and inviting when grouped together. This is how I look at my interiors now. This knowledge has helped in the understanding of how rooms work, and how to create natural, cohesive yet at once interesting interiors.”

The spa lobby in the Sands Hotel & Spa in Indian Wells, California .

The spa lobby in the Sands Hotel & Spa in Indian Wells, California .

Nonetheless, interior design was not Bullard’s first choice when it came to a career. He wanted to be an actor and, after a stint at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in London’s Covent Garden, used the money that he had continued to earn trading his oddments to fund a move to Los Angeles.

Once there, he was cast in a number of film roles, but his design skills also caught the eye of some key Hollywood movers and shakers, and this quickly snowballed into a thriving business. His acting skills didn’t completely go to waste, as the British designer has gone on to star in the hit Bravo series, Million Dollar Decorators, and host Channel 4’s Hollywood Me in the United Kingdom, as well as a number of other design-focused television programmes. He has also published two books: Live, Love & Decorate (2011) and Design and Decoration (2016).

Over the years, he has expanded his repertoire to include indoor and outdoor fabrics, wallpaper, furniture, and home accessories. He has designed several collections for fabric house Schumacher, tiles for Ann Sacks, a collection of dinnerware with porcelain-maker Haviland Limoges, and wallpaper for Cole & Son. His second collaboration with The Rug Company is a collection of five carpets whose names, Marrakech, Coachella, Stevie Mac, South Ridge Pink and Teal, allude to the multiple influences that infuse his work.

To mark the global launch of the collection this month, Bullard will be in Dubai to give a talk at The Rug Company’s Al Serkal Avenue store. He will also present a keynote speech at Downtown Design, as part of Dubai Design Week.

The bathrooms at Sands Hotel & Spa feature Waterworks brass fixtures and Acqua di Parma amenities.

The bathrooms at Sands Hotel & Spa feature Waterworks brass fixtures and Acqua di Parma amenities.

So what is the British designer’s definition of a great interior? “To me, it’s a space that is welcoming, comfortable and filled with personality. A true extension of the owner’s style and tastes; a perfect window into their soul,” he says.

His own homes are a perpetual work in progress, he continues. “My interiors are a constant evolution. My homes become my experiment pads, places to display the things I love, and then mix and match as I collect and my tastes change. I probably fully redecorate about once every three years, but the spirit of my rooms is always changing with the addition of new things either added or taken away. It’s all about the edit; that makes it fun for me.”

Rolling stone

The rich shades of this season’s collections shimmer against the raw beauty of Abu Dhabi’s Fossil Dunes

Dress, Dh21,381, Roberto Cavalli. Earrings, Dh4,120, Chanel. Shoes, Dh4,450, Gucci .

Dress, Dh21,381, Roberto Cavalli. Earrings, Dh4,120, Chanel. Shoes, Dh4,450, Gucci .

Dress, Dh1,945, Layeur at The Modist. Earrings, Dh1,009, Sachin & Babi.

Dress, Dh1,945, Layeur at The Modist. Earrings, Dh1,009, Sachin & Babi.

Dress, Dh6,183, Elisabetta Franchi. Earrings, Dh2,011, Amy Gattas.

Dress, Dh6,183, Elisabetta Franchi. Earrings, Dh2,011, Amy Gattas.

Dress, Dh31,700, Gucci. Bag (worn as belt), Dh5,149, Loewe .

Dress, Dh31,700, Gucci. Bag (worn as belt), Dh5,149, Loewe .

Top, Dh7,575; and trousers, Dh4,655, both from Givenchy. Boots, Dh2,563, Stuart Weitzman.

Top, Dh7,575; and trousers, Dh4,655, both from Givenchy. Boots, Dh2,563, Stuart Weitzman.

Dress, Dh21,700; and trousers, Dh4,370, both from Valentino. Shoes, Dh4,450, Gucci.

Dress, Dh21,700; and trousers, Dh4,370, both from Valentino. Shoes, Dh4,450, Gucci.

Gown, Dh7,592, Bazza Alzouman. Boots, Dh3,121, René Caovilla.

Gown, Dh7,592, Bazza Alzouman. Boots, Dh3,121, René Caovilla.

Dress, Dh3,800, Dima Ayad.Jacket, price on request, Valentino. Boots, Dh3,121, René Caovilla.

Dress, Dh3,800, Dima Ayad.Jacket, price on request, Valentino. Boots, Dh3,121, René Caovilla.

Ruffled dress, price onrequest, Bottega Veneta. Blue and black dress, Dh3,800, Dima Ayad. Ribbon (wornaround neck), stylist’s own.

Ruffled dress, price onrequest, Bottega Veneta. Blue and black dress, Dh3,800, Dima Ayad. Ribbon (wornaround neck), stylist’s own.

Dress, Dh15,674; and top(worn under), Dh3,400, both from Chloé .Trousers, Dh2,850, Kristina Fidelskaya. Earrings, Dh2,011, Amy Gattas. Shoes,Dh1,796, Stuart Weitzman.

Dress, Dh15,674; and top(worn under), Dh3,400, both from Chloé .Trousers, Dh2,850, Kristina Fidelskaya. Earrings, Dh2,011, Amy Gattas. Shoes,Dh1,796, Stuart Weitzman.

Tunic, Dh21,650; andtrousers, Dh4,370, both from Valentino. Shoes, Dh1,796, Stuart Weitzman.

Tunic, Dh21,650; andtrousers, Dh4,370, both from Valentino. Shoes, Dh1,796, Stuart Weitzman.

Photographer: Cristian Martinelli
Stylist: Sarah Maisey
Model: Julia at Independent, Milan
Hair and make-up: Sharon Drugan
Videographer: Karma Gurung

The Wall House
New Canaan, Connecticut

Combining the design sensibilities of two renowned builders, this property has architecture buffs in a tizzy

The Wall House tells the story of two architects: American modernist Philip Johnson, one of the famed Harvard Five, and Postmodernist designer Reja Bakh, who is known for creating spaces that blend the boundaries between indoors and out. 

The Harvard Five, which also included John Johansen, Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores and Eliot Noyes, were known for spearheading a move away from the overdesigned Victorian-inspired style of the time towards a more minimalist aesthetic, with sharp edges, clean lines and, in Johnson’s case, plenty of glass. His philosophy was that great architecture is “the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts or stimulates the persons in that space”. And instead of homes that emphasised privacy, the builder prioritised the outdoors, with inspiring views, sociable patios and visually vanishing thresholds.

Johnson, who died in 2005, built his famed Glass House in the 1940s with the intention of using it as his personal residence. The award-winning architect later decided to build the Alice Ball House nearby to live in, and used the Glass House for the lavish parties he was famed for throwing. Currently, the Glass House is a museum listed in the National Register of Historic Places, but its more liveable version is on the market.

When Bakh bought Alice Ball in 2015, allegedly to save it from being demolished, he went on to design a new 1,000-square-foot residence, Wall House, influenced by German-American architect Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. This new, as yet unbuilt structure will sit on a 2.2-acre compound that will incorporate both homes, linking them through a series of long vistas and walls – with some connected and others appearing to be free-floating. Bakh has said he wants the future owner of Wall House to display “a similar appreciation of modern architectural history in collecting a piece of work by a master”.

As shown through renderings, the unification of Alice Ball and Wall House will provide a large living room, three bedrooms, an indoor pool and spa, a 14-car underground garage with skylights and a cellar, plus a Johnson-design sculpture garden. Bakh envisions the 1,500-square-foot Alice Ball space as being repurposed as a collector’s gallery. The living and dining areas of the new all-white residence will be surrounded by glass walls, which will look directly out on to Alice Ball House, while the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen will offer more privacy.

While the plans and basic masonry are in place, the new house has not been erected, which gives potential buyers the chance to tweak and furnish the layout to suit their preferences. Once it sells, Bakh has a team ready to oversee the building of Wall House and make minor updates to Alice Ball House. According to the architect, the project has the full support of the Glass House foundation, with the museum itself located a five-minute drive away.

The Wall House plot is listed with Sotheby’s International Realty for US$7.7 million.

Panna Munyal

The trend: high-sheen surface treatments

Is it vinyl? Is it PVC? Whatever it is made of, the ultra-high shine of this belted Marni coat transforms it into a glossy, gleaming wonder.

A pair of intensely black trousers, which shine as if crafted from moonlight-dappled water, are softened with an oversized chiffon bow blouse.

Emilio Pucci
Famous for pattern, Pucci still knows how to turn out block colours. Tailored from a wool and silk mix, this jade jumpsuit mimics the sheen of leather.

Kristina Fidelskaya
With a polish normally found on patent shoes, the classic trench coat has been updated into something that’s entirely fresh and new.

Tribal tokens

Jewellery designer Jacquie Aiche may be a Hollywood favourite, but her creations are a reflection of her roots, finds Hafsa Lodi

“Hippy-chic and always barefoot” is how jewellery designer Jacquie Aiche describes her personal style. And if you ask any of her celebrity clients, they’ll confirm that Aiche is usually unencumbered by footwear when they visit her unmarked Beverly Hills showroom. It’s part of her inimitable bohemian charm – and a trait that’s embodied in her brand’s fine-jewellery designs.   

Jacquie Aiche’s namesake jewellery label offers a range of delicate-yet-dazzling jewels that the designer recommends be worn layered and stacked. Glimmering gold body harnesses, opal-horned pendants, crystal earrings cut to resemble leaves, miniature crescent moon studs and oversized hoops adorned with feather-shaped crystals, are interspersed with motifs culturally rooted in her mixed heritage, such as Native American chiefs and Middle Eastern evil eyes. Aiche was born to an Egyptian father and Native American mother, and both worlds come together seamlessly in her designs.

“I’ve always been so inspired by my Middle Eastern heritage,” Aiche says. “The bold colour choices, hammered gold, amulet pieces and goddess imagery of the culture will always influence my designs. They’re beautiful themes to play with, but it’s so much more than that. I feel a very special connection to it – it’s all a part of me.” She says that her Native American side, meanwhile, means she gravitates towards turquoise, fossils and precious gemstones.

“As a little girl growing up in the Hollywood Hills, I was always attracted to gemstones and minerals. I would collect rocks and make them into jewellery pieces for my family. The love just grew from there,” she explains.
Aiche dabbled in jewellery-making as a hobby while managing a clothing boutique in Los Angeles, and sold her first few pieces anonymously. Then, she designed the product that would compel her to leave the retail business and kick-start her own company in 2007. “When I launched my brand, one of the first pieces I designed was the finger bracelet,” she says. “It’s one of my essential designs that has grown with me since the beginning.”

A delicate bracelet with a chain snaking up the wrist, over the hand and attaching to a ring, Aiche’s finger bracelet was an immediate hit, quickly inspiring copycats to incorporate the stylish silhouette into their own collections. But her range of designs, dotted with delicate diamonds or adorned with marquise petal-cut stones, dangling gold disks and eye-shaped charms, was ultimately matchless.
Her knack for creating covetable fine jewellery that was wearable from day to night was wholeheartedly welcomed by Hollywood It-girls, and she quickly amassed an impressive celebrity following.

“Alessandra Ambrosio has been with me since the beginning. She bought a pair of earrings from me when I was still working in my boutique,” says Aiche, who also counts Gigi Hadid, Rihanna and Emily Ratajkowski among her high-profile clients (a group she likes to refer to as her “tribe”).

“It refers to my team and my clients; these women are my family,” the jewellery designer says. “I think the word encompasses that, a community of women who support each other and share in their love for precious minerals.”

For a woman living in Hollywood, dealing in diamonds and other precious gemstones, with a customer base that consists of some of the world’s most famous faces, Aiche is extraordinarily grounded, and retains a special connection with Mother Nature. Her pieces are not only aesthetically alluring, but also laden with meaning and symbols, and crafted with a great deal of introspection.
“I’m a big believer in the power of crystal healing,” she says. “I create my jewellery with the intention of empowering women, so I’m constantly drawn to stones that give the beholder feelings of love and beauty. The unique energy of each stone draws you in. And once they touch the skin, you just radiate.”

One of her own most treasured jewellery items is an Egyptian cartouche pendant given to her by her dad. “My father took me back to Egypt when I was 14, and it was so magical. My cartouche is so special to me because it reminds me of the special moments that we shared on that trip,” she says. “The hieroglyphics alphabet is so beautiful to me as well – all the different characters coming together to make a word; it really takes you back to the beginning of time.”

More than a decade after the official launch of her jewellery label, Aiche shows no sign of slowing down, and her aesthetic remains timeless, versatile and in-demand. Celebrities including Selena Gomez, Bella Hadid, Vanessa Hudgens and even Usher have all sported her designs in the past few months, along with a tribe of lesser-known, yet equally attractive, sun-kissed Instagram personalities, who take to wearing multiple Jacquie Aiche designs together, just as the designer recommends.

While her classics, including the ever-popular finger bracelets, are a constant feature in Aiche’s collections, her product lines are in a constant state of flux. “My crystal cravings are always changing. Right now, I’m loving opals and turquoise,” she reveals. “The reflective, galactic vibe of opals and the dreamy blues of turquoise make them the perfect stones to wear under the sun. It’s like being adorned with the beauty of the ocean.”

Would you pay Dh404,000 for a daybed?

Le Refuge will be installed at Downtown Design in Dubai

Le Refuge is the first piece of furniture created by Franco-Italian artist Marc Ange. The former luxury car designer, who works between Paris and Los Angeles, has a refined aesthetic that bridges the gap between art and design.

Originally crafted from pink teakwood, perforated steel, Sunbrella fabric and a foam-based cushion, the bed is shaped to resemble a jungle-like oasis, shaded by a canopy of palm leaves.

Ange has said that he hopes Le Refuge evokes “the projection of a childhood memory away from reality, just like those of the imaginary jungle that grows in the room of a child who seeks escape”.

The daybeds have since been rendered in various shades, and using materials such as marble, black, yellow and blue teak, and brass and velvet. Each bed is 290 centimetres tall, 270cm wide and 300cm long.

The pastel pink creation was named the most Instagrammed piece at Milan Design Week in 2017. Since then, it has been spotted at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and Miami Art Basel. A new iteration (pictured) will be on display during Dubai Design Week, on the terrace of the Downtown Design fair, from November 13 to 16. 

Ange creates Le Refuge under his furniture brand LJ Edition, which he launched soon after moving to California last year. The designer also runs the Bloom Room studio, which has created products and set-ups for luxury brands such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Ferrari, Peugeot, Moët & Chandon, Citroën, Paco Rabanne and Orient Express.

Some of Ange’s other sought-after furniture pieces include Le Refuge floor lamps in wood or marble, Les Araignées armchairs and Le Roi lounge chairs, which are shaped to resemble a gigantic teddy bear.

Spatial species

Four simple saddle stitches transform a piece of supple bridle leather into a desk accessory or change tray. A dreamcatcher is stripped back to its bare essentials to become a circle of maple wood separated into quadrants for storing ties (pictured). An old-school, three-tiered sewing box is reimagined into a jaunty red coffer for precious scarves. And a cylindrical stool made from lightweight cork is enveloped in pinched, burnished leather.  

Hermès’s 2018/19 home collection serves up all the French maison’s hallmarks. It is understated yet playful, colourful yet quiet. As Hermès learnt long ago, why shout if a whisper will do?

A necklace bust dubbed Vis-à-vis is a nod to the brand’s humble beginnings as a saddle- and harness-maker in the late 1830s (as the company still proudly points out, for more than half its existence, its only customer was the horse). This equestrian heritage is constantly being referenced – in the case of Vis-à-vis, by drawing inspiration from traditional instruments used to adjust horse harnesses. 

A deep-seated curiosity about the world has also been a cornerstone of the brand since it was founded by intrepid traveller and collector Emile Hermès. In the new home collection, this manifests itself in an addition to the Karumi line of seating – a bench that celebrates the lightness of bamboo and technical innovation of Japanese master craftsmen, but is crowned with a seat of cashmere, in a tartan-inspired motif by artist Nigel Peake.

A sense of whimsy permeates A Walk in the Garden, a set of plates that takes its cues from nature. Here, Peake “let his pencil glide, freehand, from shrub to pathway”. Uplifting hues of bright orange, leaf green, buttercup and Prussian blue are worked into compositions that see twigs, leaves and grass shoot up through latticed, chequered and herringbone motifs.

These are just some of the pieces on show at the Hermès Species of Spaces exhibition at The Dubai Mall until November 17. The first floor of the brand’s store in the mall’s Fashion Avenue has been transformed into an installation that features furniture, home accessories, tableware, fabrics and wallpapers. Created by Charlotte Macaux Perelman and Alexis Fabry, who are both artistic directors of Hermès Maison, the installation has already travelled to Taipei and, after Dubai, will move on to Seoul.

“Colours give objects identity, they animate surfaces with character. Hermès has celebrated colour since 1837; its heritage is composed of infinite hues,” says the brand in its description of the installation. As such, the unfussy lines of the home collection are presented against a backdrop of softly coloured, oversized geometric patterns, creating a joyful jumble of striking shapes.

“Hermès Species of Spaces gives voice to the objects, with all their varying scales, and the know-how behind them,” says Macaux Perelman. “Each one reveals its soul within this immersive experience of colour and form. Our installation conveys several values: the furniture that expresses rigour, and fantasy through textiles, wallpaper and porcelain. We know more rigour than fantasy at Hermès; that’s why we wanted an installation that brings colour and lightness, and the idea of play and construction.”

Give in to islomania

Private islands sit at the very pinnacle of the luxury property market.  Panna Munyal looks into the pleasures and challenges of owning one

There are many things that might deter a dispassionate home seeker from buying an island. Private islands are frightfully expensive and require constant upkeep; those that are located in regions that suffer harsh winters can be accessed only for a few months each year, while the tropical lot can get uncomfortably hot. And yet, islands are almost always spoken about in poetic, paradisaical terms.

Defined as an obsessional enthusiasm or partiality for islands, islomania afflicts those who are lured by the idea of outdoor living, oneness with nature and, above all, complete and utter privacy. “On an island, everywhere is your dinner table,” is how Chris Krolow puts it. As host of the HGTV show Island Hunters, chief executive of Private Islands Inc and owner of Gladden Island in Belize, Krolow is one of the world’s foremost authorities on island buying.

A residence at Horse Island in Cork, Ireland, features six bedrooms and a large living room with views of the ocean.

A residence at Horse Island in Cork, Ireland, features six bedrooms and a large living room with views of the ocean.

He became acquainted with the peculiarities of island seekers early on in his career. “The big lesson I learnt from my first few sales was that potential buyers are interested, first and foremost, in the island itself, rather than a particular location. Most people who market regular real estate, do it by region, right? Passionate island hunters, on the other hand, are often open to travelling for even half a day to get to their islands, so say from America, that opens up Central America, the Caribbean, and parts of the United States and Canada. So I learnt early on to market islands first to various income brackets and then to focus not so much on the region, but on the beauty and privacy of the property itself.”

Another major difference between regular and island real estate is that size rarely dictates price. For instance, the 11-acre Petra Island in New York State is listed for US$14.92 million (Dh54.79m) with Vladi Private Islands, while despite boasting 800 acres, Lataro Island in the Pacific Ocean nation Vanuatu is going for less than $10m.

Vladi founder, the German businessman and author-editor of the coffee-table book Luxury Private Islands, Farhad Vladi says: “An island is like a painting. Just as you cannot value an artwork based on its square inches or the amount of paint used, you cannot compare square-metre prices when it comes to islands. An island that is closer to a main city will have a much higher land value. The second factor is appearance and, of course, emotional appeal. A 100-acre flatland is not as worthy as a smaller but more beautiful island with trees, hills, beaches and rivers.”

Personally, Krolow says he prefers smaller plots to unending swaths of land. “If the acreage is massive, you’re not actually going to feel like you’re on an island – you may not even be able to see the water from your residence, for example. For many people, the mere idea of an island – the tangible embodiment of wealth, status, safety, sovereignty, privacy and freedom – compels and captures the imagination. But it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of a particular region or type of property without knowing exactly how it will fit into your life.”

Electricity, internet connectivity, fresh water supply and proximity to hospitals, stores and even schools are some other factors to keep in mind when seeking out a habitable island, as is the licence to develop a home or, if you’re so inclined, a resort, on it.

Experience a variety of watersports at La Sistina island in Argentina.

Experience a variety of watersports at La Sistina island in Argentina.

While doing up your island your way has its own perks, George Damianos, president and managing broker of Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty, says that an island that is ready to move into saves a tremendous amount of time and money that would otherwise be spent developing it. “The cost to develop [can] be greater than paying for the island itself,” he says. A plot with a mod-con residence and other amenities is also likely to retain its value and fetch you a higher price should you wish to sell.

“If people want to sell their islands, I tell them to make sure the building permits are in order and in writing,” says Vladi. “Buying a piece of mainland property close by also helps to host potential buyers, some of whom may fly in or drive in from other parts of the world. Getting an environmental study done helps to highlight the beauty and rarities of the island, while setting a realistic price is always helpful.”

Of course, being the sole owner of an island does not automatically give you free rein to build upon it. Each parcel of land generally has its own policy: some may require you to build some way off from the shore, for example, while others require a flat but elevated area to protect the house from storm surges and the elements. Other islands, especially those with historical significance or ones that are home to rare or endangered species of bird and marine life, may not have building permits at all.

The tennis court at Foot’s Cay island in the Bahamas is complemented by a cabana with views of the beach.

The tennis court at Foot’s Cay island in the Bahamas is complemented by a cabana with views of the beach.

“In our agreements, buyers have the right to do their due diligence for 90 days, so they can check out all the factors that are crucial to them before closing the transaction. We hire a local architect who can get or find out about permits and speak to the authorities,” explains Vladi. He also invites potential buyers to spend a week on the island he owns – a 1,700-acre plot in New Zealand, which is rented out when Vladi is not staying on it.

“I always tell my clients, before you buy, get a tent and camp on the island,” adds Krolow, who says he sells at least 30 islands every year. “Spend enough time to know what it is you want to be looking at when you wake up in the morning. At Gladden Island, for instance, the bedroom faces the sun rise, while the living and dining areas look west. Private islands bring a rare kind of pleasure to their owners; not just of possessing something truly beautiful and unique, but also of knowing that you’re the kind of person capable of attaining it,” he explains.

And to this, Vladi adds one final uplifting tenet. “To explain the differences in real estate, I always tell my buyers: if you own an island, you control what you see. If you buy a property on land, you have absolutely no control over that one neighbour with loud dogs, the other with wildcats and the third who blares his stereo. On land, your living experience depends on others; not so on an island.”

Finally, there is the privilege of knowing you are the sole protector of a little piece of the planet. As levels of pollution soar, arguably the very act of not contributing to the further erosion of the earth, environment and oceans is a luxury in itself.

Blue Island in Exuma in the Bahamas boasts a 5,700-foot asphalt jet airstrip .

Blue Island in Exuma in the Bahamas boasts a 5,700-foot asphalt jet airstrip .

If you have the means to power your island with solar panels, invest in a state-of-the-art septic tank and hire a marine biologist to protect indigenous species, it is your prerogative, perhaps indeed your duty, as an island owner to do so. Just as you would not litter your on-land apartment with rubbish, your island home, too, needs to be kept as clean and natural as possible, not only so the local flora and fauna continue to flourish, but also because as your home, you can revel in the pride of ownership.

“The last thing you want to do is throw a plastic bag in the ocean that laps at your doorstep,” says Vladi. “Even when people have tons of money, they often keep their island homes simple because they are there to enjoy birdsong and sun sets. True luxury on an island is the pristine nature that it affords you and that you can afford to upkeep. Castles are seldom built on an island,” he concludes with a laugh.