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Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, and Music’s Most Successful Alliance

Director Allen Hughes discusses his upcoming HBO documentary which tracks the careers and friendship of the legendary producers-turned-executives.

Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, and Allen Hughes, photographed at Iovine’s house, with African-American Flag (1990), by David Hammons, in Los Angeles. Photograph by Kurt Iswarienko.

Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, and Allen Hughes, photographed at Iovine’s house, with African-American Flag (1990), by David Hammons, in Los Angeles. Photograph by Kurt Iswarienko.

Every one of these people has got their own fucking weather pattern,” says director Allen Hughes when asked about lining up interviews for The Defiant Ones, his upcoming four-part HBO documentary on the careers and incredibly fruitful business partnership of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. Individually and together, Iovine and Dre (born Andre Young) have provided the double-helix backbone upon which a staggering portion of American popular music released since 1975 stands. Take away their work as producers, and Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Snoop Dogg, and Ice Cube surrender crucial portions of their respective catalogues. Strike out their roles as record executives, and who’s to say if Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt, Eminem, or Kendrick Lamar ever crosses over? You get those sorts of subjects on camera when you get them, Hughes says with a laugh. But, he says, “everyone who sat down, whether it was Springsteen or Snoop, they sat down and they were in no rush to go anywhere. . . . I just looked and said, ‘Damn, these people really love Jimmy and Dre.’ ”

Hughes knew both of his subjects separately, even before Iovine’s Interscope Records inked a distribution deal with Dre’s Death Row imprint, in 1992, kicking off their quarter-century collaboration (and opening a major front in the 90s culture wars). The film plots the iconoclasts’ paths to that point and beyond, culminating in the $3 billion sale of their Beats Electronics to Apple, in 2014. Among the greatest challenges in telling their stories, Hughes says, was working through a shared attribute that’s allowed Iovine and Dre to make such an outsize cultural impact. “The thing that they both have in common is that they literally don’t look back at anything they’ve accomplished,” he says. “They don’t talk about it. They’re not nostalgic at all about any accomplishments or things they’ve been through. They just keep moving. They don’t have a rearview mirror.”

Vanity Fair: Was there much reluctance on either of their parts to go anywhere or even just to give you access to begin with?

Allen Hughes: After Dre finishes any record, no matter how popular the record is, he never listens to the record again. His thing is, once he is done with the record it becomes business. He loves the process, so he never looks back. In fact, he jokes that I know more about his life than he does. And Jimmy will tell stories and stuff, but Jimmy doesn’t look back either. I would say Jimmy was more reluctant to do the documentary. Dre was more curious, because I think he just reached a place in his life where . . . he was curious.

The split narrative could have been choppy, but it feels pretty well woven together. How did you even tackle going after these two huge stories?

I think the No. 1 thing is I have relationships with both guys for over 25 years. I met them before they met each other. . . . I had a baked-in history with both. [The title] is a little play on that Tony Curtis-Sidney Poitier movie where the black guy and white guy are chained together. I’m biracial, and I’ve always been fascinated with the black and white of things, especially in our country . . . culturally, sonically, visually, the characters. At the end of the day, there is this guy named Jimmy Iovine from Red Hook, Brooklyn, son of a longshoreman. And then you have this kid from the Compton ghettos, Andre Young. They couldn’t be further apart, but eventually, 40 years later, they’re collaborating. When you look at Tupac and Marilyn Manson, at how extreme those two artists are, they’re coming from the same guys. It’s these two guys that these artists are being born out of. . . . I was just fascinated by that. When Jimmy and Dre finally got to work together, Interscope erupted on both sides of the cultural fence.

Was this stuff that you had been thinking about all along? Was there anything that you unearthed that just surprised you?

What surprised me was how close I was to all of it. I went in thinking, “Oh, I’m gonna do this story about these guys and these gals and this time and this place,” and I almost look at it like a piece of fiction. I didn’t know how close I was to all of it. Eazy-E was my first mentor, and a guy who took me under his wing when I was 19. I was very close to Eazy. By that measure I was close to Jerry Heller and all of N.W.A. and later, not too much later, actually, months later, became very close to Tupac. My brother and I directed his first three music videos, but we were also really close friends. I would pick him up at the Burbank Airport every time he came to L.A., and that was an interesting relationship that ended in a volatile way. Right up to Marilyn Manson, I was very close to Marilyn Manson.
 

I didn’t realize how personal it was. Not just the relationships but the nature of it, the nature of it all. What it’s all saying, what it’s all doing, how it’s moving, how it’s feeling, the sense of humor, the absurdity, the cinema of it. It was all so personal. Forget the relationships; what all these artists were saying and doing was the soundtrack and the feelings and the lyrics of my life. You asked me what surprised me? I think what surprised was how much of this was me. That shocked the shit out of me. In fact, it was real painful a lot of the time.

How so?

First of all, it was painful because of my relationship with Jimmy and Dre. Me and Dre have had a . . . he has been a brother to me. And Jimmy has been, throughout the years, quite the godfather to me. It’s not easy to push those guys. That was tough. You’re talking about 30 years, and you know these guys, these guys are not out to pasture. They haven’t retired. They’re still out here active, and you’re trying to find a truth. Every day you’re trying to push toward a truth. You keep putting your hand in there, you’re gonna get bit a few times. And I got bit a few times.

That was painful, but what was even more painful was . . . I don’t think I processed the death of Eazy, and I don’t think I ever processed the death of Tupac. That’s where that fiction comes in, because both of those guys became so mythical that I didn’t realize—even though I was on the side of the fence of making and creating a lot of this stuff—I didn’t realize that I hadn’t dealt with that stuff. That was a tough one.

To have been part of the myth making and then to go back and now deconstruct it . . .

Exactly. Some of the most painful stuff was when I’d have to go back, for instance, into the video that broke Tupac, and probably my brother, and his proudest moment, “Brenda’s Got a Baby.” Now, that video has been used in countless documentaries because the imaging is great on him in that one, but to go into it and actually pull outtakes that had never been seen before, to see myself right there with Tupac and some of the footage talking to him before whatever . . .

Same thing with Eazy. We shot a lot of stuff with Eazy and N.W.A. that we had to go unearth and decant all that stuff, for lack of a better word. That was painful. I gotta say, the second year of this project I was going through what I would only describe as some deep depression, and I didn’t know why. I just didn’t know why.

How did you get out of that?

Just worked through it. The Tupac thing alone was interesting, because if you look at the film you can see all the different iterations of him. There were times where the film . . . just trying to wrestle the film back from Tupac was crazy. There were times where it felt like he was right there.

The thing that I loved most about the narrative is that Jimmy and Dre, they revel and celebrate in collaborating. They’re such collaborators. They’re not like “Me, Me, Me, I,I,I,” Guys. Ultimately, whether it was Tupac or Bruce Springsteen, Eazy, Bono, Tupac, Stevie Nicks, Eminem, Tom Petty, Patti Smith—I love that DOC story we got to get in there—you say, “Man, these guys collaborated with the greatest artists of our time.” Trying to balance that was like “whose story are we really [telling]?” You’re like “Is this a Trent Reznor documentary?” And then all of a sudden, it will come back in.

It’s interesting how you were able to get these big personalities telling the story and still have it centrally be about Jimmy and Dre.

Everyone who sat down, whether it was Springsteen or Snoop, they sat down and they were in no rush to go anywhere. . . . I just looked and said, “Damn, these people really love Jimmy and Dre.” Snoop sat down for hours and hours. Snoop was one of the rare people who spanned a 20-year relationship [with them], and he didn’t have a cell phone or anything around. Several breaks, several blunts.

That’s one way to keep a subject entranced.

And then it became clear in the 11th hour. His body language . . . he was almost melting off the chair. I was like, “Let’s call it a day, man.”

Just logistically, how long did it take to get all these interviews nailed down?

I would say the bulk of it was shot in the year, but that was the other painful part. It wasn’t. . . . I’m not gonna act like it was well-organized. Every one of these people have got their own fucking weather pattern, you know? These are giants, so you get them when you can get them. When they sat down, they gave it their all, but you couldn’t line them up like ducks in a row.

There’s a sub theme running through this thing about the American dream, you know? Like, Jon Landau said, “We all know it’s a myth, right?” On paper, Jimmy and Dre have achieved the American dream over and over and over again, countless times. I do believe in that American dream, but what I was looking for, and what I was finding, was that it doesn’t matter how much success or money you have if you haven’t reconciled your demons or come to peace with yourself or put a saddle on most of your shit, that’s not the American dream. You really see Dre through the course of the doc coming into that zone, and Jimmy as well.

What makes the two of them so successful together now that you’ve spent so much time with them?

On the surface, what makes them so successful together is that they both respect each other enormously, and what the other one does. Dre’s not trying to be Jimmy, and Jimmy’s not trying to be Dre. They both complement each other so well and they’re so respectful of each other’s space in that. Beyond respect, I think they really have this affection for one another and they celebrate one another and that’s the other thing. They love to laugh with one another. And that’s unusual. I think that’s a bonding agent that most partnerships don’t have.

Most times that you see Jimmy and Dre, Dre is laughing the hardest and Jimmy is laughing as well, and that’s part of the secret to the success. And one is not trying to have the other one’s limelight. In rock groups—or even when it comes to twin directors like me and my brother—there’s always some kind of friction because someone wants what the other one has. In that relationship I never saw that. I never felt that. It felt quite the opposite.

 

Source: VanityFair.com      Photo & Video: VanityFair.com

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Dubai Police’s Newest Recruit is Self-Driving Robo-Car with Facial-Recognition Tech

The newest special car that is all set to join the Dubai Police’s fleet of patrol vehicles is not a supercar. In fact, it might just be a little more special than any other car that is part of that fleet that includes some big names like the Bugatti Veyron, Aston Martin One-77 and Mercedes SLS, amongst others. Meet the O-R3: a self-driving car that acts a mobile surveillance unit. The robo-car is the size of those electric buggies made for children, but it packs a serious punch when it comes to technology. The tiny fully-autonomous car can navigate on its own using machine-learning algorithms and also comes equipped with thermal imaging and license-plate readers.

Built by Singapore-based start-up OTSAW Digital, the bot has 360-degree cameras on the roof that “scan for wanted criminals and undesirables” using facial recognition technology. OTSAW says Dubai will be the first city in the world to use the O-R3 for everyday patrols. However, the company said that the robot isn’t intended to replace human police officers, but to “fulfill low-level order enforcement tasks.” The robot car comes with a built-in aerial drone that can be deployed to survey areas and people that the car can’t reach. “We seek to augment operations with the help of technology such as robots,” Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, the head of the Dubai police, said in a statement. “Essentially, we aim for streets to be safe and peaceful without heavy police patrol.”

Source: LuxuryLaunches via Washingtonpost     Photo: LuxuryLaunches via Washingtonpost

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Delta Air Lines Testing Facial Recognition Technology For Self-Serve Baggage Drop-Off

Delta Air Lines has become the latest airline to introduce facial recognition technology, which will match fliers with their passport photos during the self-service bag drop-off process.

The technology will debut at one of four self-serve bag drop machines at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport this summer and is touted as a time-saving measure for customers: Self-service drop-off stations have been shown to process up to twice as many customers per hour.

Delta becomes the first US carrier to launch a biometric-based bag drop machine. The new feature will also free up agents to help travelers with other matters, Delta says.

“This is the next step in curating an airport experience that integrates thoughtful innovation from start to finish,” said Gareth Joyce, of Airport Customer Service and Cargo, in a statement. “We’re making travel easier than ever for our customers and continuing to deliver a leading customer experience.”

Delta says it’s spending $600,000 on the initiative.

Delta also worked with the Transportation Security Administration to implement the first automated screening lanes in the U.S. at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Source: Pursuitist.com     Photo: Pursuitist.com

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New Luxury Watch Launch: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete and Monete Pendant Watch

For Bulgari, the sum of modern jewellery techniques and classical watchmaking crafts are enhanced by the antique currency and the end result are symbols of magnificence and opulence.

The new Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete

The new Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete

As of 4pm CET, 11pm Singapore time, Bulgari has just launched two new luxurious ‘secret’ watches. The two new luxury watches named the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete and the Bulgari Monete Pendant Watch sublimate the antiquity of Mother Rome herself and the provenance of Bulgari.

The new Bulgari Monete Pendant Watch

The new Bulgari Monete Pendant Watch

Bulgari’s latest ‘Secret’ watches, so known for their hidden time display, are part of the Monete collection, a heritage series for the brand – Monete refers to ancient coins used for unique creations and thus, given the brand’s affinity for classical Greek tradition and ancient Roman culture, thethe Roman denarius or plural, denarii or Greek Athenian drachma and the Corinthian stater are often used to great artistic and dramatic embellishment in Bulgari’s high jewellery collection.

New Luxury Watch Launch: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete and Monete Pendant Watch

Today, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete transcends time, straddling almost two millennia of history: mankind’s Antiquity to our pre-industrial age – an ancient Roman coin bearing the visage of Constantine the Great, also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, Roman Emperor from 306 to 337 AD, covering the intricate mechanisms of contemporary fine watchmaking.

An ancient Roman coin bearing the visage of Constantine the Great covers the intricate mechanisms of Bulgari’s contemporary fine watchmaking – here the Octo Finissimo Skeleton Flying Tourbillon

An ancient Roman coin bearing the visage of Constantine the Great covers the intricate mechanisms of Bulgari’s contemporary fine watchmaking – here the Octo Finissimo Skeleton Flying Tourbillon

In another extraordinary Bulgari creation, high jewellery and the rare Imperator Constantius Augustus denarius joins to create an exquisite High Jewellery pendant watch – interpreting Bulgari’s cherished Monete theme. Together, each new luxury watch distills and conveys both the weight and history of Rome and the storied artisanal crafts of Bulgari.

Ancient Greek (Athenian Drachma, Corinthian Stater, etc) and Roman coins (Denarii) are one of the powerful aesthetic elements for the Rome-based maison. In the 1960s, Bulgari began incorporating these precious antiquities into its jewellery creations as witnesses to culture and history, elevating mere luxury accessories into priceless and timeless objets d’art. Over the decades, Bulgari’s Monete collection has been interpreted in a unique manner symbolising the quintessence of the spirit and the maison’s respect for cultural art and heritage.

Unique narrative objects: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete and Monete Pendant Watch

High jewellery accessories and watches bearing coins and motifs of Greek and Roman leaders is not just iconic to the brand but in essence, imbues each individual creation with its own history, distinctive affirmations of power and authority,in essence, they become unique narrative objects by virtue of association with something extremely rare and downright exclusive. As an object, it is unique, in retracing entire chapters of ancient human history, the creations transcend their original raison d’etre. Each conveys historical meaning and recounts an epic saga. From an artistic standpoint, the patina of the ages carries with it and transfers the weight of time and adds to the provenance of whatever object it has been joined to, watch or jewellery.

For Bulgari, the sum of modern jewellery techniques and classical watchmaking crafts are enhanced by the antique currency and the end result are symbols of magnificence and opulence.

The new Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete is covered by an ultra-rare 4th century Roman coin struck to mark the 20-year reign of Constantinus Augustus (307 to 337 AD).

The new Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete is covered by an ultra-rare 4th century Roman coin struck to mark the 20-year reign of Constantinus Augustus (307 to 337 AD).

The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete is covered by an ultra-rare 4th century Roman coin struck to mark the 20-year reign of Constantinus Augustus (307 to 337 AD). Upon pressing the innovative opening system hidden in the crown, the watch face opens to reveal the world’s thinnest tourbillon movement, skeletonised to expose the fine craftsmanship and finishing that has come to exemplify Bulgari watchmaking. Beyond the extraordinary fine mechanisms and the ingenious opening system also lies the challenging task of setting coin onto the watch bezel itself.

Fittingly, the Octo Monete draws a symbolic line between the power of an octagonal design and the architectural heritage inspired by the emperor Constantine the Great himself, to whom we owe the distinctive construction of the the Basilica of Maxentius in Rome with its octagonal ceiling coffers.

Instead of Constantine the Great, the cover of this companion to the Octo Monete is topped by a tetradrachm depicting Alexander Magnus (336-326 B.C), King of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire.

Instead of Constantine the Great, the cover of this companion to the Octo Monete is topped by a tetradrachm depicting Alexander Magnus (336-326 B.C), King of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire.

Bulgari Monete Pendant Watch

The Octo Monete’s feminine companion is the similarly octagonal-shaped Monete pendant watch, following the philosophical and aesthetic spirit of the Octo Monete. Instead of Constantine the Great, the cover of this “secret” watch is topped by a tetradrachm depicting Alexander Magnus (336-326 B.C), King of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire. More commonly recognised as Alexander the Great, one of history’s most successful military commanders, rumoured to have fallen to his knees in tears when he could no longer find new lands to conquer; the face of the Bulgari Monete Pendant watch opens to reveal an entirely skeletonised gold tourbillon movement.

The gorgeous tourbillon calibre of the Bulgari Monete Pendant watch is itself protected by an octagonal case forming the pendant, crafted in 18kt pink gold and set with diamonds and rubies.

The gorgeous tourbillon calibre of the Bulgari Monete Pendant watch is itself protected by an octagonal case forming the pendant, crafted in 18kt pink gold and set with diamonds and rubies.

The gorgeous tourbillon calibre is itself protected by an octagonal case forming the pendant, crafted in 18kt pink gold and set with diamonds and rubies. The pendant is suspended from a solid 90-centimetre gold chain featuring geometrical links set with diamonds and rubies.

From Antiquity to the 21st century, the language of symbols has remained universal and unchanging, when wielded by Bulgari, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Monete and Monete Pendant Watch then transcend their natures as mere accessories and become objects of elegant timelessness.

Technical Specifications of Bulgari’s new luxury watches

OCTO FINISSIMO TOURBILLON MONETE WRISTWATCH

Movement: Mechanical hand-wound movement, Finissimo Skeleton Flying Tourbillon, sapphire baseplate, Calibre BVL 268, tourbillon carriage mounted on ball bearings, 253 components, indication of the hours and minutes, 21,600 vph, 52-hour power reserve; 1.95 mm thick.

Case and dial: 40 mm-diameter octagonal case in 18kt pink gold, fitted with a 4-silica silver coin, of which the front bears the portrait of Emperor Constantine Augustus wearing a diadem, accompanied by the inscription AVGVSTVS; while the back features a laurel branch surrounding the mention CAESAR; water-resistant to 30m, 18kt pink gold crown with black ceramic insert.

MONETE PENDANT WATCH

Movement: Mechanical hand-wound movement in 18kt pink gold, entirely skeletonised, Calibre BVL 208 featuring an hours and minutes segment in red PVD-treated 18kt pink gold; 21,000 vph, 64-hour power reserve; movement components entirely decorated and finished by hand: chamfering, polishing, bevelling and snailing.

Case, dial and chain: 41mm-diameter octagonal case set with brilliant-cut diamonds and rubies, fitted with a silver tetradrachm, of which the front shows Emperor Alexander (Alexander Magnus, 336-326 B.C.), while the back depicts a divinity holding a sceptre and an eagle; transparent sapphire crystal caseback, 18kt pink gold chain set with 1,270 brilliant-cut diamonds ( ~ 36.54cts) and 252 rubies ( ~ 3.29cts).

Source: Luxuo.com     Photos: Luxuo.com

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Meet Aurea: An Elegant Superyacht with Her Own Beach Club

The craftsmen at Italian luxury yacht builders, Rossinavi, have joined forces with the iconic design studio, Pininfarina, to create an elegant superyacht that takes luxury and creativity to a whole new level. The styling house based in Turin, Pininfarina, are best known for some of the most exotic Maseratis, Ferraris and Alfa Romeos.

Aurea is inspired by the lines of the sea

The 70 metre superyacht, Aurea, takes its inspiration from the lines of the sea. Its fluid lines are a hallmark of Pininfarina’s flowing, iconic style. The yacht’s shape is both dynamic and harmonious. Its upper band frames the bridge perfectly and then descends downstairs, where it joins the owners deck seamlessly.

An evolutionary superyacht

Aurea is an evolutionary superyacht designed for those of you who wish to explore the sea in style. The boat features expansive exterior spaces with water access on either side of the hull and comes complete with two swimming pools. There’s no doubt that Pininfarina have taken beautiful design elements from their long history of car design and blended them with a superb level of creativity into the ever so elegant Aurea.

A special focus on unparalleled lifestyle

This first collaboration between the two iconic Italian companies has put a special focus on unparalleled lifestyle. The elegant superyacht has her very own beach club, created to ensure the ultimate lifestyle for both owner and guests. Aurea’s beach club is of a record size for a yacht of these dimensions.

Space and light

Aurea boasts three spacious outdoor decks. Large windows have been included to ensure that each deck is flooded with plenty of natural light. On the main deck you’ll find the longitudinal balcony which is covered with a folding bulwark in order to create private spaces, along with the guest cabins.

The power can be housed in the centre of the yacht, as Aurea is propelled by a diesel-electric motor. This is how the designers have managed to create such wonderful, large light-filled spaces.

Source: TheTopTier.com; Courtesy A Luxury Travel Blog   Photos: TheTopTier.com

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Bankrupt Billionaire Lists $12.5 Million Dallas Mansion

Compsite: Riccardo S. Savi / Getty Images; Google Maps

Compsite: Riccardo S. Savi / Getty Images; Google Maps

Embattled former billionaire Sam Wyly is looking to unload his ivy-covered mansion outside of Dallas for $12.5 million.

The 82-year-old businessman, investor and philanthropist, who is wrapped up in a years-long battle with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over a fraud suit and was billed for billions in back taxes from the Internal Revenue Service, put the pale brick home on the market late last week.

Mr. Wyly’s home is in the posh suburb of Highland Park, just north of Dallas. He has owned the house since at least 1983, according to property records. It’s unclear how much he paid for the mansion, though it is assessed for tax purposes at around $9 million, property records show.

In the fall, Mr. Wyly agreed to pay almost $200 million to the SEC to resolve a fraud suit in which he and his late brother, Charles Wyly, were accused of hiding hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore accounts while getting rich off investments in the arts and crafts store Michaels and others. The corruption charges have led the octogenarian worth an estimated $1.1 billion a decade ago to declare bankruptcy.

Earlier this year, he reportedly won court permission to spend some $1.4 million in previously frozen assets to move from the Highland Park mansion and into a posh retirement community nearby.

A lawyer for Mr. Wyly did not immediately return a request for comment.

The one-acre property consists of a Tudor mansion built in 1924 and manicured grounds that include a backyard pool, porch and patio. Noted architect Charles D. Hill, who also created the old City Hall and a number of other stately residences in Dallas, designed the house, according to the listing with agent Susan Shannon of Allie Beth Allman & Associates, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate.

The home spans more than 7,500 square feet with five bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms and hasn’t been on the market for 50 years, according to the listing.

Luxury Market Lookup Market Data Provided by Realtor.com

Photos of the house show a mansion set back from the main road by a generous front lawn bisected by a flagstone pathway to the front door. The entryway opens into a foyer with ornate dark wood moulding and a sweeping staircase up the second floor. The deeply stained wood moulding continues into a bookcase-lined study with a fireplace and into the kitchen.

The second floor master suite includes a dramatic, Gothic revival bathroom with a tub surrounded by intricate wood moulding. A bather can stare up at the steep vaulted ceiling with wood beams, chandeliers and a cathedral-like skylight.

The home also has a vast game room on the third floor, a three-car garage and views over Highland Park’s golf course.

Images of the interior show that much of the furnishings have been cleared out of the home, likely as part of Mr. Wyly’s move to a retirement facility. Some relics of his tenure there include a number of near-life-sized tiger sculptures and bronze carousel ponies.

His new digs at the Edgemere retirement community in Dallas offer its residents a spa, gold course, “European-style” gardens and courtyards and performing arts facilities, according to its website.

Source: Mansionglobal.com — Realtor.com contributed reporting to this article.    Photo: Mansionglobal.com

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The Critical First Two Weeks of Marketing Your Home For Sale

Brokers share their listings with other brokers in the multiple listing service (MLS) under certain rules of cooperation and compensation. One of the rules of cooperation is that each broker and agent make a new listings available to other MLS members within 24 or 48 hours of signing the listing agreement with the seller.

This is to give you, the seller, the greatest chance of selling your home during the first two weeks of marketing. This critical two-week period is your best opportunity to sell your home.

Several key events happen quickly:

1. Your home will be entered into the MLS showing system with your showing instructions, so that other agents can bring their buyers to see your home. While your listing is being prepared for marketing, your agent will contact his or her buyers and inform colleagues of the new listing.

2. Other data such as mapping, satellite image, neighborhood information, tax roll data, school information and other data will be added to your listing so that buyers can get the full picture of what it's like to live in your home.

3. Your agent will either take photos, or schedule a videographer to help market your home with photos and video. This enables buyers to walk through your home and property virtually, so they can choose or eliminate your home when deciding which home to buy.

4. Your agent may create virtual or printed "feature" sheets that showcase your home's features to advantage, so buyers can remember it was your home they liked best when it's time to do side-by-side comparisons.

5. Your agent will schedule your home on the MLS tour for other agents to see, and ask for feedback. The agents who see your home in person are important, as they will be able to report your home's features and condition to their buyers. Homes in top move-in-ready condition sell faster and for more money.

6. Your agent will distribute your listing data to his or her website or blog, accounts such as Twitter or Instagram, the broker's website, and third-party sites like Realtor.com, Zillow, or Trulia.

7. Your agent will put a sign in your yard announcing your home is for sale.

8. Your agent may advertise your home in a number of places, including the local newspaper and homes magazines. Your agent may also put your home in their personal marketing tools such as e-magazines, newsletters, or email alerts to prospective buyers.

Anyone who is interested in homes in your price range and area will know your home is available for sale within the first two weeks of marketing.

If you don't get many showings or offers, chances are good that your home may be facing stiff competition from other homes on the market. They are in a better location, or superior condition or they're priced more aggressively.

If you don't have showings within two weeks of listing your home, consult your agent. Perhaps you can do a little more to spruce up your home's curb appeal, or perhaps stage the interior to better advantage.

Give your home a little more time before you adjust the price. You may be in a buyer's market with many homes for sale. If so, buyers need more time to sort through the homes on the market.

You don't want to take chances when marketing your home. Your best chance of selling your home is when it's new to the market and exciting to buyers. Don't lose your advantage by overpricing or underpreparing your home for market.

Source: RealtyTimes.com     Photo: RealtyTimes.com

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Air France Opens Its First Pop Up in New York

Air France wants to continue its exclusive legacy of being gastronomically fashionable. It has thus opened its first pop-up restaurant in New York. Have the benefit of luscious desserts at ‘Paris for Dessert’ between 20th to 24th June with your loved one. It could be your dream ticket for witnessing the splendid and romantic city of Paris. You might be the lucky couple be superstars! Paris in business class, culinary adventure, Michelin-starred restaurant at Saint James Paris, Marriott hotel, and all free of cost. Ensure that you are packed (carry your passport as well) for an instant takeoff to Paris, just in case. What more could you possibly wish for?

That’s not all folks! You can win a reservation plus a scrumptious pastry at the Air France boarding staircase (heart of New York City, June 12–16). Moreover, post your PANORA.ME selfie on social media with #ParisForDessert and #AirFrance. Whilst savouring a dessert, this is how you will enter a lucky draw contest in order to earn table for two at Paris for Dessert.

Air France wants you to be a part of loving their French cuisine. Thus, they are continuing a tradition that believes in brilliance and bliss. Celebrated chefs Joël Robuchon, Guy Martin, Michel Roth, Thibaut Ruggeri, Régis Marcon, Anne-Sophie Pic and François Adamski are responsible since 2009 for impressing your taste-buds on Air France flights. For US and Canada departures, the delectable creation is of Daniel Boulud.

Source: LuxuryLaunches.com     Photo and Video: LuxuryLaunches.com

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Champagne Experience Heightened in Luxury Jet

Flying on a jet offers the experience of cradling you in comfort, luxurious surroundings, whilst receiving top service and furthering the olfactory experience, fine Michelin-starred chef prepared food enjoyed with a glass of champagne.

There’s more going on than meets the eye with this experience – there is science at play and a multi-sensory experience happening. NetJets are Masters of Champagne, and they’d like to take you on a journey.

Every taste of your Champagne triggers a fresh new flavour sensation, amplified and enhanced by sensory cues taken in from your surroundings. When you’re on a jet, it could be anything from the soft lighting in the cabin or the quality of the air around you to the soothing jazz playing in the background. Before that delicious syrup hits your palette, your experience has been defined by your environment.

When you’re drinking your in-flight Krug Grande Cruvée, you’re doing so much more than enjoying fine wine. You’re embarking on a multisensory experience. Stress has completely melted away. You’re sipping the sky.

Sipping the sky: the intricate chemical make-up of Champagne

As your jet calmly continues its journey through the night sky, edging closer towards the glittering lights, it’s time for one last toast. You and your business partner excitedly pop open a fresh bottle of Dom Ruinart 2004 Champagne and take a sip, delighting in its sweet aromas, floral notes and citrus edge.

To success, to good health! You clink your glasses and sit back. This glass of Champagne tastes even more delicious than before, but that’s not possible. Is it?

Well actually, yes – and it could all be down to the bubbles.

France, 2009. A team of scientists from the University of Reims discover that bubbles are essential to producing the highest quality Champagne. In the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, they publish findings on the chemical fingerprints of Champagne that suggest its flavour lies mainly in the bubbles, with these tiny air pockets containing up to 30 times more flavour than the Champagne itself.

‘As champagne or sparkling wine is poured into a glass, the myriad of ascending bubbles collapse and radiate a multitude of tiny droplets above the free surface into the form of very characteristic and refreshing aerosols,’ the scientists write.

However, it isn’t just the bubbles that give your Champagne its exquisite flavour. For instance, the practice of sipping from a flute is not just for aesthetic purposes, although the flute is certainly more elegant than most other wine receptacles. The rough glass at the bottom of your flute is fuelling the nucleation of the bubble stream, causing more bubbles (and therefore flavour) to soar to the top.

How To Pour Champagne at High Altitudes

Then there’s the matter of how your Champagne is poured. With high altitudes reducing our ability to taste sweet and salty foods by approximately 30%, as discovered ina study commissioned by Lufthansa, you want to release as much flavour as possible, and just the way you hold your glass can influence this process. On-board your jet, do you choose the traditional method for your next glass, keeping it still and flat while the cool liquid flows from the bottle, or do you tilt it slightly?

According to research, the latter technique is best for bringing out the Champagne’s sweet, aromatic flavours. Findings from the Group for Research in Engineering Science reveal how the fizz in Champagne comes from repeated fermentation, which produces high amounts of carbon dioxide. When the wine is bottled up, the carbon dioxide is trapped, and so dissolves into the wine. Then, once the bottle is opened, it is released to create bubbles.

Therefore, with bubbles the key to unlocking flavour, for the finest taste you want as much carbon dioxide as possible. The researchers find that pouring Champagne in the traditional way is actually less effective at preserving carbon dioxide. Hold your glass at a slant, however, and much more gas will be released while you pour. It’s simple: more bubbles, more flavour.

Back to your flight. As you sip your Champagne, enjoying the approaching view of the twinkling Dubai skyline on-board your Cessna Citation Excel jet, unbeknownst to you your senses are embarking on a journey, with every step influenced by factors such as your environment, the bubbles in your Champagne and even you – how you pour, and what into.

As you finish your last glass, the pilot prepares to land the jet. The time has almost come. Full of anticipation (and Dom Ruinart), you ease back into your seat to enjoy your last minutes in the air.

Interesting Facts About Flight and Flavor

High-pitched noises, piano melodies and smooth, flowing legato music give Champagne a sweeter flavour.

White noise diminishes the taste buds, which is why jets with quieter engines, such as the Bombardier Global 6000 jet, allow passengers to enjoy Champagne to its fullest.

High altitudes reduce our ability to taste sweet and salty foods by 30% – but factors such as the way you hold your glass and pour your Champagne can recapture lost flavour.

The real flavour of Champagne lies in the bubbles – tilt your glass at a slant to release the most bubbles and amplify your tasting experience.

Red and blue lighting improve the taste of Champagne, making it sweeter and fruitier.

Smell makes up 80% of taste but high altitudes dull the senses, so being surrounded by a pleasant fragrance and fresh, clean air is important when enjoying in-flight Champagne.

Sources

  • ‘A large sample study on the influence of the multisensory environment on the wine drinking experience’: BioMed Central Ltd
  • ‘Looking for crossmodal correspondencesbetween classical music and fine wine’: BioMed Central Ltd
  • ‘8 things science says you should consume on a plane’: Women’s Health Magazine
  • ‘Unravelling different chemical fingerprints between a Champagne wine and its aerosols’: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • ‘A feast for research’: Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics
  • ‘Thermography shows why Champagne should be poured differently’: FLIR Systems
  • ‘Ambient lighting modifies the flavour of wine’: Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
  • ‘Here’s why wine tastes different when you’re on a plane’: Business Insider UK

Source: EatLoveSavor.com   Photos: EatLoveSavor.com

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Truffle Hunting On The Périgord: The Quest For The Black Diamonds Of Cuisine

Photo courtesy of La Truffe en Perigord Noir

Photo courtesy of La Truffe en Perigord Noir

We never thought we would do this, even though we have been traveling for more than two decades.

But there we were, traveling on the Périgord, going to the small hamlet of Péchalifour, near Saint-Cyprien, where truffle farmer Edouard Aynaud, would take us on a truffle hunt with his two dogs, trained to sniff and point, but not eat, the black Périgord truffle.

We had eaten black truffles before — and they tasted like the scent of old libraries: arcane yet grand, laden with the taste of history and mystery. And sometimes, with a hint of bitter chocolate.

But going on an actual truffle hunt was a pilgrimage of sorts, both entertaining and philosophical, as we would actually search for these “diamonds of cuisine”, as the renowned 18th French gastronomic writer, Brillat Savarin, called them.

Photo courtesy of La Truffe en Perigord Noir

Photo courtesy of La Truffe en Perigord Noir

Ancient Edible ‘Black Diamonds’

This “diamond” is actually an hypogeum fungus, which grows underground near certain types of trees –oak, beech, hazelnut, chestnut, birch and poplar. The fungus absorbs nutrition through an extensive and ramified root system. The fruit looks like a tuber (somewhat like a potato) whose color varies from white to grey to black.

And, it is an ancient food. The Sumerians (about 1700BC) used the truffle by mixing it with other vegetables — barley, chick peas, lentils and mustard. Plutarch, the great Roman essayist, wrote that the origin of the truffle lay in the combined and mysterious action of water, heat, and forked lightning – earth, air, fire, water.

We went this hunt as one of the experiential dimensions on our Viking River Cruise, where we explored the Bordeaux wine country. One of the areas was the Dordogne region, home of the Périgord truffle, the Tuber Melanosporum.

The Périgord is a verdant area, close to the Dordogne river and the Lascaux caves, full of woodlands and forests. It is also far from the madding crowd, even though it is only five hours from Paris.

Photos courtesy of Susan Kime

Photos courtesy of Susan Kime

Centuries-Old Methods

And, on the Périgord is Péchalifour, where Rabassier (the truffle hunter) Edouard awaited us, with Farah and her sister, his two black and white Border Collie truffle sniffers.

It was there where we became participants in the centuries-old traditional method, used by Rabassiers, to locate and unearth a Périgord truffle: the dogs, with Edouard commanding “Cherché!” (find!) Farah and her sister were sent to sniff under the trees, and start digging with their paws. We were fascinated by this, as many times, when Edouard started to dig further with his old hand trowel, sometimes he found nothing at all.

All this time, Edouard was speaking to us in French – I seemed to understand some of what he was saying. “So this is my life. And all this is thanks to my father, when he planted these first trees in 1968. And thus, he passed this delightful madness on to me.”   I asked him again to say “delightful madness” in French, and he said, “C’est douce folie,vraiment!”

Edouard and the ancient farmhouse. Photo courtesy of Susan Kime

Edouard and the ancient farmhouse. Photo courtesy of Susan Kime

Treasure Unearthed and Enjoyed

While he was talking, the dogs were hunting, and he asked me, the one who spoke a small amount of French, if I would like to dig where Farah was digging. I used my hands – my writer’s hands sans nail polish – and actually found one. It was small, and looked so odd – sort of like a small black ball. Whether this was indeed a happy accident or not, I had never held a truffle in my hand.

“Eh, bien! Voila!” exclaimed Edouard, and quickly removed it from my hand. And for good reason! Fresh winter black truffles have been known to sell in a retail setting easily approach €4,000 ($4500) per kilogram (a little over 2 pounds.)

Our adventure was not over yet, though, as our next stop was the dining room inside Edouard’s old farmhouse, where a truffle lunch – three courses, all truffle-based, was being prepared by his wife, Carole. The first was a simple slice of truffle butter on fresh farmhouse bread, then came the Brouillade, a truffle butter/cream/ scrambled egg mixture with shaved truffle on top, then, pasta, with a crème based truffle sauce, finally fresh strawberries, grapes and walnuts. The best of everything.

Photos courtesy of Susan Kime

Photos courtesy of Susan Kime

Lifelong Memories Made

We never thought we would be in an ancient farmhouse, eating fresh black truffle preparations. It was beyond memorable, as we knew that Péchalifour was founded in the 16th century. Prior to that, 15,000 years before, the Paleolithic men (and women) lived in this area, and painted on the cave walls of Lascaux, not far away.

As we ate, and looked and the ancient stones that became the walls of this home, we sensed this area must have been known, for millennia, as a safe harbour, a place of respite and peace. It had fresh water from the river, fresh fruits and vegetables, plentiful wood for fires and cooking, and of course, truffles. Not much has changed since then.

www.truffe-perigord.comwww.vikingriver.com

Source: Pursuitist.com     Photos: Susan Kime

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Bentley On Demand

German-owned British luxury carmaker, Bentley, is set to test a new service that lets customers summon one of its limousines, SUVs or GTs to their door simply by tapping and swiping their smartphone.

Set to launch this summer as a pilot scheme in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas, Bentley On Demand will be exclusive to existing Bentley owners who use the company’s Network App.

The idea is simple, no car, no matter how expensive is perfect for every occasion. Convertibles are amazing in the summer but pointless in the winter and as great as the Continental GT is for hitting the road on an adventure or taking a mini break, if the road trip is longer and the whole family is coming, they’re going to feel much more comfortable in the company’s new Bentayga SUV.

The new service will be the second app-based concierge service that Bentley has tested in the US. In October, it launched a concierge refueling app in partnership with tech start-up Filld that brings the fuel truck to the car at the time that’s most appropriate – as long as the owner and the car are based in California.

With Bentley on Demand, owners can select the Bentley model that suits their needs, via the app, and then the car is delivered to the location of their choice, by a concierge who will also familiarise the driver with any features unique to the model.

As such, the new service is very similar to Book by Cadillac, which launched in January in New York. Like Bentley on Demand, it uses an app that allows drivers to select the exact Cadillac model to meet their particular needs at a particular moment in time. However, what sets ‘Book’ apart is that instead of having to own a Cadillac already, users instead pay a US$1,500 (RM6,420) monthly subscription.

The new service also comes just two weeks after US luxury marque Lincoln rolled out its Chauffeur on Demand service to San Diego. Rather than offering users a Lincoln to loan, it enables existing Lincoln drivers to summon a chauffeur who can drive you to appointments and use your car to run errands.

Source: Pursuitist.com     Photos: Pursuitist.com

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This Hotel in Milan Lets You Sleep in $200k 24-Carat Gold Sheets

Isn’t jewelry like ice-cream? Always room for more! TownHouse Galleria Milano (Milan, Italy) is the first hotel in the world to ensure that only women don’t have room for more. They invented gold for all without being jewellery-partial to women. Alessandro Rosso Dubai along with Federico Buccellati and Piana Clerico 1582 designed 24 Carat Gold Sheets to snooze in. The extravagance includes one bottom sheet, four pillowcases, and one duvet cover with guaranteed authenticity. Seven Stars Ottagono Presidential Suite guests will be draped in gold – literally! Those Gold Sheets powerfully represent vitality, courage, and willpower, and most of all, they magnify positive feelings. They are also for ‘taking away’ and not simply ‘having here’, hundred sets of these limited-edition sheets are up for grabs. Apart from being a symbol of wealth and royalty, it also stimulates wisdom and desire for knowledge.

Where: TownHouse Galleria Hotel
Via Silvio Pellico, 8, 20121 Milano,
Italy

Source: LuxuryLaunches.com     Photos: LuxuryLaunches.com    

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Sacramento’s New, Million-Dollar Condos Have a Secret Tunnel to Kings Arena

The Sawyer, the newest addition to Sacramento's Downtown Commons area, offers residents a way to skip the crowd.

The $500 million Golden 1 Center, home to the NBA's Sacramento Kings, opened in October 2016. Since then, the stadium has served as the centerpiece to Sacramento's Downtown Commons redevelopment program (DOCO), which also will include a soon-to-be-completed 16 story hotel/ luxury condo development called the Sawyer.

A rendering of the Sawyer’s pool area, which overlooks Sacramento’s Downtown Commons. Source: Visualhouse  

A rendering of the Sawyer’s pool area, which overlooks Sacramento’s Downtown Commons. Source: Visualhouse

 

Renderings of the site include a plaza filled with shops and restaurants, a fountain crowned by a translucent sculpture, and a Benetton ad’s worth of laughing twentysomethings carrying shopping bags. “Sacramento is the next Great American City,” the project's website reads. “And DOCO is our common ground.”

The Sawyer. Source: Visualhouse

The Sawyer. Source: Visualhouse

Yet, should owners of the new condos—which can cost as much as $4 million—find that common ground a little too common, its developer has built an underground tunnel that runs from the building directly into the stadium.

A rendering of a model dining room. Source: Visualhouse

A rendering of a model dining room. Source: Visualhouse

“I don’t want to sound snobby—you could go and stand outside, but why would you when you have the opportunity to go through a VIP tunnel?” asked Christopher Miller, vice president of The Agency Development Group, the broker handling sales for the building. “You’re not going to wait in line, you’re going to walk right in. It’s a level of exclusivity that you and your family are going to enjoy.”

Apartments range from $600,000 to $4 million. Source: Visualhouse

Apartments range from $600,000 to $4 million. Source: Visualhouse

Residents will have access to an outdoor pool. Source: Visualhouse

Residents will have access to an outdoor pool. Source: Visualhouse

The condominiums, which sit on the top five floors of the building (the rest will be a Kimpton Hotel), range from one to three bedrooms. Prices start at $600,000, for a one-bedroom, and go up to $4 million, for one of six penthouses.

The building is developed by San Francisco-based JMA Ventures LLC, and will include a residents’ lounge, an outdoor pool, access to the Kimpton’s hotel services, and a full-time doorman. The building is scheduled to be completed in late 2017.

“This level of service and level of carefree living and lifestyle don’t exist yet in Sacramento,” said Miller. “The response has been so favorable because everyone is so excited about something that’s never been offered.”

Source: Bloomerg.com.    Photos: Visualhouse

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Jordan Griska‘s 2016 Wreck of a Mercedes-Benz S550 Is Mind-Blowing

One of the world’s most popular luxury sedans, juxtaposed in luxurious reflection and horrible destruction somehow producing a beautiful if imperfect representation of a Mercedes Benz S550. Introducing Jordan Griska’s Wreck.

Jordan Griska‘s 2016 Wreck was inspired by Warhol’s ‘Car Crash’ series. Image: Jordan Griska

Jordan Griska‘s 2016 Wreck was inspired by Warhol’s ‘Car Crash’ series. Image: Jordan Griska

University of Pennsylvania B.F.A. Cum Laude graduate and Brooklyn based sculptor Jordan Griska is a relatively young artist but nevertheless an amazingly talented one. With work featured in exhibitions at Esther Klein Gallery, Fleisner Ollman Gallery, Scope Art Fair in Miami, and Philadelphia Contemporary, his art installations always begin a conversation. For ArtRepublik, Jordan Griska‘s 2016 Wreck of a Mercedes-Benz S550 Is Mind-Blowing.

Reflecting light and surroundings in a myriad of facets, it appears that a life-size Mercedes Benz S550 was wrecked but somehow, turned into an artwork with countless mirrors. No, Jordan Griska‘s 2016 Wreck of a Mercedes-Benz S550 is instead, made from mirror polished stainless steel and assembled to create the gorgeously disjointed and imperfect view of an otherwise pretty popular (if ubiquitous) luxury sedan.

Philadelphia Contemporary curators chose Wreck to be exhibited at Pier 9, a 93-year-old warehouse extending onto the Delaware River. Image: Philadelphia Contemporary

Philadelphia Contemporary curators chose Wreck to be exhibited at Pier 9, a 93-year-old warehouse extending onto the Delaware River. Image: Philadelphia Contemporary

Jordan Griska‘s 2016 Wreck of a Mercedes-Benz S550 Is Mind-Blowing

Influenced by Andy Warhol’s coloured “Car Crash” lithoprint series and many other images of wreckage and crashes, Jordan Griska conceptualised of sections of highly polished steel in creative interpretation of what a car would look after a car crash and then translated the design of the Mercedes-Benz S550 into a 3D model to keep the resemblance of the luxury sedan, leaving the software to model the mirrored pieces that would be required to fit together in an over-all shape which would leave the shape of the Mercedes S550 recognisable,

Laser cut to precision, 12,000 reflective surfaces fit seamlessly, gorgeously and jarringly into a picture of absolute brutality that is Griska’s 2016 Wreck. Image: Philadelphia Contemporary

Laser cut to precision, 12,000 reflective surfaces fit seamlessly, gorgeously and jarringly into a picture of absolute brutality that is Griska’s 2016 Wreck. Image: Philadelphia Contemporary

Laser cut to precision, 12,000 reflective surfaces fit seamlessly, gorgeously and jarringly into a picture of absolute brutality. We suppose it’s the juxtaposition of luxurious reflection and horrible destruction which clash in opposition yet somehow produce such a beautiful if imperfect representation of one of the world’s most popular luxury sedan’s the Mercedes Benz S550.

So accurate is the 3D modelling that you can even recognise the tail of the Mercedes-Benz S550 from Griska’s Wreck sculpture. Image: Philadelphia Contemporary

So accurate is the 3D modelling that you can even recognise the tail of the Mercedes-Benz S550 from Griska’s Wreck sculpture. Image: Philadelphia Contemporary

Organized by Harry Philbrick and Tina Plokarz, Jordan Griska’s Wreck premiered last October 2016 by the Philadelphia Contemporary where curators chose Wreck to be exhibited at Pier 9, a 93-year-old warehouse extending onto the Delaware River. According to a press statement released by the museum about Wreck, “The sculpture mirrors the peak of today’s automobile industry by using digital technology and meticulous handcraft to subvert both utopian dreams and reality. Spectacular and haunting, Wreck captures the dual nature of American culture by contrasting wealth, freedom, and individuality with decadence, debauchery, and tailspin, as flip sides of the same coin.”

Source: Luxuo.com    Photos: Luxuo.com

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Rolls-Royce Black Badge

At the Festival of Speed, Rolls-Royce has unveiled the new Rolls-Royce Black Badge.

Created to satisfy overwhelming demand from a new breed of Rolls-Royce patrons, Dawn Black Badge stands as the most luxurious, social and sensual space from which to take in the night air. This most glamorous, uncompromising expression of open-top luxury is given a new and darker sensual dimension through its suite of Black Badge engineering and design treatments.

The Dawn Black Badge at the Festival of Speed is presented in a deeply intense shade of black. Multiple layers of paint and lacquer have been fastidiously applied and hand-polished in a process that amounts to the most exhaustive painting and polishing process ever used for a solid paint colour. The result clothes Dawn’s sensuous lines in the deepest, darkest and most intense black to ever grace a production car surface. The roof, which opens in a ‘Silent Ballet’ to allow in the sounds of the night, is also only available in black canvas, whilst the rear deck is finished in black leather.

Dawn Black Badge is now available to commission.

Source: Pursuitist.com.    Photos: Pursuitist.com. 

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Cover Story: Serena Williams’s Love Match

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. A STAR IS BORN Serena Williams, photographed in Highland Beach, Florida.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. A STAR IS BORN Serena Williams, photographed in Highland Beach, Florida.

Last January, on the eve of the Australian Open, Serena Williams handed her fiancé, Alexis Ohanian, a paper bag containing six positive pregnancy tests. It was just the latest surprise in an unlikely pairing: the world’s greatest tennis player and the geek co-founder of Reddit. From their first date—a magical six hours in Paris—to their plans for the baby’s arrival, this is the full love story.

This is a love story.

It wasn’t seamless, starry eyes at first light. There was a discovery, unexpected and shocking. There were moments of really getting pissed and the standard irritation that comes when one half of the whole kept leaving the suitcase in the hallway. But there were also moments of unplanned intimacy that is the only true kind of intimacy in a love story, soft touches and laughter and absurdity, because you need absurdity in a love story, since love is slightly absurd anyway, a feeling that, like eternity, is indefinable.

Which leads us, on the surface at least, to the seemingly mismatched pairing of 35-year-old Serena Williams and her fiancé, 34-year-old Alexis Ohanian. She is the beyond remarkable tennis player, although all superlatives are pointless. He is in the high cotton of high tech as the co-founder of the Web site Reddit, which has 234 million unique monthly users. They became engaged last December, after first meeting roughly a year and a half earlier, then found out in January that Serena was pregnant. They will be married in the fall after the birth of the baby.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

With 23 grand-slam wins on the women’s pro tennis tour spanning nearly three decades—from her first, at 17 years old, in September of 1999, to her latest, at 35, in January of 2017, and the most in the open era—Serena is in the heart of every conversation concerning the best athlete of her time. “If I were a man, then it wouldn’t be any sort of question,” she told me. She may well be right, a society still conditioned to believe that men are better than women in everything except the superfluous.

Alexis, on the other hand, had never seen a tennis match until he met Serena, in May of 2015 in Rome. He knew so little about the game that the photo he excitedly posted on Instagram of her playing her first match in the Italian Open showed her foot faulting.

Serena plays a sport that requires the mental focus of instantaneously letting go of losing points and moving on because there are a lot of excruciating ones no matter how great you are, continual regrouping and re-inventing: dwell on them, you lose confidence; lose confidence and you lose. She is also superbly conditioned, given that a female tennis player may run about three miles in a match without the luxury of coming out of the game because you feel winded or lost too much money gambling with teammates the night before on the charter and would rather mope on the bench.

Alexis’s athletic history amounted to the level of a very gangly defensive tackle for Howard High School in Ellicott City, Maryland, far more interested in science fairs and programming and building Web sites. His skill at tennis is not one of potential; when Serena offered to give him a lesson, he turned it down so he could tell his friends that he once turned down a lesson with Serena Williams.

Serena has been romantically linked in the past to such rappers as Drake and Common. Once, when she and Alexis went to a movie in San Francisco, he got up from his seat to get popcorn, earning the admiration of the kid at the counter.

Reddit, Rome, and rats? Watch the video below for a primer on the unlikely beginning of Serena Williams’s and Alexis Ohanian’s romance.

“Yo, dude, that wasn’t Serena Williams, was it?”

“Come on. Me? Really?”

“You’re right.”

Before we get to how Serena and Alexis actually met, or a better sense of who he really is, or her reaction to the pregnancy and how she told him, it’s probably wise to spend a little time with Serena Williams to give our love story some context.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Serena Williams is the best tennis player in history, with an aggregate winning percentage of 85.76 percent and 72 tournaments won on the Women’s Tennis Association tour (including the 23 grand-slam victories in 29 singles finals, not to mention 14 doubles finals with sister Venus). She has earned $84,463,131 in career prize money and nearly twice that in endorsements and appearance fees.

Thirty is the point of no return for most female tennis players, but Serena has only gotten better since, with 10 grand-slam wins and almost running the four-tournament table—the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open—in 2015. She has been ranked No. 1 in the world longer than anyone other than Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova, and is the obvious favorite to win any tournament she chooses to play in.

But then an unforeseen discovery left both Serena and Alexis in shock. Which is perfect for our love story, since a love story without drama is just another story.

January 2017

It began to unfold roughly a week before the beginning of the Australian Open, in Melbourne, last January, not that anyone would have known. After playing poorly in her first match of the year, in which she felt she had missed too many backhands, she went to the practice court and for two and a half to three hours hit 2,500 of them, by her estimation. If she missed one, she started over. She did roughly the same the next practice day.

But she felt a little different physically. She had unexpectedly thrown up at one point and her breasts had enlarged. She thought it might be hormonal. But her friend Jessica Steindorff immediately suspected something else and suggested a pregnancy test. Serena thought it was ludicrous.

Jessica worked on her for two days until Serena relented, and so Jessica went to a pharmacy and bought a pregnancy kit.

“I’ll take it just because (a) to prove you wrong and (b) because it’s fun, whatever. It’s like a joke. Why not?”

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. GRANDSTAND “I don’t know what to do with a baby. I have nothing.... I’ve done absolutely nothing for the baby room.”

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. GRANDSTAND “I don’t know what to do with a baby. I have nothing.... I’ve done absolutely nothing for the baby room.”

That Friday, as Serena was doing her hair and makeup for an event sponsored by the lingerie company Berlei, where she is a spokesperson for its line of sports bras, she took the test in the bathroom. “I put it down. I went back to finishing hair and makeup, was laughing, talking. I was getting the styling done. An hour and a half later, I went back to the bathroom and I totally forgot about it because it was impossible for me. . . . So I went back to get dressed and I went back in the bathroom and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that test.’ ”

Jessica shrieked in delight at the results. Serena, as she put it, “did a double take and my heart dropped. Like literally it dropped.

“Oh my God, this can’t be—I’ve got to play a tournament,” said Serena. “How am I going to play the Australian Open? I had planned on winning Wimbledon this year.”

But never underestimate the Serena Stubbornness, as legendary in certain circles as her first serve. Beleaguered Jessica went back to the hotel pharmacy and bought five more test kits to further convince her.

Test No. 2: Positive. Test No. 3: Positive. Test No. 4: Positive. Test No. 5: Positive. Test No. 6: Positive.

Which is an opportune time in our love story to bring in the father and rewind to the moment Serena met Alexis and Alexis met Serena.

May 2015

Although in his early 30s, there is something still gushingly boyish about Alexis, six feet five inches and lean, with the moppish hairstyle that college tour guides favor as they extol all the wonders of the campus, including the mail room and the six-shooter cereal dispenser. In his case the corporate offices of Reddit, in the Union Square area of San Francisco, which look oddly unfinished—as if to say, Why be bothered with such trivialities in the hip high-tech culture?—twentysomething savants engrossed by their computer screen with heads slightly hunched, the way people used to look when they were engrossed by books, searching for the next Pied Piperian breakthrough and likely finding it before lunch is served on the second floor from a line of stainless-steel buffet trays winking and nodding with nutritious options.

Alexis was born in Brooklyn and raised in the nationally known planned community of Columbia, Maryland. Reddit’s origins go back to 2004 during his junior year at the University of Virginia, when he took an L.S.A.T. prep exam for law school, got about midway through the first section, and went to the Waffle House on Route 29 in Charlottesville to have waffles. He realized he did not want to be a lawyer, just as he had also realized that his real love was programming and building Web sites. He teamed with Steve Huffman, an engineering major, whom he had met the first day of freshman year.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Williams and fiancé Alexis Ohanian, photographed in Highland Beach.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Williams and fiancé Alexis Ohanian, photographed in Highland Beach.

They came up with the concept for Reddit, a Web site self-described as “the front page of the Internet,” in which users interact and respond to a myriad of topics that interest them. The number of users went up rapidly, and, in 2006, 16 months after launching it, he and Huffman, still in their early 20s, sold the company to Condé Nast (which also publishes this magazine) for a reported $10 to $15 million. The price was a fraction of what Reddit has been estimated to be worth today: $4 billion. Alexis sheepishly admitted that they may have sold the company a little early.

He left Reddit and went to Armenia, where his father’s family is originally from, to do volunteer work. He wrote a book called Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed, and traveled the United States for five months to promote it on a bus that went to 80 universities because he wanted to be on a bus that traveled around the country. He became a leading voice in stopping government intervention in the Internet. He helped invent the travel Web site Hipmunk. Several years ago, he and Huffman returned to Reddit as executive chairman and chief executive officer, respectively, the company once again independent.

lexis and Serena met the way two people do in the best love stories: by chance. Actually, it runs a little deeper than that because, let’s face it, Alexis was initially considered by Serena and the others she was with to be an irritant they were hoping would just get the hint and go away.

The location was the Cavalieri hotel, in Rome, on May 12, 2015. That night Serena was about to play her first match in the Italian Open. She is not a morning person and usually doesn’t eat breakfast, but the buffet offering at the Cavalieri was beyond extravagant and Jessica was champing at the bit, so they went to try it along with longtime agent Jill Smoller, of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, and Zane Haupt, who handles some business-development opportunities for Serena.

The buffet had closed down five minutes before the group got there, so their only recourse was to go to the pool area and sit at a table for four and order breakfast. Other people on Serena’s team were expected at an adjoining table.

The night before, Alexis had stayed up until one or two in the morning drinking at a café with Kristen Wiig and friends—Wiig was in Rome shooting Zoolander 2, and he knew her cousin, so he introduced himself. He passed out when he got back to the hotel, where he was staying for the Festival of Media Global conference, and was slightly hungover when he came down to breakfast. He too headed out to the pool area. Which is when he decided without thinking about it to sit at the table next to Serena, his only interest to get coffee and food and put on his headphones and work on his laptop. Which struck Serena and the others as a pain in the neck, since Alexis had a choice of other empty tables.

“I knew it was coming,” she says of the proposal. “I was like, ‘Serena, you’re ready. This is what you want.’ ”

 

“This big guy comes and he just plops down at the table next to us, and I’m like, ‘Huh! All these tables and he’s sitting here?,’ ” Serena remembered. Alexis recalled that the pool area was “not quite so empty.”

Then came the quintessential Australian accent of Zane Haupt. “Aye, mate! There’s a rat. There’s a rat by your table. You don’t want to sit there.”

Serena started laughing.

“We were trying to get him to move and get out of there,” said Serena. “He kind of refuses and he looks at us. And he’s like, ‘Is there really a rat here?’ ” At which point Serena remembers the first words she ever said to him.

“No, we just don’t want you sitting there. We’re going to use that table.”

“I’m from Brooklyn. I see rats all the time.”

“Oh, you’re not afraid of rats?”

“No.”

Which is when Serena suggested a compromise and invited Alexis to join them.

Which is when Alexis became “98 percent sure” that the person asking about his rat tolerance was Serena Williams. He knew generally about her accomplishments on the court. But Alexis, an avid pro-football-and-basketball fan, had “never watched a match on television or in real life. It was literally the sport—even if ESPN was announcing tennis updates, I would just zone out. . . . I really had no respect for tennis.”

He did keep this to himself.

Serena asked about the tech conference and whom Alexis had come to hear speak. He later described the question as a “softball lobbed over the plate” that even he could hit out of the park.

“Actually, I’m here to speak.”

Alexis told her about Reddit. Serena knew nothing about it but acted as if she did, and said she had been on it earlier in the morning.

To which Alexis asked, “Oh, were you? What do you like about it?”

To which Serena gave a very long “Wellllll . . . ” and was saved by Jessica and Jill chiming in.

Serena Williams has long been queen of the tennis court, but her success also extends to business, fashion, and philanthropy. Watch the video below to see some of her biggest career achievements.

Serena started asking him about her Web site and if she should have an app. Alexis thought, “This is an interesting, charming, beautiful woman.” But he had just come out of a five-year relationship and was still slightly hungover and “I was not thinking beyond ‘Yeah sure, I can give you some feedback on your Web site.’ ”

Serena thought he was interested in Jessica. But she did give him her number—she later said it was only because she might have more tech-related questions. He was eminently likable, and Jill, after finding out he was a client of WME for his speaking gigs, invited him to the match that night.

Serena had an injury and did not play well but still won. Afterward she and her team got on a van to head back to the hotel. Alexis was on board as well and Serena freaked out a little bit.

“I see this super-tall guy get in our [van], and I was like, ‘Oh my God, Jill. Tell me what’s wrong. Do I have another stalker? Why is Rome sending personal security with me. . . . And she’s like, ‘No, that’s Alexis.’ I remembered his name because it was a unique name. I was like, ‘Oh, I remember.’ ”

After recognizing him, she invited Alexis to join her team for dinner that night. It didn’t work out. But something was in the air, and as our love story continues, there’s only one place to find out just what.

After Serena won the Australian Open, the next big tournament was the second leg of the grand-slam circuit, the French Open, at Roland-Garros, later that month. She texted Alexis that she was bummed that he had not seen her play well in Rome and proposed that maybe he should come to Paris. To Alexis, it was one of those classically inverse L.A.-style invites that are extended because you are sure it will never happen.

But Alexis did come to Paris for the weekend. Not that he had any particular expectations. “Even if she blows me off and we don’t even hang out, I’m still going to have an amazing time in Paris, and I’ll have an even better story for all my childhood friends when I was like, ‘Yeah, I went to Paris for a weekend. I was supposed to meet up with Serena Williams, she blew me off, but I’ve got other friends there, and we had a great time.’ ”

The tournament, which Serena would ultimately win, had not started yet. So Alexis and Serena got into an Uber near Serena’s apartment and drove toward the Eiffel Tower. They stopped at a zoo Serena knew about called La Ménagerie in the Jardin des Plantes, then at a stall selling candies. Serena became excited, like a small child, and Alexis bought her some.

They just walked and roamed, Serena placing her faith in Alexis because he was a tried-and-true traveler, where all you needed was a backpack and the only rules were none. Alexis also sensed that this was not something Serena ever got to do as a worldwide celebrity, so much of her life being about regimen and glamorous scenes where acolytes circled like fireflies. For six hours they walked all over, the magic of the day multiplied by the city’s heartbreak of beauty, which only made it more beautiful.

April 2016

The day of his birthday, April 24, Alexis went to the Carousel Restaurant in Little Armenia in Los Angeles with his grandparents. Serena and he FaceTimed. She was calling to say happy birthday, which might not sound like a big deal but was because she is a Jehovah’s Witness and part of the religion is not to celebrate birthdays. She was doing something she normally would not do, reaching beyond, telling him on the phone how wonderful their lives together had been.

Alexis knew then he wanted to marry her, not simply out of happiness or compatibility. She was helping him become the best version of himself because of her own work ethic and focus, with millions watching and the expectation of the public that she should win every time, what Serena herself described as carrying “three pyramids” on her shoulder. He thought he worked hard—it is part of the romance of high tech that everyone works 18 hours a day and then curls up under the desk for a few hours’ sleep with their laptop as teddy bear and pacifier—but he realized it was nothing compared with Serena.

“I felt like a door had been opened to a person who made me want to be my best self. . . . I find myself just wanting to be better by simply being around her because of the standard she holds.”

December 2016

Alexis decided he would surprise Serena by proposing to her on December 10 in virtually the same spot he had first met her: the Cavalieri. It was an intricate and tactical plan, several months in the making. Serena was scheduled to play in an exhibition in India, so Jill Smoller talked her into making a stopover on the way back and spending the night at the Cavalieri. Then the exhibition was canceled. There was no reason for Serena to go to Italy. Plus, she was beginning training for the Australian Open, and when Serena gets close to a grand-slam event, practice becomes a personal Hacksaw Ridge—fury, broken rackets, sometimes tears. Now going to Rome?

Alexis scrambled to enlist the help of others. Serena’s executive assistant, Dakota Baynham, secretly packed her bags. Tommy Hilfiger did a major solid by scheduling a meeting at her house in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, to discuss some fashion-related items so she would be there to get picked up for the airport. Jill came to the house and told her that she had to go to Italy because Alexis wanted her there under the guise of a spontaneous trip, much like the one they had taken to Disney World a few weeks earlier.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Serena wasn’t happy. Actually, she was livid. But after she got on the plane, she realized that he was flying her out for only one reason. “I knew it was coming. I was like, ‘Serena, you’re 35, you’re ready. This is what you
want.’ ”

Alexis picked the same room they had shared a year earlier, the hotel at his instruction filling it with flowers. He took her downstairs to the same table by the pool area where they had first met. No one else was there, since the hotel, also at his instruction, had cleared everyone else out. He retold the story of how he had met her for the first time at this exact spot two years earlier. On the table was a little plastic rat.

Alexis got on one knee and proposed.

January 2017

Once Serena knew she was pregnant, she called Alexis and told him he needed to come to Melbourne earlier than planned. She did not give him the reason, but Alexis thought it was likely health-related and immediately got a United flight out of San Francisco. When she saw him, not a word was said.

She handed him a paper bag with the six positive pregnancy tests.

He was as shocked as Serena. But there wasn’t time to dwell. The Australian Open was about to begin, and an immediate medical determination had to be made on what risk there might be in playing. The doctor who examined her thought she was about three or four weeks pregnant—it was almost impossibly hard to tell because the fetus was so small—and said there was no risk whatsoever. When Serena returned to the States and had a subsequent exam, it was discovered that she had actually been more advanced, about seven to eight weeks, but she said she still would have played. There were only five people who knew during the tournament: Alexis, Jessica, Jill, Venus, and the doctor. Not even Serena’s coach knew. Nor did tournament officials.

In her earlier years Serena was all about sheer aggressiveness, playing to the strength of opponents and still beating them. She has gotten more strategic, but her game still pivots on power, a first serve that often clocks in at somewhere around 120 miles an hour and is one of the best ever in tennis. The speed is lethal, but it is complemented by a perfect technique in which she tosses the ball in the air with the same trajectory every serve so her opponent has no idea where she is aiming. Assuming her opponent can even get to the first serve, it often makes for a weak return that enables Serena to finish off a point with short, three- or four-stroke rallies that conserve strength. This obviously helps her endurance and allows her, a great three-set player, to win a match.

The Australian Open presented a new challenge that Serena had never faced before in her career. Because of the pregnancy she did not have the same endurance. She could uncharacteristically feel herself getting tired between points, particularly long ones. If a match went to three sets she knew she would lose, so she was determined to make every match two sets. She also had to deal with the Melbourne heat, which can be vicious on the court in the late afternoon: despite hating playing in the morning, Serena, because she had the option of choosing the match time in the early rounds, played as many as possible at 11 A.M.

You had to win seven matches to win the tournament.

Serena won them all in straight sets.

May 2017

It is a typical day in Palm Beach Gardens, the temperature in the mid-80s and enough humidity to get your attention. Serena is on the back patio, curled up on a white outdoor couch trimmed with wicker. There is none of the pouty celebrity I-would-rather-be-doing-anything-other-than-this monosyllabic slouch, nor is every answer punctuated with Sorry-I-have-to-take-this-call. There are a few moments when she pauses and talks to Chip, her beloved teacup Yorkie, who is slightly bigger than her hand, and whom she calls “her son” and clearly means it.

She is now a little more than six months pregnant and showing, which is helping her face the reality that she is having a baby, because “it just doesn’t seem real. I don’t know why. Am I having a baby?

“If you would have told me last year in October or November that I would have a baby, not be pregnant but have a baby, I would have thought you were the biggest liar in the world. This is kind of how I am right now. This is happening sooner than later, and it’s going by so fast.”

If there is no giddiness, there is no panic. Says her friend Diondria Thornton, Serena “loves being pregnant.” But it’s not that simple. “I can also see competition creeping in on her. Is this over yet? I think she’s getting this itch . . . to see her intensity and her workout—‘I have to stay fit. I have to get back on the court.’ Very determined to get back on the court.”

Serena says she will return to the tennis circuit as soon as January because “I don’t think my story is over yet.”

She is slowly converting one of the guest rooms of her house into the baby’s room but as of May hadn’t made any further preparations. “I don’t know what to do with a baby. I have nothing. . . . I’ve done absolutely nothing for the baby room.” She is more than busy: the working out, about to launch her own online fashion site, recently named to the board of SurveyMonkey, an online survey platform. She won’t get to the bulk of baby paraphernalia until later in the summer, when moving around will be much harder and she will be, as she puts it, “bored to tears.”

Alexis, of course, is earnestly preparing and already has a tip jar he puts money into whenever he uses profanity so he won’t utter it around the baby. He also wants to make sure that Chip, his future stepson, is psychologically cool with a baby in the house.

Alexis and Serena still try to see each other every weekend in what will be a bi-coastal relationship until marriage. Alexis is looking forward to the marriage. Serena, with tongue floating somewhere in cheek, says, “I’m trying to enjoy the little freedom I have left.” They are largely homebodies when together, cooking with each other—although Serena is very proprietary about her tacos—playing the game Heads Up!, in which player No. 1 calls up a name on their cell-phone screen, places it on forehead, and player No. 2 gives clues to see if player No. 1 gets the right answer before time runs out. There is another version, in which the clues are in the form of impressions, and Serena tries earnestly, even though, according to Alexis, she is frankly terrible, whereas Alexis takes pride in doing some pretty good ones. Alexis is aware that when you are in tech the word “nerd” becomes a suffix next to your name. But he says that Serena is really the nerd, knowing, for example, all the words to the animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender by heart.

Marriages are impossible to predict. Fairy tales become broken tales, love stories turn into stories of love lost, initial euphoria into a wish for marital euthanasia. The trouble with love is that it comes with the guarantee of nothing.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

The nature of it is risk, happiness and hurt in the same muscle of the heart. Maybe Serena and Alexis are too different. Maybe she won’t be able to give enough when she is giving to a baby even before the marriage begins. Maybe he will feel he is making too many sacrifices in his spectacular and exciting career to accommodate Serena, since her career is even more spectacular and exciting.

Perhaps the prospect of a continued love story is as realistic as Serena’s insistence that she will return to the pro tennis circuit as soon as January because “I don’t think my story is over yet.” But if she says she will be back in January, she will be back in January. Anyone who has met Serena for more than five seconds knows that.

The marriage? How can it not thrive when the first date was six hours in Paris—with no particular destination—where no matter how crowded the streets and alleyways winding through the city, there was no one else except the two of you.

Now that’s a love story.

Source: Vanityfair.com   Photos: Annie Leibovitz.

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Ex-Tesla Exec Aims to Outdo Tesla

At Tesla, Peter Rawlinson helped design the Model S --

the car that put Tesla on the map.

Now Rawlinson is betting that he can outdo his ex-employer with a different -- and better -- electric car: the Lucid Air.

"The world market for luxury vehicles is worth a hundred billion dollars a year," Rawlinson said. And the industry is moving toward electric drive, he said. "At the moment, Tesla (TSLA) is effectively without a competitor in that marketplace."

It will be a couple more years before the Lucid Air gets to take on Tesla's Model S, since Lucid is still working to raise the capital needed to build its planned factory in Casa Grande, Ariz.

In an industry that routinely crushes its young, launching an autos start-up is nearly impossible. Tesla (TSLA) survived because it saw an opening that the big automakers missed. But now Tesla has a high-end electric car and a crossover SUV, and it's planning to release its third model before Lucid even gets its first to market.

- See more at: http://money.cnn.com/2017/04/23/luxury/lucid-air-new-york-auto-show/index.html?iid=SF_River#sthash.UxqVlu73.dpuf

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Insights from ‘The Prince of Luxury’ Noel Shu

Photo Credit: Noel Shu

Photo Credit: Noel Shu

With a moniker like “The Prince of Luxury,” it’s clear that Noel Shu is no ordinary entrepreneur. This 27-year-old self-made millionaire has accomplished more in business than many do in an entire lifetime, already boasting a client roster that includes billionaires, celebrities and royal families. So keen is his business acumen and venerable his reputation, Shu’s clout earned him a VIP invitation to the last U.S. visit of China’s president, Xi Jinping, alongside other revered titans of industry the likes of Bill Gates and Jack Ma.

Today, Shu brings his wealth of expertise and impeccable panache to the global luxury goods market where he spearheads ultra-super-premium products such as the finest champagne, wine and spirits, as well as extraordinary multi-million dollar jewelry and timepieces of unparalleled quality—all targeted to discerning consumers on both sides of the Pacific, including China’s elite, who demand the absolute best in taste and quality.

Photo Credit: Noel Shu

Photo Credit: Noel Shu

Aside from having served as a managing partner at the extolled beverage agency Prodiguer Brands (perhaps best known for selling the most expensive single bottle of Champagne in the world, Goût de Diamants, for a staggering $1.8 million), Shu’s own company, Un Joyau Majestueux, recently launched its own new wine brand, Majestic Ruby. This exciting new expression made its world debut at the 2017 Oscars Celebrity Luxury Lounge at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Penthouse where it was reportedly celebrated by an array of Hollywood A-listers.

Further demonstrating his prowess in the world of fine wine, Shu is also a lauded sommelier and one of the world’s leading experts on Chinese wine culture. In fact, he authored the book, "China Through a Glass of Wine," which offers a fascinating examination of China's burgeoning wine industry from an insider's perspective. From China's rich cultural history to its political climate, this title takes readers on a captivating journey through the country's viticultural victories and hopes for the future.

Photo Credit: Noel Shu

Photo Credit: Noel Shu

Another of Shu’s latest ventures is a film production company, 1768 Entertainment, which brings Shu’s love of luxury to the entertainment industry in the form of compelling documentaries, stories inspired by real events and suspense tales with an Asian influence.

Below is some enlightening Q&A with this millennial mastermind through which he offers insider perspectives and lifestyle advice of note for those who like to roll like royalty (or want to look like they do).

Photo Credit: Noel Shu

Photo Credit: Noel Shu

For the high end market, there are often many different brands of similar products and services vying for attention. What are some effective ways luxury consumers can stay abreast of the newest, highest quality products and services?

This can actually be the done the good ol' fashioned way and that’s simply to read a lot. Everything that you can possibly be looking for, think you might be looking for or not even know you’re looking for is on the Internet. Every day when I wake up, I spend a good 30 minutes and go through literally everything while I’m drinking my coffee—from international news to gossip to anything I can find that’s different from what I read before. People are out there doing everything they can to appease the people.

You are a member of a network called, "The Billionaires Club."  What are some of the luxury brands you and your inner circle are paying attention to and what draws these brands apart?

I would say these days quite a few people have moved away from just so called “big purchases.” Everything is now more about personal touches. For instance, many people own a Rolex, Audemars Piguet or Hublot. More often than not, some of these are one out of however many but how many people really have something that's one-of-kind? Not too many. The other point is that the watch may suit you but it doesn’t reflect your own personality, likes and dislikes. So what’s actually becoming quite popular is engraving one's watches. I’ve seen some crazy designs that really add some character to a person’s wrist such as koi fish, skull heads and zodiac signs.

Photo Credit: Golden Concept

Photo Credit: Golden Concept

So back to the main question and one particular brand that has stood out is Golden Concept. Again, it’s all about personal touches these days and being unique. Golden Concept specializes in luxury cases for your phone. They have gold, snakeskin and gator cases just to name a few. All done to the highest of quality and many are customizable. So if you’re looking to stand out, make sure to check them out.

Another brand which has seen quite a bit of press and accolades is JetSmarter, one of the more successful private aviation companies. For many entrepreneurs, meetings take place in different cities, different continents and in different time zones. JetSmarter offers these services in an easy-to-maneuver application that makes flying private relatively affordable and easy.

What are the top three luxury items or brands that have captivated your own attention right now?

Right now there are three top brands that are top-of-mind for me right now. These are Emperada Cigar Humidor by Imperiali Geneve; Astonomia Tourbillion by Jacob & Co; and Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept car.

Not everyone can afford luxury brands. What would you suggest for those who have the desire to appear high end but not necessarily the means?

There’s actually been a lot of hype surrounding brands that cater specifically to people who enjoy the “finer things” but are limited by what’s in their wallet. Many bloggers, for instance, are always writing about the newest gadget, accessory or clothing. I would recommend finding a few that fit your style and follow them on Instagram to see what it is that they’re rocking on a day to day basis. Many people have to understand that your average blogger is there to inform the public on some of the newest fashion do’s and don’ts, and these are all done with new brands or affordable pre-existing brands.

Second, which I have seen quite a bit, is on Kickstarter or similar sites that are always offering “perks” for those who invest early in their brands. Without naming names, a few brands offered a discounted handmade Italian leather, skeleton movement watches for a fraction of the cost to the first “so many” number of investors.

Just keep in mind for everything high-end there is always a cheaper counterpart. Don’t worry just about name brand or high end. All that matters is that it looks good and makes you feel great.

Photo Credit: Tory Burch

Photo Credit: Tory Burch

For those who focus on products that are affordable luxury, who are some of the brands doing the best and what are the keys to success?

One of the biggest and most successful brands that I have seen that caters more towards the everyday luxury is Tory Burch. Although TB is for women, I have on many occasions bought it for family, friends and clients so I can safely say I have quite a bit of exposure to this brand and can thus speak with some confidence. Obviously, price point for TB is well within the means of many. Besides that, what is it that has led TB to such success? I would say three main factors: relatability, professionalism and seamlessness. Relatability in that walking through the concrete jungle that is New York, TB products have always caught my eye in their simplicity but also how stylish it is, whether on a working woman running into Starbucks or that beautiful lady going to brunch. Second, professionalism—although many brands always stress the attentiveness of the staff, it pales in comparison to TB. People have to understand that often times upper tier luxury items are for a certain group and employees are naturally prejudiced to people who they perceive not to be at that level. There have been times where I would walk into a Rolex store unattended for 15 minutes and the instant my AP peaks out from under my shirt, someone is there to help. This just doesn’t happen at TB and for that I am quite appreciative. Seamlessness in TB's product, in that it offers just the right amount “je ne sais quoi.” Most of their products can be matched with a variety of other brands. This has all led to the tremendous success that TB has experienced over these past few years.

What are the top three factors that truly set an ultra-premium wine, champagne or spirit brand apart from less costly luxury beverage counterparts, wine and otherwise? Marketing wine for the luxury market is a really tough job to do. Quite frankly it’s because you’re trying to appease a group of people who have seen it all. People always say when you do something for long enough, whether you want to or not you will become a bit of a connoisseur. That’s especially true for those in the wine industry. Most are well educated, well informed and have a true passion towards exploring the finer points of what’s in a wine bottle. If we were to say that all wines in the luxury market were of the same caliber, there would still be so many factors in play, the first being accessibility and quantity. Many luxury wines are such because there is a limited supply. You can’t expect a brand to sell at the same price point when there are only 10,000 bottles as compared to 100,000 bottles. However, although there are still 10,000 bottles that were produced, that doesn’t mean your everyday Joe would be able to get his hands on them even if he’s willing to dish out the necessary cash. Thus, there’s another added premium to an already sky high price.

Another example is time and care. For those who are only there to turn a quick profit, the longer time they spend on making a wine, the more money that needs to be invested. That in itself increases cost and decreases profit. This is why sometimes you have wineries that will actually keep the wine in their cellars for years after bottling to ensure that the wine has at least matured to a passable level. By care, I mean winemakers are very passionate about their craft and thus hate having their name associated with subpar wine. Thus, you have some years where there is little to no wine produced by a certain grower because only a small amount of the grapes harvested passed the standard or none at all.

Never one to rest on his laurels and even amid a diversity of endeavors, Shu continues to raise the bar for himself professionally and personally.  Whether it be as an active investor looking for the latest innovation in the luxury and tech space or, despite his jam-packed schedule, his current pursuit of an Ivy League Master's degree at Columbia University.  Clearly this good life connoisseur turned luxe market mogul will continue making an impact on the numerous high-end industries for many years to come.

Source: JustLuxe.com.    Photos: Noel Shun, Colden Concept, Tory Burch

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An All Weather Suit Inspired by the Alfa Romeo Giulietta

If Alfa Romeo can devise a car that functions in all weathers, why not design a suit, thought Hawes & Curtis. They worked inexorably on this innovative and fashion-forward concept. Applying the notion of drivers seamlessly being able to adapt the car’s driving capability to handle all weather conditions, they required luxurious and water resistant Italian wool from Hawes & Curtis’ 1913 premium collection made in Italy. Be it UK’s heat-wave or thunderstorm, mesh lining inside the suit regulates the warmth of the body.

Inside the suit, the Giulietta’s distinguishing craft features can be clearly identified. They include the subtle honeycomb grille mesh lining, a commissioned print on the sleeve lining and the elegant red contrast. For chic professionals, a photo shoot was organised in London. An assortment of essential Giulietta accessories with Alfa Romeo’s iconic logo: tie, pocket square, cufflinks, lapel pin and tie slide completed the high-end look. The women’s shirt magnificently revealed artistic features of the car. For example: fluid lines of the car were gracefully spotted in the soft curvatures on the collar and bib.

“The limited edition pieces are inspired by the Giulietta’s refined design features and performance. Beautiful details such as the fluid lines of the car and the characteristic red highlights along the interior upholstery are echoed in the garments. I designed the items having in mind the corporate professionals who appreciate sleek design, attention to detail and impeccable quality.” Kate Regan, the extremely brilliant designer of Hawes & Curtis shared his thought on this project.

Source: LuxuryLaunches via Luxuriousmagazine.com.    Photos: LuxuryLaunches

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From Supermodel to Super Chef: Meet Pascale Naessens

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

If you ever had the pleasure of meeting the statuesque Pascale Naessens, the first thing you notice is her ease, and effervescent personality. After a career as a model (complete with eating disorder) Pascale decided she would focus her after-modeling career on helping others through nutrition. 

As an iconic figure in Belgium, she sold over 1.5 million copies of her seven books. Her latest, Pure & Simple, is the first U.S. release.  We sat down with Pascale and chatted on life, love, food and more.

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

How did your path to natural foods and healthy eating start?

When I was a model, my agency told me I would get more work if I lost a few pounds. It was actually pretty easy to do, because I was highly motivated. It wasn’t difficult for me to eat less for a few days, or just survive on a handful of nuts. After one week, I weighed a few pounds less. But then I gained them right back in the next weeks. After a while, I admit I ended up suffering from the so-called Yo-Yo effect. And at a certain point I was tired of periodically starving myself. Besides, I do love good food and I was convinced there had to be a better solution for my problem—so I started to study nutrition in my spare time. After a while, I developed my own way of eating. I discovered that it was possible to enjoy good food in combination with good health and weight loss.

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

You have traveled around the world as an international model. What trends do you see in eating habits around the world?

It was some time ago that I worked as a model. But through the traveling I did at the time, I was introduced to the international cuisine that inspired me to create the fusion recipes you find in my books. I was inspired by Asian foods in particular. At the heart of the way people eat is a kind of respect for food. They live in harmony with their environment, and food is an especially important aspect. I was often amazed at the sophisticated and healthy food even roadside stalls served. At first glance things did not seem very hygienic—rats sometimes ran across the table—but the food was like the title of my book: pure and simple. Asians are less inclined to eat carbohydrates than Western Europeans, despite the ever-present mounds of rice.

In recent years, I've sailed long distances to the most exotic islands on earth, and I noticed people eat mostly natural foods. This is why my most important advice is: eat natural, unprocessed food. I learned to appreciate Mediterranean cuisine in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea: Lots of olive oil, fresh fish and meats, vegetables and fruit. And far less bread than we might imagine. Italians also eat less pasta than we think. I enjoyed the most delicious grilled vegetables. A long time ago, I discovered the tsukemono technique in Japan, which is a way of fermenting vegetables. I notice that kimchi, a similar technique used in Korean cuisine, is very popular right now. There is nothing new under the sun.

Your new book “Pure & Simple” is stunning. What inspired the concept?

The most important thing is authenticity. The book must reflect reality as I experience it. First of all, I create all the recipes myself and try them at home about a dozen times, with my husband serving as my guinea pig. I direct the photo sessions myself, and work with top photographers. I prepare the dishes for the photographs myself, buy the ingredients myself, do my own styling, and all of the photographs are taken at my home. Not at a studio, no assembly line production. I only photograph a few dishes per day. And we eat the food afterwards! Of course every dish must comply with my vision on nutrition. Which means: natural foods and a limited number of combinations, in short, no fast carbohydrates together with concentrated protein. Anybody who follows my recipes at home is eating delicious and healthy food.

It is not necessary to understand the theories behind it, though I personally always like to know why things are done a certain way. It is also important to know that my dishes are always simple and quick to prepare, but the results look as though you spent hours in the kitchen.

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

You sold millions of copies of your book in Belgium and Europe. What inspired you to bring your work to the US? 

It might sound a little over the top, but I feel like I have a kind of mission. I want to teach people how to cook good food and become healthier and thinner in the process. In my home country, it is sometimes said that I have changed the way Belgians eat. I am delighted that people have become more conscious of what they eat, and I hope to achieve the same in the United States. I believe obesity is a huge problem in the U.S.A., and I would like to contribute to the solution, even if I make just a small difference.I have seen that healthy eating is really popular in New York City. So my book has arrived at exactly the right time. A few months from now I will make a promotional tour to L.A. There is plenty to do!

In your book you focus on the importance of food combining. Why is that important?

I want to provide tools for people who are interested in healthy foods. My main principle is that people should eat natural foods. Avoid processed and refined foods, and this will take you a long way. Through trial and error, I also found that it is better not to eat all kinds of foods at the same time. Animals eat what they find, usually one ingredient at a time. In primitive societies, people also eat whatever they just harvested, or the meat of prey they just killed. But when we go to the supermarket, we load our carts full of the foods we like to eat, and mix them all together when we cook. I have been selective with combinations of ingredients for many years. I do not eat concentrated proteins together with fast carbohydrates. In practice, this means I replace the potatoes and bread we eat so much of in our Western meals by vegetables. I eat lots of vegetables, not too much protein, and very few fast carbohydrates. These simple combinations are easy on our stomachs, improve digestion, and guarantee healthy eating patterns. Many scientists support the premise that it is a good idea to avoid combining protein with carbohydrates. I recently interviewed Professor Dariush Mozzafarian of Tufts University in Boston, and he confirmed that protein itself, for example in the form of meat, does not result in weight gain, but it will if meat and fish are combined with potatoes and bread. These food combinations reach back to ancient Tao philosophy. They were recommended all those centuries ago. The circle has closed.

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

You talk about your eating disorder in your book. How did you overcome and develop a healthy relationship with food?

When I was a model, I was sometimes told to lose a few pounds. Not that I was overweight, but it is just the way things are in the world of modeling. To achieve my goal, I starved myself, sometimes surviving on just a few nuts. Then I would submit to enormous bouts of overeating, resulting in the well-known Yo-Yo effect. I pretty much became addicted to fast carbohydrates, a phenomenon many people will recognize. When I realized what was happening, I started to search for a solution. I read stacks of scientific literature about nutrition, and began to cook and experiment with combinations according to the discoveries made in research performed by Doctor Shelton and Doctor Hay. I conquered my eating disorder by eating that way, and in addition, my meals tasted great and I was satisfied after every meal. I stopped craving fast carbohydrates.

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

What are your best tips for someone trying to transition into healthier living?

The first thing you should do is become aware of what you are eating. What am I putting into my mouth and how does it affect my body? Then you should decide to only eat natural foods. Does it grow on a tree, or in the ground, or does it walk around? Does my food come straight from nature to my kitchen? And then you can start applying my first and simple rule: do not eat concentrated protein together with fast carbohydrates. Replace bread, potatoes and pasta with vegetables. Eat lots of fruit. Discover that delicious and healthy eating will make your life better in many different ways. Better eating is better living, just like I wrote in my book.

You entertain guests, and make it look so simple. What are some of your best entertaining tips?

It is important to keep things as simple as possible. The American title for my book is Pure & Simple for a reason. Enjoy working in the kitchen, but also enjoy how easy and fast it is to do so. When I cook, I don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen; I want to socialize with my guests and join them at the table. But I also want them to know that I prepared the meal with care and love.

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

You are a creative soul, and are not only an author, but the creator of a ceramics line, TV host and interior designer. How does this all work together?

My life has always been unpredictable. I started as a model, but the work did not bring me any kind of satisfaction, except as far as the traveling went. My husband had a job in television, and through him I was introduced to that world. After years of wandering around, I became a T.V. host at one of the major national networks, and I did that for years. I made programs about architecture, met dozens of famous architects and designers, and discovered an entirely new world. But I grew tired of T.V. at a certain point, too. I could not find full release for my creative energies. I made a documentary in Tunisia together with my husband, and this is where I met a potter, a woman who truly inspired me. When I arrived home, I started taking lessons from an experienced Belgian potter and discovered an ability for creative expression. Cooking and pottery are excellent companions. I made beautiful meals and served them on plates I made myself. The food and plates formed a harmonious entity. After a while, I also started designing chairs and tables. In this way, I created my own world, which was soon called "The World of Pascale Naessens.” Everything simply grew spontaneously, and is interconnected.

What inspires you? 

I find inspiration in nature – I live in an old country house – beauty, sunshine, and water. I spent many years sailing and discovering nature, as well as many different cultures, along the way. I interview scientists and professors about nutrition. Their visions and ideas also inspire me. Everything I experience has a place in my world. I practice yoga, and used to practice tai chi and Shiatsu, I take long hikes and I cook. Everything comes together to create a whole.

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

Photo Credit Pascale Naessens

What is one of your guilty pleasures? 

I love chocolate. But only really dark, pure chocolate, without all sorts of additives like sugar and flavors. I visited a cocoa tree plantation in Costa Rica and learned how beans are transformed into delicious pure chocolate. Chocolate sometimes makes an appearance in my cookbooks. Actually, the word forbidden is not part of my vocabulary, because I have another rule that I call the 80% - 20% rule: Eat 80% natural food, and you can have 20% comfort food. And that is anything you desire. I am all about freedom! Anything is possible, and everything is allowed.

How can readers find out more about you? 

Go to my website, or one of my many Facebook groups, read my books, and, most importantly of all, cook according to my principles.

Source: LuxeEpicure.com.    Photos: Pascale Naessens

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