One of the world's most famous luxury hotel brands is getting into the polo game in a big way this summer with the first annual St. Regis International Cup. England and Italy will compete for the prestigious trophy in the inaugural match, taking place this Sunday (the 31st) at the historic Cowdray Park Polo Club in West Sussex, surrounded by the ruins of Cowdray Castle.
Of course, St. Regis isn't about to slack off when it comes to hospitality either. They've partnered with Asprey, Veuve Clicquot and Audi to create the ultimate VIP tent at Cowdray, where a crack regiment of St. Regis butlers brought in from the hotels will cater to the toffs' every need. Even the general public will be able to avail themselves of a bar serving the signature St. Regis Bloody Mary. Damned democratic of them, no?
If you missed out on one of those $100,000 Asprey shotguns we told you about that were auctioned off at Christie's in May, not to worry - Bonhams is holding its own Sporting Guns sale in London on July 30 where you can bid on some extremely fine pieces at a fraction of the cost. In actual fact, the highest priced guns at the Christie's sale were made by Holland & Holland, and there are several fine examples of their craft in the Bonhams sale. For instance, a 1947 12-bore 'Royal de Luxe' sidelock ejector shotgun with foliate-scroll engraving and gold inlays (above), est. $32,000 - $40,000, in its original leather case.
Also on offer: A fine lightweight 1934 12-bore over-and-under shotgun by J. Woodward, in a leather case, est. $40,000 - $50,000; a 10-bore 'Premiere' single-trigger over-and-under shotgun by E.J. Churchill, est. $20,000 - $30,000; a 1905 12-bore self-opening sidelock ejector gun by Purdey, est. only $10,000 - $14,000; and several fine vintage guncases including one stunning example executed in crocodile skin, est. only $400 - $800. See the gallery for pix.
Gallery: Bonhams Summer Sporting Guns
Filed under: Apparel
Asprey, the 200-year-old London luxury goods firm, is dropping its clothing and footwear lines to concentrate on core businesses like jewelry, silver and leathergoods. WWD reports the move is part of an initiative by the company's new President and CEO Robert Procop to shore up the historic brand. As we reported previously, Asprey changed direction in 1996 when the company was sold to Prince Jefri of Brunei. Its gunrooms were shuttered and additional clothing and accessory lines launched in an attempt to make the firm more fashionable. Gorgeous actress Keira Knightley (above, in Asprey designs) was subsequently hired on as spokesmodel.
Gallery: Asprey of London
Bamford's sporty classics with a bit of a natty twist - check out this cashmere shooting jacket paired with a purple cashmere sweater - are known for being extremely comfortable and well made. The company's motto is "A man's life should determine his clothes; not vice versa." Their craftsmanship and blend of "innovation and heritage" calls to mind a classic British sportscar with beautiful burled walnut inlays, chrome gauges and hand-stitched leather seats.
For fall, traditional items such as this shooting jacket, the classic pea coat, tweeds and trench coats are given a lighter, more contemporary feel. Organic, sustainable and natural fibers are used, never synthetics. It may surprise you to know that not only is this shooting jacket water-resistant, but it is treated with a natural moisture repellent derived from the lotus flower rather than any nasty chemicals. If you bought one of those beautiful $100,000 Asprey shotguns we wrote about, this is the jacket to do it justice.
Gallery: Bamford & Sons for Fall
2008 is the 60th anniversary of storied British SUV manufacturer Land Rover, and to mark the occasion the company has embarked on a "Choice of Experts" tour showcasing its capabilities. The other day we caught up with them at the historic Astor Courts in Rhinebeck, N.Y, designed by Stanford White as a country retreat for John Jacob Astor IV in 1902. It was the perfect setting for a brand that has come to signify rugged elegance and luxurious rusticity, and while there we got the opportunity to drive a new Range Rover Sport on a hazardous off-road course that showed style and comfort needn't sacrifice anything in the way of practical ability.
We've owned both Land Rovers and Range Rovers over the years, and though these days we don't particularly miss pulling up to the gas pump we certainly pine for them whenever the weather turns particularly nasty or we're called upon to do even the slightest bit of off-roading, so it was something of a treat. Land Rover and especially the Range Rover is the automotive embodiment of a distinctly English aesthetic - regular readers of The Classicist will recognize this as a recurring motif - as portrayed in books like Bernhard Roetzel's British Tradition. The luxe Range Rover was first introduced in 1970, expanding upon the utilitarian Land Rover first designed by the Wilks Brothers in 1948.
The Queen of England drives a Range Rover in the country, and Prince Charles is a longtime enthusiast. His 1978 Range Rover was auctioned off on eBay in 2005. While out for sport in inclement weather he is said to have simply opened a special "huntsman" sunroof, stood on the back seat and poked his Asprey shotgun out to shoot from the comfort of the cabin. We can't say we've ever tried that maneuver and we daresay it isn't the sort of thing encouraged by the company these days. In any case there was unfortunately no shooting to be had at Astor Courts, only demonstrations about cooking and decorating and so forth, but such are the depredations of the modern era.
Gallery: Land Rover's 60th Anniversary
On Saturday, renowned French champagne house Veuve Clicquot staged the first polo match in Manhattan in 70 years. The match, between two North American Polo League (NAPL) teams - Ralph Lauren's Black Watch, captained by Polo model Nacho Figueras, and Asprey's Skeeterville, captained by Will Johnston - was played on Governor's Island, the 172-acre former Army base on Manhattan's southern tip. New York is often cited as the birthplace of American polo c.1876, and Army officers played the sport on Governor's Island until just before the onset of World War II in 1941. Black Watch bested Asprey 10 - 6 in the inaugural match of the Veuve Cliquot Manhattan Polo Classic. Veuve Clicquot has long supported polo in Europe, and since last year other parts of the U.S. as well, such as the Greenwich Polo Club in Connecticut.
Gallery: Veuve Cliquot & Polo
As a side note to Bonhams' classic car auction at the annual Greenwich Concours d'Elegance in Connecticut this weekend, the sale also includes some reminders of a more elegant age of motoring. In addition to the amazing automobiles on offer, there are a few rare examples of perfectly-preserved traveling cocktail, picnic and tea sets in leather cases from the 1910s and '20s.
More elegant and elaborate antecedents of the kind of picnic sets still produced by the likes of Dunhill - such as the one my colleague Rigel Gregg wrote about the other day - these are the sort of cases one's servants would put into the boot of the Rolls for a day's motoring along with a hamper of delectables from Fortnum & Mason (which are still available today - see the gallery for a picture of their $200 Regent hamper featuring champagne, truffles, paté and port).
Included in the Greenwich auction is this gorgeous Dunhill traveling cocktail set from the 1920s featuring a nickel cocktail shaker, four stacking tumblers, a glass bitters bottle with a silver plated top and three silver plated spirit flasks, in a monogrammed honey leather carrying case, est. $3,000 - $4,000. If these days it seems a bit odd that so much thought and effort went into ways of drinking and driving, remember that as often as not one's chauffeur did the actual work behind the wheel.
Gallery: Traveling in Style
Two of the very last shotguns ever produced by 200-year-old London luxury goods firm Asprey were sold at Christie's in London Wednesday for over $120,000. The exceptionally exquisite firearms, included in the auction house's Fine Sporting Guns and Rifles sale, "mark the end of a tradition of impeccably executed gun craft," Christie's notes. Asprey, supplier to the aristocracy and longtime holder of Royal Warrants, closed its gunrooms for good in 1996 shortly after these final pieces were made when the company was acquired by Prince Jefri of Brunei. Prince Charles and George Bush both own Asprey shotguns similar to the ones featured in the sale.
Although Asprey guns are a thing of the past, Asprey scion William Asprey is carrying on the family's sporting tradition at his new firm, William & Son. As we reported previously, he is not allowed to use the Asprey name in trade. William opened his own gunroom at his company's Mayfair premises and is now selling equally impressive pieces. Also hammered down in the Christie's sale were a pair of 12-bore double-barreled shotguns made by Holland & Holland in 1976, for $118,000; a 1969 .375 magnum double-barreled rifle, also by Holland & Holland, for $94,000; a double-barreled 1906 sporting rifle by Purdey, for $31,000; and a modern 12-bore Beretta shotgun, $16,000, all with beautiful engraving and woodwork.
Gallery: Sporting Guns Sale
It's one of the economic vagaries of the business that storied British luxury goods firm Asprey of London no longer has any connection (save an historical one) with the actual Asprey family. After the 200-year-old company was sold to Prince Jeffri of Brunei in the '90s, family scion William Asprey decided to start his own firm catering to the aristocratic trade (Asprey had long held royal warrants). However, he discovered to his dismay that he was no longer entitled to the use of his own last name; while Prince Jefri subsequently unloaded Asprey to a hedge fund, William opened a beautiful shop in London's Mayfair under the name William & Son.
Under its new owners Asprey has gone in an increasingly fashionable direction, and while producing some beautiful things it has suffered financial setbacks from over-enthusiastic expansion. William & Son by contrast hearkens back to Asprey's traditional roots, and still maintains an air of clubby exclusivity in its Mayfair premises (pictured above), which stocks high-end jewelry, silver, watches, leathergoods, china and crystal. A key facet of the business is its bespoke service, which will basically fashion anything you like in whatever precious material strikes your fancy as long as you can afford it. More recently William added an adjacent gun room, where beautiful silver-inlaid shotguns can now be had for $100,000 and up. He is certainly following through on his promise to "maintain his family's reputation in the historic splendour of No. 10 Mount Street." And what's in a name, after all?
Gallery: William & Son, London
Filed under: Dining
Gallery: The Pricey Tomes
British jewelry and luxury goods company, Asprey has created a 2006 Christmas cracker. Christmas crackers are a classic British Christmas dinner tradition, tubes of paper containing gifts and goodies which are pulled apart at the dinner table. The Asprey crackers are available with a variety of surprises inside including a small red leather notebook and pen, heart necklace, keychain, cufflinks or a purse atomizer. Each cracker also contains a paper crown, balloon and a quotation. The crackers sells for £125 each but are also available in packs of six or twelve.
Victoria Beckham is hosting a huge auction at her pre-World Cup, "Full Length and Fabulous" party on May 21. She has managed to get together over £2 million of luxury items for the sale, the profits from which will all be donated to Unicef. The items up for sale include a £1million diamond necklace from Asprey, his-and-her diamond-encrusted watches from Jacob & Co., valued at £600,000, and a £300,000 limited edition Bentley.
The bash will be hosted at the Beckhams home, dubbed Beckingham Palace. James Brown and Robbie Williams are performing for the 400 A-list guests, while top chef Gordon Ramsey will be doing the cooking. The guest list includes Prince Charles, Elton John, Liz Hurley, Tom Cruise and, of course, the rest of the English World Cup football team.
Filed under: Jewelry