james corden sing when yo u ’ r e w i n n i n g ( ES P. i n y o u r c a r )
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Preview: Art Basel Hong Kong, March 23-25 The gallery Nanzuka will feature Hajime Sorayama’s (b. 1947) hyper-realistic work. He is known world-wide for his imaginative and highly accomplished paintings of beautiful women. He is often referred to as the contemporary Vargas by those familiar with his pin-up style. Black bar mandated by local law.
36 MaHB: Commodity Forget the Saudi Aramco IPO. Sebastião Salgado’s new book reminds us of Kuwait.
40 MaHB: Film La La Land director Damien Chazelle reveals how he pulled it off.
44 MaHB: Books Michael Lewis, author of the Big Short, returns with the Undoing Project.
38 MaHB: Man of note Wang Jianlin buys up Hollywood, repulses monsters.
42 MaHB: Music Lend your ears to Dani Komari, girl with a set of bluesy pipes.
46 MaHB: Culture Dwight Garner trawls the zeitgeist in praise of sleep.
48 MaHB: A thousand words Kuah Jenhan trips on epiphany, remonstrates with Selfish Aunty. Continues on page 24
On the cover: James Corden photographed by Cedric Buchet. Robe by New & Lingwood; sweater and loafers by Burberry; sunglasses by Tom Ford.
C o u rt e sy o f th e a rt i st a n d th e ga l l e ry.
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Preview: Art Basel Hong Kong, March 23-25 Sullivan+Strumpf will premiere an installation by Dutch-Australian artist Sanné Mestrom (b. 1979). The Bathers (2016), based on Cézanne’s infamous painting of the same name, extends Mestrom’s investigation into the language of painting as explored through sculptural form. The work will be the artist’s most ambitious work to date, consisting of a series of three large resin figurine abstractions that appear to recline in the ‘tears’ of a fourth abstracted figurine—a large aluminum and bronze ‘water fountain’.
Continued from page 22 50 MaHB: Car Family sedan turns 50 and covetable. Plus: Mercedes Coupé turns on FOMO. 54 MaHB: Travel To Bordeaux you should go.
56 MaHB: Health With Impulse Asia, the future of workouts has arrived. Plus: four ways to detox from all those Chinese New Year cookies. 59 MaHB: Food Curry before Brexit: heating it up in London, capital of Indian cuisine.
60 MaHB: Style MCM reinvents the global nomad (it’s genderless); Louis Vuitton goes animal; Beauty and the Beast star Luke Evans teams up with Bulgari for charity; Luxottica builds a double bridge; and Anthony Vacarello’s debuts dark with Saint Laurent’s SS17 collection. Continues on page 26
C o u rtesy of t h e a rtist an d t h e galle ry.
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Preview: Art Basel Hong Kong, March 23-25 Nanzuka will feature Japanese artist Keiichi Tanaami’s (b. 1936) early animations from the 1970s, consisting of collages, drawings and illustrations on a screen projector.
Continued from page 24 68 What I’ve learned: aesthetic doctor Dr Rachel Chew sets wayward notions of beauty straight 70 The Prince Jared Kushner is President Donald Trump’s Senior White House Advisor and son-in-law.
78 Sing when you’re winning Karaoke king, dad-lad James Corden is in the driver’s seat.
96 What I’ve learned: Tom Ford On spirituality, long-term relationships and Botox.
88 Open caskets What high real estate prices do in a comatose market.
98 Style: A man’s best friend How to be furry and fashionable the Esquire way.
110 Style: V for Vevers Meeting the British creative director of American luxury brand Coach, plus a dinosaur in a shop. Continues on page 28
C o u rtesy o f the art i st a n d the ga l l ery.
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Preview: Art Basel Hong Kong, Mar 23-25 Pearl Lam Galleries will present Family Album (detail, 2016), a new work by Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso (b. 1961), which attempts to redefine the narrative of Tibet and examine how a once remote culture has become a part of a globalised world.
Continued from page 26 114 Style: Stand out in camo Narcos’ Pedro Pascal tries to blend in. Fails. 122 Style: Mavericks of style Not clothes that maketh the man, but he who wears them.
134 Watches: Knight in business armour Roger Dubuis and the city.
142 Watches: In sync with the world Chopard’s precision chronometers.
138 Watches: Buatan Switzerland Keeping Malaysian time in Swiss watchmaking.
144 Watches: The new game in town The Piaget Polo S goes all-steel.
145 Watches: Loud and clear Bell & Ross make a BR-X1 Tourbillion Sapphire. 146 Before we go Coming soon to a millennial near you: spinning black discs.
128 Style: Access all areas The hottest backstage reports on SS17 from Milan and Paris.
C o u rt e sy o f t h e a rt i st a nd t h e ga ll e ry.
e d i to r’s l e t t e r
There was the Audacity of Hope, the book that Barack Obama wrote. It became the book of an unprecedented and inspiring crowdfunded campaign that swept him into the White House ahead of a bewildered Hillary Clinton. What might the book of a post-truth world be called? The Audacity of Grope? Some would think so, but the truth is that hope has nothing on reality. The truth is, women voted Trump in numbers despite the release of a vid that once would have sunk entire ships and presidents. It wasn’t because they condoned his behaviour, say some pundits, but because they didn’t identify with the politically correct moral outrage that Trump is. Some women had kept their votes close to their chest until they had done the deed, their minds full of the anticipated opprobrium of their peers, flame-mobbing them for thinking different. After all, could the truth also be that Donald Trump is a symptom of his culture more than he is a cause of it? He wasn’t born yesterday, and we all unconsciously imbibe our place, time and social circles to become what we know as ourselves. But like fish trying to identify water, our personal lived realities are the most difficult thing for us to plainly see. And more so, that of others we cannot relate with but instead describe in isms (populism) and with trending words that, like grade inflation, have suffered a sharp decline in value (racist, misogynist/feminist, fundamentalist, etc). More disconcerting is the human tendency to become like that which scares us. The evidence for this is writ large in the savage conflicts we continually wage in the name of belief. We really need to learn how to let go. It’s the Malaysian way, isn’t it? Don't know means just say don’t know lah! The bracing contemporary philosopher John Gray, echoing ancient seekers, points out that humans are the only creatures that try to change the world—according to our belief systems and what we think it should be, as we carry it in our heads and our isms, rather than find joy in the world as it exists. We Instagram our food rather than eat it. So, I was recently at a lovely, lively dinner at a friend’s house where the conversation inevitably turned to politics. Trump was roundly panned as the worst US president of all time. Yeah. And then, in all earnestness, accused of readying the gas chambers for the reprehensibles on the other side, aka immigrants and the good guys speaking up for them, i.e. ‘us’. It was heady stuff. It struck me then that Trump is at least no worse than several past US presidents, simply because he hasn’t yet been in the job long enough invade a country, cause thousands of foreigners to be killed and make it sign exploitative contracts with well-connected US companies. Of 30
course, as I wasn’t wearing my crash helmet, safety goggles, ear defenders and hazmat suit, I didn’t bring up this alternative fact. But the reason I bring up Trump in Malaysia is because of new research that suggests our political beliefs affect not just our views on scientific issues, but how we interpret new information. So giving us more facts is at best, a mistake, reports the BBC’s Tom Stafford, because we select the ones that cleave with our existing views and filter out the stuff that doesn’t fit in. Like Facebook, we have a built-in algorithm for prejudice. And here’s the frightening clincher: the assumption that prejudice is emotionally based and not the result of enough deep thought is just wrong: According to a recent study by a team of philosophers, filmmakers and psychologists led by Daniel Kahan of Yale University, the people most likely to resist new facts that contradict their beliefs are the ones with the most education, highest mathematical abilities, and, ironically, the strongest tendency to be reflective about their beliefs. You could say they’re judgey because they use their intellect to dismiss contradictory views rather than to explore new stuff. More encouragingly, the study also suggests that by being curious, people can remain receptive to what they don’t already know, regardless of whether it contradicts their existing beliefs. In our post-truth times, curiosity seems to have been stomped on from a great height by the weight of collective sanctimony and hubris. Clever conversation entails the poking of holes in another’s religious argument, and makes stepping inside another’s belief system rather difficult, says Robert Primrose, a teacher of religion and philosophy in Scotland. Writing in Aeon (that admirable commitment to long and longish-form writing online), he puts it something like this: The purpose of conversation is to understand, however fanciful or wrong the beliefs might appear. When questions are asked, they are to reveal rather to eviscerate. Conversation requires moral imagination, similar to how we experience stories. Stories are at the heart of human life and also at the heart of religions. Primrose doesn’t say that ideological argument is as boring as stories are interesting, so I will. As this is being written, a North Korean drama with a plot that includes assassination by poison serviette has just taken place in Kuala Lumpur. For real. While we wait for the sequel to the wonderful Team America, Esquire will endeavour to cover the stories that help you make sense of the world as it is: even as it goes ballistic. Jason Tan Editor-in-Chief
c o n t r i b u to rs 32
Benny Lam Lam, a professional Hong Kong-based photographer, graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in Canada. He is a member of HKIPP and has been working with local and international brands and advertising agencies. Over the last decade Benny has been active in a range of creative media, and recently he has devoted himself to photography with a view to revealing the conditions of the underprivileged in Hong Kong. See his photo essay on page 88.
Dwight Garner Originally from West Virginia, Garner is an American journalist, now a literary critic for the New York Times. Previously, he was senior editor at the New York Times Book Review, where he worked from 1999 to 2009. He was also the founding books editor of Salon.com. Garner is also a contributor to Esquire. Read his article on the necessity of naps on page 46.
Janie Cai Fashion editor-at-large of Esquire Singapore, Cai, has been telling men how to dress for over a decade. She started her tenure at Men's Folio and August Man, before establishing herself as menswear stylist at Esquire Singapore. Aside from styling and editing, Cai has interviewed numerous international designers for style features and covers both the Paris and Milan Menswear shows for print and online. Catch her review of SS17 on page 128.
Vicky Ward Ward is a New York Times bestselling author, a magazine columnist and investigative reporter. She was a contributing editor to Vanity Fair for 11 years where her articles covered a wide array of subject matter: politics, finance, art and culture and society. Currently she is a contributor to Esquire and editor-at-large at Town & Country magazine, where she writes a column and several long-form investigative pieces per year. Read her profile of Jared Kushner on page 70.
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Commodity: Phantoms in the gloom
A new book of Sebastião Salgado’s images of Kuwait’s burning oil fields leaves an indelible mark.
IN 1991, when the American-led Coalition forces closed in on Iraqi troops forcing them to withdraw from Kuwait, Saddam Hussein’s men set fire to the Greater Burgan oil fields as they retreated, leaving nearly 600 wells aflame. The task of putting out these momentous fires—one of the greatest environmental disasters of modern history—was left to a group of professional oil fire fighters, who battled seven days a week to extinguish the flames and cap the wells. Alongside them was a 47-yearold French-Brazilian photographer, Sebastião Salgado, whose images of these men at work were almost as staggering as the blazing 40ft geysers they had been sent to tackle. The photographs were published in the New York Times over a quarter of a century ago, but now they have been collected for the first time in a monograph, Kuwait: A Desert on Fire, which is being published by Taschen. Salgado, now 72, has spent a lifetime photographing the natural world and the humans and animals that interact with it, though his Kuwait series is among the most shocking representations of men attempting to wrestle nature into submission; as Salgado himself described them, “covered head to foot in oil, they moved like phantoms through the gloom”. In the present day, so-called Islamic State fighters have reportedly set fire to oil fields in Iraq and Syria as they flee; the phantoms will need to walk again.
Kuwait: A Desert on Fire by Sebastião Salgado (Taschen) is out now.
Man of Note: Wang Jianlin
Repulsing monsters with The Great Wall—and winning friends and influencing people. Words by Jason Tan
B r i e f ly Wang Jianlin is China’s richest man— estimated net worth: USD31b as at February 2017, as clocked by Forbes. Born in 1954 in Sichuan province, Wang’s parents served in the Peoples Liberation Army. Wang enlisted in the PLA after middle school, rising to the rank of regimental commander and was a deputy to the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. He became general manager of a state-owned real estate company in 1988. Debt-riddled, it was turned around by Wang. This company became Wanda in the 1990s, a name chosen from a newspaper contest. Wang reportedly rarely takes a vacation and weekends are either spent in the office or on board his private jet flying to and from Wanda events across China.—Daniel Goh
P H OTO G R A P H BY J o e P u g l i e s e /Au g u st.
SPOILER ALERT: monsters attack the Great Wall of China in The Great Wall. It’s about time one of the world’s wonders became a movie blockbuster. The only question was always one of access: How would the strategic American industry called Hollywood convince China to let it exploit a priceless cultural asset? Cue the trailer, starring Matt Damon and directed by Zhang Yimou, an ostensibly thriving Sino-American relationship. Whitewash, said the critics. White man saves China from alien invasion? Despite or because of the alleged racism, the movie made a gob of money (USD224.5m prior to its Feb 17 US release; cost of production USD150m, according to Box Office Mojo)_for the studio. No human being can resist a plot where monsters attack human civilisation. But forget all that. The Great Wall has a great backstory that’s hinted at in a publicity interview with the award-winning Zhang, who says Damon is a great personal friend who was great to work with, and how The Great Wall “is probably a good way to introduce Chinese culture to a wider audience. I think if this film achieves great success it will open the door to a deeper exchange, and build bridges between the cultures and the film industries of the two countries to be even broader and more extensive.” Zhang may as well be echoing the acquisition strategy of Esquire’s Man of Note: Wang Jianlin, founder and chairman of Dalian Wanda Group. Wanda acquired Legendary East, the production company behind The Great Wall, for USD3.5b in cash in 2016. Legendary East is part of Hollywood studio, Legendary Entertainment, in turn responsible for the likes of Inception, The Dark Knight and The Hangover. And Jurassic World and Godzilla. For good measure, Wanda also added Golden Globes producer Dick Clark Productions to its Hollywood stables last year for USD1b. It already owns US cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings which it bought for USD2.6b in 2012 to become majority shareholder. AMC has since gone on its own acquisition campaign:
it became the world’s largest cinema chain at the end of last November when it bought UK-based Odeon & UCI Cinemas in a USD1.2b deal, and followed it up by acquiring rival chain Carmike for USD1.1b, reports Deadline Hollywood. Real estate pundits know Wanda as the holding company of the world’s largest property developer that Wang rebuilt from the ashes. Wanda Plazas and karaoke chains (immune to online shopping disruption) invigorate China’s urbanscape. But a quick look at its company profile reveals ‘cultural industry’ alongside its other core businesses of property and finance. Speaking about Wanda’s investments in Tinseltown to The Hollywood Reporter, the man the Americans call The Chairman explains the business rationale for cultural industry thus: “The income is not so big, but its influence is very large.” America projects its global influence with its pop culture—The Donald is a product—or what foreign policy wonks call ‘soft power’. This is as much about reach as content. Under Wang’s watch, Wanda has built the means to distribute its products—and influence—around the world. In fact, Wanda Film Holdings Company can make, distribute and screen its own movies, in its own cinema chains, in the US, China, UK and Oceania, comprising some 11,193 screens, plus the UK market. To top it off, Wanda claims 50 million members for Wanda Cinema Line, whose revenues are claimed to be 65 percent derived from online movie viewing. So whether you’d like to catch a movie on your mobile on the train or IMAX your experience of it in a theatre, it’s covered. Ultimately, Wanda wants to shift the global industry’s centre of gravity from Hollywood to the Three Kingdoms. Wang unveiled the 200-hectare all-encompassing film and television industrial park, Qingdao Movie Metropolis in 2013. Scheduled to fully open next August, its launch of was attended by assorted A-listers that included Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman, John Travol-
ta, Zhang Ziyi and Tony Leung. QMM will play host to the putative Qingdao International Film Festival meant to rival the best of the West. In a visit to Los Angeles last October, Wang announced a 40 percent rebate and other incentives for producers who film at QMM as part of China’s “first internationally competitive film and television industry development fund” by the Wanda Group and the Qingdao municipal government worth USD750m. All of the above anticipates that China’s box office will exceed USD10b by 2018 and grow by 15 percent annually to become the biggest in the world, by Wanda’s own reckoning. By 2026, China’s box office will reach USD30b, or 40 percent to 50 percent of global market share. As a proxy indicator of China-US relations, Wang’s ambition for Wanda Cultural Industry Group isn’t far off from the reality of the country’s complementary dependence. After his faux pas phoner to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and Twitter-fit about job losses and not kow towing to China, President Donald Trump has since reconciled himself to America’s existing ‘one-China’ policy. As Wang pointedly explained in a hand-out speech during his LA visit: “I think it’s actually going to increase jobs... even without QMM, films will still be shot in the UK, Australia or Malaysia... Wherever there are competitive incentives, wherever filming may lead to greater profits—that is where filmmakers will go... if Hollywood intends to shoot films elsewhere, they will. Your opportunities have not been curtailed. “...We have substantial hardware but we lack management skills and technical talents, which we consider as the ‘software’. Thus, we are recruiting tech experts and operation managers globally, especially from Hollywood. We have great need for talent, and the construction and operations of QMM will greatly increase Hollywood’s work opportunities. Some technical talent may not find their way in Hollywood, but in QMM, they may find ways to make a better living.” 39
Film: Resistance is futile
Director Damien Chazelle on how he achieved the impossible with the blockbuster-smashing musical, La La Land. Words by Hynam Kendall
that today. They have that shimmer, you know? Especially together. They’re contemporary, can act incredibly, but they also have that old school charm. And who aren’t social media obsessives
I loved that people weren’t completely aware of what Greta Garbo, Spencer Tracy or Ingrid Bergman had for lunch. It was only through the movies we felt close to those stars and for me it made the movies more special. It made them more sacred. That was your time to spend with them, your shared private moment between you and them. Now your favourite star might get into an argument with you on Twitter. That’s not magical. Ooh, a turntable.
Embrace the genre
In the six years it took to get La La Land made, I really got to see how much of a dirty word “musical” was in some circles. Especially among men. Perhaps we’re too literal-minded, hear the word “musical” and automatically think that everything’s going to be glitter and turned up to eleven. Traditionally in a musical, everything is heightened, even the acting, but we knew there could be a space where the pop and sugar of the musical experience could coexist with a dramatic, powerful acting style. It was a way to make this universe seem new and relevant. Really embrace it
The musical is a genre that’s willing to risk distancing an audience—I mean, characters will literally stop what they’re doing and burst into song. That’s just how it is, don’t apologise for it or put quotation marks around it. This is the world we are painting, a world where if someone’s emotional enough, if they fall in love enough or even if they’re just having a good day, they’re going to sing. Deal with it. And rip off the Band-Aid right away
So the audience can then start healing! 40
Literally the first scene of La La Land is a big musical number, in fact the biggest and most musical number in the entire film; the Los Angeles freeway bursts into song and dance! There’s no point hiding the fact there will be singing and dancing in a musical, so be upfront from the outset: audience, this is what you’re in for. Cherrypick your favourite bits
A movie isn’t a museum exhibit with a frame around it. You’re not bound to the rules of what has been before. Make something new out of the parts you like best. The thing I wanted to play with was the importance of dance, the idea of two people falling in love by dancing together, it’s such a Fred and Ginger idea that you just don’t see anymore. Cast actors with chemistry
It was important to have a couple the audience already rooted for, because we wanted to hark back to the old Hollywood-ness of an iconic screen coupling: Fred and Ginger, Bogart and Bacall, Myrna Loy and William Powell. But they also had to have that otherworldliness about them that they had in the golden age of cinema. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are the closest that we have to
Don’t limit your inspirations and touchstones
Beyond the musicals from cinema’s golden age, I was fascinated by depictions of LA on screen and watched a spate of more recent LA movies like Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction… There was this stretch where there were all these anamorphic cinemascope-type movies being shot on the streets of Los Angeles that made the city feel just epic. There’s also a great documentary called Los Angeles Plays Itself that really inspired me throughout the process. The movie actually became a love letter to LA. Use an original score
The benefits are you wind up at a point where the music and the film are inextricable from each other. The music has no baggage from before the film, the film doesn’t have baggage outside of the music. Write what you know
Always. My first few films have been pretty personal verging on autobiographical, but you can write what you know even if you’re writing about a spaceship 30,000 years from now. Just don’t write about the spaceship, write about the feelings of the people inside.
Music: The girl with the set of pipes
You might have caught one of her gigs in the Klang Valley, but if you haven’t yet, it’s time to get familiar with singer-songwriter Dani Komari. Words by Sarah Chong
Hiatus Kaiyote “Lace Skull”
Miles Davis “Freddie Freeloader”
ESQUIRE: Why jazz and blues? DANI KOMARI: I stumbled upon Nina Simone
Melody Gardot “Mira”
Amy Winehouse “I Heard Love is Blind”
and really liked her voice because it sounded like a man’s. I also liked the fact that it was “heavy” because I feel like I sound “heavy” as well. I then discovered Etta James, Amy Winehouse, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. As much as I was listening to other types of music, I always came back to jazz. That’s when I told myself that if I ever were going to sing professionally, I knew exactly what genre I wanted to do: jazz, with a touch of blues. I really like how it sounds, and I really like the lyrics. ESQ: What inspires your songwriting? DK: I don’t tell people what [my music] is about,
because it’ll limit what they think of it, but as long as they can feel it, that’s all that matters to me.
Bad Bad Not Good “Flashing Light”
ESQ: What’s the best advice that you have been given? DK: Just be yourself.
ESQ: Who’s taught you the most about life? DK: My dad has had a huge influence on me.
He was a university lecturer. I always wanted to know what was he doing and why he was teaching the subjects that he did. I also liked to hear what older people had to say. For a while, I didn’t really hang out with kids my age. I felt like conversations should have more meaning than just “what do you want to play today?”
ESQ: If you weren’t doing music now, what would you be doing? DK: Probably something that wouldn’t make me
feel as happy as I am now.
ESQ: What are your plans for 2017? DK: To perform more, and if possible, to do festi-
vals like Publika Jazz Fest. I want to put out a single, which would be great. I’m also trying to practise every week with the band. (Komari performs solo as well as with an eight-piece band.)
Find out more about Dani Komari on: soundcloud.com/danikomari, facebook.com/danikomari
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Wise words: in his latest book, author Michael Lewis (above) investigates the complex world of behavioural economics.
Books: Money balls-up
In his new book, Michael Lewis recounts the bond between two psychologists who exposed the fatal flaws in economic theory.
When Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky met in Israel in the ’60s, they were two academics with very different outlooks: Kahneman was a pessimistic, self-doubting descendant of Holocaust survivors; Tversky was a sociable and forthright native Israeli. And yet they shared two things: first, their genius, as anyone who entered their orbits attests; second, a sneaking suspicion that many of the theories and neat formulae that had been used for centuries to unpick and predict the behaviour of human beings had overlooked one thing—human beings. Kahneman and Tversky are considered two of the most important figures in the field of behavioural economics, which studies the effects of
emotion and psychology on decision-making and judgement, and it is the unusual, intense friendship of these two brilliant minds that is the subject of The Undoing Project, a new non-fiction book from American author Michael Lewis. Lewis is no dummy himself, as evidenced by the topics of his previous blockbusting books including Moneyball (2003), about the game-changing introduction of data analysis to baseball, and Liar’s Poker (1989), about the bond salesmen who radically overhauled the workings of Wall Street. Lewis has an uncanny knack of exploring and explaining complex worlds from which nonpartisans are usually excluded, either because the technical aspects and jargon are too intrinsically complicated, or because those on the inside want it to seem so. The field in which Kahneman and Tversky were operating was littered with off-putting terminology and defensive egomaniacs, but they were radical enough in their questioning to demonstrate that human beings are not inherently rational, reasonable or even consistent. To give just one of the examples they used as proof, if you were given the choice of a lottery ticket that offered a 50 per cent chance of winning GBP1,000, or a gift of GBP500, chances are you’d take the gift. If it was framed the other way round, and you were offered a lottery ticket with a 50 percent chance of losing GBP1,000, or a definite loss of GBP500, which would you go for? The gamble, right? The sum is the same, the impulse is radically different. The implications are huge. Kahneman and Tversky’s many insights have had an enormous impact on the way organisations do business; from the Israeli army learning how better to spot future tank commanders to doctors identifying cancer to NBA recruiters getting smarter with their draft picks, all of which are afflicted by a dependence on so-called expertise and intuition. Even though some of the academic discussions stray close to journal-ese, Lewis makes sure that The Undoing Project is full of juicy examples and attention-grabbing details (one chapter is called “Man Boobs”), framed by the fascinating character studies of these two very different men. When Lewis quotes one of Tversky’s favourite sayings, that “interesting things happened to people who could weave them into interesting stories,” he might well have been describing himself.
Culture: Second only to sex
The path to creative genius? It’s a blissful secret American culture doesn’t want you to know. Words by Dwight Garner
“Famous” by Kanye West, a private exhibition event at Blum And Poe, Los Angeles, 2016. The installation was a recreation of a scene from the video of West’s song, “Famous”, from The Life of Pablo album. It featured wax figures of himself, Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump, Rihanna and Anna Wintour, among others, asleep, post-orgy, on a long bed.
Pablo Picasso’s painting Le Sommeil depicts the artist’s young lover Marie-Thérèse Walter naked and asleep in a fat armchair. It’s a mesmerising image. It’s especially mesmerising to the napping cognoscenti, of which I count myself a member. Here’s one reason: on the back of the painting, on its stretcher, Picasso wrote, “Executed between three and six o’clock on January 29, 1932.” Three hours! Marie-Thérèse is not in the flimsy grip of a catnap. This is, napwise, the real deal. This is a portrait of bliss. The serious student of the nap, eyeballing Picasso’s painting, may pick nits. Three to six o’clock is on the late and long side for a meaningful siesta, pushing into the cocktail hour—though the Spanish wisely do everything a bit later. (The sun is higher, and your metabolism is slower, during what I think of as the golden nap zone: two to four o’clock.) Also, it’s awful to be observed while you’re sleeping. Poor Marie-Thérèse. In David Foster Wallace’s short story “Oblivion,” a man at a medical clinic 46
is shown a video of himself in REM slumber and he’s horrified at what he sees—his “slack jaw and protrusive jowls,” his “lips fishily loose.” I’d rather a vengeful hacker release CCTV footage of me elbowing a kindly old lady from the last counter seat at the Grand Central Oyster Bar than post a clip of me drooling in wanton afternoon repose. Naps have a bad reputation in America, where sleep deprivation is worn like a Boy Scout merit badge. The national motto, thanks to the industrious Puritans, might easily have been You snooze, you lose. Or, as Benjamin Franklin put it, “Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough.” Thomas Edison, who thought future Americans would sleep far less, declared, “Really, sleep is an absurdity, a bad habit.” Vladimir Nabokov called sleep “the most moronic fraternity in the world.” Warren Zevon rephrased all this for a different era when he wrote “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” a song heard to its finest freight-train effect (“I’m drinking heartbreak motor oil and Bombay gin”) on his early-’80s live algetty
bum, Stand in the Fire. We miss you, Warren, now that you’re off taking your dirt nap. A stigma is attached to a fondness
for sleeping, especially during the daytime. This we have to fix, because dire things happen when you’re sleep-deprived. The pilot at the helm of the Exxon Valdez, which spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into pristine Alaskan waters, hadn’t slept for 18 hours. The driver of the Walmart truck that slammed into Tracy Morgan’s limousine bus, killing one person and badly injuring Morgan and three others, allegedly hadn’t slept for 28 hours. Bill Clinton said, “Every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I’ve made because I was too tired.” It’s surreal to think that a nap might have spared the nation the Lewinsky scandal, which paved the way for the presidency of George W Bush. His administration woke up the world in all the wrong ways, as if Bush were an air horn in human form. The laureate of the nap, in the Western world at any rate, is Winston Churchill. Not for him the 20-minute head-on-desk doze. (Power naps, like PowerBars, make me feel worse, not better.) Here is perhaps his greatest utterance: “You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one—well, at least one and a half.” I have lived by these words for nearly a decade, as if they were tattooed on the underside of my eyelids. While they contain everything you need to know about golden-daylight slumber and are a pristine statement of fundamentals, I’d like to extend them a bit. There are some refinements of which you should be aware. Wake up early every day—say, 6am—and put in around seven hours of committed work. It’s easier to perform this labour when you know a sweet reward is coming. As Iris Murdoch advised in The Sea, The Sea, “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats, and if some of these can be inexpensive and quickly procured so much the better.” Second only to sex, naps are life’s most significant frugal pleasure. Break at 1pm or so for lunch, and make it delicious. You need to anchor yourself down a bit for a decent nap; have a chocolate-chip cookie and a glass of milk. You will need a cold, quiet room, ide-
ally away from dog flatulence, though I sometimes allow my wheezing old black Lab to lumber upstairs with me. Now take off your clothes (my wife calls these “pants-off naps”) and climb into bed. Part of the pleasure for me is using my iPhone for about 30 minutes before I go to sleep to catch up on news and the yak on my Twitter feed. Light from smartphones wrecks your ability to sleep at night, studies say, but we’re talking about the daytime here. I’ll also play a game or two of online backgammon. It’s relaxing, even if I lose. I once confronted a guy whose online handle was Bezos. I’m not sure it was Jeff, but I thrashed him anyway, in the name of my friends who own, or formerly owned, bookstores. Upon waking, the rookie can still make mistakes. The first is to forgo taking a shower. To properly jump-start your second day, you need to rinse away the cobwebs. If you’re in a dandified mood, you can even put on fresh, crisp clothes. The second common mistake is to let postnap guilt sour your mood. Nix this by getting back to your desk for a solid three or four hours, breaking only when it’s time to make a martini and give in to the evening. I know: This advice is pointless if you have an office job. Short of pulling a George Costanza and hiring a contractor to build a napping lounge under your desk, you’re out of luck. But good naps, like beach houses and fast WiFi, are aspirational. One of the benefits of, say, starting your own company is that you get to set your own nap schedule. You can look to writers for guidance on doing this properly. The novelist Jim Harrison, in his memoir The Raw and the Cooked, sang the praises of “daily and fully undressed naps” and mentioned a five-hour snooze that followed a hot-dog-eating session at Papaya King. Philip Roth has come around, too. “Let me tell you about the nap,” he said on National Public Radio, laughing. “It’s absolutely fantastic. When I was a kid, my father was always trying to tell me how to be a man, and he said to me (I was maybe nine) . . . , ‘Philip, whenever you take a nap, take your clothes off, put a blanket on you, and you’re going to sleep better.’ Well, as with everything, he was right. . . . Then the best part of it is that when you wake up, for the first 15 secs, you have no idea where you are. You’re just alive. That’s all you know. And it’s bliss, it’s absolute bliss.” When I click “send” on this piece, I’m going to have lunch and then take a siesta—an hour or so, not three. Like Marie-Thérèse, I’m going to get naked. Unlike her, I’m going to pull up the covers.
Stand in the Fire by Warren Zevon.
Oblivion by David Foster Wallace.
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch.
The Raw and the Cooked by Jim Harrison.
A thousand words on our culture: Oops! You’re welcome.
From aunties to cookies and more: how design is ruining the world. Words by Kuah Jenhan
Like Whack-A-Moles, I’ve made many mistakes and poked my head out where it didn’t belong. Some mistakes, like peeling a stubborn barcode off a book, are small and regretful, and some mistakes, like the universe, continue to expand, and some mistakes, like the value of Pi, I will never hear the end of. Often, in times of self-doubt and pity, I rewind and play, rewind and play again tapes of these mistakes in my head trying to find out why it had to happen in the first place. For example, years ago, in my attempt to make myself curry-flavoured pasta, I naively confused kaffir lime leaves with curry leaves. In another more complicated time, after disclosing my feelings for a girl, she compared hanging out with me less desirable than time with a drug dealer, and after a spell of miserably coping with self-shaming and hating, I decided to FTS (millennial speak for not care anymore), hated who I was, became a self-proclaimed badboi, and grew a beard. 48
One thing I realise though, is that most if not all of these mistakes happened because I wanted to achieve something — mistakes by way of attempting to be ‘better by design’, a term I was recently acquainted with and find rather hard to grasp or accept. Design is subjective, after all, and Better is a judgment unbounded by time. Here’s how being better by design recently didn’t work for me. On my left was a box of a Chinese New Year snack sporting a label that read, ‘Fish Crisps With Seaweed’. Unlike in the past when snacks came in boxy aluminium containers glistening with finger oil or with the current staple red-lidded, transparent tubs (oil stains still present), this one was branded and exhibited its nutritional information accompanied with high-resolution images that boldly informed you, sans asterisk—snack may not resemble image. This CNY snack packaging had obviously been made to be better by design. This box was given to me by the mum of a friend and it was delicious. When asked where P H OTO G R A P H by C E photo, U w e A ra n as.
she got it from, she said her other aunty friend gave her a few boxes and refused to tell her where she got it from because it was meant to be, like, her signature Chinese New Year gift. Whatever lah, selfish aunty! In my mind, that aunty is the amalgamation of all the scary aunties you’ve watched in all those online CNY advertisements—clothes that induce temporary blindness, permed hair, radioactive eye shadow, and that lopsided, crooked, pursed smile nesting below a hairy mole. Somehow, being better by design, this box of snacks had become some form of aunty commodity that I had no way of securing more of. I googled the brand on the box and it didn’t have a website. Another attempt at being better by design exists in the form of local town planning—in the humongous suburb and now city in its own right, Petaling Jaya. The famed Rothman’s roundabout, since 2011, is now a Rothman’s traffic light junction. I’ve asked frequent users if it was indeed better and received many Yesses and a couple of
Nos but my favourite response was from a friend named Monti: “At least now we know why we’re not moving.” So, the intentionally designed CNY snack box was a negative while the Rothman’s traffic light was, in Monti’s own way, better. Meanwhile, my mistakes of being a badboi and growing a beard landed me a sold-out, stand-up comedy run and earned me involuntary kisses after a gig. It was badboi’s first appearance in the breezy island of Penang—I was yanked by my shirt collar and kissed! By two girls! Simultaneously. It was only on the cheeks but in my life, no one had ever kissed me first (without me asking). Despite the surprise kisses, I’m still more pleased with my kaffir lime leaf pasta. Like salted caramel—which I’m convinced exists because someone mistook salt for sugar—it was delicious. I swear. Life as a comedian does make mistakes a lot more fun. I might use them as material someday. However, there are really way cooler mistakes that have ended up as way much more. Percy Spencer was attempting to research radar technology with new vacuum tubes when, during one experiment, he realised the candy bar in his pants had melted. Like any self-respecting scientist, he rushed for corn kernels and made popcorn as he watched the microwave oven come into existence. From something melting in your pants to rising, Pfizer researchers in the 90s were taking a stab at creating a treatment for angina which they found to be useless for the heart but good for making men hard (again) and thus Viagra was born. Another cool mistake played out in 1974 in 3M Laboratories. Spencer Silver was trying to create adhesives when he made something way weaker than what was already available. About to be crowned underachiever of the year, his equally cool colleague, Arthur Fry, thought this lousy glue would make him semi-sticky bookmarks for his hymnal while singing in his church choir. Like two really blunt rocks butting each other, sparks formed and so did Post-It-Notes. Therefore, if better by design doesn’t necessarily mean better, then mistakes can also sometimes be better. Ideally, everything should be made to be better anyway. So I say to hell with being better by design! Do whatever so long as you can do, make mistakes, but if you can’t grow a beard, don’t. Take it from me, some mistakes will forever remain mistakes. Otherwise, take it from Mark Twain, “Name the greatest of all inventors—Accident.” 49
Car: Kaizen and evolutionary theory You wouldn’t know it from looking: the (new) Corolla Altis turns 50. Words by James Ahmad
Some cars need no sexing up: this restored Toyota 2000GT had a mystery bullet hole that indicated the driver was hit in the thigh, and crashed it. Where's the kaizen? In the painstaking attention to achieving unerring beauty of line when cars were still designed and made by people, not computers.
What explains the faith of fans in their football clubs? We support them through every change of manager, striker, midfielder, defender, owner, stadium… Never mind if they’re unrecognisable from just last week. We carry on and update all our insults about rival fans and their heroes. Cars are like football clubs. And, come to think of it, so are people: not a single cell in your body is the same as it was four years ago. Your heart, brain, liver, kidneys, gonads. All are new and improved! The Toyota Corolla is like that. It’s 50 years young this year, all-new and improved. If you were born yesterday, you can ask anyone of your ancestors about the Corolla and they will have stories about their ride—and how they met your mother, grandmother, et al (or vice versa if you’re asking your mother or grandma). We all know at least one person with a Corolla in their personal history, wherever they are in the world. The original was born in 1966, rising in the aftermath of post-war Japan to epitomise the renewed spirit of a rebuilding, industrialising country. In the generations since, the compact Corolla designed for Asian physiques has gained an extra name to become the Toyota Corolla Altis, made for global consumption. As its customer base has expanded (in more ways than one) and acquired a taste for the finer things, so has the Corolla Altis evolved to meet their 50
needs. Anthropologists can tell you much about the human race from reading the generations of Toyota Corolla when they first appeared in different world markets. We can’t do that right now because that would require an atlas-sized article. But we can briefly touch on kaizen—the deeply ingrained philosophy of continual improvement. Toyota explains it as a quality that is “built-in right from the design stage and continues all the way to the completed car to deliver to customer.” And, car pundits will add, uncommon longevity and value. Kaizen is no mere puff. It is fastidious but unshowy attention to exorcising the devil in the details. For example: as part of “noise reduction measures ... to accomplish excellent cabin quietness ... improvements were made on the dash panel inner silencer, front door trim, inner weather strip, front door clips and floor carpet layer to suppress road noise.” In the context of an increasingly insecure world, the current manifestation of the Corolla Altis has very impressive and reassuring safety features, both active and passive. It won a “Rising Star Recognition” award ASEAN NCAP Grand Prix Awards 2016 for being the first model to improve safety standards across the ASEAN region and has an ASEAN NCAP 5-star rating in the Adult Occupant Protection category across all grades. What does this mean in English? All mod-
els have seven airbags (driver, passenger, driver knee, sides and curtain), Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control (to help prevent oversteer and understeer, and ensure straight line stability, turning stability and acceleration from standstill). There’s also ABS (anti-lock braking system; so you can steer while standing on the brakes in an emergency) with EBD (electronic brake force distribution) and BA (brake assist). The Corolla Altis is made from a high percentage of strong, lightweight high-tensile steel. Its structure is designed to absorb and disperse energy from a frontal collision throughout its entire frame, reducing the risk of harm to occupants. So, it keeps you safe if you crash it, but it will
try to stop you from crashing in the first place. That said, you know the Corolla Altis will be a sporty carriage up to a point that eases your way into polite circles. And it will be genuinely, deeply refined because its engineers have tested everything they currently know to think of, for the sake of the customer. When you sit in it, you know. The family sedan is now a highly evolved machine and covetable brand. So, the Corolla Altis comes with a comprehensive security system “fully tested by UMW Toyota Motor in all conditions” that consists of an engine immobiliser, cabin motion sensor, tilt sensor and a siren with back-up battery. And you can have the interior in any colour, as long as it’s fashionista black.
The progenitor, from 1966 (below), was a beneficiary of the Marshall Plan after World War II, when machines were being repurposed for peace.
Car: Class act
The C250 Coupé is Mercedes-Benz’s most personal driving experience yet. Words by Sim Wie Boon
There comes a time in every man’s life when he yearns for a two-door car. Whether you're in the grip of middle-age crisis or millennial FOMO, you’ll want to rock a coupé at some point. That would be the all-new Mercedes C250 Coupé. Sleek and sexy, the C250’s proportions and angular styling make it look sophisticated yet agile. The sporty front section strikes out with a diamond radiator grille and long bonnet, while the rear incorporates the sharp, streamlined edges of Mercedes’ many past coupés. A high beltline and frameless doors add a loungey character to the ve52
hicle. It used to be that the breed was just louche, but now it’s clubbable. Inside, the C250 mixes the distinctive C-Class interior with portier characteristics, such as Artico leather upholstery, light, longitudinal-grain aluminium trim, an Audio 20 entertainment system, thematic automatic climate controls, keyless start function and a Speedtronic speed limiter. Despite less room at the back, you’ll find the C250 a comfortable ride with stable roadholding. The car’s step-off is smooth as butter, and it makes unruffled progress through the 7-speed
All hailed rides should be like this.
automatic transmission designed for just this purpose. Smallbump absorbtion and insulation from harshness adds to sensation of unimpeded progress, aided by firm body control. The steering delivers a nice, organic build-up of resistance; it might seem heavy at first, but feels more natural the longer you use it. With up to 211hp, you can find yourself hitting 100kph in 6.8secs with a possible top speed of 250kph. Whether you’re a fast driver or a chilledout cruiser, the car’s choice of “ECO”, “Comfort”, “Sport”, “Sport+” and “Individual” settings lets
you personalise how you’d like your drive to be. Choice is the preserve of the privileged. The latest iteration of the C250 has a higher proportion of aluminium, which helps make the body lighter than its predecessor, and is strengthened by high-tensile materials in key areas. The Mercedes C250 Coupé is a lovely car with great features and design. It’s perfect for those who have never owned a coupé and are looking to get one. More importantly, it can more than hold its own against competitors’ higher range models due to its versatility and power. 53
Welcome to la cité du vin, a gourmand’s paradise of fine vintages and fabulous food at every historic turn. Words by Tom Barber
We love a city which has recovered its mojo, and Bordeaux has most certainly done so. The grand 18th-century boulevards and buildings— built with the proceeds of the wine industry— spent decades down at heel until a sense of urban renewal recently lured young entrepreneurs back. Now, with the imminent (and long overdue) arrival of a direct, TGV high-speed train link from Paris, the capital’s Gallic hipsters may well also migrate to France’s west coast. They’ll find a city that’s hipper, and more chipper, than any in France. Put another way, it would be damn difficult to be bored in Bordeaux. Tom Barber is a founder of the award-winning travel company originaltravel.co.uk
Brand new La Cité du Vin, an extraordinary building that resembles Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao. Its curvaceous metallic exterior has been designed to mirror wine swirled in a glass. Inside, enjoy (inevitably) wine tastings, interactive winemaking displays and advice on pairing wines with food. Also, eat at one of its three restaurants and choose from 800 wines available to buy. laciteduvin.com
Wine tasting, either at Château Smith Haut Lafitte, or on an urban wine trail using its dedicated app to navigate through the winding alleyways of the city from wine bar to bar, each offering a new take on the city’s premier industry. smith-haut-lafitte.com; bordeaux-tourism.co.uk
8 Avoid Telling a Bordelais how much like Paris their beloved hometown looks. They will point out that Baron Haussmann was inspired by Bordeaux in the 19th century to transform the French capital into a city of wide boulevards and magnificent municipal buildings.
The city’s Bassins à Flot (wet docks) on the Garonne River are transforming into a hub of contemporary housing, cultural and retail spaces. At 1 Quai Armand-Laland, you’ll find La Dame, a huge barge that’s now a restaurant, art space and nightclub with international DJs.
La Brasserie Bordelaise is a Bordeaux institution with a classic three-course lunch menu, along with cheap and very cheerful wines. Copy what the locals gorge on here and choose delicious oysters, roast pigeon and Simmental rib steak. brasserie-bordelaise.fr
the finest cheese shops in Bordeaux (therefore one of world’s finest). See the three medieval ageing caves in the cellars, then snaffle some Saint-Nectaire Fermier.
Le Quatrième Mur is a restaurant owned by twoMichelin-starred Philippe Etchebest, ex-rugby player and boxer, whose career as a celebrity TV chef spawned the name (“The Fourth Wall” of TV/cinema). Pray the pork loin is on when you go. quatrieme-mur.com
The best hotel is Les Sources de Caudalie, 20mins from the centre, surrounded by the famous Château Smith Haut Lafitte vineyards. The owners pioneered vinothérapie, spa treatments based on the healing properties of vines and grape extracts. So, enjoy a Merlot wrap or cabernet scrub, or simply overindulge in the two excellent restaurants before a
drink in wine bar Rouge. sources-caudalie.com
8. When in…
Eat oysters in the Marché des Quais on Quai des Chartrons. Ask for Arcachons from nearby Arcachon Bay, home to France’s finest oyster beds and also Europe’s highest sand dune at 107m.
Gordon Ramsay’s Le Grand Hotel already has a Michelin bauble but you’re here to enjoy Night Beach rooftop bar. Order a Remember Me cocktail of rum, raspberries, lemon and ginger beer, and watch the city at night. bordeaux.intercontinental.com
10. Drink more
C’mon: you’re in Bordeaux! To come to the capital of quaffing without sampling the finest wines would be a crying shame. Aux Quatre Coins du Vin wine bar offers 40 dispensers filled with top vintages—which you can sample by the glass. aux4coinsduvin.com
You’ve drunk the wine, now eat the cheese: Jean d’Alos Fromager-Affineur has 150 or so on display in one of
La Cité du Vin
Jean d’Alos Fromager-Affineur
Night Beach rooftop bar
La Brasserie Bordelaise
Aux Quatre Coins du Vin
Les Sources de Caudalie
Château Smith Haut Lafitte
i l lu st r at i o n by VAL E N LI M.
Health: Acting on impulse A shortcut to fitness? The results might shock you. Words by Daniel Goh
And so, March rolls around. It’s been two months since you declared (possibly after one too many flutes of champagne) that this is the year that your BMI goes from “sack of potatoes” to the oh-so-fine end of lean. But you’re not in the gym flooding your brain with dopamine. Because it’s hard. Four times a week plus endless reps just for a toned physique? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Why must it take so long to get fit? We live in a world of instant gratification. We watch movies on demand, we have instant noodles, and it takes only 30 minutes for Domino’s to reach your doorstep. So why not with exercise? Enter the age of Impulse Studio. “Choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because he’ll find an easy way to do it.” Who said that? Bill Gates. He’s a billionaire, by the way. A regular gym routine requires constant effort over long periods, but Impulse Studio uses Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) aka science to deliver results with just two 20-minute workouts a week. Being a personal devotee of Mr Gates’ mantra, I had to sign up. 56
The concept is simple. EMS workouts are a combination of simple body-weight exercises and electrodes on your skin that emit impulses—much like the signals sent by our brains—to trick your muscles into contracting. Your body thinks you’re doing a lot more work than you actually are. And that’s basically it: exercising while strapped up in an electrical suit. Impulse Studio is one of the first outfits to offer EMS training as an entire workout substitute rather than as a supplement to a regular workout. One cool thing about it is that it’s a one-stop shop: everything you need is provided for. You walk in, take your 20-minute workout, shower and walk out. This eliminates the “Oh, I forgot my gear and, therefore, the only thing to do is go home and binge on Netflix and potato chips” excuse entirely. Having had countless shocks as an inquisitive toddler, the idea of electrocuting myself isn’t a particularly attractive proposition at first. But I am assured that the intensity of EMS impulses is just deep enough to penetrate the skin and reach the muscles, never going anywhere close to your i l lu st r at i o n by j u n h u n ya p.
bones or internal organs. Still, having strapped on the suit, I have a bit of a John Coffey moment. But as they pull the lever and, uhm, tap on the LCD screen, it is a tingle, not a shock; a little unpleasant but nothing I can’t endure for the promise of six-pack abs. Your Impulse workout is conducted with a trainer and a max of two people per session. Instead of battling with exercise machines, your fight is with yourself in front of a wall-to-wall mirror (Narcissus would be so proud). Without the current, the workouts are a breeze: a few squats, some high knees, child’s play. But turn the EMS machine on and suddenly everything is exponentially harder. My body feels heavy, my muscles start to cramp after a while and, by the end of it, my balls are on the floor—or rather the stress balls that I am given to squeeze during the session. It feels good, like I’ve been pumping iron for hours. Over the next couple of days, my muscles ache in satisfaction of a workout well done. Impulse Studio doesn’t aim to compete with run-of-the-treadmill gyms or CrossFit establishments that mix fitness with being social. Instead, it provides a service for those who want a quick, convenient and effective workout sans long and arduous hours pumping iron. Full disclosure though: if you want washboard abs, you’ll still have to make changes to your diet. After all, it’s not a miracle machine; just good science.
Goh on his way to building that dream bod.
S i d e ba r i l lu st r at i o n s by R e m i e G eo f f ro i.
A Gy m o f A n g e l s Victoria’s Secret models have made New York’s Dogpound their fitness home. Maybe you should, too. Josephine Skriver.
the 1 5 -M i n u t e Dogpound Quickie Repeat three times. Reference YouTube for proper form.
Burpees Reps: 15. Why: Offers a fullbody workout—legs, core and upper body. Tip: Land softly on your feet to protect your knees.
Ask Kirk Myers, owner/trainer of the Dogpound, why so many Victoria’s Secret models—11 of the 14 current Angels— are members and he responds with fitness platitudes: “Everyone here has a positive energy.” “We’ve built a strong community.” “The girls are seeing results.” Uh-huh. Working out at the gym doesn’t elucidate the mystery, either. The space, though stocked with brand-new highquality equipment, is stamp-sized. There are no showers. The changing room is a bathroom stall. But look around the steel-and-black interior as you train one-on-one or in a group boxing class and there they are in the flesh: the type of women you wish would grab the StairMaster next to you but never actually materialise. Myers’s exceptional training skills are certainly one reason so many models have sought him out. And then there’s Hugh Jackman, who became his client in 2014. Helping Jackman achieve his Wolverine body led to press, which led to more clients. That still doesn’t fully explain the models’ presence, however. Turns out they started coming not because of Jackman’s jacked physique but because of a hairstylist who trained with Myers and recommended him to Angel Jasmine Tookes. She loved it and she returned with more Angels. It snowballed from there. “The Dogpound is a perfect combination of energetic music, positive people and amazing body transformations,” says Josephine Skriver. We must say: platitudes are much easier to swallow when served by an Angel.—ERIC SULLIVAN
Plank-ups Reps: 15 per arm. Why: Builds core strength. Tip: Pause for a twocount at the top to help maintain form.
Health: Mind your head
Four ways to clear your mind and benefit your body.
A sky so crisp that it hurts. In the best way.
Come the end of the chinese lunar new year, many of us will feel compelled to make
quick-fix self-improvement resolutions: dry(ish) February, a juice cleanse or punishing gym work. One of the most invigorating and rewarding permanent lifestyle changes you can make is to focus on self care. If you work, play and train hard then you are probably running on empty, which can affect work performance, gym results and achieving life goals. If you want a productive 2017, take time to reflect, switch off and recalibrate your mind. Here are some excellent ways to be calmer and healthier. THE RETREAT
Hiking in the hills near Canyon Ranch.
Canyon Ranch, Tucson, Arizona Need to recharge and recalibrate? Then this is the retreat for you. Founded in 1979 by Mel Zuckerman, the formerly overweight, stressed businessman was inspired to open Canyon Ranch after experiencing a lifestyle epiphany while on a Californian health break. Set in the Sonoran Desert, Arizona, you can complete hikes, bike rides and runs set against the backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The retreat caters for all with an optional daily programme of meditative classes, yoga, pilates and lectures plus a high-spec gym, PT sessions, HIIT classes and health assessments. There is also a medical and life coaching centre, nutritionists and four swimming pools. A week here and you’ll feel like a new man. Better still, Canyon Ranch has opened a resort in Kaplankaya on Turkey’s Aegean coast for something a little closer to home. canyonranchdestinations.com
111Cryo at Harvey Nichols, London Whole Body Cryotherapy Treatment (WBCT) exposes the body to temperatures between –80 and –90°C using NASA technology. A recent study by the Wroclaw Medical University in Poland found WBCT significantly alleviated symptoms of depression and anxiety, and positively influenced frame of mind. 111cryo.com
Zestology by Tony Wrighton Sky Sports presenter Tony Wrighton’s sideline in informative podcasts offers energy and motivation hacks easily applied to everyday life. Infused with wit and not overtly preachy, he features interviews with authorities in literature, sport, health and science; its appeal has made it a staple in the iTunes self-help chart. Free, tonywrighton.com
Yin yoga at TriYoga/Third Space An alternative experience to the more widely-known hatha, vinyasa flow and ashtanga disciplines, yin yoga stretches are held for four minutes to promote mindfulness, deep stretching of muscles, connective tissues and joints. Practise weekly to relieve tension in mind and body, lower stress levels and reduce blood pressure. triyoga.co.uk; thirdspace.london
I l lust r ati o ns by Jan B uc h cz i k.
Food: The heat on Brexit
London offers world-class examples of British national cuisine. Here’s a sample—from six of its hippest South Asian restaurants.
1. Tandoor Chop House
Amritsari lamb chops, GBP13 (RM72) Marinated with Kashmiri chillies, tomato, garlic, cinnamon and ginger (and more), the chops are charred to perfection in the tandoor and are as good as you’ll find on the subcontinent or in Malaysia. tandoorchophouse.com
2. Hoppers Black pork kari, GBP6 (RM33) The best of the six karis (curries) on the menu here, “black” refers to the spice combination used, rather than type of pork. The Malaysian porcine appreciation society might stampede this way. hopperslondon.com
3. Kricket Bhel puri, GBP4.50 (RM27) Besides the incredible sausage roll, the bhel puri—a kind of posh bombay mix—might just be the best thing on the menu. Sausage? Brace yourselves. kricket.co.uk
Ta n d o o r C h o p H o u s e p h oto g r a p h : K at e B e r ry.
4. Gunpowder Aloo chat, GBP5.50 (RM30) With its moreish mix of fried potatoes, onions and chickpeas with garam masala, yoghurt and tamarind, there’s no better way to start a meal. gunpowderlondon.com
5. Calcutta Street Laal saag, GBP6.50 (RM36) A red spinach dish to please those who prefer their Indian food lighter and a little more unorthodox than the average chicken tikka masala. calcuttastreet.com
6. Gymkhana Lasooni wild tiger prawns, red pepper chutney, GBP18 (RM100) Fired in the tandoor and slathered in a piquant house chutney, they’re the best prawns you’ll eat in London, Indian or otherwise. gymkhanalondon.com
Style: Genderless, unisex, sustainable MCM creates a capsule collection for a borderless world. Interview by Sarah Chong
Universal Everything created a 360° weather installation by combining radial architecture, large-scale video, atmospheric lighting design and the hologauze, a super-fine projection material that creates a holographic illusion.
When British designer Christopher Ræburn met MCM Chief
Visionary Officer Kim Sung-joo through a mutual friend in London, they quickly found themselves talking animatedly about ideas of gender, sustainability and the consumption of contemporary fashion. Their perfect storm of complementary worldviews led to MCM’s seriously stunning SS17 show at London Fashion Week Men’s that got everyone talking. With the help of digital art and design studio Universal Everything, models presented MCM’s new offerings in a holographic instal60
lation of rain, wind and clouds that recreated world climates to beautiful effect. Ræburn gives Esquire exclusive insight into the making of the aptly named “Made to Move” collection.
sustainable fabric foundation leads to contemporary designs for the garments but, ultimately, this collection is about functional products that are truly “made to move”.
ESQUIRE: Could you tell us about some of the materials used and why you chose them? CR: We worked with the best mills in
ESQ: Why is sustainability so important to you? CR: We live in a changing world and
Europe to produce high-quality fabrics that are bluesign-approved (a Swedishbased certification for sustainable textiles), while our Ecoalf synthetic fabrics utilise re-used plastic bottles. The
cannot continue to over-consume. I personally feel that I have an obligation as a designer to provide customers with a better choice. Ultimately, it’s a modern approach to thinking about everything that we do, and why.
Bomber jacket in Limonta jacquard.
The modular bag system.
Guests at the MCM x Christopher Raeburn SS17 show at Grand Connaught Rooms in London, England. Christopher Ræburn (below).
ESQ: Who did you have in mind when you designed this collection? CR: It felt important for us to create a
genderless and unisex collection catering to both millennials and the older generation to re-imagine what travel means today, and in the future.
ESQ: What does the term “global nomad” mean to you, or just who is this person? CR: The global nomad is a genderless,
modern traveller who seeks good design and functionality to cater to his or her on-the-move lifestyle.
ESQ: Does this collection reflect your personal style? CR: Absolutely. The mix
of innovative design, functionality and playful prints reflects my personal style.
ESQ: Do you have a personal favourite from the collection? CR: I’m a big fan of the bomber jacket in
Limonta jacquard and the modular bag system—two great products that offer something new and interesting for the modern nomad.
ESQ: What’s next for Christopher Ræburn x MCM? CR: It’s too early to say
whether we will produce a second capsule collection [but] we will continue to offer our expertise in innovation and sustainability. In the long term, we are committed to sustainability. ESQ: What are some of your key travel essentials? CR: Fresh podcasts, a good book and
Style: The new guard
Anthony Vacarello’s debut collection for Saint Laurent is black and devilish. Words by Sarah Chong
P h oto g r ap h by C o ll i e r S c h o r r.
Original Washed Blue Shadow YSL Military Patch Jean Jacket.
Black Double-Breasted Military Jacket.
Metallic Bronze Hooded Lightweight Anorak.
Leather Moto Jacket.
Medium ID Convertible Bag in Black Canvas.
Signature WYATT 40 Jodhpur in Black.
It was a collective gasp heard around the world. The rumours were true: Hedi Slimane was leaving Saint Laurent! During his four-year spell as Creative Director, the brand’s reputation and fortunes had gone from strength to strength. So, what would Anthony Vacarello, Slimane’s successor, do? He had big, big shoes to fill, noted the pundits; bigger than Big Foot’s John Lobbs. Then, in a shocking move, the @ysl Instagram account was swiftly wiped clean of all previous posts, except one—Vacarello’s portrait. And now, after the whirlwind of events, one thing remains in place: “Yves” has not been reinstated beside “Saint Laurent” even as the BelgianItalian Vacarello has revived the YSL logo for his debut collection. Vacarello’s previous gigs were with Versus Versace and his eponymous label, which he has put on hold to give his full attention to Saint Laurent.
He opted not to have a runway show for the latter’s SS17 collection, but Esquire managed to get a sneak peek anyway. Vacarello favours black, that’s a known fact, but here, we see a collection that’s so much more than its colour palette. By deconstructing iconic pieces like the suit jacket and pants, Vacarello plays the devil in the details. The signature and highly coveted motorcycle jacket gets an updated YSL logo; the suit jacket has its pockets set lower. These quiet tweaks speak volumes. You’d expect sharp tailoring, slick leather jackets and slim denim from Saint Laurent, and that’s what you get—executed with a twist. Yet, it isn’t hard to work the brand into your existing look. Vacarello now moves on to the next stage of Saint Laurent’s evolution. What does he have planned? We’ll just have to wait and see if he manages to make fashionistas gasp in glee. 63
Style: Animal attraction
Beasts of the Serengeti meet the Chapman brothers at LV.
The Amazone bags Kim Jones: “Associating the African wild animals of the Chapman brothers with the iconic Damier Ebène canvas was completely obvious. It injects such a cool adventure spirit into this classic Louis Vuitton signature.”
Kim Jones, creative director at Louis Vuitton, is famous for his richly referenced collections and his Spring/Summer 2017 offering makes no exception. Featuring Masai-inspired patterns, jumpers influenced by the colourings on springboks, and accessories crafted from crocodile and ostrich skins, the new collection is inspired by his childhood in Africa. To celebrate, Louis Vuitton this month opens a pop-up store in Selfridges showcasing an exclusive preview of the new collection, including many pieces produced in collaboration with Brit artists Jake and Dinos Chapman. For denim-heads, the store within a store will host a unique denim bar where two exclusive styles of jeans, each with a limited run, will be available alongside the brand’s entire new denim line. Below, Jones exclusively picks his favourite pieces on sale in the new shop. louisvuitton.com
The Savane ‘Big Five’ charms necklace “I wear charms and medals every day, each of them reminding me of travel, or just a nice souvenir.”
The Chapman brothers shirts “How cool are these shortsleeved shirts revisited by my friends, the great Chapman brothers!”
The plaid shirt “Probably my favourite piece, I have been wearing the prototype of this great bleached plaid cotton shirt for months.”
The peacoat “Classic, timeless and chic, the peacoat is definitely a staple in any wardrobe. You can never go wrong with a well-cut example.”
The Chapman stole “The Louis Vuitton stoles are perfectly sized, very light and the cashmere blend brings softness and keeps you warm.”
Brass-palladium elephant necklace with gold and bronze finish.
Navy cotton giraffe print T-shirt with collar, blue elephant print.
Bleached plaid cotton shirt.
Navy wool knit panelled peacoat.
Navy cashmere-silk stole.
H ea rst St u di os.
Style: A bridge to a border One eyewear trend doubles the style impact. Words by Sarah Chong
In case you haven’t heard, Italy’s Luxottica eyewear group (owner of Oakley, Ray-Ban and Sunglass Hut) is merging with French lens maker Essilor in one of Europe’s largest cross-border deals worth EUR50 billion. How did specs come to be so big? Because you probably already own a classic Wayfarer or Aviator, or three. And now you can double up on your stylish shades with a doublebridge one. The classic Aviator may be best known for its thin double, or even triple bridge, but we’ve come a long way since its ’30s origins. This season’s eyewear trend sees a double-bridge feature framed by all sorts of shapes, both iconic and modern. Be not afraid that the double-bridge trend might give you a unibrow (or monobrow, or Anthony Davis). Find one that fits your face shape, and you’ll do just fine. 65
Style: Cause célèbre
Luke Evans, vampire and beastly villain, takes a trip with Bulgari’s Save the Children campaign to Mumbai. As told to Sim Wie Boon
We went to Govandi, which is an area where there is a huge slum and people live in shacks on the side of the biggest landfill in Asia. I’ve seen poverty and underprivileged parts of society before, but this really was something that I’ve never experienced first-hand. It was shocking and eyeopening, as well as humbling to see these people with almost nothing smiling as we were greeted by them. The children are probably the ones who suffer the most. The sanitation and the quality of life for a child in these slums are extremely poor. The charity has turned a bus into a classroom that can cater for quite a surprising number of chil66
dren, and they travel around the slum every day educating these kids. It takes them out of the dark and depressing slums into an environment like a classroom, which is very lovely. I met this one boy of 14 named Raja who, after joining the class in the bus, now wants to be a scientist. I saw his house, and it was surrounded by mud and sewage with a landfill beside it. I thought, well, something is going right here because, for a child to be living in such conditions and now have dreams of becoming a scientist, it comes from learning, reading and being told you can be anything that you want to be. We take education for granted in our world—I
know I did, and I don’t now, absolutely not. It put everything into perspective in a very clear way. I’ve always wanted siblings—although I’m very close to my mum and dad because I’m an only child. But I guess I’m a big kid at heart anyway. My business is playing make-believe. I get to pretend I’m somebody else every day. I think that’s probably why I relate to young people and kids so well. They treat me as one of their own very quickly, and it’s probably why I’ve been drawn to causes that help underprivileged children and youth. They are our future; they are our great hope. You immerse a child in the right information and they can grow up to do great things.
On playing Gaston in Beauty and the Beast: I just
hoped that they wouldn’t ask me to eat five-dozen eggs. I can’t do that. [Laughs] It was fantastic. I come from musical theatre and this was the first time I was going to sing in a film, and what better character to do it with than Gaston? I loved every minute of it. It was a huge film to make and I’m very excited to see an audience watch it because it’s truly magical and delivers on all levels—to the new generation who’s never seen the Disney animation, as well as to us lot who grew up with it and loved every minute of it. 67
WHAT I’ VE LEA R N ED
Dr Rachel Chew Aesthetic doctor, forty-something Interview by Sarah Chong Photograph by Tommi Chu
I come from a very ordinary family,
but I’d always aspired to be something more from a young age, and I knew education was the key. Frankly speaking, I wanted to be a doctor because the title seemed so glamorous. I admire those who save lives, but my passion has always been art and music. I suffered because I hated medical school. I only liked the glamorous side of being a doctor, but not the process. Housemanship was even worse. I jumped from one hell into another. The plastic surgery department didn’t usually accept housemen, but they needed doctors so I volunteered, even though I didn’t really know what plastic surgery was. It just looked glamorous to me. The whole team had an air about them because they could fix burn wounds and cleft palates. Training at the plastic surgery department marked a turning point in my life.
It was such an eye-opening experience for me and related to what I was interested in pursuing. People jump into this industry because they think that they’ll be raking it in. It wasn’t like that for me. I started out an innocent with naïve intentions. There’s definitely a learning curve.
You can’t be skilled from the start.
It’s a myth that surgery is permanent and non-surgery isn’t. That’s total-
ly wrong. With eyelid surgery or a nose implant, sure, the crease and the implant might be permanent, but the shape and the result will alter over time. As you age, your body fat and frame change, as will your skin. Ageing is like time. It doesn’t stop. I’m constantly thinking about how I
can make a person more beautiful and enhance his or her features. I do say no to clients if their requests are irrational. I show them pictures of how it will turn out. If they insist, I say, “Maybe you should go to the doctor of the person in the picture.” I don’t want them to tell their friends that their procedure was done by me. It’ll tarnish my reputation. I don’t want people thinking that that was my idea. The biggest difference between the Asian and the Caucasian face is that
Caucasians are very “3D”. If you put their skull on the floor and kick it, it doesn’t roll. If you put an Asian skull on the floor and kick it, it will roll away, and that’s because [its features are] flat. Everyone is beautiful in his or her own way, but what we all want is to be more outstanding, more eye-catching. In this era, educated people are commonplace. There are those who say: “It’s okay if I can’t attract people with my appearance because I have a high IQ,” but no way! There are so many highly educated people who also look sharp. Your image is very important. Men usually come in for skin-clearing treatments and receding hairlines. The majority of male patients want adjustments done to their face, especially their jawline, chin and nose, for a more macho look. I can’t really tell you how to redesign someone’s face because it’s all art.
It’s not so much learning as analysing. There are words to describe it, of course, but as to what makes a man look more macho, and a woman more feminine, that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.
I would let my children do reconstructive surgery if they wanted to. My youngest patient for facial re-en-
hancement (not counting the removal of moles or birthmarks) is 13 for a male and 12 for a female. My oldest patient is 80 years old. But most fall between the ages of 20 and 45.
We don’t have a Malaysian standard of beauty as compared to a Korean stand-
ard of beauty. We just follow.
Personally, I don’t fancy the Korean
standard of beauty. I prefer the Japanese look. Many people consider the Korean look ideal because they’re more familiar with [the cosmetic surgery] industry [in Korea] rather than that of Japan or Taiwan. I respect unconventional beauty like face tattoos or stretched earlobes, but it’s not to my liking. To me, fashion should be changeable; I would never wear something that I can’t take off. I need to refresh my look now and then. I prefer to work on myself. I let another doctor do a procedure on me once, but not anymore. That’s because reconstructive surgery is like working on a piece of art. Everyone paints differently, conveys a different feeling. It’s not a matter of whether it’s more or less beautiful, or whether you like it or not. Only those who don’t have confidence in their treatments and products won’t try them first. I try everything personally before introducing them to my clients. Inner beauty is very important, but if you aren’t physically presentable, no one will give you a chance to show it. I think both inner and outer beauty are equally important. Beauty is a form of respect for other people. 69
pri t h e
nce Jared Kushner is Donald Trump’s Senior White House Adviser. Ivanka Trump’s husband was instrumental to Trump’s election as president but has largely operated behind the scenes until now. Who is he and what is his game plan? W ord s by Vi c k y Wa r d
In THE SPRING OF 2011, right around the time Donald Trump was humiliated by Barack Obama during the president’s speech at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, placed a call to Richard Mack. Kushner was 30 years old, a decade and a half younger than Mack, but in many respects the men were peers. They were both scions of prominent real estate families, and in 2009 Mack and his wife had attended Kushner’s wedding, to Ivanka Trump. The two men were also business associates: Mack held some of the debt on 666 Fifth Avenue, a gleaming, 39-story office building in midtown Manhattan for which Kushner had paid a record USD1.8 billion in 2007. Now, four years later, Kushner was calling about the tower, a symbol of immense importance for him and his family. Under the leadership of Jared’s father, Charles, the Kushner Companies had made hundreds of millions of dollars building and buying properties in New Jersey. But in 2004, future Trump surrogate Chris Christie, who was at the time
the US Attorney for New Jersey, indicted Charles in federal court on charges that included tax evasion, making false statements about campaign contributions, and hiring a prostitute to retaliate against his brother-in-law. After Charles pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison, Jared, who was just 24, took over the family business. He sold the Kushner holdings in New Jersey and bought 666 Fifth Avenue. The significance of the deal lay not only in its size but in its location. Much as Trump’s renovation of the Grand Hyatt hotel three decades earlier had carried his family’s real estate empire across the East River from Queens, Jared’s purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue, just three blocks from Trump’s own trophy skyscraper, was an unmissable sign of the Kushners’ arrival in Manhattan. By the time he spoke to Mack in 2011, Jared and his younger brother, Josh, had established a social and business beachhead in New York. Besides running the Kushner Companies, Jared was also the owner of the New York Observer, a once venerable newspaper. Josh had already
T h i s ( p r e sc i e n t ) a rt i c l e was o r i g i n a l ly p u b l i s h e d i n t h e S e p t e m b e r 20 1 6 US e d i t i o n o f E sq u i r e .
started Vostu, a profitable social-game developer, and a venture firm called Thrive Capital. Despite his evident success, however, Jared was in trouble: after the financial crisis led to a downturn in the rental market, the Kushner Companies risked an imminent default on the loans that had financed the firm’s purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue. Jared’s lenders were at his throat, and he stood to lose hundreds of millions of dollars, if not the entire building. According to a source familiar with the call, Jared appealed to his friendship with Mack—“I am a really good person,” he insisted—and asked him to accept a substantial write-down of the loan. Mack held firm. He had been unhappy with some aspects of how the Kushners managed the building, and, as he reminded Jared, he had a fiduciary responsibility to his investors. Jared did not take the news well. According to the source, he began shouting into the phone, “I’ve been working my ass off!” Mack was unimpressed. “I don’t know who the hell you think you’re talking to,” he said, and hung up the phone. Jared was eventually able to preserve his control of the tower by ceding 49.5 percent of the building’s equity to Vornado, a publicly traded real estate investment trust. Mack, who is 49, remained dimly aware that Jared had not forgotten their disagreement, but it was not until this past summer, when Elizabeth Spiers, a former editor of the Observer, wrote on her website about what she called “the Big Dick Mack Story,” that he realised the extent of Jared’s lingering animosity. Spiers wrote that during her tenure as editor, in 2011 and 2012, Kushner had pushed for a hit piece on Mack. “If the tip he’d given me had checked out, it would have been a good story,” she wrote. “So I agreed to put a reporter on the story.” She gave the assignment to Dan Geiger, the Observer’s real estate beat reporter. Kushner called Geiger and furiously complained that Mack was a “bad fiduciary” who’d moved money around to enrich himself at the expense of his investors. (Kushner declined to comment on the record for this article, but through his publicist he denied that his pursuit of the Mack story was related to the loan on 666 Fifth Avenue.) Geiger phoned his contacts—as Spiers wrote, he “called everyone within a hundred-mile radius”—and found nothing. He sent Kushner a detailed email outlining what his sources had said. For a week, Geiger heard nothing. Then, Kushner called him and said, as if they had not already spoken, “There’s a guy named Richard Mack, and we’ve got to get this guy.” Geiger was bewildered. He went to Spiers, who, he says, recognised Kushner’s obsession as the “illicit powder keg” it was. “Jared insisted that it was a reporting problem,” she wrote in the blog post. To humour her boss, Spiers assigned a second reporter to the story. He, too, got nowhere; once again, nothing in the story checked out. But even this was not the end of it. Jared told Spiers to ask one more reporter, who did not work for the Observer, to look into Mack. That reporter was me. I turned down the assignment, even though I had been friendly with Jared for many years. At the time, I knew him to be bright, charming, and polished, a pious son of a de72
Josh Kushner has been dating supermodel Karlie Kloss since 2012.
vout Orthodox Jewish family. I had never been exposed to this side of him. As it turns out, however, this side of him exists. Geiger, who now works for Crain’s, has told people that the first thing that came to mind when he found himself embroiled in the vendetta was “This guy is like his dad.”
Over the past year, Jared Kushner’s profile has risen along-
side the mind-bending trajectory of his father-in-law’s presidential bid. Though Jared has no previous experience in electoral politics, he has become one of Donald Trump’s chief advisors, and much of the attention he’s received has focused on the many ways in which he’s been useful to the campaign. It was Jared who helped prepare Trump for an appearance before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March, and Jared who helped broker a truce with Fox News when Trump fought with Megyn Kelly, the network’s star anchor. After Trump fired Corey Lewandowski, his campaign manager, in June, it was reported that Ivanka had demanded Lewandowski’s dismissal for trying to marginalise Jared’s influence. A month later, after Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton and a Star of David set against a backdrop of dollar bills, Jared took to the Observer to defend his father-in-law against charges of anti-Semitism. Most recently, Jared was on hand to help Trump choose Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate— over and above, it did not go unnoticed, the great nemesis of the Kushner family, Chris Christie. And yet for all that Jared has helped Trump, there is a sense among Jared’s friends and business associates that he sees the gold-plated vision of a Trump White House as the ulti-
mate step in a carefully plotted ascent to redemption, one that began when his father’s scandal tarnished the family name. In this respect, it seems more than usually significant that both Kushner brothers have photographs of John F Kennedy prominently displayed in their offices. Just as Kennedy’s father was forced to yield his ambitions to his sons’ generation after uttering controversial remarks during World War II, so too did the scandal that sent Charles Kushner to prison open the door for his sons—and especially for Jared—to launch their charm offensive on society at a very early age.
Jared, who is 35, and Josh, 31, along with their sisters, Dara, 37, and Nicole, 33, grew up privileged and sheltered in Livingston, New Jersey. Their paternal grandparents, Joseph and Rae, escaped Poland during the Holocaust and immigrated to the United States in 1949. They moved to the suburbs around Newark, where they helped create a tight-knit community of Holocaust survivors known as the Builders. (“My grandfather was a carpenter,” Josh likes to tell people.) The elder Kushners belonged to the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, which supported Jewish charities and schools. “That generation were cohorts,” says Andrew Silow-Carroll, the editor in chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the New York–based news service. “They were very collegial.” Joseph and Rae had four children, two boys and two girls. Charles, who earned a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from NYU and a law degree from Hofstra, was less academically gifted than his older brother, Murray, who graduated summa cum laude and has a law degree from Penn. But Charles’s drive was remarkable. He took to heart the mantra passed down from one Kushner generation to the next— “Think like an immigrant, act like an immigrant”—which was at once an exhortation to work hard and a warning not to take anything for granted. When Charles started his own real estate company, he chose his father, not Murray, as his partner. On the rare occasions that Josh and Jared have spoken about the subject in public, they have intimated that this decision exacerbated the tension between Charles and his siblings. In an interview with New York in 2009, Jared suggested that his uncle and aunts owed their good fortune all but entirely to his father, by whom they had been “literally made wealthy for doing nothing.” Before the scandal, Charles and his pretty dark-haired wife, Seryl, were seen as the standout ambassadors of their Orthodox community. Charles became known as the Dapper Don thanks to the natty tailoring he preferred and to his growing reputation as a New Jersey power broker. As he built his real estate company into an empire worth a reported USD2 billion, he contributed significantly to Jewish charitable causes as well as to political campaigns. He supported New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani but tended to favor Democrats, including senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, Charles Schumer, and Jon Corzine. In 2001, he was the largest donor to the successful gubernatorial campaign of Jim McGreevey, a New Jersey Democrat who later appointed him to the board of the influential Port Authority. Jared attended the Orthodox Frisch School, in Paramus, New Jersey. By some accounts, he worked hard in school, but he was not especially academic. In The Price of Admis-
sion, Daniel Golden notes that officials at Frisch were “dismayed” when Jared was accepted to Harvard, since, as one former school official put it, “his GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it.” Other students in Jared’s class, the official said, were far more deserving. But Jared had a weapon that his classmates did not: his father. According to Golden, Charles donated USD2.5 million to Harvard the year his son applied. Just to be safe, he also donated to Cornell and Princeton. All this lobbying to establish his family in the upper echelons of power was expensive. The scandal that eventually sent Charles to prison began in 2001, when Murray discovered that his brother had used several of the family partnerships to make political contributions without informing his relatives. Murray sued Charles in court, and not long after Chris Christie became the US Attorney for New Jersey, in 2002, he launched a criminal investigation. As Christie’s case gained traction, Charles attempted to blackmail one of his sisters and her husband to keep them from cooperating as government witnesses. He paid a prostitute USD10,000 to have sex with his brother-in-law, and then sent a videotape of the encounter to his sister. The vindictive effort was for naught: in August 2004, in the face of overwhelming evidence that he had evaded taxes, made illegal campaign contributions, and retaliated against a federal witness, Charles pleaded guilty to 18 felony counts. The scandal made for a chilling affair, one that was severely at odds with the gracious public-service-oriented persona Charles had cultivated for public view. The disgrace that followed, for Charles and for his family, was profound. “It was very embarrassing,” says Silow-Carroll. The community, he notes, has “a self-image, largely deserved, as philanthropists and Jewish communal lions. They felt that all this nasty stuff sullied that.”
As Charles headed off to prison in Alabama in 2005, Jared
was still working on a joint business and law degree at NYU. Since a convicted felon cannot sign a contract as a fiduciary, he felt that he had no choice other than to take over the family business. In his interview with New York, he acknowledged that his father had made a mistake while at the same time insisting that Charles had been unfairly punished for his crimes. He’s made no secret of the fact that he sees his father, still, as an extraordinary man, and that he believes it his filial duty to put the Kushner name back on top. In the wake of the scandal, Jared increasingly depended on an expanding network of older male advisors. The demographics of the group—which today includes Rupert Murdoch; Michael Ovitz, the legendary former Hollywood executive; Martin Sorrell, the head of WPP; Marc Holliday, the CEO of SL Green; Joel Cutler, a venture capitalist; Kevin Ryan, an Internet entrepreneur; and Joel Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor—were reflected at Jared’s 35th birthday party earlier this year. As one guest observed, the median age of the guests at the party, which was held at the top of the Gramercy Park hotel in Manhattan, seemed to be somewhere near 70. The financier Ronald Perelman, who met Jared at a Lubavitch Shabbat service in East Hampton not long after Charles went to prison, recalled recently that the younger Kushner “clearly needed some comforting” after the scandal 73
broke. Perelman invited Jared to pray with him at the synagogue in his home office in New York. Jared openly blamed the media for his family’s troubles, particularly the Newark Star-Ledger. In 2006, in a somewhat transparent attempt to control the hand that had bitten his father, Jared bought the New York Observer for USD10 million. The purchase was strategically intelligent: as a newly minted media mogul, Jared was sought out by New York’s cultural elite, and the Kushner name acquired intellectual clout for the first time. A year later, Jared sold all of the Kushner properties— mostly residential homes—in New Jersey. He purchased 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for USD1.8 billion, at the time a record sum for a building in New York. His father was released from prison in time to stand by Jared’s side for the closing.
Though Charles is no longer the face of the Kushner Companies, he remains omnipresent in the hallways of the firm. Each Tuesday at 8am, everyone at the company who is not a secretary gathers in a conference room on the 15th floor to discuss acquisitions, financing and construction. Charles and Jared sit next to each other at the centre of a long table, and other family members fan out from there. Josh has not attended the meetings regularly for years, but Seryl often attends, as does Nicole, who recently decided to join the business. (Her husband, Joseph Meyer, is the chief executive Jared was just 26 when he bought the 39-storey tower at 666 Fifth Avenue for a record USD1.8 billion. A subsequent downturn in the market caused him to scramble to preserve control of the building.
of Observer Media.) Under Jared’s leadership, the Kushner Companies has embarked on an impressive streak of acquisitions in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. This summer, the firm participated in a USD340 million deal for the former headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, one of the most coveted parcels of waterfront real estate in Brooklyn. But no one at the Tuesday meeting, and no one who deals with the company from the outside, is allowed to forget who built the firm. When I called one of the Kushners’ underwriters to ask about Jared’s business prowess, he seemed startled. “None of it’s been him,” he said. “It’s been his dad.” Compared with Charles, whose temper is legendary, Jared has a notably calm demeanour. “He’s calm, he’s smooth and sharp, and he knows how to court people,” says Doug Harmon, a veteran New York broker. Yet there is also an undercurrent of hostility that belies his polite veneer. Jared was described to me as “a little bit bullheaded” and “a little bit of a bully” by one person; another said that when he gets mad, “the loss of composure is the shock because he’s always so completely controlled.” Several sources told me that in 2015, Jared tried to thwart a real estate negotiation that involved J Walter Thompson, a subsidiary of WPP, the advertising conglomerate led by his friend Martin Sorrell. Jared had no financial stake in the matter, but he insisted, following many hours of due diligence, that WPP was headed down the wrong path. After WPP’s board ignored his advice and approved the deal, Jared attended a meeting at the company and told a senior executive at WPP, “You’re the stupidest person I’ve ever met in this business.” (A spokesman for WPP would neither confirm nor deny the incident.) Then there is Jared’s standoff with Steve Roth, the CEO of Vornado, the USD20 billion real estate investment trust that acquired 49.5 percent of 666 Fifth Avenue in 2011. The deal allowed Jared to keep control of the building but valued it at a mere USD820 million, a steep decline from its USD1.8 billion purchase price. According to the New York Post, Jared believes that the tower should be converted to a retail mall beneath luxury condos, and he is committed to a proposal from the firm of the late Zaha Hadid. Other sources, however, say that Roth believes the building is worth more as office space. Roth, who is 74, and who recently joined Donald Trump’s economic advisory team, did not respond to a request for comment, but he has told people in private that he despises what he sees as Jared’s arrogance. According to several sources, meetings between Vornado and the Kushner Companies regularly become shouting fests, though one source says that most of the screaming is done by Charles Kushner. Meanwhile, the building is stagnating, and its fate is unlikely to be settled until one party buys out the other.
For those involved in the ruthless world of New York real
estate, none of this unpleasantness is surprising. But overt aggression has not gone over well in the more sensitive environs of the New York Observer. A source close to Jared says that he did not understand, when he bought the company, how much resistance he would face from the journalists who worked there. In 2007, he appointed Bob Sommer, the Kushner Companies’ publicist, as the newspaper’s president. Sommer was given instructions to “rein in” the
paper’s much-revered editor, Peter Kaplan. (Kaplan and Sommer both resigned in 2009; Kaplan died four years later.) At a holiday party for the Observer a few years after he bought the newspaper, Jared implored the staff to redouble its efforts, adding that worse economic times were to come. When Aaron Gell, the editor at the time, took the microphone and thanked everyone for their hard work, the gesture seemed to irritate Jared. (Jared’s publicist says that he liked Gell and cannot recall Gell’s speech or his own.) Ken Kurson, a Kushner family friend—and longtime business columnist for Esquire—is the current editor of the Observer, its fifth in seven years. It is widely believed that the quality of the journalism in the Observer has declined under Jared’s ownership, but he has had much more success with the Commercial Observer, a real estate spin-off. According to Bill Rudin, a developer, the Commercial Observer has become a “must-read” for developers and brokers, thanks in large part to the paper’s Power 100 list. The list is celebrated at an annual event, complete with trophies, that has been attended by Michael Bloomberg and, of course, Donald Trump. “It’s the closest the industry gets to an elegant Oscars evening,” says Doug Harmon, who shared the 2016 Deal of the Year award. “I bet most look at the list and can’t figure out why they aren’t featured more prominently.” (If so, Richard Mack is not one of them: though his firm was once number 41 on the list, it was
ing as it could be. “This wasn’t like, ‘Talk to a rabbi, read a couple of paragraphs,’ ” Sommer says. “It was hard and difficult, and it was on Charlie’s terms.” Ivanka passed the tests, and by 2009 Charles was ready to formally accept her into the Kushner family. At the couple’s wedding, which was held at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, he stood up and, according to multiple sources, gave a toast that drew tears from the assembled guests. A person who attended the wedding recalls the central sentiments of the speech: “Look, everyone thinks she’s great, but being Jewish is just unbelievably important to us, and she’s not Jewish. It’s a problem for me, a genuine problem. Then I watched and got to see she’s in love with my son and it wasn’t what I thought in the beginning. I feel right about it.” Trump stood up to speak after Charles, and he floundered miserably. According to one guest, he “gave the most pathetic, lame, embarrassing speech I’ve heard in a long time.”
PEOPLE OFTEN TALK ABOUT THE KUSHNER brothers using sim-
ilar adjectives: handsome, humble, diligent, polite, intelligent, and so forth. For Josh, however, unlike for Jared, there is no “but” hanging in the air, no comma before a caveat describing a barely perceptible undercurrent. Part of the reason is almost certainly the luck of age: when his father went
There is a sense that Jared sees the vision of a Trump White House as the ultimate step in a carefully plotted ascent to redemption, one that began when his father’s scandal tarnished the family name. dropped after his phone call with Jared. Mack knew exactly why. He told the odd employee who fretted about the company’s absence, “We are never going to get on that list—and don’t worry about it.”)
In 2007, Jared started dating Ivanka Trump. The pair became a boldfaced item—their vacations were photographed by paparazzi—and in many ways the relationship seemed perfect. Jared and Ivanka, whom he calls Iva, shared a deep knowledge of real estate, and they were both the children of controversial fathers to whom they were unwaveringly, sometimes blindly, loyal. As Kenneth Pasternak, a friend and business partner of the Kushners’, put it, “You send your kid to Harvard, you network him, and he marries Ivanka Trump. I mean, you couldn’t write that script, right?” As it happens, however, Jared’s marriage to Ivanka was not a foregone conclusion. The couple have been married for seven years and have three children together, but during the early days of their relationship, Seryl Kushner had expressed concern that Ivanka wasn’t Jewish. The couple broke up, and they reunited only after Ivanka agreed to convert to Judaism. Even then, according to Bob Sommer, Charles Kushner remained sceptical. He made Ivanka’s conversion as test-
to prison, Josh was a freshman at Harvard, where the scandal scarcely registered. While Josh was still an undergraduate, his friend Daniel Kafie introduced him to Mario Schlosser, a German-born engineer who was studying at Harvard Business School. Schlosser had written code for a social network, and the three students decided to take it to market. They raised the money to launch the site, which they called Vostu, but after the company struggled to find an audience, Schlosser and Kushner had a fight about equity and refused to speak to each other for six months. In 2008, Schlosser realised that Vostu might be more successful as an online soccer game. He reconciled with Josh, who was by now at Harvard Business School, and built a new site. After a crashed server and a failed initial launch, the new iteration of Vostu, run out of Brazil, took off. “We started to make real money,” Schlosser says—about USD10,000 a day. Vostu’s success meant that Josh never had to seriously consider joining his brother in the family real estate firm. In 2009, he launched a venture fund called Thrive Capital with around USD5 million from a group of individual investors including Joel Cutler, a mentor of Josh’s and the CEO of General Catalyst, a Boston venture-capital firm. It was a good start, but to be taken seriously, Thrive needed insti75
tutional money. Cutler soon introduced Josh to Andrew Golden, the president of Princo, Princeton’s endowment fund, which had a reputation for investing in young talent. According to Cutler, Josh and Golden hit it off right away. “There was just this tremendous belief that this young person would be able to attract other brilliant young people and do venture capital the right way.” Once Princeton was on board, a roster of blue-chip investors quickly followed, including Yale, Duke, Harvard, Memorial Sloane Kettering, the Ford Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust. Instagram, the photography app, was an early success for the fund. In April 2012, Thrive joined four other firms in a USD50 million funding round for the photo app. A few days later, Facebook purchased Instagram for USD1 billion, a deal that doubled the value of Thrive’s investment. Other investments by the company include Warby Parker, Artsy, Spotify, Zola, Kickstarter, GitHub and ClassPass. It’s too early to tell whether the hype around Thrive is merely that. Yet Jon Winkelried, the co-CEO of TPG and former president of Goldman Sachs, says that the firm’s recent USD700 million fundraising round, which brought
sumer friendly. The idea, he said, was an online insurance provider that would be prepared for the day when individuals, not corporations and employers, were responsible for purchasing plans. He intended to call it Oscar Health, after his great-grandfather. The timing was impeccable. Schlosser would later say that he and Josh couldn’t have made the company work without the Affordable Care Act, since the health-care landscape had been too “oligarchised” before the law’s passage. But as soon as the Supreme Court reaffirmed the central provisions of Obamacare, in the summer of 2012, Schlosser and his team were ready. Brian Singerman, a partner in the San Francisco–based Founders Fund, got interested in the company after Michael Ovitz sent him an email saying, “Trust me on this one.” Oscar has so far raised USD728 million from investors, including Fidelity, Google Capital, Lakestar and Khosla Ventures. Recent deals have valued the company at USD2.7 billion, though The New York Times has questioned the wisdom of that number. (The Times noted that Oscar loses 15 cents for every dollar it collects in premiums in New York.) Schlosser says it is still “very early days,” and, not surpris-
When Jared’s friends ask whether he endorses Trump’s anti-Muslim sentiments, he says, “You don’t understand what America is.” Thrive’s total funds under management to USD1.5 billion, is “big-boy stuff.” Kevin Ryan says, “If you called a bunch of entrepreneurs and said, ‘Who would you want to invest in your company in New York City?’ I think Union Square Ventures would be number one and I think Thrive would probably be number two already. That’s remarkable.” No one else, he says, has done it so young. “We just haven’t seen that.” Josh’s ascent has necessitated a slow professional separation from his brother. Though Thrive is headquartered in the Puck Building, which is owned by the Kushner Companies, Jared has stopped making regular visits to his brother’s office. “I think there was a little source of tension with other partners at Thrive who felt like, you know, Jared swooning in and swooning out was not very constructive,” says one person close to the company. “I don’t think they very much liked it.” (Jared’s publicist says that he visits Thrive whenever he’s in the neighbourhood, to give his brother “a hug and a kiss.”)
STARTING A GAME COMPANY AND RUNNING an investment firm were not enough to satisfy Josh’s ambition. In 2012, Mario Schlosser told Josh he needed to leave Brazil, and Vostu, to be with his wife, who was a researcher at Columbia University and pregnant with their first child. Schlosser says he blinked in disbelief when Josh suggested they start a health-insurance company. Josh explained that he had gone to the ER after spraining his ankle and had found the documentation required afterward difficult to navigate. He decided that health insurance needed to be made more con76
ingly, he believes that from a sufficiently broad perspective his company is actually undervalued. “The US healthcare market alone is USD3 trillion every year. That’s higher than Germany, the UK, Switzerland.” Between running Thrive and Oscar, Josh Kushner has precious little spare time. “He is known, really, for just working,” says Kevin Ryan. “That’s all he does.” Nevertheless, Josh and Jared recently teamed up to launch an online real estate business called Cadre. The company’s mission is to create efficiency in a market that relies on a host of middlemen, but its prospects are still unclear even to some of its backers. Schlosser says that Josh’s private life is rarely a subject of conversation. Years ago, at Harvard, Josh calmly explained the circumstances of his father’s scandal and his feelings about it, but in general the partners talk only about professional concerns—the ramifications for Oscar, say, of a Trump or a Clinton administration. Although Schlosser is not above the occasional joke about Jared’s role on the Trump campaign, he says that Josh tends to keep quiet about his personal life. “He has a girlfriend that he could talk about as well, but that is just so much less important.” The girlfriend is supermodel Karlie Kloss, whom Josh has been dating for four years. According to Kenneth Pasternak, the future of the relationship is all but certainly being discussed by his parents. “They’d like him to settle down,” Pasternak says. No doubt Kloss would have to convert to Judaism, just as Ivanka Trump did. But whatever is in store for the relationship, it seems certain that Josh Kushner will not do anything that does not meet with the approval of his family.
Michael Ovitz says that Jared Kushner long ago made a
deal with himself about how to publicly handle a familial bond with Donald Trump, a pact that meant no eye-rolling. “Donald was always controversial, always larger than life,” Ovitz says. “Jared knew that when he decided to marry Ivanka. But to both of them, it was understood that marriage meant loyalty to their in-laws. And incidentally, Jared discovered that he really liked Donald.” Lately Jared’s liking of the Donald has morphed into something more substantial. Over the last year, Jared seems to have settled into a sort of hero worship, as though he wanted to become his father-in-law. His peers in the real estate industry talk about the stash of red make america great again baseball caps that Jared keeps in his office, on the 15th floor of 666 Fifth Avenue. As he hands out the hats, he says of Trump’s slogan, “It came right out of his head!” Kevin Ryan, who is close with both brothers, breakfasted with Jared in early July. “He is all in,” he says. “He is in it to win.” Earlier this year, as Jared’s involvement in the campaign intensified, he named a president and a head of operations to run the family firm. The Observer has been enlisted as well: in advance of Trump’s appearance at AIPAC, Ken Kurson, the paper’s editor, reviewed the speech, causing an outcry in the newsroom. Despite these efforts, however, some have questioned whether Jared was fully prepared for the rigors and optics of a modern presidential campaign. In August, when several polls suggested that Trump’s chances for victory were cratering, Jared and Ivanka took a vacation. A series of photographs posted to Ivanka’s Instagram account showed the couple sightseeing in Croatia with Wendi Deng Murdoch, Rupert’s ex-wife. A source close to Jared says that while he does not agree with every sentence that his father-in-law has uttered, he nevertheless thinks that Trump has been an effective candidate and would make a good president. (For his part, Trump said in a statement that “Jared represents the next generation of best-in-class developers and owners. Most importantly, however, he is a wonderful son-in-law, husband to my daughter, and father to my grandchildren.”) When his Jewish friends ask him—and they do—whether, given the history of the persecution of his own religion, Jared really endorses Trump’s anti-Muslim sentiments, he does not miss a beat justifying his father-in-law. “You don’t understand what America is,” he says, “or what American people think.” Jared is especially proud of an article he wrote for the Observer in July, after his father-in-law’s Star of David tweet. It was a response to an open letter by Dana Schwartz, an entertainment writer for the paper, that had criticised Jared for standing “silent and smiling in the background” while Trump made “repeated accidental winks” to white supremacists. “You went to Harvard, and hold two graduate degrees,” Schwartz wrote. “Please do not condescend to me and pretend you don’t understand the imagery of a six-sided star when juxtaposed with money and accusations of financial dishonesty.” In his response, Jared insisted that his father-in-law “is not anti-Semitic and he’s not a racist.” He defended Trump by detailing his grandparents’ harrowing experiences during the Holocaust. “It’s important to me that people understand where I’m coming from,” he wrote. “I know the difference between actual, dangerous intoler-
ance versus these labels that get tossed around in an effort to score political points.” (Given the contentiousness of the Kushner-family saga, it’s perhaps unsurprising that not all of his relatives appreciated his efforts. Two of his cousins complained on Facebook about his willingness to invoke their grandparents’ suffering to defend Donald Trump. “Thank you Jared for using something sacred and special to the descendants of Joe and Rae Kushner to validate the sloppy manner in which you’ve handled this campaign,” wrote Jacob Schulder, whose father, William, was the target of Charles Kushner’s retaliation in 2003. “Please don’t invoke our grandparents in vain just so you can sleep better at night. It is self-serving and disgusting.”) Jared’s zealous support for Trump’s presidential campaign can be explained in part by a sense of loyalty that has been trained in him since birth, one way in which he and Ivanka are perfectly matched. Both have been raised in hermetically sealed family units—nearly every day the adult Trump children have lunch with each other in Trump Tower—and taught never to question their parents’ narratives in public, no matter how troubling they may be. When Trump’s anti-immigrant comments caused a number of companies to sever their ties with his properties, Ivanka told a source who commiserated with her about the damage to the Trump brand, “It’s his money. My father’s entire life has been a dream come true. He has to follow this dream.” But many people who have dealt with Jared in the past suspect that his embrace of Trump’s political posturings carries a strong whiff of pure ambition. “How many people get that close to a presidential race?” asks Michael Fascitelli, Vornado’s former CEO and president. “In the real estate industry? Nobody, right?” And even if Trump were to lose in November by a large margin, he will nevertheless walk away from the election having won the support of a third or more of the American electorate. Whether Trump wins or loses, his son-in-law will almost certainly have a seat at the table. Jared is not one to waste a chance, and it seems unlikely that he will squander the entree into national consciousness that Trump’s campaign has given him. Josh Kushner declined to comment on the record for this article; through a spokesman, he said that he loved his brother and did not want to say anything that might embarrass him. Nevertheless, the spokesman also said that Josh is a lifelong Democrat and will not be voting for Donald Trump in November. Josh’s concern for his brother is no doubt genuine, yet more than one person has noted that he has little incentive to thwart even a distant chance at his family’s redemption. “He may not vote for Donald Trump,” observed a fellow real estate heir who knows the family well. “But will he be objecting to a pardon for his father, which is surely what will happen if Trump gets elected? I think not.” The total rehabilitation of the Kushner family name would not, of course, mark the first time that money has bent the ordinary path of American justice. In many ways, the painting over of a family stain has become a rite of dynastic passage in the United States. But unlike, say, the family of financier Marc Rich, who secured a presidential pardon in the waning days of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Kushners have exerted their influence in plain view, and with astonishing speed. None of us knows where it will all end. But Richard Mack has been warned. 77
In the Wo r ds by AO S c ot t
When he took over The Late Late Show in 2015, James Corden was a largely unknown bloke—a UK import with a part-dad, part-lad vibe. Two years later, he’s become the new King of the Night, creating comedy sketches that ricochet around the globe. Along the way, he discovered one simple truth: We love to watch famous people sing karaoke in a car. P h oto g r ap h s by C e d r i c B u c h e t
Su i t, s h i rt, an d loa f e rs by G ucc i.
J a m e s C o r d e n wa s b a r r e l L i n g t o wa r d s a n e d i t i n g r o o m to check out a rough cut o f t h e l a t e s t Ca r p o o l Ka r a o k e ( t h e o n e w i t h B r u n o Ma r s , r e s p l e n d e n t i n b r i g h t ly c o l o r e d s i l k ) w h e n something caught his eye . Two things, really: a bowl of candy and a 25ft tape measure haphazardly deposited on a credenza in an office full of members of the Late Late Show staff. The candy was Whoppers, small chocolate-covered malted-milk spheroids nestled three to a sleeve for easy snacking; the tape was a coiled ribbon of yellow metal encased in a chunk of aluminum, the kind that clips onto your belt and retracts with a satisfying whoosh. “Hang on a minute,” Corden said, to everyone in the office and no one in particular. “This could be a bit, don’t you think?” It was an hour before lunch on a two-episode taping day in early December. Chris Pratt, Olivia Munn, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Stephen Fry were expected in a few hours. The writers were in the writers’ room polishing monologue jokes until their poke bowls arrived. Corden, fashion-forward and show-business casual in black jeans, a black cowl-necked cardigan, and black slip-on Gucci sneakers stamped with tiny gold bees and flowers, grabbed the props and explained what he had in mind to the people in the room with the least investment in looking busy. He popped open the Whoppers and indicated through brisk dumb-show gestures that his first volunteer—a guy in a faded T-shirt and glasses with a receding frizz of light-brown hair— should open wide and place the blunt hook at the end of the tape against his bottom lip. Corden extended the length to 77 inches, raised it to a 30 degree angle from the man’s mouth, and placed the candy atop the resulting ramp. Collective breath was held. It was a moment fraught with potential. A Rube Goldberg variation. A test of the laws of physics. Which, at least at first, did not cooperate. The candy rolled halfway down the chute, hit a wobble, dropped onto the floor, and bounced under a desk. Corden, his determination undimmed, adjusted the incline, tension, and torque. The second attempt was successful. Four out of six Whoppers ultimately made
The most-watched YouTube video of 2016: Adele’s Carpool Karaoke.
it onto the tongues of two employees. Corden was visibly delighted, though it must be said that visible delight seems to be his default setting. “A triumph!” he declared—the same word that he used to describe the pop diva Adele’s post-beehive, post-baby hairdo on her edition of Carpool Karaoke, the most-watched YouTube video of 2016. “We’ll put it on the show. That’s one for the Emmy reel.” I was not born yesterday. I am prepared to believe that the Whopper spectacle was arranged for the benefit of a visiting journalistic fly on the studio wall. How else to account for the suspiciously serendipitous proximity of confection and tool? Why not Jolly Ranchers and a pair of pliers? Maybe the real gag was pranking the profile writer. But I’m also prepared to believe that this kind of thing might be a regular occurrence around the Late Late Show studio, which occupies a suite of spacious rooms and a cavernous soundstage on the rooftop level of the sprawling CBS complex in Hollywood. A short time earlier, we had been drinking coffee in Corden’s office, a cozy room decorated with pictures of his wife, Julia Carey, and their children; a signed Banksy; and a drawing—possibly Corden’s favourite piece of art—of a rabbit recoiling in horror while reading Watership Down. Corden had talked about his plans for the coming year of his show. “I’m always keen to try new things visually, with openings and sketches. I’d like to film the show somewhere else for a week.” He popped up from his chair and padded over to the desk. “This is what I was writing just this morning,” he said, smoothing out a handwritten note-to-self. “Visually better. More ambitious. And also sillier. Those three things.” They are overlapping categories, of course, and in a way they amount to more of the same. Less than two years after Corden took it over, The Late Late Show
has established itself, against low expectations and amid stiff competition, as the most visually inventive, arguably the most ambitious, and surely the silliest specimen of the after-hours talk-show genre. In the context of what may be the most traditionbound television format in existence, Corden and Ben Winston, his longtime friend and one of the show’s
Jack e t, s h i rt, an d bow t i e by Ra l p h Lau r e n ; sung l ass e s by Ray- Ban .
executive producers, insisted on novelty from the start, proposing innovations that were initially met with skepticism, even alarm, among publicists and celebrity handlers. Guests on The Late Late Show don’t enter from the wings but through the banked rows of audience seats. They aren’t interviewed one at a time but together, and their conversations range far beyond the usual plugging of new projects. “It always had to be a show where the guests are doing things,” Winston told me, and some of those things include eating disgusting foods, sharing child-care tips, and reenacting highlights from their own careers. Sometimes the interviews happen in people’s houses; or, most famously, in a moving car, with singing. The bandleader and sidekick Reggie Watts makes up tunes on the spot and ad-libs lyrics about whatever has just happened onstage. The host, for his part, doesn’t sit behind a desk when he talks to his guests; he conducts his interviews from a swivel chair, which is positioned to the left of the couch, reversing the customary American setup. “Even just having the seats the other way around,” Corden recalled. “I mean, the intake of breath”—he acted out a sharp, disapproving inhalation—“ ‘It just isn’t done!’ I was like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ ” Some late-night hosts are notorious introverts, grouchy misanthropes fueled by insecurity and selfloathing. Corden, at 38, the youngest of the current crop of post-prime-time network-television yakkers, is the other kind. A compact teddy bear of a man with a shock of blond hair and a less-than-daily commitment to shaving, he conducts himself with an impish ebullience somewhere between goofy kid brother and awesomely fun dad. (He and Julia, who were introduced by a mutual friend and married in 2012, are the parents of a six-year-old son and a two-yearold daughter.) When he discussed his ideas for the show with CBS, Corden promised “all-out fun, and light, and positivity.” And that is what he has tried to deliver. Which is not to say that Corden is one of those comedians who are always and frantically on, deflecting seriousness with endless clowning. Talking to him one-on-one is more like conversing with a writer or an actor—both of which he was long before he started hosting a talk show. An inclination toward humility—a tendency, British as well as actorish, toward self-deprecation—sometimes seems to do battle with an impulse to reject false modesty. He can seem a bit dazzled by his recent success, and also not the least bit surprised by it. Onstage and on camera, he is a master of the emotional quick-change, shifting within a single sketch from mock chagrin to dumbstruck awe to pure mirth. In person he is no less animated but much more earnest, taking an analytical view of his work and falling back on a verbal tic that is also a real question: “Do you know what I mean?” When I met him—first over dinner at an aggressively on-trend Brentwood steakhouse and then for a
long day of meetings, rehearsals, and tapings at CBS— Corden was showing a bit of fatigue. He had just returned from Miami, where he had hosted some Art Basel events and looked for art to add to his small but serious collection. After the taping wrapped, he was due to introduce Steven Spielberg at a Hollywood soiree. Then he would fly to London for a “YouTube thing” and back to Los Angeles to tape the last shows of the year. His debut as host of the Gram-
S o m e l at e - n i g h t h o s t s a r e grouchy misanthropes fuelLed b y i n s e c u r i t y a n d s e l f - l oat h i n g. C o r d e n i s t h e ot h e r k i n d.
mys loomed on the horizon, and shortly after that he would begin his third season of a most unlikely gig. “I’m so scared of waking up and six months has gone by and we’ve just done shows,” he said, rather than seeking out wilder, crazier gambits. What would be the fun of that? The af ternoon of my visit, a bit called Were You Paying Attention? was being assembled, for which members of the audience would be quizzed midway through the hour about what had happened earlier on the show. Corden’s explanation of it, delivered to a captive audience of me and Rob Crabbe, his other executive producer, was almost as funny as the thing itself. “James is as enthusiastic as he seems,” Crabbe was telling me when, as if on cue—or, for all I know, precisely on cue—Corden knocked at the door. “The questions will be written during the first 10 minutes of the show,” he said. “And then during the bit later on, they’ll be asked something like, ‘What was Stephen Fry holding in his hand in the dressing room?’ If they get it right, they’ll be given a gift card or something. If they get it wrong, they get kicked out of the audience.” Perhaps unintentionally, this illuminated an unacknowledged anxiety about television, and aftermidnight shows in particular: Who is paying attention, and what kind of attention is being paid? In effect, Corden has two jobs. Four nights a week he hosts The Late Late Show, the hour-long broadcast he inherited from Craig Ferguson, which airs on CBS affiliates at 12.37am and attracts (according to the latest ratings figures) around 1.4 million viewers per episode. In traditional programming terms, his network competition at that hour is NBC’s Late Night with Seth
Ro b e by N e w & L i ngwo o d; sw e at e r an d loa f e rs by Bu r b e r ry; sung l ass e s by To m Fo r d.
Meyers and ABC’s Nightline. But really, Corden said, “our competition is people choosing to be asleep.” And so he and his staff must manufacture sketches that don’t depend on the news cycle or the publicity requirements of visiting celebrities; that can be shared on social media; and that can, if the stars align correctly, find a semipermanent spot in the general public’s overstuffed entertainment memory bank. “I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Leslie Moonves, who has been running CBS since 1998. We were in his office, perched high above midtown Manhattan. “The evolution of late night has been really fascinating. One guy, Johnny Carson, was dominant for all those years, and the others—the Dick Cavetts, the Joey Bishops, Chevy Chase, Joan Rivers—didn’t even make a minor dent. Then, suddenly, because NBC gave The Tonight Show to Jay Leno and CBS got Letterman, it became a much broader business. ABC found Jimmy Kimmel. And then came the cable networks—the Comedy Central folks, Conan going to TBS—and you go from one to two to seven or eight of these guys.” Corden and his counterparts continue to battle for slices of that ever-shrinking ratings pie. The numbers, in Moonves’s old-school parlance. That’s the job, and the tradition. There is still money to be made selling ad minutes against the real-time attention of non-cord-cutting viewers. There is also still a certain stubborn cachet attached to the spectacle of a host— nearly always, even now, a white man in a suit—telling jokes, bantering with the bandleader, and schmoozing with actors and singers plugging their latest proj-
ects. But the more valuable (if less easily monetised) currency of visibility—of what Crabbe, Moonves, and Corden all call relevance—now circulates elsewhere, in the 24/7 digital bazaar where skits, monologues, and snippets of deskside interviews circulate endlessly and compete to go viral. The hosts and their staffs hustle to come up with repeatable, detachable digital candy—ideally involving famous people doing unlikely or mildly embarrassing things—that will hook web surfers and turn them into fans. Kimmel has Mean Tweets. Fallon has Classroom Instruments. Corden, late to the scene and behind them in the ratings, is outflanking both
Even unruly manchild Justin Bieber strapped in for a sing-along.
on the web. “Within our first week or so,” Ben Winston told me, “we had created some major viral moments, with 14 or 15 million hits.” These included a six-minute recap of Tom Hanks’s film career and the epochal Mariah Carey Carpool Karaoke. “We’re working on the 279th episode. If we just did a chat show, we’d be devastatingly disappointed.” “You look at the numbers,” Moonves said, “and they’re fine, they’re fine.” (They were, in the week of our conversation, a few hundred thousand below Seth Meyers’s and around half a million below where Craig Ferguson’s had been 10 years before.) “But you look at what he’s doing online and it’s phenomenal. And that has become, in the late-night world, more important than anything.” One measure of this change—and also, in a way, of its incompleteness—is that Corden’s digital triumph has fuelled persistent rumours about an imminent shake-up in CBS’s lineup, with him taking the 11.30 slot from the floundering Colbert. Late night is one of the last old-media battlegrounds in a disrupted landscape, and the habit of sniffing out intrigue dies hard. “It just seems sort of silly to me. I really love him,” Corden said, referring to Colbert. “So I always find it slightly embarrassing. I really don’t think there’s any substantial evidence at all. I really don’t think it exists.” Moonves noted that Colbert has started to find his voice and build up his ratings in the wake of the 2016 election. “Look, I’m very fortunate. I got two very successful guys, and they’re very successful in different ways.” I asked Moonves how much the time slots mattered. In 1993 and again in 2009, when the great latenight wars were fought, the 11.30 slot mattered more than anything to Letterman, Leno, and Conan. “The Internet has changed all that,” Moonves said. “By and large, the guy who’s better known gets the 11.30 slot, but for James’s success it doesn’t matter. It’s almost an old way of thinking.” For Corden, there is no “almost” about it. “The only time I get really like, ‘What are you talking about?’ ” he said over dinner at the Brentwood steakhouse, warming up to a fine mini-rant, “is when anyone will talk about time slots. Which is like telling the time with a sundial. Just the very notion of a television schedule for a show like this is absurd to me. I got really cross when we did that Carpool with Adele and someone wrote, ‘How did a 12.30 talk-show host get Adele?’ And I’m like, ‘What world are you living in?’ That clip has been viewed 129 million times. Those are Super Bowl numbers.” Bac kstag e , T h e L at e L at e S h ow is full of the usual rituals of comedic craft. The morning of my visit was dominated by a meeting in Corden’s office in which the segment producers talked through gags and sketches and another in which the writers stared intently and silently at printouts of monologue jokes inspired by news stories, weird ads, and other familiar fodder.
The mood was relaxed and genial, with time for a few more bits of journalist-pranking. During one of the writers’ meetings, I took a bathroom break and returned to find that everyone had changed seats, with the tallest, bulkiest guy in the room sitting at Corden’s desk. “He didn’t even notice,” Corden stagewhispered after I sat down, glancing mock-discreetly in my direction. “Maybe he just thought I’d taken off my Spanx.” Rob Crabbe said that in the run-up to the show they had considered forgoing the traditional monologue. “James does so many things well,” Crabbe told me. “But ironically, some of the things he’d never done before are walk out, hit a mark and tell jokes, and interview people. And those are kind of the major components of being a late-night television host.” The monologue stayed in, but it can feel a bit stiff and self-conscious; Corden has a tendency to lean into the jokes with his
The one that started it all: Mariah Carey in the hot seat, March 2015.
right shoulder, his left hand jammed in his pocket— of, more likely than not, a made-to-measure suit from one of the luxury brands he worships—as if playing a role that doesn’t quite feel natural. That may be because unlike most of his peers, who grew up idolising Carson and Letterman and cut their teeth in sketch and stand-up comedy, Corden did not pass through the usual apprenticeship of fandom. “I feel very fortunate that I grew up without those tropes, or those influences,” he said at the steakhouse as we tucked into a feast of halibut and broccolini, washed down with mineral water. (Though he’s in no risk of going LA skinny, Corden seems to have adapted to the local dietary norms of carb avoidance.) “The people who influenced me were Chris Evans, Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton, and Wogan and Parkinson. Names that will mean almost nothing”—he looked around at the sea of tanned and toned nibblers—“to most of the people in this restaurant. In the same way that if you went into a pub in Bradford and talked about Carson, no one would have a clue about who you were talking about.” Corden studied acting as a teenager at a school in High Wycombe, a town halfway between London and Oxford, and soon found parts on stage, in films, and on television. He appeared in Alan Bennett’s
The History Boys in the West End, and on Broadway, and in the film adaptation. American audiences tuning into his early broadcasts might have recognised him as the Baker from Into the Woods. But he was frustrated with the narrow range of opportunities his early success seemed to offer. “When The History Boys became the hottest play in London,” he recalled, “there were eight boys of a similar age, and they were all getting these massive film scripts. And I would get the one page of a script for a guy who drops off a television to Hugh Grant, or who works at a newsstand and sells a paper to Julianne Moore. And I was like, ‘None of this is based on ability or charisma. It’s only about how I look, and about the assumption that people who look like that don’t fall in love in as nice a way as others. People who look like that are not as interesting.’ ” In part to counter this assumption, Corden and the Welsh actress Ruth Jones created the slice-oflife sitcom Gavin and Stacey, on which they played the title characters’ best mates. A winning mixture of sweetness, absurdity, and kitchen-sink realism, the show ran on BBC for three seasons and was followed by The Wrong Mans, a sillier, more thrillerish comedy. Both shows were hits and made Corden something of a sensation in Britain. He and Winston, who had met on the set of a Channel 4 drama in 2000 and had remained close friends, worked together on awards shows and television sketches, including a 2011 bit with George Michael that was the prototype for Carpool Karaoke. In 2012, Corden was a sensation in the West End and on Broadway with One Man, Two Guvnors, a madcap, madly British farce (loosely adapted from an 18th-century Italian play) that was a perfect showcase for his skills at vocal mimicry and knockabout slapstick. One night Les Moonves had a ticket. “I was captivated,” Moonves told me. “I’d never heard his name before, but I said, ‘We gotta do something with this guy.’ ” Accounts diverge as to what happened next, when Winston and Corden were in Los Angeles pitching a sitcom in 2014. Moonves recalled that Corden was so eager to do a chat show that he joked about doing it for no money. Corden remembered being a little more skeptical. “I said I felt like Colbert was a brilliant appointment, and that it opened a door for something different at 12.30. Otherwise it would be like having a hospital drama from eight to nine and another from nine to ten. With the same diseases.” Winston—who’d ultimately move to Los Angeles without much hesitation to work on the show—was in Brazil with One Direction when Corden called late one night to wonder if he’d talked himself into a job. Winston didn’t think much of it. “James often comes back from meetings with offers for things he’s never going to do,” he said. Besides, Corden’s career seemed to be pointing in every direction other than late night: He was a proven sitcom star with two hit Broadway shows and a
Tony Award under his belt and plans for a revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He also had a growing family and didn’t like spending his children’s birthdays on faraway movie sets. “The more I thought about it,” he said, “the more I realised, ‘Here’s someone offering me a chance to be at home every night with my family and try something that I might do quite well.’ ” So the family—Julia was pregnant at the time—prepared to make the move from London to Los Angeles. W h e n t h e i n e v i ta b l e q u e st i o n is asked—
“ I ’ m s o s c a r e d o f wa k i n g u p a n d six months has gone by and w e ’ v e j u s t d o n e s h o w s ,” C o r d e n s a i d, r at h e r t h a n s e e k i n g o u t wilder, cra zier gambits.
how did a pudgy British actor, virtually unknown in America when CBS hired him, become a dominant figure on the pop-cultural landscape, host of the Grammys and the Tonys, within a 12-month span?— it’s tempting just to say “Carpool Karaoke” and call it a day. The segment has helped The Late Late Show’s YouTube channel surpass nine million subscribers; it is becoming its own stand-alone show on Apple Music (Corden won’t be hosting the series, but he’ll make an appearance in one episode); it has caused people who, in Rob Crabbe’s words, “haven’t been in the passenger seat of a regular car in 40 years” to fasten their seat belts and loosen up their vocal cords. There’s no question that the segment has been— to quote a song he will surely get around to covering someday—the wind beneath Corden’s wings. It plays to his strengths, after all. He looks cool-dad sporty in his trademark buttoned-up polo shirts. He has a terrific voice, full of timbre and expression
even in the falsetto range, which often surprises his duet partners. (Just look at Adele’s face when she hears his harmony on “Hello.”) They, like his viewers, find the way he combines a fan’s unabashed delight with serious professional chops to be irresistible. Even within the confines of the driver’s seat, he exhibits an improbable physical grace and a disciplined actor’s ability to convey nuances of feeling. The thing is antic, ambitious, and sometimes genuinely moving. Corden has staged an impromptu wrestling match with Anthony Kiedis, indulged Madonna’s passenger-seat twerking, and chopped it up to “Get Ur Freak On” with Michelle Obama and Missy
We didn’t know Michelle Obama could be any more perfect. She is.
Elliott. His eyes filled with real tears as Stevie Wonder crooned, “I just called to say James loves you” over the phone to Julia. Each of those moments has attracted tens of millions of viewers. Even if those eyeballs don’t convert into traditional ratings-based advertising dollars, they have helped turn Corden into something that Carson, Leno, and Letterman, in spite of their long careers as ratings magnets and profit engines, never quite managed to become: a global brand. The job of those storied hosts was to go to bed with as many Americans as possible each weeknight, which called for a certain kind of generically American appeal, and also a certain detachment. Most of their successors are trying to run that old game in new ways. Corden is different: a family man, a fan, and a pal; a working-class Brit transmitting his blend of whimsy and sincerity to every corner of the world at every hour of the day. “He can play a role,” Ben Winston said of his old buddy, “act in a sketch, sing a song, perform in any way you can imagine. He’s comfortable with who he is—this warm soul with talents that he’s very willing to show off. People like him. They feel like he’s their friend. He is their friend, and that more than anything else is why the show works.” The Late Late Show is now carried in more than 150 markets. In Los Angeles, its host is a local celebrity—sought after at dinner parties, doted on by the staff at the Brentwood steakhouse, recognised on the street. After dinner, we made our way to the valet line, past a small knot of youngish Wednesdaynight revellers. “Is that Mr James Corden?” one of them asked me as the man in question made his way to a nearby ATM. This fan, a large fellow with a neat goatee, summoned the nerve to ask Corden for a selfie. Corden asked where he was from. “Kuwait,” the man said. “We watch you all the time there.” Corden was delighted to hear it. The manager, who was keeping a discreetly protective eye on his celebrity patron, was surprised. “You watch him in Kuwait?” he asked, and the two of them continued the conversation in Arabic. The only words I could understand were “Michelle Obama” and “Carpool Karaoke.” What more did I need to know?
sw e ats h i rt by d o lc e & ga b bana .
when mao was released from Lai Chi Kok Correctional Institution in Kowloon with his earring in a brown envelope, he had few to no options. He crawled from one building’s window into the Wah Ha Apartment for Men, negotiating the fissures between Hong Kong’s dense high-rises to find himself in a maze of three-tiered bunk beds wrapped in wire mesh. He was assigned a “cage home” previously occupied by a junkie who ODed the night before. Rental was HKD180 a month with complimentary tea and electricity. “You’ll soon find beauty in the cage,” said 7-11, a chelonian 99-year-old man in an adjacent cage packed with canned food like a provision shop. “You’ll feel uneasy without a cage surrounding you,” he foretold. In a garbled voice that a lifetime ago harmonised with gospel choirs for free meals, 7-11 started to sing: “Swing low, sweet chariot / Coming for to carry me home.” But as many living south of the poverty line come to know, home is a four-letter word. That was a scene from the 1992 film, Cageman. In the year after the film’s launch, the Tetris labyrinth of Kowloon Walled City would be evicted of its 50,000 residents and demolished, while Wong Ka-kui of the band Beyond, who portrayed Mao, would fall to his death and take up permanent residence in one of the many crowded terraced graves overlooking the bay with libations of flat Coke for company. Annually, in Hong Kong today, the dead, racking up over 46,000, and the living, totalling nearly 300,000, face a paucity of space. The beatific dead wait in jars for A4-sized niches, and the still breathing, while they can afford to, live out their limbo in creative interpretations of home. The largest of these are rooftop homes, similar to the one Old Master Q occupied above the iconic Jardine House, where treadmill yuppies in skyscraper gyms can contemplate your laundry. Residents acclimatise to the rhythmic slapstick pathos of “when it rains, it leaks; when it shines, it bakes.” Typhoons, though, are no joke. Moving down in square footage are cubicle homes where an apartment is, in colloquial terms, “butchered” by the landlord into smaller units, some requiring only five steps to get across, if you can find footing on the crammed floor. Then there are the cocklofts that are distilled versions of Being John Malkovich’s floor seven-and-a-half. Smaller still are the 15sqft cage homes and coffin rooms. In 2016, the former fetched 10 times the rental Mao would have paid, excluding utilities. The latter, sepulchral cubbyholes, as seen in these photographs, can incur a steep monthly damage of HKD2,500.
These photographs and more are currently exhibited at the 269 Gallery by the Society for Community Organisation (SoCO) in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, until April 30, 2017. For more information, visit www.soco.org.hk/trapped
The residents of these claustrophobic dwellings— bus and taxi drivers, cha chaan teng janitors, fry cooks, construction workers, supermarket cashiers, security guards, and even school children—can wait anywhere between three and 10 years before receiving public housing. In the meantime, they avoid eviction and make the best of their granular and hidden pads. Belongings they are entitled to hold on to, such as a drinking cup, a dog-eared book or prayer beads, however insignificant, have become metonymies of their individual humanity. On the extreme opposite end of Hong Kong’s ever-growing wealth gap, the Asia Funeral Expo in Wanchai recently displayed a 24k gold coffin that wouldn’t look out of place as a trunk in the penthouse of Trump Tower. Anyone who could afford its USD120,000 price tag might not even find the land to bury it in. It’s a morbid token of comfort. Regardless of which casket you sleep in, the breathers and the departed are equals.
W ords by R ebecca C hew / P hoto g raphs by B e n n y L am
WHAT I’ VE LEA R N ED
Tom Ford Mogul, 55 Interview by Paul Wilson
I’m tired of being me and I’m ready to give more time to another person. That’s why I’m so happy now to be a father to Jack, who just turned four. It’s absolutely the right time in my life. I couldn’t have had a son when I was 40—I was probably too drunk, for one thing. I’m a terrible tennis player but I play three times a week, if I can. I’m too competitive to play against friends, so I play the pro. I am very spiritual. I was brought up Presbyterian, went to a Jesuit school— only because it was the best one in the neighbourhood—but I’ve never been into organised religion. Next to my bed I keep a copy of Tao Te Ching, and every so often I’ll read a bit. Even just one line can be so powerfully truthful. London is wonderful. I love the people, I love all the culture, I love the formality. There was no need for me to move the Gucci design studio from Italy to London. I did it because I love it so much. It’s so quiet there. In New York, the taxis honk on their horns, but not in London. The only problem is, I’m from the American West, and London doesn’t have the weather. If it did, it would be perfect. Men do not dress better now than they did before. British and Italian men are well dressed, and so are some in New York. In Los Angeles they are definitely not. Wearing shorts with jackets—I never see that in London. As for flipflops? Men’s feet are not like women’s, and women know what a pedicure is. It was only when I went to New York
when I was 17 that I realised I was gay. Before then, I had girlfriends, I was happy with them and they were happy with me. I suppose I didn’t really imagine that homosexuality even existed back then. Then I went to New York, and it was, “Oh. Right. That’s what it is.” The one thing I do less of, now I’m a father, is industry events. I would say
that I turn down 90 percent of them. If you don’t need to be somewhere, then don’t go. How do you get people to work for you? You hire the right ones and you
give them the space to do the things they need to do for you, especially if they’re creative. My work in fashion certainly helped me be ready to direct a movie—you work visually, you think carefully about the way things look and how that impacts on people. I can manage large groups of people because that’s what you do as the creative director of a fashion house. Delete most of the emails you get.
Don’t even open the ones you get from people you don’t know, or ones you don’t need to reply to. People in the press have mocked me
for the number of hot baths I take every day. It used to be five, but since I’ve become a father, it’s only two. Maybe three. But I definitely need to have a half-hour in the tub in the morning, after I get up at 6am, just to lie there and think. That’s my meditation. To maintain a long-term relationship
[Ford has been with Richard Buckley since 1986; they married in 2014] you have to be best friends, you have to understand one another. And you also have to have had short-term relationships before that, and as soon as you know they’re wrong, you stop them and move on.
I’m very happy at this point in my life.
It’s where I pictured myself—successful and happy. I was always very ambitious, and I wanted to make a lot of money and have nice things. But I can see myself one day living a sort of Georgia O’Keeffe life, away from everyone and without so many things. To be honest, it feels a bit like we live away from everyone now, even though we live between Los Angeles and London. It can be done. Everything in my home used to be
perfect. Now it’s not and I’m okay with
that. Perfection used to be something I had to have everywhere, and now I’ve realised it isn’t important. I do my work, and then see Richard and Jack as much as I can. There are more important ways to spend the time you have. Money can’t buy you style. It really can’t. When I was drinking, I was drinking a lot, and there was the other stuff, too. After three drinks, I’d try anything. Eventually, it got bad. People would tell me it was bad, that I was bad, but I carried on. I was depressed but I talked to a psychiatrist and a therapist and I stopped. I haven’t had a drink for seven years, and I really don’t want to. I could make you a cocktail and you could drink it in front of me and I really would not want one. I have always loved clothes, but I had no idea fashion was what I wanted to do. I was an actor, I studied architecture. It only happened when I worked as an assistant at a fashion company in France [Chloé]. You could say it was destiny: I believe in destiny, and one thing I’m going to do as a father is help my son to realise his destiny, to help him become the person he’s supposed to be. I have had Botox. I’ve not had any surgery. The trick with Botox is just don’t inject too much of it. I’ve actually had less of it recently. Exercise is the thing you need to do if you want to keep looking good as you get older. I went to Studio 54 with Andy Warhol
and his crowd. You’d go there and if it wasn’t good, you’d go to Xenon, then maybe back to 54, and so on. The Mudd Club was also great. I made friends there who have been close friends ever since. Recently, Diane von Fürstenberg came to dinner at the house. I first met her then, in the 70s. I have worked very hard, but I have also been very, very lucky. 97
A man’s best friend …and his best clothes from Spring/Summer 2017 collections.
Photography by Kim Mun Styling by Ian Loh
Art direction by Rebecca Chew
Nylon jacket and baby calf leather pants, both by Coach 1941; derby shoes by Louis Vuitton. Naiomi, female, around 6 years old.
Leather jacket and wool pants, both by Gucci. Addie, male, four months.
Cotton and linen jacquard jacket and pants, and cotton poplin shirt, all by Dior Homme. Biscuit, female, around two years old.
Knitted cotton shirt by Bottega Veneta. Estee, female, two months.
Leather blazer and cotton pants, both by Versace. Adidas, male, one month.
I n t e rv ie w by Pau l Wilso n.
Cotton sports shirt by Salvatore Ferragamo. Moe, male, three months.
Silk shirt, wool pants and Savana sandals, all by Louis Vuitton. Scooby, male, 18 months.
Cotton sweatshirt with zip details by Givenchy. Ace, male, one month.
Lambskin jacket by Emporio Armani. Anna, female, two months.
Polyester coat, nylon top, virgin wool blend pants and rubber sandals, all by Prada. Precious, female, two months.
st y li st ass i st e d by Sa r a h C h o n g; a rt d i r ecto r ass i st e d by K at h ry n Tan. G ro o min g by s h aw n G o h. M o d el : Lu cas/ w u m o d els.
Nappa lambskin leather jacket and cotton pants, both by Loewe. Joey, seven months.
Fo r a d o p t i o n info r mat i o n, v i s i t s p c a .o rg.m y/ w h at-w e- d o/a d o p t i o n. Ag e o f animals d en ot e d at t h e t ime o f p h oto s h o ot. Special t h anks to Helen an d Z a r a f ro m S P CA Selan g o r.
From London to New York, Esquire’s editors venture into the realm of a fashion house that has been redefining luxury of late. Words by Teo van de Broeke, Ian Loh & Nick Sullivan
A glance at the list of previous employers of Stuart Vevers—the soft-spoken but loudly acclaimed British Creative Director of American luxury brand, Coach—is a bit like flicking through the front bank of ads in a magazine like this one. Since starting out in 1996, he has worked for Calvin Klein, Bottega Veneta, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, Mulberry and Loewe. (He has lived and worked in London, New York, Milan, Paris and Madrid: no wonder he needs so many bags.) It was with Mulberry that Vevers’ name began to be known outside fashion circles. He was instrumental in the transformation of the label’s fortunes in the mid-Noughties, when it was making the “It” bags of the moment. Vevers’ tenure at Loewe was equally fruitful and admired, so it was no surprise when, in 2013, he was poached by Coach to inject some contemporary vitality into an established label in need of a shot of design adrenaline. Over the past three years, he’s done just that. “I guess I’ve always wanted Coach to approach the idea of luxury in a different way, in an American way,” Vevers says. “I’ve spent a lot of my career in traditional European luxury. With Coach, I was like, ‘What makes America different? What can make Coach different?’ And I think it’s that it should be cool; y’know, American style is about being cool. That was a really important starting point for me. I just wanted everything that we did to have that feeling.” 110
Last year, Vevers—a Yorkshireman from a “straight-forward, working-class family”—returned to the UK for the opening of Coach’s new flagship store on London’s Regent Street. Its opening dovetailed neatly with the brand’s 75th anniversary—another reason for Vevers to celebrate. “The Regent Street store, with our new store on Fifth Avenue, is much bigger than anything else that we have in the world. What’s really exciting is I get to present a full assortment [of product],” Vevers says. “We also have lots of unique services and special capsule collections that we’ve
Stuart Vevers’ red-eye city guide 48 hours in London Eat: “St John is my favourite restaurant; I love the bar as well. The menu changes a lot, I’ve tried some pretty unusual things there and I’ve always enjoyed it. They do a really good cheese sandwich in the bar.” stjohngroup.uk.com Drink: “Dukes hotel bar in Mayfair for a martini.” dukeshotel.com Shop: “Selfridges.” selfridges.com Sleep: “The St Pancras Hotel and Chiltern Firehouse.” stpancraslondon.com; chilternfirehouse.com
done for Regent Street. We have some customised varsity jackets and a few biker jackets.” And does Vevers have a secret recipe for producing a collection? “A lot of it has to be instinct. It’s about asking questions, doing research, trying to get your head into the DNA of the company but, at some point, you just have to go with your gut, go with something that feels right.” Which explains Rexy, the brand’s new Tyrannosaurus rex mascot that adorns many of this season’s key pieces. “It has nothing to do with Coach’s story,” Vevers laughs. “It’s honestly just a random image that I found really appealing!” —TVDB. New beginnings Call it serendipitous but Rexy’s popularity shows no signs of abating. It has even prompted the brand to launch a capsule collection based
entirely on her (yes, Rexy is female). And that’s not all. Walk into Coach House on Fifth Avenue in New York and you’ll be immediately welcomed by a giant, 12ft Rexy sculpture made out of 400 Coach leather bags. The brand’s new global flagship—at a sprawling 20,000sqft—is the biggest in the world. Its design is a collaboration between Vevers and Bill Sofield of New York-based Studio Sofield. “This has been a story 75 years in the making,” Coach CEO Victor Luis is quoted as saying by Architectural Digest. “It’s a truly American story, founded on American values of inclusivity, optimism and hard work meeting opportunity to make dreams come true.” His message was especially poignant at the time, as the hordes of protesters, news crews and police that thronged the nearby Trump Tower were visible through the store’s windows.
Above Stuart Vevers.
Coach’s flagship store on 5th Avenue.
Founded in 1941 as a humble, family-run workshop in a loft on 34th Street in Manhattan, Coach’s new store certainly feels like an American dream come true. And the store definitely reflects that spirit. In the foyer, a mechanised conveyor belt is installed with Coach products on the ceiling. Inside, the look is cool as it is industrial, with a wide, blackened steel-and-concrete staircase and a retro, glassenclosed elevator that take you to the second and third floor. Hot neon-pink signage marks the craftsmanship station on the second floor, which offers monogramming services with kitschy emojis (think unicorns, donuts, the Statue of Liberty). Beyond that, a large, contemporary sculpture in wood—traced from an iconic rock in Central Park—accents the menswear section. Upstairs, unique areas include a station where you can create your own Coach Rogue handbag. No doubt Coach’s heritage as a leather manufacturer is heavily accented throughout the store. It is the company’s new philosophy of modern luxury and a re-imagination of the New York attitude that separates it from its counterparts on the avenue. 112
The Coach 1941 SS17 Collection.
And though Coach is primarily known for— and still makes the vast majority of its revenue from—leather goods, Vevers’ youthful and modern clothing has contributed a decent amount to its real estate. “I want Coach to stand at the forefront of what the next generation defines as luxury going forward because the idea of luxury is shifting dramatically. Today, a sneaker, a playful backpack or a sweatshirt can be a luxury item. Luxury no longer has to be formal or an investment. I’m not interested in a stiff briefcase or a formal, uptight cocktail dress. It doesn’t feel right to me, for today,” Vevers is quoted as telling Forbes.—IL. Physical graffiti Fear not: the Coach that defined a quiet, traditional luxury still exists. But Vevers has injected a boldness that has made the brand an example of how to reimagine a house with a strong heritage without losing its soul. Vevers oversees all of Coach’s production and merchandising, including its legendary leather goods, but it’s in clothing that he is really shifting the company into higher gear. Coach 1941 has a decidedly youthful feel. “The new codes of luxury are being defined by the next generation, which wants to spend their money on a sneaker, a T-shirt or a fun handbag,” he says. “And I think a lot of this has been driven by the taste and the boldness of Asian style. This new generation doesn’t see status in a stiff attaché case, a classic court shoe or tailoring. They want something that reflects their lives and personalities.” For his Spring ’17 collection, Vevers tapped legendary Los Angeles artist Gary Baseman to
Stuart Vevers’ red-eye city guide 48 hours in New York Eat: “The Waverly Inn in the West Village where I live. It’s like a canteen, really cosy with an open fire. It feels like old-school New York, lots of character.” waverlynyc.com Drink: “The Greenwich Hotel bar for a glass of red wine.” thegreenwichhotel.com Shop: “Obviously Coach! Otherwise, Opening Ceremony. There’s always something fun and cool.” openingceremony.com Sleep: “The High Line Hotel. I stayed there when I first went to New York. It’s quite charming.” thehighlinehotel.com
graffiti a broad range of products—including leather jackets, totes and T-shirts—just hours before the collection hit the runway. Baseman’s designs sold as original art and will continue to sell in print form on T-shirts. Motifs riff on American ideals gleaned from realms as diverse as surf culture and the American West. Vevers also played with Americana, subverting preppy loafers with studs. It’s classic, but not as we know it. “Words like classic are not so relevant today,” says Vevers. “I’ve used them before in my career but, after the last recession, I felt like people hung on to these ideals as a kind of reassurance that didn’t mean much in the end. The best brands today are making great fashion that is strengthened by their heritage, but not dictated by it.”—NS.
Left The Craftmanship Bar at the Coach flagship store on 5th Avenue.
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Jacket by Giuseppe Zanotti Design; trousers by Bally. Opposite: Jacket, T-shirt and trousers, all by Valentino; shoes by Valentino Garavani.
Narcos’ Pedro Pascal is hard to miss in this season’s breakout look—sharp new takes on camouflage. Photographs by Alexei Hay / Styling by Matthew Marden
Shirt by Banana Republic; trousers by Dries Van Noten; sneakers by AMI Alexandre Mattiussi; 123 Golden Heritage watch by Bell & Ross.
Jacket (part of suit) by Dolce & Gabbana; sweater by LL Bean.
Hiding in Plain Sight Pedro Pascal is going through an identity crisis. “On the street, I get either ‘Are you the Red Viper?’ or ‘Are you Javier Peña?’ ” he says. He is neither, but those two characters give a nice summary of the 41-year-old actor’s recent trajectory: first as Oberyn Martell, the bisexual heartthrob on HBO’s Game of Thrones, and now 118
as the real-life DEA agent hunting Pablo Escobar on Netflix’s Narcos. “If anyone knows my name, they probably Googled me first,” Pascal says. When he arrives at the coffee shop in Chelsea’s High Line Hotel, Pascal is a little harried. He’s wearing a sweater from our photo shoot the week prior, and he suspects he left his phone at home. The Chilean-born, American-raised actor is in New York last minute between Chile and London, enduring a few travel-heavy weeks before his return to Bogotá. There he’ll shoot the third season of Narcos just as the series pivots: With Escobar dead (spoiler!), Pascal’s character confronts
a new adversary, the Cali Cartel. “I have no idea what I’m allowed to say about the next season,” Pascal admits. “But then, you can look it up. All the major events, you can find them online.” That’s the thing about a true-life series: There may be colourful deviations, but the tentpole events must be accurate. Pascal, who met with the real Javier Peña before filming and even went through some actor-friendly training at Quantico, argues that if anything, the show casts the violent, drug-fuelled story in a softer light. “People watch this and say, ‘I can’t fucking believe it,’ and I actually believe it was worse,” he says. “I think Escobar
was probably scarier and more violent than what’s depicted.” His latest project likely won’t be held to the same historical scrutiny. In The Great Wall, out this month, he helps defend the titular barrier from an army of monsters back in ad 1100. The ChineseAmerican project was directed by Zhang Yimou, whom Pascal has idolised since the 80s (“he’s like the Steven Spielberg of China”), and also stars Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe, and Chinese actors Andy Lau and Jing Tian. The film weathered early accusations of whitewashing, but Pascal asks that audiences not judge a book by its cover (or in this case, its trailer). “Miss
this and you’d be denying yourself exposure to Chinese masters of the form,” he says. “I think it’s important that people see it and experience what isn’t familiar to them in the Western world.” Just then a woman interrupts us. “Excuse me,” she begins, iPhone in hand. “I think you left your phone over on the counter.” It is Pascal’s, and he thanks her profusely. Which raises the question: Does he want to finally be recognised by his own name? “Whatever’s next, that’s what I want to hear,” he says. “‘Are you the guy from Great Wall?’ As long as people see it, I don’t care if they know my name.”—Jon Roth
Left: Jacket, shirt and trousers, all by DSquared2; shoes by Santoni. Below: Shirt by Bottega Veneta; trousers by Calvin Klein.
Jacket by Moncler; shirt, trousers and shoes, all by Dior Homme.
S e t d e s i g n by J i m G r atso n fo r At e l i e r M a n ag e m e n t. G ro o m i n g by Ku m i C r a i g fo r Sta r wo r ks A rt i sts.
Suit by Canali; sweatshirt and sunglasses, both by Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci.
of Style Personal style. two simple words, but as these 16 men show, it’s an idea that has limitless possibilities. Here are 2017’s most fashionable guys on the planet: Men WHo prove it’s not the clothes that make the man but how that man wears them.
words By Dan Rookwood
The Denim Whisperer
At just a glance, you might not understand why Visvim, Hiroki Nakamura’s label, has a cult following. But then you feel it, wear it, and something clicks. Embodied by Nakamura and inspired by Native American fashion and workwear from a time in America when things were built to be indestructible, the clothes evince a kind of soul from labour-intensive Japanese artisanship, both traditional and technological. Like Nakamura’s style, it’s of the past and the future at once. Jacket and jeans by Visvim.
Gary Clark Jr
Aust i n’s P ow e r P l ay e r
This is how you own your roots. The Texan guitar slinger claims he started wearing his trademark hats only because he doesn’t know what to do with his hair. He even wore a hat and boots to marry his wife, model Nicole Trunfio.
Jeff Goldblum M r F ly
“Dress Your Age” does not apply to Jeff Goldblum. The 64-year-old star is a big fan of slim-line Saint Laurent and Acne Studios and can pull off looks that few mortals of any age can. He’s further proof that great style transcends time.
P h oto g r aph o f H i ro k i N a k a m u r a by t u r e l i lleg r aven .
T h e Fas h i o n -S e t M i x e r
Plenty of Wall Street drones fantasise about loosening the white collar to do something more creative. Paul Sevigny, older brother of Chloë, did just that. The onetime Olympiclevel sailor and pro skater left behind a dull career in finance to become a dapper DJ by night instead. He’s a regular on the decks at fashion parties and film premieres, where he alters his look from suited and booted to dressed-down T-shirt and sneakers. Suit, Phineas Cole by Paul Stuart; shirt and pocket square by Charvet; tie by Hermès; coat by Salvatore Ferragamo. Presented by Salvatore Ferragamo.
T h e H o o d Rat M ad e G o o d
The vigilante hacker on Mr Robot has shed his hoodie and stepped into the fashion spotlight. There’s nothing robotic about the risk-taking red-carpet looks of Rami Malek, which run the gamut from biker jacket and varsity bomber to perfectly fitted tailoring in punchy shades of green, blue, and burgundy. And no one wears printed button-up shirts better.
T h e Fas h i o n FOOT BA LLER
For Japan’s most-famous-ever soccer player, the appeal of playing overseas in Italy was as much about the fashion as the sport. The attacking playmaker retired surprisingly early, at 29, and has since become a fixture at haute-couture events, regularly photographed “shoulder robing” (wearing his jacket/coat over his shoulders without putting his arms through)—a true mark of rakishness.
P h oto g r aph o f Pau l S ev i gny by Dav i d U r ban k e .
T h e A n t i - Fas h i o n Ed i to r
With his bed head, stubble, prescription Ray-Ban aviators in various tinted shades, pointy boots, tight jeans, and battered leather or denim jacket, the 53-year-old co-founder of niche French magazine Purple looks like an ageing rock star. “Create a uniform that you feel comfortable in and stick to that,” he once said. “Find the items that fit you best and just wear them every day, until they are completely destroyed.” Shirt by Acne Studios; jeans by Uniqlo; boots by Carvil; watch by Audemars Piguet; sunglasses by Ray-Ban; jacket by Salvatore Ferragamo. Presented by Salvatore Ferragamo.
T h e R e d - Ca r p e t W i n n e r
Justin Trudeau Because after Obama, who else will be the best-dressed politician?
P h oto g r aph o f Ol i v i e r Z ah m by J e r e m y L i eb m an .
Eddie Redmayne provides a master class in nonboring formalwear—blue tuxedos and suits in every jewel tone—but he keeps his shirts, ties and shoes simple. When dressing down, he applies the same rule: if one thing shouts, everything else should whisper.
André Saraiva M r A- L i st
As a graffiti artist, he would often wear a suit and tie to evade detection. Now 45 and still causing mischief, André Saraiva favours a black-leather jacket and fitted T-shirt: a perfect look for a nightlife impresario known for his A-list parties at hot spot Le Baron’s outposts around the world. Jacket by Jeffrey Rüdes; shirt by Maison Kitsuné; trousers by Unis.
t h e b o h e m i a n ecc e n t r i c
T h e N e xt- G e n 0 07
One of the reasons the persistent James Bond rumours won’t go away is that Idris Elba is a credible action hero who looks so damn good in tailoring. A classic tuxedo, a well-judged three-piece suit, a statement overcoat: Big Driis (to call him by his old DJ name) wears it all like a second skin.
The great British actor, now 68, regards a dress code as a challenge, not a requirement— he once wore sneakers with his tux to the Oscars. His style has always been eclectic, giving him an air of dishevelled elegance.
P h oto g r aph o f A nd r é Sa r a i va by J e r e m y L i eb m an .
T h e Sc h o o l mast e r
The US designer has made the shrunken gray suit his trademark. The buttons on his white oxford shirt collar are left unbuttoned, his skinny tie set schoolboyishly askew. To appear sockless, he wears discreet liners in his brogues. The bottom two buttons on his cardigan are left undone so as to partially reveal his signature placket strip of red, white, and blue grosgrain—the only pop of colour in the entire ensemble, which is otherwise umpteen shades of gray but unmistakably Browne. Jacket, sweater, shirt, tie, shorts, shoes, pocket square and tie bar by Thom Browne.
T h e W e l l- C u r at e d Lo o k
As curator in charge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, Andrew Bolton has lent academic rigour to an industry that is often dismissed as fluffy and trivial. The floppy-haired 50-year-old Brit was the reluctant star of this year’s fascinating documentary The First Monday in May, which follows him as he puts together an exhibition for the Met Gala. A self-confessed “nerd,” he dresses like an overgrown schoolboy, wearing Thom Browne almost exclusively. Which is fair enough, given that the designer is his partner. Suit, shirt, tie, shoes and tie bar by Thom Browne.
Pharrell Williams P i o n e e r i n g P o ly mat h
An enigmatic, ageless visionary, Pharrell Williams has always been years ahead of his time. He was putting haute couture and sportswear together long before anyone coined the awful portmanteau athleisure. A man who has worn shorts to the Oscars is to be applauded for his bold interpretation of a dress code. Clap along.
H i g h - Low H i p- H o pp e r
Rapper A$AP Rocky, from Harlem, eschews most hip-hop trappings in favour of premier fashion labels like Raf Simons, which he occasionally mixes with high street—he once wore Topman to the Met Gala. This year he collaborated with JW Anderson and Guess Originals.
P h oto g r a ph o f T h o m B rowne & A nd r ew Bo lto n by J e r e m y L i eb m an .
Access all areas We sneak backstage at some of the season’s biggest shows to bring you this report. Words by Ian Loh & Janie Cai 128
Ex Scalo Farini, Milan, June 2016 At first glance, Alessandro Michele’s new collection resembles what you’ve come to expect from new-era Gucci: ’70s silhouettes, beadwork, embroidery, chinoiserie and everything in between. But that’s not to say the collection is predictable. Far from it, in fact. When you hone in on the details, you soon realise that Michele remains very much the unabashed maximalist—and that’s why the fashion world simply adores him. Working with the theme of wanderlust this season, Michele explains that, ironically, he hates travelling, and so chose to find inspiration for the collection in dreams and fantasy. “With a book, you can travel. If I change the tapestry of my chair, I sit and I PHOTOGRAPHS BY GUCCI AND KEVIN TACHMAN.
travel,” Michele is quoted as saying by Vogue Runway. Perhaps the same theory can be applied to the clothes, where, for example, one can’t help but associate the bright, yellow raincoat with Curious George’s Man in the Yellow Hat. Citing Il Milione, the 13th-century travelogue of Marco Polo, Michele reimagines the fantasy of travel via Greek script (the name of the Greco-Egyptian god Serapis—Σέραπις—adorns the back of several jackets), fabulous embroidery, flora and fauna, and even Disney characters. Donald Duck appears not only on clothes, but also on footwear and bags, giving the collection an instant, childlike vision. Gucci plans to expand its customisation programme so oversized monograms of giant, sewn-in letters can be seen on patterned suits and bomber jackets. The neo-vintage bag collection, again, echoes Michele’s eclectic, more-is-more approach that transports the Gucci renaissance gentleman from the realm of vintage fantasy to the territory of the real and the relatable. 129
Giorgio Armani, S.p.A., Milan, June 2016 Mr Armani wants us to go on a journey with his collection, Crossing Borders. In a season full of change, he remains the undisputed King of Italian Fashion, and it’s not hard to see why. Borders, boundaries and time zones—you get the feeling that they mean nothing to the Armani man who is suave, sophisticated and ever ready to fly halfway around the world at a moment’s notice. There’s a certain ease in the manner in which the models glide down the runway. Up close, you’ll see hints of the Caribbean in patterns and dusty desert tones on worn-out fabrics. Slightly Chaplin-esque proportions—shrunken jackets, baggy pants—suggest a man who wants to stay as comfortable as possible while on the move. By introducing a sportswear feel to the garments, it looks like Mr Armani is testing the boundaries between tailoring and athleisure. But what really catches our attention are the fabrics and the leather, which have been washed until they have the lived-in feel of old linen that has aged as gracefully as Mr Armani himself.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY VIRGINIA ARCARO.
Tennis Club de Paris, Paris, June 2016 A spiralling, twisting, miniature roller-coaster of metal tracks fitted with multi-coloured lights greets us at the Tennis Club, the venue of the SS17 Dior Homme show. Spectacular, but perhaps too much so, as it distracts a tad from the models who zip through the set like speedsters on a fixed course. Fortunately, there is always the re-see, which allows an insight into the construction and the details of individual pieces. So, while the show serves to establish the intent and the energy of the Dior Homme man for SS17, which maintains continuity with the previous, skater-inspired collection (in the same red, white and black palette from AW16), the backstage is a chance to catch up on the details. One of the more arresting visual elements off the runway is the ring harness, worn over suiting and skin-coloured tunics, punching up the punk element. The laced bomber with its loose ends swinging to the model’s walk and the hand-stitched patchwork on denim, which combines two layers of denim with thousands of stitches, make forward statements. A collaboration with Japanese artist Toru Kamei results in a surreal skull-and-floral print that finds its way to jacquards and suiting. Noteworthy, too, is the method in which Kris Van Assche has had a template of the artist’s work stitched onto the back of a jacket in beige thread, and then printed over it with the same print in colour, creating a trompe l’oeil of singular beauty. And it is at the showroom that we learn how much tailoring savoir-faire has gone into the construction of some of the key pieces. The laced bomber requires 40m of lacing and 1,000 eyelets, all of which are hand-punched and fixed, with the laces woven through the material by hand. Each finished piece is the culmination of at least two days’ work. Close up, a sports coat reveals panelled patterns seamlessly created using different materials, including a fabric made by applying rubber to the surface of the material, one that has also been introduced for a range of accessories and bags. It’s interesting, too, to observe how Dior Homme has cut down significantly on the production of its commercial line, and is now focused on the runway collection that it sends out each season. 133
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to celebrate the first anniversary of its Madison Avenue boutique, Roger Dubuis collaborates with WatchAnish to tell a visual tale of sleek cars, fine tailoring and the extravagant Excalibur collection. Set in New York, the NYC Daring Minds & Business Armour project reveals the flamboyant personality of a youthful, successful executive with each successive shot. It gives a glimpse of the archetypal Roger Dubuis aficionado’s world (“sleek cars, fine tailoring, loft living, high-end dining”) and the “trademark technical excellence and powerful design” of the Excalibur collection. Watch out for the next episode in the series.
Words by Daniel Goh Photographs by WatchAnish
a r o u
Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton in Black DLC Titanium.
Clockwise from left: Excalibur Spider Skeleton Flying Tourbillon In Black DLC Titanium. Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton in Black DLC Titanium. Excalibur 42 Automatic In Rose Gold.
Buatan Switzerl and
Masa Horlogerie introduces an unorthodox perspective to the world of watchmaking by bringing Malaysian-inspired elements to Swiss-made watches.
Words by Daniel Goh Photographs by Kahmun The Statesmen57 Collection.
Dr Ahmad Syahid, founder of Masa Horlogerie.
“Can I double-wrist it?” Dr Ahmad Syahid, founder of Masa Horlogerie, asks us as he straps on two of his watches, one on each wrist, and takes his position in front of the camera. “I’ll set one of them to Swiss time and the other to Malaysian time,” he chuckles. Although he means it as a joke, this gesture is more symbolic than he makes it out to be because, in many ways, the doctor/watchmaker represents the unconventional link between Malaysian culture and the traditional Swiss watchmaking industry. As you have probably gathered from the name, Masa Horlogerie is the bridge that this humble doctor has built. Situated about 20km from Kuala Lumpur in Country Heights, Kajang, the Masa gallery (where we are talking to Dr Syahid, or Syah as he likes to be called) is surrounded by trees and overlooks a vibrantly green field. This might be the closest Malaysians really get to the picturesque environment that Swiss watch manufactures seem to adore. We don’t have lush meadows, but we’ll settle for a neatly kept padang and, instead of grazing cattle, we have a bunch of schoolchildren playing football. This is where Syah runs Masa Horlogerie, and this is where he combines local and Swiss traditions to offer Malaysia’s very first and currently, only, Swiss handmade watch brand. He calls it “Heritage Horology” but, basically, the concept behind Masa is to create watches inspired by Malaysia for Ma-
laysians. This means the local culture, the traditions and the patriotism of our fellow countrymen are the central themes when it comes to Syah’s watches, resulting in timepieces that come with songket-weave straps or even watches that use the relief of a keris as a seconds hand. Even Masa’s emblem on the watch is reminiscent of our national one, you know, the one with a shield between two tigers. For Masa’s first few collections, a lot of the designs were based on Malay culture but, in the future, Syah says he plans to go beyond that. “Being one quarter Chinese myself, I have uncles on my Dad’s side who run a Chinese opera theatre in Muar. And I am planning a limited edition based on that, the colours, the makeup and the environment,” he adds. He also mentions the Indian kolam’s vivid colours and patterns. Far from just using these elements for novelty value, Masa is invested in serious watchmaking. Established on August 31, 2015 (MERDEKA!), the first 200 watches out of the manufacture used top-tier Swiss quartz movements, as it was the perfect way to showcase the quality of Swiss-made watches while still keeping the price relatively low. In this way, Syah tells us he was able to build the Masa brand and, with his second wave of references, there are already a number of mechanical watches using ETA and Selita movements. And, for 2017, he says 90 percent of the references will have mechanical movements. 139
Even though Syah designs all the watches himself at the moment (most of the time drawing at home, with his children around), he says he is actually really well-versed in the technical side of watchmaking. “I started playing around with mechanical watches when I was seven, of course, with my father’s watches,” he recalls. “To me, they were like ‘cadaver’ watches and I would do a ‘post-mortem’ on them to see if I could make a Frankenstein watch out of the parts.” Then, at the age of about 15 with the boom of the Internet, Syah started to mingle with people in the Swiss watch industry (when the rest of his peers were hung up on watches like the G-Shock) on various forums and websites. When he turned 17, Syah actually wanted to pursue watchmaking seriously, even planning to enrol in the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Programme (WOSTEP). But, as watchmaking isn’t even close to the vocabulary of parentapproved jobs in Malaysia, Syah eventually opted to be a doctor ( just for reference, the trifecta of ideal parent-approved jobs are doctor, engineer and lawyer, in that order). To date, Syah has two degrees in medicine, but it was thanks to a national entrepreneurship competition that he won in 2015 that he is even talking to us about Masa Horlogerie today. “There
were 6,000 applicants for that competition and I pitched them the idea for a Malaysian fine watch company,” he recalls. “I was fortunate that most of the judges were watch lovers and, because I am a doctor, it created a sort of persona for me: the doctor who makes watches. I made it to the top 70, and then the top seven.” His prize money, however, wasn’t even close to the amount needed to start a watch company in Switzerland but in the good doctor’s own words: “With the network and the knowledge that I have built over time, and through my design and technical capabilities, I was able to significantly reduce the cost of starting up.” The most recent references in Masa Horlogerie’s arsenal were designed by Syah himself and through a collaboration with a friend and his family-owned atelier (where Masa pretty much has free reign), the watches are made in Switzerland, before returning home to Malaysia bearing the prestigious “Swiss Made” mark. “Bringing a Malaysian element to watchmaking isn’t all that difficult. The challenging part is to get them [the Swiss] to understand what these elements are. So, when I go for meetings there, I always wear baju Melayu and songket to show them what the elements are used for,” he says. All of the watches out of the Masa Horlogerie manufacture
The straps are inspired by songket weave.
The New Statesmen7 Royal Series: Royal I.
are numbered and produced in limited editions. If you visit their website, you’ll see that almost all of the nine current references are sold out. Syah even recounts a story where there was one buyer who actually bought the last watch off his wrist, by chance, in a shopping mall, dealing in cash. Even with their current success, Masa is not content to rest on their laurels; Syah is determined to push his brand further. “When I started Masa, I didn’t want to make a one-off collection,” he stresses. “I wanted longevity because, in the horology industry, heritage is very important.” And with that, he tells us that work has already begun on the brand’s own manufacture movements. As humble as Syah is, we detect a hint of pride in his voice as he tells us that his very first movement for the brand—the calibre MH01—has already been submitted for technical verification, and that he hopes that they will be making watches with inhouse movements by 2019. From there, the sky is the limit, with Syah even mentioning something about a flying rotor in the wau bulan motif or a minute repeater with cak lempong elements. A bit closer at hand, however, 2018 is going to be another big year for Masa as they plan to debut their first tourbillon watch, and even target to exhibit in SalonQP, Dubai Watch Week and Baselworld. “I also hope to bring the Malaysian craftsmen that I work with to these exhibitions because I think the crafts profession is quite a noble one in Malaysia and we have really creative people who deserve recognition,” he says. “For example, there is a tannery in Langkawi that produces really good leather
and Bibah Songket (the guys who currently work with Masa on their songket-inspired straps) are the best songket weavers in the country. If I have the budget, I want to bring the songket-weaving machine along as it is great exposure for Malaysian culture.” Syah’s passion for watches extends beyond just running Masa Horlogerie as a business. In tandem with the brand, he has also set up the Masa Watch Club (MWC), which he describes as a collection of horology enthusiasts (preferably with Masa watches on their wrist). “My main goal with MWC is to create a watch club on a national level like the Singapore Watch Club or the Dubai Watch Club,” he adds. Through this organisation, members will get access to events and be absorbed into the luxury watch circle, which is presumably an incredible opportunity to learn more about these mechanical instruments. Additionally, Syah hopes to nurture the younger generation to better appreciate watches through awareness and also through a watchmaking school that he hopes to set up. Rumour has it he is also looking for an apprentice. As our interview draws to a close, Syah shares an inspiring story about his youngest customer to date: a seven-year-old boy. “His father was interested in the quartz Statesman 57 watch, but his son saw the Statesman with the open heart and really wanted it. In the end, I gave him a really big discount on the watch because the little boy reminded me of myself; and now, he will be able to say, my first-ever watch was a Statesman 57 Heart of Merdeka Automatic.” 141
In sync with the world Meet Chopard’s first-ever world-time and GMT chronometers. Words by Daniel Goh
W LUC Time Traveller One.
ake up in Tokyo, sip green tea, nibble delectable sushi. Next week: vertiginous dinner at the Burj, lit up by Dubai city beneath. The following month, Moscow, New York, LA, Beijing... rinse and repeat. It’s easy for the jet-set man to lose track of time. Fortunately, Chopard has you covered. Playing globetrotter requires more than just three hands and a day-date indicator. The worldtime complication gives you the ability to sync with people in different time zones at a glance. The difference between a watch with a GMT and a world-time function is that the former often comes with a 24-hour ring in addition to the 12-hour indicator on the dial. This 24-hour ring allows the wearer to display a second time zone (usually with a day/night indicator worked in). The world timer is a little more complex; by using a bezel or an inner bezel with all the time zones printed on it, it shows all the major ones on the dial at a glance. Chopard celebrated the 20th anniversary of the founding of its LUC manufacture (named for founder Louis-Ulysse Chopard) last year. In pursuit of ever-finer watchmaking, it has added a GMT and world-time watch to its LUC collection for the first time in its history. Both new additions are certified by the COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des
Chronomètres, the official chronometer certification agency of Switzerland). LU C T i m e T r av e ll e r O n e The Time Traveller One is marvellous to behold. It comes in steel, rose gold or platinum. The rose-gold model is exquisite with its white dial and night indicator in blue. In contrast, the steel Traveller One has a cool black dial (achieved by galvanic treatment) and orange markers and hands. The platinum model has a grey-blue dial. The Traveller One has the LUC 01.05-L movement with 60 hours of power reserve and bridges decorated with Côtes de Genève. LU C G M T O n e The GMT One offers a second time zone function and well-suited colour schemes. The 42mm rosegold case has a matching dial in a brown hue, with Arabic numerals and day indicator finished in pristine white for high legibility. Even the steel variant with a black, sunburst, satin-brushed dial is an elegant option. Attention is paid to detail: the second crown used to control the GMT ring on the watch is distinguished by a globe symbol. Employing the LUC 01.10-L calibre movement, all the LUC GMT One’s internal components are chamfered and its bridges adorned with Côtes de Genève, in line with traditional watchmaking heritage. 143
The new game in town The new Piaget Polo S channels the spirit of the original for contemporary times. Words by Daniel Goh
In 1979, Piaget had wanted a contender in the luxury sports segment to go toeto-toe with the likes of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus. Enter the Polo, designed by Yves G Piaget himself, now chairman of the company. It was made entirely in gold, had a unique pattern of alternating satinfinished bracelet links and polished gadroons, and was the first watch to have this unique bracelet fully integrated with the case. Within it was the 7P calibre quartz movement that inherited an ultrathin structure from the manufacture’s famous ultra-thin hand-wound Calibre 9P. Thin, light and avant-garde in form, the Polo made the brand very popular among celebrities and this, in turn, put 144
Piaget on the map, says Eduardo Tartalo, managing director of Piaget in Australia and Southeast Asia. The new Polo S collection (‘s’ for steel) captures a different era. It keeps its progenitor’s round case, enlarged to 42mm, and incorporates the beautiful cousin-shape dial from the Emperador collection. The horizontal-gadroons look is no more, but the Polo S keeps the spirit of the original’s alternating finishes with a polished steel case and
satin-finished bezel that extends to the bracelet. Within is the self-winding Calibre 110P movement (Calibre 1160P for chronograph) with time indication and date functions built specifically for the Polo S. The combination of a simple threehand and date function within a stylish steel case keeps the Polo S under USD10,000, making it a great entry point into the Piaget constellation. The two pillars of Piaget remain the Altiplano and Gala. “Piaget is an expert when it comes to precious metals and stones, and this is not going to change,” says Tartalo. The Polo S is that ageless creation; it has no target demographic but has been made to suit a current market looking for a more relaxed vision of luxury.
Loud and clear
The magnum opus of the BR-X1 collection isn’t at all subtle but definitely a marvel to behold. Words by Daniel Goh
In many ways, the arrival of Bell & Ross’ BR-X1 collection
in 2015 heralded a decidedly new direction for the brand. Upon its launch, it was accompanied by a concept motorbike called the B-Rocket that was a step away from their heavy aviation influence. Then, last year, the BR-X1 case was the perfect tool to accompany yet another side project of their creative director, the AeroGT car; and with the BR-X1 Hyperstellar reaching to the outer rims of Earth’s atmosphere, it proved that the brand is no longer relying solely on its aeronautical roots to sell watches. Almost as a magnum opus of the BR-X1 collection, we now have the BR-X1 Tourbillon Sapphire, which most definitely sits at the top of the food chain—both in technical terms and price. More than just a watch, we think this timepiece is the brand’s declaration to the world that they have transcended far beyond the novelty concept of cockpit gauges, and now have the watchmaking know-how to propel them into the future. Why else would you make a multi-part case, which has to be
milled out of multiple blocks of sapphire crystal, if not to say, because we can? This crystal-clear case was cut out of six blocks of sapphire to be precise and, once assembled, the middle piece, the back, the top, the crystal and the two bumpers are held together by screws that are the only things obstructing a 360-degree view of the movement within. The skeletonised BR-CAL.285 movement offers a flying tourbillon as a kinetic sculpture, visually pleasing as always; and we can imagine, due to the transparent case, watching the mechanism move as you activate the chronograph would be fantastic to watch as well. Even the strap offers a unique mix of materials that merges translucent rubber with a metallic Kevlar weave. If you’re looking for the crown jewel of Bell & Ross watches, this is definitely it for now (and you can expect to fork out a king’s ransom to own one as well). But perhaps the more important question to ask is: what comes after this? You’ll just have to stay tuned to find out. 145
B EFOR E W E G O
Now coveted by a millennial near you
Plug-and-play turntable package: Clearaudio Concept MC Wood turntable with Concept tonearm and Concept MM or MC cartridge Baltic-birch wood chassis, starting at RM9250. cmy.com.my, clearaudio.de
The music industry’s plan was to kill vinyl records with CDs, forcing us all to buy new equipment and replace our music collections. It was fool-proof: after all, they owned the labels and made the electronics. But you know, the best-laid plans kaput, etc. Vinyl sales rose 10 percent last year, for the 11th consecutive year to 13.1 million units, according to Nielsen data. In the UK, it was 3.2 million units; a 25-year high. Business consultantcy Deloitte projects that 40 million LPs will be sold globally this year, and values the vinyl market of LPs, turntables and accessories at USD1b. Of course, this is dwarfed by a 500 percent rise in streaming services, a 24/7 all-you-can-eat buffet. “Yet, despite that, consumers are choosing to buy something tangible and nostalgic and at a price point that provides companies with with 146
significant revenues,” says Deloitte Head of Tech, Media and Telecoms Research, Paul Lee. If you’re looking to get into the vinyl revival or just feel you’ve earned yourself an upgrade, allow Esquire to point you in the direction of Clearaudio Concept. With its sharp design and substantial finish, its flagship deck has three speeds, 33.3, 45 and 78 (yes, 78!), controlled by a meaty rotary dial. The combination of materials—wood fibre, aluminium surround—apparently reduces vibrations to give a cleaner sound, but we’re swayed by a) its wood birch finish, and b) its simplicity—both in design and set-up. While some turntables require a steady hand and an MA in physics, this one really does just plug in and play, as all the adjustments are done prior to leaving Clearaudio HQ in Erlangen, Germany. P h oto g r a p h by Da n M cA l i st e r. Wo rds by J o h n n y Dav i s. a dd i t i o n a l r e p o rt i n g by e sq u i r e m a l ays i a .