RUBINA’S RADAR | THE SABYASACHI INTERVIEW

Sabyasachi is India’s most exalted fashion designer, and he knows that. But he’s not lost to his own nous in vanilla vanities and egotism, with the veneration around his fashion métier. Sabyasachi the person, remains grounded, but Sabyasachi the brand, has taken flight, kissing open skies, with the launch of Sabyasachi Jewelry on October 22, 2019 in Mumbai. Sabyasachi Jewelry is his first standalone jewelry store in the country, located three flights up from the Sabyasachi Calcutta clothing store in Kala Ghoda. His bridal collections have played the role of a bride’s confidant for two odd decades, but his jewelry, in his own words, has turned Sabyasachi into a girl’s best friend today. His business smarts have expanded the realms of his brand rather successfully as his couture loyalists can’t quite get enough of the bejeweled lust box he’s opened up. They’re now seeking appointments for couture and carats, both.
gettyimages-1194484606-2048x2048Life-sized giraffes, fresh red roses, vintage artefacts, armoires and furniture in brass and solid wood, glimmering chandeliers, floral carpets, velvet drapes, tchotchke, conversational wall art in Hindi and Arabic alongside his framed jewelry sketches, with Chinese, African and Indian art and design collectibles make up the grandiloquent design speak of the store. In the artistic polarity of it all, the pièce de résistance are the gleaming emeralds, sapphires and rubies that seem to be telling stories of empresses and emperors of sovereign worlds gone by. Lilting American soul plays in the background at Sabyasachi Jewelry, which is in sharp contrast to the melancholic strains of Indian music that waft through his Sabyasachi Calcutta clothing stores across India. Invoking nostalgia is the couturier’s masterstroke, and it works.
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Edging steadily onto the global playing field with heterogeneous collaborations with Christian Louboutin (Paris) in 2015, Pottery Barn (USA) in 2016, L’oreal Paris (France) in 2018 and Thomas Goode (UK) in 2019, Sabyasachi is an insatiable man, who seeks immortality through his work. In a world where commitment is precious luxury, he’s the only Indian designer to have committed fans – a hallowed dominion so far reserved for Bollywood and cricket personalities in India. Sabyasachi can neither play cricket nor act, though at best, he thinks he’s a good mimic. And he is indeed.

Rubina A Khan converses with Bengal’s very own tiger, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, at Sabyasachi Jewelry in Mumbai:

The opening of Sabyasachi Jewelry is a portentous moment in Indian jewelry history. How are you feeling?
I feel relieved as the store is finally done – it took us about eight months to, actually not to do the store, but to collect everything, all the collectibles because I wanted Sabyasachi Jewelry to look like a modern museum…a bit of Indian art and craft, a bit of global craft, furniture from all over the world. We had a 16-foot Ming vase that had to hoisted up into the store through a crane as it couldn’t come through the elevator or the staircase. And I was very worried that it would break. It’s a very fragile, temperamental store. And I’m glad that the grand end worked out.
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What attracted you towards the business of making jewelry in an economy where clothing giants are shutting shop globally due to slack sales?
I have a theory that when the economy is down, people do what is called smart shopping – they don’t shop in depth; they shop in width, which means they buy new things. But they shop in exceptional width, which means they will buy something that is really important and something that is spectacular and I think my jewelry brand, Sabyasachi Jewelry has all of that to offer people.
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Are successful luxury brands like Sabyasachi Calcutta immune to the economical slowdown? Or do you think inherent brain genius and strategic marketing can override anything?
You know when there is a slowdown, like I said, people don’t stop spending money, they’re just careful about how they spend it.  And if you give exceptional value to them, no amount of marketing bullshit is going to help you override a failing economy. But if you give your customer great value and a unique, bespoke product, you will be able to convince them to spend their money.
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What made you invest your mind, and your own money into this opulent jewelry store?
When you sell important things, you have to give your customers respect. I think today, shopping for something that will stay with you probably for the rest of your life, because jewelry is not really perishable, the experience needs to also leave an indelible impression in your mind. It needs to create a beautiful experience, full of wonderment, that you’ll never forget. When you’re shopping for weddings or special occasions, where you shop and how you shop is as important as what you shop.
gettyimages-1194525486-2048x2048Do you have a favourite stone yet for your jewelry?
I love sapphires, yellow sapphires because old Indian jadau jewelry used to made with pukhraj, even white sapphires for that matter. I love rose cut diamonds – I love mutual cuts (old mine cuts) they are not brilliant cuts, so they have a little bit of softness and warmth in them – rounded and beautiful and soft. I don’t like jewelry with too much bling and shine as it takes the personality out of the jewellery. As us Indians have brown skin, I hate diamonds set in white gold because I think Indian people need warmth because it makes your face glow. When you wear diamonds set in white gold it makes your face ashen, but when you wear diamonds, actually mutual diamonds, which are slightly more softer, set in yellow gold, not rose gold… it just gives you that old world, rounded beauty. I think the problem with jewellery and stones in India is that people just want to blindly ape a tradition that has been created by the West and they don’t really buy what looks good on them. So if you ask me, I prefer stones with warmth that’s why I like sapphires. I don’t like the rubies that you find in the market right now, because once you start liking Burmese rubies, not even pigeon blood, the pomegranate color with a slight brown tinge in it, it’s like having good wine. It’s a one-way education and once you get exposed to good things in life, there’s no turning back.
gettyimages-1194495289-2048x2048Do you sketch your pieces like your clothes?
Absolutely. You can’t make mistakes with jewelry, but what I also do is that I keep my sketches in my jewelry very organic. A lot of jewelry is completely dependent on produce. When I make jewelry, I don’t assemble the piece till the last moment because there’s always a little tweaking, which I call the ‘Sabyasachi tweaking’ that I like to do. I’d love to combine emeralds which are expensive with aquamarines and turquoise, same color family, but with a huge difference in prices, or I’d like to put rock crystals and diamonds, which is a little unheard of, with white sapphires, all together because beautiful jewelry is also about audacity and courage. Otherwise you’re just one of the pack and that doesn’t interest me.

What is the most desirable piece of jewellery in the store? And what does this desirable piece of art sell at?
Desirable always doesn’t have to be very expensive. I am not a jewellery person – but it’s something that I would wear – it’s an old pendant, an old mutual cut diamond pendant with a single line of basra pearls and it’s not very expensive – it about INR 9.5 lakh, but it’s just so delicious and evolved. It’s like a character that comes without a pedigree, but someone that you’d love to marry and take back home because it’s just so special.
gettyimages-1194491248-2048x2048Are diamonds still a girl’s best friend?
Rubina, ask the ladies. Many of them tell me Sabya is a girl’s best friend.

How does it feel to be the biggest Indian designer brand, and perhaps the only one to succeed on the global playing field?
I don’t know if I am the most influential or the most popular, but I just know that I am onto something big in my life and I will work very hard till that dream comes true.

If you ever sought outside investment, what would be the reason for you to do so? Strategy. I would never pick up investment for money because I think the business generates enough cash-flow for us to be able to fund ourselves for the next 20 years and grow. But, I am not going to be there forever, so I want to consolidate this business in such a way that it lives far beyond my lifetime. Nandana Sen had given me an issue of Vogue for my birthday, a 1920 issue I think… 150 odd pages and the only name I recognised in it was Tiffany and I realised that in 100 years, so many brands have come and gone, and I don’t want that to happen to my brand. I love the way Chanel has been built beyond Coco Chanel’s lifetime and I think that I’ll find my own Karl Lagerfeld along the way who’s going to take the business from me, to future generations.
gettyimages-1194478437-2048x2048You’ve reached a stage where your creativity is not dependent or driven by money anymore. So what makes you chase the next new collaboration or expand your revenues streams with your creative energies?
I want to grow the business in such a way that it can help consolidate craft and create a lot of employment, and also probably help communities and enable us make the world a better place to live in. The beautiful thing about being in design is the fact that you create tremendous positive inspiration for people; you create hope. Beautiful design makes people happy and there’s a big debate about whether so much is necessary or not, but I think as long as you can create a brand that inspires people to become better versions of themselves, you should keep growing and that’s how I want to grow Sabyasachi Calcutta.

You’re the dream couture designer, definitely in India. Having seen so many blushing brides and grooms, do you know what the color of love is? Or what it even feels like?
Well, they say that the color of love is Sabaysachi red but I am just being arrogant! But I’ll you, I am personally touched by love every day of my life because I am a very positive person. Love does not have to come from one person. It can come from everything that you touch and everything you do and everything that I imbibe around me. I am a very loved person is all I’ll say.
gettyimages-1194480317-2048x2048Would you describe yourself as a ruthless businessman who loves the arts but is uninhibited and unabashed about stating and claiming his creative price?
I don’t know if I would call myself ruthless, but I would probably call myself exacting. And when you call yourself exacting, a lot of people label you ruthless. I wouldn’t have it any other way actually, because for me, if I have to do something I have to do it well or I wouldn’t do it at all. There’s no price to my creativity – I would do something for you if I was inspired enough to do it. Money is inconsequential for me, but of course, the money that we charge, if it helps us create something that can build a larger community or create bigger businesses that employ more and more people, it’s very exciting. For a lot of people who think that because I make such lavish clothing and jewels, truth be told, I wear a lot of simple clothes. A lot of my clothes actually come from Uniqlo. Money is just a number for me and it feels great to make money, because in many ways it is a marker of success. But I don’t do things for money. I do things for growth – tangible and intangible. And intangible growth is far more important to me.
gettyimages-1194477822-2048x2048Given your heart and soul are not for sale by what you just said, what would you sell your brain for?
I’d sell my brain for a minority stake at Apple or a majority stake at Amazon!

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019

 

 

RUBINA’S RADAR | CHIVAS 18 ALCHEMY 2019 IN NEW DELHI

A touchdown in New Delhi fires up all five senses of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste in a human, instanter, sensus communis (common sense) be damned. And the night of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16 was no different. Chivas 18 Alchemy’s majestic third edition traversed the sixth sense at The Pavilion, DLF Emporio, belying Aristotle’s postulations of the non-existence of it with inimitable ardour. The five virtuosos playing host to a splendorous evening of the undefined and the very refined, were actor Malaika Arora, fashion designer Manish Malhotra, artist Sudarshan Shetty, fashion designer Rahul Mishra and jewellery designer Siddharth Kasliwal. They interpreted the senses of Fantasy, Intuition, Love, Memory and Déjà vu, with their muse being the award-winning Chivas 18 whisky blend.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designers Ashish N Soni, Rahul Mishra and Manish Malhotra and Malaika Arora, jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal, artist Sudarshan Shetty and Chivas India’s Pulkith Modi attend the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Malaika Arora sets off flames of fantasy wherever she goes, so turning into an illusionist of fantasy, alongside fashion designer and curator of the night, Ashish N Soni, came naturally to her. She created an immersive and polychromatic world of the real and imagined, using the Chivas whisky drop, brimful of 85 notes. Arora (soon to be Kapoor) looked stunning in a white ensemble by Soni, accessorised with an emerald and diamond necklace from Siddharth Kasliwal’s Gem Palace, as she took guests on a tour of her fantasia wonderland.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora and her installation are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Malaika Arora attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Ashish N Soni at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Manish Malhotra created an amber-toned Chivas 18 bar, in what is now recognised as the Chivas Alchemy blue, to instantiate his sense of intuition. It was a glimmering mirage of mirrors, with glamorous people all around it, drinking to the night, and into the night.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A general view of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Manish Malhotra attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A view of the bar at Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Sudarshan Shetty interpreted the sense of love, by juxtaposing a shattered chandelier on a dining table against a celluloid version of the same table and chandelier, set to Indian ragas. The eight-minute odd film spoke of love in different languages, expressed by diverse people. It was as evocatively beautiful as it was unnerving.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Artist Sudarshan Shetty attends the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Artist Sudarshan Shetty’s interpretation of love with an immersive celluloid experience at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Siddharth Kasliwal designed an arresting Chivas 18 bottle in gold with precious stones, over period of three months. Just looking at it in all its golden glory was enough to tempt a heist among the women, ala Oceans 8. The bejewelled masterpiece was an ode to the lost art of Indian craftsmanship through generations – a revival of lost legacies so to speak. Needless to add, but it was the most photographed installation of the night.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A bejewelled Chivas 18 bottle designed by jeweller Siddharth Kasliwal for three months to evoke the sense of deja vu, at an estimated value of $50,000 at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Parag Gupta with jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal and his mother Kalpana Kasliwal and brother Samarth Kasliwal attend the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: A view of the bejeweled Chivas 18 bottle designed by jewelry designer Siddharth Kasliwal at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Rahul Mishra’s installation for the sense of memory saw tambour frame hoops, creating a chandelier of memories in a play of light and shadows, blending layers of time with the ingredients found in Chivas 18. The unfinished embroideries on the ivory organza fabric was intentional to elicit one to add an element of one’s own memory to the pattern. To elucidate something as intimate and fleeting as memory, not to mention intangible, with something as simple as embroidery hoops was astounding.

NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra poses with his work at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA – MARCH 16: Fashion designer Rahul Mishra’s embroidery patterns on organza are seen at the third edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy 2019 on March 16, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Pulkith Modi – Chivas India with wife Teena, Samarth Kasliwal, Kalpana Kasliwal, Parag Gupta, Guillaume Girard-Redyet – CEO Pernod-Ricard India MD South Asia and his wife Cecille, Schulen Fernandes, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Nida Mahmood, Rajiv Makhni and Ruchi Malhotra and Vikram Baidyanath were just some of the fashionable guests in attendance at Chivas Alchemy 2019.  “This is undoubtedly the most sophisticated and refined luxury event in India with the most genteel guests,” said Schulen Fernandes, Creative Director of the fashion label Wendell Rodricks. Touché!

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | DESI GIRL PRIYANKA CHOPRA’S OFFICIAL NEW CHOKRA IS PARDESI BOY NICK JONAS

RUBINA’S RADAR

There’s been a lot of hip-holding of Priyanka Chopra’s pageant-winning waist by American musician Nick Jonas in New York, Mumbai, Brazil, Singapore and London that made for super photographs splashed across tabloids in recent months. Chopra was, after all, the Jealous singer’s and erstwhile Disney actor’s new love – he being the guy who’d dated Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Kate Hudson, maybe even the stunning Kendall Jenner and former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo before her. Chopra had only been dating the Dallas-born Nicholas Jerry Jonas for a haute second, and then, bam! An engagement!

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Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas | Photo: Instagram

She played desi girl to the hilt with her pardesi boy Jonas flying down to Mumbai with his parents, Denise and Paul Kevin Jonas Sr for the roka ceremony. The pre-wedding ceremony held at her Juhu home was all about honouring Indian family traditions and culture and loving an American guy, amidst family and friends. More family, less friends. It was attended by the 55th richest person in the Forbes World Billionaire list 2018, Mukesh Ambani, and his wife Nita and daughter Isha and Bollywood’s almost number one actor, Alia Bhatt among others. Bollywood’s presence of popular faces was minimal here. Even Karan Johar who is literally everywhere, was on foreign shores and couldn’t strike a pose and pout for the assembled photographers on the Juhu street, but his congratulatory bouquet of flowers did make it to the photo grids. Same difference. The claims that Chopra and Jonas wanted to keep it private and low-key don’t quite match up with the calculated release of information and photographs by the machinery. A supposedly quiet visit to an orphanage, St. Catherine’s in Mumbai the morning after the ceremony not only had pictures circulating, but videos of the same posted by Jonas himself. Millennial super girl Kylie Jenner fell in love with Travis Scott, made baby Stormi and racked up billions during her pregnancy more discreetly than the engaged adults here. And closer home, Salman Khan is being human sans any visual mementos of his philanthropy.

Chopra has a definitive style when it comes to her fashion stakes, aided by Hollywood stylist Cristina Ehrlich and of late, Mimi Cuttrell, the 25-year-old primary stylist to Palestinian-Dutch-American model Gigi Hadid. Interestingly, there was no fashion to talk about really at the ceremony or the subsequent party by Chopra, but the loved-up photographs of the newly-engaged couple made for the ultimate fashion statement here, with diamonds of course.

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Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas | Photo: Instagram

To go from being in love with an Indian man on the right side of 50 to a JoBro of 25 was a bit sudden, if anything. As far as her love life went, there was no talk of it in the West prior to her Jonas coupling, although Mumbai knew very well of a love affair, albeit unofficially, that was storming inside of her, never mind where she lived or where she worked – Bollywood or Hollywood. But she’s now spoken for and all that Bollywood tumult seems behind her today. And as their initials NP go, there seems to be no problem or objection to this coupling, aside from some favourable and unfavourable comparisons to her last unofficial superstar boyfriend.

Chopra conquered Bollywood armed with her Miss World crown and winning smile only to power through Hollywood headlining a television series, Quantico, and now, with this East-West coupling, she seems like she’s going to be settling down happily ever after in Grammywood. She wants it all – crowns, endorsements, films, television, music, love, marriage – and is sure getting it all too. The newly-engaged couple are looking to wed on Jonas’ 26th birthday on September 16 after he popped the question on her 36th birthday on July 18 in London. There’s no word on the city, country or venue of their wedding yet and what place on Earth they will call home either.

The future Mr and Mrs Jonas are sure to make great music together, and make even better pictures in the times to come. The very fact that she’s an accomplished singer herself having cut a few tracks of her own, to fall for a musician, comes as no surprise really. And, he’s handsome and clearly smitten by her charms. I’m sure Chopra will not just be content cheering on her fiancé from vantage points at his live shows and performances but will be making some real music with him soon. I can’t wait to hear the single or album they’ll cut. And better still, a duet for a Bollywood film too.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR | WHERE’S JUSTIN BIEBER SLEEPING IN MUMBAI TONIGHT? #BIEBERFEVER #BIEBERINMUMBAI

RUBINA’S RADAR

Justin Bieber’s hit track, Where Are You Now is the endless refrain of Beliebers in India who just can’t wait to see him perform live for the very first time in Mumbai tomorrow. The Grammy award winning artiste is scheduled to land in Mumbai today for his Purpose Tour show tomorrow evening, May 10th, at the DY Patil Stadium. He was slated to fly in on May 7th but the singer is still in Dubai, partying at Cavalli Club at the Fairmont Dubai, soaking up the sun with pool parties at Zero Gravity (with his security detail in the pool with him!) rounds of football at the Habtoor Grand hotel, dune bashing in the desert and shopping jaunts at the newly opened Apple store in the Dubai Mall. Earlier this morning Bieber tweeted “Dubai is incredible, India you’re next” from Dubai. Bieber is definitely doing Dubai right!
535290970He’s booked in two hotels in the city – the St Regis Mumbai in midtown Mumbai (where his team and tour manager have been staying in since May 7th) and The Oberoi hotel in Nariman Point. Now, it remains to be seen where, (not with whom!) Bieber will be sleeping tonight in Mumbai! But first, can he land in the city already?

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2017

 

To 2017 Everyone! And To The Seductive Mystique Of Its Adventures To Come!

The year 2016 made for a hedonistic love affair with Dubai for my heart and soul. 2017 feels like another country already, and I can’t hardly wait to see which part of the wondrous world I will be LIVING, LOVING & LUSTING in next! Err, and working too 🙂 but of course!

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This is my favorite picture of 2016 that I shot in Dubai. A view of Horse, a 1.5 tonne bronze sculpture by Colombian figurative artist, Fernando Botero against the sheer magnificence of contemporary design and vision, and the tallest structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Downtown Dubai – a harmonious consummation of the cultural heritage of the Emirates and the “right now” of Dubai.

To 2017 everyone!

And to the seductive mystique of its adventures to come! 

©Rubina A Khan 2016|2017

The Kingdom Of Enchantment – Velaa Private Island, Maldives

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An alluring new resort in the Maldivian archipelago officially launched this weekend – Velaa Private Island. The island resort’s been built as an ode of love by Czech businessman Jiri Smejc for his wife Radka, who fell in love with the Maldives on the couples’ numerous trips to the land of the blue. The premise of creating a beautiful structure for a loved one is almost akin to that of Mughal emperor, Shahjahan’s, who built the magnificent Taj Mahal in India in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Velaa too, is reminiscent of a vintage romance in the modern world. The Smejcs desire to create a magical space for themselves and share it with the world, gave life and form to a barren island on Noonu Atoll with no vegetation and absolutely none of the wondrous elements of splendor and luxury that stand on it today. Designed by Czech architect Petr Kolar and landscaped by Alla Kohoutkova over an arduous period of two years, with an investment well over 230 million Euros, Velaa is now ready to enchant the world with its beauty and hospitality. Kohoutkova used approximately 500,000 plants from 200 local species, including 1600 coconut palms that green the island and allow for the privacy of its residents.

Velaa in Dhivehi, the language of the Republic of Maldives, means turtle, and the property was named thus, given the atoll is home to a large population of turtles in the waters surrounding the island. The design elements work around the turtle theme, from the mesmerizing black and white art on the walls to the glass windows and doors and the resort’s logo. The eyes of the turtles on the wall art, follow you around the room, in a friendly, welcoming manner.

The minute you disembark from the steps of the aircraft at Male airport and are whisked away in a sedan from the runway to the seaplane that takes you to the idyllic and exquisite island, you are a VIP – Velaa’s Important Person.

Landing onto the island, the jetty belies all the bespoke enchantments that await you as you soak in the island’s alchemy with the beach and the “oh-so-blue” ocean. Every moment from then on is whatever you want your experience to be – relaxed, romantic, familial, nothingness, sublime – it’s yours.

With Velaa aiming to provide unprecedented luxury to its guests, the rooms befit royalty, to say the least. The comfort of the bed is unquestionable, as you’ll know the morning after. The electrical switches are not complicated and frustrating as in the norm in luxe resorts, and are as easy as All On / All Off, as are the entertainment systems. The mini bar has some of the best chocolates from Ghana and a favourite, the Organic Australian Beetroot Chips, with no Nasties added! The tea and coffee menu entices you to try out new flavors each morning. Whatever your mood, there’s a shower plan to match it!

The view from every kind of accommodation on the island, be it the Deluxe Beach Pool Villa, Ocean Pool House Villa, Private Residences or the dreamy Romantic Pool Residence, is its own, but never the same, with every sunrise and sunset more magical than the last. It’s a pleasure to wake up and watch the first rays of the sun hit the ocean and then, your eyes.

Velaa has three restaurants – all day dining at Athiri (Beach) with a wood-fired pizza oven, Teppanyaki at Tavaru (Tower) and the fine dine Aragu (Essence) and two bars – CRU Champagne lounge and the Avi Bar and an impressive wine cellar with a thirty-page wine list! A 1956 Domaine de la Romanée Conti “Romanée Conti”, rare vintage Salon Champagne or a 200-year-old fortified wine 1870 Blandy “Verdelho Solera” are just a request away. Every meal is an indulgence especially when you are spoilt for choice!

Michelin-star chef Adeline Grattard from Paris looks into the culinary diversity at Velaa along with Executive Chef Bruno Contreras, who specializes in Mediterranean and European cuisine and Executive Sous Chef Gaushan de Silva from Sri Lanka who creates exceptional tasting menus with innovative presentation, marrying the finest produce with molecular gastronomy.

Velaa has a unique recreational facility, so far the only one in the Maldives, in a resort – Velaa Golf Academy by Olazabal. Swinging has never been as much fun as on the 170m of green in a swing studio carefully crafted by Masters Champion Jose Maria Olazabal. If your swing impresses the island’s golf pros, Peter Anthony Holland and Martin Dewhurst, you might get your swing analyzed on a split screen video with Rory McElroy and even get a custom made Velaa golf ball set present from them! Apart from golf, there’s Yoga, Squash, Tennis, an extensive array of Water Sports, Jet Skis, Semi Submarine, Snorkeling, Diving, Fishing, cruises on the Prestige Yacht or the traditional Bahtheli boats to keep you fit and active on your holiday. Staring into the blue, with a Coconut Vodka cocktail works just as well!

And after all that sun and water, a spa treatment is just what the body needs – My Blend by Clarins Spa has partnered with Velaa, and features exclusive My Blend facial products and body treatments by Clarins, created by Dr. Olivier Courtin, for a relaxing experience.

480038522“You are unique. And so in your skin, just like your fingerprints. The story of your life, whether biological or emotional, can be read on your skin,” reads the opening page of the spa menu. You can choose from a range of therapies of Indian origin to Asian to Tibetan. Not only does the spa offer bespoke massage treatments, it’s a full service salon with Manicures, Pedicures, Blow Dries, Hair Cuts and Styling, Epilation – the works. Velaa scores big with the ladies on this! And it’s not just about the adults; the spa has a Junior Menu too for the little ladies and little men on the resort! That is, if they haven’t tired themselves with all the fun and games at the Kid’s Play Zone whilst their parents enjoyed romantic lunches and walks on the beach. The Clarins team of therapists, as you’d expect from a brand that renowned, are exceptional. Your skin is in paradise as are you with pure harmony resonating within your mind, body and soul! And the treatment beds have a wonderful window into the lagoon below that gently lull you into an even more relaxed state.

The spa also has a special room for its Cloud 9 experience – created by Viennese artist and Perception Researcher, Sha, Cloud 9 is a comprehensive and holistic relaxing experience that has a multi sensory blend of color therapy, mental acoustic therapy, lighting-video-spatial concept and a reclining swinging pod which sways and cradles you into deep relaxation. A twenty-minute session does leave you lighter from the thoughts racing through your mind. A definite to-do on the island!

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Cloud 9 | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Velaa has 45 varied accommodations that range from $1,500 a night for a Beach Pool Villa to $1,900 for a Deluxe Beach Pool Villas to $6000 for a 2 Bedroom Ocean Pool House in the Turtle Season (1 June-31 July, 1Sep-30 Sep) to $14,000 per night for the Romantic Pool Residence and $30,000 per night for the Velaa Private Residence in the Celebration Season (24 Dec-12 Jan).

Velaa’s rooms are spotlessly clean, just like its white sand beaches. Everything is perfect. Yes, perfect. The staff share an easy camaraderie with each other, that is key to the island maintaining an amiable and harmonious environment overall. The butlers assigned to the villas are the wizards of your dreams – they actualize them, like Aamir. The staff is knowledgeable, pleasing and just wonderful to be around, as they all seem to love their jobs. The pools attached to the villas are not plunge pools, but full size. And when you book a Romantic Pool Residence or a Velaa Private Residence, they come with their own private Gyms, Spa Rooms and round-the-clock Chef services. All elements on the island strive to perfect the guests’ day in every way, everyday! Bespoke, most definitely!

From the time you are its guest, Velaa is the Kingdom of Enchantment and you, its imperial sovereign, albeit a paying one!

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©Rubina A Khan 2014