Brand Story & Must Buy Standard: Billy Kirk's Leather and Canvas Accessories

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Although not American myself, but being able to live in New York for almost a decade, I began to appreciate the craftsmanship and unique "Americana" designs behind some brands and products. Billykirk is a brand I've had my eye on for many many years. Started out in Los Angeles back in 1999, by brothers Chris and Kirk Bray, Billykirk is now a popular leather and canvas design company in US. Founded on the desire to make products that last for a long time, understated, functional driven, and gets better with age(yes, normal wear and tare is actually a good thing!). This keep-it-simple design philosophy is not led by trends but rather an appreciation for utility, longevity and provenance. Partnered up with three manufacturers in the country, and relocated its home base to New Jersey since 2005. Most of their small leather goods and bags are handmade by in-house artisans or by a group of Amish leather crafters in Pennsylvania.

Over the past year or so, Billykirk really geared up on rebranding itself and moved towards a "New American Lifestyle" brand; personally I really like their new products, its got this old school cool rusty look to them, all very functional for our 2014 lifestyles. Billykirk is very much into the bike culture, so if you are ever looking for cool yet functional bike accessories, you now have a place to go!

Although people usually use this bag as the perfect weekend bag, since I'm so tall I love the size of the bag (more proportional to me), and I bring it to my office or out on the weekend. The carryall comes with an all leather adjustable shoulder strap and their signature leather luggage tag. Two interior pockets for phones and random stuff, as well as two buckle closure for extra security. On one side of the exterior it also has a slot pocket for card holders and other quick to grab items. The bag is made with a sturdy 20" frame it stands 14" tall and can expand to around 12". Best of all, the bag is water repellent canvas, perfect for all destination under all sorts of weather. Of course, it's made in USA. Recently I took the bag with me to Tokyo and Japanese loved it; people kept asking me where I got the bag, so I love that "you have a great eye" comment. 

Here are a few of our favorite Must Buy Items from Billykirk(Stuff We Like)

The collaboration with Faribault Woolen Mills, a cool brand we've been following as well. 

Personal Accessories

Handbags and Travel

Billybirk will soon be opening their first flagship in New York's Bowery area, so be sure to check them out when its open!

New York Flagship
16 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002 
(646) 684 4050

Text and photo by Leon Yuan, also courtesy of Billykirk

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Where to Shop Now: Sergio Rossi's New Store at Shanghai's Plaza 66 + FW14 Collection

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Italians are well known for their leather products, especially on their shoes and handbags, no doubt about it! Sergio Rossi is one of our favorite Italian shoemaker, and over the years, they've expanded their business scope(part of Kering, the parent group behind Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent, Brioni, and more), now they've added handbags and men's shoes into the retail business. Started out in the 1960s, now based in Milan, Italy, the company currently have over 90 stores around the world, not to mention the countless distribution channels through department and online stores. 

Recently they've reopened their boutique at Shanghai's Plaza 66, the boutique is not comparable in size to the Milan Via Montenapoleone store, but nice and cozy with a full stock of the season's latest styles. With the new store opening, Sergio Rossi flew in their CEO, Christophe Mélard, as well as their Collection and Design Director, Ruggeri Angelo, to Shanghai for the celebration of this new boutique opening. 

The new boutique made the brand's 3rd location in Shanghai, and 19th in Mainland China. At the store opening event, Ruggeri showed off his 15+ years of design experience to the invited guest, by designing a few one-of-a-kind designs to some of the VIP attendees. Later on that night, Sergio Rossi hosted a cocktail party at Shanghai's Lane Crawford department store (which they also have a shop as well), and we were able to look at their 2014 Fall Winter collection up close in person, and got a moment with Ruggeri himself over his designer life in Milan, his favorite cities and inspirations from all of his travels. To our surprise, Ruggeri's ultra friendly personality got us a longer than expected chat with him, telling us about his favorite spots in Milan and New York. 

Here are our favorite Must Buy Recommendations for this Fall/ Winter 

Sergio Rossi's Fall-Winter 2014/15 collection for women tells a contemporary fairytale, a journey through a dreamlike parallel dimension where shoes, like imaginary creatures, reveal their poetic, surreal souls. 

In terms of the men's collection, it's all about surreal, romantically decadent moods create a dreamy, eccentric aesthetic in which the creative narrative focuses on the essential role of the shoe as an expression of unique and distinctive style. 

Shanghai Plaza 66 Store 
1266 Nanjing West Road, Plaza 66 Shop 309 
JingAn District, Shanghai 
+86 21 6288 1610

Text and photo by Leon Yuan, also courtesy of Sergio Rossi

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Revisiting Grand Hyatt Taipei - The Suite, The Lounge & The Restaurant

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Last year we visited Grand Hyatt Taipei and did a review on the hotel, you can read about the review here. Recently, we visited the hotel again to see the new changes, definitely a lot of rapid changes happening at the hotel, from service quality to the newly renovated guest rooms and suites, everything is happening at this iconic hotel. We stayed at the same suite as we did last trip, nothing changed at all, just like the way we left it at last. 

By the way, we took the Grand Hyatt Taipei's car service arrangement from TaoYuan airport to the hotel, it was around 11pm when we arrived, and received one of the best hotel transportation arrangement we've experienced. At the arrival, they had someone to meet and greet us, then they called out to the driver nearby, and by the time we walked out outside the terminal, the BMW 7 series sedan was already waiting for us and ready to go! The smooth and great service doesn't stop there, while driving into the city (about 45 minute ride from the airport), the driver was extremely friendly, courteous and welcoming, and also asked for type of music we prefer. Before you know it, we arrived at the hotel, with 3 people greeting us and help us with the luggages, and we went straight up to the room to complete our check-in(I don't know when the driver communicated with the hotel team, because the car was in silent mode the last 15 minutes, and the 3 of them waited for us outside the hotel when we arrive! Excellence in service.). We were absolutely blown away by this 5 star service, above and beyond our expectations. There were some new welcome amenities we enjoyed; first off, thanks for the 12 bottles of water scattered throughout our suite(helped us stay hydrated), a welcome fruit platter, a jar of assorted chocolates and a bottle of red wine. Thanks Grand Hyatt Taipei!

The next morning we visited the Grand Club lounge during breakfast hours, the lounge is spacious at 430 sqm and offered a wide range of food and drink spread. We were impressed by the coffee machine(coffee addicts like us, we dream to have this machine at home and office!) There were plenty of food, western and Asian(Taiwanese style), as well as a made-to-order food station for noodles and eggs/omelets. 

Also to note, if you book one of their Grand Club rooms and suites, you are entitled to the following complimentary amenities:
- Complimentary continental breakfast with hot and cold selection 
- All-day coffee and tea service with soft drinks 
- Evening cocktails and canapés 
- One-hour complimentary use of a club meeting room per day. (subject to availability) 
- High-speed Internet access 
- Complimentary pressing (One 2pc suit upon arrival) 
- Complimentary iPod speaker is available on request.

For lunch, we tried out the dim sum offerings at Pearl Liang, located on the second floor of the hotel. The restaurant is very well known in Taipei for authentic Taiwanese cuisine, fresh seafood dishes, as well as the Cantonese style Dim Sum with a Taiwanese twist to it during lunch hours! Menu created by Cantonese Sous Chef Yat Lung Lee, the dishes reminded us of memories in Hong Kong, but with the Taiwanese flavors. Interior designer Tony Chi is the master behind this restaurant (and many parts of the hotel), he designed Pearl Liang hoping to remind guests of their warm and comfortable home. We tried out 7 items that day, all super delicious, and definitely not pricey like other 5 star hotels. There are also a wide range of tea and wine selection (they have an impressive wine cellar at the hotel!) to accompany your meal, be sure to ask the server for their recommendations that best fit your choice of food. 

Bottom right: braised bean curd sheet roll, with prawn and banana, it's a new twist of flavors to a traditional dim sum. 

Left: baked BBQ pork bun with an almond crust on the outside, different from the traditional "Cha Shao Bao"

Highly recommend this post-meal dessert
Steam salted egg yolk custard bun, extremely hot inside but amazingly delicious.
During the happy hours, we visited the Grand Club Lounge again, to see what they have to offer in terms of cocktails and canapés. Blown away again, with more than 10 bottles of alcohol to choose from, a selection of seasonal fruits, made to order hot dishes, and various cold and hot canapés to pair with your wine/cocktail/champagne(or coffee and tea). Oh, and they didn't leave out desserts! You can grab a lighter Japanese dinner down at Irodori afterwards. 

If you are looking for some desserts for special occasions, or a glass of wine to unwind the day in your room, they have a wide range of selections down in the lobby floor, including boxes of hand made chocolates to bring back as souvenirs. Don't forget, you must try out their outdoor pool and the fitness center, Grand Hyatt Taipei has one of the best fitness club in Asia(including the wet areas in the change room), so make sure you leave some time to try out during your visit!

Wine Shop at the hotel
Thank you Mr. Speth for this ultra artistic hand-written welcome card!
Amazing hand writing skills.
View of Taipei 101
View from the lounge (XinYi District)
No 2, SongShou Road, Taipei, Taiwan, 11051 
P. +886 2 2720 1234 

Text and images by Leon Yuan

Art & Fashion : Miss Dior Exhibition in Shanghai

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Christian Dior is gearing up with promoting their artistic side of the company, with continuous art exhibitions running throughout the year, and around the world. The latest art exhibition is held is Shanghai - Miss Dior Exhibition, at the Shanghai Sculpture Space until July 20th. 

The new exhibition focus on the famous perfume - Miss Dior, which was first introduced to the world back in 1947. This exhibition highlights how the fragrance retains its timeless yet modern character to this day, inspired by that great visionary who was Christian Dior. It also gives carte blanche to 16 contemporary female artists who provide their own interpretations of the fragrance’s emblematic features. They pay homage not only to one of the greatest couturiers of all time, but also to the subversive spirit of a perfume which has taken its place in history. 

There were some great artworks featured at this exhibition, including the great pink bow created out of bottles of J'adore fragrance, the multi-colored houndstooth carpet, a mega sized room out of inspirations of "the" Miss Dior, and the meticulously cut paper tapestry of an immaculate white rose. The 16 female artists created different forms of art, from painting to glass sculpture, and even short films. These are the artists and their work: 

Polly Apfelbaum - Rainbow Nirvana Houndstooth
Lara Baladi - Don't Touch Me Tomatoes & Chachacha
Carole Benzaken - Arborescence
Lee Bul - Cella
Karen Kilimnik - Sans Titre(Folly for Dior)
Carla Mattii - Type Garden #5
Maria Nepomuceno - Delilah
Shirin Neshat - Illusions and Mirrors (featuring Natalie Portman)
Tomoko Shioyasu - Spiral Rose
Alyson Shotz - Infinite Rose
Hannah Starkey - Bow
Joana Vasconcelos - J'adore Miss Dior
Ionna Vautrin - Gloriette
Liang Yuanwei - In To The Dust
Nika Zupanc - Room Of One's Own
Liu Lijie - Fan Fan

The exhibition is divided into 6 different themes (all under one roof).
Christian Dior In The Company Of Artists - Featuring works of his friends since his personal art gallery at 34 Rue de la Boetie, from 1928 to 1934. Some of the works featured came from the hands of artist Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric, Francis Poulenc, and Jean Cocteau, all great artists from the 20th century. Here's your not-to-be-missed opportunity to see their original works.
From Granville to Grasse - Dive into Christian Dior's imagination, his secret garden and glimpse of his personal life.
Perfuming The First Fashion Show, 1947 - Showing some historical and iconic pieces from the archive, and clips of Dior's first debut of the Miss Dior fragrance at this fashion show. 
The Misses Of 30 Avenue Montaigne - Miss Dior is Christian Dior's beloved sister - Catherine. It was Catherine who enhanced the Dior spirit just by her presence. Following in her footsteps, other beauties have come to epitomize eternally blossoming youth with their understated elegance and distinguished simplicity. 
Miss Dior, Perfume To The Stars - From history and present, all the iconic actresses who were named as "Miss Dior". 
Behind The Bottles - How its made, what it was like, the transformation through time, all you need to know about the bottles can be seen here. 
If you're a fan of Christian Dior, and Miss Dior fragrance, then this is definitely one exhibition you should stop by and take a closer look into the world of Dior. Plus its free admission this time, so there's no excuse to not attend!

Shanghai Sculpture Space

Photo by Leon Yuan, video courtesy of Christian Dior

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