Archive for July, 2010

The Sport of Kings: Arnaud Bamberger and Cartier International Polo

It was always going to be the match made in heaven (forgive the pun) – the Sport of Kings sponsored by the historically world famous jewellery designer to the kings (and queens). When the collaboration first came about it didn’t arrive with too much fanfare but the Cartier International Polo event, which takes place every summer at the Guard’s Polo Club in Windsor, has become the biggest event of the international Polo calendar in the world, surpassing even the Mondialito event in the home of polo, Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2009 it celebrated its 25th anniversary and for the last eighteen of those twenty five years the event has been captained with typical Gallic flair by the Managing Director of Cartier UK (and French Legion of Honour recipient), Arnaud Bamberger.

We arrived in the office of Monsieur Bamberger, above the famous Cartier showroom in London’s Bond Street, to find him at his desk updating his World Cup chart with the results from the previous day’s football matches. It was immediately disarming to see him doing what many a student and office worker must also have been doing that morning and as we talked it became obvious that it was perhaps this touch of the everyman that has made him so successful at helming Cartier through the worst economic crisis in living memory. In retrospect it’s also perhaps fortunate that our interview took place on the day of France’s final group game in the World Cup and not after. As it was he was the welcoming, sophisticated and debonair raconteur you would expect of a man who had worked for thirty five years all over the world for one of the biggest luxury brand names around.

After so many years few people would refer to what they do as just a job or even a career. When you have been at the top of a company like Cartier for this long it’s probably more accurate to describe it as a relationship that seemed almost fated to happen. “I was never a great student”, Arnaud tells us, “I can’t really speak of a huge amount of university studies because it’s not there but I knew I wanted to go into business and I was always drawn to the luxury industry”. Despite this the young Arnaud soon found himself working in the marketing department of a multinational foods company in France. It wasn’t very glamorous but it was a place to pay your dues and his notable success drew all the right kinds of attention. It led to him being headhunted by one of the biggest luxury tobacco brands of the time, Rothman’s, and thus began the lifelong relationship with luxury brands that endures to this very day. “It’s funny because Rothman’s was once owned by the owners of Cartier [The Richemont Group] but at the time there was no
connection”, he says.

That connection began when, while at Rothman’s, Arnaud’s feet began to itch. This coincided with a heavy promotional campaign by Cartier in the French media. “Suddenly I saw the name was everywhere. The company had a young president at the time, Alain Domenique Perrin, and I saw him revolutionising the world of luxury by bringing a touch of it to the people – starting small with the world famous Cartier lighter. When
I saw what this guy was doing I said to myself: this is the type of person I want to work with”. In the end all it took was a simple and direct letter to the Cartier president to make that ambition come true. “I caught his attention”, he says, “and I started as the export director of Cartier straight away. He’s president no longer but he’s still a trusted advisor and the one that restored the brand back to where it should always have been. After working with him for so long he became one of my best friends, almost like an older brother”. Recalling the scene of Arnaud updating his World Cup chart earlier it was obvious that Perrin’s outlook had left a lasting impression on his long time friend…

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An English Exotic: Rising actress and recording artist, Karen David

You might think you would have to go a very long way to meet somebody who was born in the foothills of the Himalayas but who grew up in Canada. You might have to go even further to meet someone who was a combination of Indian, Chinese and even a sliver of Jewish heritage (hence the seemingly incongruous surname). Fortunately, I only had to travel as far as London’s Twickenham Studios to meet Karen David, the actress making a name for herself as one of the UK’s best talents. It was here that she was filming a new TV series for the BBC and as we sat down over lunch for a chat the phrase ‘small but perfectly formed’ came to mind, dressed as she was in a costume that was akin to Halle Berry’s in the X-Men movies. Despite the costume and the heat that day she looked very cool, in both senses of the word, and seemed to be enjoying her life. “Everything that I have wanted to do since I was a little girl I’m now doing. This is actually my day job and I feel blessed to be in this position in my life”.

Her journey seemed to have been set when, as a four year old, she was left in the charge of her older sister who refused to alter her viewing habits to accommodate her younger sibling. The film of choice that day was Xanadu. “That’s when I fell in love with all things Olivia Newton John. I wanted to sing like her and be in movies like her. That’s when I was bitten”. A number of other world renowned celebrities, like Gwen Stefani, seem to have shared this same epiphany in their own early years so she was already in very good company. She was also fortunate to have parents who, despite being from a traditionally academic background, encouraged her to commit to her ambitions and that’s exactly what she did – when she wasn’t trying to blend in.

“When I was growing up I was picked on a lot for being different”, she says, “My mother sent me to Chinese school when I was little but that didn’t work because all the kids thought I was too dark to be half Chinese. Then we moved to Canada where I had to learn French but couldn’t speak any of the languages in my heritage like Cantonese or Hindi. I was looked on as a bit of a freak of nature really but now that I’m older I really appreciate those experiences because it’s helped me not to be typecast as the ‘Asian’ actress”.

It’s certainly true that, whether by conscious design or unconscious projection, her CV certainly reads of an artist who has been given the opportunity to develop a broad range. By the time she was 17 she had moved from Canada to London to study acting and from her first film role in 2002 in the UK film Bollywood Queen, with James McAvoy, to Hollywood roles in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and Couples Retreat with Vince Vaughn, all bases were quickly being covered. Later this year she will even be seen playing a Spanish teacher when the BBC’s primetime drama, Waterloo Road, returns to TV this autumn. And, in perhaps her most significant role to date, she has even played a fictional ‘Akkadian’.

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Coming at you: 3DTV

The chairman of the IEEE Consumer Electronics Society Standards Committee, Stuart Lipoff, explains why 3D television is set to be the biggest development in home entertainment since High Definition.

So you have just purchased a new flat-screen television and you don’t expect to be shopping for an upgrade for at least another ten years. After all, the latest super skinny, extra wide, HD flat-screen is as good as it gets – right? Well television manufacturers might have something up their sleeves that could mean you are off to the shops again sooner than you (or your bank balance) expect. For many of us 3D conjures up images of a dodgy pair of card glasses with one blue lens and one red. Recently however films like Avatar have brought a whole new 3D experience to the big screen and the technology is now making the transition to the small screen.

Although 3DTV is relatively new to the consumer, 3D still photos have been around nearly as long as photography itself. Enjoying 3D still photos through dual eye magnifiers was a popular past-time way back in the late 1800’s, and 3D films appeared in cinemas as far back as the mid 1950’s. However, it proved to be little more than a fad. 60 years later and 3D has only just returned to the cinema, so should we be already considering shelling out on a 3DTV device for the home? Well yes – actually maybe we should. Technological innovation across the board, from the production of 3D content to the manufacture of home 3D devices, mean the time has never been better. I believe 3DTV will become a reality in the home in the next three to five years. On the production side not only are 3D films such as Avatar being made using computer generated imaging (CGI), but we also have new economical imaging technology that means 3D cameras can be used to capture in 3D at live venues such as sporting events or concerts. It will bring new meaning to the phrase ‘getting closer to the action.’

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out and buy an expensive new television just yet though. With the technology for producing 3D advancing so fast, there are also new ways to watch TV in 3D without the need for a major purchase. The modern flat screen TVs contain such powerful software that it is possible for you to watch 3D films from the internet or play computer games in 3D, such as on BSkyB’s new 3D channel, through either a 3D Blu-ray player or by buying the right adapters and computer monitors from companies such as NVIDIA. If you are ready for an upgrade however, you will be pleased to know that all the main manufacturers (Sony, LG, Samsung, Toshiba etc) either already have, or are set to launch 3DTVs by the end of this year. Some sets are sold as “3D Ready,” which means you need to buy other accessories before you can display 3D so make sure you investigate what is needed first…

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Rovinj – Croatia’s Coastal Gem

A long weekend on the Adriatic Coast’s newest luxury destination…

Travelling to a new destination can be a mixed-bag of surprises, especially if, like me, you are the type to do things at the very last minute. As much as I try and do a little bit of research before making a booking when I go away I failed to manage it this time. So of course, the only thing that gave me confidence in my choice of destination was the fact that it was in Croatia and, more mportantly, it was by the sea. What could go wrong?

Thankfully nothing went wrong! And, my recent trip to the small seaside town of Rovinj on the west coast of Istria was without disappointment and in fact surprisingly pleasant. We flew into Pula with Ryanair, which is a half-hour drive from Rovinj, and the destination itself is well connected by a number of other airports within easy reach (Trieste, Ljubljana, Zagreb and Rijeika). Venice is only a two-hour boat ride away, and makes for a great day out.

Our hotel was the Monte Mulini, a new-build five-star property (the only one in the area) that opened in March of last year. It’s part of the Maistra Group which has a string of other hotels and properties in the region and throughout Croatia. It seems they play a big part in the local economy, being one of the main forces behind its tourism industry. However, the Monte Mulini is the jewel in the crown of their hotel portfolio. The hotel has a total of 113 rooms and suites and is situated on top of a small bay surrounded by a nature reserve. The architecture and its style are both modern and contemporary, with a dramatic entrance and an enormous glass fronted atrium spanning three levels. The use of space, colours and natural light tends to be the running theme and is well utilised. All rooms have fantastic sea-facing views and a private balcony, which looks down on the outside pool and gardens and further out onto the sea and marina towards the town.

Watching the sun rise and set is pretty cool and makes for a picture perfect romantic setting. Rovinj is a small town, and walking to
the centre takes 10 minutes from the hotel. On a summer’s evening this is really pleasant as it’s along the coastline and is a great way to take in the views and the sea air. As you enter the town by the marina you are hit by an explosion of audible noise coming from the numerous bars and restaurants dotted along one after the other. There’s music and laughter and the unmistakable drone of
hundreds of voices all chattering away in unison, which is broken by the occasional gasps and cheers coming from those that were glued to the many large-screen TV’s watching the first round of games in the World Cup…

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