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The Woman Behind Amber Lounge By The Luxury Channel

The Luxury Channel interviews Sonia Irvine; Formula One events mastermind and sister of ex-Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine….

Amber Lounge

We meet Sonia Irvine in London, just a week after she put on a spectacular three-day event over the Monaco Grand Prix race weekend. Her events company, Amber Lounge, provides a luxury nightlife experience for F1 stars, sponsors, and celebrities.

Congratulations on the Amber Lounge Monaco weekend!

Thank you! It was fantastic, such a great event. We had three fantastic nights.

Amber Lounge Fashion, your charity fashion show, was really successful. I hear Heikki Kovalainen donated a huge amount?

He did. For the past three years now I have raised money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, but this time I wanted to do something that was more socially aware, so the auction prize was very specific. It was to build 320 houses for individuals and families living with HIV. I expected to divide it into lots, so at the end of the day we would have maybe 10 different people who would contribute to building the houses, but in the end Heikki just did it all – he bid 300,000 Euros and so paid for all the houses!

Had you any idea he was planning to do that?

He was actually due to model in the fashion show, along with Lewis Hamilton and the other drivers, but he came up to me just beforehand and said ‘‘Sonia, I’m sorry but I’ve chickened out, I can’t do it!’’ So I told him it was alright and he should just take a seat and watch his girlfriend Katherine, who was also modelling in the show. Anyway, that is why he had done it – he had to be out at the front so that he could bid in the auction.

Amber Lounge

You were a physiotherapist with your own practice before becoming your brother’s physio. How did the transition from F1 physio to Amber Lounge mastermind come about?

A good physio needs people skills and the ability to analyse problems. You solve problems as a physio, that’s just what you do. When I moved into F1, I ended up doing physio for my brother and the Ferrari team, and I also ended up managing his businesses, running his PR schedule, doing a lot of things – I think in those four years, I crammed in eight years of work! So when Eddie moved to Jaguar in 2000, I decided it was time for me to stop and do something different. The launch of his book and the launch of his TV programme was the last work I did for my brother, and while I was organising that, I was approached to negotiate sponsorship deals with drivers. Then I did some consultancy, running black tie events, and it just evolved from there. I realised there was a need for something that all the teams and all the drivers could enjoy, where they could all come together in an environment that didn’t affiliate itself with anyone in particular – and so Amber Lounge was born.

So you were uniquely placed to do something like this?

Formula One is like a big family – every two weeks we meet up somewhere else, so we’re all close, we socialise and they have became my friends. I think partly they pitied me – I worked hard and I gained a lot of respect. So when Amber Lounge came along, they all turned up – Ron Dennis, Flavio Briatore – they were very, very supportive of me. The first year I did Amber Lounge, I was selling thin air – I had no pictures to do a brochure; it was built on trust and reputation. But it was a success.

You’ve taken Amber Lounge to Abu Dhabi and Singapore now – any plans to expand it further?

I do four Amber Lounges a year. I’ve done Barcelona, Monaco, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. When I bring on a new event, I drop an old one. I want to keep them exclusive. I want everyone to look forward to the event.

Why Singapore and Abu Dhabi in particular?

Monaco is the mother event, but Singapore was the first night race so it was exciting. It was definitely the right choice; the people there are very commercially-minded, they do what they say what they’re going to do, and the tourist board worked with us very well. Abu Dhabi is just an exciting place and the circuit they built has to be one of the best circuits in the world – and it’s the last race of the season, of course, so we wanted to go out with a bang.

Amber Lounge

Are you planning to expand Amber Lounge in the future?

I’ll stay with four events a year in F1, but we’ve also been approached to do Amber Lounge events outside of Formula One – in football. Hopefully we’ll be launching that soon, so there’s going to be a lot coming up with that and India.

For more details, visit www.amber-lounge.com.

The Hottest Summer Events By Lauren Steventon

Summer Events 2010

Hot-footing and jet-setting it from one social event to another this summer? Make sure you know the best address to lay your head and recuperate between engagements.

Cartier International Day

Guards Polo Club, Surrey, UK
25 July 2010

The polo event of the summer. Glamorous, beautiful and impeccably dressed – and that’s just the players. The see-and-be-seen event of the summer with hospitality from Cartier during the day and China White during the night. Excellent matches from talented teams – but that’s only half the fun. The great and good from the polo and celebrity worlds descend on Guards Club for a fashion-fabulous sporting day.

www.guardspoloclub.com

Where To Stay: Coworth Park is set in 240 acres of rolling greenery on the edge of Windsor Great Park. A traditional country house hotel with a fabulous spa and its own polo fields if you’re feeling inspired.

Salon Privé

London, UK
21 – 23 July 2010

One of London’s most stylish summer events, Salon Privé brings the world’s hottest super cars into the refined Georgian surroundings of the Hurlingham Club. If you’re more into shopping than speeding, hit the luxury brands tent, or simply admire the outfits while sipping champagne on the lawns.

www.salonprivelondon.com

Where To Stay: You might think the cars are the stars, but fashion is always pulling focus, so make sure your evenings are equally chic at Anouska Hempel’s exquisitely and interestingly designed Blake’s Hotel.

Skandia Cowes Week

Isle of Wight, UK
31 July – 7 August 2010

Trade your wispy frocks for windbreakers, and don your yachting finest for this annual regatta on the Isle of Wight. Around 8,500 competitors – ranging from Olympians to amateurs – compete in 40 daily races while spectators enjoy street theatre, entertainment and a fun-for-all atmosphere on shore. One of the top UK sporting events and one of the largest sailing regattas in the world.

www.cowesweek.co.uk

Where To Stay: The George in Yarmouth is a sea-side, classic stay overlooking the Solent.

Summer Events 2010

Benicassim International Festival

Benicassim, Spain
15 – 18 July 2010

Forget muddy wellies and soggy tents, the way to enjoy the summer’s music festivals is to take to the sunshine. An hour from Valencia, Benicassim is Europe’s coolest musical treat. Bands gracing the stage for 2010 include Kasabian, Gorillaz, Calvin Harris and Vampire Weekend, but as well as music, the festival is a celebration of film, art and dance.

www.fiberfib.com

Where To Stay: To really immerse yourself in the atmosphere, the best option is to camp, but once the party’s over, head to Barcelona (two and a half hours away) and continue it at the funky W Barcelona.

Venice Film Festival

Venice, Italy
1 – 11 September 2010

More classy than Cannes and sunnier than Sundance, the Venice Film Festival, part of La Biennale di Venizia is a star-studded celebration of film as art form and business. It’s the oldest film festival in the world, and its awards are coveted by Hollywood’s great and good. The official line-up is announced at the end of July…watch this space…

www.labiennale.org

Where To Stay: Live like a movie star and secrete yourself away at the impossibly romantic Ca Maria Adele, where Venetian style meets Eastern chic.

Burning Man Project

Black Rock Desert, Nevada, US
August 30 – September 6 2010

The ultimate destination for free-spirited, arty self-expression…

Anything goes – and we mean anything, whether that’s naked people painted blue, all-night parties, performance pieces, or simply sitting back and chilling in the desert. The Project is about community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance – entirely participant-led, creating a temporary community in the middle of the Black Rock Desert. This year’s art theme is Metropolis, exploring the past and present of civilisation and city life.

www.burningman.com

Where To Stay: Well, there’s only one option during the festival – on site. A camper van would be the top option as you have to take enough food and drink to sustain you (and to barter with) for your stay, and to remove all of your rubbish afterwards. The theme camps as much art installations as they are accommodations. Splash out afterwards at the new Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas. It’s a non-gaming property and the perfect place to escape the frenetic city.

Bernard Magrez – A Baron of Bordeaux By The Luxury Channel

Bernard Magrez owns 35 vineyards around the world and is promoting wine tourism at his estates in Bordeaux. He talks to The Luxury Channel about his love for wine and his new venture….

Bernard Magrez

Where will visitors on the wine tours go?

We have five properties in Bordeaux for people to visit. We are in Saint Emilion, Graves, Medoc and in the Entre-Deux-Mers region, so the visitor can compare and contrast all the great terriors de Bordeaux in one package. Our vineyards are in the great areas of the region and we have unique access to important producers. Each property has its own style and personality, as does the winemaker.

What is special about the tours?

Our mission with the wine tours is to offer the maximum pleasure, involvement with the history of the chateau, then dinner and possibly a stay in the chateau itself. People would travel in a vintage car or perhaps have a helicopter tour, and have a tasting lesson or even a blending lesson where they make their own assemblage of wines and compare those to actual wines from the chateau. It gives people a real chance to understand wine much more profoundly.

What inspired you to start this wine tourism venture?

I noticed in Spain there were some excellent examples of wine tourism. I then decided to go for this concept in Bordeaux, but I’m choosing to concentrate on a high-end proposition, to reflect the quality of our chateaux, including Fombrauge, La Tour Carnet and Pape Clément.

You own 35 vineyards around the world. Where might you go next?

I am fortunate enough to own some top Crus in Bordeaux and I diversified into Portugal, Spain, South America and Napa Valley. I’ve been to Croatia several times and there are excellent reds and whites there, and there are also fine wines in the Crimea. But I would say at this stage, 35 wine properties are sufficient for me!

Which wine from all of your collection would you choose to drink at your table?

One would be my wine Chateau Pape Clément and the other, a wine called Priorat from a region near Barcelona and Tarragona in Spain. They’re made on a very difficult, very dry, sloping terroirs and are marvellous red wines.

What makes the ideal wine, philosophically?

Wine is always a cultural product, not just a luxury commodity. It is a product of the land and of effort. A winemaker is an artisan, always looking for excellence in his work. When he achieves this, he becomes an artist.

Read our report of a Bernard Magrez Luxury Wine Tourism holiday here.