Take a seat in a rarified world

Updated: 2014-12-27 05:14

By Matt Hodges(Shanghai Star)

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Take a seat in a rarified world

Luxury: The interior of a yacht outfitted by Silverlining. Photos provided to Shanghai Star

In the world of bespoke luxury furniture, every cloud or super yacht can have a silver lining if you are a US-dollar billionaire. Now a British company that defines the word 'exclusivity' is in China to buttress its list of clientele. Matt Hodges finds out more.

The sky is filled with rain clouds when Hamilton Ashworth, or 'Mr Ham' as he is known among his circle of billionaire friends, turns up at M on the Bund lugging an industrial suitcase and presenting himself as the face in Asia of bespoke furniture-maker, Silverlining.

As he talks of royal clients and reindeer hides salvaged from sunken wrecks to serve as upholstery for the super yachts of the mega-rich, the case becomes even more of a curio. When he explains how his company makes moving furniture activated by wireless electricity, or suspended mid-air using magnets, other diners turn to listen.

As it turns out, Ashworth is a titular Lord — with a WeChat account. Like Prince Charles, he attended Gordonstoun, an elite boarding school in Elgin, Scotland. Photos on his Moments timeline show the two men playing polo together. The Prince of Wales’ also happens to be a client.

Ashworth was recently in Shanghai in his capacity as Head of VIP Relations Asia for the bespoke furniture-maker, part of a first China jaunt aimed at finding two new customers to broaden the British company's horizons. Not three or 300, just two. It will also start work on a delayed residential project on Hong Kong's The Peak in 2017.

"Somebody has to be the first luxury furniture-maker to come east," Ashworth says over some truffle and beef flambé, while proselytizing about the company's newly concocted "invisible finishes" and "illusionary marquetry".

"We are looking for two more billionaires to join our inner-sanctum club. We are talking about the kind of people who are way past all the luxury brands, people who got tired of Louis Vuitton five years ago."

"But we are very careful about who we approach. We're looking for the second -or third- generation of families with immense wealth, someone who travels extensively around the world, somebody who is already a collector of art."

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