luxury blog


Behind the Scenes of LVMH

Behind the Scenes of LVMH
Courtesy of LVMH

To get the full story of a luxury item—be it a fragrance a handbag a watch or Champagne—one must begin at the beginning of its creation. The initial innovation, and the often-painstaking work that follows, is a part of the process most never get to see. LVMH’s Les Journées Particulières, however, changes that, opening workshop and atelier doors throughout Europe for two days (June 15–16) and allowing aficionados to see first hand the effort and craftsmanship that goes into each piece.

“Our hope is that visitors will be surprised by the deep cultural, historical and emotional experience that this unique event provides through behind-the-scenes access to these emblematic European locations,” says an LVMH spokesperson.

The first open-door invitation in 2011 drew more than 100,000 people to 25 sites. This year, upwards of 40 workshops in France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Poland will be open for tours. Visitors will gain access to (among others) the Louis Vuitton special-orders workshop in Asnières, France; Christian Dior’s haute-couture studios in Paris; Acqua di Parma in Milan; the Guerlain fabrication site in Orphin, France; the Glenmorangie distillery in Scotland; and TAG Heuer and Hublot in Switzerland.

While the main purpose of the celebration is to show off LVMH’s highly trained craftspeople—shoemakers, couturières, watchmakers, cellar masters, jewelers, chefs—it also highlights the magnificent artisanal heritages that many European countries keep alive. “The event seeks to let consumers share the passion of the group’s artisans,” says the spokesperson, “who are all inspired by the same quest for excellence.”

Topping Rose House in the Hamptons

Topping Rose House in the Hamptons
Courtesy of Topping Rose

The Hamptons is famous for grand homes and beautiful beaches. Given the tony ambiance, however, upscale accommodations in the area are in surprisingly short supply. Which is why Topping Rose House—a new hotel, spa and restaurant in Bridgehampton run by restaurateur and chef Tom Colicchio—is such a welcome arrival.

The 22-room property dates back to 1842, when Abraham Topping Rose, a local dignitary and county judge, built the 6,000-square-foot main house in a Greek Revival style. It remained a private residence for more than a century and housed a variety of businesses before co-owner Bill Campbell, former chairman of Chase Card Services, bought the land in 2005. He received a permit to turn the crumbling building into a hotel in 2010.

After a lengthy construction process, which included restoring the original hardwood floors and resurrecting three covered terraces, Topping Rose opened officially on Memorial Day weekend. (The restaurant debuted last fall.) Architect Roger Ferris was excited to refurbish the existing structure and to create several new, modern buildings on the same site. “This architectural strategy of combining historical and contemporary forms in close proximity to one another is at once a great challenge and a great pleasure,” he says.

Rooms, which start at a spacious 400 square feet, are spread out among the main house, four cottages and a studio and feature plush amenities like Frette linens, Chadsworth & Haig bathrobes, Naturopathica toiletries and customized minibars. But the best perk might be the opportunity to enjoy Colicchio’s seasonal American cooking at the eponymous restaurant. A one-acre farm grows the majority of the operation’s produce for dishes that emphasize creatively prepared vegetables. Try the sugar-snap peas, asparagus and saffron served with grilled monkfish or ravioli with dandelion, goat cheese and truffle honey.

Co-owner Simon Critchell says the hotel is meant to be a haven. “It’s ideal for people who want to come to the Hamptons but don’t want the hassle of having a house,” he explains. “We have your needs covered.” Rooms start at $850 (including breakfast); One Bridgehampton–Sag Harbor Tpk.; 631-537-0870;

What to Taste at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
Photo by Galdones Photography

The white tents that take over Aspen this time of year mean summer has officially arrived and the Aspen Food & Wine Classic—the country’s premier culinary event—is underway. The 31st annual festival (June 14–16) features more than 80 cooking demonstrations, wine seminars and panel discussions led by chefs, vintners and up-and-coming talent. Tickets this year were the toughest yet; the classic sold out in March, the earliest in five years. Even so, here are some highlights, a few with tickets still available.

Food & Wine Best New Chefs

A pass is required for entry, but the Grand Tasting Pavilion in Wagner Park is the heart of the festival. Don’t miss the Best New Chefs station, where the class of 2013 will present signature dishes. We have the exclusive on the menu—here is a sampling:

  • Danny Bowien, Mission Chinese Food (New York)
    Hokkaido scallop, Genovese pesto, country ham, rye
  • Justin Cogley, Aubergine (Carmel, California)
    Poulard, liver, seaweed vinegar, coastal herbs
  • Matthew Gaudet, West Bridge (Boston)
    Warm baby carrot salad with picked, raw and braised carrots, savory granola, fresh cheese
  • Michael Voltaggio, Ink (Los Angeles)
    Egg-yolk gnocchi, golden trout roe, smoked crème fraîche
  • Jamie Malone, Sea Change (Minneapolis)
    Abalone, asparagus, bone marrow, yuzu, chili

Last Bite Dessert Party

Tickets ($125) to this salute to the sweet tooth (June 14, 10 p.m.) are still available. Held at the historic Hotel Jerome and hosted by culinary personality Gail Simmons, the Art Deco–themed evening features desserts by pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini and local notables. “Last year, this party was my favorite moment,” says Simmons, “but there’s just something about the mountains, the chefs—the whole spirit of the weekend that is undeniably magical.”

Tac au Vin: Best Wines for Tacos

Twenty-five wine seminars (limited to pass holders) will cover regions from around the world. Our pick is this program (June 15, 3:45 p.m.), where Union Square Hospitality Group’s Danny Meyer and John Ragan will pair wines with tacos by chef Floyd Cardoz of New York’s North End Grill.

Reserve Tastings

Tickets (from $175) are still available for one of these tastings, featuring rare varietals and hosted by winemakers and sommeliers. Try “A Piedmont Superstar: The Wines of Angelo Gaja” or “Two Legendary Rioja Vintages: 1994 & 1995.”

June 14–16; for official festival coverage, follow @fwmag #fwclassic;

Father’s Day Gift: Brandolini-Designed Boxer Shorts

Holland & Sherry Bespoke boxers
Photo courtesy of Holland & Sherry

Interior designer Muriel Brandolini, whose bold style has been lauded by Christopher Getty, Matt Lauer and Annette Roque and Crown Prince and Princess Pavlos of Greece, is making her mark with a different medium this spring: men’s undergarments. Rated M, her new line of boxer shorts ($89 each), features four styles that are hand-block printed in India on the softest of cotton. And though Brandolini doesn’t name her prints, she says their inspirations range from geometry to florals to the cinema. “This print reminds me of A Clockwork Orange,” she says of the pair pictured here. Available exclusively at Holland & Sherry Bespoke, 209 Elizabeth St.; 212-343-1261;

A Taste of Summer in Central Park

A Taste of Summer in Central Park
Courtesy of Central Park Conservancy

Summer, for all intents and purposes, has arrived in New York. To celebrate both the season and Manhattan’s Central Park, the Central Park Conservancy is back with its 17th annual Taste of Summer benefit, held June 19 on the park’s iconic Bethesda Terrace. More than 800 guests are expected to congregate and sample food from the city’s top chefs (participating restaurants include 21 Club, P.J. Clarke’s, Armani Ristorante, La Esquina, Maya and Serafina) and bid on items in a silent auction deejayed by Alexandra Richards, the youngest daughter of Rolling Stone Keith Richards.

Board of trustees member Gillian Miniter is looking forward to delicious cuisine and the event’s recent move back to Bethesda Terrace. (In 2011 it was held in nearby Naumburg Bandshell.) “I love that area of Central Park,” she says. “It’s a special area because of the formal fountain and the beautiful Minton tiles that line the ceiling of the Arcade.”

High-powered attendees like fashion designers Lela Rose and Michelle Smith, as well as interior designers Mario Buatta and Geoffrey Bradfield, are expected to join the festivities, and the Conservancy hopes to raise nearly $700,000 for the park. Individual tickets cost $4,000; tables, from $10,000; Bethesda Terrace, Central Park; 212-446-2242;

Chocolate à la Alain Ducasse

Chocolate à la Alain Ducasse
Pierre Monetta

Whenever Alain Ducasse opens a new restaurant or a charming countryside inn, the cognoscenti immediately take notice. So it is no surprise that his recent venture into chocolate making—Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse (40 Rue de la Roquette; 33-1/48-05-82-86;, which opened in February in the Bastille neighborhood of Paris—has heads turning. Instead of relying on premade couverture (bulk chocolate), as many high-end brands do, the Frenchman enlisted his former pastry chef, Nicolas Berger, to source and roast beans for the ultimate pod-to-bar creations.

From a workshop attached to the store, 42-year-old Berger does everything from cracking the cocoa pods to tempering. Treats include milk- and dark-chocolate bars in different percentages, nine praline varieties and a dozen ganaches (dark vanilla, lime, coffee). The head chocolatier spoke with us recently about the hard work involved and why eating the sweet treat shouldn’t be so serious.

Q: There are some high-quality brands out there that you could use for your chocolate. Why make your own?
Mr. Ducasse and I have had a dream to open a chocolate workshop since 2005, but we always knew that we wanted to put our hands on it from the very beginning, where we actually source the beans. It’s in line with his philosophy of always using the best of the best, and we felt we could only get that by doing it ourselves.

Q: How did you choose the plantations?
I visited a few dozen of them in the Dominican Republic and Peru and from other places we source from, including São Tomé, Madagascar, Trinidad and Ecuador. Plantations actually sent me bean samples here in Paris. I looked at the quality of the pods and the beans to make sure they were clean and without stones. If I was satisfied, I would roast the beans and make small batches of chocolate to see how they turned out. Then, based on the taste, I made the final decisions.

Q: What is involved in making the chocolate?
It’s an elaborate process with several steps and machines. We usually get about a half ton of beans a month. First we sort through them and throw away the ones with the broken pods. We roast them for 25 to 30 minutes and crack the shells to get the nibs, which we mill into a cocoa paste and mix with sugar and milk if we are making milk chocolate. Then we refine this mixture through big cylinders, conche it and temper it before it’s ready to be used in bars and pieces.

Q: How often do you produce?
We do it once a week—200 kilos of pieces and 500 kilos of bars. Since the chocolate is available only in Paris, that amount is just for our store.

Q: Do you eat it every day?
Yes, at least a pound. My favorites are the bars from Ecuador and Peru and also the pralines.

Q: And how is it best enjoyed?
Anytime and by itself. Some people try to make chocolate intellectual by pairing it with wine or doing formal tastings. Eating chocolate should be fun, not serious.

Art Fills Costa Navarino

Art Fills Costa Navarino
Courtesy of Costa Navarino

In a bid to brand the Mediterranean resort destination Costa Navarino as an up-and-coming place for artists and art enthusiasts, local developers are launching a new contemporary art platform called Costa Navarino: Engaging Art. The project kicks off on June 8 with an exhibit curated by conceptual artist Dimitrios Antonitsis.

The permanent exhibition space will reside in the Westin Resort, which is one of the area’s two luxury hotels. Artists in residence, whose work will be on display for about a month each, will be on hand in the evenings to explain their creations to guests and prepare new artwork on-site—a dynamic, creative process in which visitors are encouraged to participate. The debut exhibition, “60 Picks Per Minute” (through October 6), features four well-known artists whose work blends contemporary art with traditional handicraft. For the artists, exhibiting pieces in a hotel is a novel move. “I like the challenge of curating exhibits outside the white box of gallery aesthetics,” says Antonitsis. “Activating creative experiences for leisure-class travelers is the next frontier.”

Engaging Art has a solid foundation to build upon; Peloponnesian heirlooms, contemporary Greek art and original works from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries are on display throughout Costa Navarino’s hotels, restaurants, golf clubs and spas. The ultimate aim, though, is to create a meeting place for artists and collectors on the unspoiled section of the southern Peloponnese coast—an idea as idyllic as they come. Navarino Dunes, Messinia; 30-272/309-5000;

NYFW Distilled

New York Fashion Week
Photo courtesy of American Express

On February 12, Departures fashion director Amanda Ross (pictured above, right) joined Bergdorf Goodman fashion director Linda Fargo (above, left) at the Todd English–designed American Express Skybox, poised between the two tents of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week with a window overlooking each runway. They discussed the role of the modern fashion director. “Fashion casts a wider and wider net these days, especially with the growth of the Internet,” Fargo said. “Each of us attending the shows brings to it our own specific prism through which we are looking.” Ross agreed: “We interpret the designers and try to tease out what’s relevant now.” And oh yes, they both said at once, the accessory of the season is a pair of white suede Manolo Blahniks ($595; available at Manolo Blahnik New York, 212-582-3007).

Chanel No. 5 On Display

Chanel No. 5 On Display
Courtesy of Chanel

Coco Chanel’s life story has been told countless times in many different ways. But the latest is relayed through her most successful commodity, Chanel No. 5, which gave birth to the modern fragrance industry. Through June 5, Paris’s Palais de Tokyo presents the exhibit “No. 5 Culture Chanel,” which travels back to World War I–era Biarritz, Grasse, New York, Cap Martin and Venice, recalling how avant-garde artists like Cocteau, Picasso, Man Ray and Stravinsky influenced the visionary designer.

“Chanel was a cougar!” whispers my personal tour guide, Ingrid, in a velvety French accent as she whisks me past a hall of Lucite boxes containing Chanel’s collection of books, letters and vintage perfume bottles. She leads me directly to a photo of the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, one of Chanel’s former lovers and a Russian exile, who introduced her to famed perfumer Ernest Beaux. She created No. 5 with Beaux in 1921; the perfumer presented 24 samples and she chose number five, which was her lucky number. “Chanel may have believed in lucky numbers, but she was deeply modernist and was always moved by forward-thinking artists and intellectuals,” explains Ingrid.

Other samples were later developed and sold, like Chanel No. 22, but No. 5 had the It factor and was the first of its kind to blend various scents—it contained more than 80 different notes—to create an “abstract fragrance.” The beveled square bottle, equal parts whisky flask and Bauhaus architecture, was the antidote to the flamboyant Baccarat crystal vessels popular then. Even its lab-inspired name was a deconstruction of all things gilded and gimmicky, elements Chanel abhorred.

The exhibit’s entryway Chanel garden, designed by Piet Oudolf (the Dutch landscape designer behind New York’s High Line), is abloom with purple and pink flowers. And in a loft bathed in beige, flanked by sofas and inspired by Chanel’s La Pausa retreat in Cap Martin, visitors can watch a series of Chanel No. 5 film clips, peruse a library of flora and fashion books and rummage through a chest of drawers for a DIY olfactory workshop. It is also an ideal place to reflect on the life of Chanel, who was orphaned at an abbey at age 12 but transformed herself into one very lucky woman. For a personal guided tour of the exhibit, ask for the art concierge at Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris (37 Avenue Hoche; 33-1/42-99-88-00; Through June 5; 13 Avenue du Président Wilson; 33-1/81-97-35-88;

Bike Sharing Rides Into Aspen

Bike Sharing Rides Into Aspen
Courtesy of We-Cycle

Forget luxury SUVs—bikes might just become the newest status symbol in Aspen. Adding to an already robust public-transit system, WE-cycle will make Aspen the first resort community in the country to adopt an official bike-sharing program. It’s the third project to launch in the cycling-centric state of Colorado and aims to make getting around town much easier and greener.

Formed in 2010, the long-awaited nonprofit debuts June 5 with 12 fully automated stations spread throughout Aspen’s core, giving users access to 100 bicycles from June through October. Transit is the ultimate WE-cycle goal, so the system was designed to encourage quick, short-distance trips (from $7) around town.

Mirte Mallory, WE-cycle’s director and one of its founders, was inspired by the benefits she saw bike sharing create for cities around the world and wanted the same solution available in her hometown. “Although we are a small community, we still face a lot of big-city challenges—traffic, air quality and especially parking,” she says. “Our hope is to really build on the bike culture that already exists here and have both locals and visitors use WE-cycle as a viable transportation option.”

Daily and season passes are available for purchase with a credit card at WE-cycle stations or online with a 30-minute ride maximum. And if you really want to ride the WE-cycle movement, adopt a bike for $1,500—the personal inscription on the chain guard will be all yours.

Most Recent Features