The Art of Wellness

Published in Villa 88 Magazine Winter 2016 issue (December).

Set amidst quaint villages against the backdrop of the Altean mountains, SHA Wellness Clinic is aiming to turn heathy living into an art. Priyanka Pradhan discovers how detox therapies and macrobiotic diet make for a luxury getaway to the south of Spain.
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“No sugar, no meat, no dairy, no eggs…”

As squinted while taking in the information, the chef added, “No eggs, no oil, no preservatives or artificial colors and ofcourse, no tobacco. ” He had a monk-like expression with the practiced ease of someone who is accustomed to seeing gawking faces.

“Welcome to the SHA method”, he smiled.

I found myself at SHA Wellness Clinic, perched high atop the scenic Altean mountains near Alicante, anticipating what my dinner will look like, not without a feeling of trepidation.

The macrobiotic diet forms the crux of the wellness program at SHA, which aims to offer a unique and effective approach to wellness and beauty- also known as the ‘SHA method’.

When founder, Alfredo Bataller Parietti realized how this diet cured his digestive ailment in less than two months – something western medicine could not do in his thirty years- he decided to share the benefits with others. ‘SHA’, meaning ‘luminosity’ in Japanese was born out of his passion to propagate this therapeutic diet, aiming to offer a healing and rejuvenating experience for the body.

“Its not just a diet, it’s a complete lifestyle”, says master chef Foraida Llamas. We tailor and personalize the macrobiotic menu according to our program for each guest. We also have specifically targeted diets for certain deficiencies that are common, such Vitamin B12, or cholesterol problems as well as various lifestyle diseases.”

For instance, the ‘Kushi’ diet is prescribed for those on a strict ‘Detox and Weight Loss Program’, based heavily on grains and vegetables with an intake of less than 500 calories a day and no use of oil. The more intermediate, ‘Biolight’ diet is meant for guests on anti-stress, anti- tobacco or rejuvenation programs, while the most lenient menu is that of the ‘SHA diet’, which offers a healthy alternative to every-day eating and general wellness.

Programs are tailor-made for guests after medical and nutritional consultations with in-house doctors. Along with a specific diet, guests are offered an array of services such as massages, beauty and aesthetic treatments and exercise modules with a personal trainer – all picked specifically, as per the guests’ health assessment and preference.

The hydroenergetica therapy, for instance, is one of SHA’s most popular treatments for relaxation, combining the effects of hydro massage and the therapeutic qualities of a seaweed body wrap and even color therapy, together. Other treatments such as ‘Indiba therapy’ target cellulite and water retention on the face and body, while the ‘BDR Facial’ aims to offer a luminous, even-toned complexion with the help of mechanical and chemical peeling.

The oriental therapies of Acupuncture and moxibustion are also offered at SHA, along with various massage techniques from across the world, in an effort to offer guests a wide spectrum of options to best suit their wellness needs.


“We recommend a two-week break to rejuvenate and detox here. Not only does that give time to actually relax and take the mind off daily life, but it also gives you time and space to adapt to the SHA method. Moreover, to enjoy full benefits of the treatments and see results, two weeks is ideal. We also have 7-day modules and a 4-day Discovery program for those who want to try our facilities for an overview of SHA – a wholesome approach to wellness,” says Pedro Catarino, Director of Wellness, SHA Wellness Clinic.

He adds, “I call us a luxury, ‘functional’ wellness clinic and spa, rather than a med-spa because we are result- oriented as well as exclusive and unique.”

The ‘luxury’ element of SHA is manifested best in its suites, particularly in the Royal and Presidential suites. Offering unrestricted, sweeping views of the Atean mountains as a backdrop to the quaint Spanish village below and a view of the gin-clear sea in the distance, the suites do elevate the SHA experience by a few notches.

“Besides, sunny Alicante offers a lot to explore outside of SHA as well. Experience the outdoors on a biking expedition, kayaking in the sea or even a leisurely walk across the neighboring villages – all of which add value to the ‘healthy holiday’ here,” adds Catarino.

My own wellness vacation wrapped up with a master class in macrobiotic cooking- indoors, but adventurous, nonetheless.

“Let’s try and take something back home from SHA– perhaps a certain heathy habit cultivated here or even a resolution,” says chef Llamas.

I opted to take her marinated tempeh and miso dressing recipe, along with a slice of the SHA philosophy and a helping of simple do’s and don’ts for a much-needed alternative, healthy lifestyle.

In all, I’d call it a sweet deal, even without the artificial sugar.


A Colorful Life

Published in Villa 88 Magazine, June 2016 issue

Emirati entrepreneur FATIMA AL SHIRAWI decodes color therapy and its many shades, writes PRIYANKA PRADHAN
VILLA 88 JUNE 2016 113-page-001
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She lives, breathes and dreams in color. For Fatima Al Shirawi, hues have dictated every aspect of her life from home to work and from

her wardrobe to her inter-personal relationships. Perhaps this is why she chose to help people use colors to change their lives. “It’s been a very long and colorful journey,” says Fatima. “When I went to England to study fashion design, we had to take a class in color psychology and that’s when I was introduced to the world of color for the first time. It was an instant calling since the first day of my class and I’ve been mesmerized ever since.”

“When I came back to Dubai after my course, I realized this was something lacking in the market. People weren’t aware of how emotions could be associated with color. They didn’t know how in-depth the concept could go and how it could a ect various aspects of their lives. This was an opportunity waiting to be explored,” she says. This is how her brand The Gracious F was born.

Her client profile is truly diverse — ranging from age 26 to 50, working professionals to housewives, new moms to singles looking for love and from the newly wed to the newly divorced, who come looking for help to either change or simply enhance their lives through colors. The process is fairly simple. Starting with a general questionnaire about personality and preferences, a typical consulting session involves an in-depth analysis of the client as well as several color tests against their skin, to determine which palette suits them best. This palette is further customized into a personal color kit for the client, which can be used in their wardrobes, home interiors or workspace, depending on which area of life the client wants to work on.

“You also receive a full report on personal grooming according to your personality and body type- which colors to wear, hairstyles, fragrances, fabric, jewelry and make up choices, what careers suit you—it’s a complete lifestyle package,” she adds.

While working with clients to create personalized work and private spaces, she stumbled upon an idea to create a multifunctional piece for her clients— an interior décor project and her personal labor of love. “‘The object’ came about as a result of my own di culty while working in interior design,” says Fatima. “When I analyze an individual, I aim to customize and personalize their private space to the best of my ability. In the market, I couldn’t find something to match their individual personalities so I created something that my clients could use as an art piece in their homes and also something that was multi-functional. I further personalize ‘the object’ according to the client’s color individual therapy session.”

However, it hasn’t been the easiest journey to convince the market to buy into a concept that is fairly esoteric. “In order to create awareness about color therapy, I have been working on a lot of workshops and talks to educate people, which has in turn helped potential clients understand and try it for the first time, ” she says. “There was a considerable amount of skepticism when I started out first. I found that individuals are becoming more and more open to fresh, creative concepts to improve their lives as opposed to corporates, who are more hesitant to try something new,” adds Fatima. “In such a fast-paced environment such as Dubai, stress is a big problem amongst adults and they’re ready to try something new in their lives.”

The color therapy concept applies itself to the corporate world on a larger scale. Fatima will first assess the customer profile and target group of the store and carefully categorize them into groups. “We create each section for each type of personality. We blend in colors, textures and designs together to appeal to the customer profile or target group for the store. So when the customer enters the store, they automatically gravitate towards the section that appeals to them. For example, the majority of customers from the UAE, Levant and the Mediterranean belt are autumn personalities, so we can derive general characteristics of these personalities and determine the kind of colors they’re drawn towards.”

She may have scaled up her business by several leagues since she started in 2012 but she says her biggest achievement so far is something that cannot be quantified. “The feedback that I get and the happy faces of my clients —that’s the ultimate satisfaction for me and it keeps me going. They come in with questions and concerns and leave with a happy, positive feeling and that’s something that’s irreplaceable for me. My biggest achievement is seeing my clients’ lives turn around due to the positive e ects of color therapy.”

As for future plans, Fatima will continue to build The Gracious F and expand internationally, travel and acquire skills that will further enhance her work. With a wealth of experience, years of training as well as her inherent personal charm, Fatima aims to offer the world the ultimate color experience.

Avenue for creativity

Published in DestinAsian Magazine, Indonesia; April 2016.

With its recent expansion bringing
in a wealth of new galleries and more, Alserkal Avenue has cemented its reputation as Dubai’s hub for contemporary art and culture. – Priyanka Pradhan


Avenue for Creativity, published in DestinAsian Magazine,Indonesia.April 2016 issue.

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Back when Alserkal Avenue was established in 2007, taxi drivers would wonder what their Louboutin-wearing passengers were doing, coming to such a neighborhood. Smack in the middle of nowhere—or, more precisely, Dubai’s Al Quoz industrial zoneit consisted of a couple of streets of corrugated-metal ware- houses set across from dusty auto shops and rusty hardware factories. Fast forward to today, and Alserkal Avenue has evolved from that rugged, industrial landscape into an arts and culture destination pinned firmly on the map of the city—and, with its recent expansion, on that of the region too.

Created by renowned arts patron Abdelmo- nem bin Eisa Alserkal, whose family has owned the area for decades, Alserkal Avenue’s modest, brick-and-steel aesthetic is a sharp contrast to the glitzy glass skyscrapers of Dubai. The rst gallery to set up shop here was the Ayyam Gal- lery (No. 11;, showcasing new and old Middle Eastern contemporary art, soon followed by other well-known regional galleries such as Lawrie Shabibi (No. 21; lawrieshabibi .com) and Grey Noise (No. 24; As the years rolled on, places like The Fridge (No. 5;, an indie record company that organizes concert series and educational music programs, and The Jamjar (No. 74; the, which o ers workshops and a DIY painting studio for the public, joined the area, growing it into the mix that it is today: con- temporary art heavyweights alongside spunky, interactive creative spaces.

The Avenue’s recent expansion has seen it double in size to 50,000 square meters with the addition of a host of new galleries, places to eat and drink, and an OMA-designed project space that will open in September. “When we an- nounced the expansion of Alserkal Avenue, we pledged that we would use this opportunity to break new ground and stimulate new thinking,” says Alserkal, and the newcomers seem to be doing just that.

El Seed, the prolific French-Tunisian “calligraphiti” artist, installed himself in the Avenue’s first artist studio, where visitors can make appointments to come see his work known to juxtapose different languages, cultures, and identities. In another first, Swiss luxury watchmakers MB & F’s is making a splash as the only gallery of its kind in the Middle East, focused on kinetic art such as hand-crafted motorbikes, robot hands, and horology.

But the surest sign of the area’s success is the art-world power players who are moving in. While Dubai has yet to match the financial prowess of other contemporary art destinations such as New York, London, or Hong Kong, the international galleries flocking to Alserkal Avenue show that the future might be different. For example, the Avenue has just welcomed the New York–based Leila Heller Gallery,  a blue-chip gallery that’s a source for some of the most exceptional works from major 20th- century artists, Andy Warhol included.

“With the opening of many major museums and institutions in the U.A.E. in the near future, and the expanding design district and arts scene, the art world’s interest in Dubai is only increasing,” Heller explains. “And at the same time, the collector base here is growing, so it felt like the right moment to make a move here.”

“I was immediately attracted to the uniqueness of this district, where tire sellers and art galleries rub shoulders,” says Stephane Custot, whose Custot Gallery opened in mid-March. In its Paris and London locations, Custot has a legacy of fostering a dialogue between influential modern masters and international contemporary artists, and here in its gorgeous 700-square-meter Dubai outpost, it continues to do just that. In the inaugural exhibition,The World Meets Here, Robert Indiana’s textual sculptures and Marc Quinn’s giant metal seashells appear alongside hanging works from the likes of Miró and Picasso.

“The combination of Alserkal Avenue’s cheerful, diverse character and the large exhibition spaces available won me over, as I wanted to find a venue that could house large-scale sculptures and installations.” It seems that every tenant offers something different. The Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, a private nonzerofit museum, showcases the impressive American and European post-minimalist collection of the late Paris-based collector Jean-Paul Najar, set in Bauhaus-influenced architecture designed by Mario Jossa of Marcel Breuer & Associates.

On an entirely different note, Dubai-based gallery The Third Line moved here from its prior location in order to double its space (which now includes a lounge and screening room) and better support its 27 emerging contemporary artists, all of whom are Middle Eastern.

And it’s not just an appetite for art that Alserkal Avenue satisfies. Eateries have set up shop here—an outlet of Paris’s cold-pressed juicer Wild & The Moon; a soon-to-open artisan chocolatier, Atelier 68 —and fashion is making its way in too, such as the upcoming kimono boutique Chi-Ka.

In the words of its founder, “Alserkal Avenue is a home for dreamers, visionaries, and creative leaders who are looking to add to the cultural wealth of our region.” Needless to say, taxi drivers are no longer surprised by requests to come here.

Download PDF: Within The Palms. Published in VILLA 88 SEPT 2015

Within The Palms

Published in Villa 88 Magazine, AW 2015 

Emirati artist and designer Latifa Saeed attempts to revive the UAE’s traditional crafts through industrial design and art

Words by Priyanka Pradhan

Download PDF: Within the Palms. Published in Villa 88 Magazine,  September 2015

Download PDF: Within the Palms. Published in Villa 88 Magazine, September 2015

How can design trigger nostalgia? How can design make tradition relevant?”

These are some of the questions that ran through the mind of interdisciplinary artist, Latifa Saeed, before she embarked upon a unique concept to bring industrial design and tradition together. The Emirati artist’s latest design installation project, Kinetic Khoos, is a series of sculptural toys for children—a concept that aims to revive the traditional Emirati craft of toy making by using natural raw material such as khoos or palm fronds. She hopes the project challenges one’s perception of a traditional craft to recognize its relevance today.

“Traditionally, palm leaves and fronds were used to make fans, food trays, food covers, baskets, mats, houses and boats,” she says. “Fronds were even bound together and lined with pitch to make water tanks. An inconspicuous use for palm leaves was children’s toys—I remember when older women used to show us how to play with them when we were young, showing us techniques on how to build a fan and make it fly, to weave a thick piece of fresh palm leaf strip, and palm dolls dressed in the sheila (headscarves) and thoab (traditional dress); it brings back memories, emotions and laughter.”
VILLA 88 SEPT 2015 Extensive research into the different types of weaves led to artistic exchanges with local artisans and offered her an insight into how traditional artisans work, fabricate and survive in the modern world. According to Saeed, the sharing of passions and ideas created an interesting dynamic between her and Sheikha, an artisan she collaborated with, on exploring ways to connect the contemporary to the past.

As part of the Design program for Contemporary art organization, Tashkeel, Latifa Saeed was selected for a second time to represent them at Dubai Design Days 2015 with her Kinetic Khoos project.

“It took about two weeks to complete a single toy from the collection, starting from design to industrial machinery to assembly,” says Saeed. “For the limited edition crab, which is part of the collection and is sold out now, it took almost two months to produce each piece.”

But the most challenging part of the project was learning the ropes of industrial manufacturing on the go. “It was difficult to convince the industrial manufacturers at first because the concept was new and unheard of—it was difficult for them to understand the idea, especially without a sample product at hand,” she says. “Also, sourcing materials and finding artisans who are willing to have their work artistically manipulated was a tough challenge.”

But “persistence and refusing to give up” made sure the project ran to fruition.

Her previous project, Braided, was also supported by Tashkeel and showcased at the 2014 City Scape exhibition as part of Dubai Design Days last year. Inspired by hair braids—a very popular traditional hairstyle for children in the Emirates, the project saw her crafting a collection of furniture using braided linen cushion tubes upholstered in a wooden frame.

Unable to find a child-friendly and functional headboard in the market, she created her own design by experimenting and re-imagining the classic buttoned headboard. She then developed the technique of braiding linen cushion tubes and gathering them into clusters to create a padded surface of an organic pattern.

Infact, it was a picture of a headboard using her ‘braided’ concept on Instagram, that caught the attention of Sheikha Lateefa, founder of Tashkeel, who offered to mentor her under the Tashkeel Design Program last year.

VILLA 88 SEPT 2015 057-page-001Her commissioned work entitled Pleated Chair for Tashkeel, followed her experimentation with the headboard and went on to win positive feedback at Dubai Design Days 2014.

While her work so far has been fairly diverse, using vastly different concepts and materials, she says what she’s currently working on is even farther away from what she’s ever done before. “It’s confidential,” she says. “But let’s just say we will have a presence at the upcoming Dubai Design Week (26-31 October 2015) where more will be revealed,” she adds mysteriously.

Saeed’s ability to work in different disciplines without allowing herself to become restricted by a certain material or methodology is reflected in her attitude and free- spiritedness. “I can never have a favorite piece, discipline or medium to work in,” she says. “I’m wholly in love with whatever I’m working on at the moment but I know my next project will be even more fascinating!”

Download PDF: 'Less is More' -Published in GLAM Qatar May 2014

‘Less is more’

‘Less is more’
Japan’s oldest spa town offers a spiritual zen honeymoon getaway. – Priyanka Pradhan

Published in GLAM Qatar May 2015

Download PDF: 'Less is More' -Published in GLAM Qatar May 2014

Download PDF: ‘Less is More’ -Published in GLAM Qatar May 2014

It’s fascinating to see the relevance of ancient Japanese philosophy even today, as it resonates  across the natural theatre of Arima Onsen, and ricochets off the Spartan, zen-inspired homes of
this hilltop town. As it turns out, Arima Onsen, which lies in the Kobe region of Japan, is not
only the country’s oldest natural hot springs spa-town, but is also a slice of mystique, folklore
and philosophy.

I’m sitting at the quaintly decked out, yet ultra-modern luxury ryokan, the Arimasansoh
Goshobessho Hot Springs resort, waiting for an induction into the ancient Japanese tradition of
onsen (hot springs) community bath. My eyes wander towards a bright, somewhat circular
emblem seen across the room.

“It’s like a wheel – a circular device with spokes that converge at a central point,” Kazushige
Kanai, the young scion of Arima Onsen’s most prominent business families, follows my gaze and
attempts to explain to me. He introduces himself as CEO apprentice for his family’s ancestral
properties, the Arimasansho Goshobessho resort and ancient parent property, Tocen
Goshoboh, before continuing.

“What do you see at the center of the wheel? Nothing!” he says passionately. “It’s an empty
space – a ‘functional nothingness’. It’s functional because this ‘nothingness’ is what makes the
wheel useful to man. How would you attach the wheel to anything if it wasn’t for this empty
space in the center?”

He continues, “According to Japanese philosophers, people (and things) should have a certain
emptiness at the core, in order to understand, appreciate and serve a purpose. The wheel-like
emblem for our resort follows the same philosophy.”

Arimasansoh Goshobessho, the hot springs spa resort that’s responsible for launching us into
the throes of philosophy is tucked away innocuously atop the steep slopes of Arima, just a few
steps away from his family’s ancient spa, Tocen Goshoboh. The latter was established as far
back as the Kamakura period in Japanese history (12th century), lying adjacent to the only hot-
spring bathhouse of Arima at the time.

Today, with more than 30 inns and onsen resorts, Arima onsen is known to be a haven for
alternative therapy as well as spirituality. For Arima locals, however, the therapeutic powers of
hot springs are mythical.

According to the history of the ancient Tousen Jinja shrine in Arima, two Shinto gods discovered
Arima onsen more than 1300 years ago. When they passed by the town, they happened to see
three injured crows drink water from an onsen pool who were immediately healed, much to the
astonishment of the gods.  Legend has it that these ‘three crows of Arima’ were then
considered supernatural and became the only birds permitted to live in the town.

A few yards uphill from the Goshobessho, lies the same Tousen Jinja shrine, which takes more
than 50 rugged stone steps to climb. Cloaked in silence, the shrine houses the protecting deity
of Arima onsen and has the three crows carved into the entrance doorway. Wooden wishing
plagues called Ema brush against each other and water gushes out of an elaborate tsukubai
(stone basin), making the only two sounds heard across the compound. A peek inside the
sanctum sanctorum reveals a very simple and beautiful design, with prominent empty space in
the center, reiterating the ancient Japanese perspective of ‘less is more’.

Back at the resort, I’m staring at another sparsely furnished space – the community onsen
bathhouse. I’m wondering whether to plunge into the pool of steaming hot, reddish- gold
waters of the onsen, or simply return to the reassuring confines of my villa. My trepidation is
mainly because I’m told that one can only take a dip in this onsen completely in the nude – a
very common community bath custom in onsen tradition, but a bit of a culture shock to me.

Lying before me is the ‘Kinsen’, or ‘golden hot-spring’, one of the three types of natural springs
found in Arima.  The strongly basic ferruginous sodium chloride spring is known for its beauty
benefits, as the thermal water leaves the skin extremely smooth and moisturized. Therapeutic
effects of this onsen include healing of external wounds, menstrual disorder and infertility in
women, chronic digestive disease, rheumatism and even motor paralysis. It is also known to
help in therapy for active tuberculosis, malignant tumors, severe heart disease and anemia,
among other acute ailments.

“The hot springs in Arima surface from upto 60 meters underground, at temperatures more
than 98 degree centigrade,” Mr Kanai had informed me earlier. “Special pipes are then used to
route it straight to the bath houses of our two properties, where the temperature is controlled
at around 40 degree centigrade.”

A walk around the town, which is small enough to be explored entirely on foot, uncovers a
number of active onsen sources, seen steaming and whistling out of long pipes. Spices,
condiments, confectionery and tea are sold at every corner of the narrow, steeply sloping main
street of the town, which was once the path of a flowing stream across the town.

Local life is simple and relatively uninterrupted by the world outside, shielded by Mount Rokko
and wrapped in the rich heritage of the traditional onsen. However, the esoteric charms of this
ancient spa town have attracted travelers from across the world, including some that even set
up a small Western colony here, in the pre-World War II era.

As for me, I did eventually take a plunge into the onsen’s hypnotic waters and in doing so,
surrendered myself to a unique spiritual experience – one that stays with me long after the
effects of the onsen have worn off.

How to Get There:

Emirates flies direct and daily from Dubai to Osaka. The business class service aboard the Airbus A380 offers the perfect start to the spa vacation. With the chauffeur-driven service from your doorstep to the Emirates business class lounge in Dubai, and from in-flight services to regionally-inspired onboard gourmet dining, the Emirates business class service aims to be a seamless luxury travel experience.

Emirates also flies daily between Dubai and Doha, Qatar.

Where to Stay:

Arimasansoh Goshobessho, Arima Onsen. Guests have the option to choose between villas or two-storey maisonettes at the resort, established on the site of the ancient Arima Kiyomizu temple. Both types of stay offer views of the Kiyomizu lake or the Taki river and come with private thermal rooms and access to the community onsen.

Paparazzi Captured: Priyanka Pradhan. Published in Sorbet Magazine (May 2014)

Paparazzi: Captured!

Published in Sorbet Magazine, Issue 4 (May 2014)

Paparazzi: Captured!

They’ve been called creeps, stalkers and murderers of privacy, yet the paparazzi have always had their way with the stars. A look at their origins reveals some surprising facts and documents how these celebrity-chasing photographers have changed with the times.

By PriyankaPradhan

Paparazzi Captured: Priyanka Pradhan. Published in Sorbet Magazine (May 2014)

Paparazzi Captured: Priyanka Pradhan. Published in Sorbet Magazine (May 2014)

When Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini named a character ‘Paparazzo’ in his iconic filmLa Dolce Vita(released 1960), he could not have predicted that it would enter the official English lexicon as a common noun. Today, the global currency of that word (plural: paparazzi) is used to describe intrusive, offending photographers, often accused of voyeurism and stalking.

Fellini’s Paparazzo was inspired by a real-life Italian photographer, Tazio Secchiaroli, who was famous in the ‘50s, for capturing popular actresses red-handed with their paramours, celebrities in the middle of domestic quarrels and several ‘candid’ shots of actors caught unawares. When Fellini met Secchiaroli in Via Veneto, he was shocked to learn some of the photographer’s trade secrets. Secchiaroli had confessed that while ‘watching’ and stalking celebrities day and night was the norm, he even went so far as to puncture the tires of celebrities’ cars in order to trap them for a shot. These ‘caught in the moment’ images could fetch upto six million Italian Liras (US$ 3000) for photographers like Secchiaroli at the time.

Fellini later explainedthat the name of this photographer’s character was derived from the Italian word papatacci, which loosely translates to ‘large mosquito’ and razzo, which means ‘light’. In the film, Paparazzo’s character traveled on his scooter or in his Fiat 500, which enabled him to navigate the streets of Rome with the agility of a mosquito, in his mission to chase and capture his quarry with his 1950s’ style, flashbulb camera.

Cut to a decade later, from 1960s celebrity-obsessed Rome to 1970s Hollywood, when paparazzi mania was at its height and the phenomenon of weekly tabloids had just begun to surface. From the public’s fascination with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, former First Lady of the United States, to the adulation surrounding actress Elizabeth Taylor, one paparazzo, Ron Galella, captured it all.

The Italian-American photographer, dubbed ‘Paparazzo Extraordinaire’ by Newsweek and ‘The Godfather of US paparazzi culture’ by Time and Vanity Fair respectively, did not stop at anything to get the perfect shot. As the subject of the documentary Smash His Camera, not even a restraining order from the court, demanding that he stay 164 feet away from Jackie O and her family, or a broken jaw, courtesy of an angry Marlon Brando or jail time in Mexico could keep him from the task at hand.

Job hazards also included long and agonizing waiting periods, just to get the perfect shot. “Once, I was locked alone in a warehouse in London, from Friday, 4pm to Monday, 9am,” he tells Sorbet. “I had to wait for a wedding party to capture Bob Wilson, a former Scotland football player. Another time, I paid a steward to lock me in for the weekend at The London warehouse on the Thames, so I could shoot Liz Taylor and Richard Burton on their yacht, the Kalizma. My favorite hiding places, however, were just trees – I used trees as cover to photograph Jackie and John Jr. in Central Park, for example.”

Today, some of 83-year-old Galella’s work has travelled to galleries across the world, such as Tate Modern in London and the Helmut Newton Foundation Museum of Photography in Berlin. His most famous ‘Windblown Jackie’ portrait is housed at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, although the story behind it is a far cry from his current celebrity status.“I hid in the backseat of a taxi to capture my Windblown Jackie,” he says. “The driver honked and she turned, giving me that Mona Lisa smile. She didn’t know it was me because the camera was covering my face, but when I got out of the taxi, she recognized me and immediately put on her big sunglasses. She asked, ‘Are you pleased with yourself?’ I cheekily said, ‘Yes, thank you,’ and left.”

In fact, Galella had longstanding trouble with Jackie O. “One significant event gave the documentary about me its name,” he says. On 24 September 1969, I was shooting Jackie and John Jr. bicycling in Central Park, when she spotted me and told her secret service agent, “Mr. Connelly, SMASH HIS CAMERA!” Fortunately he didn’t, but then two other secret service agents demanded my film on Jackie’s order. I did not surrender the film, and I was arrested for harassment. The charges were dismissed by the judge. I had won, but Jackie refused to pay my legal fees. That was the beginning of what would later turn into the 26-day trial I faced in 1972. I lost that case, but I won a lot of publicity, which money couldn’t buy. I thanked Jackie for the publicity in 1974, when I gave her a copy of my first book, Jacqueline. She kept that book in her library until she died, and as I understand, it was donated along with many of the photos from both our trials to the JFK Library in Boston.”

In a career spanning three decades, Galella continued to photograph celebrities at their best and worst. After the Marlon Brandon broken jaw incident, he followed him with a football helmet for protection and continued to chase Burton, even after being seriously beaten up by his bodyguards. Later in the 80s and 90s, he snapped celebrities such as John Travolta, Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger.

This drive and ambition, however, was more of a survival instinct, according to Galella, a job he took up in 1958 upon graduating from Art Center College in Hollywood, when he could not afford a studio in Manhattan. “I was forced to shoot on the street at premieres, Broadway openings, Studio 54, etc., and develop my film in my darkroom in the Bronx,” he explains.

“Throughout my career, I was able to offer more realistic, truthful pictures of celebrities rather than the posed pictures that studio photographers like Avedon produced, which were more commercial as opposed to editorial. However, the photographers in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita were fairly negative since they ganged up on stars and provoked them to get more sellable shots. They were actually very much like the photographers of today, especially those in L.A.”

Today, celebrities and Hollywood starlets have also learnt to use the paparazzi as a PR vehicle, an exercise in self-promotion. However, these set-up paparazzi shots do not fetch more than a $75 each, while genuine pictures of certain celebrities are extremely lucrative, and can bring in millions of dollars for the paparazzo. The quality of paparazzi pictures may have been reduced to horrifying crotch shots of desperate Hollywood starlets seen stepping out of cars, and vintage flashbulb cameras may have been replaced by sophisticated super-zoom digital cameras, but the spirit of paparazzi remains unchanged. The ghost of Fellini’s Paparazzo perhaps still lurks behind trees and in the backseat of cars, for that perfectly incriminating shot of the Next Big Thing.

The Vintage Couture Bazaar- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

The Vintage Couture Bazaar

Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

The Vintage Couture Bazaar
The appeal of vintage fashion lies in its heritage, rarity and ingenuity, while its exclusivity is guaranteed by a premium price point. T Emirates investigates the growing popularity of vintage fashion as an investment opportunity.

By Priyanka Pradhan

The Vintage Couture Bazaar- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

The Vintage Couture Bazaar- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

Is buying a 1940s vintage couture gown as solid an investment as purchasing a Matisse masterpiece?

Yes, if vintage couture experts are to be believed.

Seeing the demand and appreciation in value of vintage couture at high-profile global auction houses, more investors and fashion-conscious folks alike are trying it for size. According to research by online resource vintage textile, which aims to educate and inform enthusiasts, vintage clothing benefited investors more than any other collectible category in the period 1990-2012.

The source gives the example of a Chanel women’s suit from the 1960s, which went up from $805 (AED 2,957) to $3,220 (AED 11,827) in less than six years (quoted prices are actual realized prices at major auction houses). This works out as a 300 percent appreciation over 6 years, or 20 percent a year.

A more recent example is a Charles James evening dress that climbed from $29,900 (AED 109,826) to $49,450 (AED 181,635), yielding a 65 percent appreciation, in two years.

As in the case of art investment, the ingenuity and rarity of the collectible play a major role in determining the price tag attached to the item.

But more specifically for vintage couture, the designer, period, fashion house and story or narrative of the item are just as important.the iconic little black dress designed by Givenchy and worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s sold at Christie’s for $923,187 (AED 3,390,958) in 2006, while the estimated value was only between $98,800 (AED362,902) and $138,320 (AED 508,063).

Similarly, ‘The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor” in 2011, in the Christie’s “online-only” section, made a record $10 million (AED 36,731,000) in a series of

sales that made a total of $183.5 million (AED 673,995,473), showing the stellar demand for vintage fashion today.

According to Clare Borthwick, specialist at Christie’s vintage couture department, there’s growing mass appeal for vintage fashion, and the business is being fueled not only by seasoned connoisseurs and collectors but also by people influenced by Hollywood.

She says: “The wardrobes of film stars and generational legends often attract great attention at auction and command the highest prices due to their status as memorabilia rather than purely fashion pieces. We have, however, sold some memorable pieces of vintage fashion, including the personal collection of

Coco Chanel in 1974, as well as a 1966 YSL ‘Mondrian’ dress that fetched £30,000 (AED 163,961) and a 1939 velvet evening jacket by Schiaparelli that made £73,250 (AED 400,337) in our last vintage couture sale in 2012.”

Borthwick says they also see a lot of buyers from the Middle East, owing to significant interest in “modern vintage”, paying particular attention to luxury handbag auctions, specifically labels such as Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

Apart from the high-profile auctions, vintage bazaars in discreet nooks and street corners of the world are also doing brisk business, but on a smaller scale.

Although the UAE is a bit behind the times, according to Dubai-based vintage boutique owner Maha Rasheed, the business is catching up, with increasing awareness of the nuances of vintage fashion in the region.

Rasheed, who runs Bambah Boutique and sources authentic vintage items from across the world from LA to Japan, says: “Perceptions are slowly changing, and

people are becoming more comfortable about wearing vintage and pre-owned items in the Middle East. If the items are impeccably restored, maintained and presented, one does not mind that the item is not brand new. Celebrities and movies have also made more people aware of vintage fashion, and there’s no taboo in buying worn pieces.”

She adds, “Even pre-owned or pre-loved items that are not vintage per se have a big market here in the Middle East, and I think it’s a good trend!”

One such “pre- owned” items’ fashion boutique owner, Dubai-based Micha Maatouk from Garderobe, says her customers are highly fashion-conscious, affluent, and know their vintage Birkins from their Kellys.

“While we do get a few good vintage pieces from 30 to 40 years ago,” she says, “we mostly deal with pre-owned luxury and designer items as young as 10-15 years. These are consumers who don’t like to be seen in the same designer dress, shoes or accessories more than once or twice and so sell their piece to us for half the price. We at Garderobe then split the profits with the consignee in a 50-50 agreement. So yes, they get to clear out their closet every season and get about half the price of the item back.”

Apart from the aesthetic value of the items and the history associated with them, the price of pre-owned fashion then becomes a key factor for her customers.

“The prices of these items could vary,” she says. “You could sometimes find a 30-year-old Valentino gown that originally cost easily more than AED 25,000 at less than 20 percent of the price now, but then you could also end up paying more than the original price of a designer vintage handbag that is not available any more, or has an endless wait-list at the brand’s store. I’d say the pre-owned market is increasingly becoming an important part of the vintage fashion movement.”

But because the authenticity of vintage items is difficult to assess, and they can sometimes be challenging to find or even uproariously expensive, “vintage-inspired” fashion and jewelry has come under the spotlight in a big way.

Inspired by the vintage era from the 1920s to the 1960s (by definition, items from before this period are considered “antique”, but the term “vintage” is being more loosely translated in today’s context), these fashion and jewelry pieces attempt to capture the cuts, colors, prints and essence of the vintage era for a slice of nostalgia, but without the price tag of the original vintage pieces.

Laurent Cathala, vice-president, emerging markets at Tiffany & co., says, “Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation movie, ‘The Great Gatsby’ has created strong interest and demand for 1920s-inspired jewelry.“Although Tiffany & co. does not offer vintage pieces for sale,” he says, “many of our designs are based on the original sketches and collections found in the Tiffany archives. These designs highlight the timeless beauty and unerring quality of Tiffany designs. These archival pieces also transcend fashion trends and hold great appeal for discerning customers.”

He adds, “In addition to Tiffany’s Great Gatsby and Blue Book Collections of fine and statement jewelry, we introduced this year the Ziegfeld Collection. Also inspired by the same Jazz age, it is named after New York’s legendary Ziegfeld theatre, a model of Art Deco architecture that opened in 1927. The jewelry captures the period’s elegance with freshwater cultured pearls, black onyx and sterling silver.”

Similarly, Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Jaeger-Lecoultre does not sell its original vintage timepieces, but helps verify the authenticity of rare vintage watches for its customers and also restores vintage Jaeger-Le coultre watches in its workshop in Switzerland. Certain factors of the vintage watch are then considered while evaluating the piece.

Stéphane Belmont, marketing and technical director of Manufacture Jaeger-Lecoultre, says: “In the case of an authentic vintage watch, the

watch has a story related to previous owners, a story of transmission of the piece. When a very small quantity of pieces were produced in a certain era, the offer of those vintage watches in the market is very limited today. Where the demand exceeds the supply, the price of the vintage watch goes up every year. The rarity of the watch depends on the quantity, exclusivity, quality of the movement and functioning of the watch, and its aesthetics.”

It is this quality and exclusivity that the vintage business is founded upon. In an age of global retail chains and uninspired, off-the-rack fashion, vintage couture has an undeniable appeal and immense value, as an asset.

The character of Carrie Bradshaw from the popular TV series, Sex and the City couldn’t have put it better: “I like my

investments where I can see them… hanging in my closet!”

True Grit- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

True Grit

Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine ( July August 2013)

True Grit

The glamorous Ingie Chalhoub, widely recognized as fashion’s first lady in the Middle East, is carving a successful niche in the region’s luxury retail market as head of the Etoile Group.

By Priyanka Pradhan

True Grit- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

True Grit- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

It was at a quaint art gallery in Dubai’s financial district that I first met Ingie Chalhoub. I had heard of her, of course, but what I discovered that day was that

even the chief of the luxury retail firm ‘Etoile Group’, has butterflies in her stomach before every show. I could tell that by the way she paced the floor as her designer label’s Autumn/Winter 2013-14 press preview took place at the same gallery, on a grand runway created especially for her.

She then ascended the ramp, after a little coaxing from her team, to take a bow and pose shyly for the cameras – quite unlike the intimidating persona I had expected.“There is always great excitement but also some stress before any seasonal launch of the collection,” Ingie says. “All the preparation is tiring and energetic at the same time. I am a perfectionist and I feel extremely conscious about every single detail.”
As I also came to realize that day, the ambitious, influential and rigorously detail-oriented Ingie Chalhoub is also exceedingly charming, and truly humble.

even as she single-handedly navigates multimillion-dollar deals every other day in the fiercely competitive Middle East luxury retail market, she carries herself

with rare panache and a certain je ne sais quoi that makes her all the more intriguing.
As president and managing director of the Etoile Group, which operates more than 70 luxury boutiques in six Gulf countries, and as creative director for her eponymous designer label, she has her hands full. But 30 years ago, when she opened the first Chanel

boutique in the Middle East, she didn’t know she was making fashion retail history.
It was serendipitous that the franchise deal was finalized on her wedding day, making her big day even bigger. The groom happened to be Patrick Chalhoub, scion of one of the most established business empires in the region and son of the illustrious Michel and Widad Chalhoub. Having married into a powerful lineage of retail moguls, and with the advantages that come from being part of the influential Chalhoub family, Ingie set out to make a remarkable debut in the regional retail industry and to carve out her identity as a persuasive entrepreneur and luxury retail powerhouse in her own right.
In the years that followed, she worked hard to build credibility and earn the confidence of global luxury retailers such as Christian Dior, Tod’s, Hogan, Valentino, John Galliano, Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana and Christian Lacroix, and she came to be credited with making a huge contribution to the

UAE’s luxury retail segment.
But before one can call it a charmed life, Ingie says it’s been far from easy. The Gulf War in 1990 changed things irrevocably for Ingie, as her Chanel and Dior stores in Kuwait were looted during the conflict, and her business ran into the ground. But despite the devastating loss, she pushed herself to pick up the pieces and get to work as soon as the Chalhoubs moved to Dubai after the war, even with a newborn baby in tow.
After relocating, Ingie quickly became a formidable retail empire. “Challenges test your mental strength; you need to turn them to your advantage.

Let obstacles motivate you to strive even harder. I am now even more driven and determined to reach more milestones and push myself further,” she says.

The motivation to go on, she adds, came from her supportive husband and her inner resilience. She not only had the task of rebuilding her business from scratch, but now also had the additional responsibility of being a mother, and had to manage the two roles – a balance she describes as most challenging.
“I would say balancing a personal and family life with a professional one is probably one of the most difficult challenges businesswomen face. You need to be disciplined, organized and efficient with your time, and set boundaries, not just for employees and your business colleagues but even for yourself!”

But just as things were settling down, the global economy, and subsequently the Middle East economy, was hit by the tumultuous financial meltdown.

The luxury retail sector was in the eye of the storm, but the Etoile Group showed remarkable resilience at this time. The mood in the retail industry may have been very somber, but just then, in 2009, Ingie launched her own luxury designer label, Ingie Paris, a move that showed nerves of steel and sparkling self-confidence.
Inspired by French sophistication and old-world glamour, she applied her sharp business acumen and innate sense of style to create a capsule collection for the

essential “Ingie” woman, someone she envisions to be a lot like herself.
“The Ingie Paris woman is refined, modern and dynamic,” she says. “My designs cater to her multifaceted, playful nature, interests and lifestyle, from dramatic, glamorous eveningwear that she might don for a red carpet event to chic yet comfortable daywear she can wear to a museum or show off at a relaxed brasserie. That is why I think the collection appeals to women across all cultures; they understand luxury but want it interpreted in a contemporary manner that suits their

international lifestyle.”
The launch of her own label was yet another dream realized for Ingie, but, not one to rest on her laurels, she’s now hoping to expand internationally through

luxury retailers and eventually have more standalone stores. For the Etoile Group too, she says, the emphasis is on expanding horizons to focus on Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
The Ingie Chalhoub success story has been peppered with setbacks, but she has overcome the hurdles each time, due to her dedication and strong belief in herself, something she hopes will inspire other female entrepreneurs and businesswomen.
“[You need] hard work, passion and a strong vision of what you want that can never be downplayed. But there are also those things that are part of one’s character that can also help you to succeed. For me, it’s a strong eye for detail, and my creative ability. I have the ability to look at something and know immediately whether it’s right or wrong, or what needs to be changed; it’s a skill that is rare.”

She adds: “You also need to believe in yourself. We are often our own worst critics, but we need to focus on the positive, as self-belief is a key factor in order to succeed.”

When the medium becomes the message: Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (March 2013)

When The Medium Becomes The Message

Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (March 2013)

When The Medium Becomes The Message

Exploring Art Dubai for sound, visuals and other forms of digital media that are shaping the rise of the new media culture in the Middle East.
By Priyanka Pradhan

When the medium becomes the message: Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (March 2013)

When the medium becomes the message: Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (March 2013)

From the re-creation of a quaint Iranian cafe scene from the 60s using spliced up black-and-white movies, to an abstract sound artwork that enquires “Where does dance go when it dies?”, there’s a lot of new media art to be discovered at art Dubai this year. The regional creative community is increasingly experimenting with new media to give a fresh perspective, testing out technology and even adding a sense of humor to the somber mood that seems to permeate the regional art space today. Globally, a democratization of art has spawned the rapid growth and influence of new media art in the span of the past two decades, but in the emerging Middle East art market this liberalization of art mediums is only beginning to be explored and understood.

One cannot find a better example than inter disciplinary artist Joe Namy’s his work at Art Dubai. He is using the medium of sound to explore traditional forms of dance in the UAE, and the roots of electronic music.

“I feel I am working toward a new conception of listening, by re-examining the basic mechanisms for how we understand sound,” he says. “The tools and techniques I use are appropriated from everyday technologies developed for listening. My approach to sound is mostly rooted in music, not necessarily in music itself but everything around music: history, economy, distribution, consumption, identity, etc. there are so many issues wrapped within the role of music in our society and how we listen.”

Namy is among 50 new media artists out of the 500 artists that are exhibiting their works at Art Dubai.

Antonia Carver, Fair Director, Art Dubai, says: “Many new media artists are coming, particularly from Beirut and Cairo, but also increasingly from the rest of the Gulf. It’s a growing trend and more artists and collectors are becoming interested in this form of expression. Earlier, only institutions were collecting new media art because people usually don’t think of buying a sound piece or a video artwork for their homes. But now more private collectors are trying to understand the medium. You can, as buyers, buy rights to reproduce new media art and have your own share in that artwork.”

Valuation for new media art usually takes into consideration the format of the number of limited editions and rights to reproduce thework. “It’s a bit hard to get your head around it because the new media artwork may be a CD, which you may use and show sparingly, but then the artwork becomes even more special, because you’d be one of only three or four people in the world with the right to own, show and reproduce that CD.”

Antonia adds, “It goes up in value over time, obviously, as the artist grows to be known better and as the influence of new media art grows, as well.”

This potential is attracting regional gallery curators and collectors, as is the intrigue of the new medium itself. Umer Butt, co-founder of Grey Noise, a new gallery based in Dubai, says: “Moving image is becoming an important part of contemporary art practice. It is overlapping cinematic choreography. It’s interesting how material becomes your content. Material exploration is something I’m very interested in, and the visuals my artists are making are very diverse in their language.”

But this new-generation artwork could sustain itself in the Middle East, if it succeeds in stepping out of the “new fad” bracket. Antonia emphasizes a rise in demand from institutions and collectors within the UAE, saying: “Patrons such as Sultan Al Qasimi of Sharjah, who has been investing in video work for the Sharjah Foundation, are encouraging new media art in the country. There is demand, and the medium itself is also well suited for this region, as taking this form of art to some places in the Middle East is much easier than bigger art forms. There’s ease of transport for new media artwork which, I think, is fueling the growth and influence of this category of art, especially in the Middle East.”

More importantly, new media art is allowing artists to express themselves remotely and influence a larger audience through technology.

Iraqi-born American artist Wafaa Bilal, who is known internationally for his online performance-based and interactive works on international politics, says: “The artist no longer needs to be confined to a specific place in order to express him or herself. The audience too needn’t be in a physical place to experience these works of art. New media allows people to create and become their own distribution channels. New media is really helping to drive social change throughout the world. People’s ability to access democracy is emphasized with mobile gadgets. I think advances in technology and mobile devices lend themselves to that trend. If we think about it, the medium becomes the message itself. It enables people to have a greater sense of connectivity.I ’d call this the thumbnail generation effect.”

Some of Bilal’s most prolific work includes art created using a camera, surgically implanted on the back of his head, to spontaneously transmit images to the web, 24 hours a day, as a statement on surveillance. In 2010, in his work titled “…and counting”, he used his own tattooed body as a medium, by depicting a map of Iraq with dots that represented Iraqi and US casualties in invisible ink, seen only under a unique black light.

But while new media art has appeal for artists and collectors, it has also faced challenges. According to Bilal, “One of the challenges for new media art is the limitations imposed on the freedom of the platform itself by limiting the access to a site or amount of activity that an individual can create online. This is a politically driven idea of censorship. For instance, you do not censor a person from broadcasting or downloading things but you do censor the amount of downloading. This is driven by larger entities beyond the public control or interest. If the platform is not censored there’s a greater opportunity for people to engage others and create work that’s not limited to a physical existing institution.”

Namy adds: “The current scope of new media art is reflective of a wider trend of culture production in the region, with artists working as best as they can in the absence of proper infrastructure. Institutional support – governmental, academic, museum and gallery spaces – for sound/art is dismally limited, and sound/art is not easily ‘monetised’ like sculpture or painting, so most of the sound artistsI know are self-taught and rely on peer support, having to travel outside the region for education and exhibition opportunities.”

However, the adversity faced by new media artists is paving the way for a powerful voice.

Namy says: “I’m not trying to reinforce the cliche of the struggling artist, but the lack of support forces us to be more innovative.”

Bohemian Billionaire- By Priyanka Pradhan,. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)

Bohemian Billionaire

Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)
Bohemian Billionaire

She may be one of the world’s youngest self-made female billionaires, but for Tory Burch, creative director and CEO of her eponymous fashion label, it has never been just about the money.

By Priyanka Pradhan

Bohemian Billionaire- By Priyanka Pradhan,. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)

Bohemian Billionaire- By Priyanka Pradhan,. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)

Tory Burch was just another New York socialite with a privileged upbringing and a glamorous life when she decided to venture into the luxury fashion retail business. Despite having no formal qualifications in either fashion design or business management, Burch has built a $3.5 billion women’s clothing and accessories business in less than ten years, ultimately surpassing long-established rivals such as Michael Kors and Coach in revenues.

With starting capital of $2 million, Burch established a boutique in New York with the help of her husband at the time, venture capitalist Chris Burch. By leveraging her previous work experience in the PR and marketing departments at fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang and Loewe, along with her reputation among New York society’s upper echelons, the designer’s premiere collection sold out on the opening day of her flagship store in 2004.

“People imagine the fashion industry to bevery competitive, but I’ve found the opposite – I have had many great mentors and friends willing to help along the way. This journey is beyond anything I could have imagined, and it’s a journey we’re still on” as a business, she says. “In so many ways I feel like we are just beginning.”

Burch pioneered the concept of “affordable luxury” in 2004, retailing a “preppy-bohemian luxe” style for the masses.

“I love fashion, from Uniqlo to Celine, but at the time I felt there weren’t many options in between,” she says. “I recognized a void in the market for beautiful, well-designed pieces that didn’t cost a fortune. I knew what I was missing from my closet and thought other women might feel the same way, so I began developing the concept, which was embodied by my parents, the most impeccably stylish couple I have ever known. They remain my greatest source of inspiration but, of course, each collection has its own distinct influences; in addition to my parents, my team and I are inspired by art, music, travel and other cultures.”

This is how Burch’s $200 Reva Ballerina shoes, one of the least expensive items found in the luxury category, came to form the backbone of her multi-billion fashion business. Having expanded her retail network to more than 83 stores worldwide, while generating revenues of more than $800 million a year (2012), she has come to challenge large global fashion houses that have been in the business for decades longer.

Burch attributes her success to hard work and perseverance.

“There are no shortcuts – starting a company takes a lot of time, energy and good, old-fashioned hard work. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it if you have a unique idea that you are passionate about,” she says.

Despite coming from a financially secure background, Burch faced challenges common to all entrepreneurs. “Everything that went into building a start-up – raising capital, finding partners, hiring the right team – was a challenge,” she explains. “The two and a half years before our launch were very intense and I worked harder than I ever thought possible.”

One of Burch’s biggest tests came in 2006 with the end of her marriage to her husband and business partner. A messy legal battle followed the divorce, with Chris Burch claiming in court that his wife’s business had hindered the growth of his own fashion retail chain, ‘c.Wonder’. Tory counter-sued, claiming he had created a knockoff brand with mass- market versions of top-selling Tory Burch items. This compelled her ex-husband to resign from the board of directors of Tory Burch and sell his stake in the brand.

Never one to focus on the past, Tory Burch is currently working on her Autumn/Winter 2013- 14 collection. The self-confessed workaholic is creating a “Gustav Klimt and René Lalique-inspired free-spirited and romantic mood”.

Burch says, “We focused on the details: dragonflies and scarabs printed on dresses, as well as wrapped around the heels of shoes; metallic prints and patterns; mixed textures; and subtle volume. It all centers on the idea of 24-hour dressing – special pieces to wear from day to evening.”

Burch has also designed a limited-edition scarf especially for her Abu Dhabi store, opening this year, to woo her target consumers in the region. Burch identifies young aspirational women, collegians and even high school students, as her brand’s main clients. Given this demographic, she says social media remains an important communications tool.

“I tweet and Instagram myself, and our team manages platforms like Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Weibo,” she says. “Our social media conversations have to be organic and authentic to who we are.”

Burch is equally invested in her non-profit foundation, which provides grassroots financial support for female-owned start-ups, mainly in the US.

“I wanted to help other women and their families,” she says. Based on our experiences starting a business, I thought we had something to offer aspiring female entrepreneurs. Through research I learned that it was extremely difficult for women to get small business loans in the U.S. But women are a great investment – they pay back their loans at a high rate, and invest earnings back into their communities. I felt loans and mentoring for female entrepreneurs were the best way for our foundation to contribute. We had a mentoring event in Marrakech last year, and we hope to expand all of our programs internationally at some point.”

But despite the hectic traveling schedule, a business empire to run and three children to raise, Tory Burch seems full of energy. She’s looking forward to her fragrance launch and a women’s activewear line in the near future. “I want to be like Wanda Ferragamo and work until I’m 85,” she says.