'The image-conscious man has long had to make do with a well-cut suit, good watch and pen'
When it comes to their appearance, men have traditionally had limited outlets for personal expression. While women have been able to experiment with multi-faceted wardrobes, bags of every conceivable shape and size, shoes of practically any height and, perhaps most notably, beauty products that transform the face, your image-conscious man has long had to make do with a well-cut suit, a good watch, the odd pair of cufflinks and, perhaps, a strategically placed pen.
When you are trying to communicate who you are with the things you carry on your person, those are tiny canvases to work with. But that’s not to say they can’t pack a punch. This month, we look at Montegrappa’s latest writing instrument, which is part action figure, part objet d’art, part pen. Montegrappa’s CEO, Guiseppe Aquila, explains how the company is increasingly looking to create “complicated” pens – in a nod to the complications that make mechanical watches so alluring. With the Samurai, this translates as movable arms, an accompanying sword that doubles as a paper cutter, and a historically accurate suit of armour painstakingly rendered through the ancient lost-wax technique.
There are some who will wonder whether pens, complicated or not, have any place in our digital age. Does anyone write anything anymore? Aquila answers with an unequivocal yes – and has the numbers to prove it. In the last year, the brand has seen a 60 per cent increase in the sale of fountain pens (which shows that not only are people buying pens, they are also buying them in their most traditional form).
Zaim Kamal, creative director of Montblanc, concurs. In an exclusive interview, he tells us that millennials and members of the much-sought-after Gen Z are “rediscovering the beauty of craftsmanship” and that luxury brands are in a unique position to share stories that these consumers might not otherwise be familiar with. He uses a simple swirl on Montblanc’s special-edition Miles Davis pen as a case in point. “Miles Davis has a very specific way of blowing his horn, and he always said he got this very special breath from a tornado that he was exposed to as a child in Kansas. Suddenly, you are opening up a whole new world. This is the transmission that we do,” Kamal explains.
Communicating to a younger, more digitally savvy audience is something that fashion brand MCM is proving adept at. For its latest campaign, it joined forces with American rapper and producer Rich the Kid, and Spanish influencer and DJ Sita Abellan, for a series of images that are bristling with raw, youthful energy. “It used to be the more mature age group dominating the luxury market,” says Kim Sung-joo, founder of the Sungjoo Group, which owns MCM. “But now, it’s a younger group. The old-school luxury attitude, with a high nose and a high price, and treating people as if they will follow blindly, is over. A new lifestyle is emerging, which I think is no longer about big names, big egotistical brands and big egos.”
Instead, luxury is becoming a celebration of the unique, of craftsmanship and of innovation. And also, as Kamal is so acutely aware, about all the stories, both old and new, that can be shared.
Selina Denman, editor
Giuseppe Aquila, the CEO of Montegrappa, tells Selina Denman why he pays no heed to those who say there is no room for writing instruments in a digital world
The pen may well be mightier than the sword, but by combining both elements in its latest creation, Montegrappa may just have created the mightiest pen of them all.
The Samurai is part-writing instrument, part-objet d’art and part-action figure. Inspired by Japan’s famed warriors, it comes clad in a historically accurate suit of armour, painstakingly rendered through the ancient lost-wax technique, which is more commonly used in jewellery-making. As a result, the suit’s “kuwagata” helmet, “kote” sleeve armour and layered, embroidered “kusazuri” skirt are recreated in unfathomable detail.
Three years in the making, the Samurai is limited to 177 pens in silver and seven in solid gold. It exists only as a fountain pen and is fitted with an 18k gold nib. Each comes in a black lacquer box, with the ancient character for samurai printed on its top. It is accompanied by a bottle of ink and a katana sword that acts as a fully functional paper cutter.
Samurai is the first model in the Warriors collection – which was conceived to celebrate the most noble combatants throughout history – and will be available from this month at Montegrappa’s newly opened store in The Dubai Mall. The 720-square-foot facility in the new Fashion Avenue extension is now the brand’s Middle East flagship and – for those who like their pens a little more streamlined than the Samurai – offers plenty of opportunities for customers to create bespoke writing instruments.
The brand’s existing Atelier service allows you to choose one of three options – Amphora, Extra Bespoke and Arte – as the base for your design, and you can then opt to have specific images or symbols hand-engraved or painted on to it. This might be a picture of a loved one, a favourite pet, a personal symbol or sign, or in the case of the Arte service, an old masterpiece. “This is geared more towards art collectors and allows them to reproduce, on their pen, part of their collection. They might not be able to carry their favourite painting around, but if they want to keep it close to their heart, we can reproduce it on their pen,” explains Giuseppe Aquila, chief executive of Montegrappa.
The idea of one’s writing instrument being close to one’s heart resounds with Aquila, who is the third generation of his family to be involved in the business. “I’m often asked about technology, but when you write something, you really record it in your memory. It’s a very important ritual – the one of writing. It’s the best way to express your emotions."
"You keep the pen close to your heart because it is in touch with your inner soul.”
To that effect, those who are anticipating the demise of the pen in an increasingly technology-dominated world, could yet be proven wrong. “Millennials and the younger generation are understanding the importance of writing. Even on social media, there is a lot of buzz about calligraphy,” Aquila points out. “This has generated a lot of interest, and in the last two years, we’ve seen a 60 per cent increase in the sales of fountain pens.”
The company has responded with increasingly sophisticated creations. “We’ve taken it to new levels,” explains Aquila. “Our development is now towards what we call ‘complicated’ pens, so just like you have complicated watches, we are doing the same thing with pens – adding new features to the pens that make them more unique and more appealing for collectors.”
The Samurai is a prime example of the brand’s artistic creations, but so is the Revolver, which was inspired by the weapon, and has a chamber with mock bullets inside it that can be spun around. The Q1, meanwhile, is a fountain pen that can write with four different colours of ink.
Montegrappa has a long history of creating special and limited-edition writing instruments, whether they are celebrating novelist Ernest Hemingway’s seminal work The Old Man and the Sea, the UEFA Champions League or individuals such as political leader Nelson Mandela, author Kahlil Gibran, and artist Salvador Dalí. This year, the brand created a Year of Zayed pen to commemorate the Founding Father of the UAE, and has also created the Ishy Bilady, which features words from the UAE’s national anthem in Arabic calligraphy across its barrel and cap.
Aquila notes that the average age of pen collectors in the UAE is younger than in other parts of the world, and that “they are very adventurous in their purchases, which makes it very interesting”.
These collectors will have plenty more to experiment with in the coming months. “We have developed a platform that we will be launching towards the end of the year, where you can configure your own pen – across more than 200,000 different combinations,” Aquila reveals. “You can choose the material for the cap, the colour for the barrel, you can mix and match, include your zodiac sign, or your initials, stones and colours – you can really dress it up any way you want, to match your personality.”
Bolos go from cowboy culture to fashion favourite
Johnny Depp is a big fan, as was a young Clint Eastwood, and John Travolta famously wore one in the film Pulp Fiction. Chances are, if you have ever watched an American Western, you will already be familiar with the bolo tie, a thin, distinctive cord of braided leather worn around the neck, and often decorated with a shiny silver ornament or pretty piece of turquoise.
Although its ends are tipped in silver, this accessory is associated with an outdoorsy lifestyle and has been a sartorial choice for cowboys for the past century. The name bolo is thought to come from the Argentinian word boleadora, meaning lariat or the rope used to lasso lifestock.
The idea of using a simple sliding toggle to secure a neck scarf while horse riding is believed to have been in existence since the early 1900s. Although ornate bolos have been made by the Hopi and Navajo communities since the 1930s, it was during the 1950s that their popularity mushroomed. This was, ironically, fuelled by a nationwide boom in business that saw many men don severe-cut suits. Bolos became widely available in 1956, as men in some parts of the United States looked for a relaxed style of dressing that reflected their non-city lifestyle.
In the Midwest, the bolo quickly became a staple, partly as a pushback against the formal dress codes of the East Coast and partly linked to a huge leap in television ownership. This meant that an increasing number of people were exposed to an endless stream of nostalgic cowboy shows, such as Gunsmoke (1955), The Rifleman (1958) and Bonanza (1959), which were all set in America’s Wild West. Referencing a time that was still within living memory, the cowboy style of dressing proved to resonate so deeply that in 1971, Arizona made the bolo tie the state’s official necktie, followed by New Mexico in 1987 and Texas in 2007.
Not long after the bolo become popular in America, it travelled to England, where it was adopted by Teddy Boys, who renamed it the bootlace tie and wore it with drape suits, crepe-soled shoes and quiff hairstyles. The 1980s saw another boom, when men in South Korea and Japan clamoured to get hold of silver designs by the Hopi, Navajo and Pueblo tribes.
Europe, meanwhile, was experiencing a rockabilly revival, which saw a new generation embracing the fashions of the 1950s. At the same time, the bolo started appearing around the necks of the so-called New Romantics, which explains why, when Live Aid took place in 1985, U2 singer Bono was wearing one, to complement his bouffant hairstyle. Back in the US, the bolo was undergoing a renaissance and was being worn by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov.
More recently, the accessory has undergone yet another transformation, most notably when Olivier Rousteing elevated it to high fashion by sending it down the Balmain spring/summer 2018 runway. Ornately engraved with shiny discs pushed up high into the shirt collars, each was priced at US$550 (Dh2,020) and all promptly sold out.
Given that today a bolo tie can be worn as comfortably with a tuxedo as with a denim shirt, and as high and tight or loosely slung and relaxed as one likes, there is little reason not to try one out. With modern styles featuring everything from simply turned wood to a silver dollar coin, the time has come to embrace your inner cowboy.
* Sarah Maisey
Launch pad: multi-toned bags
Although crafted from camouflage fabric, this Christian Louboutin backpack gleams with iridescent luxury.
Valentino has upgraded the humble messenger bag with a camo print and oversized logo, but has retained an authentic printed canvas finish.
Call it a pouch, a clutch or even a man-bag, this specimen from Billionaire has been given the full army treatment, mixing crisp white, black and grey for a bag that's ready for anything.
Over at Bally, a backpack is given a retro overhaul with a 1970s-inspired diagonal checkerboard effect, which is perfect against the mid taupe colour. The best bit? The top carrying handle.
Longchamp adds a futuristic vein to a leather pouch with circuit board patterning. Printed in yellow ochre on chocolate brown leather, this is both sleek and urbane.
Jaguar Land Rover Reborn
The Jaguar Land Rover Reborn Series takes early models of the brand’s most iconic cars and restores them to their original glory
“We are in the business of fulfilling dreams,” says Tim Hannig, the man in charge of Jaguar Land Rover’s Classics division. The idea that buying a classic Jaguar or Land Rover might be a purely financial investment is apparently “invented by guys to convince their wives it’s a good idea”, Hannig adds.
He might be right. If you want to make a quick buck, buy a limited-edition Porsche 911 and sell it straight on. If, on the other hand, you are in love with the character of the original post-war Land Rover or the 1960s E-Type, you must head to JLR’s order books and wait your turn to tell your story.
The Jaguar Land Rover Reborn Series was launched two years ago. The project takes old Land Rover Series Is, Jaguar E-Types and original two-door Range Rovers, and restores them to their foremost beauty – fresh out of the salesroom, as it were.
This takes a lot of money, time and skill. First, a customer joins a waiting list with his specific request (and boy, do they get specific – one customer wanted the team to find the precise 1949 Series I that was exported to Botswana in May of that year. They failed to source the exact car, but did find another one from the same month).
The experts then go hunting for donor cars, preferably in dry-climate countries such as Australia, which has a healthy supply of old Land Rovers. They take them to the United Kingdom, strip the cars down to their individual components, painfully source replacement parts, or manufacture some themselves if they can’t find any, and then build the cars without paint to make sure the shut lines are appropriate.
Then, they take the whole car apart again, check the engine, trim and body, put it all back together and paint it. The result is “better than the original”, according to Hannig, the idea being that people buy these cars not simply as a curation of the past, but also in order to run them as modern, everyday cars, with the implied reliability and comfort.
All this comes at a significant cost, which means the cars go into the hands of real purists and passionate advocates of the two brands. “We do the bad news first, and that’s the price,” says Hannig. A Series I Reborn starts at £75,000 (Dh359,744), a Range Rover Reborn at £140,000 and a Jaguar E-Type Reborn at £295,000.
Even then, you’ll have to wait: all three models were announced in limited-edition numbers of 10 or 20, and although the company has pledged to keep going as long as it keeps finding donor cars, the time from sourcing to handover is up to two years.
So, is it worth it?
We got a first drive of all three at the Goodwood Revival in southern England, a fantastic three-day classic-motorsport event that takes place every September. The Revival celebrates the glory days of Goodwood’s motor-racing circuit, from 1948 to 1966. Fittingly, the first Series I rolled off the production line in 1948 and the Jaguar E-Type we drove was a pristine 1966 example. Only the original two-door Range Rover, which first appeared in 1970, sits slightly outside the period, but as it’s such an iconic and wonderful model, we can gloss over that.
The Series I badge was applied to the Land Rover retrospectively, with the arrival of the Series II; when it launched, it was simply The Land Rover, built as a very simple off-roader with all the engineering in plain view and limited creature comforts. tHIS means that a Reborn example is still an extremely utilitarian car to drive, with no luxury of power steering, no synchromesh between gears, a heavy clutch pedal and stiff gearbox. A metal lever with a bright red plastic handle takes the gears into a low-range setting, which means that the 50 horsepower engine will chug happily up steep inclines, but you will most certainly shake, rattle and roll all the way.
Thankfully, Land Rover ignores the fact that the original example came minus doors and roof, and has applied both as standard. But this car, with its drum brakes and appetite for petrol, remains for lovers of the original, with a hardy sense of adventure.
A more luxe experience (relatively speaking) is the beautiful two-door original Range Rover. When it launched in 1970, such was its exemplary industrial design that it was the first car to earn a spot on display at the Louvre in Paris. We were allowed behind the wheel of a 1978 version, the first example off the Reborn production line.
This pristine example is painted in the original Bahama Gold (a fantastic 1970s mustard yellow to you and me), with four equally original shades of slightly clashing palomino (beige) inside. If you are a hardcore fan, you can specify the hose-down vinyl trim of the first cars (the more expensive, £170,000 Suffix A and B models of the early 1970s). But our version was thankfully decked out in brushed nylon, with a herringbone pattern, which came later and makes the rear bench seat seem a very plush place to cosy up.
You can specify wing mirrors on the doors, or in their original place on the bonnet. If you’re going to have passengers, you can have seat belts fitted in the rear, although it rather ruins the pure lines of the thin metal bodywork and huge glass windows. The Range Rover was also the first car to use inertia seat belt reels, which means the front occupants’ ones are embedded in the seats, with no headrests for support.
This is a great car to drive, although we did get into it straight from the truculent Series I, so our opinion might be tainted by the sudden leap from 1940s to 1970s engineering. There’s a huge, thin, plastic steering wheel, a very plastic dashboard (the actual 1970s plastic was reproduced by Jaguar Land Rover) and a long gear lever that will eventually select a gear – our car had so few miles on it that first gear was entirely elusive, but the torque from the V8 engine means the car happily pulls away in second.
On the road, it’s a stunning sight, both for passers-by and the occupants, who have so much visibility from the large windows, it’s like sitting in an elevated greenhouse. It takes just a few moments of being inside the Range Rover to understand why this model is still on sale today, 40 years later. Once an icon, always an icon.
Speaking of which, the Jaguar E-Type Reborn will be, for many, the jewel in the Reborn Series.
While £295,000 may seem like a lot, original E-Types easily fetch half a million pounds at auction these days. Customers can choose from the full gamut of E-Types originally built: coupé, convertible, left-hand or right-hand drive, with a 3.8-litre or 4.2-litre engine. Not every wish is answered, though: “We wouldn’t do certain colours as it’s not suitable for the brand,” says one of the development engineers. On the other hand, this car came out in the 1960s, so the standard pallet is extensive, and includes yellows and maroons.
The typical restoration process on an E-Type takes 14 to 16 months. Can you feel 3,000 man-hours of craftsmanship once inside the car? Yes and no. Yes, because it’s simply gorgeous, with original seats covered in brand-new leather, and 80 per cent to 85 per cent of the original car returned to better-than-new condition. That elegant long bonnet sniffs its way instinctively around the corners, the suspension soaking up ridges in the road, but still taut.
On the other hand, the passion for the E-Type endures precisely because this was such a modern car in its day. Or rather, it was a timeless car when it was first launched – miles ahead of its time, but of its time; a celebration of the culture of the day, with nods to Jaguar’s heritage and also the future. One might argue that all Jaguar essentially had to do is polish the crown jewels.
But then, who better to do the polishing than a group of men and women who are in many cases the second and third generations of their families to work on these vehicles in Jaguar and Land Rover factories? You can argue about the high cost of these cars, the long time taken to restore them, or even the length of the waiting list, but you just can’t argue about the love, passion and integrity of the project. And that’s almost priceless.
Would you pay Dh120,500 for a barbeque?
The Aemyrie Igneum grill is handmade upon commission by a team of designers, craftsmen and fabricators in the United Kingdom. It comes with Nasa-developed technology in the form of an eco-friendly insulator called Aerogel, which ensures a safe-touch exterior even when the grill is operating at its maximum temperature of 350°C.
State-of-the-art technology lies at the heart of this gadget: its Ceramignite ignition system brings the grill to cooking temperature in a matter of minutes; a computer-run software controls its fans, air channels and vents, thus monitoring and managing the airflow at all times; and the high-heat feature allows the grill to self-clean, as any residue simply carbonises and can be brushed away.
Design-wise, because they are built to order only, no two Aemyrie grills look the same. The outer panels of the company’s showpiece are created from pinstriped woods, inspired by the boat-tail cars and yachts of the 1920s and 1960s, but the design team can combine woods, metals and composites, plus brushed, satin or polished stainless steels, to create a truly bespoke piece.
Customers can also choose from a variety of hardwoods for the end panels, and a range of finishes such as paints, varnishes, lacquers, enamels or liquid metals in almost any colour palette. All the components are assembled by hand, while the final stages are completed on-site, so you can see it all come together.
The chosen material and overall design theme can be reinforced in the door and hood handles, temperature control knobs and other accents, which can be rendered in nickel, chrome, brass, silver or gold. The grill weighs between 350 kilograms and 400kg, depending on the materials specified, and stands 1.4 metres high. It can cook for 30 guests in one go.
Aemyrie was founded in 2015 by fine food and grilling connoisseur Peter Walsh, who fell in love with the unique taste achieved through cooking on wood fires. According to Walsh, flavour is at the heart of the Aemyrie. “There are many cooking styles available to a chef when using this grill. A world-first, patent-pending intelligent temperature-control mechanism adjusts the grill to ensure food is cooked precisely. This allows both food lovers and professional chefs to create everything from a steak seared for seconds, to melt-in-the-mouth meat that has been smoked at a very low temperature for 20 hours or more.”
A solid foundation
Is make-up for men moving into the mainstream? Panna Munyal finds out
When Chanel launches a foundation, lip balm and eyebrow pencil as part of a new collection entitled Boy de Chanel, you know things in the make-up-for-men arena are getting serious. Again. Because, as it turns out, our forefathers were just as fond of a berry-stained lip and kohl-rimmed eye as our foremothers were.
Somewhere along the way, perceptions of make-up shifted dramatically so that by the early 20th century, the only men donning make-up were players performing women’s parts in the theatre. Meanwhile, young girls from the West pinched their cheeks to put colour in them instead of risking their reputations by applying a touch of risqué rouge. Cinema can be credited for making make-up mainstream again, as both male and female actors looked to cosmetics to make their skin appear blemish-free on camera. Fashion runways were quick to follow, and even though male models only really rose to prominence in the past decade, they did so with greasepaint firmly in place.
But is your regular guy really ready to embrace this new trend? Who is wearing make-up in the 21st century? “A spectrum of men,” according to celebrity make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury, “from city slickers to athletes. Men are aware of the transformative, youth-boosting powers make-up has for women – and they want to experience that, too. From hiding [tiredness] to simply being an instant pick-me-up, you can never tell that they’re wearing any with the right products. It’s becoming increasingly popular for men to take much better care of their skin, and to invest in luxurious products. I am forever hearing stories of men stealing their girlfriend’s Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream,” she says.
Of course, men have ample choice when it comes to products specifically created for their skin types. With a thicker epidermis, larger pores and more active sebaceous glands, they have their own grooming and cosmetic needs. Higher levels of testosterone not only result in increased hair growth, but can also cause acne, while regular shaving makes the skin sensitive and prone to break-outs. And brands are formulating their offerings to reflect this. DTRT’s Boys Be Bold BB cream, for example, has fine particles and a non-sticky formula for those who perspire excessively, while Mënaji’s popular Camo concealer is designed to withstand the higher oil production of men’s skin, and comes dermatologist-recommended for use on acne and irritated or sensitive skin.
Nonetheless, opinion continues to be divided when it comes to make-up for men and how acceptable it is these days. According to Ryan Saddik, regional manager for the Middle East and Africa at Foreo, for instance: “Men are more comfortable now with skincare; everybody wants to look, and feel their best. But there is still a long way to go when it comes to the stigma of men and make-up.”
Foreo focuses on care rather than cosmetic products, and has a number of male-centric skincare offerings, such as the Luna 2: a three-in-one silicone facial brush for pre-shaving, which removes dirt from pores and exfoliates to give a smoother shave. “Various studies and research have shown that skin confidence leads to an increase in self-confidence, [so] we focus on the real challenges many men face within their grooming routines, such as excess oil, shaving rashes and reduction of ingrown hairs,” says Saddik.
On the other hand, Menat El Abd, regional artist at Benefit Cosmetics, says: “We’ve definitely observed some changes: more and more men now openly admit to using concealer and eyebrow products as part of their grooming routines. It is still rare to see male clients spontaneously coming up to the counter, but it is not that rare to see women buying make-up products for their husbands.”
For men who are new to the game, El Abd, says: “I would recommend starting with products that naturally enhance your features, such as a brightening concealer matching your skin tone to erase dark circles or blemishes, a lip balm and definitely eyebrow products. Eyebrows are the frame of the face and they make such a difference.”
Benefit offers a Goof Proof Brow Pencil, which helps fill and shape the brows, and the effects of which can be locked in with its 24-Hour Brow Setter transparent gel. “There are really no rules with make-up. If you are feeling more confident, you can add a touch of High Brow highlighter to the inner corner of your eyes,” adds El Abd.
Diane Nakauchi, chief brand officer of Japanese cosmetics company Koh Gen Do, says that natural-looking products are key. “With foundations that look like natural skin, men are wearing make-up without feeling any [shame]. Visual acuity is getting higher with cellphone cameras and social media, and men are becoming more aware of and interested in their skin.
“They know how flawless skin can change their looks, which may be the beginning of losing that stigma. Our most popular product for men, for example, is the Maifanshi Moisture Foundation. It’s been used by Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks. It’s tinted, but very light, so it feels like a moisturiser with skin-enhancing properties.”
Nakauchi offers some application advice. “Always prep your skin with a moisturiser, so the foundation does not have a splotchy finish. Make sure the foundation shade matches your skin tone, and don’t use high-coverage concealers until you know how to blend to a natural skin finish. Men can also get their partners to check for visible mistakes, especially if the lighting is poor during application,” she suggests.
According to research company Euromonitor, the growth of men’s beauty and fashion products has been outpacing that of women’s since 2010, and companies are responding accordingly. This month, The Dubai Mall saw the launch of two skin- and haircare salons for men: the 1847 grooming lounge and Dunhill’s barber shop. The modern-day man, it seems, has become something of a grooming aficionado, and it follows that he would turn to the magic of make-up to hide any perceived flaws.
“There is certainly more conversation around men’s grooming and skincare, with educational content readily available online,” says Fiona Firth, buying director at Mr Porter. “Men are growing more confident in the grooming space and, as a result, brands are adapting to their needs. We now see our customers moving beyond the basics of cleansing and moisturising to anti-ageing products, oils and serums, rounding out their daily regime. Of course, men tend to prefer quick, easily applied products that they can incorporate into their morning routines,” she adds.
While most skincare experts and make-up artists agree that foundations, concealers and brow pencils are gradually gaining acceptance and acknowledgement among men, lipstick, eyeshadow, blush and other colour-defined statement make-up products are not. Likewise, most men who are willing or keen to experiment with make-up seem to be seeking out products that are fuss-free, easy-to-use and as natural-looking as possible. And Chanel has clearly cottoned on to this new reality.
Boy de Chanel is being promoted as “three confidence-boosting, long-wear make-up products to invisibly erase imperfections”. Le Teint tinted fluid is a lightweight and shine-free foundation with SPF 25 for natural correction, and is made from a polymer that resists excess sweat. Le Baume Lèvres Matte lip balm walks the line between make-up and skincare, and is packed with jojoba oil, shea butter and vitamin E, for lips that remain soft, but without any shine.
And the waterproof, oil-based Le Stylo Sourcils eyebrow pencil defines and fills out the brow line with an easy-to-use spiral brush and tapered tip.
The range will sit easy in a starter kit or a long-established routine. Importantly, it acknowledges that make-up for men is the way forward. As the brand said in a statement: “Just as Gabrielle Chanel borrowed elements from the men’s wardrobe to dress women, Chanel draws inspiration from the women’s world to write the vocabulary of a new personal aesthetic for men. By creating [our] first make-up range for men, Chanel reaffirms the ever-changing codes of an unchanging vision: beauty is not a matter of gender; it is a matter of style.”
An antidote to conservatism in the watch industry, Roger Dubuis offers an unapologetically bold collection of timepieces, writes Selina Denman
Unashamedly bold, provocative and polarising, Roger Dubuis watches are not for everyone. But they are not meant to be. Launched in 1995, Roger Dubuis is a young, disruptive brand that exists as an antidote to conservatism in the watch industry. And with its signature Excalibur range, it offers an open challenge to its customers: dare to be rare.
While its designs may be audacious, they also push technical boundaries – the brand’s many innovative movements are all produced in-house. “We do not submit to rigid constraints in our approach to design, in terms of materials, shape, colours or even components – we have an unconventional approach to watchmaking,” explains Jean-Sebastien Berland, Roger Dubuis’s regional brand director for the Middle East, India and Africa.
“The annual unveiling of world premieres represents the almost organic result of the manufacture’s ongoing investment in research and development. However, our quest for excellence drove us to get the Hallmark of Geneva, a traditional and exclusive stamp of high-watchmaking,” he adds.
Take, for example, the Excalibur Quatuor Cobalt Micromelt, which contains the hand-wound 590-part RD101 Quatuor movement, with four sprung balances that work together to instantly adjust the effects of gravity – something that would take a tourbillon one minute to achieve. “Roger Dubuis is still the only maison to be able to master such a complicated calibre,” Berland points out.
This is also the first watch in the world to feature a case constructed entirely out of cobalt chrome, which has been produced using the trademarked Micro-Melt technology. More commonly used in the aeronautics and astronomy industries, this process involves melting and atomising the alloy into a fine powder, by introducing the molten metal to a high-pressure stream of gas. The end result is 100 per cent biocompatible, completely corrosion-resistant and extremely durable.
Another world first: the Excalibur Spider Pirelli, which has a rubber strap crafted from the tires of winning Formula One cars, with an underside that bears the tread pattern of a Pirelli Cinturato tyre. The watch comes as an automatic skeleton, and a single and double flying tourbillon – the latter is produced in a limited edition of eight and offers the perfect combination of ruggedness and reliability.
A sturdy, 47-millimetre, black DLC titanium skeleton case features vulcanised blue or red rubber accents, which highlight a titanium crown. The flying tourbillons at 5 and 7 o’clock are rimmed by speedometer-like seconds counters, complete with automobile-inspired pointers. But, perhaps best of all, every watch comes with a “money-can’t-buy high-adrenaline experience: a two-day VIP programme organised by Pirelli at a motorsport event”.
This is an acknowledgement from both parties that today’s luxury consumer demands exclusive services and one-off experiences as well as premium products. As the sole supplier of tyres to the world’s biggest motorsports competitions, with access to all of the most prestigious teams and drivers, Pirelli is well placed to offer such experiences.
Roger Dubuis is forging increasingly strong ties with the world of motorsports, building on obvious shared values. “There is an irresistible mutual attraction,” claims Berland. They are talking to the same customers, exist within the same price bracket without being in direct competition, and are driven by the same adrenaline-fuelled ethos of disruptive design and engineering excellence.
In addition to its tie-up with Pirelli, Roger Dubuis has entered into a partnership with Lamborghini Squadra Corse, which has made the watch brand one of the main sponsors of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, an international, Lamborghini-only racing series that made its Middle East debut last year. Joined by a shared “determination to place technique in the service of beauty”, the companies launched the partnership by unveiling the Excalibur Aventador S, a watch inspired by the engine of this mighty motor. A power control display sits in the middle of the dial, while a Duotor calibre is distinguished by its engine strut bars and is set at an angle that mimics the placement of a Lamborghini engine.
“To mark the launch of the partnership with Lamborghini Squadra Corse, our technical specialists drew inspiration from the Lamborghini spirit in creating the first horological expression of this high-speed partnership: the Excalibur Aventador S, propelled by a powerful ‘engine’ designed to resemble that in Lamborghini’s actual Aventador. The movement specially developed in this partnership is the impressive Duotor (double-balance wheels) concept,” Berland says.
“The relationships between Roger Dubuis and Pirelli on the one hand, and Lamborghini Squadra Corse on the other, is the result of an attraction encapsulating corporate philosophy, a radical R&D vision, the same flair for disruptive designs and superlative technical engineering, and an attitude in sync with some of the most demanding clients the world has to offer. Two exclusive partnerships with two other iconic brands equally committed to delivering standout customer experiences of the kind money can’t buy, and limited-edition watches.”
One such limited edition is to be found on the wrist of Mexican boxer Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who recently became an ambassador for Roger Dubuis and sported the brand’s logo on his shorts during his pivotal fight against world champion Gennady Golovkin last month. To celebrate the first round of this alliance, Roger Dubuis unveiled the Excalibur Automatic Skeleton - Canelo Limited Edition.
Like the rest of the Excalibur collection, this a watch for the kind of man who is unafraid to stand out from the crowd; the kind of man who doesn’t want to look like his father; and is comfortable forging his own style path. “The Roger Dubuis customer is an ultra-confident, passionate and discerning watch collector,” Berland concludes.
Not content with having a successful acting career, Aldis Hodge is taking his passion for timepieces to the next level, by launching his own watch company, writes Selina Denman
“Absolutely. Guilty as charged,” Aldis Hodge says when I ask if a person’s watch is the first thing he notices about them.
Hodge, 32, is best known as an actor, having starred in films such as Straight Outta Compton, Hidden Figures, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Die Hard with a Vengeance and A Good Day to Die Hard, as well as popular TV programmes including Black Mirror, Leverage, Underground and Turn: Washington’s Spies. But the star is also an artist and avid watch-collector, as well as a self-taught horologist.
“I came out of the womb drawing on everything; I used to draw on my mother’s white furniture and her white walls with her red lipstick and my pencils. Little did she know that would later materialise into me doing what I do now – I’m a painter as well and a micromechanical engineer,” the ever-quotable Hodge once said.
The first watch that Hodge ever bought for himself, at the age of 12 or 13, was a blue steel Fossil with a full metal band. “It’s not the first watch I owned, which happened to be a Mickey Mouse watch when I was like 5 years old, but it’s the first one I remember getting for myself,” he tells me.
His collection has matured somewhat since then, and he currently counts an Arnold & Son Golden Wheel and Bulgari Daniel Roth Papillon Voyageur as his go-tos. He is definitely not “a smartwatch guy” and has a penchant for pocket watches, citing vintage pieces by Breguet, Hebdomas, Elgin and George Daniels, as well as Bovet’s more modern examples, among his favourites. “Pocket watches are just so awesomely classic, yet refreshingly new at the same time. I mean, how often do you see someone rocking a great pocket watch these days?” says Hodge.
His mother always impressed upon him the importance of presenting himself properly, with good shoes, a good suit and a good watch, and this instruction stuck. Hodge grew to appreciate that the watch he wore was a representation of who he was – of his culture, his tastes and his aesthetic. So what does he think his current collection reveals about him?
“My collection says that I’m avant-garde. My taste is uncommon, rare and aesthetically innovative. I like to experience art in new ways and I want to be able to share that with people. Some say I’m outside the box. I say there was never a box to begin with.”
Having moved on from using his mother’s walls as a canvas, Hodge attended the ArtCenter College of Design in California. At the age of 19, as part of a product study course, he “randomly” began designing watches. “Originally, I wanted to be an architect, but wouldn’t be able to pursue that and my acting career simultaneously,” he explains. “So, I chose watchmaking because I could teach myself at my own pace. I fell in love with the intricacies of movements, and was quite enamoured with the possibilities of creativity in reference to design and composition.”
More than a decade later, Hodge (whose full name is Aldis Alexander Basil Hodge) is in the process of creating his own watch company, Basil Time Piece. Last month, he participated in the first International Horology Forum, hosted by Dubai Watch Week in partnership with Christie’s, in London. The event featured a series of panel discussions addressing key issues for the watch industry. “Honestly, I was quite shocked and honoured to have been included. Especially to join The Soothsayers panel, alongside Suzanne Wong, Hamdan Al Hudaidi and Mohammed Abdulmagied Seddiqi.
“During our panel, we discussed current interest in the market regarding the millennial generation, the digital age verses the mechanical age, stabilising and maintaining future interest in the mechanical horology field, etc. I had a riveting time.
“It was as equally awesome to share the stage with my fellow panellists as it was to see who was in the audience. Some of the best watchmakers in the world were in the room.”
Hodge’s ultimate hope is to join their ranks by “presenting time-telling in irregular ways that are palatable and easily adaptable to the eye, but are unique in composition, aesthetically and materially”, he says. “I’m building up to a point with designs that offer people new experiences in time-telling – sort of like a sensory experience.
“I’m not sure how to describe my style just yet, but the best I can do is say that I believe I offer the traditional mechanical foundation of Breguet or George Daniels along with the modern fabrication execution of Greubel Forsey, while providing an innovative horological education to the wearer, such as MB&F or Vianney Halter.”
Hodge is currently looking for funding to begin research and development for Basil Time Piece’s flagship design (either “a chronometer with offset hours/minutes with an exposed balance” or a “jump hours in an irregular case with exposed movement”). If all goes to plan, he hopes that he will be releasing his first watches by 2021.
And the most crucial skill he has learnt along the way? Patience. “Making ‘time’ takes time,” he says.
The trend : oversized proportions
A utility jacket is transformed into a vast coat that dramatically sweeps the floor. ferragamo.com
The flying jacket has been upsized, with a collar now wide enough to spill over the shoulder seams. It’s all very 1980s. dior.com
Like a modern-day action hero, Roberto Cavalli’s man has slim hips, but a bulked-up torso. The upper arms are notably Popeye-esque.
Dolce & Gabbana
A fish-tail parka is drowned in lavish embroidery, sliding off shoulders like an antique counterpane. Even with tracksuit bottoms, this look is decadent. dolcegabbana.com
‘A tenth of a millimetre can make a difference’
Zaim Kamal, creative director of Montblanc, tells Selina Denman why there is unexpected freedom in working with a minuscule canvas
“Bauhaus, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones.” These are the influences that have shaped Zaim Kamal’s aesthetic, he tells me with a smile. It’s perhaps not what you would expect from the global creative director of Montblanc, a 112-year-old heritage brand best known for its exquisitely crafted fountain pens. But Kamal, with his unhurried manner, melodious voice, grey hair and slim frame habitually clad in black, is nothing if not unexpected.
“I am a child of the 1970s and I was very much influenced by that era,” he continues. “So it’s all a little bit, for lack of a better word, edgy. I grew up with rock bands and electric guitars; my mother used to go to Studio 54 – that’s the world I come from. So I think I tend to look at things from a different angle.”
He has developed a knack for presenting things outside of their usual context. This has translated into projects such as the Montblanc Secret Adornment Tattoo collection – briefcases that feature secret, hand-drawn tattoos by Mo Coppoletta on the inside of their flaps. “I said I wanted to do a tattoo on leather,” Kamal recalls. “They asked why. What does a tattoo have to do with leather? I said it’s the idea of writing with ink on a surface… of using the idea of writing, of making your mark, but in a different way.”
Kamal started his career as a fashion designer, graduating from Central Saint Martins in 1991, in the midst of a major recession. “There were no jobs – everybody went bust. We were these highly trained, highly motivated designers, and we just wanted work. Any job,” he reveals. Any job ended up being an internship with Vivienne Westwood. “She literally taught us how to create something out of nothing,” he recalls. “It takes two metres of fabric to create a jacket. At the time, there wasn’t money for two metres of fabric, so we used to go to the bins and get the offcuts – they were between 90 centimetres and one metre wide, and so we had to be very clever with our pattern-cutting. There were all these little things, of understanding how not to waste anything, of being aware of what you do, of not being precious about it.”
Although born in Pakistan (into a conservative family that must have baulked at the idea of him studying fashion), Kamal has called the British capital home for more than 30 years. “I have always loved London, since I was a child,” he says. “I grew up in Pakistan, but London had everything that I wanted. It was creative; it was big; it was crazy; okay, the food sucked, but London has an energy that you will not find anywhere else in the world. The weather sucks, but when the sun shines, the city glows.
“You can sit in central London and you will see every trend – everything that is going to happen, that has happened, that is happening – walk past you in a single day. If you want to see what the world is going to be, go to Camden Lock on a Saturday; just sit there on the bridge and let the world go by. You will see everything that’s in the making.”
It was perhaps fated that he would end up at Montblanc, since he has always been surrounded by the brand’s creations: his grandfather used to collect writing instruments and Kamal, himself, has long been a fan of the brand’s iconic Meisterstück pen.
“I have used a Meisterstück to draw forever, because it is so simple. You could write with it; you could draw with it; you could lick your finger and then shade with it. You could do everything with it. It was this idea of having this piece that was always there and felt good in your hand and that became a companion, almost. And I’ve been given the reins to create this product that can inspire other people in a similar way,” he explains.
Kamal works across the company’s four categories – writing instruments, leather goods, watches and accessories – and assures me that, contrary to popular opinion, men can multitask. “I’ll be sitting in Florence working on a leather line with the design team and then I’ll get an email from the watch designer, saying I’m working on this watch and I’ve changed something; can you have a look? So I am in this constant whirlwind of change and I have to say, it is amazing,” the creative director says.
He is committed to addressing a new millennial or Gen Z audience that, he says, is “rediscovering the beauty of craftsmanship”. With this also comes the opportunity to tell old stories in a new way to an audience that might not have heard them before. The brand’s Writers Edition, Patron of Art, Muses Edition and Great Characters writing instruments, which have in the past paid tribute to people such as Marilyn Monroe, William Shakespeare, John F Kennedy, The Beatles and Miles Davis, are a case in point.
“When we launched The Beatles writing instrument, for instance, we were in Abbey Road, where they recorded everything, and the writing instrument is literally based on The Beatles microphone. When people asked why, I explained that it’s because The Beatles were famous for harmonising and they all harmonised around this one microphone. It was the same when we did the Miles Davis edition. They asked about a swirl on it, and I explained that it was a tornado – he has a very specific way of blowing his horn, and he always said he got this very special breath from a tornado that he was exposed to as a child in Kansas. Suddenly, you are opening up a whole new world. This is the transmission that we do.”
Earlier this year, the brand unveiled an homage to Homer, the ancient Greek author of the Odyssey and Iliad, with a pen featuring references to a Trojan horse and the black-figured pottery that is often decorated with scenes from Homeric poetry.
You might assume that trying to convey such sentiments on the most minuscule of canvases – the nib and barrel of a pen, or the face of a watch – would be frustrating, but Kamal insists otherwise. “When you work with writing instruments or watches, it’s so much in the detail, and the more you go into the details, the freer you get. On the writing instruments, we are talking about tenths of millimetres that can make a difference. We are talking about a story that is wrapped around a tube; it has a three dimensionality that has to work. I find that very exhilarating – to be able to convey all of that. I’m often very humbled that we have people who can actually genuinely translate these things. They know that by pushing boundaries we all learn new things. I always say to my team: ‘If you start at 70 per cent, you’ll end up at 50 per cent. If you start at 130 per cent, if you are lucky, you’ll get 90.’ So I tell them: ‘Push; don’t be scared.’
“Keith Richards always used to say: ‘Do things for the right reasons or don’t bother doing them at all, we all like to think of ourselves as being so super-important, and that’s why I love working for Montblanc, because it’s not about ego. It’s just about doing stuff, about creating,” Kamal concludes.
On a rainy day on the English coast, tumultuous seas and overcast skies provide an evocative backdrop for the autumn/winter collections
Model: Yassine Rahal at PRM
Grooming: Hirokazu Endo
Photographer’s assistant: David Rowland
A beat of its own
Vacheron Constantin reveals its musical leanings by joining forces with Abbey Road Studios, writes Sarah Maisey
“It’s all about timing,” Isabel Garvey, managing director of Abbey Road Studios, says. “Whether it’s the cue to the singer or the incessant beat of the drumming, it all comes down to timing.”
Speaking at the unveiling of a new partnership between Abbey Road Studios and Vacheron Constantin, and the official global launch of the Swiss watch brand’s latest collection, Fiftysix, Garvey draws a parallel between music and watchmaking – for although they appear to inhabit different universes, both are built around a strict adherence to timing.
“Music is a fantastic and universal driver of emotions, just like our watches. As we got to know each other, Vacheron Constantin and Abbey Road Studios discovered that we share the same values of technical excellence, constant innovation and savoir faire perpetuation, as well as a constant will to share and spread our passion,” says Louis Ferla, chief executive of Vacheron Constantin. “As we keep expanding our footprint in the world of music, we could not dream of a better and more relevant partner than Abbey Road Studios. Our association is more than natural and pre-empts infinite possibilities of creation and collaboration.”
Abbey Road is, of course, the London recording studio immortalised by The Beatles in their 1969 album of the same name, which featured a picture of the fab four on the zebra crossing outside the studio on its cover. Everyone from Ella Fitzgerald, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga has recorded here.
Although this author must confess to favouring the Rolling Stones over the Beatles, standing in Studio 1 of the famous building, it is difficult not to be impressed. “Of the 210 songs that The Beatles recorded, 190 of them were recorded in the room where you are now standing,” Garvey points out.
Founded by Jean-Marc Vacheron in 1755 in Geneva, Vacheron Constantin prides itself on being the oldest watch manufacturer in continuous production. During its unbroken 263-year history, it has been responsible for creating some of the world’s most highly regarded timepieces. In 1770, Vacheron created his first complication, and in 1819, he joined forces with François Constantin, realising that two heads were better than one.
In 1839, Georges-Auguste Leschot was hired, and if his name is not familiar, his legacy will be – he is the diligent soul who standardised movements into calibres. Today, even in Geneva, a city considered to be the home of exceptional timepieces, Vacheron Constantin is regarded as one of the very best.
As part of their collaboration, Vacheron Constantin and Abbey Road will focus on “musical affinities and joint creative endeavours”, and have already joined forces to produce an exclusive composition, the Eternity song. This is performed at the Abbey Road launch by singer/songwriter Benjamin Clementine, who has been hailed as the voice of his generation and sang a live accompaniment to the Burberry January 2016 menswear show. Clementine is one of the new faces of Vacheron Constantin’s latest campaign, One of Not Many, which sees the brand teaming up with “talented artists whose personality and work express a constant quest for excellence, openness to the world, as well as a spirit of innovation and creativity”.
In addition to Clementine, faces of the campaign include musician James Bay, seasoned explorer and National Geographic photographer Cory Richards, and multidisciplinary designer, Ora Ito.
While the Fiftysix range was first shown to the industry in January with three models (a self-winding, day-date and complete calendar), the Abbey Road event marked the addition of a new 41mm tourbillon. At less than 10.9mm thick, the new tourbillon is equipped with a 22K gold peripheral rotor, and its calibre can be observed through a transparent caseback. The mechanics alone called for more than a dozen hours of chamfering and hand-crafted techniques, and the timepieces will be available in stores from April next year.
As we are often reminded, consumer power today lies not with retirees or the middle-aged, but with millennials and so-called Gen Z. With deep pockets and a seemingly unquenchable desire to shop, the collective spending power of these consumers, aged between 22 and 35 years, is remarkable. Forbes estimates that in the United States in 2017, millennials spent US$200 billion (Dh734.5bn), while in China, which accounts for 32 per cent of worldwide luxury purchases, the average age of high-spend customers is just 35 years old – a full decade younger than their non-Chinese counterpoints. Moreover, the majority of these consumers seems to be geared more towards experiences than to amassing possessions, which raises the question of where, exactly, this leaves luxury houses that sell exquisite things?
With a history spanning the violent upheavals of the French Revolution, and First and Second World Wars, and a shift from horse-drawn carriages to sending a man to the moon, the brand has learnt a thing or two about weathering social shifts. And the new collection is the latest stage in its evolutionary journey.
The Fiftysix tourbillon is still a very classically elegant watch, but is being presented as a more accessible option that retains all of the brand’s expertise, with a significantly smaller price tag. Setting you back a relatively modest €11,600 (Dh49,965), it is the very antithesis of fast fashion – handcrafted pieces that are still One of Not Many.