How has your multi-cultural upbringing influenced how you work today?
When I was young I moved around a lot and was exposed to a lot of different cultures, so there’s a lot of memories I can draw on for inspiration. For example, we recently completed the design of The Fleming Hotel and the ground floor hosts a restaurant that serves coastal Italian fair. It immediately took me back to being a kid fishing in The South of France. I tried to translate the light that can be found there in the morning, and the depth of the blue, as it’s very profound and true, both of which are hard to replicate. In general, I think scent is the first thing that can take me back to a moment, and then I translate that back into something visual, and then from there I just work around it and try and make it into something unique by mixing it all together.
Tell us more about your background.
I was born in Brazil, to a Brazilian mother and French father. My mother is the daughter of a famous Brazilian artist Cicero Dias. She grew up surrounded by masters of the 21st century - her godfather was Picasso. I grew up between Brazil, Japan, Seoul, Monaco and Paris, where I started living with my grandparents and studied architecture. My grandfather hung out with artists like Braque, Leger and others - just like the film Midnight in Paris.
My dad’s family ran a chain of stores selling Asian craft, so I had a lot of Asian influences. I actually didn’t enjoy living in Paris as I find the people there very closed. I feel more comfortable in Asia, especially Japan. I had an offer in the States so I moved to Miami for eight years. Then I moved to Shanghai in 2007 for a year a half, before winding up in Hong Kong. It’s a good pace for me here as it’s a bit of everything. I’m trying to uncover the hidden elements of the history of culture here by bringing it into our work. For example, with the The Fleming hotel that’s opening here this week. We try to uncover the hidden things that Hong Kong has to offer culturally and put it into a building.
How do you manage life in the fast lane and stay in touch with nature?
I can’t do both at the same time. I move fast in the fast lane and decompress when I’m in nature, isolated. It’s where I reset and get my ideas and inspiration. When I’m at work it’s hard to take the time to take time to reflect.
You’re an incredible fashion creative and you’re now lending your talents to sustainable furniture design...
Furniture is an interesting field. I’m obsessed with lighting, especially when it comes to creating space and atmosphere. For my company, it was the easiest thing to scale as an object - something that could be an extension of our story as a brand.
Are the lights you design sustainable?
That’s going to be a long journey. When you make a recipe for sustainability you look into what you can get access to immediately and what’s easy to get from the suppliers. Obviously, LED lighting is much more durable than incandescent light bulbs. Then you need to examine the way the light is designed. We use tools that can produce as many parts as possible, that can be used in as many of the lamps as possible, to minimise the use of space the machines take up. I think we’re a few years away from creating lights that are 100% built from recycled materials.
What made you become more interested in sustainable fashion?
It was a natural reaction to my immediate environment. I like seeing things as they age. That’s why with so many things in our hotels we like to show wear and tear because I like the patina of things that age - it’s so hard to find that in new things. I’m the same when it comes to clothing. I like clothes that are well made and that I can wear for longer. I have a very hard time throwing things away. I like to know it’s well crafted, which I determine by looking at the stitching and the fabric. When it comes to sustainability, I was exposed to that by A Boy Named Sue, which is I think was inspired by you guys, so that was the first time I was exposed to this whole ecosystem of sustainable fashion.
What lifestyle and fashion changes have you made on a personal level to make your life more sustainable?
As I mentioned already I try and keep things for as long as possible - apart from socks and underwear! I like things that show their age - I find it very poetic. In everyday life in terms of making the world a better, cleaner place, I think a great deal about water. I do a lot of surf trips and I see plastics even in the more remote places. I use a water filtration system that gives you high quality mineral water and even sparkling water. It’s expensive but totally worth it.
What suggestions do you have for how people can get involved - which online resources, social media and books do you recommend to help them take steps towards living a more sustainable way of life?
Through food. Be aware of what you put into your body. We’re branding one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in Hong Kong called Deep Water Bay Drive - it’s going to open next year and we convinced the clients to create an organic fruit and vegetable garden. They’ll harvest on a weekly basis and bring baskets of fruit and vegetables to all of the tenants, for whom it’s a way to heighten awareness of their environment - you know, keep it clean, be respectful, but also live in the moment. You have to slow things down to be aware of how beautiful your environment is.