It's the second Friday of May. You're a couple of days away from turning up to Mother's Day dinner with a flower arrangement that (a) you didn't order in advance so it's pretty much an assortment of leftovers the florist managed to collate, and (b) you're kinda screwed, dude.

Not to bring up an Asian mother trope, but we sure she's going to be nice about receiving a floral bouquet, before flicking through Facebook or her Whatsapp group chat with [insert aunty's name] showcase of the gift her thoughtful son got her. It's no competition, yes. But she definitely deserves something more.

Thankfully, there are plenty of last-minute Mother's Day gift options out there that you don't even need to sneakily get her sizes for. And we've scoured 10 just for you.

Ella Boston bag, MCM

(MCM)

Adorned with the signature Visetos monogram, the Ella Boston Bag in Maxi Visetos epitomises timeless elegance and contemporary allure. Drawing inspiration from vintage travel trunks of Munich's golden era, this bag boasts a leather hang tag and a logo-engraved metal padlock, paying homage to its jet-setting heritage. Red roses? Nah.

Diva's Dream necklaces, BVLGARI

(BULGARI)

How do you honour a mother's invaluable and nurturing love? Bulgari’s exquisite Diva's Dream necklaces might offer a radiant answer. Featuring signature shapes with mother of pearl inserts and vibrant malachite, these timeless pieces symbolise unconditional love—a perfect tribute to the extraordinary mothers in our lives.

Rogue Dior lipstick, DIOR BEAUTY

(DIOR BEAUTY)

Encased in a sleek, new design with magnetic closure, a Rouge Dior red lip never goes out of style. Its long-lasting formula ensures comfort, enriched with hydrating lip care for nourishment. There's a spectrum of shades in matte velvet and satin finishes—the matte velvet finish grants full, soft lips with a weightless feel, while the satin finish imparts brightness and shape. More than just a lipstick, it's also a small piece of luxury that she'll be able to carry with her wherever she goes.

Origami Flowers by Atelier Oï, LOUIS VUITTON 

(LOUIS VUITTON)

We know we’ve been veering from the usual flower choices, but bear with us—these aren't your typical blooms. These exquisite origami flowers are crafted by Atelier Oï in collaboration with Louis Vuitton. It's a partnership that celebrates craftsmanship with creations inspired by emotional material encounters. Each leather petal reflects a story of love and care, reflecting the essence of maternal strength as well as the beauty of handmade artistry. If you want to get her flowers, get her these ones that won't wither after a week.

Collection de l’Atelier, HENRY JACQUES

(HENRY JACQUES)

Made from the handpicked roses cultivated in the House's new Southern France atelier, Henry Jacques reveals its latest expression, Collection de l’Atelier. The limited edition collection features three distinct fragrances—Rose Soleil, Rose Trés Rose, and Rose Azur—in generous 30ml volumes to emphasise the rarity, preciousness and quality. Also available as a set of three, elegantly presented in a handcrafted chest. Limited to just 500 bottles, each a singular creation, this collection is an exclusive offering never to be duplicated. 

Rocking Horse bag, BURBERRY

(BURBERRY)

Handcrafted in Italy from textured calf leather, the Rocking Horse Bag blends nostalgic charm with modern versatility. Featuring a unique "b" closure, it's a nod to the classic rocking horse toy. With an adjustable strap, it effortlessly transitions from shoulder to crossbody wear. Embellished with the iconic tartan-check pattern, this medium version in Lichen ensures versatility and ample space for your mother's everyday needs.

Slides, GUCCI

(GUCCI)

Just as mothers gracefully navigate the twists and turns of parenting, shoes likewise adapt to diverse terrains. Show your appreciation with a pair of Gucci slide sandals—a perfect nod to their resilience and elegance. Crafted from light blue denim, these slide sandals are adorned with an embroidered Gucci script and striped accents, merging style with comfort seamlessly.

Replenishing Moisture collection set, LA MER 

(LA MER)

Pamper mom with the La Mer Replenishing Moisture Collection Set. This limited-edition set comprises of La Mer's hydrating Treatment Lotion, transformative Eye Concentrate, protective Lime Tea Concentrate, and luxurious Hydrating Infused Emulsion and Crème De La Mer. With indulgent moisture in four simple steps, it's the perfect pampering solution for radiant, youthful-looking skin, suitable for all skin types.

Les Eaux d'Issey Solar Violet, ISSEY MIYAKE PARFUMS

(ISSEY MIYAKE PARFUMS)

Issey Miyake introduces L’Eau d’Issey Solar Violet. This new fragrance pay homage to nature's beauty, embodying the transformation of water after encountering the sublime. L’Eau d’Issey Solar Violet, crafted by perfumer Marie Salamagne, merges freshness with sensuality, featuring luminous violet and sunny pear notes. Dermatologically tested and suitable for sun exposure with proper protection, it makes a thoughtful gift as a celebration of the radiant spirit of motherhood.

Airstrait straightener, DYSON

(DYSON)

The Dyson Airstrait Straightener revolutionises hair straightening with air, not heat. Its innovative design allows for simultaneous drying and straightening from wet, without hot plates, ensuring no heat damage. Featuring precise directional airflow and intelligent heat control, it safeguards hair's natural shine by measuring temperature 16 times per second. No more accidentally burning her fingers for mom.

As the warmth of the Italian summer approaches, Gucci unveils a new collection, Gucci Lido—"Lido" referring to luxurious beach resorts that are plenty on the Italian coastline. The summer-ready collection pays homage to the enchanting allure of coastal living, capturing the essence of sun-kissed days and effortless, carefree moments of the season. 

The Gucci Lido campaign sees creative director Sabato De Sarno teaming up with photographer Anthony Seklaoui to capture themes of escapism and spontaneity. From swimwear to breezy resortwear, the collection offers a range of pieces that seamlessly blends luxury with comfort—the makings of a perfect summer wardrobe.

The Gucci Jackie and GG Marmont bags are refreshed in straw-effect raffia and canvas for a more laid-back aesthetic while easily set to become a summer essential. Neon-hued trims add a playful spin on the classic GG canvas that range from small accessories such as cardholders to duffel bags and luggage. And to complete the Lido aesthetic, pieces dressed in neoprene and finished with cable trims take on a more literal approach.

To bring the Gucci Lido experience to life, Gucci has erected a pop-up (the only one in the world) at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Located right outside the Gucci boutique on the first floor, the pop-up showcases the full range of clothing and accessories from the collection, as well as a number of exclusives.

The Gucci Lido pop-up is located at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Level 1 Grand Colonnade South until 19 May 2024.

Given the increasingly intertwined realms of fashion and design, it's expected that major fashion labels continue to expand their design repertoire into furniture during Milan Design Week. As the world's largest furniture fair, the event showcases the latest in furniture and design, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. Below, we take a closer look at a number of furniture collections and collaborations by fashion brands that were released and showcased during the week. 

MCM

Titled the "MCM Wearable Casa Collection", the collection by MCM was created in collaboration with Atelier Biagetti and curated by Maria Cristina Didero. This was the MCM's first time taking part in Milan Design Week, yet the collection effortlessly showcased its authenticity. MCM is known for its rebellious spirit, and this collection reimagines the role of furniture through unconventional designs that fit into the avant-garde. The collection brings the audience out of this world with its portable and multifunctional pieces in thought-provoking designs.

Longchamp

Longchamp held an exhibition at its boutique on Via della Spiga from 15 to 21 April, spotlighting on studio högl borowski—headed by Viennese design duo Stefanie Högl and Matthias Borowski. Through the their careful selection of materials used, unique sensory experiences are constantly being explored. Ranging from furniture to sculptural objects, studio högl borowski’s innovative pieces create new dialogues between fashion, art and design. Borowski’s fascination for craftsmanship, shapes and proportions and Högl’s love for colour, materiality and telling stories often lead to their unique compositions in designs.

Saint Laurent Rive Droit

Saint Laurent Rive Droite teamed up with the Gio Ponti Archives, Ginori 1735 and the Fundación Anala y Armando Planchart to exhibit the Villa Planchart Segnaposto Plates collection. Originally designed by Gio Ponti, the collection is decorated with various symbols of the villa of Anala and Amando Planchart. These traditionally crafted decorative porcelain plates are painted by hand in Ginori 1735’s Italian Manifattura. The Gio Ponti-Villa Planchart exhibition was held during Milan Design Week at the Chiostri di San Simpliciano. The limited-edition plates are now available for sale online as well as at the Saint Laurent Rive Droite boutiques in Los Angeles and Paris.

Versace

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Versace opened their doors to their original Milan home and design Atelier at Palazzo Versace, Via Gesù 12, to showcase the latest Versace Home collection. The collection's designs prominently feature iconic symbols like the Medusa, Barocco, and Greca, exuding luxury in true Versace style. Visitors immersed themselves in the rich history of Palazzo Versace through an audio experience titled "Versace Home: If These Walls Could Talk". It narrated stories of the Palazzo's significance in fashion and culture, including the historic Fendace fashion show that saw the coming together of Fendi and Versace.

Bottega Veneta

Bottega Veneta collaborated with Cassina and Fondation Le Corbusier to present On the Rocks at Palazzo San Fedele, focusing on the LC14 Tabouret Cabanon. Le Corbusier originally designed the Tabouret for his cabin, and took inspiration from a washed-up whiskey box. It features masterful dovetail joints and oblong openings. The exhibition showcased custom editions of the Tabouret, including a new limited-edition tribute in signature Bottega Veneta's Intrecciato. The wooden editions feature a traditional Japanese charred-wood technique, providing natural protection to the wood while revealing the unique patterns of the wood grain. On the Rocks also offered a glimpse into Palazzo San Fedele, that's soon to become Bottega Veneta's headquarters.

Hermès

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Hermès presented a captivating blend of contemporary home collections with iconic heritage designs, showcasing their enduring commitment to craftsmanship and excellence. Inspired by vibrant jockey silk jersey motifs, leather goods and intricately crafted blankets in subtle shades take centrestage alongside luxurious cashmere bedspreads featuring intricate patterns. The new Diapason d’Hermès lounge chair in leather and hammered aluminium, along with ethereal lamps inspired by equestrian vaulting, reflected Hermès' innovative design approach. The showcase epitomises Hermès' spirit of merging artistic excellence with impeccable craftsmanship, creating timeless pieces imbued with sophistication and style.

Giorgio Armani

Giorgio Armani reopened the doors of Palazzo Orsini, the brand's historic headquarters, to present the new Armani/Casa collection entitled "Echi dal mondo" ("Echoes from the World"). Each room in Palazzo Orsini corresponded to a geographical area that inspired Armani throughout his career, identifiable by nods to different aesthetics and fashion cultures. Inspired by atmospheres, colours and shapes encountered during Armani’s travels or research, the collection is presented in settings never been seen before, offering an intimate experience. It was seamlessly integrated with Armani’s personal memories and travel mementos, weaving a narrative that celebrated creativity, craftsmanship and diverse cultural influences.

Loewe

Loewe engaged 24 different artists to create a new collection of lamps as part of its Milan Design Week effort titled, "Loewe Lamps". Utilising a wide range of mediums, the collection centres around the manipulation of light. The floor, table, and suspended lamps—presented in the Palazzo Citterio—were materialised using bamboo, paper, leather, and glass into innovative forms inspired by natural and man-made objects. Among the featured artists, Genta Ishizuka's suspended lamp stood out, reflecting an organic cell with glossy lacquer layers and gold finishing.

Gucci

Gucci’s creative director Sabato De Sarno’s gravitation towards Rosso Ancora was further established in Design Ancora. Curated by Michela Pelizzari, Gucci exhibited its new furniture collection at its flagship store at via Monte Napoleone, 7. Five iconic Italian furniture pieces were reimagined and customised in Gucci’s signature Rosso Ancora, featuring works from Italian design masters including Mario Bellini and Tobia Scarpa. “Through Design Ancora, Gucci doesn’t simply celebrate old icons, it creates new ones,” explains Pelizzari. “The aura emanating from the brand spotlights five pieces by Italian masters that are perfect from a design standpoint but less known to the general public.”

Fendi

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Designed under the creative direction of Silvia Venturini Fendi, the new Fendi Casa 2024 collection introduced new products while maintaining iconic elements like the FF logo and Pequin pattern, showcased in luxurious materials and meticulous craftsmanship. Fendi further ventured into tableware and home textiles with its new home accessories collection, featuring elegant designs in French Limoges porcelain, artisanal woven leather, and blown glass. The collection intertwined Fendi's fashion universe with exquisite home decor, offering a luxurious and distinctive aesthetic.

Louis Vuitton

The Bed Trunk.
The new tableware collection.

Louis Vuitton unveils a range of exquisite offerings at its Garage Traversi store in Milan. The new Bed Trunk, a modern interpretation of Louis Vuitton's original design from 1865, combines tradition with innovation. The trunk features the iconic Monogram Canvas exterior and an interior crafted from aluminium and beechwood, and transforms effortlessly into a sturdy bedframe. Iconic Objets Nomades designs like the Cocoon and Bell Lamp were also showcased, blending Louis Vuitton's craftsmanship with contemporary design. Additionally, an expanded tableware collection introduced a new beige colourway, showcasing a fusion of classic and modern aesthetics.

(GUCCI)

Who can say they’ve had a reign that lasted over seventy years? The late Queen Elizabeth II comes to mind, and then there’s the King of Rock and Roll, who has not only influenced the pop culture landscape for decades but also the accent of a So-Cal actor to a surprisingly lasting extent.

But within fashion, the Gucci Horsebit loafer has managed to maintain the same level of influence since it was introduced in 1953. With a design so recognisably "Gucci", the appeal stretches far and wide, from A-listers to your most fashionable friends. Seventy years on, that equestrian tool on the tongue will still place you in the upper echelons of style royalty.

The story as to why a snaffle became a signifier for the luxury fashion house starts with its founder. Guccio Gucci worked as a luggage porter at The Savoy, London, when his fascination with the equestrian world started, seeing it as the sport of the rich and famous people who took up residence at the hotel.

But it didn’t come into form as a loafer until his son Aldo Gucci took over the business (along with his brothers Rodolfo and Vasco). So it goes, Aldo designed a pair of dressy loafers as a response to the moccasins that Bass Weejuns were producing, having noticed that the sleek designs were popular with American prepsters. Gucci stamped it with the horsebit detail in honour of his father, and in doing so created a staple shoe that is both discreet and distinguishable.

(GUCCI)

The shoe quickly became a hit on home soil, but it didn’t take long for its influence to reach Stateside and beyond. Despite its dressier history—with thanks to Cary Grant—Gucci loafers, in particular, became a popular casual shoe among the younger generation. By the Seventies, plenty of women had a pair—perhaps most famously Jodie Foster, who was pictured aged 15 sporting the style while skateboarding—as well as dapper male stars like Kirk Douglas, Francis Ford Coppola and Roger Moore.

The style is just as popular on screen as it is on the streets, too. In 1979, Dustin Hoffman wore a pair in Kramer vs. Kramer, then there was Matt Dillon in Drugstore Cowboy ten years later. Matt Damon wore them in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), a film that’s repeatedly called upon for its perennial influence on men’s summer wardrobes in Europe and beyond.

Paul Mescal in Gucci Horsebit Loafers.
(MANUELE MANGIAROTTI / IPA-AGENCY.NET)

Different creative directors of the luxury fashion house have all had their own take on the design. Tom Ford famously revitalised Gucci in 1994, and did so with classic signifiers of the brand like the horsebit. Alessandro Michele continued to use the motif throughout his tenure, incorporating his maximalist and print-heavy aesthetic, while Gucci’s latest recruit, Sabato De Sarno, has (literally) elevated it even more with a platform sole.

In today’s age, you can see the likes of Paul Mescal, Mark Ronson and Kingsley Ben-Adir (who also stars in the new campaign for the shoe) all donning a pair while on and off the red carpet, further cementing their smart-casual appeal. Rest assured, their reign is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Originally published on Esquire UK

Martina Bonci, Gucci Giardino 25's bar manager

As the birthplace of Renaissance art and culture, even after the rolling decades, Florence still retains its ancient beauty. The creative place is made livelier with the presence of Gucci Giardino 25, the latest addition to the Gucci House.

In a nod to the flower shop that used to occupy the spot and Gucci’s former CD’s favourite number, the venue embodies the House’s codes while luxuriating in Florence’s vivacity. From dawn till dusk, it offers an all-day menu created according to the ever-changing seasons and inspired by Tuscany’s verdant lands. But it is the cocktails that are the focus here. Bar manager of Gucci Giardino 25, Martina Bonci, hails from the picturesque Umbria. Having taken up the position during the pandemic, Bonci has steered the ship towards safe harbour buoyed by her signature cocktails. We pulled Bonci over for a quick chat about mixology and Gucci Giardino 25.

ESQUIRE SINGAPORE: We have yet to get to Gucci Giardino 25. What can we expect when we visit?

MARTINA BONCI: You’ll be welcomed by a young and smiley team. Expect to have a unique experience in a unique location. It’s not just about having a good cocktail but rather you’ll have an experience you will remember fondly.

ESQ: When people visit Gucci Giardino 25, what should they order?

MB: Our best seller Mémoire di Negroni, of course. It’s the first signature drink I’ve ever made, which also became a bottled drink. I’d recommend the Mémoire di Negroni if they like a ‘dry’ drink. Or if they prefer a sour, [I can point to the] Chi si Ferma è Perduto, which is a twist on Margarita with tequila mint bergamot and spirulina salt.

The signature Mémoire di Negroni

ESQ: How did the Mémoire di Negroni come to be?

MB: I had just joined the Gucci Giardino 25 team. The bar was about to open and I was so nervous and so excited at the same time. I was walking the streets of Florence and I saw a shop selling Fiorentina (the Associazione Calcio Firenze Fiorentina, Florence’s football team) T-shirt merch in its official colour: purple. That’s where I got the inspiration. And since Negroni started in Florence as well, the drink is also a tribute to the city.

ESQ: I’m curious, what was your first drink?

MB: Long Island Iced Tea. It was a bit of a shock, tasting it, to say the least! At the time, I expected it to be more of a tea than an actual alcoholic drink. But I still have it from time to time when I want to have something less “nerdy” than my usual orders.

ESQ: Do you think that there can ever be a “terrible drink”?

MB: One thing I love about mixology is that there’s no such thing as “bad for everyone” or “good for everyone”. There may be some technical errors in [making] a drink, but ultimately, it all boils down to what you’d like to drink. 

A lot was riding on the Gucci Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection. For one, it's the first menswear collection by creative director Sabato De Sarno; the other reason is that it's a follow-up to a debut that had fashion insiders and fans split. In some cases, the latest effort by De Sarno was similar to his debut, but better—much, much better.

Gucci Ancora took on a slightly different meaning as compared to De Sarno's debut. While the overarching theme of wanting to make people fall in love with Gucci again was apparent, the Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection takes it a step further. Embedded into the line-up—starting from the opening look—were a number of ensembles that mirrored the womenswear debut. They're tweaked slightly, but the spirit was essentially the same. Heck, even the Mark Ronson-curated soundtrack (the man was also in attendance) was an intentional repeat.

The difference—and brilliantly so—was that the menswear collection felt more complete. There's no telling how De Sarno felt post-debut of his very first collection, but if any of the naysayers got to him, this collection felt like he was hell bent on proving them wrong.

The fit: Perhaps, De Sarno is a better menswear designer than he is at womenswear. Because the tailoring (a perennial key tenet of any menswear collection, pretty much) was impeccable. Instead of opting for the easy way out by pandering to current style obsessions, the cut of trousers were slim with enough give for a sleek and clean bottom half. The top was left slightly oversized, but proportionally just right such that the flow and fluidity of floor-grazing coats felt dramatic without weighing one down.

Tailoring may have run rampant throughout the collection, but they were anything but staid or stuffy. Print and patterns seem to not be something that De Sarno may be leaning towards—save for the GG monogram—but colours are clearly his specialty (perhaps something that he picked up during his time at Valentino). Surprisingly, the deep shade of red that's becoming a De Sarno signature for Gucci, was not heavily used throughout the collection. Instead, the additional colours employed ran along the same tonal shades as the new Gucci red. This not only added on to the cohesive nature of the collection, but also elevated it to be rather universal across different ages.

That's not to say that there were no statement pieces; in fact, far from it. In place of ties, a necklace-scarf hybrid was the centre of attention consisting of leather pieces connected by metallic hardware with the former attached to a slender strip of fabric. Each swayed as models walked—a sense of romantic flou that was both refreshing and much needed. And if Harry Styles or Måneskin were to return as part of the Gucci fold, they'd certainly gravitate towards the metallic fringed pieces that exuded the kind of gender-fluid sensibility Gucci had made its own.

The details: As predicted, the Jackie continues to be the focus for the House. Rendered in plenty of iterations—albeit kept a tad simpler and less showy than the female versions—including a thoroughly embellished version, the menswear Jackies were constructed significantly larger.

But what wasn't easily seen on the livestream, were the backs of the looks. De Sarno skilfully ensured that the backs of most, if not all, the looks were crafted as beautifully as the front. Some coats featured a hint of the Gucci webbing right on the vent, while leather coats were embossed with "Gucci" right at centre back along the hem. The drapes and silhouettes too felt devastatingly dramatic from the back—of mystique that you'd want a person wearing a piece to walk by again.

Three exceptional looks: Look 5's ultra clean combination of a long sleeveless coat paired with the collection's trousers as well as studded Horsebit loafers; look 13's all-over GG monogram in red; and look 51's sparkly oversized tank that I would very much like to cop immediately.

The takeaway: Don't strike off De Sarno's Gucci just yet.

View the full Gucci Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection in the gallery below.

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The Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear show season has already begun. After Pitti Uomo in Florence, Milan Fashion Week Men's will officially kick off with Gucci, marking the menswear debut of creative director Sabato De Sarno. And once again, for the second time, the show is being referred to as Gucci Ancora ("again" in Italian).

The Gucci Ancora women's campaign was just released days ago featuring the Spring/Summer 2024 womenswear collection that signalled De Sarno's vision for the House. Included as part of the campaign were a couple of images of male models in denim jeans, holding on to Gucci Jackie bags. While the official press release explicitly avoided referencing the male models, it's safe to assume that Gucci's Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear collection will be a continuation of the Gucci Ancora aesthetic—pared back with a reiteration of Gucci elegance in the form of cut and silhouette.

The womenswear debut focused heavily on the Jackie as the bag of the season. The menswear debut could follow along the same vein or continue to refocus the attention on the Horsebit creations—an icon that was the House's key push leading up to the release of De Sarno's first collection.

But for any confirmation, stay tuned for the show this Friday. And for an even closer look at the collection, follow @esquiresg on Instagram as we bring you the action live from Milan Fashion Week.

What: Gucci Autumn/Winter 2024 menswear runway show
Where: Milan, Italy
When: Friday, 12 January 2024 at 10pm Singapore time

Paul Mescal proving that the Gucci Horsebit loafers are still as stylish as there were 70 years ago.

When the Horsebit loafer was first conceived by Gucci—specifically by Aldo Gucci, the eldest son of founder Guccio Gucci—it was said to be a response to loafers popularised by preppy Americans. Gucci was to open its first New York City boutique in 1953. The Horsebit loafer was the perfect design to kickstart an American expansion. It was a familiar silhouette with the addition of an Italian flair—very Gucci.

The use of the snaffle bit within Gucci predates the Horsebit loafer. The House had already incorporated it since the 1950s when it began drawing inspiration from the equestrian world. The metallic double ring connected by a bar was taken from the bit on a horse’s bridle, and was used across different facets of the Gucci universe both as a decorative motif as well as a functional element.

A catalogue of Gucci Horsebit loafers from 1972.
Gucci Horsebit loafers circa 1990.
A thoroughly timeless design
The shoes are still made in-house.
The craft behind the Gucci Horsebit loafers remained unchanged.

One could even say that the creation of the Horsebit loafer was destined to happen. But its arrival at a time when dress codes were changing in favour of more liberal sensibilities, helped propel its popularity. Not only was the Horsebit loafer instantly recognisable, its make and comfort was a mark of Italian craftsmanship. The leather used is supple, and coupled with a construction that lacks an insole, makes the Horsebit loafer lightweight and flexible. One could easily run around in a pair and get it beaten down. Or like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, fight in one.

Gucci has seen numerous creative directors over the decades since, but the Horsebit loafers have been a mainstay. Various interpretations have been brought to the fore recently and will most likely continue to do so under the creative directorship of Sabato De Sarno. Yet, 70 years hasn’t changed the way the Horsebit loafers are crafted. To this day, they’re still produced in Italy, in house, by skilled cobblers. The soles of the Horsebit loafers are also still attached to the uppers with Blake stitching that affords the shoes’ their renowned lightweight and flexible attributes.

The GG monogram and green-red-green webbing may be synonymous with Gucci. But when it comes to a singular design, the Horsebit loafer is one that doesn’t need to be loud to be noticed.

We don’t need to tell you that your fragrance does say quite a bit about you. What you like, where your energy level is at, and even your personality might be discerned from the fragrances you gravitate towards. In the same manner, fragrances can be a tool of projection: you can use them quite effectively to communicate an initial visual impression—be it a sense of confidence, mystery or playfulness.

In the spirit of new beginnings for the new year, there’s absolutely no better time than the present to pause and reset your fragrance roster. While that may seem like we’re asking you to consider more mild-weight options, that’s absolutely not the case. This edit of fragrances—some perennial favourites with a few new releases thrown in—are meant to reintroduce a more refreshing scent profile that cuts right through headier bodies.

Think of this edit as the base on which to build on. The overall profile may be generally clean, but that really allows the opportunity to layer and mix to create ever more nuanced scents.

Hundred Silent Ways X extrait de parfum, NISHANE

Istanbul-based perfume brand NISHANE has been around for only a decade, yet its growing presence in more than 120 countries is a mark of its niche extrait fragrances. A consistent top-selling fragrance across its entire repertoire, Hundred Silent Ways is part of a collection inspired by 13th-century poet Rumi. The fragrance starts with a citrus top note, which then settles into a vanilla body. The new Hundred Silent Ways X is a reworked version created as a celebration of the brand’s 10th anniversary and leans even more heavily on the original’s gourmand body, adding on leather to amplify the sensuality of the fragrance. The top notes remain prevalent, making this a thoroughly balanced scent.

Iris de Gris eau de parfum, L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR

L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Iris de Gris ranks top as the freshest fragrance in this edit. Part of the fragrance house’s Le Potager collection—a series dedicated to the use of vegetable notes in perfumery—Iris de Gris employs the use of a pea accord as the defining element of the fragrance. You smell it almost immediately, a crisp freshness that’s surprisingly reminiscent of a freshly picked and washed bag of peas. But of course, you won’t exactly be smelling like the vegetable. Iris and galbanum add refinement to the fragrance, with the mint (part of the concocted pea accord) lifting the fresh quality of Iris de Gris.

English Pear & Freesia eau de cologne, JO MALONE

As classic as they come, English Pear & Freesia is a quintessential Jo Malone fragrance that is the perfect balance of sweet and sensual. It’s not cloyingly sweet in any way, thanks to the main King William Pear note that gives a juicy expression to the fragrance. As with many of Jo Malone scents, the patchouli base provides for the fragrance’s longevity—this one sticks to your skin for awhile despite being a lightweight cologne formulation. While English Pear & Freesia is categorised as a women’s perfume (but what exactly is the point of gender labels in the world of fragrances?), its floral notes lean on the lighter side and, if anything, add a touch of freshness to the overall scent.

H24 eau de parfum, HERMÈS

Just like the previous fragrance on this list, H24 is created by Christine Nagel, the current in-house perfumer of Hermès. There’s a reason why Nagel is a celebrated perfumer and H24 is one of many examples of her refined take on perfumery. This eau de parfum formulation of H24 is headier than its eau de toilette predecessor but still retains a metallic note—thanks to the inclusion of sclarene—that’s signature to the fragrance. This metallic element cuts through to bring about a fragrance that perhaps isn’t for everyone. But the unique quality of it definitely sets the H24 apart from any other woody and musk-heavy fragrances out there.

Cologne Céleste eau de cologne, CELINE

The latest addition to Celine’s bath and body range—a range that was only introduced this year—is its first cologne. There’s an overall powdery radiance to Cologne Céleste brought about by notes of orris butter that ties it to the house’s refined haute parfumerie collection. Cologne Céleste, however, is designed to be an after-bath ritual meant to reinvigorate and soothe. The intended effect is brought about by the cologne’s more refreshing citrus and floral notes comprising neroli, orange blossom and sweet lemon essence. And as a way of bringing back old-school self-care gestures, Cologne Céleste can either be used as a splash (think Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone) or as a classic perfume with the removable metal pump included. Either way, the cologne is one you can easily incorporate as an everyday go-to.

A Floral Verse eau de parfum, GUCCI

Rather multi-faceted in essence, Gucci’s A Floral Verse is quite a journey, beginning with floral notes that then bring you to a green middle before settling down to a white musk base. A Floral Verse opens with Indian jasmine sambac that’s a splendid combination of floral, with semblances of warmth. The middle Sri Lankan black tea note provides a dry expression that counters the more floral elements of the Indian jasmine sambac, while at the same time infuses a dose of smokiness. The name may allude to a floral-heavy fragrance, but A Floral Verse is actually more green than floral, and layers easily with more robust fragrances.

Photography: Jayden Tan
Photography Assistant: Aisyah Hisham

A grocery-run fit courtesy of Balenciaga.

If you haven’t already noticed, pre-collections are becoming a big deal in menswear. We recently witnessed Louis Vuitton’s first-ever pre-autumn runway show—a 64-look sophomore collection by creative director Pharrell Williams. Dior Men is also set to showcase its Pre-Autumn 2024 collection in Hong Kong next year, having successively travelled the globe to stage runway shows for its pre-collections.

Pre-collection runway shows have typically been a womenswear tradition, and it makes sense given the much more robust womenswear market. But we like new, shiny things too and luxury brands are noticing that we’re just as easily bored by the same assortment in boutiques lasting for a six-month period. The pomp and circumstance of a runway show helps to drum up even more excitement for a collection that’s designed to be a commercial filler before the arrival of the main seasonal collection.

The trick to making sure that you are not simply purchasing something from a pre-collection for the sake of filling up an empty slot in your wardrobe (or your heart; time for therapy, my man) is to gravitate towards pieces that traipse the line between classic and fashion-forward. There’s no point in getting a beefed-up version of something familiar only to shelve it because it’s not one you’d wear for more than a photo op.

From Dior Men to Loewe, here are the things to go for if you want to make smart consumer choices. It’s giving I-love-new-things-but-I’m-curated energy.

Sticker feature

Balenciaga’s push for an oversized everything aesthetic has become part of Demna’s oeuvre ever since he took on the role as creative director of the fashion house. And it’s a look that has been employed throughout the House, from ready-to-wear to couture. This consistency means that any Balenciaga piece could very easily transcend the season because of its timeless design that’s part of an overarching narrative.

For Balenciaga’s Spring 2024 collection, the range is wide with everything from casual separates to more formal albeit avant-garde tailoring. There’s even the now-viral Towel-Skirt—essentially a skirt layer that resembles a towel—in the mix. But it is the cheekily designed denim coordinates that deserve serious attention.

Balenciaga’s cheeky update to denim staples is genius when it comes
to fashion that will transcend seasons.

The Denim Size Sticker jacket and trousers are deliciously baggy but in a way that still retains some semblance of tailoring. You definitely won’t look like you’re drowning in them. They’re also made from washed denim to give that decidedly worn look. The main draw however—and one that gives each piece its name—is the addition of a size sticker (the kind you’d find on mass-produced denims and certain other types of clothing) featured both as a print and an embellishment.

It’s not about displaying the size of your denims to every passerby; it’s about having a smidgen of stupid fun in a piece that you’d easily wear every single day. A good, oversized denim jacket may be hard to find, and these Balenciaga options make the wardrobe staple a bit more interesting.

Crafted mini

The art of craft is central to the design ethos of Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe. Whether that’s done by
exploring the boundaries of the house’s own artisans or collaborating and introducing craftsmanship techniques externally, Loewe’s collaborations are often teeming with the new ideas that still look and feel exclusively Loewe.

Its latest collaborative effort for the season comes in the form of a partnership with Suna Fujita. The Kyoto-based ceramic studio’s work dabbles in interpreting childhood memories and richly imaginative characters and scenes that are then painted onto their ceramic creations. These characters include a menagerie of animals such as pandas, penguins, lemurs, otters and more.

A group of hidden lemurs...
...or a family of shy pandas.

For Loewe, these artworks are translated in a number of ways from glass ornaments to plush fobs to embellishments on knitwear. The easiest to incorporate—and one you’d want to keep for a verylong time—is the collaboration’s take on Loewe’s classic Flamenco clutch.

The Loewe x Suna Fujita Flamenco clutch comes in a mini size in two different variations. From the outside, the Flamenco clutch looks exactly like the original with either the Bottle Green- or Oak-coloured option. The beauty is hidden inside: the former features a family of pandas, while the Oak-coloured version captures a playful scene of a trio of lemurs. The printed motifs are also replicated on the lining of each design for visuals that only the user will be privy to.

Kingly fits

A statement piece you'd want to bust out for every special occasion.
Alexander McQueen's cutting perfection.

There are quite a few things that Alexander McQueen is known for, and one of them is dramatic flair. It’s apparent in every single facet of the brand’s design. Suiting is no mere average affair—the make employs traditional savoir-faire but elevated to perfection with awe-inspiring embellishments and impeccable cuts.

A dragonfly crafted from crystal embroidery is featured prominently on a black wool double-breasted
blazer paired with double-pleated wide-legged trousers—the latter is perfectly cut and a departure from the brand’s proclivity for more fitted bottom silhouettes. For a more pared back alternative, a fitted waistcoat is tastefully decorated with a dragonfly brooch, exuding a contemporary sense of regality.

A khaki-and-nylon combination that plays up the utilitarian aspect of the update.
Classic black is always an elegant option, nylon or not.

In addition to tailoring made for the modern king, Alexander McQueen’s signature Jewelled
Satchel too has been updated. While the jewelled embellishments remain as key elements of accessory-meets-functional-bag, the satchel’s body has been interpreted in nylon with a webbing strap. The Nylon Jewelled Satchel is definitely hardier and less precious in nature as compared to its leather predecessors, but captures a beautiful juxtaposition between utilitarian functionality and luxury. Basically, you can simply wipe moisture right off after an accidental spill.

Life's a costume

Every Kim Jones-directed Dior Men collection is a masterclass in styling. Yes, the foundations of his ready-to-wear collections are meticulously crafted with such refined elegance. But the styling is what pulls everything together and makes every single look desirable.

If you’re already a Dior Men fan, you would probably own a number of the House’s contemporary tailoring, some casual denims, and perhaps a slew of accessories including the classic reworked Saddle bag for men. Level up a few notches with the Dior Men Spring 2024 collection’s selection of costume jewellery.

What sets the costume jewellery apart this pre-collection is the varied selection available. Classics such as the CD Icon series of chains, rings and earrings remain, coming in with bejewelled permutations and lengths. The collection’s more exceptional pieces come in the form of motifs inspired by the Buffalo movement of the ’80s. Adorned with crystals are a variety of star-shaped motifs that capture the rebellious spirit of the movement. The designs are interpreted as brooches, earrings, pendants and even an impressive chain belt that features a combination of different motifs.

The distortion

Gucci’s Pre-Spring 2024 collection wasn’t designed by latest creative director Sabato De Sarno, but rather, by Gucci’s in-house collective of artisans. That, however, doesn’t mean that the collection isn’t without its bright sparks. In fact, the collection’s reimagining of the Horsebit 1955 bag is probably the freshest yet.

A signature refreshed.

The Horsebit 1955 bag is a Gucci classic. Crafted from sturdy leather, it’s boxy and rectangular with a roomy interior and topped with that signature Gucci Horsebit metal adornment positioned front and centre. The Pre-Spring 2024 interpretation skews and distorts the proportions of the original, resulting in a piece that’s spellbindingly odd in the best way possible. See, the thing about the original is that, while it’s a classic shape that’s easily paired with just about anything, there’s very little to be excited about. The reimagining cleverly creates an asymmetric construction that tapers to the side. The genius comes with the attention to detail: the size of the D-ring on the shorter end of the bag’s side is also significantly smaller than its counterpart.

There’s hardly any indication that De Sarno may adopt the design as part of his vision. So if anything, this is one piece to cherish because it probably won’t be reproduced anytime soon.

Weaving in

Not many things are as discreet yet instantly recognisable in fashion as Bottega Veneta’s Intrecciato technique. The weaving of leather strips to form the basis of a range of creations has been the house’s key leitmotif, the attempt to do so by other would often immediately be thought of as a copy.

Haddock lace-ups.
Large Andiamo in Space.
Large Andiamo in Ribbon.
Large Andiamo in Mud.

Creative director Matthieu Blazy’s more modern interpretations of the technique has resulted in a number of pieces that have challenged the limitations of the Intrecciato. For starters, the Andiamo has quickly become one of the House’s icons. Already seen on the fashion-forward Jacob Elordi, the latest iterations of the Andiamo bag focuses on the bag’s genderless quality. The large Andiamo bags now come in new colours ranging from a pale pink shade to a deeper maroon hue that makes for a roomy work bag. It’s a top-handle style that also comes with a knotted crossbody strap for added versatility.

If you’re looking for new footwear additions, then consider the Haddock lace-ups that are the way to go. Rendered in all black, it’s realised in an allover Intrecciato technique that definitely elevates the look of a traditional lace-up. And of course, a pair that really does all the talking without needing to scream.

Fired up

Just like the Gucci Pre-Spring 2024 collection, Louis Vuitton’s was also designed in-house. Meant to be a standalone proposal, the collection is inspired by the bonfire as a universal symbol of unification—where people gather and connect. Hence, the entire collection is plenty of flame-inspired motifs executed using a number of different treatments.

We’re gravitating towards the burnt Monogram motifs apparent in some of the collection’s denim pieces. The Monogram is iconically Louis Vuitton and this interpretation of the motif adds a level of artistry.

Unique denims to covet from Louis Vuitton.

From a denim jacket to bermudas, each piece is handcrafted with a bleach flame effect. In order to achieve this, the denim is embellished with a velvety flock that’s burnt to reveal the allover Monogram motif of the denim. And because the burning is done individually per piece, the results vary and each piece is essentially unique to one another.

Coat, GUCCI. In all the photos of this shoot, Mark Ronson wears his AUDEMARS PIGUET Royal Oak 36mm in yellow gold with champagne dial

I discovered that there exists (at least) two Mark Ronsons. Mark1 is a thoughtful intellectual, who ponders over every word before pronouncing it, who slowly and timidly guides you into his inner world and opens the treasure chest of his creative process, refined by a life of total immersion in music and attention in the studio to every detail, every beat and every note. Mark2 is the multi-instrumentalist stage animal who, in a double-breasted suit, closed the Montreux Festival while scratching on turntables live, dragging the audience along like a rocker, directing a band of nine of the best soul and jazz musicians in the world, deus ex machina of a sound performance that—evidently—fills him with joy, especially when the irrepressible wave of music that Mark2 evokes live on stage coincides with the one that Mark1 had designed in his head.

I meet Mark1 on the morning of the Montreux Festival. Slender, wearing a pair of sunglasses with bottle green lenses that he will not remove, and clad in a faded T-shirt, he enters the room where I wait for him, almost asking for permission. He looks younger than his 48 years.

Blazer, trousers and shoes, GUCCI

He sits on a corner sofa that seems too big for him, but his presence and concentration, contrast with his physical appearance. We understand that this will be a real interview, that he is here to answer, and which he will do seriously, for the time that we need. There are many other people in the room, but they stay at a respectful distance away, as if not wanting to disturb the process through which answers, thoughts and anecdotes emerge from the well of his conscience. He himself seems to become aware of some of his reflections as he recounts them, as if he were noticing them for the first time.

What I earlier assumed to be fatigue and detachment is instead his way of adhering to reality. It is the way he often presents himself even when he is among others—almost as if he likes standing a little to the side, watching his thoughts pass by. I had observed him the evening before, at a dinner, having recently arrived in Switzerland with his wife Grace Gummer, the daughter of Meryl Streep. The couple had remained apart from others for a long time, him gently embracing her by the midsection, or assisting her while she applied eye drops, or leaning against a column applauding an impromptu jam session by the musicians in a lake-view cottage turned museum owned by Claude Nobs, founder of the festival. Eyes always a little widened, he has a look that reveals more than he would like. His head is often slightly tilted—the same pose assumed by animals when studying the situation.

Only one topic is taboo: we cannot speak about the Barbie soundtrack, which at the time of this interview has yet to be released and which Ronson produced by bringing together a very diverse cast of stars: from Dua Lipa to Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice, Lizzo, Charli XCX, Tame Impala and Billie Eilish.

Blazer, tank and trousers, GUCCI

INTERVIEWER: You manage to produce projects that are very different from one another. You jump between different genres. How do you do it? What holds them together?

MR: The first album I produced, almost 20 years ago, was by Nikka Costa. In a timespan this vast, if you really love many genres of music, you evolve, you jump here and there. I could never imagine doing just one thing, I am not judging those who do. I love soul, jazz, funk, hip hop... I grew up listening to all these genres—a somewhat schizophrenic childhood, musically speaking. I loved being a DJ, but my stepfather was in a rock band. I was very fortunate. Of course, looking back now there are also some projects that on hindsight makes me say, “Maybe I went a little too far here”. But, deep down, at the root of the music that I really love is usually a great melody, a great vocal or instrumental performance, and a great groove, a great rhythm. If you think about it, you can say the same about many genres, from Fleetwood Mac to Earth, Wind & Fire, to A Tribe Called Quest and Quincy Jones. Groove and melody are transversal, common in many genres.

INTERVIEWER: When Audemars Piguet announced that you would be producing the closing night of the Festival, you said that the lineup would be “the best band that I have ever put together”.

MR: These musicians are the ones that have given life to some of my best records. Therefore, this is the best band that I have ever put together. Montreux is not just any festival, it is an event that celebrates music, representing so many different things. But for me, in my head, it is Aretha Franklin. It is Miles Davis. It is Nina Simone. It is Curtis Mayfield, the Average White Band, all these incredible soul and funk records that I love, that made me fall in love with music. So I really wanted to do something special.

Blazer, tank, trousers and shoes, GUCCI

Then I had this idea to bring some of my favourite musicians, to have their bands perform. I thought, well, since we have all of them here during the evening anyway, these musicians who played in all my records, from “Back to Black” to “Uptown Funk” to the productions for Rufus Wainwright, we could do something truly special at the end of the evening, something we have never done before. Bringing those songs to the public, perhaps just once performed by the people who created the magic in the studio. Guys like Tommy and Homer, and the bassist, even after they recorded “Back to Black”, they only did six or seven concerts with Amy [Winehouse]. Then Amy went on tour with another band, so there were few opportunities. All these musicians have built successful careers over time, writing other songs. Some of them, like the base group that played on “Back to Black”, never played together again in the same lineup that recorded the album. It is really special and moving. When you hear it you say, “Damn, it sounds like we are recording the album.” It is as if it’s the first day, when we pressed the button and recorded. It’s how it was, for example, with “He Can Only Hold Her”. Finally, having Yebba here is really important. To honour and celebrate Amy, one of the greatest singers of all time, you definitely have to have someone very special. I truly believe that Yebba is one of the best singers of her generation, and I also think that she has incredible courage and talent to stand up and say, “Yes, let’s sing something about Amy,” while at the same time bringing her own personality to it all.

INTERVIEWER: What was it like bringing them together? How did you work together?

MR: We tried like crazy, also because I am a bit anxious. We tried to the point that some of them wanted to kill me. They are super professionals, musicians who learn a song in five minutes and on that same evening, they play it on Jimmy Fallon [Editor’s note: host of The Tonight Show, one of the most important broadcasts on the NBC network]. I am not like that, I must play and try. We learnt 18 songs that we had never done before. All in five days. In some of the sets, I deejay a cappella while the band plays. There are a lot of things that could go wrong, go haywire. There are no computers to correct it, we are live. Risky but fun. Even if we make a mess, they will be wonderful mistakes. [Editor’s note: that evening, I will notice only one mistake during the performance. In fact, it will be extraordinary, almost as if it served to remind us how fragile and difficult it can be to achieve harmony and perfection].

Coat, GUCCI

INTERVIEWER: :You won an Oscar for “Shallow”, a Golden Globe, seven Grammys, an endless list of other awards. Is there one you are most attached to?

MR: If you ask me to choose one, I’ll tell you producer of the year for “Back to Black”. In the end, I feel more like a producer than an artist, and that is why it is important to have someone telling you, “Hey, you’re the best producer this year”. Whatever they say about these awards, I think that one really recognises the essence, and the craftmanship that I feel in my work.

INTERVIEWER: You have produced and composed for some of the biggest stars in pop, hip hop, soul, funk and rock. How do you prepare for each of these meetings? How do you manage to bring out the best in each of them, to take them where they do not usually go?

MR: I try to feel them, to understand them. I could have had an entire album ready in my head before seeing Lady Gaga. But she arrives in the studio that first day, expressing a certain emotion, a song. My job is to chase that emotion, to try to catch it. My friend Richard Russell—great producer—says that this job consists of being constantly in tune, in making a series of right decisions continuously. Trying to emotionally intuit what is happening to the artist. Then, of course, there is the writing, the arrangement. When I started working with Lady Gage on “Joanne”, something happened. She loves jazz, and given my previous work with Amy, for all these reasons I imagine she had the idea that maybe we would make a jazz record.

We were in the studio, trying to understand each other, and she said to me, “You love jazz, right?” And I replied, “Yes, of course, but I don’t know it that well”. I like funk and soul, but I cannot write orchestral arrangements like Quincy Jones. In short, she was trying to take me in that direction. I looked at her, we were in the studio in Malibu, California, she was dressed in denim shorts, boots and a cowboy hat. Suddenly, I felt myself being pulled towards country, a kind of Stevie Nicks [Editor’s Note: musician, soloist and lead singer of Fleetwood Mac] vibe. We started working on “Joanne”, a song that she was writing. At first it could have been a jazz motif, then almost fingerpicking, very acoustic.

Eventually, it transformed into something totally different, which resulted in the record and even the genre of “A Star is Born”. I try to always have an antenna ready to pick up, to be aware of the direction we could take. It is good to be prepared for anything: when you go to the studio on the first day, you must be open to every possibility, you must always be ready to change direction.

INTERVIEWER: You are a good listener.

MR: I believe this is the producer’s most important tool. An emotional listen. Producers must constantly hear the arrangements, the music, the melody and the harmony. But the ears can be useful for much more than just simple, technical listening to music.

INTERVIEWER: Could you feel immediately that some of the musicians you met would become stars?

MR: I think if there really was something that you could intuit, like for Clive Davis [Editor’s note: the producer who discovered Whitney Houston] then I’d be much richer than I am. I can only tell if they have something that moves me, that I have never heard before, if they have a sound so unique that nothing and no one resembles it. Furthermore, even if I were able to feel that they are extraordinary, it does not mean that I would be able to help them release that hidden gift. But I find it really exciting to work with artists who are just starting out because it is all new to them, so exciting. It takes me back to my early days when I felt that way too. It is an energy. Like drinking from the fountain of youth.

INTERVIEWER: There are many rankings of the best songs that you have produced, all arbitrary and subjective. I have chosen one of the supposed top 10 compiled by Billboard some time ago. I would like you to tell us something about each of them, ok?

MR: Ok.

INTERVIEWER: The first is “Ooh Wee”.

MR: Ah, that, I am proud of it. Last month, I did a surprise DJ set in London with a friend of mine, who has this truck with a system, speakers and so on. Something that we announced only an hour before. Around 200 kids showed up and I started with “Ooh Wee”. It is a song that is almost 20 years old, birthed with Nate Dogg and Ghostface Killah, the one that took me to Montreux for the first time in 2004, and it still works, it sounds so lively. I am proud of it. And I am grateful for that record, I have a perfect song to start a DJ set with a hip hop sound. Always rocks.

INTERVIEWER: “Littlest Things”, with Lily Allen.

MR: This takes me back to an intimate era. It was before I found success as a producer. Lily Allen was so brilliant. A couple of her singles had come out and were doing well. She came to New York, we were friends and I think she was 20 years old. We went around the city into record shops looking for tunes to sample.

A bit like rummaging through garbage, something of that sort. I think that the piece we sampled was in the soundtrack of Emmanuelle. The piano riff came from there, I think. Basically, I put the record on the turntable, put on my headphones and said, “Cool. Lily, come here”. She listens, she likes it. We returned to the studio and in one hour, the song was born. I ended up opening for her tour, right when she was blowing up in the States. It was really fun.

INTERVIEWER: “Back to Black”, with Amy Winehouse.

MR: This is a somewhat swirling memory, a sort of tornado of memories. I met Amy at three in the afternoon, I think it was a Tuesday. She came to my studio in New York. We sat and talked about music. Usually, when a singer comes to me, I already have songs for them to listen to, “What do you say to this, what do you think?” But she was so fantastic, special, unique. I knew I had nothing new to make an impression with, and she was leaving to return to England the next day. She was supposed to be in New York for only one day. I told her, like, “I don’t have anything for you to hear right now, come back in the morning”. You know what, I stayed up all night because I wanted something that could work. I told myself, “Amaze her, make her stay”. The opening piano riff and drums of “Back to Black” came out. She liked them, stayed in New York for another five days. She wrote the lyrics in half an hour, I burned the track like how it was done in the old days, on CD. She went to the back room, the track was probably only a minute and a half long, she started listening to it and rewinding it to write the lyrics. It was pretty crazy.

INTERVIEWER: “Cold Shoulder”, by Adele.

MR: It was born because of Amy. You know, working with her was what made me famous. Richard Russell, the founder of XL Records said to me, “Would you like to come and meet this girl, Adele?” I entered his studio and there was a big sofa, almost like the one we are sitting on now. She looked like an 18-year-old girl, sitting cross-legged. She did not stop smoking. This is Adele, they told me. And I’m like, “Oh, nice to meet you”. She replied, “My pleasure. I have this demo, the song is called ‘Cold Shoulder’, I’d like to know if you’d be interested in producing it”. I listened to it, it was cool, just her and the Wurlitzer piano.

I do not know why I said it, maybe I was a little greedy, or I felt that I had to say something, or I had a hangover, so I was like, “Oh, cool. Are there other songs?” And she said, “No, just this one”. It was practically take it or leave it. “Do you want to work with me? This is the song I’m telling you to produce.” It went like this. To be honest, I wish I had done a better job on that song. It was a period when I had just achieved my first success. I was running everywhere; I was on tour. We went to a different studio than the usual, with musicians and sound engineers I did not usually record with. We had only one day to make this song. In retrospect, I wish I had done a little better with the sound and production. Anyway, I mean, it is still great and, obviously, her voice is incredible, so whatever.

INTERVIEWER: “Mirrors”, by Wale.

MR: Yes, cool, with Wale. I remember Jay-Z listening to that track, but I had already promised it for Wale. I think a great friend of my manager at that time said, “You know, Jay-Z heard that track, he wants it.” And I’m like, “Oh my God, I don’t even know what to say... Of course, it’s a dream to have Jay-Z wanting to collaborate with me.” But I had already promised the track to Wale, he was my friend, as well as an artist on my label, and obviously Bun B is also on the track. I love that song because hip hop is one of my greatest musical loves, but it’s not a predominant part of the music that I have made. For some reason, I took my love of hip hop and drums, and fused them with other music genres. I took the hip hop influence, and I combined it with Amy or whoever. But there are some tracks in my career, like “Mirrors” and “Fried Chicken” with Nas and Busta Rhymes, maybe a few others, that I am very proud of.

INTERVIEWER: “Alligator”, with Paul McCartney.

MR: Working with Paul McCartney is a scary thing because, not only are you there with, you know, perhaps the greatest singer/producer/arranger ever. For me it is a little like being with Stevie Wonder, I suppose. But you are also in a room with the ghosts of Jeff Lynne, Nigel Godrich, George Martin, and every other great producer with whom McCartney has worked with. I noticed that on the first day Paul allows you to stumble, look stupid, make mistakes. I imagine that everyone behaves like this on the first day with Paul McCartney. But I also felt that on the second day, it is best that you wake up and start bringing good ideas. I always remember and think about something he said when we were recording that song, “Alligator”. It starts with an acoustic guitar, and I set up the microphone with this acoustic guitar. It sounded good, sounded like an acoustic guitar. It was not anything incredibly special. He listens and says, “No, it’s an acoustic guitar. I want it to sound like a record.” In other words, make that sound iconic, because I have recorded seven million acoustic guitars in my life. I want that when I hit the first chord it sounds like someone putting the needle down on the first groove of a vinyl record for the first time. It was a fantastic comment. “It is just a guitar, make it sound like a record.”

INTERVIEWER: “Baby Blue”, with Action Bronson.

MR: Oh, I missed that song. So, I actually still have a couple of hip hop records. I like Bronson and his music, you know, he is from New York. Now the city is no longer the centre of hip hop, there is Atlanta, the South, Los Angeles. The phenomenon is completely global, from London to Italy. So when someone from New York comes along I feel a sense of pride; today we would be talking about Ice Spice or someone else. Anyway, when Bronson arrived, it really seemed like he revived the New York scene. So we made this song together. At that time, I was finishing “Uptown Funk” and I was in my studio in London. Chance the Rapper was there for a show, and he came to the studio. He asked me, “What are you working on?” I replied, “Oh a bit of this and that.” Then I made him listen to Bronson’s song. And he goes, “Who the hell is this?” “Action Bronson,” I replied. “I want to jump on board,” he said. “Well, I can’t say yes because this is his stuff, he likes it a lot. But you two know each other, so, why don’t you put a verse in there anyway? Then I can get him to listen to it.” Chance did a good job. Action also liked the verse a lot. In the end they worked together, made a video and everything.

Another interesting thing about that track is that when Bronson and I started working on it, Zane Lowe the Apple Music DJ had a studio above mine in London and came downstairs to return a cable, or something of that sort that he had borrowed. He heard the music and said, “Oh, that’s cool. You should do a chorus like, ‘Why you always all on my back...’” And I replied distractedly, “Yes, thanks Zane. You can put it there.” Instead, Bronson said, “Cool! What were you singing?” That was the only time when my ears were not open when they should have been. I was an idiot. It was my friend from the floor above, I did not expect him to come and write a chorus like that, out of the blue. But this was how that lucky refrain was born.

INTERVIEWER: “Uptown Funk”.

MR: It is just... it is incredible to think how humble the beginnings of that song were. Bruno [Mars] had a little studio in West Hollywood, not really in West Hollywood, but in Hollywood, in the worst part of town. It was a tiny studio with a drum kit set up in a back room that looked more like an office. There was also a fax machine, it was probably an office in the past, the drum kit was in there. All very cramped.

That evening we were simply improvising. Bruno went into that office and started playing the drums. I played bass, Jeff Bhasker the synthesisers. In truth, we had no precise idea what we were doing. We were just playing. I played some sort of bass line; it was very groovy and fun. There is something truly beautiful when you let yourself be carried away, sometimes with friends or people you hang out with. We continued to play for around five hours, much longer than was necessary. Then we entered the room and Bruno played “All Gold Everything” by Trinidad James. We said, “Let’s get busy with that rhythm, but let’s put our own words into it.” We went on like this. Bruno, Jeff, Phil [Lawrence], and I sitting on two sofas, just like this one. And then someone said, “Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold” [Editor’s note: the second verse of the song]. And that was when we thought, “Oh this is a strong verse, there is something here.”

BUT IT TOOK A LONG time to finish that song after that night, wherever we were, because Bruno was on tour, in Memphis, in Toronto and so on. We were trying to recreate that same feeling from the first night, but it was as if we could not get ahold of it any more. We continued to look for the excitement of the first night, so it took us a long time. Seven months to finish the song because we wanted every part to be as emotional as the first verse we wrote. Eventually, we got there, but there were many moments when, out of frustration, we were about to give up.

INTERVIEWER: Luckily that did not happen.

MR: I knew it was for my album, I was interested in finishing it. I waited a few weeks, so that everyone would forget how exasperated we were that night. So I said, “Guys, do you want to get back together and finish that song, you know?” And off we went again. Each time we got a little closer.

INTERVIEWER: We have already talked about Lady Gaga, but one of the songs is “Million Reasons”.

MR: It was very lucky that I walked into the room at the right moment, when she was working with Hillary Lindsey, a great country singer from Nashville. It was already evening, they were already well into working on the album. I think I might have been away for the weekend because I was deejaying or something. And then I arrived just as they were almost finishing the song. They could have probably completed a great song without me, but I came in and wrote some chords for the bridge between the chorus and verse. And I helped to complete the outro. Those are the two songs on that album that I think have held up best, “Joanne” and “Million Reasons”, the ones that are a little more touching, let’s say.

INTERVIEWER: Last on the list is “Find U Again”, with Camila Cabello.

MR: It is fruit of the genius of Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, you know. He had practically the entire instrumental idea. And he had the melody. I added some drums and helped with the lyrics, but honestly, Kevin had this killer demo right when I was working on my “Late Night Feelings” album. Kevin and I had probably worked on that song in different versions, changing the beat, the arrangement, you know, different instrumentation, probably for a year. I was always there saying, “We must do something important with this song. The melody is too beautiful.” Then, at the last minute, while I was finishing the album, I managed to get in touch with Camila Cabello, who I was a fan of. We did not know each other, and I proposed the song to her. And she said, “Yes, I like it. I want to write on it.”

INTERVIEWER: Did we miss any other songs which you wanted to talk about [Editor’s note: and while I say it I think of hits like “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart”, with Miley Cyrus.]?

MR: I would say no. I am sorry; I cannot talk about the soundtrack project that I have just finished [Editor’s note: Barbie]. But apart from that, I cannot think of any songs in particular right now. In our set tonight, we will be playing some beautiful ones. There are also a couple of songs like “I Need a Dollar” and other songs that the guys wrote that I have nothing to do with, but we play them anyway. They are also their songs. But when I look at the setlist for tonight, songs like “Somebody to Love Me” or “He Can Only Hold Her”, seem like the right ones. It is really incredible for me, especially because I am not a conventional artist or singer, to have made five albums with this variety of songs. Some I have forgotten, honestly, but others are very special for me. It is a great fortune to be here in Montreux to play them.

INTERVIEWER: You are something more than an ambassador, I would say almost a curator for the Audemars Piguet musical project at this point, right?

MR: Yes, it is a truly positive relationship. We could not do this show tonight without AP. They are patrons of the arts. François [Editor’s note: François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of AP] is passionate about music and during our first meeting, one of the first things that came up was Montreux. Tonight’s show is very financially demanding, I would have to play here for three weeks in a row if I wanted to afford all this, and I would probably have to deejay at every after-show party and wash the dishes of the restaurant on the terrace. So, obviously, I am very grateful. Every project with them has been different. I think for AP it is always important for them to lift the hood and show the public the creative process: the first time Lucky Daye and I made a song together; we filmed the day we composed it. For this evening, we started a collaboration with Daphnee Lanternier who created an incredible conceptual scenography. The thing I am sorry about is that we will only do one show. It is like this is the only time I can go on stage and feel like I am Daft Punk. In short, we manage to think up something interesting every time and we really try to create art. We are not just here for a branding exercise.

INTERVIEWER: Let’s continue to look under the hood of the creative process. How do you look for inspiration?

MR: It is strange, emotions cannot be controlled. You can manage them, but the emotions themselves determine the music you create. If you have a bad day and you feel melancholy, that will be reflected in the music. You could never do the opposite, say, “Ok, now I want to be melancholic because I have to write a song like this.” You cannot go into the studio every day and create something extraordinary or exceptional. You just have to follow the emotion. You can never do the opposite or try to influence the emotion itself too much.

INTERVIEWER: How do you recharge?

MR: I meditate. It is one of the things that I do. I try to leave my phone in another room when I am in the studio. It is so easy to pick it up every 45 seconds, but this disconnects you from the creative process. I stay home with my wife and daughter [Editor’s note: he and Grace Gummer had a baby girl a few months ago]. This is the best way to recharge.

INTERVIEWER: What is your relationship with success?

MR: I feel lucky, no one follows me on the street. If I happen to be walking in my neighbourhood, and someone approaches me and says, “Hi, I love your music.” They do not even ask me for photos, they just want me to know that they appreciate what I do. This is ideal. I worked with many artists and people who, once they reach a certain level of success are forced to change the way they live, how they move, and they cannot even go out. This is not something I want for myself, nor for my family.

INTERVIEWER: You grew up immersed in music, when did you start making it?

MR: I started playing the drums when I was very little, I think I was three or four years old. When we moved to New York, my mother married my stepfather, Mick Jones, who had a recording studio because he was the guitarist for Foreigner. He let me record little demos with all the sophisticated equipment that I barely knew how to use. I loved making demos. There was something about the moments when I was alone in that room, like, “Now I will play the drums, then I am going to overdub the bass and the keyboard.” It was something so powerful and immersive. Four hours could pass in an instant. I liked it. At first I did not even write my own songs, I did covers. I was rerecording songs like Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Wishing Well”, note by note, the songs that I loved.

INTERVIEWER: That album [“Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby”, 1987] is beautiful. I consumed it.

MR: It is incredible, truly incredible. An extraordinary album. It’s funny, I never thought about it until you asked me. It is funny because, in becoming a record producer, my first passion for music was not so much “I want to get on stage and play rock guitar” but it was more “I love being in this environment where I can control the sound.” Now it seems obvious to me, and I think that there are definitely strong parallels with being a DJ, there too you find yourself at the console managing the levels and sounds. You control how people listen to the music. Yes, I think that period, when I was 10 or 11 years old and I was going to my stepfather’s studio, was instrumental.

INTERVIEWER: When did you understand that this would be your life?

MR: It did not happen right away; I was not sure of it. I loved music so much. I worked as an intern during the summer at Rolling Stone magazine. I did not know if I wanted to write about music or create it, because I was not a piano prodigy. It was not so obvious as to say, “Here, this is your path.” I was trying to understand it, but I think that it was around 16 or 17 years old when I decided that this was going to be my path.

Blazer and trousers, GUCCI

INTERVIEWER: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

MR: I do not have an answer. I always feel disappointed that I do not have something specific to say. Like, “I want to be on the moon broadcasting the first live concert” or something of the sort. I simply do what I love most. And I continue to challenge myself and constantly evolve in all that I do. Now I am composing film soundtracks. I am happy as long as I challenge myself musically and conceptually, and continue to do what I love.

I do not have grand ambitions, so to speak. I am currently writing a book on the New York nightlife of the ’90s, about my journey as a DJ and conversations with other DJs. A bit like when Anthony Bourdain was talking to other chefs. It is kind of a funny story about New York at that time.

INTERVIEWER: When does it come out?

MR: I am writing it right now, so I am not sure, but I hope it can be published next year. It takes a bit of time because it is a demanding job and I have never done it before. I have to reconnect with many people, remember some of the stories, and so on. But it has been fun so far.

INTERVIEWER: Is there an artist whom you are listening to with interest, someone promising?

MR: No one comes to mind right now. I would tell you Yebba, I know that she has already released an album, she is not a newcomer, but she is certainly one of my favourite singers and songwriters.

INTERVIEWER: And is there someone whom you would like to work with but have yet to?

MR: My hero is Steve Winwood, even if that is not why I wore this T-shirt [Editor’s note: he is wearing a T-shirt from the 1991 tour]. I do not think that we will ever be able to make a record together, but his solo work, as well as with Spencer Davis, Traffic and Blind Faith, are exceptional. He is so full of soul. The first time I came to Montreux was in 2004 and we went to Claude Nobs’ home. At that time, there was an evening dedicated to hip hop at the festival. I was there with a group of rappers from New York. I remember thinking, “I do not know who is playing the Hammond piano right now, but he is really good.” I looked over there and it was Steve Winwood. I dropped the guitar. I thought, “I am not worthy of playing with Steve Winwood, it’s too much.” That was the only time I was in the same room with him.

Mark1, polite, bids goodbye, stands up and dissolves softly, lightly, fading like a jazz standard, just as he had appeared. Rehearsals and a nap await him before the evening.

Nothing like Mark2’s farewell who, at the end of the concert, seeks the audience’s embrace and riles them up, yelling into the microphone, “My name is Mark Ronson, I hope we will meet again soon.”

Us too.

Photography: Caroline Tompkins
Styling: Antonio Autorino
Photography Assistat: Patrick Woodling
Grooming: Laila Hayani using CASWELL-MASSEY at FORWARD ARTISTS
Production: Sabrina Bearzotti
Translation: Lestari Hairul
Project made in collaboration with Audemars Piguet

Photo by Dior.

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A post shared by Sabato De Sarno (@sabatods)

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A post shared by Tapestry, Inc. (@tapestry)

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