EXCLUSIVE: St. Regis Hotels & Resorts Head Paul James' Ten Essential Luxuries
Paul James is the Global Brand Leader for St. Regis Hotels & Resorts and The Luxury Collection, Starwood's two world-renowned, luxury hospitality brands. Under this role James is responsible for providing the overall strategic and creative direction for St. Regis, the legendary hotel brand committed to excellence and bespoke service at the best addresses in the world, and The Luxury Collection, a glittering ensemble of one-of-a-kind destinations and indigenous experiences designed for the global explorer. Over the last year, James has been instrumental in creating a long term strategy of meaningful growth for both St. Regis and The Luxury Collection brands in the world's most enviable destinations. Since taking on his current role, St. Regis and The Luxury Collection have successfully debuted properties in new markets including Atlanta, Indonesia, Mexico, Moscow, Peru, and Scotland. Over the next five years, James will oversee their continued expansion with the opening of properties in Abu Dhabi, Bermuda, Buenos Aires, Cairo, China, Japan, Jordan, Peru, and more.
James has more than 20 years experience in hospitality, serving most recently as Starwood's Regional Director of Sales & Marketing, NW Europe. In that role, he was in charge of the sales and marketing teams of 35 hotels in nine countries across seven brands, with revenues in excess of $1 billion. This fall, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts will continue its extraordinary global expansion by opening four world-class properties in Puerto Rico, Osaka, Bangkok and Lhasa, solidifying its position and the leader in luxury hospitality and doubling its footprint in just two years. This global growth will expand the brand's footprint to include the Caribbean with The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Puerto Rico, and continuing its growth in Asia with The St. Regis Osaka, The St. Regis Lhasa Resort and The St. Regis Bangkok. Offering the St. Regis' iconic bespoke services and amenities, unrivalled luxury and refined elegance, the spectacular new properties join the brand's distinguished portfolio of quintessential addresses around the world. In the gallery are images of James' essential luxuries; continued below you'll find his explanations about what makes them a must.
Gallery: Paul James' 10 Essential Luxuries
1. Time – via a Butler
The ultimate luxury (as somebody's brilliant online campaign said - oh, yes, that was ours!) I allow myself 18 minutes of pure luxury everyday - either walking to or from the office with a Blackberry buried in my pocket and my mind free to be inspired. Which brings me to the St. Regis Butler, for it isn't the actual, packing, pressing, shopping activities which makes them indispensable, it is in the way that their seamless handling of these tasks wrestles 'time for you' from the densest of schedules – true luxury! Sadly, I have no Jeeves at home to defend me from the world's Aunt Agathas, but as I have the privilege of traveling around the ever-growing portfolio of St. Regis hotels, I am beginning to find the discreet presence of these remarkable individuals, almost indispensable.
2. Dunhill Facet Watch
Never one for 'watch porn' I don't drool over watches that need shirt cuffs to be re-tailored to allow for their sheer size. Dunhill's classic facet faced watch moves from boardroom to banquet with ease.
3. Smythson & Thornwillow Stationery
Even in today's online, on time world, a handwritten note on personal stationery marks out the thoughtful from the Tweeterati. In New York, I like Thornwillow, but then printers should be as personal as tailors.
4. The Horizon
If luxury is scarcity, then in New York, the horizon is like gold dust - I choose to roost on the edge Manhattan, so that I can see where sea, sky and land blur. I was born at sea-level and it's where I prefer to stay, even if the rent is doubled. Today, I covet the private roofdecks of the penthouses at The Riverhouse at Battery Park!
Yes, the 'buzz word' of post-crunch luxury, but the 'secret' that I wish I'd been given when I was 21. Suits, shirts, even ties should 'fit'. My first experience was not even bespoke, but a custom suit fitting at Gieves & Hawkes on Savile Row – knowing nobody else had a suit quite like this was my 'ah ha' moment. As summer approaches, I may be back for a linen jacket - the Englishman's defense against dress-down Fridays!
6. A Car
Another New York conundrum... if the car defined America, then it must have passed New York by! Normally this 'essential luxury' would talk about leather and wood and detailing and engineering excellence and the harmony of man and machine. I might weep salt tears about the unattainability of a Bristol 402/5 or about the little Italian who recently turned by head (Maserati GT Convertible if you must know) but here I am marooned on a pot-holed, pedestrian friendly, cab-infested island, for the first time in a my life A Pedestrian!
7. A Good Book
"And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by" - Man does not live by quarterly reports and Brand Activity plans alone. Branding is about passion and understanding what drive peoples' passions is found in poetry and prose and not the Harvard Business Review (although we need that too). Knowing Masefield's Sea Fever may get me closer to the 'mind of man' knowing that 'I must go down to the sea again' is the opening line of that poem, gets me to the next round in Jeopardy! John Masefield also wrote a long poem called King Cole (McMillan New York, 1922) perfect reading for a certain bar at 5th & E.55th?
8. Monks Shoes From Cole Haan
Accepting that "Gentlemen never wear slip-ons" this is the Englishman's essential dress-down. Previously scarce, John Lobb has a beautiful version; they were like hen's teeth in the USA, but no longer, thanks to the Cole Haan/Nike partnership.
9. The Artisan
I am passionate about food. The craft of producing the finest, the best, the uniquely bizarre has always fascinated me. From garage wine-makers to hand-made cheese producers, I want to feel the passion they have for their product. The essence of all luxury lies in this almost unbalanced pursuit of excellence, it is what drove the great Champagne houses, perfumers, saddle-maker, even hoteliers to create what are now luxury icons. If you want to see what I mean, Google Julian Temperley (I am a West Country boy, so Cider is in my blood) or taste the house made charcuterie at The Nines, a Luxury Collection hotel.
My wife is an equestrian, so I find it hard to avoid horses in my life. I had however struggled to find 'my' point of view on the subject until I was reintroduced to a sport I had a small run in with in my youth – polo. The spectacle, the adrenaline, the passion of owners, riders, spectators, it is addictive. Luckily for me, I am entirely the wrong shape to participate, so a warm summer's day, an appropriate drink in hand (Pimms No. 1 Cup by preference) and I can settle down to be a badly informed spectator. I am extremely excited that the 2010 Polo Season in the UK will open at Cowdray Park with the 3rd St. Regis International Cup, this year between England and South Africa.