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April 21, 2011

Hedgehog Issue 20

By Spear's

Sharp tailoring, blunt comment. It’s Hedgehog.

It is rare for a website to be both a hilarious tool of unintentional self-mockery and a legally useful aid, but David Tang’s new, where celebrities and HNWs can challenge rumours about them in the press, is just that.

On the left, in a shade of red which implies danger, is the accusation, and in a calming blue on the right is the rebuttal: Richard Caring’s tan is not fake (not fake, you hear), nor is he a rude guest; Tracey Emin is not leaving the country; and Cherie Blair says she did not wear the same dress as Hayden Panettiere, who is at least 30 years her junior. (You’d think Cherie would rebut the accusation that her husband is a war criminal, but she leaves that unchallenged.)

One might reach the conclusion that these celebrities are thin-skinned and have not learned that sticks and stones are the things to be feared. Kate Moss and Dasha Zhukova tell us they’ve never used Twitter, and Tommy Hilfiger categorically does not hate black people. The website links to the inaccurate allegation, but this does rather have the counterproductive effect of driving more traffic exactly to the thing which they want ignored.

Some people make it worse, of course. Jemima Khan rebuts this rumour: ‘Jemima Goldsmith changed her first name to the Muslim name Haiqa when she got married.’ She may not have heard of the frying pan and fire principle, however: ‘I never changed my first name and if I had, it would not have been for a name, which when said out loud, sounds like you’re clearing your throat of phlegm. That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of lovely Muslim girls’ names…’

And some celebrities are just po-facedly correcting cherished urban legends: Michael Caine feels the need to say that he never said, ‘Not many people know that,’ while Bianca Jagger debunks the story that she rode a horse into Studio 54: ‘I love horses and I used to have a white horse in Nicaragua, however, I would certainly not have ridden a horse into a nightclub. Once, as a surprise for my 27th birthday (in 1977), a horse was brought into Studio 54 in New York. I briefly mounted the horse, dressed in a full length red Halston dress.’ Never let an enjoyable, harmless rumour get in the way of a dull truth, eh?

John Kelly of Schillings, the noted defamation law firm, says that while iCorrect gives the celebrity a chance to rebut allegations, ‘There’s a very big element of he said, she said, without any apology, finding of fact or sanction against the media for wrongdoing. Unless it becomes an authoritative source, it risks existing in a vacuum.’ There is also the danger that if a rebuttal on iCorrect is later proved false, it may hurt the celebrity’s credibility.

You can take the desire of celebrities to use iCorrect in several ways: a chance to push a line of PR; a cry of rage after years of misrepresentation; an assertion of fact. Several people hit out at Wikipedia, seemingly not realising you can edit it yourself. Whichever way you see it, iCorrect allows the bubble of celebrity to reinflate itself, despite all the pricks.
‘I wanted to bring a little bit of East London style to Fulham,’ says Guy Pelly as he stands by the bar in Public, his latest nocturnal venture. You can blame Pelly in part for those lost nights in Mahiki and Boujis — Piers Adam and Nick House can take most of the ‘credit’ — but this is the first time he has been senior partner.

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He sold out of those and struck out in his own direction, which turned out to be towards the land of the loafer/signet-ring combination (both boys and girls), and seems unburdened now he can run a club as he wants. It had been a long-time ambition, he says.

Ironising its name, Public is anything but. It is concealed in an antiques market in deepest Fulham, somewhere near where the King’s Road meets the Yellow Brick Road, and the egalitarianism of the name is unreflected in the clientele. The nods to the East — neon Shoreditch and unrefined Dalston — include a silvery photobooth for the permanent evidence of fun, a dressing-up cupboard, copper tables and exposed brick walls. (Guy’s father, in fact, asked him when the club would be finished.) The effect is an imitation of the East’s randomness, but at much greater expense.

His club-flourishing has coincided with London’s rise, and its hard times, and he speaks of the shift in tastes and patrons from the predominance of Russians and their vodka era to the growth of Asian HNWs exploring the power of their new wealth, seeing how fast they can expend it in London between dusk and dawn. Public feels strictly local, however, as well as much more youthful than any of Guy’s previous clubs.

It is evident why Guy has made such a name as a nightclub proprietor, his pleasure at the enjoyment combusted in his club hovering above his sharp suit. There is something of the glow of Johnny Gold about him, a man who burns brightest in the dark.

JP Durnin, new CEO of Gieves & Hawkes, has put his mark on the Savile Row stalwart faster than one of the artists of the cloth in Gieves’ basement can tie off a thread in a bespoke jacket. Although he has only been in the CEO’s suit for a year, the changes wrought have been far-reaching, among which is a complete revamp of the store, opening up new spaces and revitalising the old.

Visits to the tailor for a gentleman or a military man (10 per cent of Gieves’ sales is to officers, even today) have always been rather stiff affairs, nothing akin to the ‘shopping experience’ the retail emporia of Bond Street offer. Under Durnin’s guidance, however, a first-floor office has been turned into a room where bespoke customers can choose fabric amid Seventies furniture and have their inside legs measured in a discreet fitting room-within-a-room. The ambiance is inspired by David Hicks, says Durnin, and his chartreuse and magenta geometric wallpapers are everywhere.

Next door is the Gieves archive, where a thank-you letter from Lord Nelson for his kit looks over ancient ledgers with their handwritten orders. Immaculately restored uniforms from our past wars hang on a rail, waiting to be displayed in the redone gallery around the main shop.

The chief innovations are not in the tailoring — why take your scissors to a craft which has been developing since the 18th century? — but in Gieves’ retail space (metaphorical, this time). Instead of just making and selling suits, Durnin has established a range of partnerships: with Gentlemen’s Tonic, for an in-house grooming salon; with Bentleys, for a range of vintage and antique gifts for men such as beautiful leather briefcases and crocodile cigarette cases (which are the perfect size for iPhones, apparently); and with Carréducker, for bespoke shoes. And if all that does not suit, there is a new blazer room with London’s widest choice, from cotton to cashmere.

Manners maketh man, but a bespoke suit doesn’t hurt.


Everyone knows that at Harrods, you can buy anything, from tiger-print Manolos to live white tigers. Now, it appears, you can buy a country too. At an Arabic breakfast held in the Georgian Restaurant (an obvious combination), Epicure Qatar Equity Opportunities, who run a fund which invests in Qatari equities, tried to sell itself.

The fund is riding on Qatar’s recent successes. The Qatar Holdings takeover of Harrods is well-known, adding to a list of property investments including the Shard at London Bridge and the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square as well as buildings in Canary Wharf.

Thanks to the IMF’s prediction that Qatar will have the fastest-growing economy in the world in 2011 — predicted GDP growth rate 19 per cent — other international purchases are in sight. Not content with having one iconic London retailer on its books, Qatar Holdings is thought to be involved in talks with the collapsed Icelandic bank Landsbanki to purchase its 64 per cent stake in Hamley’s.

Christie’s is another prospective purchase for QH. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani told the FT in October that if a ‘good opportunity’ arose QH would be seriously interested in making an offer on the auction house. Going, going… gone?

One factor the fund played up was Qatar’s unexpected acquisition of the 2022 World Cup. The Qataris have a taste for football, if rumours of an attempted purchase of Manchester United are to be believed, but the fact that they have to build all their stadiums indicates their ambitions are currently ahead of their abilities.

Their ambitions for Harrods are of more immediate concern among the green and pink of the Georgian Restaurant: QH is believed to be considering opening another store in Shanghai. How, we wonder, will the Chinese take to Royal Wedding tea-towels?

Productions of operas travel far and wide — the ENO’s recent outstanding Parsifal returned to London after twenty years via Spain — but opera houses less so. It would be quite disconcerting to turn up at Covent Garden and find the Royal Opera House had moved to Nottingham.

Nevertheless, some years after founder Leonard Ingrams’ death, Garsington Opera has uprooted itself all of thirteen miles from its canvas auditorium in the grounds of a Tudor house to a sharp new timber, fabric and steel pavilion at Wormsley, the former home of John Paul Getty Jr. The new auditorium has increased the capacity to 600: whereas the Garsington tent had an obstructive tree at the back, Wormsley is arboreally uninterrupted. Full use is made of the ha-ha, which saves digging out an orchestra pit as well as providing under-stage trap doors.

Bernard Taylor, chairman of the £3 million appeal that funded the move and vice-chairman of Evercore Partners, says this pavilion, put up just for the festival, will create an entirely novel effect for opera-goers: ‘One side is transparent so you can see out. It makes it different from Glyndebourne and the Grange because they’re dark theatres, whereas this is light, so on a light summer’s evening it only gets dark when we finish.’

One imagines this effect will work perfectly for this summer’s Magic Flute.

If Forbes’ new billionaire list is any indication, the wealthy have good reason to be confident: Carlos Slim Helu’s wealth went up by 40 per cent, while the total number of billionaires rose by 200 to 1,210, with a total worth of $4.5 trillion. A new report from Scorpio Partnership shows that their successors — the Futurewealthy, as they are dubbed, with an average worth of $2 million — are as bullish.
Despite performing well beneath their expectation in 2010, the Futurewealth survey shows that the European and APAC wealthy have high hopes for 2011; only the North Americans have lowered their sights. This chimes with Forbes’ performance: China doubled its number of billionaires, while Moscow is now the global capital for them, with 79. For the first time Asia now has more billionaires than Europe, and it is also approaching America’s tally.

From the immaculately restored ladies’ smoking room at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London’s most famous Victorian relic now brought to 21st-century life, Austerity Britain seemed blissfully far away. </p>

Outside the newspapers bemoaned the death of British art to spending cuts, but Artangel co-directors James Lingwood and Michael Morris were defiantly upbeat as they announced their latest initiative, the Artangel Collection.

The duo are celebrating their twentieth anniversary at the helm of Artangel, an organisation that has commissioned some of the biggest and boldest artworks of recent decades. The Artangel Collection will bring 21 film and video installations to galleries around the UK.

Artangel commissions are the result of long conversations with the artist, and can sometimes take years of close collaboration before a work emerges. Douglas Gordon, the first artist to be awarded a Turner Prize for a film, raised his hand like an obedient schoolboy and asked, ‘Can I do another project please?’ His gold teeth flashed as he smiled.

But somewhere between the Turner Prize darlings and the ornate wallpaper, a threat loomed. In 2009-10, a quarter of Artangel’s funding came from private donations and foundations, and with public funding cuts coming, how would Artangel cope? James Lingwood replied, unfazed, with heroic optimism: ‘There are turbulent times ahead, but I’m confident that we can steer a path forward.’ Artangel was ‘not just thinking in terms of what we’re going to cut.’

Is this a rational reaction or are they simply hoping for a miracle? Julie Lomax, head of visual arts at Arts Council England, provided a worrying clarification: Artangel is funded via the Heritage Lottery Fund, and research has shown that people are more likely to purchase a ticket when there’s a rollover. A repeat of the rollover year of 2006-7 would be a real help, she concluded.

If the City knows one thing, it’s to steer clear of any business model premised on a lottery win. Nevertheless, to ensure Artangel continues, it’s almost worth buying a ticket yourself.
The problem with investing in asset classes like wine and cars is that, as much as you want to drink or drive them (not at the same time, clearly), you can’t: giving in to temptation would instantly reduce their value.

What you need is someone clever enough to pick the most desirable cars yet cautious enough not to let you anywhere near them. Enter Ray Bellm, racing-car driver, winner of Le Mans and chairman of IGA, which has launched the Automobile Fund. ‘Cars are art on wheels,’ he says, so his fund will be filled with the Picassos and Renoirs of the road: it may include a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, an Aston Martin DB4GT and a Porsche 917.

Car collecting had previously been driven by passion, he says, but there is no reason not to look at it from a financial perspective, too, as an asset class. With a target of $150 million and a hold period of five to seven years (‘to get the real appreciation’), Bellm will be keeping a lot of wheels on the ground.

Marrakech is the place to be in North Africa these days, if just for the fact that it hasn’t been overtaken by a popular revolutionary fervour. But even before its peace became unique, it was already rising in the eyes of UK-resident HNWs searching for a temperate, culturally different spot within four hours’ flying and in the same time zone.

For those for whom a brief stay is insufficient, who would like a permanent pad, a new option has presented itself. In the grounds of the new Baglioni Marrakech hotel and Six Senses spa are being built fifteen residences designed by Jade Jagger for yoo. As well as buying a four-bedroom villa (€1.96 million) or a five-bedroom villa (€2.3 million), you can also participate in fractional ownership and swap weeks at your villa for weeks at another in the Registry Collection, a key to a Moroccan residence thus opening doors worldwide.

The residents will have access to the entire site — spa, restaurant, cocktail bars should you decide to take that pre-prandial martini publicly — as well as concierge, valet parking and security services. Within your villa, you can have a chef make you dinner, a florist pretty up the place and a poolboy see to your every (aquatic) need. Plots vary in size — the largest five-bedroom villa has nearly 4,400 square metres, the sxmallest 3,500 — so early buyers can take bigger spaces.

Alistair Emery of Ajensa Developments says that it was the homogeneous branding of other resorts that they wanted to avoid: ‘We’ve brought together three different brands who are specialists in their own field of expertise so that guests and owners will gain a different experience within each area of the resort, which embodies what Marrakech is about.’ The resort will be open from June 2012.

For more information, contact Ajensa on +44 (0)20 3375 1710 (UK) or +212 (0)524 39 09 30 (Marrakech) or visit

Spear’s visits Marrakech

Cartoon by George Leigh

The Hedgehog is sponsored by B Capital 

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