Ultra-modern cityscape makes Dubai look quaint

Propelled by a lust for luxury and beauty, this megacity has become a new capital of culture.

By Jack Smith 30/11/2016

Propelled by a lust for luxury and beauty, South Korea's ultra-modern megacity has become a new capital of culture.

Of the many enigmatic sights in East Asia, perhaps none are as indicative of a cultural creed as South Korea's burial mounds. For hundreds of years, the structures — hillocks constructed over clay-sealed timber coffins — were filled with gold, jewels, and other valuable items to accompany the deceased on their voyage into the hereafter.

The practice lasted until the sixth century, when the adoption of Buddhism, which mandated cremation as the standard posthumous ritual, prompted a change of heart. Soon the custom of burying treasure with the deceased all but disappeared; instead, the ancient Koreans erected ornate temples and opulent palaces adorned with precious metals and stones. What followed was a golden age that lasted for centuries.

Today South Korea has entered a second golden age. The country's capital is as formidable as it is fashionable, with a booming economy, a lofty cityscape that makes Dubai look quaint, and the most image-conscious population on the planet.

"Ours is a glamour culture," says Sunny Kim, my tour guide in Seoul. "Everyone is a celebrity waiting to be discovered. It's all about beauty and fashion and trend."

Dressed in a tailored pantsuit and Doc Martens and lounging comfortably in the back of an Equus limo, Sunny indeed looks the part of an aspiring A-lister. The car — a luxury offshoot from Hyundai with a six-figure price tag — slowly rolls away from the new Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, where I spent the previous night absorbing the floor-to-ceiling vistas of a glittering city centre. The hotel is a fitting starting point for my day with Sunny, who plans to show me just what makes this city of 10 million Asia's new capital of luxury.

From the vantage point of its traffic-snarled streets, Seoul appears to have been built in a hurry. There is no unifying look to the downtown streetscape, in which high-rises jostle cheek by jowl with tiny restaurants, bars, and boutiques topped with colourful pennants flapping in the wind.

Most of all there are cafés and coffee shops: every doorway seems to lead to one — some of them intimate spots tucked away in hidden alleyways, others large, multitier spaces packed with stylish 20-somethings gripping cups of coffee.

According to Sunny, coffee itself has little to do with it. "Koreans don't usually drink coffee as a morning pick-me-up," she explains. "As with so many other institutions in Seoul, the cafés are places to see and be seen. For the cost of a coffee, you can spend two hours or more seeing what everyone else is wearing and what they're saying. For some women, a cup with the Starbucks logo is the equivalent of a Gucci or Prada bag."

If labels are the definitive currency in Seoul, then Gangnam — the glamorous shopping district immortalised in the record-breaking song "Gangnam Style"—is the city's epicentre of status. The district is home to flagship boutiques from Hermès, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Prada and Cartier, to name but a few.

But the social value of a label can change quickly in these parts. Louis Vuitton was until recently the most popular luxury brand — so much so that its handbags became known as "three-second bags," because that was how often you would see one. But that's so yesterday, says Sunny. They have since been replaced by brands like Givenchy and Céline.

Following Sunny's keen eye for the label du jour, we head to Gangnam's new Burberry store, a 13-storey wonderland at the Cheongdam intersection marked by an oversize tartan facade. Inside, we move to the scarf bar for a moment of cashmere fondling before entering a room playing British rock music. "This is a VIP room," says Doy Wi, the store's senior private-client consultant. "The music has been personally selected by our CEO, Christopher Bailey, for the enjoyment of our VIPs."

And who, I wonder, are the VIPs?

"Anybody with money," Doy says.

A short stroll away, Dior's flagship store opened its doors last summer in a sculptural structure by the French architect Christian de Port-zamparc that resembles a giant tulip. I wander inside to find an ethereal landscape designed by Peter Marino, where curved mirrors and glass create a sleek backdrop for the fashion house's latest trends. The fabulous illusion, however, is shattered when, in an attempt to make my way down the spiral stairway, I nearly miss the reflective steps, catching myself before bouncing down and out into the street. "Everybody does that," says a nearby sales assistant with a smile.

South Korea's affinity for the biggest and best extends far beyond fashion. Seoul's Internet service is the world's fastest, its innovative subway system the longest. The golfing options — and, more important, golfers — are great; the republic's 200-odd courses have produced 38 of the world's current top 100 female players.

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza, completed in 2014 as one of the last buildings by the late Zaha Hadid, created a new style standard in the city's futuristic skyline thanks to a gravity-defying shape and rooftop park. For locals, of course, it is essential to note that the building is the largest asymmetrical free-form structure in the world.

Particularly subject to Korea's competitive nature is personal appearance. "Koreans aren't willing to settle for inherited beauty; they see good looks as something to be attained," Sunny tells me as our limo pulls up to the curb along the so-called Beauty Belt, a row of more than 500 clinics specialising in plastic surgery.

Inside the ID Hospital — a high-tech clinic where many of the country's actors and K-pop stars are rumoured to be clients — an attendant explains that Korea's beauty imperative is not restricted to women; about one-third of the hospital's patients are men. She gives me an appraising look and whispers something to Sunny that draws a laugh. "She says they are sure they can help you," my guide relays.

Given Seoul's quest for perfection, it is no surprise that South Korea has claimed a prominent place on the global stage, emerging as a major exporter of popular culture and style. But the Korean Wave, as it is known, is no random phenomenon. According to Euny Hong, author of The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World through Pop Culture, South Korea is the first country in history to make "cool" a national priority, investing billions of government dollars in promoting local music, film, television, fashion, and cuisine overseas.

The impact on neighbouring countries, and even farther abroad, has been massive. A "made in Korea" label now approaches the kind of cachet that "made in France" and "made in Italy" possess. Korean skin-care brands such as Sulwhasoo and Amarte have become coveted names in the beauty industry worldwide. And in 2014, when Microsoft unveiled its newest tablet to the US market, it was with a commercial featuring a song by the Korean band 2NE1.

Of course, Koreans still covet the creations of Europe's luxury stalwarts. "We see that in the cars in Seoul," says Vince Kim, a sales manager at the Ferrari showroom in Gangnam. Standing in front of four new models from Maranello, he attests to the South Korean preference for imported cars. "For McLaren, Korea is the world's fifth biggest market. Lamborghinis sell well, too, but Ferraris have the greatest demand of all," he says. "But we only sell new Ferraris. This is Korea — our customers don't want a used car."

Still, adds Vince, Korean-made cars sell much better than Japanese cars. "Korean carmakers are very quality conscious," he says. "The people who build Hyundai and Kia represent a tradition of high standards. They won't tolerate shoddy work." Indeed, it was a source of glee and pride to Korean car buffs when the 2015 J.D. Power ratings listed Hyundai over Toyota in initial build quality.

On this note, Sunny and I rise to continue our tour through the city, climbing into the capacious rear seat of our shiny dark-blue Equus. Seeing us off, Vince leans in the window and looks around approvingly.

"Now that's a nice car," he says.

Seoul's Newest Stunner

The South Korean capital's luxury-hotel scene heated up with the October debut of the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul. Located just a short stroll from the 14th-century Gyeongbokgung Palace, the 317-room property is a modern marvel in the historic Gwanghwamun district. A collection of contemporary Korean art and pottery decorates the public areas and guest rooms, the latter of which feature floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of the north-bank cityscape and distant mountains of Bukhansan National Park.

Though central to Seoul's business centre, the hotel is equally suited to leisure, with amenities that include a golf simulator and a 5350-square-metre spa complex. Locals and in-the-know guests end their evenings with a nightcap amid the tufted leather banquettes and velvet tapestries at Charles H., a speakeasy-style bar located behind a secret entrance hidden beneath a staircase.

Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, fourseasons.com

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How To Make the Ultimate Hangover Cure

Is this the ultimate cocktail to know by heart?

By Belinda Aucott-christie 29/05/2024

The Savoy in London, a beacon of luxury and opulence, holds a significant place in British history as the nation’s first luxury hotel. It was a haven where the affluent sought to experience a taste of royalty. Interestingly, it was within these grand walls that the alleged liquid remedy for hangovers, The Corpse Reviver, was born.

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Due to its medicinal qualities, this cocktail has passed into drinking folklore, making its recipe a right of passage for any lush.

The Corpse Reviver is aptly named for its life-affirming qualities and claimed ability to knock a hangover on the head.

It’s reassuring to know that the dreaded hangover was such a cause of social consternation in the late 1940s, that it demanded a creative response from Savoy’s hotel bar staff. We’ll drink to that.

Adding to the Corpse Reviver’s allure is the mystery surrounding its creation. Was it the ingenious work of Savoy bartender Johnny Johnson or the creative genius of Joe Gilmore? The exact timeline of its inception between 1948 and 1954 remains a tantalising enigma. 

It’s a zesty, slightly sour hangover cure with a cheeky touch of absinthe shining through. If your hangover is very bad, add a little more syrup to the mix.

To make, take a cocktail shaker and add equal parts dry gin, triple sec, lemon juice, and Lillet Blanc (3/4 of a shot each). 

Add a tiny dash of sugar syrup and absinthe, shake all ingredients with ice until very cold, strain and pour into a chilled coupe.

Garnish with a chic lemon twist and say cheerio to your hangover. 

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ThirdHome Arrives Down Under

The global home-swap club targeting Australia’s millionaires.

By Belinda Aucott 24/05/2024

Wayne Shealy made his name developing resorts from New England to the Caribbean, and shifting more than $3 billion in luxury real estate. In 2010 he started ThirdHome to let luxury homeowners leverage the empty parts of properties in their portfolio to enjoy better holidays. Billed as an exclusive community of ‘neighbours’, ThirdHome now facilitates swapping second and third homes for the super-wealthy.

Wade Shealy, CEO and Founder of ThirdHome, a luxury home-swapping membership program. THIRDHOME

While the glamorous international portfolio spans illustrious private residences, including castles, ranches and chalets, it has been extended to private islands, pieds-à-terre, safari camps, wineries, boutique hotels and yachts.

Turin Castle in Forfar, Scotland. THIRDHOME

Purpose-built for people who own at least two residences and have homes to spare valued at over $2 million, all applicants are vetted and assessed, before being allowed to join. With a global portfolio across 100 countries and 2500 destinations, Shealy is now focusing on Australia.

“We’re super excited for the next chapter of our Australian journey,” Shealy says, from his horse farm outside Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee. 

“We know there’s an extremely healthy appetite for Australians with second homes wanting to become members, who love to travel and want to enjoy exclusive access to the world’s more exceptional stays for a fraction of the price,” he says of his motivation for extending the network Down Under.  He notes that by cleverly utilising the downtime in their own homes, they can fund extravagant trips they may have never dreamt possible. Doing so in a gated community that values trust and respect.

Château De Vézins in Loire Valley, France. THIRDHOME

The spirit of sharing drives the sservice, with ThirdHome members acquiring points in the system each time they open their doors to others. This makes it a self-regulating community backed by solid technology and vigilant management that keeps applicants A-grade.

“Our members are house proud and guest proud,” he adds. “They want the guests to have a great experience.”

Learn more about membership and the rules of engagement here

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Art for Investment

A new private gallery in Sydney helps collectors enter the secondary market.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 24/05/2024

When Art Basel opens next month in Switzerland, it will do so with fresh power under its wings. In 2022 the global art market totalled $67.8 billion, showing 3 percent year-on-year growth*. This year, art topped Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index, with prices rising by 11 percent over 2023. According to most reports, art is now a positively appreciating asset class. By comparison, the values of rare whisky, classic cars, handbags, and furniture fell.

This raises the question of how to invest wisely in art and ensure the sound provenance of your investment. Jesse Jack De Deyne and Boris Cornelissen from A Secondary Eye are here to help art collectors. Conceived as a private gallery with rotating exhibitions, the space is designed to help serious investors confidently buy and sell.

“We offer access to some of the finest works entering the secondary market in Australia and operate with a stringent provenance framework in place,” says Jess Jack De Deyne from the company’s top-floor space overlooking leafy Queen Street in Sydney’s Woollahra.

De Deyne and Cornelissen opened in May with a presentation of rare works by Rover Thomas, the late East Kimberly artist who represented Australia at the 1990 Venice Biennale.

Rover Thomas, Desert Meeting Place, 1994 natural earth pigments on canvas.

De Deyne specialises in Indigenous Australian art and comes to Sydney with a background as a Director in an Aboriginal Arts Centre and working for a leading auction house. Cornelissen is a former contemporary art specialist from Sotheby’s in London and Hong Kong.

“We are most effective when a prospective client comes to us with a specific artwork in mind,” explains De Deyne. “They may have recently been to Canberra to visit the highly regarded exhibition of Emily Kame Kngwarreye at the National Gallery of Australia and there is a specific period of the artist that they are drawn to. Through our contacts, we may be able to help source available related works that would not necessarily appear at auction.” 

Though A Secondary Eye was founded in 2020 in Brisbane, De Denye says the larger pool of collectors drew them down to Sydney. The new gallery’s private aspect seems to be a key selling point for the duo, who prize discretion and private sales. 

Rover Thomas, Lake Argyle, 1994 natural earth pigments on canvas

“Whereas auctions are publicly advertised, a private dealer can offer a work discreetly to a handful of clients without over-exposing it. And we can also present works in a more considered way through curated, high-quality exhibitions that tell the story of each work.”

While some may be intimidated by entering the art market, these art dealers say exposure to the art world is key to unlocking its potential. “Take the time to attend art fairs, exhibitions and auction viewings. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for advice. With time and experience, you will learn what you are drawn to and how the offered prices sit relative to other works in the market.”

In an art world overflowing with rules, customs, and jargon, De Deyne is quick to clarify the key difference between dealers and advisers for newbies. 

“An art dealer helps collectors buy and sell artworks and therefore has a commercial incentive in selling a work. The best art advisors work independently, often on a retainer, and don’t profit from the transaction, which means they can give their clients honest advice. 

De Deyne and Cornelissen are well-placed to help people get a foot in the market, no matter how experienced they are. Ultimately, they preach to the choir, appealing most to fine art collectors searching for a specific work. 

“We work in a niche area and ultimately attract people who share our interests. Art collectors, particularly on the secondary market, often follow the art, rather than the person selling it.”

Follow A Secondary Eye here for future exhibitions. 

*According to the 2023 Art Market 2023, authored by Dr. Clare McAndrew, Founder of Arts Economics and published by Art Basel in partnership with UBS

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Watch of the Week: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph

Roger Dubuis unveils its innovative chronograph collection in Australia for the very first time.

By Josh Bozin 21/05/2024

When avant-garde Swiss watchmaker Roger Dubuis revealed its highly anticipated Chronograph Collection halfway through 2023, it was a testament to its haute horology department in creating such a technical marvel for everyday use. Long at the forefront of cutting-edge design and technological excellence, Roger Dubuis (pronounced Ro-ger Du-BWEE) is no stranger to such acclaim.

Now, fans down under will finally get a taste of the collection that made headlines, with the official Australian unveiling of its Chronograph Collection. Representing precision engineering, extraordinary craftsmanship, and audacious design, this collection, now in its fifth generation, continues to redefine the chronograph category.

Roger Dubuis Australia welcomes the Excalibur Spider Collection to the market, featuring the exquisite Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph, as well as the Excalibur Spider Revuelto Flyback Chronograph (a timepiece made in partnership with Lamborghini Squadra Corse). Each model speaks at lengths to the future of ‘Hyper Horology’—watchmaking, as Roger Dubuis puts it, that pushes the boundaries of traditional watchmaking.

Roger Dubuis

“Roger Dubuis proposes a unique blend of contemporary design and haute horlogerie and the Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph is the perfect illustration of this craft,” says Sadry Keiser, Chief Marketing Officer. “For its design, we took inspiration from the MonovortexTM Split-Seconds Chronograph, while we decided to power the timepiece with an iconic complication, the flyback chronograph, also marking its come back in the Maison’s collections.”

The Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph is bold and flashy—a chronograph made to be seen, especially at its 45mm size. But Roger Dubuis wouldn’t have it any other way. The supercar-inspired watch is certainly captivating in the flesh. Its multi-dimensional design reveals different layers of technical genius as you spend time with it: from its case crafted from lightweight carbon to its hyper-resistant ceramic bezel, black DLC titanium crown, open case back with sapphire crystal, and elegant rubber strap to tie the watch together, it’s a sporty yet incredibly refined timepiece.

The new RD780 chronograph calibre powers the chronograph, a movement fully integrated with two patents: one linked to the second hand of the chronograph and the other to the display of the minute counter. The chronograph also features a flyback function.

The complete set is now available at the Sydney Boutique for those wishing to see the Roger Dubuis Chronograph Collection firsthand.

Roger-Dubuis

 

Roger-Dubuis

Model: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph
Diameter: 45mm
Material: C-SMC Carbon case
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: RD780 calibre
Complication: Chronograph, date
Functions: hours, minutes, and central seconds
Power reserve: 72 hours

Bracelet: Black rubber strap

Availability: upon request
Price: $150,000


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Thanks to NETGEAR, the First Quad-Band WiFi 7 Mesh System Has Arrived

Elite WiFi performance for your whole home.

By Robb Report 30/05/2024

There’s no denying that in today’s era of technological innovation, home living and entertainment have reached unprecedented heights. In fact, modern home technology is so advanced that we can now enjoy futuristic comforts at the touch of a button (or the flick of a switch).

But one caveat to overcome before enjoying such modern perks: you need ultra-fast Wi-Fi to feed internet-hungry devices, especially when our dependence on Wi-Fi will only grow. Enter, NETGEAR’s latest Wi-Fi technology, set to change the performance of your whole home.

NETGEAR

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Leveraging over 25 years of NETGEAR engineering innovation and exclusive patented technology, the Orbi 970 Series will service all of today’s needs, as well as tomorrow’s—in a country like Australia, where internet standards lag behind the rest of the world, residential multi-gigabit speeds will become a godsend. With unparalleled performance based on cutting-edge, patented technology, the Orbi 970 Series will continue to grow with its users, especially as our homes get “smarter”; relying on technology, such as the Orbi 970 Series, will be paramount.

And design doesn’t have to be compromised, either. Wi-Fi might not necessarily be the sexiest topic out there (very few Wi-Fi routers exist that you could call “design-drive”), but the Orbi 970 Series changes that. Thanks to a new sophisticated design, the Orbi 970 Series is elegant enough to blend seamlessly with your home décor.

Netgear

Best of all, thanks to a one-year NETGEAR Armour included with your purchase, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your family and your home are protected with an automatic security shield across your connected devices.

The NETGEAR Orbi 970 series Quad Band WiFi 7 Mesh System retails for $4,299. To learn more, visit the website here.

 

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