Luxury magazine: December 2018

Front row at Valentino’s Tokyo show; investing in meteorites; Laura Laine’s fashion illustrations; and the world's most expensive liquorice

'Luxury and rarity are eternal bedfellows'

Encased in a two inch by two inch metal block, under an adjustable lens, the three tiny rocks may be barely perceptible, but they are invaluable all the same. They are the only known documented example of lunar rocks in private hands and, on November 29, were auctioned off by Sotheby’s for US$855,000 (Dh3.1 million).

The rocks were retrieved in September 1970, when the unmanned Soviet Luna-16 mission landed on the Moon, drilled a hole into its surface and extracted a core sample. In an unheard of occurrence, before or since, this sample was later presented as a gift to Nina Ivanovna Koroleva, widow of the director of the Soviet space programme, Sergei Korolev.

As Sophie Prideaux discovers, our fascination with outer space has led to the creation of a new investment category: space matter, whether it’s these minuscule Moon rocks, or the 5.4-kilogram lunar meteorite Buagaba, which is believed to be the largest ever discovered and sold for $612,000 in October.

As we write in our feature, on the allure of these otherworldly items: “The appeal of owning a meteorite comes from a different place – a place of human fascination and curiosity, and the idea of welcoming a piece of another world into your own.”

There is something endlessly intriguing about outer space, and the opportunity to own a tangible part of that mystery is attracting seasoned collectors and investors. But it is also an area that elicits interest from those with no specialist knowledge.

You don’t have to know that there are only 60,000 existing examples of meteorites in the world, or that the Moon rocks in the Sotheby’s auction are estimated to be 3.4 billion years old, to appreciate their magnificence. Luxury and rarity are eternal bedfellows, which is also how a Marvel comic that sold for 12 cents in 1962 becomes a unique investment opportunity. As we detail, a barely-touched, 56-year-old first edition of The Incredible Hulk recently sold for Dh614,335 at auction.

Proving that luxury comes in countless forms, we speak to Johan Bülow, founder of Lakrids, who decided at the age of 22 that he was going to create the highest quality liquorice in the world. He spent 15 months experimenting in his kitchen before bringing his product to market. Just over 11 years later and his company employs 350 people, and he has just opened a store in The Dubai Mall – the brand’s first outside Europe. “If we can make it in the UAE, we can make it around the world,” he tells us.

Selina Denman, editor

Pierpaolo Piccioli's new
sense of authenticity

We speak exclusively to Valentino's creative director, who was named Designer of the Year
at the Fashion Awards in London

On the sidelines of Valentino pre-fall 2019 collection in Tokyo, Sarah Maisey speaks exclusively to the to the brand's creative director, Pier Paolo Piccioli, about the beauty of imperfection, walking in the footsteps of legend and his newfound sense of freedom

Anyone who has been fortunate enough to visit Tokyo will appreciate its unique allure. A city of contradictions, it is calm yet fast-paced, old but at the same time new. So it is not difficult to understand why Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director of Italian fashion house Valentino, chose this curious city for the unveiling of his pre-fall 2019 collection.

With a shared a love of beauty and refinement, both Tokyo and Valentino remain loyal to a rich past while looking resolutely to the future. One Japanese element in particular that caught Piccioli’s imagination is wabi-sabi, the Japanese belief, with no western equivalent, that flaws and imperfections are an intrinsic part of beauty. This is supported by a tradition of repairing broken objects with gold, so that the break itself becomes something precious.

“I have always been fascinated with this Japanese concept,” Piccioli tells me. “It is much closer to my own way of thinking. Wabi-sabi is so different from the European thinking of perfection and youth. For me, this is very modern, and the opposite of the idea of beauty held in western cultures – of perfection and symmetry. I wanted to start a conversation between western culture, my culture, and the Japanese one.” 

Piccioli presented his latest collection in a barren concrete space in Downtown Tokyo. AFP

Piccioli presented his latest collection in a barren concrete space in Downtown Tokyo. AFP

The collection that Piccioli unveiled in a barren concrete space in Downtown Tokyo was exactly that conversation: Valentino seen through a Japanese prism. The opening look was a trench coat, lavished with classic house ruffles in a fiery Valentino red, atop flat boots, but left creased and unfinished.

As the collection progressed, it became clear that this was more than just another tranche of pretty dresses (although pretty they most definitely were), and instead was about frills and ruffles left distressed, elements left undone and a precise asymmetry that nodded to the unique aesthetic of Japan. In the skilful hands of Piccioli, this was no hackneyed recycling of tourist fodder, but a deeply reflective, sophisticated and, dare I say it, dreamy discourse. “The first look for me is the most wabi-sabi,” Piccioli explains. “It was about taking the house codes of red and ruffles, and treating them differently.

“It is just a trench, a dress and coat, but instead we made them out of nylon-mix fabric, because even the most humble of fabrics can become precious in the hands of the craftsman.”

The considered layering of each look felt new and youthful, perhaps another nod to the host city and its rich mine of streetwear. “Tokyo is a young city, a creative city, but where there is a long culture of dressing up,” Piccioli explains. “Perhaps because of the history of wearing kimonos, which are both elaborate but poetic at the same time, Japanese people seem to really enjoy wearing clothes.

“What feels different here, however, is that while in the West, it is about showing off, showing how much money you have, here in Japan, in Tokyo, it is more about personal expression. It is about dressing for yourself, and showing the world who you are. It is very personal. Many men and women in Tokyo dress in a non-gendered way; their clothes are loose and the body is not defined the way it would be in Europe. I didn’t want to get anything traditional from Japanese culture; instead I wanted to present a collection that was truly Valentino to the heart, but with a Japanese perception,” he elaborates.

Piccioli's designs include youthful elements, inspired by Japan's streetwear culture

Piccioli's designs include youthful elements, inspired by Japan's streetwear culture

Those familiar with the history of Valentino will already be aware of the unconventional path that Piccioli has followed to reach this point, as he has had the unique distinction of taking over the reins at Valentino not once, but twice.

The house was founded by Valentino Garavani in 1959, in Rome. Having left his native Lombardy for Paris at just 17 to pursue his love of fashion, Garavani studied at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, before going on to apprentice for Jacques Fath, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Guy Laroche, and then returning to Rome to open his own fashion house.

A difficult first year nearly resulted in bankruptcy, but a serendipitous meeting with the young architect Giancarlo Giammetti changed everything. Immediately inseparable and sharing a common vision, Giammetti abandoned his studies to become Valentino’s lifelong business partner, and together they relaunched the house in 1962, at a show in Florence that presented a parade of dresses in what would become the house signature: a fiery red.

A bag from the pre-fall 2019 collection

A bag from the pre-fall 2019 collection

With a flair for dramatic, attention-grabbing gowns, Valentino soon became a favourite with film stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn, and socialite Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, who came to be known as Val’s Gals. By 2007, however, after a wildly successful career, Valentino decided to step away from his eponymous label, prompting the promotion of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli to the role of joint creative directors.

Piccioli is quick to put his own success into perspective against that of Valentino himself. “First of all, we were walking in the footsteps of a legend,” he maintains. “With Maria – and I loved working with her – we shared everything: the ideas, the vision, the runway, everything. Working with Maria, I had to learn how to put my thoughts and my emotions into words, so I could explain them. Because, obviously, there were two of us, together, so I had to be able to explain what I was thinking.”

The pair led the label to great acclaim until Chiuri left to head up Christian Dior in 2016. Her departure turned the spotlight on Piccioli, the assumption being that with Chiuri gone, he would struggle to find success. His first solo show resolutely shut critics down, as it became blindingly apparent that Piccioli, far from hiding behind his former colleague’s expertise, was an astonishing talent in his own right. Far from being overwhelmed as many predicted, Piccioli rose to the challenge.

“Since she left, I feel I am more free to just express my emotions and my dreams. I don’t need to overthink them, or to try to understand them in order to put them into words. I can just express them in a pure way, instinctively, even if I don’t understand them until later in the process. I definitely feel more unfiltered now, more authentic,” Piccioli says.

Kaia Gerber head-to-toe in fiery Valentino red

Kaia Gerber head-to-toe in fiery Valentino red

He has earned a reputation for delivering powerful collections – both ready-to-wear and couture – that are received with equal rapture by clients and critics, and that frequently leave the audience in tears (including, famously, his last couture show in Paris this summer, which saw the house’s founder Valentino Garavani visibly overcome).

The show in Tokyo was no exception, with the bleak concrete space providing the perfect foil for a procession of 90 staggeringly beautiful looks. While pieces were creased and misaligned, and proportions lifted and fell, everything retained the unmistakable allure of Valentino. A simple coat had intricate origami sleeves, while horizontal layers of ruffles seemed to float in the air, suspended on lace panels. Elsewhere, dresses were draped from a single length of fabric, while trenches and frilled coats swept past in black-on-red florals.

Piccioli at the Fashion Awards in London

Piccioli at the Fashion Awards in London

Menswear, too, was brimming with pleats and folds. One coat looked at first glance to be made of dark camo print, but was actually an overdyed vintage 1980s Valentino floral fabric. Another looked as if it were cut from an exceptionally beautiful futon. Fluid trousers and shirts swept past, covered in pleats radiating from a central seam, and hats bobbed by decked in feathers.

“When people think of Valentino menswear, they think of tailoring. But I wanted to push that. For the coats, I wanted them to feel like it was womenswear that had been cut open and remade into men’s. I wanted a feel of history, not just of something new,” Piccioli explains.

One element that was definitely transplanted from couture was fur, and while undeniably beautiful (in particular an ankle-length coat in vibrant red), it raised the question of whether the house is out of step with current thinking, on this if nothing else.

“I understand there is a change of mood and people want something that is less… offensive,” Piccioli admits. “However, as creative director, I am very aware of my responsibility to the 3,000 families that rely on Valentino. We employ a lot of people in Italy, in Rome, and I truly believe that makes us an ethical company. We support many skilled people.

“We have our own factory for fur, so instead we are starting to look at ways to alter what we make there. We are looking at intarsia, at wool instead. I think this is the most ethical way.”

Ethics aside, this was a show about piling the unexpected together into a glorious contradiction, as dresses came lopsided, over plastic shoes, or hand-pieced from countless fabric discs. Of course, Valentino excels at gowns and, when these finally arrived, they were breathtaking. Great swaths of froth were carved into pod-like shapes, while endless frills sat in tightly clipped layers, or tumbled down in haphazard cascades. This was romantic, beautiful and spellbinding in equal measure.

For the finale, models swept on to the runway before halting in a single file. Standing as they were arm’s-length away, the impulse to reach out and touch these amazing pieces was almost overwhelming.

And, as we were given the chance to see the workmanship up close, boxes opened above our heads and rose petals – red, of course – spilled out, blanketing the runway. Piccioli had delivered yet another powerful performance.

The Style List: Maison Assouline

The entrance to the new Maison Assouline store at Fashion Avenue in the Dubai Mall.

Why an Assouline-curated library is the ultimate status symbol

Not only will Maison Assouline fill your library with exquisite and insightful books, it will design the room for you too. Step inside the luxury brand's new store at The Dubai Mall, and you will discover just what their take on a modern library is.

The books are designed to be displayed and marvelled at, with each cover a work of art in itself. And between the books you’ll find hand-picked antiques; intriguing objects strategically placed to spark your curiosity. Of course, everything in the store is for sale, but walking into Maison Assouline feels like entering a literary sanctuary, and you can leave the hustle of the shopping centre at the door.

In the back of the store, past the golden Swan Bar, you’ll find a private office for those who want to make the ultimate purchase - a library itself. Prosper and Martine Assouline are the Parisian founders of the luxury publishing power house, and they, together with their Assouline team, will create everything for you, from start to finish.

“The special thing about the store is this room,” Prosper says as we sit on the space's green velvet couch. The room is filled with hand-drawn pictures of beautiful homes. He points to a drawing of a New York town house, with brick walls and high arched windows, books filling the shelves, which climb from floor-to-ceiling. “In this room, you can come to us and say ‘I would like Assouline to design for us’ and we can create your complete library. We bring the furniture, the books, everything. It’s really something unique.”

Assouline-curated libraries are statements of luxury, the brand says, pulling together the best titles, art, furniture and antiques to create an embassy of culture. The brand will even take care of the smell, with a custom-made aroma designed to transport you into a literary abyss. “We create candles with scents that come from the books,” Prosper says. “We analyse the DNA of a library; we smell the paper, the wood, the leather. It’s a mix of everything and it is just beautiful.”

Maison Assouline now has more than 1,000 published titles under its belt

The new Dubai store is nestled between some of the biggest fashion houses in the world, neighbouring Chanel, Versace and Dior in Fashion avenue. It is only the second concept store in the world for the publishers, who will be curating a collection of titles centred around the Middle East.

Started in the early 1990s, Maison Assouline has succeeded in shaping books into status symbols, publishing titles on fashion, travel and culture. Its Ultimate collection of titles are hand-bound using traditional techniques with colour plates hand-tipped on art-quality paper. “You can find 1,000 books here,” Prosper says. “But you can also find here many objects which you cannot find anywhere in the world because they are antiques, they are unique, and they are the perfect asset for your library.”

www.assouline.com

Inner conflict

Fashion illustrator Laura Laine's latest subjects are inspired by powerful, Middle Eastern women, she tells Selina Denman

The sketches stand out for their exaggerated ensembles and hairstyles

The sketches stand out for their exaggerated ensembles and hairstyles

To my eye, the women in Laura Laine’s illustrations look tough, defiant and empowered – but they can be viewed in myriad ways, their creator admits. “They can be so many different things. I’ve heard everything from depressed to strong to mysterious. I’m happy with any interpretation,” Laine tells me during a recent trip to Dubai.

The one thing that they are not supposed to be is easy. There is something beautiful yet slightly surreal, and almost Tim Burton-esque, about the protagonists of Laine’s works – with their unflinching gaze, elongated limbs, exaggerated manes and slightly distorted proportions.

“To me, it is an exploration of the different sides of women, or maybe of myself, although that is definitely not a conscious process. I am trying to convey a mood or a story. I want there to be something there, instead of just making them plainly happy or accessible. In that sense, commercially, it is not such an easy aesthetic, because normally what sells is a happy, colourful, smiling face, of somebody who is beautiful,” Laine explains.

“I am not trying to do something that is purely dark or intimidating; that’s not my purpose at all. But there are some themes that are a bit uneasy, or that convey some sort of conflict.

A piece entitled Nothing Compares To You

A piece entitled Nothing Compares To You

"Themes like this really interest and inspire me – the conflict that people have within themselves. I don’t want to do something that is traditionally what we think fashion illustration is. Partly maybe there is some criticism in it as well, of a certain side of the fashion industry,” she adds.

Both of Laine’s parents are artists, and she has drawn “constantly” since she was a young child. She did a bit of modelling in her late teens, and when it came to deciding what she wanted to study at university, she decided that she would give fashion design a try.

“During my studies, I discovered that designing wasn’t really my thing. It was really all about wearability and other practical things; it’s not as glamorous as people think. You really have to have a certain kind of mindset, and I feel that there are already so many clothes in this world, so you need to be creating something really extraordinary if you are going to add to that,” she explains.

Laine found her forte when she took some courses in fashion illustration and immediately began picking up commissions; by the time she graduated, she was already working almost full-time on her drawings.

Her aesthetic may not be the easiest sell, but sell it Laine has. The fashion illustrator has worked with brands such as Givenchy, Harvey Nichols, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Sephora, Zara and H&M, has had her work featured in books, magazines including Vogue, GQ and Elle, and newspapers such as The Guardian and The New York Times.

She has also taken part in countless solo and group exhibitions, and her work is part of the collections of the Helsinki Design Museum and Benetton Imago Mundi.

Last month, she presented her first major solo exhibition in the Middle East, with a 10-piece collection at The Courtyard Gallery in Al Quoz. Dubbed In Bloom, the collection explored the duality of the contemporary Middle Eastern woman.

“Women here have this really powerful presence,” Laine says. “There are all these strong women who are doing their own thing and being creative in their own fields.”

This is translated into figures that gaze out haughtily from underneath a gold-flecked, fur-trimmed veil, or an elaborate feathered headdress. They appear swathed in black or dwarfed by a balloon-shaped dress. They are, as Beyoncé might say, fierce.

Laine has worked with a number of well-known brands.

Laine has worked with a number of well-known brands.

Laine predominantly works in black and white, using pencil and inks, “because it gives more emphasis to textures and volume and composition and different materials”. Details are captured with remarkable precision, as are fluidity and movement, all underlined by this ever-so-slightly eerie sensibility.

Laine admits to having been influenced by Japanese manga comics, which she used to fervently search for on family trips to Italy each year, since they were not readily available in her native Finland.

“Later on, I really got into the Vienna artists, like Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Those artists have also been a major inspiration to me. They are not so relevant now, but when I started to illustrate, they were very useful in helping me find an aesthetic that was interesting to me,” she explains.

This region is a perfect match for the illustrator’s signature style. “If you look back at my work, I’ve always been very interested in this very decorative, opulent, almost Oriental style – and it’s not at all Finnish or Scandinavian. I love minimalistic art and design, but am somehow unable to create it myself,” Laine concludes.

www.lauralaine.net

My Luxury Life: Giles Deacon

Giles Deacon launched a new collection for Aspinal of London at The Dubai Mall

The British designer is best known for his ephemeral couture creations, which have been sported by some of the biggest stars in the world – and for the wedding dress that he designed for Pippa Middleton last year. The new creative director of Aspinal of London was in Dubai recently to launch a new collection of accessories

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

A country I have never visited before with a fantastic culturally programmed day ahead.

You are sitting down to the perfect meal. Where are you, who are you with and what are you eating?

In a private house with a mix of my favourite friends and family, the food being prepared by a chef called Fergus Henderson who has a restaurant in London called St John.

How would you describe your personal style?

My favourite looks combine handmade shirts and ties, sharp tailoring, whimsical ties and handcrafted shoes.

What’s the most treasured item in your wardrobe?

A made-to-measure Turnbull and Asser smoking jacket that I wore to the ten-year anniversary of The Dubai Mall recently.

What was your first ever luxury purchase?

My first luxury purchase was a brown and pink, window-pane, three-piece bespoke suit when I was 18-years-old.

Are you a collector? If so, what do you collect?

I collect art by British pop artists such as Allen Jones, Eduardo Poalozi and Richard Hamilton.

What’s the last book you read?

Behind The Throne by Adrian Kingswood. It is a wonderful insight into the domestic history of the royal household from Elizabeth the I to Elizabeth II.

What is your definition of luxury?

Elegance, opulence, bespoke and the experience of uniqueness.

What is the most overrated luxury, in your opinion?

Immediate availability. The best things truly do come to those who wait.

If there was a song that best represented your life, what would it be?

The Lark Ascending by Vaughn Williams.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Work hard and be nice to people; it works.

What’s your red carpet highlight?

Deacon poses with actress Sarah Jessica Parker at the 2018 New York City Ballet Fall Fashion Gala

My word, there have been so many. One of the most recent was Sarah Jessica Parker at the New York City Ballet's Fall Fashion Gala. We made her a divine, bespoke, tomato-red balloon gown, with this gorgeous big train. We were waiting for her to arrive, she didn’t arrive, she didn’t arrive, and I am thinking, 'oh my god there has been a malfunction and she has had to go to Zara on the way'. And eventually she arrived and she looked extraordinary, so that was a highlight. I have been so lucky. I have dressed so many amazing women, from Cate Blanchett to Kate Hudson. Zaha Hadid was a client. Interesting woman.

Is it fun dressing your partner, Gwendolyn Christie [of Game of Thrones fame]?

Yes. She is 6ft 3 and is a brilliant person to dress. She has such a great sense of style and also a great sense of adventure.

Tell as about Pippa Middleton's wedding dress

Pippa Middleton, in her Deacon dress, and husband James Matthews smile after their wedding

She was wonderful, and it was brilliant to get that commission. It was a beautiful dress to work on, and it was brilliant waking up the next day, and seeing all the Sunday newspapers coming through on my phone. I think her and her sister are brilliant in the way they support British designers. They are phenomenal ambassadors for lots of British labels.

If you could design for anyone in history, who would it be?

Cleopatra.

Moon rocks and meteorites

How our fascination with space is creating the ultimate luxury purchase

Some of the most coveted objects in the world come from rocks. Diamond, rubies, emeralds – they are all carved from the Earth’s crust before being turned into treasures. But the most prized rocks of all aren’t actually from this planet.

While they may be duller in appearance, the appeal of owning a meteorite comes from a different place – a place of human fascination and curiosity, and the idea of welcoming a piece of another world into your own. With some fetching $1,000 per gram, these stones are more expensive than any platinum or gold. And this market, which has traditionally been the territory of a small group of niche collectors, is now being infiltrated by the wider art world.

On November 29, Sotheby’s auctioned off the only known pieces of the Moon in private hands. On the surface, the three pea-sized rocks may not look like much, but they made history. The samples had been through the auction house once before, in 1993, when they fetched more than 10 times their original estimate, to sell for $442,500. When they came back into the hands of the Sotheby’s auctioneers last month, they sold for $855,000. 

In September 1970, the unmanned Luna 16 landed on the Moon, drilled a 35-centimetre-deep hole into its surface, and extracted a core sample before returning the soil safely back to Earth. More than 70 elements were traceable in the sample, estimated to be 3.4 billion years old. It was later presented as a gift to Nina Ivanovna Koroleva, the widow of the chief designer and director of the Soviet Space programme, Sergei Korolev, who never got to see it materialise. No other sample has ever been gifted to an individual by a nation. 

The three Moon Rocks sold by Sotheby's last month

While Sotheby’s Moon stones are exceedingly rare, meteorites are becoming big business for auction houses. In October, a 5.4-kilogram lunar meteorite, thought to be one of the largest yet discovered, sold for a staggering $612,000 at a Boston auction house, surpassing its initial estimation of $500,000. At the time, RR Auction offered some insight into how it valued the meteorite, known as Buagaba.

“A unique or unpaired meteorite is more desirable to collectors and perhaps more valuable to science, especially in those rare instances in which the single find is a very large stone,” a representative explained. “Such is the case with Buagaba; it has no known pairings, and is the only example of this meteorite. Considering that the average size of a lunar meteorite find is a few hundred grams, the magnitude of this offering is truly impressive.”

The ballooning of the meteorite market in recent years is reflective of a growing interest in and understanding of space technology. Scientists estimate that 44 tonnes of meteoric material falls on our planet each day, but most of it disintegrates upon entering the atmosphere. Of the stuff that survives, about 90 per cent is just rock, while the rest contains some type of precious metal or mineral.

Alan Rubin is a research geochemist at University of California, Los Angeles’s Department of Earth and Space. He explains that just 60,000 meteorites make up the world’s collection, two-thirds of which will never be available to the public.

Speaking as an expert for Christie’s auction house, he says: “The resource is barely growing; each year there are only five or six fresh falls and 200 or so finds, most of which weigh less than 200 grams and are appreciably weathered. Meteorite hunters, meteorite researchers and meteorite dealers work together in a worldwide enterprise to discover new specimens, uncover details about the origin of the solar system, and make samples available to the discerning collector.”

The Black Beauty meteorite fetched $81,000

Christie’s introduced a category dedicated to the meteorite segment in 2014. Since then, it has held a series of specialist auctions in which many of the lots have sold for well over their initial estimates. In February, a fragment of the Iron Dronino meteorite, which was estimated to sell for $15,000, made $81,000 at auction. The previous year, a Canyon Diablo meteorite fetched $237,000.

“Our curated sales at Christie’s have seen extraordinary results,” says James Hyslop, head of science and natural history at the auction house. “The interest in meteorites has increased greatly in recent years. Once the domain of dedicated collectors, they have now captured the attention of the wider art market. Since we introduced this category to Christie’s in 2014, buyers have flocked from antiquities, contemporary art, jewellery, old master paintings, to name a few.”

And it’s not just space rocks that investors want. The Sotheby’s Space Exploration auction last month also included original artwork, lunar, planetary and deep-space photography, spacesuits, large-scale models of spacecraft, and items from various missions.

“Many of us remember watching in awe as Armstrong first set foot on the Moon, and remember vividly the excitement and sometimes tragedy associated with each launch. This is a field that requires no special background or training to appreciate, and anyone, regardless of their age, can share in the excitement,” Cassandra Hatton, vice president and senior specialist of the Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department, says. “Space exploration unites us as humans in a common goal of escaping the bonds of Earth to explore what is beyond.”

The Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Bag. Richard Drew/AP Photo

Sotheby’s held its first auction dedicated to space memorabilia last summer. The sale marked the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and achieved total sales of $3.8 million. It also marked a change in American policy that has been instrumental in opening up the market. Unlike the Soviet Union, which lost any claim to its space items when it collapsed, until recently, United States law prohibited all sales of space items, as they were deemed to be owned by Nasa and, ultimately, the American government. This has now changed.

“New laws were enacted,” Hatton explains, “allowing US astronauts who participated in the Mercury, Gemini or Apollo missions clear title to any artefacts that they received during their missions, and thus, clear title to anyone that they sell or gift such items to. This means that items that one would normally only find in museums, are now available for private ownership.”

Alongside original charts, maps and engineering models, that first sale offered a photograph taken of Buzz Aldrin by Armstrong on the surface of the Moon, signed by and with a note from Aldrin. There was also the flag carried aboard Apollo 11 signed by Armstrong, Aldrin and the third astronaut on board, Michael Collins, and an unassuming bag marked “Lunar Sample Return”, which still contained traces of lunar dust inside it.

The growing excitement around these sales is summed up by Katia Nounou, head of Sotheby’s Dubai. “From those aspiring to be astronauts to those simply reaching for the stars, we hope space exploration inspires all of our visitors to look back on mankind’s immense achievements, and to reimagine the impossible as possible.”

The trend: masculine elements in womenswear

Dior

For her cruise 2019 collection, Maria Grazia Chiuri draws together tailoring and equestrianism to create this Newbury stripe blanket coat.

www.dior.com

Bottega Veneta

Bottega Veneta takes a men’s houndstooth pattern and reimagines it into a pleated knee-length skirt. The woven texture comes from printed polka dots.

www.bottegaveneta.com

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton offers a dazzling take on Prince of Wales checks, overblown to look hand-stitched, while sequins feature in the checkerboard.

www.louisvuitton.com

Hermès

Hermès goes for a softer take, turning a Madras-check raincoat lining into an asymmetric dress, which is given a lift with tones of pink and peach.

www.hermes.com

72, Avenue Marceau, Paris, France

A stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, this property is a prime example of architect Gérard Faivre’s ‘art homes’

Recognised as one of the world's leading contemporary interior designers, Gérard Faivre describes his art-home projects as never-lived-in before residences that boast unique interiors – furniture and accessories that double as pieces of art.

The homes are fully decked-out, down to the linen closets, and are specifically designed to offer international buyers a hassle-free experience. It helps that they come with a private concierge service and year-round caretaker.

The contents of 74 Avenue Marceau are valued at €235,000 (almost Dh1 million). The 19th-century property takes up the third floor of a traditional stone Haussmann building.

It is a three-minute walk from Place de l’Etoile and the Arc de Triomphe, landmark sites within Paris’s Golden Triangle, and is on the same street as the Yves Saint Laurent museum.

The 2,928-square-foot apartment has three bedrooms and four bathrooms, and comes with original parquet flooring, full-height double doors, ceiling cornicing, marble fireplaces and wood panelling, plus a high-tech security and smarthome system.

Faivre has filled the apartment with curated paintings, photographs and sculptures, as well as looking to Arabian elements in the form of a mashrabiya window.

“The mashrabiya creates an intimate atmosphere through the discretion of seeing without being seen,” he says. “The window’s intricate meshwork filters incoming light in an almost magical way, which decorates the interiors with poetic shadows, while the Etch suspension lights, by Tom Dixon, project enchanting shadows on to the ceiling.”

The main lounge features grey and blue interiors and mirrored walls to best bring out the effect of the Melt suspension lights. When switched off, they are mirror-like; when switched on, they become transparent. The aim was to bring to mind the vastness of the sky.

Initially listed for €7.3 million, the property will go up for sale through Concierge Auctions on December 17, with a starting price of €5.85m, at 7pm UAE time.

Lux launches

'Tis the season of the glossy tome

Chaumet Paris: Crown Jewels

Founded in 1780, Chaumet became the jeweller to Empress Josephine of France, creating delectable pieces for the French aristocracy. This book from Assouline offers a closer look at the exquisite craftsmanship that made the house what it is.

www.assouline.com

The Allure of Horses

This tome by Uli Weber looks at the enduring relationship between people and their horses, blending portraits with reportage style photography. Shot over a period of six years at estates and manors across the United Kingdom, this is a unique insight into the equine world.

www.assouline.com

The World of Private Islands

If you can dream it, it's out there for you: that's the premise of Farhad Vladi's book, The World of Private Islands, which showcases everything from Canadian lake isles and Pacific atolls to the secluded holiday homes of Johnny Depp and Richard Branson.

www.amazon.com

Pocket Coco Chanel Wisdom

"A woman should be two things: who and what she wants". There's nobody in the world that couldn't learn a little something from the formidable Coco Chanel. This pocket-sized tome, featuring witty quotes and wise words from the fashion icon, will help you on your way.

www.chroniclebooks.com

Designed by Apple in California

This stylish book chronicles 20 years of Apple design, through 450 photographs of products and the processes used to make them. It's a visual history spanning the iMac to the Apple Pencil.

www.apple.com

Supersonic

It has been close to five decades since Concorde embarked on its maiden flight and almost 15 since it took to the skies, but this book by Lawrence Azerrad, with a foreword by Sir Terrance Conran, highlights how the supsersonic aircraft managed to capture the public imagination.

www.supersonicbook.com

First-class liquorice that breaks the mould

Hala Khalaf meets Johan Bülow, whose eventful journey to creating the world’s finest liquorice has earned him high-profile fans

The jar is compact and transparent, filled to the brim with little round balls the size of marbles or Maltesers. Each ball comes in a rose gold or bronze hue, and shimmers from a dusting of glitter. You wouldn’t be blamed for mistaking this jar of gourmet chocolate liquorice by Lakrids - the most expensive in the world - for some kind of bronzer. Scores before you have done the same.

Not, however, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Ruler of Dubai. When he boarded an Emirates airplane to tour the first class section, one of the first things he reached for in the gift basket that is a prerequisite in each cabin is that unassuming jar.

It also happens to be the fastest moving product on board all of Emirates’ first class cabins, says Johan Bülow - the crispy rose flavour during Eid and the shimmery brown salt caramel the rest of the year.

“From stirring a small pot in my mother’s kitchen in Bornholm, to having Sheikh Mohammed taste and enjoy my liquorice in first class,” chuckles Bülow.

“I bring up that story all the time back home in Denmark.”

After numerous failed attempts at creating the finest liquorice in the world, Bülow (pictured below) struck gold.

His is the only liquorice that is handmade and produced in tiny batches, made out of the finest raw materials he can get his hands on. The result is confectionery that is free of any additives, free of gluten thanks to the exclusive use of rice flour in its manufacturing, and often coated in a gourmet Belgian chocolate that is mixed with equally elite ingredients – everything from blueberries, almonds, elderflower and passion fruit to ginger, chilli, rose and caramel. 

The 34-year-old Dane is humble about his success story, preferring to give credit to all those who have helped him on his entrepreneurial journey: his mother who loaned him the money to start his first business, a kiosk on the beach in Bornholm selling ice cream to tourists, and who always urged him to pursue something he would be passionate about; a girlfriend who believed in him and agreed to put their lives on hold in pursuit of liquorice, working tirelessly by Bülow’s side for 15 months trying to find a recipe that would set them apart, and who today is his wife and mother of his two children; and his production manager Tage, who showed up when Bülow was at his wit’s end and helped develop Lakrids’ very first recipe.

The idea to elevate liquorice came to Bülow one summer, at age 22, as he watched his uncle make rock candy and sell it in Bornholm. Tourists formed a line outside his uncle’s store every day to buy the handmade candy. “As I watched, I thought: ‘Why not do this with liquorice?’ It’s such a traditional sweet in Scandinavian countries. Why not take it and bring it to a high-quality level, priced high as well, for those willing to play for a superior product?”

Bülow felt like he had stumbled on the idea of a lifetime when he decided to make crude liquorice root a part of the huge market that exists for luxury chocolate. “Liquorice root is 100 per cent natural. Why don’t I go to the South of Italy or Afghanistan and get the best possible liquorice root I can get my hands on? It’s usually combined with eight or 10 ingredients to produce the candy form of liquorice, so what if I hand-picked those ingredients, found the best of the best? I felt sure the consumer would be willing to pay slightly higher for the best quality.”

It was 15 long, hard months in the making, but on July 7, 2007 (the date wasn’t planned), Bülow took his first product to market. He had cooked for three days and three nights straight, hand-rolling every bit of it, cutting the liquorice into pieces, putting it into bags. With his wife, Sara, he set up shop in a small corner of Bornholm, intending to cook the liquorice in an open kitchen, while Sara stood behind the counter and sold it.

“There was no marketing. Everyone could smell it - the aniseed in the liquorice - from 100 metres away, and that’s what brought them. We opened at 10am, and by 12:30, we had sold out. People were waiting in lines and they were angry when they found out we had nothing left to sell.”

The couple closed down their store early and left a handwritten note on the door, promising they would be back the next day, at 10am, with more liquorice. Bülow stayed up all night cooking. By 9am, a line had formed outside the store. “That kept happening for the entire season, 12 to 14 weeks of this. By the end of the season, we had a turnover of Dh700,000, just the two of us working over a small pot, hand rolling everything. Just one recipe, one flavour - plain liquorice. But we also had around 50 business cards of people from supermarket chains and food stores all over Scandinavia, asking us to contact them with our product. It was the beginning.”

Today Lakrids is a company with 350 employees, cooking up treats in the world’s smallest liquorice factory, using machinery that had to be custom made for the brand, because nothing like that existed before. He still makes the liquorice using that same piece of machinery, just outside Copenhagen, and created a niche market for himself by coating the liquorice with gourmet chocolate and shipping it to the world.

On November 21, just over 10 years after that fateful summer, Lakrids by Bülow opened a store in The Dubai Mall. It is the brand's biggest store yet, 100 square meters filled floor-to-ceiling with gourmet, luxury, handcrafted, organic, gluten-free liquorice, to join dozens of existing stores in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Germany. The Dubai Mall outlet is Lakrid’s first outside of Europe, and stocks flavours exclusive to the UAE. A 150g jar retails for Dh55; the 250g jar is for Dh75.

“If we can make it in the UAE, we can make it around the world,” says Bülow.

Dh614,335...

... was the price paid at auction for this comic book. Here's what makes it so special

The “silver age” of comics was an era of artistic advancement and commercial success in the mainstream comic book industry, particularly pertaining to the superhero genre, which had experienced a dip in popularity in the wake of the Second World War. Covering the period from 1956 to around 1970, the silver age saw a number of important comic book writers and artists come to prominence, including the late, great Stan Lee.

Sold by Marvel Comics in May 1962 for 12 cents, The Incredible Hulk #1, is one of the most important and elusive first issues from the era. It has earned a Universal Grade of 8.5 from CGC, which is widely regarded as the leading certification service for comic books. CGC’s Census report lists this example as “1/9” at the 8.5 VF+ level, with just 18 books ranking higher from the total 1,065 copies that have been certified by Universal Grade.

CGC’s label notation reads: “Off-White to White Pages, Stan Lee story, Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman art, Jack Kirby and George Roussos cover, Origin and 1st appearance of the Incredible Hulk, 1st appearance of Rick Jones, Betty Ross and General Ross.”

The comic book was sold at an auction by Huggins & Scott Auctions last month. Its former owner reportedly read this first Hulk comic just once as a youth, and has kept it in storage since 1962. 

The 56-year-old book was painstakingly examined by staff at Huggins & Scott prior to submission, and so exceptional was the overall quality (particularly the spine integrity) that the company’s resident comic “geek” proclaimed that: “Maybe the guy just thinks he read it but never actually got around to it, because it sure looks like it’s unread.”

The same consignor has a significant collection of other silver age comic books that have been in storage since the 1960s, with another batch due to go on sale through Huggins & Scott Auctions in February.