Categories
Sustainability

I’m Dreaming of A Green Christmas…

by Milena Cvijanovich

Splash! The Neiman-Marcus Fantasy catalogue has arrived once again! In typical Neiman-Marcus style, the gifts proposed this year are truly glamorous. Originally a tongue-in-cheek offering to the fabulously wealthy Texans who patronized the original department store, today’s catalogue is as eagerly awaited as Santa Claus. In browsing through this year’s selections, it warmed my heart to read that a sizeable portion of every gift is donated to a charity or environmentally active organization. Now even the most unique and expensive items money can buy offer a way to « spread the good cheer. »   If you are tempted at all by their magnificent array of fantasy gifts, consider adding these luxurious, yet   environmentally ethical goodies to your stocking. I have shopped the globe to bring you exquisite examples of sustainable luxury items that will either blend beautifully with the gifts from Neiman-Marcus or stand gracefully on their own. As these sustainable luxury companies emerge, I think you will be taken by the beauty of their products and inspired to add an exotic, yet globally sensitive twist to this year’s yuletide treasures.

The world is moving toward combining luxury with sustainability to create unique and highly desirable products. In the coming months, a new magazine, SLL: Sustainable Luxury Lifestyle, will launch its debut. Due to burst onto the scene in the Spring of 2012, the entire publication will be dedicated to transporting the concept of sustainable luxury to an entirely new level. SLL will tickle your senses with exquisite products and sublime getaways, as well as keep you informed of what is occurring “behind the scenes” through its in-depth interviews with leaders on the sustainable luxury stage. The products, companies and philosophies featured in SLL promise to be truly leading edge, addressing the golden opportunities inherent in combining our growing global consciousness with the quest for ultimate luxury.

  • If you absolutely must have the Neiman-Marcus Dancing Fountains integrated into your estate, you will definitely want to create the proper seating from which to enjoy the spectacular water show with friends and family. Consider adorning your aquatic oasis with the inspired furniture designs of Kenneth Cobonpue. Using his many talents to create modern designs from rattan and other natural materials, he has created a line of magnificent outdoor seating that will enhance the most upscale property.  Kenneth Cobonpue has mastered the art of combining locally sourced organic materials, ancient handmade production techniques and new technologies to produce designs that have won him international acclaim. His fusion of ancient craftsmanship with modern artistry make his creations truly breath-taking. As you browse his catalogue, you will appreciate the beauty of the dramatic furniture in his exquisite collection.

www.kennethcobonpue.com

And to warm yourself on those cooler evenings, wrap yourself in luxury from head to toe with beautiful, soft , cosy items from Animana, a social enterprise located in Patagonia and the Andes. Founded by Adriana Marina, Animana produces the most elegant and luxurious blankets and throws out of baby alpaca, vicuña and merino wool. Her profits help train more artisans, rebuild schools and clinics and teach the local workforce about quality and control and prompt delivery, essential elements for success in the global marketplace.

www.animanaonline.com

  • I haven’t yet found a sustainable substitute to the Neiman-Marcus Edition Hackercraft Speedboat, but you could consider pairing their magnificent craft with an Infinyte i4 electric 5-person catamaran for those days you would rather coast along at slower speeds. Ideal for the environmentally aware fisherman and boating enthusiast alike, the Infinyte i4 is perfect for calmer waters. Fully charged, the Infinitye i4 will give you 10 hours of cruising pleasure. An onboard battery provides ample backup. The Infinyte i4 is ideal for smaller lakes and secret coves, reminiscent of those made famous by Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda in « On Golden Pond. »

www.infinytemarine.com

If sailing is more you style, order the new eco-friendly Sunreef 75 Sailing Catamaran from Sunreef Yachts. Its sleek, slim design is crafted using a carbon-fibre hull, its reversed bow and stepped hull chins provide maximum performance without sacrificing comfort. Scheduled to set sail this summer, the interior will be luxurious and filled with amenities. Three sleeping cabins, including a master, along with dining for 8 will adorn the interior. The on-board solar panels provide clean energy. Sunreef builds these luxurious catamarans up to 30m.

www.sunreef-yachts.com

  • If you love to travel the globe, in addition to the educational trip to Stone Barnes Farm offered by Neiman-Marcus, try a more decadent, but no less environmentally friendly stay at the world-renowned Chiva-Som Health Resort. This “Haven of Life” on the Gulf of Thailand is anchored in a  holistic philosophy of creating overall wellness through the fusion of body, mind and spirit. The entire resort is carefully designed to minimize its environmental footprint and considers the health and happiness of its employees as well as its clients. Bask in the knowledge that you can spoil yourself to the hilt in this 7-acre oasis, while you contribute to supporting the well-being of the local community and surrounding environment.

www.chivasom.com

  • If the Neiman-Marcus Johnny Walker Scotch tasting sounds heavenly but whiskey just isn’t your cup of tea, spend an evening treating your friends to a bottle or two of Domaine de la Romanée Conti, the ultimate in organic luxury wines. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti has produced some of world’s most exalted wines – the 1978 Montrachet is the most expensive wine on the market today and its 2005 vintage sells for $16,000 a bottle.  The organically cultivated vineyards lie on well drained slopes facing east and south-east. The soil is iron-rich limestone on a base of rock and marl. Five hectares in La Tâche and Grands Échézeaux are cultivated biodynamically, the vines treated with natural preparations according to a strict lunar timetable. The yields are extraordinarily low, just one of the reasons DRC’s wines are some of the most sought-after in the world.

www.antique-wine.com/topwines/romanee-conti.aspx

As you make your entrance at this year’s festive holiday celebration, spoil your host with a tin of La Petite Pearle caviar.  This exquisite “sustainable caviar” comes from farm-raised sturgeon, taking the pressure off the overfished Caspian, Aral, and Black seas.  Purchase of these precious pearls, with their subtly refined taste and texture, helps prevent the extinction of Caspian sturgeon and their wild kindred.

www.lapetitepearle.com/

  • So many of us want one of the fabulous Neiman-Marcus custom Ferraris, but unfortunately they sold out this year in the first 50 minutes! To avoid feeling left out of all the fun, slip into in a sleek Model S eco-sports sedan from Tesla or the ultra- sporty Evora 414E hybrid from Lotus. These « green machines » are not your typical eco-friendly little putter boxes. Their sleek designs and powerful engines rival the performance of most gas guzzling automobiles on the market today.

In addition to its aerodynamic design, Tesla’s Model S sports sedan has included many environmentally friendly features, such as a dashboard made of banana leaf, and the interior acoustics are worthy of a recording studio. Customers can choose from three battery options with a maximum range of 480 km. The vehicle goes from 0-100km/h in an astonishing 5.6 seconds, without hesitation or one drop of gasoline. The Model S can be recharged from any conventional electrical outlet and can support a fast charge in 45 minutes. The entire car is studded with a myriad of luxury options and, with the touch of a button, the panoramic glass roof lifts up to give its passengers the ultimate « top down » drive experience.

www.teslamotors.com

  • If you crave a sports model, feast your eyes on the Evora 414E from Lotus. Through its meticulous engineering and unique design, Lotus closes the gap between performance, conscience and style. The Evora 414E will go from 0-60mph in 4 seconds and has a total range of over 450 km. This hybrid is designed to emulate the sound and feel of traditional combustion engines. Integrating virtual design into the hybrid technology gives the driver increased control, while simulating the downshifting experience typical of conventional gearshifts. A signature copper colour scheme is incorporated throughout, from the dramatic seat stripes and instrument panel inserts to the copper callipers nestled behind the wheels. The careful juxtaposition of leather, Alcantara and metal create a magnificently tactile experience for driver and passenger alike.  With the Evora 414E, Lotus continues its tradition of producing exciting, efficient, high performance luxury vehicles while contributing to the development of exciting sustainable solutions.

www.lotuscars.com

We are on the cusp of a shift in consumer spending. As the current trend continues, we are beginning to see “conspicuous consumption” take an exciting turn toward “conscientious consumption.”  It’s exhilarating to witness the birth of a new industry, especially in a marketplace that benefits not only producers and consumers, but also the environment and surrounding communities as well.   This year, as you hunt for « the perfect gift » for friends and family, consider adding something truly special, a gift that will not only thrill the recipient (even if it’s yourself), but will also spread a little holiday cheer around the world. ‘Tis the season to share our good fortune and to take a moment to remember how truly blessed we really are.

Happy Holidays!

Categories
Sustainability

The Luxury of Hope

by Milena Cvijanovich

As the morning sunlight streams through the window of the modest Afghani home, a woman gently removes her ball of soft handspun wool from the basket by the fire. She expertly threads her loom and sits down on a battered three-legged stool to begin her weaving. At first glance, one might suspect that she is weaving a design that has been passed down for centuries, as her country has long been known for its legendary hand knotted rugs. Upon closer scrutiny, however, we witness the unexpected: an exquisite modern design taking shape on her loom.

The woman is one of a select group of Afghani artisans employed by Arzu Studio Hope, the brainchild of former partner and managing director of Goldman-Sachs, Connie Duckworth. Arzu, which means “hope” in Dari, was founded in Afghanistan in 2004 as a model of social entrepreneurship. Arzu Studio Hope represents a new synergy between the traditional and the contemporary, the luxurious and the sustainable.

 

 Mirroring Duckworth’s vision, combining luxury with sustainability has long been one of my passions.  Providing support for the preservation of traditional cultures, the environment, fair trade, gender equality, and self-empowerment, Arzu, a not-for-profit organization, was founded on the idea that it is possible to merge handcrafted beauty with modern design while simultaneously contributing to the welfare of the communities in which the artisans live and work.  Arzu is just one of many companies actively involved in supporting the global Slow Movement, better known to many as “commerce with care.”

To provide local artisans with contemporary designs, Arzu has commissioned award-winning architect Zaha Hadid (Pritzker, Stirling Prize, two consecutive years) and renowned interior designer Thomas Schoos (TAO Asian Bistro, Koi) to create patterns for one-of-a-kind hand-knotted rugs for its Signature Designer Collection.

 

In addition, Arzu has created the Modern + Contemporary Collection, featuring hand-woven rugs created by top-end designers exclusive to Arzu. Each rug is unique. The designs run from bold and innovative to soft, subtle patterns inspired by watercolors. Each creation is a work of art.

If your taste runs more towards the classic and traditional, Arzu also offers a collection of handmade rugs featuring dramatic old-world designs, hand woven for centuries in the mountains of Afghanistan. The Tribal Collection features creations with rich, bold colors, stunning geometric patterns and the look and feel of antique Caucasian or Turkman rugs.

Finally, the Traditional Collection emphasizes the timeless tradition of fostering pure artistic interpretation. Arzu’s skilled weavers improvise on the dreamy floral motifs and classic patterns passed down by their ancestors. These rugs reflect the historical influence of Persia, the Orient and the many small villages along the infamous Silk Road.

Arzu is truly a pioneer in the sustainable luxury marketplace and will continue to bring to the world magnificent creations of exquisite taste.

Categories
Sustainability

Dream Weaver

by Milena Cvijanovich


To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, but soundly and with a good conscience. And yet, in sumptuous luxury on a handcrafted, king-sized bed fit for a monarch. In fact, it’s called The Majesty.

The Majesty’s thick mattress has 6,240 pocket springs, each spring individually constructed by an artisan, stuffed with natural materials and sewn by hand, a disappearing craft. The magnificent mattress is covered in exquisite layers of silk and cashmere blended with lambswool and cotton. The sheets are made of the smoothest, finest, organic cotton. Your privileged head rests lightly on pillows covered in organic silk slips of a dreamy texture, the finish a product of a 2,000-year-old process using natural Indian soap nut. The divan is hewn from beech wood intelligently harvested from sustainable forests. Snug like a baby, you doze or sip or indulge in who knows what naughtiness under a soft, warm duvet made from the delicate wool of baby Alpacas who roam free in the 5,000-metre highlands of Peru. No need to worry about these creatures. The baby alpacas have been peacefully grazing on sweet, natural grass that has never been touched by chemicals. Tended by shepherds practicing the philosophy of Pachamama to maintain harmony between people and earth, they are carefully sheared, gently relieved of their better-than-cashmere wool to make your divine duvet. And yes, it grows right back.

No, you are not dreaming…at least not yet. “THe Majesty” is the pinnacle of sustainable luxury. Only a privileged few can afford the finest, most beautiful, handmade things. And now, while indulging yourself in this plush “somatic ensemble”, you will be promoting authentic craftsmanship, pure and noble materials, the renewing of the environment and ancient skills handed down through generations…

Price: $84,500.00

The bed is made in the UK by Vi-Spring (www.vispring.co.uk). The bed linens are for sale by order from Anna Sova Luxury Organics (www.annasova.com).

Categories
Sustainability

Sustainable Luxury: Oxymoron?

by Milena Cvijanovich

When I first began advocating “Sustainable Luxury” seven years ago, the concept was truly an oxymoron. Sustainable luxury stood proudly beside its cohorts: military intelligence, a fine mess and shabby chic. Whether the target has been natural resources, entire civilizations or the local spirits shop, the upper echelons of society have typically adopted a rather Darwinian attitude, considering the entire topic of who-deserves-what a matter of natural selection. In short, luxury, regardless of the cost to society, was considered by many to be, quite simply, a natural birthright. Social issues and natural disasters were merely an unpleasant fact of life and considered “most unfortunate.” This attitude is changing.

                        

(Figure 1: Craftmanship which might have disappeared is preserved by luxury brands)

Luxury, in its truest sense, celebrates authentic craftsmanship, noble materials and a society’s cultural heritage. Traditional knowledge, handed down through generations, is combined with awe and respect for the intrinsic qualities of the raw materials. The art and the artisan are one. Similarly, sustainability has, at its core, a reverence for natural resources and a respect for the human being behind the creation. Only recently have luxury companies received criticism for their rather cavalier attitude toward, and lack of regard for, the environment, the artisans and the communities that support their operations. Consumers have become more aware of what is going on “behind the scenes” and are now forcing luxury companies to take a hard look at the resources they consume, the quality of life of the people they employ and the living conditions within the communities that provide their labor.

With the increased call for transparency, luxury companies have an interesting dilemma: How do we continue to serve our marketplace while simultaneously protecting natural resources, preserving human rights and honoring Fair Trade practices? Not too many years ago, those questions would have been met with rolling eyes, a sigh, perhaps an occasional raised eyebrow or two and a shaking of heads. The issues would have fallen on deaf ears, casually brushed aside as one might wave off an annoying housefly. Not so today.

(Figure 2:  The Cervin Mountain & the electric car only ski resort: Zermatt)

The good news is that more and more luxury companies and high-end consumers are embracing the concept of “sustainable luxury,” which not only helps our planet, but also, much to the surprise of many old-line thinkers, has a good deal of marketing value. As luxury providers become more environmentally conscious, they are able to appeal to their consumer’s newfound global awareness. Many companies that cannot adopt 100% sustainable business practices are donating a portion of their earnings to the communities who support their production facilities. Profits that may have decreased as greener methods were initially employed, can now be offset by increased market share, as consumers buy products that combine a love of luxury with a sense of fair play. The world has made great strides in finding alternative energy solutions and companies are turning more and more toward using sustainable materials.

The luxury consumer is unique. He is able to make his purchasing decisions based on desire rather than need, comfort over cost, and pleasure over, well, everything. Since his purchasing decisions are based on very different criteria than the non-luxury buyer, he is able to make choices based on a broader world view. As luxury consumers grow in global awareness and demand greener business practices, they are able to redefine the way in which luxury companies operate. As more and more luxury companies adopt sustainability as one of their core principles, consumers are able to continue to indulge in the finer things in life, while simultaneously respecting the environment and helping to support underprivelaged communities.

(Figure 3: Solar Impulse: the first solar powered airplane)

This trend is an exciting new angle in the luxury arena. Even now there are some exquisite products out there. One or two are already on my “absolutely fabulous, have to have” list. You might be surprised how many will end up on yours.
As the world becomes more conscious of the responsibility we all have to the earth and to each other, Sustainable Luxury will move to the forefront. Sustainable Luxury is not an oxymoron, but rather an exciting opportunity to explore new horizons.