Robb Read: Meet The Teenage Gamers Raking In Millions

All those hours in front of screens might just pay off.

By Helena Madden 03/05/2021

It was clear as the game reached its climax that Kyle Giersdorf was in the zone. The athlete had positioned himself in a prime spot on the field. He even cracked a rare smile as he made another solid play. Giersdorf was leading by a commanding 15 points going into this final round; his closest competitor was already out of the picture. When the match was over, the crowded arena erupted in cheers, and confetti filled the air. The 16-year-old looked a bit shell-shocked. As fog machines spouted mist, he carefully made his way down a glowing runway to claim his trophy and US$3 million prize. He was, after all, the Fortnite World Champion.

Yes, Fortnite: the wildly popular video game in which players assume the roles of cartoonish, gun-wielding avatars and compete in a last-man-standing slugfest. It has been likened to the Hunger Games on more than one occasion, except, unlike Katniss Everdeen, participants can quickly erect walls and conjure towers to use for cover and vantage. Competition for the inaugural World Cup was fierce. About 40 million hopefuls in the individual and duo categories duked it out in open qualifiers sponsored by Fortnite’s creator, Epic Games, a process that took place over 10 weeks in 2019 and brought together top-tier talent from more than 200 countries. Only 100 solo contestants—among them the underdog but soon-to-be champ, Giersdorf—made it to the finals at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City. (The 2020 event was canceled because of the pandemic.)

Esports Gaming Feature

Giersdorf in his bedroom in Pottsgrove, Penn., with awards for hitting 100,000 and 1 million YouTube subscribers behind him. He’s now up to 3.84 million. M. Levy

Giersdorf’s seemingly overnight success was no aberration in esports, as the world of competitive video games is known. Their intrinsically democratic nature—can you imagine 40 million tennis kids trying to reach the US Open or, for that matter, 40 million athletes in any mainstream sport having the opportunity to advance to a world championship?—is one reason their popularity shows no sign of waning. According to games-data company Newzoo, esports will generate $1.1 billion in revenue this year. The majority of that number comes from media rights and sponsorship opportunities, which, with a global livestreaming audience of 663 million in 2020, look more appealing to brands than ever. New fans deprived of other spectator sports in the pandemic “ultimately accelerated esports into the mainstream fairly considerably,” says Stephen Bradley, a managing director at Deloitte Consulting who co-leads the firm’s US gaming and esports practice. “I don’t think all of them are going to stay by any stretch, but some of them will.”

Esports’ growth has been meteoric in this century, but they started small. Many cite a Spacewar tournament with some 20 players at Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab in 1972 as the first formal video-game competition, but larger gatherings with more substantial prizes—the Spacewar winner received a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine—didn’t materialize until around the turn of the millennium, when StarCraft events became increasingly popular in South Korea and events like the Red Annihilation tournament for the game Quake slowly cropped up in the US. The Red Annihilation champion in 1997, college student Dennis Fong, took home a Ferrari 328 GTS that belonged to the game’s lead programmer. Suddenly, gaming wasn’t just for geeky computer nerds anymore.

Today’s parents worrying about their teen’s astronomically high screen time should take a glance at their standings before locking up their devices. Pro athletes in the field, who are by and large male, stand to make six-figure salaries or more, plus prize earnings, which can be in the millions, on teams owned by sports moguls such as Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys. The winningest player in esports’ short history is Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, who’s considered the best Dota 2 competitor ever and has a lifetime prize total of $6.9 million. He’s 27 and now a team captain. Purses have been creeping upward. Giersdorf ’s $3 million World Cup pot amounted to a bigger payout than the one Tiger Woods won at the 2019 Masters. Not bad for a 16-year-old’s first real job. But rest assured: It seems he saved most of the seven-figure check. His only splurge was a new desk… for practising Fortnite.

The championship was the teen’s first time in the Big Apple. Giersdorf, now 18, grew up in Pottsgrove, Penn., a tiny suburb northwest of Philadelphia proper. “I was young getting into video games,” he says. “I was mostly playing with my dad, though. Once I was in kindergarten I started playing more independently and with friends and stuff like that.” Back then, some of his favourite titles were LittleBigPlanet, a game you play as a charming, Pixar-esque character that can best be described as a strikingly humanoid sock puppet, and Call of Duty, in which you shoot enemies in various militaristic settings. Those may sound like strangely divergent briefs, but opposites attract. Fortnite, with its kid-friendly graphics and shooter gameplay, combines elements of both.

Esports Gaming Feature

Giersdorf’s hand position for Fortnite. M. Levy

Giersdorf secured his first big competitive paycheck in 2018. It was at a small event at a Microsoft store: He finished in second place and won $5,000. He’d been practising Fortnite for only about a year when he competed at the World Cup, which, since it was the first ever, was easily his most high-profile outing yet. “That was definitely a huge change in my life,” he says. “I wasn’t expecting to do too crazy well, but I had been practising a lot. And then I ended up winning, I guess, and everything just hit me. Mentally, I don’t think I was prepared for it yet, just because I’ve never really been that person either to just have or want tons of attention.” These days, Giersdorf is best known by his in-game tag, “Bugha,” a pet name his grandfather gave him when he was a baby. He plays Fortnite for a professional team called the Sentinels, has appeared in a Super Bowl commercial for Sabra hummus and has released the Bugha Gaming Collection of accessories—think LED keyboards, microphones, headsets and such—with Five Below. Meanwhile, he’s finishing high school via online classes.

Giersdorf and other esports athletes also make money by being active on Twitch, a popular livestreaming platform that was bought by Amazon for $970 million in 2014. It’s used primarily by gamers to broadcast themselves playing through different titles, although theoretically you could just turn on your camera, go live and let the world watch you do homework (if that’s your thing). As they play, streamers will comment on the game via voice-over. Some show their face in a thumbnail in the corner of the screen so viewers can see their reactions. Just as in a tournament’s packed arena, fans watch their virtual trick shots and combos with the attention to detail that baseball buffs analyze a slugger’s swing.

Very good players can make money from the Twitch Partner Program, raking in cash from ads, subscriptions and in-chat tips from viewers who like what they see, but world-class gamers like Giersdorf can land even more lucrative exclusive streaming deals with the company. Most keep their Twitch earnings under wraps, with a few exceptions. Popular streamer Jeremy Wang revealed in 2018 that he made $20,000 a month from the platform. At the time, he had 800,000 Twitch followers. Giersdorf, meanwhile, has 4.1 million. Good money, but it can be tricky to balance Twitch obligations with team practice and scrimmages. “Playing on stream messes you up a little bit because you’re more focused on the entertainment side of things, rather than just purely competing,” says Giersdorf. Between streaming and practising, he spends about 10 hours a day on video games. Not your typical extracurricular activity. “Fortnite and streaming, and then playing scrims and schoolwork, it all kind of goes into a loop. I usually do my schoolwork late at night, kind of when I’m done with everything.”

Esports’ primary audience—the 18-to-34-year-old bracket—is one of the most sought-after and elusive demographics, one that traditional sports like football and baseball have long struggled to capture. Better still, it’s a young viewership with some spending power. Many of the kids who watch athletes like Giersdorf are also into playing video games themselves, at least to some degree, and it isn’t a hobby that comes cheap. “To play a really, really high-performing game, you need a really expensive system. Right off the bat, every computer is $2,000,” says Dan Dinh, cofounder and president of TSM, a US-based global esports organisation that competes in 10 different games and has upwards of 30 players on its active roster. “What kid can afford a $2,000 PC? It really segments out a higher-value audience.”

Esports Gaming Feature

Heo Seunghoon, now 23, picked up League of Legends in 2012 and has scarcely put it down since. Photo Courtesy: SK Telecom T1

That barrier to entry is true in the US, but not everywhere. In South Korea almost anyone can go practice at a PC bang, a gaming centre where patrons pay around $1 an hour (or less) for access to high-end computers. It makes competitive gaming not only more equitable but more social—and has helped launched such stars as Heo Seunghoon, better known by his gamer tag, “Huni.” “My father was playing, my cousin was playing, my younger brother—everyone was playing StarCraft daily,” he says. “If you’re not playing StarCraft as a South Korean student, you can’t even talk with friends.” StarCraft debuted in 1998, which, for perspective, was the year that a couple of Stanford grad students named Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google in a mutual friend’s garage. The game was never quite as popular in the States as it was in South Korea, but StarCraft is largely recognized as one of the first big esport scenes, with high-profile tournaments dating to 2003 and teams sponsored by Samsung and other major companies. It wasn’t the game that ultimately clicked with Heo, though. Now 23, he picked up League of Legends in 2012 and has scarcely put it down since, clocking in an average of 12 to 14 hours of practice every working day since going pro at age 17. He bet on the right horse. League of Legends has exploded in popularity: Its 2020 World Championship final had an average audience of 23 million viewers—per minute.

Heo signed his first professional contract with Fnatic and moved into the team home in Berlin in 2015. His new teammates became his roommates—even their coach lived in the apartment. That may sound like a recipe for disaster (or, at the least, a disastrous cleaning rotation), but the “gaming house” has been a common esports practice since StarCraft’s competitive boom. The idea is that all of a pro team’s players should live in one house so they can more effectively bond, strategize and, nowadays, create video content. Who has the best gaming house has become a competition in and of itself, with teams like 100 Thieves and FaZe Clan occupying increasingly extravagant mansions, the price tags of which are often noted in video titles such as “Revealing the New US$30,000,000 FaZe House.” Many have on-site chefs and nutritionists who prepare meals for the team. But it’s not a universally accepted model. Some feel that gaming houses too thoroughly blur the work-life boundary. “It can feel a bit overwhelming if you’re on top of each other all the time,” says Dinh. “Instead of having a house, we have small communities where the players have their own space and their own apartment, and they can come into work and interface there.” Bugha, meanwhile, lives and practices at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania, travelling for competitions as necessary.

Esport Gaming Feature

The spectator scene at the 2019 League of Legends World Championship in Madrid Stephanie Lindgren

For Heo, living at the Fnatic apartment had its challenges—namely the language barrier. Since the team recruited members primarily from European countries, English was the language most had in common. “It was really tough because I was not able to speak English at all. I should have studied it in school more instead of playing games,” he says with a laugh. He returned to South Korea in 2017 to compete for SK Telecom T1, one of the best teams in the world, a residency that culminated in a trip to the League of Legends World Championship at Beijing National Stadium. “I was playing in front of 45,000 people. That was crazy. They were shouting my name, and the stage was shaking because there were so many people out there,” he says. “It will be hard to experience that again, honestly.” He and SK Telecom—led by Lee “Faker” Sanghyeok, aka the “Michael Jordan of esports”—finished in second place overall, falling to Samsung Galaxy, another South Korean team, in the final round. Heo now plays for Dinh’s TSM in Los Angeles and competes in the League of Legends Championship Series, a regional circuit that includes the US and Canada and where the average player salary is about $463,000. Lee’s contract at SK Telecom, meanwhile, gives him an ownership stake.

But getting started in professional esports can be an uphill battle. “A couple years ago, gaming was never something for your career. And, initially, my family didn’t really approve,” says Jake Yip, a professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) athlete who goes by the tag “Stewie2k” while in-game. “I made my own decision to go pro when I turned 18 because I had the opportunity.” While his parents weren’t happy, it was Yip’s older brother who first introduced a version of Counter-Strike to him when he was about six years old. CS:GO is a more sophisticated version of the same formula: Play on a team with friends, and shoot the other team a bunch before they shoot you.

Esports Gaming Feature

Jake Yip, who goes by Stewie2k when he’s playing. Rick Lock

Yip grew up in San Francisco and was frequently at odds with his parents when it came to CS:GO. The teenager would compete in pick-up games late into the night, which caused him to oversleep the next day and skip class. On a few occasions his parents—who were often travelling overseas for work—confiscated his computer. Naturally, they refused to sign off on a team contract, which is why he had to wait until he was 18 to officially say yes to Cloud9, a Santa Monica–based team and one of the biggest names in CS:GO in North America. Even then, there were naysayers. Fans criticized Cloud9’s decision to hire him because they wanted talent with a more extensive résumé, since Yip had been playing for only about two years at the time. Today, the 23-year-old has been competing at the professional level for five years. He has collected over $1 million in prize money during that time and was the first North American player, along with his teammates, to win one of CS:GO’s major championships. It’s a lot of glory (and payout), but competing can be incredibly taxing, and there’s no such thing as work-life balance. “I have recently started experiencing burnout,” he says. “Traveling away from home for months, that can take a big toll, and you’re around your teammates so much sometimes. It’s not too healthy.”

Esports Gaming Feature

Yip filming a video at Team Liquid’s Alienware Training Facility EU in Utrecht, the Netherlands. 1UP Studios

Nobody is saying it’s an Ironman, but professional video gaming requires plenty of physical and mental stamina. “People shouldn’t think, like, if you can use a mouse and a keyboard, then you’re good to go, you can be world champion,” says William Collis, an esports professor (yes, that’s a thing) at Becker College in Worcester, Mass. “Obviously, the people who excel at these titles are really rare specimens who have just incredible combinations of desirable attributes.”

There are numbers to back up this assessment. A 2016 study at the German Sport University in Cologne found that esports athletes perform about 400 movements per minute on their mice and keyboards. Their levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, were on par with those of strapped-in racecar drivers. Athletes also have to know their stuff and be able to apply it quickly and strategically in high-stakes situations. League of Legends, for example, has more than 150 playable characters, or “champions,” all with different strengths, weaknesses and special abilities. A pro like Heo has to understand every single one inside and out so that he can defeat his opponent no matter what option they choose.

In its simplest form, then, esports are just like any other pro sport. Some of us have a natural aptitude for it, but getting good requires a lot of work, and becoming world-class is an elusive dream for all but a very few. If you do make it, there’s always someone younger and hungrier nipping at your heels, and packed tournament and practice schedules can drive even the best to retire early. Which means that the Tom Brady of esports will likely need that phenom’s competitive drive and near-monomania to weather the job’s many ups and downs. Yip, for one, wants to make a go of it. “I feel like I’m still very young and I still have a big future ahead of me,” he says. “I’m just kind of riding the wave right now.”

ADVERTISE WITH US

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay Connected

You may also like.

Living La Vida Lagerfeld

The world remembers him for fashion. But as a new tome reveals, the iconoclastic designer is defined as much by extravagant, often fantastical, homes as he is clothes.

By Zarah Crawford 22/07/2024

“Lives, like novels, are made up of chapters”, the world-renowned bibliophile, Karl Lagerfeld, once observed. 

Were a psychological-style novel ever to be written about Karl Lagerfeld’s life, it would no doubt give less narrative weight to the story of his reinvigoration of staid fashion houses like Chloe, Fendi and Chanel than to the underpinning leitmotif of the designer’s constant reinvention of himself. 

In a lifetime spanning two centuries, Lagerfeld made and dropped an ever-changing parade of close friends, muses, collaborators and ambiguous lovers, as easily as he changed his clothes, his furniture… even his body. Each chapter of this book would be set against the backdrop of one of his series of apartments, houses and villas, whose often wildly divergent but always ultra-luxurious décor reflected the ever-evolving personas of this compulsively public but ultimately enigmatic man.

With the publication of Karl Lagerfeld: A Life in Houses these wildly disparate but always exquisite interiors are presented for the first time together as a chronological body of work. The book indeed serves as a kind of visual novel, documenting the domestic dreamscapes in which the iconic designer played out his many lives, while also making a strong case that Lagerfeld’s impact on contemporary interior design is just as important, if not more so, than his influence on fashion.

In the studio at the back of the Librarie 7L, Paris, in 2008 — a bookshop established by Lagerfeld himself.

In fact, when the first Lagerfeld interior was featured in a 1968 spread for L’OEil magazine, the editorial describes him merely as a “stylist”. The photographs of the apartment in an 18th-century mansion on rue de Université, show walls lined with plum-coloured rice paper, or lacquered deepest chocolate brown in sharp contrast to crisp, white low ceilings that accentuated the horizontality that was fashionable among the extremely fashionable at the time. Yet amid this setting of aggressively au courant modernism, the anachronistic pops of Art Nouveau and Art Deco objects foreshadow the young Karl’s innate gift for creating strikingly original environments whose harmony is achieved through the deft interplay of contrasting styles and contexts.

Lagerfeld learned early on that presenting himself in a succession of gem-like domestic settings was good for crafting his image. But Lagerfeld’s houses not only provided him with publicity, they also gave him an excuse to indulge in his greatest passion. Shopping!

By 1973, Lagerfeld was living in a new apartment at Place Saint–Sulpice where his acquisition of important Art Deco treasures continued unabated. Now a bearded and muscular disco dandy, he could most often be found in the louche company of the models, starlets and assorted hedonistic beauties that gathered around the flamboyant fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez. Lagerfeld was also in the throes of a hopeless love affair with Jacques de Bascher whose favours he reluctantly shared with his nemesis Yves Saint Laurent.

Hôtel Pozzo di Borgi, from 1977.

He painted the rooms milky white and lined them with specially commissioned carpets—the tawny patterned striations of which invoked musky wild animal pelts. These lent a stark relief to the sleek, machine-age chrome lines of his Deco furnishings. To contemporary eyes it remains a strikingly original arrangement that subtly conveys the tensions at play in Lagerfeld’s own life: the cocaine fuelled orgies of his lover and friends, hosted in the pristine home of a man who claimed that “a bed is for one person”.

In 1975, a painful falling out with his beloved Jacques, who was descending into the abyss of addiction, saw almost his entire collection of peerless Art Deco furniture, paintings and objects put under the auctioneer’s hammer. This was the first of many auction sales, as he habitually shed the contents of his houses along with whatever incarnation of himself had lived there. Lagerfeld was dispassionate about parting with these precious goods. “It’s collecting that’s fun, not owning,” he said. And the reality for a collector on such a Renaissance scale, is that to continue buying, Lagerfeld had to sell. 

Of all his residences, it was the 1977 purchase of Hôtel Pozzo di Borgo, a grand and beautifully preserved 18th-century house, that would finally allow him to fulfill his childhood fantasies of life in the court of Madame de Pompadour. And it was in this aura of Rococó splendour that the fashion designer began to affect, along with his tailored three-piece suits, a courtier’s ponytailed and powdered coif and a coquettish antique fan: marking the beginning of his transformation into a living, breathing global brand that even those with little interest in fashion would immediately recognise.

Place Saint-Sulpice apartment from 1972. At his work station with on the table, his favourite Lalique crystal glass, complete with Coca-Cola.

Lagerfeld’s increasing fame and financial success allowed him to indulge in an unprecedented spending frenzy, competing with deep-pocketed institutions like the Louvre to acquire the finest, most pedigreed pearls of the era—voluptuously carved and gilded bergères; ormolu chests; and fleshy, pastel-tinged Fragonard idylls—to adorn his urban palace. His one-time friend André Leon Talley described him in a contemporary article as suffering from “Versailles complex”. 

However, in mid-1981, and in response to the election of left-wing president, François Mitterrand,  Lagerfeld, with the assistance of his close friend Princess Caroline, became a resident of the tax haven of Monaco. He purchased two apartments on the 21st floor of Le Roccabella, a luxury residential block designed by Gio Ponti. One, in which he kept Jacques de Bascher, with whom he was now reconciled, was decorated in the strict, monochromatic Viennese Secessionist style that had long underpinned his aesthetic vocabulary; the other space, though, was something else entirely, cementing his notoriety as an iconoclastic tastemaker.

Monaco apartment, purchased in 1981: Lagerfeld sits at a tale by George Snowden, with Riviera chairs by Michele de Lucchi. On the table, a cup and sugar bowl by Matteo Thun, flanked by sculptural Treetops lamps by Ettore Sottsass.

Lagerfeld had recently discovered the radically quirky designs of the Memphis Group led by Ettore Sottsass, and bought the collective’s entire first collection and had it shipped to Monaco. In a space with no right angles, these chaotically colourful, geometrically askew pieces—centred on Masanori Umeda’s famous boxing ring—gave visitors the disorientating sensation of having entered a corporeal comic strip. By 1991, the novelty of this jarring postmodern playhouse had inevitably worn thin and once again he sent it all to auction, later telling a journalist that “after a few years it was like living in an old Courrèges. Ha!”

Reverse view of the Monaco living room, featuring Masanori Umeda’s boxing ring and George Snowden’s armchair. Against the back wall the Carlton bookcase by Ettore Sottsass.

In 1989, de Bascher died of an AIDS-related illness, and while Lagerfeld’s career continued to flourish, emotionally the famously stoic designer was struggling. In 2000, a somewhat corpulent Lagerfeld officially ended his “let them eat cake” years at the Hôtel Pozzo di Borgo, selling its sumptuous antique fittings in a massive headline auction that stretched over three days. As always there were other houses, but now with his longtime companion dead, and his celebrity metastasising making him a target for the paparazzi, he began to look less for exhibition spaces and more for private sanctuaries where he could pursue his endless, often lonely, work.

His next significant house was Villa Jako, named for his lost companion and built in the 1920s in a nouveau riche area of Hamburg close to where he grew up. Lagerfeld shot the advertising campaign for Lagerfeld Jako there—a fragrance created in memorial to de Bascher. The house featured a collection of mainly Scandinavian antiques, marking the aesthetic cusp between Art Nouveau and Art Deco. One of its rooms Lagerfeld decorated based on his remembrances of his childhood nursery. Here, he locked himself away to work—tellingly—on a series of illustrations for the fairy tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Villa Jako was a house of deep nostalgia and mourning.

But there were more acts—and more houses—to come in Lagerfeld’s life yet. In November 2000, upon seeing the attenuated tailoring of Hedi Slimane, then head of menswear at Christian Dior, the 135 kg Lagerfeld embarked on a strict dietary regime. Over the next 13 months, he melted into a shadow of his former self. It is this incarnation of Lagerfeld—high white starched collars; Slimane’s skintight suits, and fingerless leather gloves revealing hands bedecked with heavy silver rings—that is immediately recognisable some five years after his death.

The 200-year-old apartment in Quái Voltaire, Paris, was purchased in 2006, and after years of slumber Lagerfeld—a newly awakened Hip Van Winkle—was ready to remake it into his last modernist masterpiece. He designed a unique daylight simulation system that meant the monochromatic space was completely without shadows—and without memory. The walls were frosted and smoked glass, the floors concrete and silicone; and any hint of texture was banned with only shiny, sleek pieces by Marc Newson, Martin Szekely and the Bouroullec Brothers permitted. Few guests were allowed into this monastic environment where Lagerfeld worked, drank endless cans of Diet Coke and communed with Choupette, his beloved Birman cat, and parts of his collection of 300,000 books—one of the largest private collections in the world.

Metal-base on a platform covered with chocolate brown carpet. Stratified leather headboard attributed to Eugène Printz.

Lagerfeld died in 2019, and the process of dispersing his worldly goods is still ongoing. The Quái Voltaire apartment was sold this year for US$10.8 million (around $16.3 million). Now only the rue de Saint-Peres property remains within the Lagerfeld trust. Purchased after Quái Voltaire to further accommodate more of his books—35,000 were displayed in his studio alone, always stacked horizontally so he could read the titles without straining his neck—and as a place for food preparation as he loathed his primary living space having any trace of cooking smells. Today, the rue de Saint-Peres residence is open to the public as an arts performance space and most fittingly, a library.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

This Pristine 1960 Ferrari 250 Spider Could Fetch $24 Million at Auction

The car wears the same colours and has the same engine it left the factory with.

By Bryan Hod 22/07/2024

Some Ferraris are just a little bit more important than others.

Take, for example, the 1960 250 GT SWB California that RM Sotheby’s is auctioning off during this year’s Monterey Car Week. Any example of the open-top beauty would attract interest, but this one just so happens to be the first one that was built.

The 250 is one of the most legendary series of cars in Ferrari history. Between 1952 and 1964, the company released 21 different 250 models—seven for racetracks, 14 for public roads—of which the “Cali Spider” might be the most well regarded, thanks to its potent V-12 and a Pininfarina-penned design that is one of the most beautiful bodies to grace an automobile. The roadster, which was specifically built for the U.S., made its debut in 1957 as a long-wheel-base model (LWB), but it wasn’t until the SWB model debut in 1960 that it became clear how special it was. This example isn’t just the first to roll off the line. It’s the actual car that was used to introduce the world to the model at the 1960 Geneva Motor Show.

1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider by Scaglietti Remi Dargegen/RM Sotheby’s

Just 56 examples of the 250 GT SWB California Spider would be built by Scaglietti during the three years it was in production. The first of those, chassis 1795 GT, is finished in a glossy coat of Grigio. The two-door had a red leather interior at Geneva but was returned to the factory and re-outfitted with black leather upholstery before being delivered to its original owner, British race car driver John Gordon Bennet. Six-and-a-half decades later the car looks identical to how it did when it left the factory the second time.

In addition to its original bodywork, the chassis 1795 GT features its original engine, gearbox, and rear axle. That mill is the competition-spec Tipo 168, a 3.0-litre V-12 that makes 196.1 kW. That may not sound like much by today’s standards, but, when you consider that the 250 GT SWB California Spider tips the scales around 952 kilograms, it’s more than enough.

Remi Dargegen/RM Sotheby’s

The first 250 GT SWB California Spider is scheduled to go up for bid during RM Sotheby’s annual Monterey Car Week auction, which runs from Thursday, August 15, to Saturday, August 17. Unsurprisingly, the house has quite high hopes for the car. The car carries an estimate of between $24 million and $26 million, which could make it one of the most expensive cars ever sold at auction.

Remi Dargegen/RM Sotheby’s

Monterey Car Week

 

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

5 Lounge Chairs That Add Chic Seating to Your Space

Daybeds, the most relaxed of seating solutions, offer a surprising amount of utility. 

By Marni Elyse Katz 22/07/2024

Chaise longue, daybed, recamier, duchesse brisée—elongated furniture designed for relaxing has a roster of fancy names. While the French royal court of Louis XIV brought such pieces to prominence in fashionable European homes, the general idea has been around far longer: The Egyptian pharaohs were big fans, while daybeds from China’s Ming dynasty spurred all those Hollywood Regency fretwork pieces that still populate Palm Beach living rooms. Even Mies van der Rohe, one of design’s modernist icons, got into the lounge game with his Barcelona couch, a study of line and form that holds up today.

But don’t get caught up in who invented them, or what to call them. Instead, consider their versatility: Backless models are ideal in front of large expanses of glass (imagine lazing on one with an ocean view) or at the foot of a bed, while more structured pieces can transform any corner into a cozy reading nook. Daybeds may be inextricably linked to relaxation, but from a design perspective, they put in serious work.

Photo: Courtesy of Egg Collective

Emmy, Egg Collective 

In designing the Emmy chaise, the Egg Collective trio of Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis and Hillary Petrie, who met as students at Washington University in St. Louis, aimed for versatility. Indeed, the tailored chaise looks equally at home in a glass skyscraper as it does in a turn-of-the-century town house. Combining the elegance of a smooth, solid oak or walnut frame with the comfort of bolsters and cushioned upholstery or leather, it works just as well against a wall or at the heart of a room. From around $7,015; Eggcollective.com

Plum, Michael Robbins 

Woodworker Michael Robbins is the quintessential artisan from New York State’s Hudson Valley in that both his materials and methods pay homage to the area. In fact, he describes his style as “honest, playful, elegant and reflective of the aesthetic of the Hudson Valley surroundings”. Robbins crafts his furniture by hand but allows the wood he uses to help guide the look of a piece. (The studio offers eight standard finishes.) The Plum daybed, brought to life at Robbins’s workshop, exhibits his signature modern rusticity injected with a hint of whimsy thanks to the simplicity of its geometric forms. Around $4,275; MichaelRobbins.com 

Photo: Courtesy of Reda Amalou Design

Kimani, Reda Amalou Design 

French architect and designer Reda Amalou acknowledges the challenge of creating standout seating given the number of iconic 20th-century examples already in existence. Still, he persists—and prevails. The Kimani, a bent slash of a daybed in a limited edition of eight pieces, makes a forceful statement. Its leather cushion features a rolled headrest and rhythmic channel stitching reminiscent of that found on the seats of ’70s cars; visually, these elements anchor the slender silhouette atop a patinated bronze base with a sure-handed single line. The result: a seamless contour for the body. Around $33,530; RedaAmalou

Dune, Workshop/APD 

From a firm known for crafting subtle but luxurious architecture and interiors, Workshop/APD’s debut furniture collection is on point. Among its offerings is the leather-wrapped Dune daybed. With classical and Art Deco influences, its cylindrical bolsters are a tactile celebration, and the peek of the curved satin-brass base makes for a sensual surprise. Associate principal Andrew Kline notes that the daybed adeptly bridges two seating areas in a roomy living space or can sit, bench-style, at the foot of a bed. From $13,040; Workshop/ APD

Sherazade, Edra 

Designed by Francesco Binfaré, this sculptural, minimalist daybed—inspired by the rugs used by Eastern civilizations—allows for complete relaxation. Strength combined with comfort is the name of the game here. The Sherazade’s structure is made from light but sturdy honeycomb wood, while next-gen Gellyfoam and synthetic wadding aid repose. True to Edra’s amorphous design codes, it can switch configurations depending on the user’s mood or needs; for example, the accompanying extra pillows—one rectangular and one cylinder shaped— interchange to become armrests or backrests. From $32,900; Edra

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

First Drive: The Lotus Emeya Targets Porsche, Mercedes, and Lucid With Its 70 kw Performance

What the all-electric sedan lacks in cohesive styling is more than made up for in muscular athleticism.

By Tim Pitt 22/07/2024

The purists will protest, but the idea of a luxurious Lotus sedan is nothing new. Back in 1980, company founder Colin Chapman commissioned Paulo Martin—a former Pininfarina designer who penned the canopy-roofed Ferrari 512 S Modulo concept—to create a radical six-seat limousine.

Called the Lotus Eminence, Martin’s vision was a futuristic wedge that owed much to the Aston Martin Lagonda. There was talk of active suspension, a carbon-fibre-and-Kevlar monocoque, optional armour plating, and a 4.0-litre V-8 engine. Sadly, despite additional sketches by Harris Mann (of Triumph TR7 fame), the ambitious project never made it beyond the design studio.

Lotus Group

Now, however, there’s the Lotus Emeya. Introducing the new model, Clive Chapman, son of the founder, drew parallels with the Eminence. “It was part of Dad’s enduring ambition to always push Lotus forward into new areas,” he explained. “I was aware of the Eminence project . . . but then dad died and that was that. And it’s taken this long for Lotus to make it to four-door territory. I know for sure that’s where Colin was wanting to take the company.”

Like the Eletre SUV, launched last year, the Emeya is built in China, fully electric, and packed with enough technology—including cameras, lidar, and radar sensors—to drive itself when laws allow.

“All it requires is an over-the-air update,” says the vehicle’s line director, Sylvain Verstraeten. Unfortunately, you don’t get Paulo Martin’s spaceship styling, but the flagship Emeya R can summon seemingly otherworldly acceleration. Its rivals include Porsche’s Taycan, Audi’s E-Tron GT, Tesla’s Model S, Mercedes-Benz’s EQS, and Lucid’s Air.

The Emeya’s 38 cm central touchscreen, which controls a myriad safety systems and a host of other functions, looks crisp and responds quickly. Lotus Group

Our electrified road trip with the Emeya begins in Munich, Germany, and will end in the Austrian Alps. Along the way, we will—legally—hit the Emeya’s VMAX on the autobahn, refuel it using Europe’s ultra-rapid Ionity charging network, and put it through its paces on spectacular mountain roads. So how does this Anglo-Chinese “Hyper GT” measure up?

Even when parked next to the 1470 kilowatt Lotus Evija hypercar, the Emeya still packs a visual punch, particularly in its signature shade of Solar Yellow. Its “porous” styling is largely sculpted by aerodynamics, with an active front grille, almost-hidden headlights, and a deep rear diffuser. The result isn’t especially cohesive—bulbous in some places, angular in others—and nobody would call it beautiful. But for an automaker keen to reinvent itself, being distinctive, or even divisive, is arguably better than blending in.

The Emeya R covers zero to 99.7 km in 2.8 seconds.
Lotus Group

We start out in the Emeya R, which uses two electric motors and a 102 kWh battery to develop 665 kw and 100.3 kpm of instantly available torque. Drive goes to all four wheels via a two-speed transmission, and the vehicle comes with carbon-ceramic brakes, active anti-roll bars, and rear-axel steering as standard. As for acceleration, zero to 99.7 km takes 2.8 seconds as the Emeya rushes to a top speed of 255 kmph. A more important consideration when you have a road trip ahead is the official WLTP driving range, which is 434 kilometres.

Unlike some EVs, the Emeya doesn’t have an artificial soundtrack, so it piles on speed smoothly and almost silently. By contrast, the G-forces generated are brutal and quite uncomfortable; like the sudden drop of a roller coaster, you brace your body and leave your stomach behind.

Yet back off the throttle a little and the Emeya is relaxing over long distances. Its electronically controlled air springs adjust to the road conditions—not unlike the active suspension that Colin Chapman envisioned in 1980—and it rides comfortably, even on 55.8 cm  wheels, which are the largest option available. There’s also more space for passengers than inside a Porsche Taycan, and the vehicle comes with a choice of a three-abreast rear bench or two individual seats with an infotainment console set between.

The 603 hp Emeya S.
Lotus Group

The potential barrier to touring in any EV is the requirement to recharge. However, if you can find a suitable rapid-charging station, a task made easier by the Emeya’s nav system plotting your pit stops and predicting your remaining range at every stage, this is one of quickest charging EVs of all. Using a 350 kW Ionity device, a 40 percent-to-95 percent top-up takes around 20 minutes. Find a 400 kW DC charger and Lotus claims that charging from 10 percent to 80 percent needs just 14 minutes.

With the vehicle plugged in and parked, we have a chance to play with the Emeya’s 22 cm central touchscreen, which controls a myriad safety systems and a host of other functions. The display looks crisp and responds quickly; connectivity to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, and the optional 23-speaker KEF audio system sounds epic. As for the cabin’s overall quality, it feels a match to that found with other premium brands.

As we cross in to Austria, the scenery gets steeper and the tarmac twistier. Clicking the left paddle from Tour into Sport mode, we find that the Emeya’s steering becomes more alert, the sedan’s suspension stiffens, and the seat bolsters tighten around the hips. We can sense the rear-wheel steering at work as the road spirals skywards, but a lardy curb weight of 2590 kilograms (only 49 kilograms lighter than the Lotus Eletre) can’t be completely overcome by clever chassis tech. It’s an accomplished effort, but we would be having more fun in an Emira or a Porsche Taycan.

Find a 400 kW DC charger and Lotus claims that charging from 10 percent to 80 percent needs just 14 minutes.
Lotus Group

The next day, it’s time to do the same route in reverse. This time, though, we are driving the midrange Emeya S, which has a smaller rear motor, a single-speed gearbox, and a set of six-piston steel brakes. Peak output is 449.6 kilowatts, but it weighs 99.7 kilograms less than the “R” variant, and the official range extends to 609.9 kilometres.

In fact, the “S” version is more than quick enough. It hits 99.7 from scratch in 4.2 seconds and reaches a reported top speed of 247 kph. Without the active Dynamic Pack options of the Emeya R, it also feels more intuitive on alpine roads, offering the supple fluidity that the Hethel-based marque does so well. Its steering response isn’t too caffeinated, and extra squidge in its suspension paints a clearer picture of the available grip. We found the steel discs less grabby, yet still capable of slowing the vehicle quickly from autobahn speeds.

The Emeya is packed with enough technology—including cameras, lidar, and radar sensors—to drive itself when laws allow.
Lotus Group

Lotus expects the Emeya S to take 60 percent of sales, and rightly so. Better equipped than the equally powerful base model, yet comfier in its own skin than the somewhat schizophrenic “R,” it feels like the sweet spot in the range.

The Emeya–particularly in ‘S’ guise—is a well-honed package, combining the performance of a Porsche, the refinement of a Mercedes, and the charging capability of a Tesla. The purists still won’t like it, though, whatever grand plans Colin Chapman had in store.

 

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Celebrating Neil Perry, Our Culinary Master 2024

Celebrating Neil Perry, our Culinary Master 2024.

By Robb Report Team 22/07/2024

Tickets to Culinary Masters, our annual culinary extravaganza—feting the country’s standout chef, in a once-in-a-lifetime, money-can’t-buy experience—are now available for sale.

The fact that Robb Report ANZ has chosen legendary Australian chef Neil Perry as its Culinary Master 2024 should surprise exactly no-one.

As a chef, restaurateur and television presenter Perry has reframed this country’s gastronomy scene for over four decades and remains as relevant as ever.

His neighbourhood restaurant Margaret has reinvigorated Double Bay in the last year and earned him a host of new accolades, including the third best steakhouse in the world—and the best in Australia. More recently, Perry was honoured with the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards ‘Icon’ at a ceremony held in Las Vegas.

We are thrilled to celebrate Perry’s landmark-year accomplishments, at Song Bird, his hotter-than-Hades new Cantonese restaurant in Double Bay, in an extraordinary night honouring culinary excellence and the best of luxury in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. A night not to be missed.

Details as follows:
Date: Tuesday 17th September 2024
Arrival: 6.30 pm for sit down 7.00 pm
Address:  Song Bird, 24 Bay St, Double Bay, NSW
Dress Code: Cocktail
Price: $660 (includes a $50 donation to ASX Refinitiv Charity Foundation)

Since 1998 ASX Refinitiv Charity Foundation has raised more than $40 million for Children’s, Medical Research and Disability charities doing incredible work every day.
I look forward to welcoming you in person and sharing a memorable evening together.

Horacio Silva
Editor-In-Chief

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected