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Between the intrecciato: The Bottega Veneta atelier in Montebello Vicentino
words & photography Shini Park

Above: a rooftop sanctuary for employers

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Luxury is a point of view, that is more about what you hide than what you show
-Tomas Maier

Our arrival at Bottega Veneta’s atelier on the outskirts of Vicenza is veiled in perhaps the thickest morning fog I’d seen on that side of 2016. The Veneto region is reportedly a stickler for drama, this is undeniable, a certain pair of star-cross’d lovers can attest to this. Just the night before, I’d practically made love to a plate of ravioli over a glass of Pinot Grigio in our hotel villa atop a valley, which in its low-season stupor could as well have been my very own Castello. As we peel off the groggy rush-hour autostrade onto a private road that leads up to Montebello Vicentino, I realise we indeed are being treated to a saga of sorts.

The driveway is of stone gravel – with an uncanny similarity that of pebble beaches of Dorset, I note mentally – that coils around a pristinely manicured stretch of grass. Ahead, an unassuming 18th Century villa, in an equally unobtrusive nougat-y texture and hue, posing as a canvas to the feathered shadows cast by the trees in the pearly sunlight. This is not the prologue that I had predicted from the brand’s economic victory and brand status with Tomas Maier at the helm. I wouldn’t be lying if I say I’d half expected a statue of Maier in a ring of perpetual fireworks. There is not a single decorative gargoyle, nor a gleaming logo on a plaque. In a sense, the grandeur is purely in Palladian nature: in the single impressive structure that greets us, strutting dominance in symmetry and organisation. As all great stories go, the good stuff is discreetly hidden in the seams.

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The cafeteria furniture is composed of 100% recycled plastic, where the tables transform into benches for conference needs.

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The company catchphrase “When Your Own Initials Are Enough” is printed on a wall, standing sentry at the reception of glass and Venetian terrazzo marble. PAUSE for a small confession – I’m usually quite intimidated at this point in the appointment, it’s sort of the same sensation you get when you try sneaking into a club’s VIP lounge you know you clearly don’t belong in. I can verify that each of the A Closer Look articles start off with a little bit of pee escaping me from nervous jitters. But here it’s different, there is a ‘no B-S’ air about the atelier, nothing but a steadfast dedication to the pursuit of fine-quality materials, extraordinary craftsmanship, contemporary functionality and innovative design – the four pillars instituted for the brand by Tomas Maier that consequently introduced a new era in luxury.

“Something simple is always more complicated,” Maier believes, and he is nothing if not an absolutist. His method of expression? Collaboration. There is an unusual and inspired bond between artisan and designer (300+ faculty members, 100 of which are highly-skilled artisans), between Maier and the atelier, and even between the atelier and the land. Little do I know that the atelier receives its juice via 12,900 sq ft of solar panels, an underground reservoir curbs water wastage by 40%, and restoration and construction had all been done with sustainable materials and local labour. To the untrained eye, the high-tech panel on the wall is a thermostat with pictures. To LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification board, the atelier is worthy of the Platinum grade, the first building in the fashion and luxury sector to ever receive. Alas, this is the very essence of Bottega Veneta under Tomas Maier: luxury rooted in responsibility and deliberate artistry.

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A series of labs experiment physical and chemical durability of the label’s signature leathers (after all, a bag must withstand the blustering cold of Siberia as well as humidity levels in Singapore).

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One large-sized Cabat is composed of approximately 100 “fettucce” (1.6m long), equivalent to 12 skins, and the combined effort of two skilled craftsmen over two working days.

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I always like making things simple. A sweater and shirt, a shirt and a pair of pants: this is what I like. It’s simple, but of course it’s incredibly sophisticated.
- Tomas Maier

The design process is equally thorough, and even to this untrained eye it is visible through the ‘vitrine’ that is the villa’s annexe (previously a barn), swathed in natural (glorious Italian of course) light, as we shuffle through the corridors. We’re treated to a collage of creativity and craftsmanship as we pan by stations where prototypes for new designs are magicked under practised hands of highly skilled artisans, as well as eternal classics such as the Lock bag and the unadorned, perennially popular Cabat bag. As a hobby knitter/crafter, it’s hard not to revel at the precisely engineered simplicity is carried out by a pair (or two, in the case of the Cabat) of hands.

In the heart of this all, is the Intrecciato, the leather weaving technique that has come to define the house, much like Rembrandt is remembered for signature use of light, and Manet for his colour sense. Everything is about the product, and the client. The brand marks its 50th anniversary in 2016, 15 years with Maier at the helm, now an apparent understanding that the two are firmly intertwined, like intrecciato. I’m reminded of the anniversary show in Milan just a week past – my first Bottega Veneta show – starring the inimitable Lauren Hutton that had ended in jubilation and a standing ovation (perhaps even tears shed) for Maier and his team.

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The ‘archive’ rooms, is a mini private museum filled with a collection of Knot bags and Cabats, that celebrate the brand’s artisanal proficiency.

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As I turn to take a last look of the villa it clicks, the impeccable yet impassive façade that greets guests and workers at Montebello Vicentino encompasses everything Maier is about. “Luxury is a point of view, that is more about what you hide than what you show”.

Park & Cube was a guest of Bottega Veneta.

Lauren Hutton (toting the very same BV clutch that she carried in American Gigolo), closes the show with Gigi Hadid

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photography SHINI PARK hosted by CONRAD MALDIVES supported by CHANEL

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Swimsuit – ONIA. Sunglasses – Chanel.

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Power of nook and cranny

This is something I noticed only on my second jaunt to the Indian Ocean, but the Maldives isn’t your usual fly-and-flop destination. It’s an archipelago of paradise islands that is as close to blank canvas as you can get on a holiday. There is no silver screen reference starring a Hepburn sister, or stripy/nautical uniform a la French Riviera, and certainly no techno beats reverberating out of the clubhouse, courtesy of DJ Ibiza. There are no rules, or things ‘you must/mustn’t do’ (i.e Do not order a Mai Tai in Saint Tropez). In fact, you may have troubles packing for your first time. All that’s provided is nature in its incorrupt, innocent entirety, and wholehearted Maldivian hospitality. Add to that: Sun (unabridged), celestial skies, immaculate coral beaches and at times, warm rain. The Conrad Maldives understands this well, which is one of the many reasons for my return. The two private islands – joined by a footbridge overlooking the occasional manta ray – is full of nooks and crannies. This lends an illusion of being alone on an island, with a fully-equipped gym, water sports centre and a sunrise yoga session, or an excellent in-villa dining menu and a comprehensive DVD library, if you wish. It’s a DIY holiday – any agenda fits.

The dress code? Come as you are. White does swell, but any colour you find in the Maldivian sunset is a safe bet. No heels, unless it’s a ‘housewarming’ item, like your favourite candle from home.

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Don’t miss the fish (read: shark) feeding at Mandhoo
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Rangali Island, Rangali 20077, Maldives
+960 668-0629
hilton.com
Scarf – Nazanin Rose Matin. Sandals – Chanel. Swimsuit – ERES. Sunglasses – Chanel. Bracelet – X JEWELLERY

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sunglasses CHANEL bracelet X JEWELLERY towel CHANEL swimsuit ERES

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Boyfriend shirt – ASOS. Pouch – Loeffler Randall

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creative direction SHINI PARK photography assistance SIMON SCHMIDT created for CALVIN KLEIN WATCHES
Sweatshirt – ENLIST. Trousers & Garters – Eudon Choi. Watch – Calvin Klein. bracelet – Calvin Klein

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It’s that time of year when saying it’s that time of year again…, followed by a wink and a click of the tongue, forgives all manner of sins, however many chocolate money’s worth (Six a day and rising). This is exactly my end-of-year routine in 2015, and 2014, and 1993. No matter what farfetched diet I’ve committed to during the year. Maybe more chocolate coins, and less winking in the 90’s. As a matter of fact, I only successfully learnt to wink without breaking a rib when Britney split with Justin Timberlake. Don’t ask me how these things are related.

jumper HOUSE OF SUNNY trousers HANGER INC watch CALVIN KLEIN boots J.W.ANDERSON

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dress J JS LEE shoes J.W.ANDERSON watch CALVIN KLEIN

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Everything comes full circle, like a little dance routine, a funny little dance that is. Like when Simon twirls around the camera tripod and I shove Monopoly money in his belt. It’s also time to wear your Calvin Klein shape watch outside your jumper because that’s how badly you need to keep track of when the last Royal Mail cut-off date is for Christmas. After that point, you’re crossed off your mother’s will and you know how badly you need to be in it AFTER YOU ATE ALL YOUR MONEYS.

Happy eleventh hour, kids. Wishing you all a safe passage from deadlines to holiday dessert-induced-comas.

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photography & words SHINI PARK created for BENTLEY and BALLY
…like something out of a comic book in blue and red

Our drive from Geneva’s airport, along the namessake iridescent lake and through the spirited town of Vevey (only to stock on road nibbles, first-aid medicine and cash) right up to the foot of the Grimselpass was done in near-absolute silence. Not a single tune filled the Bentley Flying Spur W12 S, conversation tapered to pensive grunts, and after a while, the only sound in our rolling chamber was the gentle clicking noise of the turn signals. Even the inbuilt GPS, perhaps sensing something sacred, signalled silently but earnestly with her animated arrows. Without telling each-other so, my husband and I had been busy soaking up the innate luxury of the car, silently fingering seat controls and grazing the graceful lines of the athletic dashboard with our eyes. The scent of new leather permeated the car, reminding of the freshness of the journey.

It was only when I pulled over at a lay-by at the base of the pass, delicate snowflakes melting on the gleaming hood of the purring Flying Spur, when the excitement kicked in. We started the climb, all windows down, Bluetooth paired, blasting the James Bond medley as we heard a waterfall roar somewhere in the distance. 52kms down, 921 to go. Our sprint through the Alps was to be short but resolute, in scaling heights and documentation. But as ever, when it comes to Bentley, I – the driver – am the sidekick.

Copy in this feature is a revised adaptation of the Bentley Magazine Issue 59 article.

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Swiss Air

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A string of hairpins up a mountainside to a sleepy village, with almost no traffic at all, does it get any better?

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We were chasing the point where the rain was still snowflakes.

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Where to stay? Grimsel Hospiz, its fire-brick red shutters pronounced amidst a medley of snowy whites, greens, and rock-face greys.

Its façade like something out of a Wes Anderson flick. It’s as remote as it gets, perched atop Grimselsee reservoir, with views that make you reconsider the one night stay. The kind of place where, in winter, the snow is piled high and the hot chocolate and ratatouille lasagne dinner, the things you wake up for. Stay at least 3 nights, if you can afford the time.

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Hotel Grisel Hospiz
Grimselpass, 3864 Guttannen, Switzerland
+41 33 982 46 11
www.grimselwelt.ch
Wearing: All Bally Apres-Ski resort

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Sean Connery in Goldfinger (1964)

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The Flying Spur W12 S is like a modern sculpture, gliding by mountains of solemn might, hailing similar ideals of strength, timelessness and endurance.

Wearing: All Bally Apres-Ski resort

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Kitzbühel: Where to stay? The Bentley Lodge is a homely, wooden, Austro-Alpine bliss, swathed in all the necessary fluffy carpets and branded woollen blankets.

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Bentley Lodge Kitzbühel
Franz-Reisch-Straße 21, 6370 Kitzbühel, Austria
+41 33 982 46 11
www.bentleymotorslodge.com

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973 kilometers (603mi), one short flight into Heathrow, and four keen weeks later, the five-page feature is available in Bentley Magazine Issue 59.

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mythical ambrosia favoured by Greek gods as they loitered above the clouds on Mount Olympus
photography & words SHINI PARK created for CARTIER

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The lifts at Fondation Cartier pour L’Art Contamporain glide up without hesitation, gradually lending a slightly more scenic view over the 14th arrondissement at each level. The hubbub of the foyer is long since muffled as I step off onto the top floor and into the office/laboratory of Cartier in-house perfumer, Mathilde Laurent. Later I would realise, that this 20-second ascension would be more symbolic of this brief stint to Paris than any souvenir I dare brought home.

The office is through a set of corridors and the laboratory itself, and I can’t help but observe the distinct lack of smell, or scent, until I reach Mathilde’s light-swathed office. “Sorry, I’d hoped it would be sunny for you!” she says entering, beaming, with a box of Ladurée macarons in her hands. She is like a friend I haven’t seen in a long time.

And despite the twenty-four fragrances developed under her tenure – L’Envol de Cartier being the latest – the office doesn’t boast one in particular. None, rather. At the same time it triggers an explosion of senses.

There are philosophical quotes on the windows hand-written by Mathilde herself; plants – dry, cut, fresh, amongst vials and tester arms from the laboratory; and behind her desk, a collection of shoes and magazines – glittery Miu Mius and gold-painted Converses. The space has a Phillipe Starck-like sense of humour. In the meantime, Mathilde nurses a pot of Juk-ro (죽로차] (a South Korean black tea from bamboo leaf) that she calls her drug. The earthy, almost cake-like smell of the tea mixes with the crisp November air that seeps in from the open balcony door and all my senses stir awake.

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My genius is in my nostrils
– Nietzsche

We talk about macarons (she has my favourite: orange blossom), her daughter, and intuition. She waves me over to her desk where she brings over a stack of Cartier signature red jewellery boxes and points at one labelled XI – aptly named, L’Heure Perdue, and launches a stunning video clip that illustrates the scent as I inhale the inside of the box. “It smells like a warm hug”, I say sheepishly. and then learn that this overtly human, emotional scent was composed using only molecular ingredients.

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There is something mythological, and abstract about her approach to her work in fragrance. Her eleven years at Guerlain and the eleven now at Cartier would attest to that – her latest creation L’Envol is perhaps the perfect embodiment. Inspired by ‘Hydromel’, the immortality mead of Olympian gods and theoretically designed for men, L’Envol is not a caricature of masculinity. It is an embodiment of intuition, bravery and the split-second of panic/elation when something takes flight – a wild idea perhaps, or a hot air balloon. The fragrance blends Gaiac wood with notes of honey on intense musk and patchouli, and is presented in a refillable bottle; another tribute to the Cartier belief that every one of its objects should last forever.

As I say goodbye to Mathilde and make my descent to catch my taxi back to the station, I feel as I’ve stolen away a vial of liquid luck from the clouds.

A waist-high black panther guards Laurent’s office

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“Listen to your instincts when you buy perfume, it has the power to set you free.”

– Mathilde Laurent

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