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Dreaming Up A Diva: Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

Zee Lifestyle gets an exclusive sneak peek at the new face of Bulgari’s Diva Collection, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy as we follow her storied life as a model, singer and fashionable first lady, and discover why her very presence is enough to turn heads.

Zee Lifestyle gets an exclusive sneak peek at the new face of Bulgari’s Diva Collection, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy as we follow her storied life as a model, singer and fashionable first lady, and discover why her very presence is enough to turn heads.

It’s the hush that falls over the room when she walks in, and the furtive glances thrown her way as she passes by—some admiring, others a little envious. It’s the grand welcome given by her equally beautiful and important group of friends, mostly belonging to elite circles, as she is whisked away out of reach beyond a velvet rope. Perhaps it’s in the flick of her hair, or the soft way she says hello as she cuts across the crowd. Maybe she revels in it or perpetuates it; or maybe she isn’t even aware of the effect she has as she makes her way to whatever it is that merits her presence.

Make no mistake—there are different definitions of being a diva.

More often than not, though, it is the attention she generates around her that most significantly earns the title. In some instances, she is put on a pedestal not necessarily for some quirky behavior or talent, but rather because she needn’t do anything as she already exemplifies inspiring qualities that make her stand out from the rest. Such is the appeal of Turin, Italy-born Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who renowned fine jewelry and fashion brand Bulgari has recently named the face of its new “Diva” Campaign.

Like a cat with nine live, this glamorous lady has lived quite a few already and, at 45 (she doesn’t turn 46 until December this year), she shows no signs of slowing down. A model in her young adult years, Bruni’s big break came when she was 19, when Guess president and creative director Paul Marciano picked her to model with Estelle Lefébure in campaigns for the brand. This was in the 90s, and Bruni was then reportedly among the highest paid fashion models.

She eventually switched careers and bcame a singer/songwriter, going on to record her debut album Quelqu’un M’a Dit (which translates to Someone Told Me) in 2002. In one of those intriguing instances when musicians allow rare glimpses into their personal lives, it has been said that the second track in the album entitled Raphael was written for Bruni’s then-lover, the married philosophy professor Raphaël Enthoven, with who she had a son, Aurélien Enthoven, in 2001. She later told Vanity Fair that the relationship was broken off in 2007 because Enthoven thought there was no commitment involved.

Just months after she parts ways with Enthoven, the 39-year-old Bruni would meet the recently divorced French president Nicolas Sarkozy at a dinner party, hosted by advertising mogul and left-wing political adviser Jacques Séguéla. While he was clearly beguiled with her, she would only later reveal to Vanity Fair that she fell in love at first sight, saying his youth and energy surprised her. She lauded his charisma, noting that it is something that doesn’t translate on television.

Their whirlwind romance ended in marriage on February 2, 2008 at the Élysée Palace in Paris—her first, his third. In a life of rare highlights, Bruni found herself even more in the public eye, but in a different capacity. Aside from having an office and staff fin the Palace, she accompanied the French president on state visits, including one to the United Kingdom in the same year they were married, which was marred by a controversy on the eve of their arrival with the publication of her nude photograph, taken during her modeling days, by Christie’s auction house. The photo would reportedly later sell for $91,000. All the controversies would pale in comparison to their joy, however, when she and Sarkozy welcomed their daughter Giulia in October 2011. The young addition to the couple’s life would be the stepsister not only to her son, but also to Sarkozy’s two boys with his first wife and another son with his second.

While there is undeniable interest in her public persona as the wife of the French president—which naturally comes with a lot of criticism—Bruni threw herself into charity work, which included HIV/AIDS causes, animal rights and others. Like all women public figures, from the late Princess Diana to the current USA First Lady Michelle Obama, there would be much interest in Bruni’s wardrobe and personal style. For that much-talked about visit to the Queen of England, the British apparently praised Bruni for her “perfect curtsy and her demure, Jackie Kennedy outfits,” reported Vanity Fair. The magazine article also quoted Lagerfeld, who often used Bruni as a model, as saying, “She’s imaginative, clever and educated. She knows how to behave.”

In a New York Times Style Magazine (T Magazine) blog by Alainna Lexie Beddie, published in July this year, the former French first lady was quoted, “Of course, what I would want to wear in a public situation changed because when you actually have the honor of representing a country, you try to achieve a higher level of elegance to make them happy and proud, you know? But my personal style is basically pants, shoes and T-shirts.”

If Bruni’s charmed life has been fodder for the media, her past has been just as colorful. The legal daughter of Italian concert pianist Marisa Borini, and industrialist and classical composer Alberto Bruni Tedeschi, Carla Gilbera Bruni Tedeschi is of French ancestry on her mother’s side. In 2008, the same Vanity Fair article revealed Carla, her sister (actress and film director) Valeria and brother Virgino (who died in 2006, reportedly from complications of AIDS) grew up in a vast estate. Their family fortune came from the CEAT manufacturing company, founded by her grandfather Virginio Bruni Tedeschi.

In a dramatic turn of events in 1996, when Bruni was 28 and her father was gravely ill, he revealed that he wasn’t her biological father. Her real father was Maurizio Remmert, a classical guitarist who also belonged to a wealthy Turin family. Reportedly, Maurizio had an affair with Carla’s mother when he was 19 and she was “twice his age.” It lasted six years and bore them a daughter. Remmert would later move to Sau Paulo, where he is a grocery magnate.

The family had moved to France in the mid-70s, at a time when the Red Brigades were kidnapping wealthy individuals. In Paris, Bruni attended an Italian school, but she couldn’t wait to start her own life, so she tried modeling after her brother’s girlfriend suggested it to her. “Modeling meant I did not have to rely on my parents or a man,” she says in the same Vanity Fairinterview.

When Sarkozy came down from power in May 2012, some people thought Bruni would also be done with him— perhaps an assumption she’d brought upon herself when she was famously quoted for saying that monogamy bored her. Even the list of her reported past paramours, aside from those already mentioned, is worthy of attention; Bruni has supposedly been involved with Eric Clapton (who was said to have written in his memoirs about how hard he had fallen for the then 21-year-old), Mick Jagger (to whom Clapton had reportedly begged not to steal her away; later Bruni would claim she was never his girlfriend officially), actor Vincent Pérez, former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, among others.

“I think most women are like me, contradictory and ambivalent,” Bruni said to The Guardian in a June 2013 article entitled Carla Bruni: Sarkozy and Me. Of course, her being contradictory would also translate to controversies over things like her reported intervention and exertion of influence over Sarkozy with regards to the extradition of a woman leader of the Red Brigades terrorist movement (which existed from 1976-82) to Italy for “humanitarian reasons.” Yes, the same Red Brigades that would have kidnapped Bruni’s family had they chosen to stay in Italy.

Then, there are the things she would say to the media—for instance, she’s had to explain herself for a 2012 quote about feminism in a Vogue article—and even people supposedly alluded to in her songs (one of which was purportedly about François Hollande, the Socialist who defeated Sarkozy in his presidential re-election bid). In her defense, she would tell The Guardian, “I never really write like that. It’s hard to explain, but when I write, I don’t have such a precise idea in my head. I don’t say, okay, I’m going to write a song about X.”

Naturally, one so fascinating will never escape the interest of the media. These days, the former first lady has gone back to making music, while her husband “practices law and makes speeches.” With the succeeding French president quite unpopular and Sarkozy being hinted to return and save the nation, Bruni is busy with her own matters: working on her fourth album Little French Songs. When asked about her freedom to pursue her music once again, Bruni told TIME Magazinein a recent interview, “It wasn’t such a lack of freedom at all, really. But of course, I couldn’t go on tour and I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to do as a musician but, you know, time flies. So five years flew, and here I am and I can go back on tour.”

Courting more attention, one of the tracks, Mon Raymond, is rumored to be dedicated to her husband. She calls him “pirate” and an “atomic bomb,” in which the former describes a different side of his stately persona, while the latter “means someone looking hot, sexy… and an explosive type of person,” she says. Bruni also told The Guardian, “They’re not used to being muses— men. They’re used to being the artist. The minute you put them in the muse position, they go ‘what?’”

On her end, if there’s anything Bruni is used to, it’s being a muse.

This makes her perfect for Bulgari’s new Diva campaign, where she stars in the brand’s haute joaillerie ad campaign shot in Rome by noted photographer Terry Richardson. Of Bulgari, The Telegraph quotes the now 45-year-old diva as saying, “Bulgari is, for me, the symbol of passion, and of this vivid and colorful Roman gaiety.”

Of course, there’s a parallelism between Bruni, who was born in Italy but raised in France, and Bulgari, the Italian luxury goods company that has been owned by the French firm LVMH since 2011—making this a perfect partnership of sorts. More than that, however, the brand has found its diva personified—one who has remained who she is, even after all her experiences in the fashion, entertainment and even political circles. “My personal style’s never really changed,” she tells T Magazine blog. She’s the kind of woman who warns against overdressing for formal occasions and ending up looking like “a Christmas tree,” and who lauds the simplicity and elegance of the black evening dress, the economy of a tuxedo and a nice pair of earrings, and noting there’s nothing wrong with dressing casual at times. The very woman who has been photographed wearing the most luscious, jaw-dropping jewelry from the prestigious brand, but is never outshone by them.

Perhaps we’ve seen people who think they are divas—we run into them at parties and social gatherings, we see them trying hard to make and keep such an impression. The real difference between them and someone like Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is that this lady simply is—in the best sense of the word.

Q&A with Carla Bruni Sarkozy

What is your personal relationship with jewels?

An item of jewelry is not like any other object. It is more intimate than anything else. Physically intimate of course, because it adorns the body, right next to the skin, often close to where the heart is beating, like a drop of perfume, at the hollow of a wrist, behind the ear, at the base of the neck. But it is yet more intimate for having a meaning, a significance that goes beyond it. Jewelry belongs to the world of feelings, it touches matters of the soul. It declares a passion, betokens love, carries a memory, symbolizes a belief, seals an engagement, awards an honor, protects from misfortune… From the simplest of rings to the most sophisticated necklace, an item of jewelry always has a personal story to tell. This is an idea that pleases me. I love it when things have a story.

What does Bulgari represent to you?

Bulgari is for me the symbol of passion and of this vivid and colorful Roman gaiety. Colorful… like the stones of the 70s bracelet that my aunt wore when I was a child. I loved that bracelet. I loved its joy, its fantasy. I dreamed of one day possessing such a wonder of my own! I was told that like me it came from Italy to Paris. Perhaps that was part of why I loved it too. I later discovered that the treasure I so coveted came from Bulgari… Is it chance or this bracelet that brought us together?

Which Bulgari “facet” intrigues you most?

What a lot of stories have been told by Bulgari since it began! How can one not marvel simply at the sound of this name that fascinates and bewitches? This name that more than any other evokes Rome, its Dolce Vita and the golden age of the Cinecittà. Three murmured syllables and we are already dreaming! We dream of the tumultuous and legendary love affair between Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, we imagine ourselves a heroine of Visconti, we see Anita Ekberg running barefoot through the narrow streets to escape the paparazzi, we see ourselves in turn as Monica, Silvana, Sophia, we run laughing down the steps of the Piazza di Spagna…

And which one of jewellery- making in particular?

The passion of the master jeweler who teaches his art to his apprentice from generation to generation. The same of Sotirio Bulgari, the Greek silversmith who arrived in Rome at the end of the 19th century and passed his skills on to his sons. It is the meticulous work of the jeweler, the polisher, the setter…

As a model I have had the opportunity to work with the leading Haute Couture and Haute Joaillerie houses and to wear their creations. I have come to know the different crafts and gained an infinite appreciation for the master craftsmen, for their apprentices, for the seamstresses referred to in haute-couture as “petites mains”. With love of their craft, with a yen for perfection and with humility, they all contribute to the creation of unique and exceptional pieces. With my Foundation, we have also developed a program aimed at showcasing these magnificent crafts and encouraging school leavers into these professions. For some of these crafts are disappearing. And without craftspeople, the story ends, the magic is extinguished.

But thanks to companies such as Bulgari, for whom beauty and excellence rhyme, these ancient skills are preserved, traditions are kept alive. You only have to see the delicacy of a Bulgari jewel to realize that the crafts here are a fully-fledged art form. Each piece of haute Joaillerie is a total masterpiece of purity and finesse. And what originality, what creativity!

How did you feel about representing the image of Bulgari High jewellery?
It makes me very proud and very happy to have been chosen to represent the image of Bulgari for Haute Joaillerie. In a way, this fine jewelry house is already familiar to me. I feel connected with its romantic history and with its Italian soul which breathes life and joy and I sincerely hope to honor it.

  • by Annie S. Alejo
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Design

Filipino graphic designer makes history, joins Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde among genre’s greats

PJ Ong of Inodoro, an internationally renowned graphic designer, is the first Filipino whose work will be part of the permanent collection of Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde

CEBU CITY — In a groundbreaking achievement, Cebu-based graphic designer and art director PJ Ong of Inodoro Design Studio, is set to become the first Filipino artist permanently exhibited at Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g) in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Cebu-based graphic designer and art director of Inodoro Design Studio, PJ Ong

Ong’s recognition at MA-g places him among over 250 avant-garde artists, including iconic figures like Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, signifying a profound milestone in museum history.

“Avant-garde,” is a term that refers to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

“I am extremely honored and humbled. It is a remarkable milestone in my creative journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a prominent platform. The acknowledgment, especially considering Switzerland’s exacting standards in art and design, is truly fulfilling,” said Ong.

 

Part of a stellar contemporary collection

Under the museum’s Contemporary Collection, Ong will join global contemporary agencies such as M/M Paris (collaborator of Icelandic singer-songwriter and composer, Björk), WORK Pte Ltd (brainchild of the “Godfather of Singapore Graphic Design,” Theseus Chan), Bedow (Stockholm), BVD Stockholm AB (Stockholm), Socio Design (London) and Milkxhake (Hong Kong), among others.

Ong’s music packaging design for the Filipino harsh noise duo, White Widow, will be featured in the museum. The band’s album “The God Uterus Dissolves” — released under Melt Records — features an unconventional cassette tape packaging incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, elevating it into a unique and bespoke collector’s item.

The museum’s selection process for its Contemporary Collection involved three categories: Graphic Design, Photography, and Illustration. Swiss-Canadian Fritz Gottschalk, a prominent figure in contemporary graphic design, led the Graphic Design category.

“This is profoundly validating for me as a graphic designer. Being part of a museum’s permanent contemporary collection is a lasting testament to my capabilities as an artist,” said Ong.

‘Poetry you can touch’

The graphic designer from Cebu City further defined the album as a “deliberate departure from the ordinary,” stating that it was a testament to the artist’s and band’s dedication to pushing boundaries and offering the audience a unique and immersive experience.

“Careful consideration was given to every detail, including choosing a premium supplier for the cassette tape. Opting for a screen-printed cassette, where design elements were applied directly to the surface, gave it a contemporary and visually striking result, helping us reinforce the design narrative,” said Ong.

“From the cohesive placement of elements to using symbols instead of track titles on the spine and customizing fonts, every aspect was carefully thought out. Rather than opting for the conventional wire mesh treatment on print, I took a bold step by incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, adding a unique and sensory dimension to the album — almost like poetry you can touch.”

 

Profound honor

Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio under Ong’s leadership has garnered global acclaim for its bold design philosophy, spanning music, fashion, architecture, culture and technology. In becoming the first Filipino whose work will be on display at the MA-g, Ong stated that it is “particularly humbling.”

“Traditionally, these privileges are given to individuals who have amassed decades of experience, attained mastery in their craft, or even as a posthumous acknowledgment. To be among those selected is a profound and unexpected honor,” he said.

“Museums typically focus on visual artists, and for a graphic designer, especially within the realm of commercial work, recognition can be more elusive. I appreciate the challenges of this less conventional route and I am committed to proving the significance of graphic design in the broader artistic landscape.”

Art enthusiasts can anticipate viewing Ong’s work with “The God Uterus Dissolves” at MA-g, scheduled to open to the general public in 2025.

***

About The Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g)

The Museum of Avant-garde compiles an original body of work from private collections, providing a unique perspective on the cultural and artistic significance of avant-garde movements. These movements, synonymous with transformative ideologies and daring experimentations, played a pivotal role in challenging political and societal conventions. For more information, visit www.ma-g.org.

 

About Inodoro

Inodoro is the creative moniker of graphic designer and art director PJ Ong, a prominent figure in the Philippine design scene. Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio, based in Cebu, Philippines, has garnered international recognition for its bold and distinctive design, with a focus on thought-driven imagery and iconic visual language. The studio specializes in identities, custom typography, graphic design and art direction. For more information, visit www.inodoro-design.com.

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Ladies Who Support Ladies

Women’s Circle is an organization composed of Cebuano ladies who are successful entrepreneurs and top executives.  They recently held a fellowship event at the Sheraton Mactan Resort, with special guests from the Women’s Business Council Philippines. Chairperson, Rosemarie Rafael and Council Secretary Cynthia Mamon both flew in from Manila to discuss alliances between the Cebu and Manila groups.

Loot bag from Jo Malone, Sheraton, R&M Chocomanga, gift card from Maayo Clinic, sarong from Ferimar.

The half day event was organized by Perl Jacalan, Gina Atienza and Eva Gullas. Sheraton Resort through its GM Dottie Wugler Cronin supported the event as it is aligned with the hotel’s women initiatives.  The successful event was made more fun with generous give-aways, notably Jo Malone perfumes, Sheraton bags, R&M Chocomanga and sarongs from Ferimar.

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Eight Years of Redefining Hospitality Service

by Allain Dumon Fonte

The person behind the very successful chain of Bayfront Hotel  Cebu is the youngest son of entrepreneur couple, Edgar and Gregoria Cokaliong.  I first met Charlton as a young and dashing gentleman busily working in their textile business.  I am impressed with how he excellently juggled taking care of orders, organizing shipments, arranging deliveries, accounting, and even managing the staff of their textile company.  Charlton is an alumnus of Cebu Eastern College where he finished his primary and secondary education.  He then went to the University of San Carlos and studied accountancy.  He successfully passed the accounting licensure examinations, and worked as a certified public accountant while helping in the family’s textile business; who would have thought that he would venture into hospitality.  

Charlton Cokaliong (Managing Director of Bayfron Hotel Cebu). Picture taken at the Bayfront Hotel Lobby.

In 2014, he first opened Bayfront Hotel Cebu at the North Reclamation Area.  I even wondered why of all the places that he can start a hotel, he had to choose the North Reclamation Area.  I find the location appalling for a hotel.  What view will the guests see?  I would not want to stay in a room where the views are cranes, machines, and container vans from the sea port.  Yet, Charlton foresaw the future of hospitality service.  He knew that with the recent developments of Cebu City, people will prefer to stay in hotels that are near to the city, and have access to almost everything they need.  The hotel is right across SM City Cebu, 10 minutes from the sea ports, 30 minutes from the airport, and 15 minutes to almost all the tourist destinations in the city and in the hills of Cebu.  Then, he made the hotel packages and event packages reasonably priced; yet, with a 5-star quality of service.  I even questioned, are you not losing for the prices that you have set?  However, since the hotel opened and up to the present, Bayfront Hotel Cebu has always been fully booked and is becoming the primary choice of venue for events and celebrations.  Charlton explained that he foresaw that with the rising economy and the rising population of the metropolitan, people will always prefer to celebrate special occasions; yet, considering the inflation every year, people will also choose to become more practical by spending less  without compromising quality.  And this is what Bayfront Hotel Cebu delivers, an experience of excellent hospitality service at a price that no other can match.

Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol Site.

Because of the continuous demand for their hotel rooms and venues, Charlton opened another Bayfront Hotel Cebu in September 2021.  This time the location is at the heart of the uptown of Cebu in the Capitol Site.  Again, Charlton banked on the great location of the second Bayfront hotel.  I once again questioned him on this; considering the competition in the area because of the many up and coming business hotels that offer the same rates and packages.  Charlton smiled and confidently said that apart from the great location, he also banks on the quality of service that his staff can deliver.  “If you take care of your staff very well, your staff will take good care of your customers”.  I have seen first hand how Charlton handles and manages his staff at their textile store, so I know how he also handles and takes good care of his staff in the hotel.  And I realized that this is his biggest selling point, the hotel’s incomparable service and friendliness.  Even though the hotel opened in the middle of pandemic restrictions, the new hotel is getting countless reservations; most especially that the Capitol Site Bayfront Hotel offers an amazing view of the city skyline at its roofdeck bar and pool area.  The gym , pool , and bar amenities at the hotel’s roof deck with its view are a must to be experienced.

Standard De Luxe Room at the Bayfront Hotel Cebu.

Early of 2022, Charlton also opened the hotel’s in-house dining feature.  For seven years, Bayfront Hotel Cebu was catered by a third party food concessionaire.  But, again, Charlton foresees that the Filipino market will be more critical to food and taste.  I asked, why is this?  Charlton explained that with travel becoming more affordable and accessible, people will get to experience different kinds of food and dine in different restaurants.  Hence, people will now learn to benchmark, not only from local restaurants, but also from their dining experiences around the Philippines and overseas.  Therefore, Bayfront Hotel Cebu needs to step up its game in dining.  With the opening of Caja Kitchen, Bayfront Hotel offers more selections of Asian and Filipino comfort food fusion with international cuisines.  With Caja Kitchen, Charlton turned a Filipino menu into an international dining experience. I asked him how he came up with all these.  Charlton  explained that dedication to make his guests happy and satisfied is the key motivation why he does not stop thinking about innovating and reinventing everyone’s hospitality and dining experience. 

Caja Restaurant: Bayfront Hotel Cebu’s in-house dining facility.

In September of this year, the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in North Reclamation Area is officially celebrating its 8th year of wonderful and excellent hospitality service; while the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol turns 1!  Great and exciting anniversary promotions and packages await its patrons and guests!  Please visit the social media pages of Bayfront Hotel Cebu to know the amazing anniversary deals!

With my last question, what does he have in mind now.  Charlton just smiled and said, “Well, who knows?  Another Bayfront Hotel Cebu shall rise soon!”.  After this interesting conversation, I can say that Charlton is truly a man who can foresee the future; may it be in business, in the market, with the trends, and with new experiences.  

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