What does luxury mean to us? It could be when stepping into a car feels like putting on a bespoke Savile Row suit. Or experiencing an emotional moment that you will remember for the rest of your life. The luxury experts of Monocle aligned with an international cast of four creative thinkers to talk about clever design, steering a creative course and how to exceed everybody’s expectations.
Monocle: What are elements of the Joyce Wang signature style?
Joyce Wang: We don’t have a set style – more of a set approach, maybe. I like to give common materials another chance by placing them in an environment that elevates them. For Ammo we used copper piping from a local store for the light fixtures and it was perceived as a luxurious finish. That made me think that I want an element of that in all of our projects.
Monocle: What does luxury mean to you?
Joyce Wang: Comfort and privacy. We first became known for using metals and hard, masculine shapes, but I’m now focusing more on comfort. Society is so obsessed with the shape of things but actually being cocooned by a slouchy couch can be luxurious.
Monocle: How do you stay successful while continuing to have fun?
Joyce Wang: I really like the people I work with. That’s the main thing. Even when I talk about work with my team we can still joke around. We’re only doing design at the end of the day, so it helps that we can laugh at ourselves and not take it too seriously.
Monocle: Your latest bold move is opening UCCA Dune Art Museum in a beach location outside Beijing last year. Has it paid off?
Philip Tinari: It was an experiment where we asked the question, “Is there space for a centre for contemporary art outside of a major Chinese city?” The answer is a resounding yes. Even in the dead of winter there are hundreds of visitors each day. Right now we’re taking a “build it and they will come” attitude to contemporary art here. We are at a point where a critical mass is consuming contemporary art in China.
Monocle: And you’ve played a role in creating this mass appeal. How have you managed it?
Philip Tinari: I made the move here in the early 2000s and I’ve been fortunate to grow and develop alongside the economy. I independently started various platforms responding to Chinese contemporary art, and from the beginning I’ve always looked at it from an international perspective. I’ve continued to do this through UCCA.
Monocle: Tell us about a defining moment in your career.
Patrick Grant: I spent nine years working in engineering and technology and had never thought about working in a making profession. By complete chance I came across an advert for Norton & Sons. It was everything I love in the world: craftsmanship, history and elegant clothes. This was a beautiful little business that had been extraordinarily successful but suffered through a period of decline. I sold my car, sold my house, raised money and took over the business.
Monocle: What does luxury mean to you?
Patrick Grant: It’s about scarcity and exceptionalism. There are genuine luxuries that are not expensive and there are expensive things that have nothing to do with luxury. It boils down to a lack of compromise. We are completely uncompromising in the way that we make our clothes. There are cheaper and faster ways of manufacturing but that’s not the world we wish to live in. We sew by hand, we cut by hand. We have no interest in making the process simpler, only in making it better.
Monocle: When did you realise you were on the right course with your work?
Daan Roosegaarde: One turning point was when we did our Waterlicht exhibition, where we used waves of light to show where the high water level would be if there were no delta works in the Netherlands. That is when we really started using nature as an element in our work, to create social change. In one night, 60,000 people responded to this immersive experience. It was a trigger for us to say to ourselves, “How do we make cities future proof? How do we live with nature?”
Monocle: Why do you want to push your latest Space Waste Lab project that upcycles space waste into controlled meteorite performances beyond our planet?
Daan Roosegaarde: Because space is interesting. It seems very far away, some 220,000 km, but the satellites we’re protecting with this project strongly influence the way we communicate every day. So in that way space is both very distant and very intimate. We are connected to space. It’s very personal.
Monocle: BMW Welt is not only defined by the BMW luxury models but also its incredible architecture. Is BMW a design-minded brand?
Pieter Nota: We have always excelled in the space between luxury and sporty design, so aesthetics are written deeply in our brand identity. We have an excellent design team under the leadership of Adrian van Hooydonk and also partner with great external designers, such as Patricia Urquiola, who designed this space. The 3D-printed pattern on the floor reflects our passion for precision and our modern interpretation of luxury.
Monocle: Wellbeing is a theme that feeds into BMW’s idea of luxury. How do you make that link between wellbeing and wellness with a vehicle?
Pieter Nota: It has a lot to do with design and the materials we use. We think, “When you enter our car, how should you feel?” When you get into an X7, you are struck by the space but you also feel the craftsmanship of the interior. The 7 Series experience is more than just driving or mobility: it’s also about being in a place where you can sit back and relax. Entering an 8 Series Coupé is like stepping into a made-to-measure suit – you feel very well dressed in that car.
Monocle: How do you nurture a pioneering spirit at BMW?
Pieter Nota: We stimulate and challenge ourselves, and are always at the forefront of technology. We were one of the first car companies to include sustainability in our definition of luxury with our i8 model. The core of BMW’s success lies in its passion for creating emotional moments, including the pure, joyful experience of being behind the wheel of one of its high-end vehicles.