In today’s word, the meaning of luxury in fashion has evolved from serving to distinguish social status to involving exclusivity, being timeless, offering impeccable craftsmanship and last but not least use of sustainable practices. Ethical luxury fashion brands are being mindful of this shift and the dynamics of these social-cultural changes. Whether private or public, the consumers and investors evaluate and form an opinion on the fashion brands based on their ethical sourcing to production, and their balanced, diversified and fair governance. The truth is that the informed and connected stakeholders care about our planet and definitely, this is not a fad! They have the power to boycott a brand, and unquestionably they care about their future. These standards echo the sentiment of the 21st century.
The mindfulness of modern society has influenced the creators and investors to reconsider the factors of evaluation and profit. The common thread for all is sustainability. Clearly, the short-term profitability is important still, staying the darling of the luxury aficionados community is about masterminding sustainable policies and directions. Introducing quality products that benefit everyone including the whole supply chain and our planet’s natural resources must be the grand title of their brand strategy.
The conscious luxury brands such as Gabriela Hearst, a New York-based fashion designer has proven that her investment in ethical sourcing and the use of environmentally friendly materials in her collections are beneficial for her clientele, business and our planet. Her conviction that sustainability is necessary for high luxury fashion is apparent in every stage of her fashion sphere. Manos del Uruguay, a 50-year-old nonprofit that empowers rural women, manufactures Hearst’s fluffy cashmere. Or creating bags to raise funds for Save the Children’s relief efforts in the drought-stricken Turkana region of Kenya. Her philosophy to conserve and repurpose or that quality outshines quantity, “I tell people to buy one good thing of quality, not five cheap things”, is admirable in an industry that flourishes on desirability and consumption.
The customer’s concern over environmental waste, human rights violations or wrongdoings, has impelled the investors to care about the true nature of impacts of luxury brands whether in local communities around the world, within their workforce in bustling cities or on nature since these positions determine the outcome for shareholders.
Empowering marginalized communities and protecting the planet drive innovation and fosters growth for all inhabitants on earth. It takes courage and moral judgement to initiate positive impact and bring together socially driven enterprises and investors to launch and scale these ventures. The luxury brands together with social investing funds are responsible to take action and be transparent vis a vis their sustainability initiatives. At the same time, consumers need to start re-thinking their purchasing habits and embody socially-good causes into their decision making. Cultivating the belief that style is a reflection of our attitude, which can be used to make a positive impact and not just an impression, is effortlessly sophisticated.
The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.
Almost invariably, sports’ psychological skills can positively be translated into the business or personal world if adopted with conviction. In many common instances, such as being under pressure, challenged, receiving a reward, or being in a competition, top sports people’s mental skills can be applied as a driving force for professional or personal development.
It appears that the ability to perform exceptionally under pressure is a learned and acquired skill. (Hallett & Hoffman, 2014). A fair amount of learning techniques are available to apply; however, transferring those principles only works if a set of attitudes are cultivated. Top athletes have a rigorous daily routine to overcome physical challenges and to master their sport. Besides working on physical skills, they address their mental approach. In short, to cope with whatever we encounter and optimize our capabilities, here are seven strategies and techniques that will help us transform our performance to reach ideal results:
Stay focused. Your start does not determine how you’re going to finish.
The mental focus in sports is to sharpen on things that will contribute to completing your tasks. Whether it is ripping a dive to bending a soccer ball, all efforts aim to perfect the exercise productively. The same process applies to professional or self-growth. Focusing on thoughts and actions instrumental in reaching your goal fades unproductive worries and builds up confidence.
Be in the Zone
“The zone is a state of mind which is marked by a sense of calmness. In addition, there is a heightened sense of awareness and focus. Actions seem effortless and there is an increased belief that your dreams or goals can become achievable and real. In addition, there is also a sense of deep enjoyment when the person is in this unique, special and magical state of being.” –Dr. Jay Granat, Sports Psychologist
Training and preparation are not enough to find flow. Other techniques, such as meditation and conscious visualization, reinforce the efforts. How we apply these mechanisms is up to the individual’s inclinations. Some people tap into the past rewarding experience and re-energize the emotions they felt. End-results motivate others.
A good example is when Steve Jobs asked Larry Kenyon to cut Macintosh’s boot time by famously saying: “If it could save a person’s life, would you find a way to shave ten seconds off the boot time?” The time was cut down to 28 seconds! Consciously slipping into the unconscious to keep the flow allows you to stay in the zone and use your skills to the utmost.
How to use our feelings to become more resilient and build up our emotional Intelligence? Here are a few tips:
1- Identify your negative emotions – Once you are aware and have labeled your feelings, refrain from reacting immediately, and withdraw yourself from the situation. Do not make assumptions or decisions. Include empathy in your response.
2- Evaluate your behaviors and thoughts. Objectively – Question your intentions, motives, reactions, communications, whether you are rational or fair. Overall look into yourself from a bird’s eye view. Self-examination brings out humility, which is a requisite to build emotional Intelligence.
3- Communicate clearly – Conveying your thoughts with clarity and in a socially acceptable way is one of the components of Emotional Intelligence. Be an active listener, have an appropriate tone, mind your body language, eye contact, be respectful, and have a confident and friendly attitude, which are essential to reducing good communication errors.
4- Stress management – Introduce strategies to help you cope with stress and burnouts. The best ways to reduce the impact of stress and fatigue are to exercise, splash water on your face, go out in nature, learn and practice relaxation techniques, most importantly, be positive and confident.
5- Practice empathy – every day, try a random act of kindness, look at a situation from another perspective, make no judgment
A winner’s mentality has perseverance, builds on good habits, and takes action. It learns from criticism, and it does not allow situations and people to define the individual. A winning mindset sees challenges as an opportunity and focuses on things that it can control. It is grateful, looks for solutions, is curious, flexible, and optimistic.
Write down your skills and talents and scan through your knowledge-based, technical skills as well as your traits. Identify your core competencies and re-examine them by taking into account their relevancy, competitiveness, and application. Hone your skills and make use of them unapologetically.
Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.
Self-encouragement is to believe that you can overcome challenges and focus on what you have accomplished. Therefore develop a system to boost up your self-confidence to face adversity and obstacles. Through affirmations to rewarding yourself, it puts an effective mechanism in place to build yourself up instead of tearing yourself down.
Zeina Esmail, an award-winning fashion editor-at-large of Fashion Magazine and stylist to the stars, has a deep understanding of visual communication. Her interpretation of human motivation and needs through her editorial/advertising visual productions offers brands an opportunity for a stronger emotional connection with the consumers. Her recommendations bear in mind the psychological principles that trigger aspirations.
Creating a strong concept and delivering the strategic vision in a memorable and relevant way to capture the audience’s interest is Zeina Esmail dazzling expertise. She brings forward a unique vision that engages and seduces the viewers. She remarkably shapes the editorial campaigns that resonate effectively with the consumers and wins them over by appealing to their short attention spans.
ZE: I didn’t even know this world existed. I have a Science degree because my parents are very traditional and wanted to make sure I had something to fall back on, just in case. I moved to Toronto from Calgary and went to Ryerson to get some kind of insight into fashion. Had a roommate who was working at an agency and then she started styling and I decided to try it. It was like 14-15 years ago, and I feel like it wasn’t as saturated then. I was lucky and never really assisted, and kind of threw myself into it and have been here ever since.
Jupilings: What is your role in fashion campaigns or editorial image-
ZE: The stylist does a lot more than just ‘style’. When it comes to editorial, we often are the ones who decide on the concept, the team, location, hair and makeup, etc. Also, we request all the clothes that work accordingly with it.
For campaigns it depends. There are sometimes creative agencies involved, but often times the stylist provides suggestions for hair, makeup, models and even the direction. Obviously, we are there as stylists and to carry out concepts through the wardrobe. You need to have a clear idea of a brand/designers direction and vision and then execute it the best way possible. Those pictures set the direction and identity for brands, so it is a very important process.
Jupilings: As a fashion director you tell stories, how do you find the thread of the narrative-
ZE: Through editorials, I always like to have some sort of common thread. You find those through so many different channels. Sometimes it’s the location that tells a story or the hair and makeup that brings a common element. Obviously, clothing tells a story, and you do that through trends of the season or by simply using your imagination. Another way is collaborating with your team to come up with the best concept.
Jupilings: What are the qualities to succeed as Fashion Director-
ZE: You really have to know what is going to be best for the job you are working on and treat it like it’s its own project always. You need to determine when you are hired for your aesthetic and when you are hired to refine/elevate someone else’s. Hard work is a given; you need to be on team ‘yes’.
Being creative is something that is obviously very important, but I feel like everyone is creative in their own ways it’s just learning how to really use it and gage what is best for that particular project. Often times you have the opportunity to do something amazing and inspiring, and then other times you are there to edit and elevate clothes and accessories that are already paired up.
Also, it’s very important to be confident enough to speak your opinion when it is asked of you. If something doesn’t work you need to be able to identify it right away and modify it until it does.
Jupilings: Which decade inspires you the most-
ZE: Hard question! I am so into the 60s and 80s!
Love mini skirts and all those shapes, colours and fabrics from the 60s. The 80s/early 90s has been such a big influence in fashion for the last few years, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. The big shoulders, big belts, colours, graphic shapes. Love it all.
Jupilings: What are the guidelines to develop a personal style –
ZE: I don’t know if there are guidelines. Follow your heart and what you like. It’s in all of us we all know what we like and what we don’t. Wear what you feel is comfortable and don’t feel afraid to step out of your comfort zone once in a while. There is so much out there for us to see now so if you need guidance, it’s always at your fingertips. Don’t buy things people tell you to buy if you don’t like them or just because they are trendy. Also, if you like something that’s bold try it in small hits if you are afraid to dive in.
Jupilings: Top essential accessories for professionals female/male
A great jacket/blazer in a dark solid colour that FITS you. Don’t buy sizes that make your jacket look two sizes too big (that’s the biggest mistake men make). A tailor can do a lot for you or look online at some brands you admire and use them as a guideline for fit.
Again jeans that fit you. Slim jeans will always be more flattering whether you are 5-95 and XS or XXL. They don’t have to be ‘tight’ but slim is better than saggy jeans. Nobody likes to look at those.
A good belt and good shoes. Polish them often (it’s like $4 to buy polish at the dollar store and can change the appearance of your accessories).
Same as above. Good jeans for sure.
I also think jeans that stop at the ankle are flattering on everyone (and only as long as they are skinny leg).
Don’t buy clothes that are too big for you.
Don’t wear crop tops if you know you shouldn’t
Don’t wear leggings as pants. They are not pants.
A good black blazer. A must-you can tuck it, leave it open, closed, over the shoulder, over jeans, belt it, etc.
A white collared shirt that has a good cuff. Goes with everything.
A good pair of shoes and a good bag. You don’t need to spend a ton of money. There are way too many amazing options now for anyone to make an excuse about not being able to find things. Go online, shop resale.
Juupilings: What are the best accessories for male executives-
ZE: A great briefcase/bag for sure.
Good belt (it can be from the Banana Republic or a designer, and often you can get two colours in one).
Shoes. Don’t think nobody sees them-everyone sees them.
Belts are a great way to define your waist and can give something very simple a facelift. Look at Emmanuelle Alt (editor of Paris Vogue) as inspiration to this.
Also, Leandra Cohen is a great example of mixing things in unexpected ways.
Jupilings: What’s one branding lesson you’ve learned in your career and ventures-
ZE: Be true to yourself. If I ever skewed away from that, it always had a negative effect on me and my career. It is very hard with social media to question your identity and keeping yourself from trying to keep up with everything that everyone puts out there. However, it’s not all real or as it seems. So be you.
Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks-
ZE: This can be the most stressful industry. I mean let’s face it we aren’t saving lives, but people act like you are. You lose clients, people can say negative things about you, sometimes you won’t get hired for reasons beyond your control, a client can change direction, budgets get cut, you can get delayed travelling, and it comprises an entire shoot, the list is endless. You just have to deal. Thick skin is something you develop in this industry, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t affected by things. I really try to remember everything I have to be thankful for in my career and my life. Also, when things go bad, they always get better. It’s hard to say you can’t let things bother you; you just have to cope (as we do in our everyday life) and try to remember how lucky we are and fortunate we are.
Jupilings: Who inspires you and why-
ZE: So many people
I have two small children, so I often look at women in this industry that have kids and are successful (designers, stylists, other business women).
I also have some close friends who have struggled for different reasons in their life and see how positive and amazing they are and try to remember how lucky I am to do what I love and am recognised for it. We often focus on what we don’t have (including myself), it’s human to do so, and it’s really important to look past that and be gracious.
Jupilings: Favourite place to chill with friends in Toronto-
ZE: This sounds crazy, but my dad always told us to think of the negative before the positive. Not because we should always look at the bad before the good, but because it will always prepare you for any circumstance and you will always be prepared. I try to remain positive but I definitely always try and think of ‘what can happen if ….’ and it’s probably why I am so OCD when it comes to my job.
Zeina Esmail has worked with Miley Cyrus, Gigi Hadid and Gwen Stefani and collaborated with international publications: Vanity Fair, Glamour, Elle Russia, French Magazine, Swedish Plaza and top Canadian designers such as Lucian Matis and Pink Tartan‘s Kim Newport Mimran.
Ever since the Nahua tribe tasted the sweet nectar of the blue agave blessed by the goddess Mayahuel, and in time, the spirit became part of Rolling Stones’ hedonistic ways tequila embodies joy and pleasure. Fast forward, this drink has become a refined sipping spirit as consumed in Mexico, and thanks to enterprising individuals such as Eric Brass, indulging in supreme quality has become affordable for everyone.
Eric Brass, the co-founder of Tequila Tromba, partnered with one of the world’s most respected master distillers, Marco Cedano, has created a brand representing formidable pedigree and authenticity, producing boutique crafted batches of high-end tequila. Launched in 2012, Tromba has grown to the #2 premium Tequila in Canada and number #1 in Toronto and has expanded in the prominent tequila and cocktail scene in the US and other parts of the world. A favorite of cocktail sippers and knowledgeable bartenders with a creative mind, Tequila Tromba has a balance of substance and smooth taste.
Eric Brass shares his insights on Tromba’s story, his determination, and how to savor the spirit.
EB: I’m someone who loves to take the path least followed. I think people too often lean on the conventional paths with the least amount of resistance. These paths offer a lot of comfort and stability, but they also can offer the least amount of reward. I prefer to take an unconventional approach and be involved in the process. More often than not, I’m actively working on growing the business, so you’ll rarely find me sitting for too long.
Jupilings: How did Tequila Tromba start-
EB: I went down to Mexico on exchange with school and fell in love with Tequila. I always had the misconception of Tequila being that terrible shot at that horrible bar at the seedy hour of the night. I tried good tequila for the first time and was amazed.
When I returned to Toronto, I’d preach my new love for Tequila but found no products that spoke to me and my demographic. Most brands were either “cheap and low quality” or were too expensive and personified a bottle service, chest beating, look how much money I’m spending type attitude. There was nothing that spoke to my demographic and me nothing that was authentic and craft with a real story and pedigree behind it that had both substance and style.
Thus the idea of Tromba was born. A product that is authentic, ultra-premium and inclusive.
I had “no business” starting Tromba. I had zero experience in the nightlife, bar or alcohol world, no valuable relationships and no money. I started Tromba on a dream: against all the odds, with a couple of bottles, $10,000 and a backpack.
Jupilings: What makes Tequila Tromba different from other Tequila brands-
EB: There isn’t one specific element that makes Tromba different. It’s the complete process. Tromba’s distilling team are Marco and Rodrigo Cedano – father and son duo who have been making tequila their entire lives. Marco was the original master distiller of Don Julio, and Rodrigo was effectively born on the agave fields. Tromba is distiller owned, so it’s really unique that these guys are not only making Tromba but are owning Tromba. We have a rule at Tromba – no gringos in the kitchen which mean every single step of the production process is overseen by Rodrigo and Marco, from the harvesting of the agave, cooking, fermentation and distillation. Marco invokes the old traditional methods of how things have been done while Rodrigo, the younger asks why can’t we do it a new way, adding innovation. We call it modern craft, and it works.
Jupilings: What makes the perfect tequila-
EB: Much like great wine, Tequila has a strong terroir element, which means that the taste of the final product has a lot to do with the soil, climate and terrain that imparts flavour into the blue agave plants.
The craft of production is also a really important element when it comes to creating a great tequila. We age our tequila in Jack Daniels Barrels, which help to create the golden hue of a Reposado and Anejo. Marco and Rodrigo overseeing every step of the production process, and that attention to the small details is what makes Tromba such a great tequila.
In all, there is no such thing as perfect tequila. It’s truly dependent on people’s tastes and personal preference. Tromba’s taste profile is sweet, soft and citrusy which may be perfect to some but not for someone that prefers a more vegetal earthy taste.
Jupilings: What are the top tequila myths that need to be debunked-
EB: The idea that you need Salt and Lime to take shots of tequila. The combination is less a pairing and more a tactic to mask the taste of bad quality Tequila.
Another myth is about the worm or scorpion in the bottom of the bottle. The worm is not a mark of quality. Instead, it’s a cheap marketing gimmick for Mezcal, a product similar to tequila, but not made in the Jalisco Highlands, the only area that can legally produce tequila.
Jupilings: What makes tequila a good spirit-
EB: Tequila is one of the healthiest spirits you can consume. Aside from its low calories (69 calories per ounce), there are no refined sugars in tequila. It’s also gluten-free and vegan. To top off the amazing help benefits of tequila, it’s also the only spirit that actually increases endorphins. It’s an upper that increases your mood, rather than making you sleepy.
Jupilings: What cocktail trends with tequila have impressed you-
Jupilings: What are the most important qualities that are required to be a master distiller-
EB: Being a master distiller is both an art and a science. To make a quality spirit, a master distiller understands the fine balance of patience, the best balance of ingredients and possesses a palate that can discern the good from the exceptional.
Jupilings: Do you have advice for aspiring entrepreneurs to get ahead in your industry-
EB: Passion and persistence are paramount.
Jupilings: What’s one branding lesson you’ve learned in your career-
EB: Everything has to revolve around a reason for being and a why you exist. Once you stray from that and take shortcuts – you are asking for problems.
Jupilings: What are your favourite bars in the world-
EB: Would be like picking my favourite child.
Jupilings: Best piece of advice you’ve been given-
EB: Energy and persistence can conquer almost anything.
Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks-
EB: Like our motto, you take life by storm. You need to be adaptable to the situation, no matter its highs and lows. Take a moment to step back, evaluate and make a choice based on informed reasons.
One of the brightest stars in the eatertainment industry, Janet Zuccarini knows how to successfully integrate food and vibes components to create remarkably welcoming eateries. A talent, an empowering mentor, and a visionary, she runs exhilarating restaurants where unpretentiously perceptive to charmingly elegant people enjoy the fresh and tasty food.
JZ: Positive. Tenacious. Hard-working. Fun. Zest for life. Lover of food, business, and travel.
Jupilings: What qualities made you successful in the hospitality industry?
JZ: Being in the restaurant business isn’t easy. In fact, it’s probably one of the most challenging industries you could choose as an entrepreneur. When I opened my first restaurant over twenty years ago, I worked sixteen-hour days, seven days a week. I did everything from the bartender to bookkeeper to bussing tables and seating guests. Knowing every angle of your business, and knowing it really well is a huge advantage when it comes to making those big decisions. As a restauranteur, you have to expect challenges, and then have the passion for keeping pushing forward. If you have a genuine love for the work you do, no roadblock or setback will get in the way of your goal.
Jupilings: What are the branding principles in hospitality/lifestyle that you want to manifest in your restaurants?
JZ: I’m fortunate to have seven successful restaurants under my belt, with two set to launch in 2019, which is incredibly exciting. One thing I’ve known from day one is that you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to restaurants – something seen in all of my concepts. For example, with Felix in Los Angeles, we knew we had to make it a destination restaurant, and that meant partnering with an exceptionally talented chef and locking down a piece of property on one of the most sought-after foodie streets in the world. With Chubby’s we wanted to bring the warmth and vibrancy of Jamaica – a place that I fell in love with after going there many times on vacation – to Toronto. The strategies for those concepts are vastly different from Gusto 101 or Nervosa which are designed to be neighbourhood fixtures that withstand the test of time. The one common thread that ties all of the restaurants together is the idea of a transporting experience, complete with delicious relevant food, inspiring design, and soulful hospitality. As long as I am grounded in these three pillars, I feel free to innovate and expand wherever my imagination takes me.
Jupilings: What are the elements you consider when it comes to conceptualising a new venue?
JZ: Location is certainly key. When we made the jump from just a few restaurants to a global restaurant group in 2015, we solidified our mission to build the most culturally relevant and celebrated collection of restaurants and innovative culinary experiences in the world. Location plays a massive role in bringing this mission to life. Whenever possible, I seek to purchase the real estate in which my restaurants are housed. I believe that design is equally important as incredible food, and purchasing real estate affords me the opportunity to invest in infrastructure and have full control over the details. With any concept, our goal is to create a transporting experience.
Jupilings: Regarding your latest venture, Felix Trattoria, in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, what sentiments you want to capture & what kind of experience your audience will gain?
JZ: As my first international endeavour, Felix has a special place in my heart. When the opportunity to open a restaurant on Abbott Kinney fell in my lap, I knew I had to bring my A-game. Felix is deeply rooted in the culinary traditions of regional Italy combined with the fresh ingredients grown by California’s greatest family farms. When you walk into Felix, we want you to feel like you’re at home – everything from the food to the atmosphere feels comforting, but in the same breath, extraordinary. Our Chef, Evan Funke, brings the time-honoured tradition of pasta fatta mano or handmade pasta to Felix, resulting in some incredible dishes. We’re so grateful to have been honoured as both “Best New Restaurant in America” by Esquire Magazine and “Restaurant of the Year” by Eater LA. The transporting experience at Felix is next level, but you’ll just have to try it yourself to see.
Jupilings: Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
JZ: My first job was working with my father who brought the first espresso machine to Canada, and I would, as this tiny 12-year-old, haul espresso machines from restaurant to restaurant to help my father out in his business. Seeing how hard he worked first-hand instilled within me a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. I remember he would always say, “Janet – whatever you do, work for yourself!” Reflecting on where life has taken me, I’m sure his words were a massive influence on the career path I’ve chosen.
Jupilings: As a female entrepreneur can you, please share five tips to achieve one’s career or entrepreneurial aspirations in the hospitality industry?
JZ: Male, female, it doesn’t matter – we’re all just humans here. If someone else in the world can succeed, why can’t I? All it takes is a big dream, and the grit, hard work, and passion for making it a reality. But advice specific to hospitality? You better want it and want it bad. This business isn’t an easy one, and you have to be prepared for things to go wrong. At the end of the day, if things go sideways, it’s going to be your passion for what you do that will give you the confidence to get back up and make it work.
Jupilings: What’s one branding lesson you’ve learned in your career and ventures?
JZ: Authenticity is always central to everything I do. Beyond having incredible food and design, knowing your brand voice is one of the most important things to have locked down – know who you are and who you aren’t; speak to your audience, not at them; and be authentic. Especially with social media, everyone feels like they play a part in your brand. We have thousands of loyal customers both on and offline, and they will let you know if something isn’t right. That’s why when it comes to hiring, I’m very selective with who is part of the team. From the person who manages our Instagram accounts to the server that brings out the plate of food, each team member is an extension of the brand. I’ve learned only to hire awesome, and to invest in those people to ensure they have the tools and training to bring each brand to life.
Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks?
JZ: Having been in this industry for some time now, I’ve developed a thick skin for any setback that comes my way. Especially when it comes to the restaurant industry, you have to expect the unexpected – but having an indomitable spirit is what allows me to keep going. Sometimes setbacks can be your greatest opportunities. Whether it was a hard lesson that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life or a mistake that turned out to be a blessing in disguise, I try not to be afraid of setbacks as I continue to build my company. I remember when we were building Gusto 101 we ran into some troubles with the construction of the foundation. This roadblock turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to us as it led to the creation of a basement with a private wine cellar – one of our most celebrated features in which we now host private dinners.
Jupilings: Who inspires you and why?
JZ: One of my earliest inspirations for business was my father who owned his own espresso machine company. Working alongside my father taught me about entrepreneurialism and the hard work it takes to run your own business. My father was also one of those people who knew how to make people feel special – I have fond memories of homecooked meals growing up where my friends and family would pile around the table to devour anything my parents would serve us. This sense of soulful hospitality is something that is deeply instilled in me and is something I make a point of incorporating into every restaurant I open.
Jupilings: What does it mean to be a woman today & what are the unique traits that women bring to your industry?
JZ: Today women have a lot of opportunities, and being a woman shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage. If anything, it’s an advantage – women have an intuitive sensibility around details that most men just don’t possess naturally. This is a massive strength for me when it comes to considering everything from the ingredients of each dish to the unique design details of my restaurants. Something as small as having purse hooks under each bar or good lighting in the bathroom are features that can so easily be missed but make a massive impact when it comes to overall experience.
Yes, society puts pressure on women to follow a certain path – go to school, have a career, get married, have kids – but now, more than ever before women feel empowered to take a path less travelled. When I was younger, I asked my father for the wedding money he had been saving to help with a down payment on a condo. He even made me sign a paper saying I wouldn’t come back to ask for wedding money down the line. Years later, I sold that condo and used that money to buy into the partnership at Trattoria Nervosa. I’ve never looked back since. Don’t be intimidated to enter into a male-dominated industry – it is just an opportunity to put your own unique stamp on the way things are done.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Leadership is about creating an inspiring vision, mapping a direction, and joining talents, skills, and concepts to serve and make choices to improve others’ lives while generating value. However, whether innate or learned, powerful leadership traits must be honed with courage. The strength of character to persevere or hold on to an aim, just the same acknowledging flawed course of action or building bridges, demands the necessary moral courage.
In building a leadership brand, you need to master the fundamentals, motivate, engage, and have clear communication just the same as what differentiates you. Regardless of the possible attributes that you have naturally or critical to exhibit, the critical question is whether you have the grit to manifest them in your daily behavior. Translating those crucial qualities to lead is to have the courage to act consciously amid uncertainty. Chief Willoughby, a key character in the “Three Billboards, Outside Ebbing, Missouri, (played by Woody Harrelson), testifies to the strong power of leadership, emotional intelligence, and the courage to make an impartial and favorable plea. In his letter to his colleague Jason Dixon ( played by Sam Rockwell), he reminds Jason of his capabilities, aspirations and that he has a choice “…But as long as you hold onto so much Hate, then I don’t think you’re ever going to become… What I know you wanna become…A Detective. Cos you know what you need to become a detective? And I know you’re gonna wince when I say this….But what you need to become a detective… is Love. Because thru Love comes Calm, and thru Calm comes Thought. And you need Thought to detect stuff sometimes, Jason. It’s kinda all you need. You don’t even need a gun. And you definitely don’t need Hate.’ Good words to remember: Through love comes calm and through calm, thought”.
Good leaders exercise good judgment, which deep down requires courage to discern between fair and rewarding propositions or inadequate and biased emotions. Being mindful and learning from past experiences helps place the problems into context and circumvent the instinctual reactions. Seasoned leaders don’t take things personally or don’t allow emotions to get in the way. They set a positive tone with a calm persona in times of adversity.
Good leaders avoid the blame game. They have the audacity to take a step back, dial down, and get some perspective. They learn about whys and develop the understanding to find clarity. They make smart decisions and reinforce shared accountability. They have the ability to self-reflect and self-criticize.
We all face challenges; there is no one magic formula or course of action, yet regardless of which rule book we follow, “a lion does not trouble himself with the whispers of the sheep.” Facing opposition is not comfortable, the fear of public perception, or dealing with toxic people. Mastering our emotions and behaving positively is hard work, but the good news is that it can be reinforced. You have the option to neutralize the negativity and tolerate the discomfort by strengthening your teamwork and productive mindset. Still, as Shakespeare eloquently wrote in Henry V’s speech:“All things are ready if our minds are so.“ On that note, keep in mind that courage is the lynchpin of effective leadership.
“Now tell me, what does that mean – to be noble? Your title gives you claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow titles, they follow courage.”
Alleviating fear of change and playing on what-if scenarios is what makes a great strategist. People change, realities change, perspectives change, preferences change, as Heraclitus famously said: “The only thing that is constant is the change.”
Visionaries don’t hold anything sacred. Indeed, they don’t classify concepts, people, or circumstances into bad or good files but look into the future and are torchbearers of progress without any sense of entitlement.
Great strategists live in the future; they consume, learn, and extract the essential to recognize the change wave. They assimilate the latest news across many industries that influence people’s social, financial interests, and behaviors. They can notice complicated cultural shifts and simplify the concepts. A good strategist builds a compelling narrative and generates excitement. Their rhetoric is founded in adaptation, remodeling, reshaping, a metamorphosis only what the future will look like.
Adopting this mindset is the most critical step in being a brilliant strategist. Develop the attitude; solutions will materialize.
How do you habituate this constructive view?
1- Observe cultural transformation. For example, the institutions are no longer the authority. The emergence of peer to peer transactions in the financial industry to self-help and pursuit of individuality is the wave of change that will significantly affect the future.
2- Forget what has been and look into desirable possibilities. Ask yourself, what is my strongest point or the foundation of my brand that can solve many problems? Once identified, the additional assumptions will be removed and deliberately; our choices guide us to solutions reaching the desired possibility.
3- Observe actions. As our common truth changes, people’s attention and desires change. Pay attention to how people are spending their time and money. Building your thinking process around your observations leads to an effective strategy.
4- Develop a daily routine and incorporate technology resources for efficiency and an increase in productivity. Subscribe to daily analysis of your line of interests. Look into sub-culture news and controversial ideas that are infiltrating the mainstream conversation. Connect with people to share and gain different views and perspectives. Visit museums and galleries, follow influencers. As for efficiency, use appsto stream your social media, explore, and receive real-time news headlines.
On a final note, brushing past fixed ideas, listening attentively with an ability to understand and re-imagine the world are the keys to becoming a great strategist.
Featured image: by Meryl McMaster, a Canadian photographer whose best-known work explores her Indigenous heritage.
“If you — wandering Sufi — are looking for the supreme treasure, do not look outside. Look within, and seek that.”
We climb the mountains, dive deep into the oceans, fly high as an eagle, paint a moment in time, dance to the rhythms to stretch our mental and physical capabilities. We strive to overcome our demons, speak through our soul, pushing past our ego, and keep our spirits full of generosity and compassion. We develop our social interactions, doing our best to be noble and reach oneness with divine reality. Still, it happens that we stumble, and our mind creates illusions, wanders in the den of inequities, and searches externally for peace. As our brain is wired to cause and effect, just then, we look for anchor stories from the most excellent sage to rise above the stagnation.
Maryam Mafi, an Iranian author, translator, and expert on Rumi, dazzles with didactic and entertaining well-known stories of Rumi that capture his mystic wisdom. She has skillfully preserved the exciting and dramatic integrity of Masnavi, which, still in the 21st century, resonates with our personal experiences and evokes courage to reach agape love. Maryam Mafi, a graduate of Tufts, American and Georgetown Universities, is tirelessly on the mission to acquaint the west with Eastern literature.
Interview with Maryam Mafi
Jupilings: What attracted you to Rumi, to begin with-
MM: I came across a book on Rumi by an English scholar called, The Way of Passion; and I was set on fire! I felt as if all my questions about spirituality and life, in general, were finally explained to me in the simplest, most eloquent manner.
Jupilings: Rumi’s masterwork “Masnavi”, how does it impact our modern lives-
MM: The Masnavi is often referred to as the Persian Quran. We can learn unrivalled guidance from Rumi in his Masnavi, ageless insights into how to live our lives more honestly and with integrity, even in these times of extreme conflict and mistrust.
Jupilings: What was the biggest challenge when translating “Masnavi”-
MM: Comprehending the original Sufi concepts.
Jupilings: What does Rumi celebrate–
MM: Beyond all- Love.
Jupilings: What are Rumi’s views on women-
MM: He has great respect for women and considers them no less than men.
Jupilings: What does spirituality mean to you–
Jupilings: Please walk us through the process of literary translation, (how do you choose a book,…)-
MM: Well, I’ve been translating Rumi for the past 20 years so I can tell you about how I choose a poem or a story. Generally, I pick the pieces instinctively, or they’re all-time favourites; like the stories in my latest book, “The Book of Rumi”, which I’ve translated into prose and will be available on Amazon in December. If I need to organise the works under various headings or chapters, I sort them out afterwards not before I translate them. Other translators probably do it the other way round; the rational way! I go with my heart!
Jupilings: Three tips to work with publishers-
MM: I feel blessed that so far my publishers have always come to me. I used to work for a publisher when I finished university so I’m familiar with the other side of the spectrum and it can be quite daunting for writers. You could begin by writing to every single publisher who publishes books like the one you have written and hope one of them replies. It’s a similar process for finding a job. These days though, self-publishing is very popular and often great books are picked from amongst them and published later by publishing companies.
Jupilings: Do you have a daily ritual when you are working on a book-
MM: Yes, I start work first thing in the morning; often after a yoga and meditation practice. I don’t like to break my day, so I work straight through often missing lunch. I might go for a long walk if I feel stuck or just to get some movement in my body. I don’t work late at night anymore because my eyes get too tired from the screen.
Jupilings: Tips on personal branding as a literary translator-
MM: I’m the worst person to answer this question, I only work on material I like and have been dedicated to translating my spiritual master, Rumi; and hopefully other Sufi masters in the future. So I wouldn’t call that commercially branding myself successfully!
Jupilings: What does women empowerment mean to you-
MM: Trusting our instincts and our intellects; but above all, trusting our hearts.
Jupilings: What do you do to conquer fear or self-doubt:
MM: I think fear and self-doubt are two playful little monkeys who love to play with our egos because they’re cut from the same cloth. As long as we know who they are and what they represent we can negotiate with them. I like to think that they’ll eventually leave us alone at one point in our lives and find better entertainment.
Jupilings: What is your life motto-
MM: I like to say: ‘This too shall pass,’ and adhere to it every time I come across a difficulty. However, I think it’s more complicated than that. I tend to think the old fashion way, that we have a moral obligation to do our absolute best physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, to help another human being, in whatever capacity, when we are in a position to do so.
Also, I do sincerely believe that when you do good, eventually at some point good shall be done to you. The cliché of what goes around comes around may sound simple, but it’s one of the most valuable basic truths of life.
Maryam Mafi’s collection of Rumi translations are available on Amazon.
Love and passion are the foundations of southern Italy. The jewel-toned sea, the mighty Mount Vesuvius, the whisper of a rushing wind carries you to this fiery landscape where a halo of calmness cuffs your soul. A place where the rich aroma of local cuisine redolent of legends and traditions is the jet-setters’ playground. Don Alfonso 1890, run by the Iaccarino family, in the heart of Sant’Agata in Amalfi Coast, is that charming place for nobility, food connoisseurs, and lovers.
Thanks to Nick Di Donato, President, and CEO of Liberty Entertainment Group, and Nadia Di Donato, Vice President & Creative Director, the Michelin star awarded Don Alfonso 1890 has enriched Toronto’s fine dining experience. A match made in heaven, the culinary romance, and the upscale sophistication of Amalfi Coast merged with the expertise of Liberty Entertainment Group is brought to the hip and sparkling Toronto. The narrative, the Mediterranean flavors, the phenomenal culinary, the creativity, the exceptional service, the remarkable art unleashes the Proustian effect. A revival of an impression from our past life, a lost memory, a heartwarming movie, a desire, or merely living a splendid lifestyle has been introduced in our modern and booming metropolis. The elegant restaurant is an oasis for titans of the financial district, visionary moguls, charming clans, or driven patrons.
Jupilings: What are the branding principles in entertainment/lifestyle that you want to manifest in your creative designs-
NDD: For individual venue: Firstly, I want to establish the intended perceived image of the restaurant in the first 30 seconds of entering and then the subsequent emotional response to the entire experience. My design is not limited to space itself; it extends through the many layers from artwork; to furniture; to tableware; to the menu and collateral design; to wardrobe. The details create the “design magic” that is at the essence of customer experience.
By design, These establishments are either located in historically designated properties or in signature neighbourhoods throughout the city. These classic shells provide a particular opportunity to juxtapose traditional elements with a new modern design which has now somewhat become signature to Liberty Group.
Today, with an impressive collection of uniquely designed venues ranging from casual eateries, nightclubs, elegant restaurants, large banquet facilities and its crowning jewel Casa Loma, under my creative direction, the Liberty Entertainment Group has gained recognition as one of North America’s top hospitality companies.
Jupilings: What are the elements you consider when it comes to design and to conceptualise an entertainment venue-
NDD: One of the most interesting projects that a designer can take on is designing a restaurant. It can be daunting and stressful to come up with concepts. At times I find myself stumbling upon some “design magic” through the exploratory process. Narrowing it down to a final design concept and then seeing it through the build process to customer enjoyment which is a very rewarding experience.
Conceptualisation: All design components revolve around clearly defining my target market. Every detail departs from that one notion…”How do I want the customer to feel.”
Once I have that clear understanding in mind, I establish the identity of the restaurant by pairing a design style palette (ie, furnishing, coloring, lighting, construction materials) with a visual components package (ie: tableware, uniforms, signage, logo, menus, marketing collateral, etc) which I use as my framework to ensure the overall image of the restaurant is cohesive and consistent. This phase is the most crucial part of the overall process. It results in a design vision that guides the entire project.
Personal design style: I see interior spaces more through the eyes of an artist rather than as a technical interior designer. I’m always thinking out of the box and very hands-on working closely with my construction team (whom I’ve been working with for over 25 years. When I walk into a raw space, I always consider the existing elements that can be utilised in my design. Since most of my design projects are located in historically designated buildings, I have an immense appreciation and respect for the intricate details of historic design and always juxtapose original with new.
Personally, I am an art lover and a believer that fine art is like an accent piece of jewellery. Signature to my design is my inclusion of individually curated or commissioned art pieces tailored to reflect the personality of the space, elevating the dining experience by adding originality and intrigue.
Jupilings: Regarding your latest venue Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto, what influenced Liberty Group to introduce Mediterranean fine dining experience-
NDD: Firstly our roots are Italian; therefore it was a natural fit to partner with Chefs Alfonso and Ernesto in this special restaurant. It is the first restaurant of its kind in Toronto to showcase father and son world-class Michelin star chefs. A display of incredible talent in a beautiful space unlike any other in the city. (If I’m allowed to say so myself 🙂
The intention was to elevate the bar in the local hospitality industry in hopes of establishing a new standard of dining and capture the attention of critics on a global scale including the recognition of soon to be Michelin rating in Canada (Michelin to date has not published in Canada). (Word has it that they will be doing so as of November this year. We like to think that perhaps with Don Alfonso in Toronto; we were partially responsible for this finally happening.)
Jupilings: What sentiments you want to capture in Don Alfonso 1890 ’s ambience-
NDD: When I experienced Don Alfonso 1890 in the Amalfi Coast, the concept that resonated with me the most was the simplistic yet intricate contrast in the food. The contrast between classic ingredients prepared with a fresh, clean, organic, sophisticated approach. That is what I wanted to capture in the space. The contrast between the historical setting of this original mid-19th-century building provided the perfect backdrop to juxtapose a fresh, clean, sophisticated modern approach to the interior space. Everything in the restaurant from art installations, furniture, upholstery, lighting, linens, uniforms, menus, dishware, glassware, silverware and accessories are custom designed to reflect the above.
A few design details listed below:
I chose a Desk rather than hostess stand for a more inviting Concierge-style reception.
A newly designed 30’ waterfall feature with intricate Italian porcelain inlay adorns the bar area to give the sense of water of the Amalfi coast.
Temperature controlled champagne room featuring our extensive inventory of fine champagne.
Original wine cellar built in the mid 19th century houses our broad range of wines.
Open concept Kitchen designed for transparency and guest interaction takes up 50% of the restaurant floor plate. Guests are walked through the kitchen at the end of their dining experience.
Design: 38” counter heights for clearer sight line from the dining room into the kitchen
Material: sleek Carrera laminate in 5’ x 10’ porcelain sheets used for counters ideal for cleanliness and durability.
The main dining room is designed to showcase our chef eight-course tasting classic and contemporary menus. Round tables and fine linen were intentionally used to facilitate fluid formal dining service. Custom Cartier style chairs ergonomically designed for maximum comfort.
The mezzanine area is designed in contrast to the main dining room. The custom furniture and design exudes a more casual atmosphere conducive to the al-a-carte menu and molecular drink program. Fabrics and furniture styling is an eclectic combination of cowhide, leather, and linen sofas and chairs custom designed to dining height. The extensive 38’ kitchen/bar showcases food and drinks preparation at all times.
Jupilings: What kind of experience your audience will gain at Don Alfonso 1890-
Housed in the historical Consumer’s Gas Building the interior design offers a sense of glamour and opulence yet comfort and relaxation. Not only is the experience captured through the surroundings, but it is also about the artistry in food design, custom designed plating, the finest linens, every last detail is intended to transport guests on an extraordinary gastronomical experience unparalleled to any other in the city.
Jupilings: What does intelligent and elegant design mean to you-
NDD: Intelligent design is an interpretation of the function of space and successfully transforming that space into a showcase. Since my background is in graphic design, each project is an art piece. Design should be timeless, sophisticated, clever and primarily relevant to the intention of the restaurant. The most important element is using colours and materials that translate to the intended feel of the space rather than those latest trending palettes.
Jupilings: Best piece of advice you’ve been given-
NDD: Interior design is like fashion, it changes. Stay away from anything that might date itself or will be so flashy or interesting that it’s going to take away from the intended experience. It is best when you feel it, but it doesn’t get in the way. Also, not really specific to design, I was once told not to take my work too seriously as I’d miss all the fun. 🙂
Jupilings: As a female entrepreneur and creative individual, can you please share five tips to tap into one’s potential to achieve one’s career or entrepreneurial aspirations-
NDD: Find a career to which you are adapted by nature, and then work hard at it. That is about as near to a formula for success as one will ever get.
When creating and innovating, work is play. Never take yourself too seriously. Don’t be afraid of thinking out of the box. Never accept the notion that it can’t be done.
Never be afraid of taking risks. If it doesn’t go well. It will be your most valuable lesson.
There is really never a right or wrong to a design style. Whatever your approach, hone it and own it.
Be blind to the difference between a male or female entrepreneur. There is no difference:) I never believed there were obstacles because I am a woman.
80% of my work is construction. I am always surrounded by men. And I’ve never been phased by it one bit 🙂
Jupilings: What’s one branding lesson you’ve learned in your career and ventures-
NDD: In hospitality, You can’t be all things to all people. The most important and expensive lesson I learned was not to ever waiver. Research, focus, execute from A to Z and stay true to what you set off to do. This has been the tried and true formula for the success of the Liberty Group. Although a diverse portfolio, each venue is expert in and very specific to its particular concept.
Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks-
NDD: In any situation, I will always see the cup half full. There is no problem that doesn’t have a solution. I never sweat the small stuff. Moreover, I never dwell on a problem.
No one is immune to setbacks. Trust me I have had many. Whether personal or professional it always made me a little wiser, stronger, and better for it.
Trust that you are capable of doing amazing things—and even more so if you have to work through tough challenges.
I never blame. Exploring the way forward is much healthier than trying to blame someone or something. Stay focused on the bigger picture, commit to it and no matter what, see it through from start to finish.
Jupilings: Who inspires you and why-
NDD: On a personal level, my husband and my two sons truly inspire me every day. Their ambition, perseverance, focus and accomplishments constantly give me the drive to accomplish slightly more than I did yesterday.
As a designer and businesswomen, I draw inspiration from the experiences I’ve acquired through extensive travel. The privilege of interacting with the diversities of various cultures has defined my creative style. My designs are often an infusion of elements inspired from all corners of the world.
Jupilings: What does it mean to be a woman today-
NDD: I have been extremely fortunate to come from a pedigree of very strong independent, accomplished women. Also, am grateful to have been provided opportunities denied to many previous generations of women, being able to spend time with my children and travel, while working and creating a successful business.
I have always felt that no matter the gender, there are no limits to what someone can accomplish through determination, hard work and focus.
Today, the sky’s the limit for women across the world. Being a woman in 2018 means being a warrior for constant change. I stand on the shoulders of the brilliant women before me. Every day I try always to be aware of what they have afforded me, and I am grateful for the tools I was given.
Today women are empowered to find out where the struggles for equality still lie, and have a responsibility to reach out to those who need support, and speak out about the areas of inequality that persist.
Jupilings: What is your life motto-
NDD: If you can see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hands. Keep working. Stay persistent. One day you will wake up exactly where you want to be.
Gone are the days when female travel adventurers had to bond her breasts with linen bandages or step into her machismo and disguise as Ferdinand Magellan to explore the wildlands. Mutually, willing to take new chances and cultivate compassion by learning from diversity is not limited to genderless, male, female, or other preferred sexual identities. That being so, experiencing unfamiliar exclusivity is a privilege for an array of individuals and never ceases to be cool.
A luxury traveler embraces uniqueness, recognition, attention, and is motivated to indulge in an unforgettable experience knowing that it will improve the lives of inhabitants of the destinations. South Africa, the oasis of glittering sea, craggy mountains, wildlife encounters, and luxury wellness with a holistic experience offers the sophisticated traveler the opulence of self-reflection and the external splendors of connectivity to the surroundings.
South Africa is a canvas of spectacular landscapes, best safari destination, a multicultural nation, rainbow cuisine, seductive wines, and notably turbulent history transformed by hope and “ubuntu” qualities of compassion, forgiveness, and humanity to build a just and caring society.
Jupilings: What set you off on your entrepreneurial venture-
LB: I began the Royal Portfolio at age fifty when I sold my fashion business. I retired for two days and then made a proposal to my husband that I was going to convert our holiday homes into private hotels. We were very fortunate to have a beautiful place in the African bush. We wanted to share all of our incredible memories and experiences with others, and so we decided to convert our family home into a luxurious lodge which is now Royal Malewane. We then did the same to Birkenhead House which had been our beach house for twelve years, and La Residence which was our smallholding in Franschhoek. We spent many years looking for the perfect spot in Cape Town and were thrilled when the opportunity at The Silo came along. It completed our circuit around South Africa. Since then we haven’t looked back and have continued to share more unique South African experiences with our guests, our friends and our growing family.
Jupilings: You style and design every room, what are the elements that you consider when you start the process to create a relaxing and joyful environment-
LB: The ultimate goal is to provide our guests with beautiful, comfortable and exciting interiors. I want our guests to leave with an extremely positive view of our beautiful country and to return home as advocates of South Africa. I love to promote our local creative talent to the international travellers staying at each of our wonderful properties. I like our properties to be timeless and to stay true to the iconic destinations in which they are located. The destination-specific design is a key part of the guest experience. Every room is different, and each space is unique. I first need to get a feel for space – to spend time in the space and watch space and light evolve throughout the day. I tend to start by introducing a piece of furniture, fabric, carpet, or painting into space. Something that I love or that has really caught my eye. One of these items will then guide the subsequent design process, and the room will take shape from there. I love to mix things up – to place something serious next to something fanciful, something new next to something old and something expressive next to something more muted. I also love art. Art is what really brings the space to life and gives it personality. However, for me, the key is the comfort. Our guests need to be able to enjoy space and to feel as if they are at home. Not like they are in a museum.
Jupilings: What does luxury mean to you-
LB: For me, luxury means providing value and superior, personalised service, and creating unique experiences for our guests. Increasingly, guests are looking for special moments to share with their loved ones, and so it’s up to us to create and offer those exceptional experiences at each of our hotels. Luxury means comfort and the opportunity to share breath-taking experiences with family and friends.
Jupilings: What’s one branding lesson you’ve learned in your career and ventures-
LB: I believe one of the most important factors in building up and maintaining a successful brand is to consistently engage with it, ensuring that it is nothing but the best it can possibly be. For a luxury travel brand and hotel group, this is particularly important. I try to stay at our properties as much as possible. By being present and experiencing what our guests experience, I can actively ensure that the service and guest experience continues to improve, adapt, and stays consistent throughout our portfolio. Understanding our guests and their needs is critical. Also, I believe that our hotels should constantly evolve and improve – we need fresh ideas to keep things exciting. This could be something as simple as mixing up the artwork in a room or reupholstering a lovely chair with a beautiful new fabric.
Jupilings: Please tell us about your Foundation-
LB: Uplifting local communities, promoting conservation and protecting the environment are core company values of The Royal Portfolio. I believe that this is an intrinsic part of doing business in Africa. We’ve just established The Royal Portfolio Foundation which will formally address these core company values and ensure we are doing our part in giving back. Each property has various programmes aimed at uplifting local communities and protecting the environment. Giving back is an intrinsic part of doing business in Africa. It is also essential that we use our properties to promote South Africa as a beautiful destination for travellers to visit from all corners of the world. Tourism has such a positive impact on our country, so it’s important that we market the destination together with our properties.
Jupilings: Is it true that you mostly collect African contemporary art? What is the local art scene currently about? Do you have a personal methodology regarding the selection of the art-
LB: Art has always been something we are interested in and remains a big part of all of The Royal Portfolio’s properties. In keeping with our neighbour, Zeitz MOCAA, The Silo Hotel houses its very own collection of contemporary African art. While a significant portion of the art, furniture and ornaments found throughout our hotels are unique to Africa, I do occasionally source a specific piece from overseas. However, I always prefer to get my inspiration from something I see on my travels and have it made locally – it’s so important that we use local companies and give back to the local communities through supporting various companies and the African art scene. If there’s something that catches my eye and I can picture it in one of our beautiful hotels, I’ll do my best to get my hands on it and support the artist.
Jupilings: Best piece of advice you’ve been given-
LB: If you’re looking to get into the tourism industry, it’s best to get your foot in the door somehow and then do your best to meet and connect with people in the industry to build long-lasting, healthy relationships.
Jupilings: Please share five tips to tap into one’s potential to achieve one’s career or entrepreneurial aspirations-
LB: Find your passion and run with it! Don’t let anyone tell you your passion is not worthy of chasing. Your passion is yours, own it. Be true to yourself, and create something that is authentic to your passions. Follow your dreams, and the rest will fall into place. Perseverance is key! Nothing will ever be easy, and there will always be hardships and downfalls. If you can stay optimistic in the face of failure, you will continue to learn and refine your entrepreneurial finesse. It’s also fine if you don’t know what you want to do, or what your passion is. What matters is that you start working on something, and keep moving forward. Grab every opportunity that comes your way, and you’ll be amazed and what you’ll learn. Try not to focus on the end goal in mind too much, or to have a rigid plan. Stay fluid in your outcome and be open to change and suggestions. In today’s world it’s important to be adaptable and to be able to pivot in a new direction should the need arise. That doesn’t mean you should give up on your goals when things get difficult; it just means you need to be able to adapt and nurture a propensity to stay proactive in your entrepreneurial journey. Don’t become bogged down or despondent when things don’t go according to plan!
Jupilings: How do you deal with setbacks-
LB: I believe that every cloud has a silver lining and I always look at what I can learn from the setback. If I’m feeling let down about a setback, I always try reason that it’s not so bad. That I am such a lucky person and need to carry on moving forward.
Jupilings: Who inspires you and why-
LB: Nature. The colours, sounds, textures and abundance of life are so inspirational.
Jupilings: What does it mean to be a woman today-
LB: Increasingly so, women around the world are moving into high powered positions. Many women in the Western World now have great freedoms which I hope will soon permeate into every corner of our world.
Jupilings: What is your life motto:
LB: Life is an incredible, beautiful gift, and one that you should make the most of every day.
Robert Vanderhorst’s creativity propels us to squint and examine the original or the rational with intention. At that point, you discover the conflict, the unacceptable, the unpleasant or the hidden desire. The imagery gushes over, the psyche is liberated, and the visual stimulus unravels the nuances of our ideas and rules. He is adept at bringing together various mental pictures into a fusion of tenacious conventions, compromised perceptions, and wavering imaginations. His capability to point out that impressions, symbols, and patterns have unrealized possibilities, rattles the viewer. Although he deliberately composes the uncertainties, the freedom of thought, choice and the inclination of progress orbit symbolically and eminently in his artwork.
Jupilings: Tell us about yourself and how you got into art-
RV: My talent comes through my father’s side of the family. He was an artist/graphic artist in Holland, and he continued that profession after coming to Canada post-WWII. Once I understood that art was my passion, my career path was set. Seeing Dali and Magritte’s work for the first time cemented my love for surrealism.
Jupilings: The fundamental principle in your creations-
RV: Exploration and mystery. Keep everyone thinking and guessing.
Jupilings: What is your perspective on life-
RV: Life is short. Be kind and generous, work hard and stay true to your passion, play when you can, travel and experience life as much as possible and keep your sense of humour intact.
Jupilings: What do you sell in your art-
RV: To think outside the box.
Jupilings: What motivates you to create, is it an emotional state, philosophy of life, politics or advocacy-
RV: A desire to create realistic imagery that engages, asks questions and searches for answers where the answers ask more questions.
Jupilings: What is your favourite subject to illustrate-
RV: Time and space.
Jupilings: What does “confusion” mean to you? Also, what about “Normality”-
Jupilings: What does women empowerment mean to you-
Jupilings: What are your tips about building a brand name as an artist-
RV: Develop a unique personal style and stay true to your art. Work your ass off, don’t compromise, network and promote using new and old technologies as much as possible.
Jupilings: What do you do to conquer fear or self-doubt-
RV: Ignore it. Believe in yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish and ignore anyone who tells you it can’t be done.
Jupilings: The disruptive blockchain technology is addressing the problems of transparency and authenticity for artists; it will increase art sales, democratize art investment, and last but not least allow artists to be fairly paid. What are your thoughts about the blockchain technology especially in support of art? Would you consider using the blockchain technology platform to reach global art enthusiasts? What are the problems in your industry do you want these platforms to solve?
RV: I am not versed in this platform and at this stage not particularly interested in another tech learning curve. Everyone should be paid fairly and on time, artists, in particular, considering they are often taken for granted and put at the bottom of the list. If this tech addresses the issues you’ve stated above effectively, then I’m all for it.
Jupilings: What superpower you would like to have ? and why-
RV: I’m happy as is.
Jupilings: Which movie you would have liked to be the lead actor-
Nobody has a soul unscathed. As famously Nietzsche has stated:
“What does not kill you makes you stronger.”
Truth be told, it is not easy to be resilient in chaos or adversity; however, research has shown that it can be learned. Stretching our mental muscles and drawing on key questions raised by the great thinkers gives us a leg up to control our thoughts and surpass oneself through the spine-chilling maze of setbacks.
Mindfulness,martial arts, and behavior change are recommended; however, lasting success depends on self-reflection. Growth is fueled by practical wisdom and reasoned decision-making. So how to start the introspection to develop resilience?
Training the brain with philosophical counseling sessions to think clearly at infliction points in our ventures or life is absolutely necessary. The process of observing our minds and learning from different schools of thought empowers us to take charge and develop resilience in times of crisis. Like in a plane emergency, we curb the impulse to run for the door by knowing in advance the rules and follow the instructions responsibly. The guidance will shape our perceptions and expectations into awareness, and our behaviors will become more productive rather than reactionary. Ultimately, the self-examination and preparation lead to a disciplined mind that helps us leap over the fatigue caused by unprecedented events, discord, or even malicious situations.
Change Your Perception
“Choose not to be harmed, and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been.”
Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote the statement, the adherent of stoic philosophy highlights how perception plays an important role in your responses. A terrifying event has the potential to be agonizing or not, for it all depends on your perception. Therefore, you have a choice to experience the unfavorable circumstances in dismay or learn the skills to build resilience.
As humans, we can exaggerate stressors, fret, and run things over and over in our heads to the uncontrollable point. However, if you can adopt a positive outlook and reframe disastrous to challenging, you will be able to deal with calamities, learn, grow, and move on. A positive change in your perception is not to ignore and distort the reality but to ensure that you have control over your state of mind and emotional response.
Outline Your Expectations
Preparing your mind to question the underlying intentions of your expectations produce a valuable outcome in adversity. Since, the correlation between a challenge, an expectation, the course of action and the end result depend on your disposition. This means that unsettled and implicit intentions, an obscure plan of action or a goal will generate unrealistic expectations leading to resentment. However, the integration of philosophical notions to clarify your intentions influences your response and helps you confront the negative. Meditating on great philosophical ideas to become resilient and recover from adversity breeds self-control. This state of mind nurtures a rational, optimistic outlook to strategically analyze and gain attribution of productive motives from a third-party perspective.
The more aware of your intentions and your experiences you become, the more you will be able to connect the two, and the more you will be able to create the experiences of your life consciously. This is the development of mastery. It is the creation of authentic power.- Gary Zukav
Manage Your Behaviour
“Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behaviour, not because they won or lost.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Sometimes, the end results are unfair, unreasonably, or wrongfully against you; however, the philosophical reflection will help you develop mental toughness. Ethically responding in the heat of battle sounds virtuous, yet, might not be practical as it is easier said than done! Although you choose to change your attitude or consciously assimilate a behavior and internalize to deal with the problem. Effectively stated by Epictetus on Walking the Walk:
Don’t declare yourself a philosopher or talk about all your principles; walk the walk instead.
At dinner, don’t discourse on the proper way to eat. Just eat.
Here’s how Socrates did it: When someone asked Socrates to introduce him to a particular famous philosopher, he did it without thinking “I’m better.”
When the ignorant discuss deep matters, bite your tongue. Don’t vomit what you haven’t chewed.
When you are told you’re ignorant and you manage to be unruffled, you know your practice is working.