Isabell Kristensen, haute couture designer with shops in Monaco and London
During the 2017 Film Festival, Isabell Kristensen is showing her first show in Cannes Saturday, May 20 at 6 pm.
ML: Can you tell us about your journey fromDenmark to Monaco, and to becoming an internationally acclaimed designer?
IK: From a young age I worked as a model and I loved fashion but always knew my heart lay in design. I spent many years exploring fashion and the works of great designers – the colours, the shapes, the structure – as I had never seen such pieces in Denmark. Roberto Capucci was one of my early favourites.
Travelling was always a source of inspiration for me, I worked for some time in Italy and travelled in the South of France. As soon as I had the chance, I entered a fashion design competition in London, which I was fortunate enough to win and was sponsored to take part in the “Clothes Show Live”, the first fashion exhibition available to the public. I took so many orders during the event and I could not believe how positive the response was. I began building my own couture house in London and later throughout Europe.
ML: You have a shop in Vielle Ville. Do you remember your first impressions of Monaco?
IK: My first impressions were that Monaco was quite special, surrounded by mountains so close to the sea and with a unique culture and community. It has a city feel, with the glamour and business qualities, but as you integrate deeper into Monegasque society, you realise it carries all of the charming humbleness of a small town as well. The Monegasques are such lovely people, it is the type of place where everyone knows each other and says good morning as they pass in the street.
ML: What is something people would be surprised to learn about Monaco?
IK: Monaco is very glamorous and that is the side that everyone expects but there is so much more to it. It’s a welcoming and diverse place while maintaining a strong and unique cultural feel. I learn so much from living here and meeting all of the international people who are also drawn to this amazing place. All throughout the year there are events such as the Yacht Show and the Grand Prix, for example, that bring people from all over the world together.
ML: Where you do you prefer to shop?
IK: All the world’s best brands are in Monaco it is impossible to choose one.
ML: Your favourite view?
IK: On the drive up the Rocher to my shop, there is the most spectacular view of Port Hercules, the yachts, the sea, and the mountains. It’s like a cocktail of beautiful and glamorous things, you cannot see anything like it elsewhere in the world.
ML: Let’s talk about your shop and Isabell Kristensen design.
IK: I established my company almost twenty-five years ago and my goal as a designer has always been to create unique and individual pieces that highlight the best aspects of each unique and individual woman. Ralph Lauren once said, “I don’t design clothes. I design dreams.” This is very much the way I feel and my reason for why I love my work. My clients in Monaco often say “vous êtes desmarchands de rêves”. A dream is pure and creative, something that one has thought up entirely independently, something unique to you. The dream is the most important thing. I named my first fragrance “Dreams” for precisely this reason. A perfect Isabell Kristensen dress ought to be an extension of the wearer’s personality, an accessory to her character.
ML: How does the designing process work?
IK: I draw inspiration from many things, for example Hans Christian Andersen’s tales, however, the natural world has often been a source of stimulation for me especially when designing a collection for a launch somewhere I have never held a show before. Such was the case for a collection I launched in Jamaica. Many of the pieces were inspired by the natural beauty of the island’s unique species of flora, as well as by the Jamaican national bird and even the Jamaican Boa. This is always what most inspires me, something uniquely beautiful.
ML: Can you share some names of women who have worn your clothes?
IK: I have been extremely fortunate throughout my career to be able to dress some of the world's most beautiful and talented women including Katy Perry, Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, Paris Hilton, Joely Richardson, Shania Twain, and Liza Minnelli, who funnily enough approached me at a party in London and asked where I got my dress from. Two days later she was being fitted in my London Boutique in Knightsbridge.
The first public figure I ever dressed was someone of whom I was a huge fan, Dame Shirley Bassey. She believed in my designs when my brand was still in its infancy. I walked up to her at a cocktail party and said “I designed a gold dress for you” and she graciously took my card. Five days later, my shop had just opened, she came in, looked around for 20 minutes and then left saying she would be back with her agent. She did turn up the next day and bought 32 dresses in one go. She literally started my business in a fantastic way, and is my good luck omen.
When I got the cheque I told her I was going to put in on the wall for good luck and she said “Oh no, I’d put it in the bank because there will be many more.”
To this day she is still a client of mine, and when she tries on clothes in the shop she starts singing. We worked together for her performances at the Royal Variety Show, performance at the Oscars and Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
ML: Favourite designer moment when someone wore one of your creations?
IK: I have so many different design projects in many countries, it’s difficult to choose just one moment from another, but I was very proud to dress HSH Princess Charlene for the Princess Grace Foundation in New York, she is really one of the most elegant women I have been fortunate enough to design for.
ML: What does success mean to you?
IK: For me, success goes hand-in-hand with happiness. It may seem a cliché but there are few better feelings then when you dream of doing something and then have the opportunity to do it. For example, when I had the opportunity to realise one of my life-long dreams to work as a costume designer for a feature film. I worked on the set for “Shanghai Baby” dressing the star Bai Ling over the course of several months and it was a wonderful experience. Not only working on a movie set but also getting to travel to Shanghai and live in an entirely new culture for the course of the project. Working on this movie was another chance for me to learn and experience so many new things and it was amazing.
ML: What do you make of today's fashion and would you say Monaco has its owndistinct style?
IK: Fashion fads will come and go, and while it’s good to be aware of fashion trends and cycles, never let them consume you. Your own unique sense of style is what makes you a designer.
Monaco certainly has a specific fashion style. There is an element of sophistication, a certain sense of style that lends itself to attending important business meetings while simultaneously hopping on and off yachts, sitting by the race track watching the Formula One and then immediately attending a fabulous gala after. There are few places that can compare.
[caption id="attachment_8091" align="alignnone" width="640"] Isabell Kristensen fashion show at CREM's birthday party in June.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_8090" align="alignnone" width="640"] Isabell Kristensen with HSH Prince Albert II at CREM party.[/caption]
ML: How did you become a CREM partner?
IK: We were approached by CREM to do a fashion show, they had heard about our fashion shows and really wanted to work with us. We took on this event at the heliport as we loved the idea of getting to place our catwalk over the landing pads overlooking the sea, this had never been done before and we are always striving to challenge ourselves and demonstrate what can be done in Monaco.
ML: What is a typical day in the life of Isabell Kristensen?
IK: My day starts very early. I wake up and drink my coffee, I only drink a special chocolate coffee that I buy in Denmark, and travel all around the world with it. Immediately upon waking my head is already filling with designs, so I try to sketch as many out as possible, coffee in one hand pen in the other. After my coffee, depending on which country I find myself in, everyday is different.
ML: What is the advantage and disadvantage of being a woman in business?
IK: People often ask me how did I manage, starting a new business in such a competitive industry, building my business across different countries, expanding into new sectors, developing new products and all with four children? It is interesting how men never get asked this question, which I think exemplifies a great hidden advantage of being a women in business. So much of what we women do goes unnoticed and because of this we are often underestimated and also highly self-motivated. If you try working late on a collection, reviewing a new marketing campaign, analysing your figures all while simultaneously looking after your children, you develop laser focus and a strong ability to concentrate efficiently because your time is divided by four. The disadvantage is that there are not enough of us.
ML: What is the one app or device you cannot live without?
IK: Whatsapp, it keeps me connected to my family all over the world and often works faster than emails in business. Also, the music on my phone, the one thing I cannot live without is music.
ML: What is the best and worst part of aging as a woman?
IK: This is easy, the best part of maturing as a woman is grandchildren. I would not exchange time with my grandchildren for anything. The hardest part is probably glasses, I break mine all the time!
ML: I've read fun elements about you. You once filmed an underwatershoot and also you wanted to test zero gravity. Where do these ideascome from?
IK: Yes, I actually did do an underwater photo shoot in Monaco, and I will have to say in all my years of doing photo shoots it was definitely one of the hardest. Having to hold your breath and stay underwater with your eyes open long enough to take a picture was all part of the struggle, not to mention I was wearing an evening gown that had to be specially made to tolerate water. I also went into zero gravity, that entire experience was amazing, you cannot explain the feeling until you try it, it's like flying. I have always wanted to do a fashion show in zero gravity. These ideas come from a constant desire to turn thought into reality just as I do with designs, it is like I said dreams are so important so I try to fulfil mine and do what I dream. If I dream of flying I will find a way to fly!
ML: You have four grown children and grandchildren. What didmotherhood teach you about yourself?
IK: Yes I have four children and three grandchildren actually my eldest daughter has a son and recently had twin girls. I myself have three daughters and one son and they are all grown now. Motherhood is the most wonderful experience a woman can go through in her life and it teaches you a lot of things. I speak to each of my children and my parents each day. I also travel a lot and visit my family all over the world so I never go too long without seeing them. My son, Martin, works with me full-time often in different countries developing various areas of the business, but we are always together for the tough stuff, big projects, big collections, big deals so that strengthens the relationship. I love having family involved, my youngest was recently modelling at my show, she is so beautiful and so talented, for her at this stage walking the catwalk is like walking down the street.
[caption id="attachment_8102" align="alignnone" width="640"] Fashion show at the Yacht Club de Monaco during the 2016 Yacht Show.[/caption]
ML: What woman do you most admire for her elegance and style?
IK: Grace Kelly. Without a doubt, a true fashion icon, so effortlessly elegant. She achieved so much, a fantastic international career, a fantastic role model but most importantly a fantastic Mother. Remarkable women of her stature are a great source of inspiration and admiration. In my latest collection “Les beautés de la Mediterrannée” I could not help but consider the exquisite Princesse Grace Rose Garden as one of the Cote d’Azur’s most notably beautiful special places and a source of inspiration. The dresses inspired by the Princesse Grace Rose Garden were made up of dozens of carefully sewn silk organza roses, each with a delicately embellished rose bud.
ML: Can all women be feminine or do you have to wear the right clothes?
IK: Absolutely. I have always loved a woman’s shape. My first inspiration 25 years ago in London was Jessica Rabbit, a cartoon character, but I loved her voluptuous body. Women should be comfortable with themselves in their bodies whether they are one shape or another and I design clothes that bring out the individuality of the woman.
ML: Best piece of advice from another female?
IK: The best piece of advice I think I ever received was from my grandmother. She and I were very close and I used to spend everyday with her after school eating Danish pastries and playing cards. She was quite a character and never left the house without a hat. She taught me to be strong willed and believe in what one can achieve. At that time in Denmark people would always laugh at me when I said one day I would be a designer and live and work in London, the South of France and all over the world. With her advice, I believed in my dream and now I am sitting in Monaco with you.
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READ ALSO: The Women of Monaco Life, A Series: Anette ShineREAD ALSO: The Women of Monaco Life, A Series: Laurie and Sandie GiacobiArticle first published November 14, 2016.
[caption id="attachment_26426" align="alignnone" width="960"] On May 24, 1961, President and Mrs Kennedy welcomed Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco to the The White House. Photo: Facebook: Embassy of the Principality of Monaco in Washington, D.C./Corbis-Bettman[/caption]
The Embassy of Monaco has inaugurated its new premises in the heart of the US federal capital. The Chancellery is now located nearer the White House and the main ministries.
At the official ceremony at 888 17th Street, on Thursday, December 7, Her Excellency Maguy Maccario Doyle, Ambassador of Monaco to the USA, received many notable personalities, in the presence of Isabelle Rosabrunetto, Director General of Foreign Affairs and of Cooperation, and Marie Catherine Caruso, Director of Diplomatic and Consular Relations.
In her address, the Ambassador recalled the importance and the quality of the ties that unite the Principality and the United States.
As an example, on November 29 and 30, the Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission Karine Médecin-Lemon welcomed a delegation from the New Orleans Tricentennial commission to the Principality in preparation for Monaco’s participation in the Tricentennial celebrations in 2018.
The links between the Principality and New Orleans date back to Monaco’s first American Princess. According to the Embassy, Princess Alice of Monaco was born Alice Heine in New Orleans in 1857 and married Prince Albert I of Monaco in 1889.
[caption id="attachment_26424" align="alignnone" width="629"] Photo: Embassy of the Principality of Monaco in Washington, D.C.[/caption]
Headed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu-City of New Orleans, the delegation’s Monaco visit at the end of November included a welcome dinner with local officials, meetings with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Works, the Environment and Urban Development, the Monaco Economic Board, and a stop by the Casino de Monte-Carlo Jazz Festival.
The delegation’s visit culminated with lunch at the Palace in the presence of Prince Albert.
[caption id="attachment_25152" align="alignnone" width="960"] Christmas swim in Monaco December 24, 2016. Photo: Facebook Association Les Amis du Bain de Noël de Monaco[/caption]
Today is November 15. This morning I roused a few Christmas decorations from hibernation and placed them enthusiastically on the mantle as Holiday Radio played non-stop Christmas Classics on my internet radio.
My Joy to the World spirit wasn’t always so. As a child, Christmas was a happy time, a household full of friends and family, music and Grandma Gray’s shortbread. I was in the church junior choir, and my mom, a classically trained contralto who turned mezzo-then-soprano, accompanied us on the piano.
But I have never been at ease with the commercial side of the holiday – it still strikes me odd that we have to buy something for someone – and for as long as I can remember, would volunteer at a home for the elderly, a soup kitchen, or a suicide hot line on December 25. As I got older, I moved around a lot, within Canada and France and eventually Christmas was a day far removed from carols and eggnog with loved ones.
That all changed in November 2008 when I was invited to visit Santa Claus at the opening of Santa’s Village in Lapland, on the border of the Arctic Circle, courtesy of Finnair and Rovaniemi Tourism.
Like any other interview, I did my research. Since 1985, Santa had been greeting some 300,000 visitors each day of the year in his “office” – a welcoming room with a fireplace, sacks of gifts, bookshelves and a photo-taking elf and dominated by a 10 metre cogwheel, known as the earth’s rotation device.
It wasn’t just children who waited for their turn to sit on Santa’s knee. As I made way along the winding corridor, thousands of photos, from international celebrities to public figures with St Nick, lined the walls.
I wrote at the time, “It is here in this room where the untainted faith of our youth, when anything was possible, resurfaces; as though the confession of an innermost wish to a gigantic man in a red suit puts you in good graces with higher powers. It is, quite simply, magic.”
And that’s when it happened. Santa asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I felt childlike and wide-eyed, I believed anything was possible.
The jadedness that had slowly blinded my vision over all the years melted away and was replaced by hope.
I flew back to Nice and booked a flight to Toronto on December 25 to surprise my family. On Christmas Day, I showed up at my sister’s doorstep and had a truly memorable visit.
I went into the New Year chiming “in 2009, dreams will be mine”. Nine months later, I reconnected with the love of my life, who had proposed to me in 1993 after we met on a French immersion program in Quebec. He moved to France and we married on December 24 in 2010. Yup, he too loves Christmas.
[gallery td_select_gallery_slide="slide" size="large" ids="25156,25157,25154,25153,25155"]
So when I heard last year about the annual Christmas swim in Monaco on December 24, organised by the Association les Amis du Bain de Noël de Monaco, I was ecstatic. My favourite holiday combined with my favourite sport and for charity.
Some 150 people turned out – families with kids, couples on bikes, friends and colleagues – sporting Santa hats, red t-shirts and even costumes to spend a convivial morning on the beach and enjoying the music and entertainment.
This year’s Bain de Noel, 10 am at Larvotto’s Rose des Vents beach, will be the very first time in the event’s thirteen years that the swim will take place on Saturday, December 16, instead of the day before Christmas due to a schedule conflict (no, not with Santa).
Money raised, as always, will be donated to a Monaco-based charitable organisation. This year les Amis du Bain have chosen an association that supports children of the Monaco Police force who are in difficulty – L'Amicale d'Entraide et de Prévoyance des Fonctionnaires de la Sûreté Publique.
On-site registration, €10, includes a raffle ticket, croissants and coffee.
I’m giving a month's notice in sending out a Monaco Life challenge to all of you – sports groups and clubs (COCC, AS Monaco rugby and friends, BOOST, Club 39), social and non-profit associations (Outward Bound Monaco, Child CARE Monaco, Monaco Air League, TEDx), restaurants and entrepreneurs (Stars'nBars, Blue Coast Brewing Company, MonacoTech, l'Orangerie, Les Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises de Monaco, JCEM), my fellow journalists at Riviera Radio, Monaco-Matin, Monaco Info, and, of course, students at ISM and IUM – whether you live in Monaco or not, to come out and smash last year’s number of 150 participants for the annual Christmas swim.
Before you moan about the cold sea temperature, think about it this way. I’m asking you to stand or dip into the 15°C water for a group photo. Yes, it’s going to be uncomfortable, but facing that challenge for five minutes is nothing compared to what these kids face for an entire lifetime.
Ho, ho, hope … see you December 16.
For more see the Association Les Amis du Bain de Noël de Monaco's Facebook page @baindenoelmonaco. Article first published November 15, 2017.
[caption id="attachment_8673" align="alignleft" width="1024"] Al Hoceima National Park, Morocco[/caption]
M2PA, the Association for the Sustainable Financing of Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas, has granted its first funding to protected areas in the Maghreb.
At the second Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Forum in the Mediterranean, held in Tangier from November 28 until December 1, its president, Xavier Sticker, has announced the granting of its first funding in favour of marine protected areas in Morocco and Tunisia. This funding, amounting to €60,000, will help to cover priority needs for day-to-day management.
In Morocco the Al Hoceima National Park, and in Tunisia the Kuriat Islands will benefit from the funding.
Initiated by France, Monaco, Tunisia and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and joined by Morocco, Albania and four regional organisations, M2PA has been developing a trust fund that has already secured financial contributions from the Government of the Principality of Monaco and, more recently, new donors such as the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Basel Zoo and the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.
During the Tangier Forum, M2PA will hold its third General Assembly. In particular, it will adopt a programme of action for 2017, which will intensify support to Mediterranean marine areas by developing a compendium of contributions from public, private and multilateral donors.
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HSH Prince Albert has announced that the Philadelphia home of his mother, Princess Grace, will open to the public by 2018.
In an interview with PEOPLE Magazine, the Prince said that the refurbished 6-bedroom brick colonial mansion at 3901 Henry Avenue could open sooner. He bought the house last autumn after it had been on the open market for several months.
In addition to being a museum open for special events, the building will house regional offices of the Princess Grace Foundation and a US extension of Monaco’s Princess Grace Irish Library.
The house, built in 1935 by Albert’s grandfather John B. Kelly, was where Prince Albert’s father, Prince Rainier, proposed to then actress Grace Kelly.
The Prince said that opening the house as a usual museum was not what he has in mind, adding that it is important to keep the neighbourhood’s residential quality.
“While it is a historical landmark, I don’t think that a dedicated museum is the right avenue to take. There will though be any number of events which will facilitate public viewing.”
Monaco’s Irish Library was founded in 1984 by Prince Rainier, as a tribute to Grace’s love of literature. The Library holds regular events and sponsors lectures and visiting authors.
“I hadn’t seen the house in a good many summers and some of it is in relatively good shape,” he told PEOPLE. “The previous owner hadn’t touched some parts in 40 years.
“Seeing it without furniture was odd,” he added. “And, it seems a little small. Of course, when you’re young everything seems bigger.”
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