Anouska Hempel has a talent that one is born with, not learned. She decided she wanted to become a designer at the age of five. She mixes glamourous pieces with exotic treasures in rich materials and colors, influenced by the Far East. Through her company Anouska Hempel Design, she creates hotels, private homes, gardens, furniture, anything that pleases her. She is best known for her boutique hotels such as the Blakes Hotel in London and Amsterdam and The Hempel (her first minimalist experiment). She designed the Van Cleef and Arpels store in Paris and the concept for a flagship Louis Vuitton store, also in Paris. She is now redesigning parts of the Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah in Istanbul.

FASHION&TRAVEL You have renovated the historical Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah, in Istanbul. Can you tell us about the renovations?
ANOUSKA HEMPEL It’s not finished yet. There is still more to do all over the place. We redesigned the lobby, the library and the Kubeli. But as I said it’s not finished at all, we have just finished the basic work. Now my duty is to make it as beautiful as it can be.

F&T I have seen what you have done. It’s beautiful…
AH No, it’s not finished yet. There is so much more I have to do. I will be back in 1 or 2 months to finish up. I still have to do the Agatha Christie Restaurant. You know she is one of the famous people who stayed at the hotel so one of the restaurants is named after her. I have a lot of fun ideas in mind for the restaurant. And I hotel and Pinar, the General Manager. I will also be bringing a lot of beautiful fabrics to the hotel, to make it look a little older.

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F&T The Pera Palace Hotel is now a member of the Jumeirah Ho- tels. This is not your first project for the group, is it?
AH No, it is not. I have worked on another project with them: The Grosvenor House Apartments – they are beautiful apartments in Park Lane, London. We restructured the interior of the 120 apart- ments and 4 penthouses of this 1930 hotel. It looks like photograp- her Cecil Beaton’s works, a lot of grey on grey. The hotel is a real beauty. Working with the Jumeirah Group, the operators of the hotel, was a pleasure. They are wonderful people.

F&T You have been coming to Istanbul for the Pera Palace project. Have you been to Turkey before?
AH Of course I have. I love Turkey. I first came to Turkey with Prin- cess Margaret, about 15 years ago. We had a great time. We were Simavi. All was so wonderful.

F&T And your own boat is a Turkish Gulet…
AH Yes, that’s correct. My husband and I bought our Turkish wo- oden sailboat, a Gulet, 12 years ago. We named her Beluga 1. The boat was built in Bodrum. She’s a real beauty. I redesigned her, now she looks more like a Riva, a wooden speedboat made in Italy.

F&T It seems like you spent a lot of time in Turkey. The owner of Lokum, Zeynep Keyman once mentioned to me that you desig- ned her house in Istanbul. Do you have any Turkish clients at the moment?
AH No. I have no other clients in Turkey, just friends. The Pera Palace is the project I am working on in Turkey.

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F&T What are the projects you are working on now, other than the Pera Palace?
AH I am everywhere, all around the world. We are working on hotel projects in Beirut, in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Santiago and Singapore and another hotel we are designing for Baccarat in Morocco. I am also working on 3 houses and 2 beautiful gardens in England.

F&T There is also Warapuru (minimal in style same as The Hempel), the hotel you are building in the rainforest in Itacare, Brazil…
AH That is an ongoing project consisting of a hotel, villas and a spa. It will emerge majestically from the canopy of the rainforest with vi- ews across the ocean when it is finished. Quite impressive. The area has been declared a World Heritage Site so it is closed down for now, but
we are restarting work.

F&T – dens, furniture, haute couture clothes… Don’t they require a separate expertise?
AH If you can design one thing, then you can do other things, too. Buil- ding hotels takes 2 years. That’s a long time. Designing little things is a pleasure and it takes up much less of your time.

F&T You have also designed haute couture clothes for many celebrities including Anya Hindmarch, Princess Diana, Helena Christensen, The Duchess of York and Princess Margaret. How was it to be a fashion designer?
AH I really enjoyed designing clothes although now I don’t have the time. I am always travelling around the world for other projects. Well, you can’t do it all. But it was very fulfilling to create something wonderful for someone and see how happy you can make them. Someone would come to my studio not feeling good about herself, because of her weight or appearance in some other way, and a few weeks later, after I had made something beautiful for her, she would feel so much happier… It was a very special thing to be able to make people so happy.

F&T How would you describe your design style?
AH Eclectic. My work changes depending on who I work with. I try to do what my client wants and add a twist to it. When my work is finished, it usually says I’ve been here. Stylewise, it can be contemporary or classic. It doesn’t matter.

F&T You have also designed some furniture that you sell on your web site. Did you design them for a project you were working on?
AH All those products were designed for projects. They are small things, like chairs and lamps. They are quite “Japanesy” actually. They have
that old Japanese look to them but they are contemporary and stylish. am quite drawn to Japanese furniture. I am in one sense like the Japanese people; I am small like them.

F&T You used to be a hotelier, too. You not only designed them but you managed them, too. Why did you stop doing this?
AH I ran 3 hotels in the past; The Blakes, La Suite West and The Hempel… Now I design hotels for other people. I design the hotel and then I give it to them to run it.

F&T There is a book about you that will be coming out this fall. Can you tell us about the book?
AH The book is called Anouska Hempel. It will be coming out on October 15, this fall. It is being published by Thames § Hudson Publications. I didn’t write the book – it was done by Marcus Binney. If I had, I would have changed some of the pictures. But what can you do?

F&T When I was researching for this interview, I read that you were born on a boat. Is it true?
AH It was a boat travelling from New Guinea to New Zealand. That is true but you shouldn’t believe everything you read, you know.

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Leyla Melek