Is sustainable luxury an oxymoron? On the contrary, it is an exciting opportunity for us to bask in the pleasure that the finest things in life have to offer, while respecting the resources of our planet and giving back to those who make our gorgeous surroundings possible. No need to cringe at the buzzwords “Sustainable”, “Eco-friendly” or, worse yet “Environmental”, the principles of sustainability and luxury go hand-in-hand: the notion of Time, the pricelessness of Heritage, and the magic of Rarity. Both evoke creation, pleasure and emotion.
Saint-Exupéry once said “We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children”. Patek Philippe would agree. So would the new and upcoming yacht-owning generations – the dynamic, committed Millennials and the casual, nomadic Gen Z’s. Their concern about the future of our mothership and its denizens has been shown to influence heavily their choice of high-end purchases towards respectful, environmentally innovative and ethical sources. Today we can sail away into the sunset knowing that there is no question of compromise in aesthetics, comfort and function when choosing a sustainable interior, especially a demanding, richly detailed and exquisitely crafted superyacht interior. From the mirror perfect finish of lacquered walls to the soft caress of opulent bedding, from the dramatic glow of lamps and chandeliers, to the delicate glassware glinting on a sumptuously laid table, Sustainable Luxury finds will titillate the most sophisticated of tastes. One of my faves is salmon skin or the exotic skin of the Pirarucu of the Amazon, considered only a few years ago as a waste by-product of the fishing industry. There is nothing fishy about today’s luxurious, velvety leathers, tanned in a myriad of rich hues and offering a variety of seductive textures. Ermenegildo Zegna and Oscar Metsavaht integrate this upcycled material with a flourish in their fashion pieces while BMW has crafted a custom interior with a suede version. This stunning and sensual fabric is now a prized option in sustainable textile finishes for yacht designers as with Design Unlimited and Atlantic Leathers in the striking Pink Gin VI interiors, and drastically improves the lives of struggling fishing villages.
Left: Sumptuous suede finish of Atlantic Leathers salmon skins / Right: Balinese farmed seashell and recycled sterling silver as tableware
And from marine waste of another sort, impeccably executed, jaw-dropping pieces, made for contemporary superyacht furnishing, are born of the debris we hear so much of today – ocean plastic litter. Brodie Neill, recipient of numerous design awards, has dreamed up a table whose mesmerizing surface evokes the deep blue while exuding the total elegance of a design masterpiece. For the more daring, Stuart Haygarth, the chou-chou of flotsam and jetsam, cosmetically transfigures plastic objects into a dazzling, ethereal chandelier, as he charmingly puts it, “in the shape of the moon whose force created the tide that washed these items ashore.” Nature Squared, whose expertise in transforming natural waste materials is undisputed, has made its mark in the yachting industry and most importantly in the lives of hundreds of families in the Philippines where founders Lay Koon Toon and Paul Hoeve have lovingly trained men and women over the past two decades to become brilliant masters in the Art of Upcycling. Magicians of dexterity, they metamorphose seashells, egg shells, leaves, feathers and bone, among many other remnants, through an endless range of colours and designs into well over 3000 exquisite surfaces to be customised to the wildest of tastes and fantasies, expressed as panelling, furniture, lighting, bathroom fixtures, you name it. Nearly all their materials are IMO certified to meet the stringent flammability compliance required for the largest private yachts, and for any designer, digging around in the opulent set of choices is like being in the proverbial candy store, where leftover scraps have become pure glamour.
“Ocean Terrazzo” , fragments of ocean plastic waste, give depth to Brodie Neill’s Gyro table
And what is life on a yacht without the perfect bed to rock its guest to sleep, accompanied by the soft lullaby of the waves? Savoir Beds, a landmark in luxury living, is a beacon of sustainability. Its mattresses, custom-designed to each client’s requirements, are manufactured with only natural materials, including the casing of its springs, the process nearing zero waste. Savoir Beds craftsmen are acknowledged, long-standing virtuosos, each one of whom is assigned a mattress and proudly signs his finished, numbered piece, giving it a near lifetime warranty. If that is not the epitome of sustainability celebrating luxury, what is? The dazzling list of materials, objects and lighting emerging from this new design ethos is endless and I’d love to tell you more, but, my Oyster Bamboo fishing rod in hand, it is time for me, as Mark Twain put it, to Catch the Trade Winds in my Sails…Explore, Dream and Discover… yet another captivating find in the brave new world of Sustainable Luxury.
From left to right: Stuart Haygarth created the “TIDE” chandelier with beach plastic debris / Nature Squared inlay of farmed mussel and gold mother of pearl shell / Amazonian Pirarucu fish skin design presented by Osklen at the New York fashion week
Cover picture: Oyster Bamboo’s handcrafts its bespoke bamboo fishing rods using recycled gold and sterling silver
Serbo-Swiss Monaco-based designer Milena Cvijanovich owns an interior architecture firm and sustainable luxury consultancy. Milena has worked with luxury brands such as Blancpain and numerous high net worth private clients. With a Masters in Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University and inspired by her physicist father, one of the first inventors of the solar panel, Milena has taught sustainable luxury at European MBA programs. She is involved in several high-end projects incorporating the new trend of fusing sustainability with the world of luxury and combining heritage conservation, environmental protection and social entrepreneurship with interesting investment opportunities.