GOR­DON LAM em­barks on an aus­pi­cious jour­ney with high jewellery mai­son Van Cleef & Ar­pels in Mar­rakech

#Legend - - CONTENTS / JULY | AUGUST - Pho­tog­ra­phy / Gor­don Lam

Lucky charms: Gor­don Lam takes an aus­pi­cious jour­ney with Van Cleef & Ar­pels in Mar­rakech

DO YOU BE­LIEVE in luck? Well, I do – and I'm in good com­pany. Jac­ques Ar­pels, the nephew of Van Cleef & Ar­pels co-founder Estelle Ar­pels, once said: “To be lucky, you have to be­lieve in luck.”

The iconic Al­ham­bra mo­tif, which is in the shape of the four-leaf clover, was first un­veiled by the mai­son back in 1968. Half a cen­tury on, it's still a sym­bol at the core of

Van Cleef & Ar­pels and, as luck would have it, we were in­vited to Mar­rakech to cel­e­brate the 50th an­niver­sary of Al­ham­bra – with a global event sim­ply named “Luck”.

Mar­rakech is one of those must-visit wan­der­lust spots on ev­ery trav­eller's bucket list. The name of this west­ern Moroc­can city con­jures post­card-per­fect images of dis­tant lands and beauty. With the heavy cul­tural in­flu­ence of the French oc­cu­pa­tion (1912–1956) con­tin­u­ing to linger, most in­hab­i­tants speak Ara­bic and French equally well. La Mamou­nia was our hum­ble abode dur­ing our stay in Mar­rakech – and this palace ho­tel alone would make any dig­i­tal in­flu­encer or KOL light up with ec­stasy and turn green with envy. The en­tire ho­tel looks like it was tai­lor-made for In­sta­gram, with awe-in­spir­ing scenery and breath­tak­ing views wher­ever you cast your eye.

Our wel­come din­ner was held at La Grande Ta­ble Française at the Royal Man­sour ho­tel; it was hosted by the mai­son's newly ap­pointed Asia-Pa­cific pres­i­dent, Nicolas Luchsinger, along with 40-plus press from around the Asia re­gion. Need­less to say, the cui­sine was spec­tac­u­lar.

Van Cleef & Ar­pels flew in chef Yan­nick Al­léno (of three­Miche­lin-starred Al­léno Paris) to tan­ta­lise the taste buds of the in­ter­na­tional press. The mas­ter chef in­tro­duced a Moroc­can twist of flavours into tra­di­tional French cui­sine, of­fer­ing a range of spe­cial­i­ties in­clud­ing spi­der crab, Moroc­can black truf­fles, lob­sters and wagyu beef.

The fol­low­ing day kicked off our dis­cov­ery of the lucky jour­ney of Al­ham­bra. For our first stop, we were taken to the beau­ti­ful house owned by the cur­rent French con­sul­gen­eral in Mar­rakech. We were greeted with wel­come drinks en route to the court­yard, where we mar­velled at the del­i­cate crafts­man­ship from the Van Cleef & Ar­pels team as they demon­strated their skills on the lat­est col­lec­tion of Al­ham­bra de­signs – th­ese come in dif­fer­ent aus­pi­cious nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als such as mother-of-pearl, onyx, car­nelian, tiger's eye and mala­chite.

Th­ese re­fined Al­ham­bra pieces also al­low you the choice of em­bed­ding them in your pre­ferred com­bi­na­tion, in yel­low gold or white gold. I had my eye on the black onyx with white gold be­fore we de­parted from Hong Kong, as we were all given a card with the dif­fer­ent choices so we could pick a favourite. Lit­tle did our chap­er­one ( Jean­nie Guo from the Van Cleef & Ar­pels Hong Kong team) know that I had guessed we'd be given one of th­ese re­fined pieces as a gift dur­ing our lucky jour­ney… well, I did have a hunch.

In fact, once our crafts­man­ship tour fin­ished, we were led into the French con­sul's house, where Stéphanie Rault, the brand's man­ag­ing direc­tor for Hong Kong and Ma­cau, glee­fully an­nounced that all the Hong Kong press could get a cus­tomised Al­ham­bra neck­lace with their own se­lec­tion of com­bi­na­tions to wear for our lucky jour­ney. Hunch con­firmed!

While we were wait­ing for our spe­cial gift in the beau­ti­ful gar­den area where the lunch buf­fet and bev­er­ages were be­ing served, I had in­ter­views ar­ranged for me with two of my favourite peo­ple. The first was with Ni­cholas Foulkes, the stylish, ec­cen­tric au­thor and jour­nal­ist from Lon­don who re­cently col­lab­o­rated with Van Cleef & Ar­pels on a cof­fee-ta­ble book about the his­tory on Al­ham­bra, bring­ing all the col­lab­o­ra­tors from around the world into this vis­ually stun­ning read.

Just be­fore I started my in­ter­view with Ni­cholas, while try­ing to set up the po­si­tion of the cam­era an­gle, I hastily sat on a soft Moroc­can cush­ion – which looked quite sturdy at the time, but in fact was soft as a feather. As I low­ered my der­rière and be­gan to de­scend, I sank faster than the Ti­tanic. In slow mo­tion, I'm sure I would have looked ab­so­lutely ridicu­lous, try­ing to hold on for dear life and re­fus­ing to hit rock bot­tom. (In hind­sight, some­times you just have to go with the flow.) Un­for­tu­nately, I fell flat on my back­side and while do­ing that, I hap­pened to lock up

my spine with one of my slipped discs from an old in­jury. While I tried des­per­ately to sal­vage my wounded pride, I lit­er­ally had to bite down hard to hide my se­vere pain dur­ing the in­ter­view.

Right after that, I knew my back was in se­ri­ous trou­ble. In a for­eign coun­try with no pre­vi­ous med­i­cal his­tory, im­me­di­ately find­ing a doc­tor to come ease my pain with a heavy dose of anti-in­flam­ma­tory in­jec­tions seemed to be mis­sion im­pos­si­ble. As I limped back from one end of the gar­den to the buf­fet area like a ca­su­alty of war, every­one from the other press group and the Van Cleef & Ar­pels' in­ter­na­tional team was won­der­ing what could have pos­si­bly hap­pened dur­ing my chat with Ni­cholas.

My sec­ond in­ter­view was with So­nia Si­eff, the very tal­ented and beau­ti­ful French pho­tog­ra­pher; her fa­ther, Jean­loup Si­eff, was also a renowned fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher who shot the in­fa­mous naked photo of the late Yves Saint Lau­rent in black and white. Of course, So­nia had no idea what had hap­pened to me prior to her in­ter­view. As she awaited my ar­rival, I was helped along by my trusted friend Frédéric Re­belo, Van Cleef & Ar­pels' Asia-Pa­cific regional mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor – like a BFF, with my arm draped around his shoul­der, car­ry­ing me on­wards to meet Ms Si­eff. To be hon­est, she was tremen­dously nice to me; maybe she thought I had a cer­tain phys­i­cal af­flic­tion and was too po­lite to ask. I ac­tu­ally con­ducted the en­tire in­ter­view on both knees, kneel­ing in front of her as if she was a god­dess I wor­shipped.

Within 30 min­utes, the lo­cal doc­tor ar­rived for an emer­gency house call with just the right dosage for an in­jec­tion to ease my pain – and all I can say is a huge thanks to every­one from the Van Cleef & Ar­pels team from the bot­tom of my heart. This was in­deed a mir­a­cle and I lit­er­ally re­cov­ered within min­utes, be­lieve it or not. Lady Luck was cer­tainly smil­ing at me that day – or maybe it was the power of my per­son­alised Al­ham­bra with black onyx in white gold! In fact, black onyx is be­lieved have the mag­i­cal power to elim­i­nate neg­a­tive think­ing and brings spir­i­tual in­spi­ra­tion.

Once I had re­cov­ered, I was led into a mar­quee where orig­i­nal vin­tage 1960s and '70s de­signer clothes from la­bels such as YSL, Chloé and Paco Ra­banne were laid out for guests to do a quick makeover, along with a stylist and hair and make-up artists on hand to get us pre­pared in the most pro­fes­sional way. As a com­mem­o­ra­tive gift from Van Cleef & Ar­pels, the mai­son also flew in renowned por­trait pho­tog­ra­pher Pa­trick Swirc from Paris to do a photo shoot for us. Since I'm a nat­u­rally stylish guy, I han­dled all the styling my­self and opted for the “Broke­back Moun­tain” look after my tragic back in­ci­dent – no pun in­tended!

The af­ter­noon ex­cur­sion to the Musée Yves Saint Lau­rent was noth­ing less than spec­tac­u­lar. Van Cleef & Ar­pels closed off the en­tire gallery for the day so all the press could take a pri­vate tour of the museum, which is en­tirely ded­i­cated to the work of the leg­endary de­signer who was syn­ony­mous with the city of Mar­rakech. From his­tor­i­cal pho­tos to some of the most iconic mas­ter­pieces he de­signed, as well as video clips of his past in­ter­views and fash­ion shows, there was some­thing for every­one.

We then ven­tured next door to Jardin Ma­jorelle, which was the hum­ble abode of Yves Saint Lau­rent and Pierre Bergé from 1980 to 2008. This two-and-ahalf acre botan­i­cal gar­den and artis­tic land­scape is an ab­so­lutely breath­tak­ing mas­ter­piece. Jardin Ma­jorelle is one of the most-vis­ited sites in Morocco; it took French painter Jac­ques Ma­jorelle (1886–1962) some 40 years of ded­i­ca­tion to cre­ate this en­chant­ing gar­den be­fore the pair bought the site in 1980 and be­gan to re­store it.

The evening hosted by Van Cleef & Ar­pels at

El Badi Palace was the high­light of the en­tire trip.

The palace dates to 1578, when it was com­mis­sioned by Sul­tan Ahmed al-Mansur of the Saadi dy­nasty; it was fi­nally com­pleted in 1593. About 100-plus press from around the world en­tered the palace for the first time and wit­nessed 10,000 oil lamps light­ing up the en­tire space. Maybe it's cliché to say, but there are truly no words to de­scribe the scene – just the word “Wow!” Within the palace, Van Cleef & Ar­pels also built a mas­sive mar­quee with re­flec­tive ma­te­ri­als, mak­ing it ap­pear like a house with giant mir­rors and serv­ing as the per­fect set­ting for a beau­ti­ful din­ner un­der the Moroc­can sky.

Our fi­nal day was spent with a lovely lun­cheon at Le Pav­il­lon at the Sel­man ho­tel, where spe­cially trained Ara­bian horses per­formed in front of us. Every­one got a chance to get up close and per­sonal with th­ese in­cred­i­ble, ma­jes­tic crea­tures for our own individual photo-ops while en­joy­ing tra­di­tional Moroc­can tea made with lo­cal herbs. Then we were whisked off to the famed mar­ket square, Je­maa el-Fnaa – a hus­tling, bustling place with an eclec­tic mix of street per­form­ers, food ven­dors, snake charm­ers and more. It's a labyrinth of shops and it's easy to get lost in the maze with­out a tour guide.

All in all, vis­it­ing Mar­rakech for the first time was def­i­nitely a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence and a mem­o­rable trip for the ages. On a per­sonal note, this jour­ney was in­deed a lucky one for me. For all the Hong Kong press and the Van Cleef & Ar­pels Hong Kong team who en­joyed my photo in my La Perla swim­ming trunks, which be­came a ma­jor talk­ing point through­out our trip – well, lucky you! In fact, the topic of my La Perla swimwear bonded all of us to­gether even tighter than my trunks. This story, I'm afraid, will have to be con­tin­ued on my next lucky jour­ney with Van Cleef & Ar­pels, dear reader.


Our in­trepid hero Gor­don Lam chan­nels a “Broke­back Moun­tain“look at the French con­sul-gen­eral’s house in Mar­rakech, where he meets stylish writer and Van Cleef & Ar­pels col­lab­o­ra­tor, Ni­cholas Foulkes, and ex­pe­ri­ences the brand’s lat­est col­lec­tion of iconic Al­ham­bra de­signs


Boldly over­com­ing a locked-up spine, Gor­don Lam meets French pho­tog­ra­pher So­nia Si­eff, daugh­ter of Jean­loup Si­eff, who fa­mously shot Yves Saint Lau­rent naked in black and white; the Musée Yves Saint Lau­rent houses the de­signer’s leg­endary outifts, and opened last year in Mar­rakech. The museum sits be­side Jardin Ma­jorelle, the hum­ble abode of Yves Saint Lau­rent and Pierre Bergé

Gor­don Lam en­joys a photo-op with a spe­cially trained Ara­bian horse at the Sel­man ho­tel; shop­ping and a snake charmer at the fa­mous mar­ket square Je­maa el-Fnaa; the won­der of the 10,000 oil lamps that lit an evening hosted by Van Cleef & Ar­pels at El Badi Palace was the high­light of Lam’s trip

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