Raheem Brennerman has a very clear idea about how the owners of the properties he builds and furnishes get to their front door: ‘When your private jet lands, your Phantom is there to pick you up.’ Mere minutes later, you’re in your personal lap of luxury, your very own Essenza Style residence. Raheem is the founder and chief executive of Essenza Style, the sponsors of this year’s Spear’s Wealth Management Survey Awards, and he may not be far off in his vision.
The locations of the properties – private residences, boutique hotels, spas – which Essenza Style is equipping for every last luxury a high net worth could desire are immediately evocative: listed buildings in Grosvenor Crescent, an ocean-front hotel in Miami, a retreat in Costa Rica. Essenza Style’s partner, BLV Realty, takes responsibility for the building and physical fabric of these developments, and then Essenza Style designs and furnishes the interior, and ensures that all the necessities of the HNW life – charter jet, private banking, chauffeur – are available to you.
Raheem, an international traveller who is speaking on his way to Las Vegas for the weekend after a whistle-stop London visit, understands that the essence of luxury for HNWs is not standard-fit opulence but careful customisation. ‘It’s tailor-made service. Whatever you want and however it will make your life effortless, that’s what we focus on.’
Essenza Style certainly has the right approach to this and has affiliations with craftsmen, architects and interior designers to ensure that it can work with people it trusts. There is also the option of bringing in one’s own designer.
Essenza Style has established one particularly high-profile and creative relationship, with New York-based Thierry Despont, the noted French architect and designer who was responsible for the High French galleries at the new Getty Museum in California. Despont’s clients have included Bill Gates, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren – people who know luxury when they see it – and he was described in a New York Times profile as ‘disgustingly charming – part matinee idol, part Louis XIV’. Raheem says that clients must be quick, as only a few apartments have been designed by Despont.
As a man who has seen more luxury hotels than Mr and Mrs Smith, Raheem cites London’s Claridge’s as the pinnacle of elegance and inspiration in business. His apartments are ‘more like staying in Claridge’s, but with a bigger, grander style. Of all hotels I think Claridge’s is a place of residence. I think Claridge’s will be around for another five hundred years.’
This is because the hotel has one key element which Raheem believes Essenza Style shares: ‘You understand who your clients are. When you can do this, you can cater to their needs and offer them what they need.’ Being ‘detail-oriented’, he appreciates its attentive service and understands that his clients do too.
While the construction industry has lately received criticism for its treatment of the environment, for both the use of unsustainable materials and fossil-fuel consumption, Raheem is happy to detail how Essenza Style is engaging with global issues. ‘Most of our projects in new-builds will be green. The US architectural standard for measuring how green a building is has regular, silver and gold levels, and we’re going for gold. We want to make them very environmentally friendly. ’
In a similar manner, the industry has been buffeted from all sides by the credit crunch, yet the luxury sector appears to be escaping without the crises of the rest. Raheem is up-beat, bullish even, about Essenza Style’s prospects, seeing a positive trend across the whole HNW sector: ‘If you ask Rolls-Royce how many Phantoms they sold in London, or how many Maybach did, they’ve probably sold more this year than last year.’
Part of this continued success is wealth from around the world that is flowing towards Britain and the US. ‘There are more wealthy people being created in the world. We have a lot of Middle Eastern people, a lot from Moscow and Kazakhstan. People will get very wealthy with the oil price going up.’ It is lucky that there is such wealth creation, since Raheem is quite sure that he has identified his market. ‘We don’t deal with the kind of client that needs a mortgage to buy a house.’
Raheem is keen to stress the difference between Essenza Style and serviced apartments – despite the fact that the apartments come fully furnished and staffed. ‘Serviced apartments don’t go for $40 million,’ he says. This is where the Claridge’s reference comes in, inspiring Essenza Style to move beyond what Raheem calls the lifestyle where ‘you check in, somebody brings your laundry, you pay, you get out after a week’. Raheem wants to set Essenza Style residences apart. ‘We create beautiful homes for beautiful people around the world.’
Some of the features on an Eaton Place development include a finger scanner for keyless and bespoke furniture and bathrooms designed by Philippe Starck. The close attention to detail even stretches to importing the perfect banyan wood from Indonesia for a new San Francisco development, which is currently under wraps.
Style may be eternal, but that does not mean that Essenza Style’s clients will wait. This is why knowing what your customer wants before they do is the key. ‘We’re very proactive in that we offer a very high specification and offer things that the client might otherwise want before they may even think about it.’