The Pheres Factor

Narcisa Pheres runs her own Tokyo-headquartered Italian fashion house with studios around the world. She also designs and sells jewellery, while advising on investing in fine art and even finer wines.

Click here to see Narcisa Pheres on video

You are involved in quite a range of business sectors. Why do you think your career has proved to be quite so eclectic?

I am a professionally-certified diamond expert and jewellery designer and so, about 18 years ago, I began buying diamonds for Japanese collectors. A number of the buyers liked the centre stone, but not the jewellery itself. They would then ask me to re-design it for them. That was the beginning of my jewellery line. Later, I became quite interested in fashion design. So off I went to Milan to study the design aspect of fashion, then to London to learn more about the marketing side. Ultimately, this led me to launching my men’s fashion line in Tokyo some 10 years ago.

Given my background, I get invited to lecture on investing in jewellery and gem stones, as well as in fine art and wines. I recently organised one of the largest purchases of impressionist art outside of Europe. It was a very complicated project, but also quite fascinating. Given a choice, I prefer to deal in the old masters and rarely handle any contemporary art – unless, of course, I know the artists personally.

I also advise film stars, politicians, celebrities and even royalty as to how to dress for success or just how to dress to impress. Most of my clients know what they want and I just add a hint of colour and that extra finishing touch. You only ever have a few seconds to create a first impression – one that must last – so it’s vitally important to get it right. People need something to remember you by, that special element that makes all the difference. It’s a part of my work that I really thoroughly enjoy.

Sentient robots – ever on the cards or purely the stuff of sci-fi?

I work with someone who is very involved with robotics and artificial intelligence and so I am sure that will come to pass. The current thinking is that robots will be able to make decisions at a certain level, but probably not as intelligently as humans. Many of our own decisions, however, are based on statistical analysis and that’s something robots can handle with ease.

If you had your own TV show, what would you like it to be about?

Well, I have had a few and I know what they were about. I think now, though, I would change my direction. I’d love to host a show about travel and lifestyles. I enjoy travel and I am doing a lot of work now with spas, while also looking at exploring exotic places. It would be great to introduce some of the more interesting destinations to people. There are too many fashion shows on TV nowadays, though, and sadly they are mass-produced and lacking in any real quality. I would like to integrate fashion into lifestyle, while also considering its wider impact. All the current street fashion, for instance, is non-biodegradable and, in its own way, it is helping to destroy the earth. Fads change too quickly, so clothes become out-dated while they are still virtually new. I want to make fewer clothes, but of a higher quality so people will wear them for longer. I would like to mix these ideas up with, travel, food, eco-friendly living and green hotels. I’d like to show you can have a good life, be fashionable and still be “green.”

What’s your take on the current crop of reality shows?

Project Runway, to be fair, did help a number of aspiring designers to suddenly become well known. America’s Next Top Model also did some good for the beauty industry. I am less convinced of the value of things like Keeping Up With The Kardashians. It displays the fashion world in the most negative way. Suddenly these people have become muses for all the famous fashion shows. It’s quite sad. Up and coming brands are using these sort of people to get their messages across on social media. If they have these people in mind when they are designing their latest looks, then the whole fashion world is in trouble.

When did you last go to the cinema?

I went a few weeks back. I like to have a Saturday movie night every now and again. The last one I remember seeing was The Martian. That was quite a while ago now though.


Is there a word that you feel you use too often?

“Amazing” – it is something I am always saying. I suppose it is better than “awesome” or “bloody.” I like that word. It relates to my state of mind. It is a very happy word and I’m a happy person. I find it can also be used in so many different instances.

What’s the worst advice that you’ve ever been given?

I am sure there’s been lots of such advice, but I never listen. I generally like to make my own mistakes. I suppose quite often, when I ask for advice, I am actually looking for confirmation of something I’ve already decided about. My husband always says to me: “Why do you ask me when you already have the answer?” I tell him that I have to check that my decision is right. If I make a mistake, then I really only have myself to blame.

Where do your children go to school?

They go to Beacon Hill School – part of the English Schools Foundation. We live near Kowloon Station, so we are in the capture area for that school. I am really happy with it. My eldest daughter – my seven-year-old – loves the school. The younger one is just five so doesn’t understand much yet. The school really promotes creativity and encourages art, playing the piano, public speaking, anything like that. They also stage debates, which I think is amazing for seven year olds. They are always exploring and discovering new things.

In your view, who is the greatest person to have ever lived?

Oh there are so many. Probably at the top of my list would be the great Greek mathematicians and philosophers – Plato and Socrates – or some of the more recent scientific figures, Einstein, Galileo, Edison, Da Vinci … Da Vinci was one of the most incredible. You have to wonder just how he had the time to do all the science-related things that he did, as well as his paintings. We mustn’t forget other amazing people, though, people like Mother Teresa. Greatness really depends on how you change other people’s lives – what you leave behind.

Do you believe in the death penalty?

As a punishment, no. I don’t think anything gives us the right to kill. Imprisonment for life I understand. Take away a person’s freedom, but not their life. That makes us no better than the people we are trying to punish. I don’t see that it’s ever proved to be a deterrent. Life imprisonment gives people a long time to think about what they’ve done and is actually a far more severe form of punishment in many ways.

Which do you think is the most overpaid profession?

Banking. Look at the whole financial meltdown. Everyone was just focused on getting their bonuses and were too bullish on the markets. It’s a different story now, but a lot of people got hurt back in 2008 on account of all that greed. Plastic surgery is another overpaid profession. It does absolutely nothing for humanity. I can accept reconstructive surgery after an accident or an injury. The whole plastic surgery thing is quite prevalent in the fashion arena due to the superficial nature of the industry and the huge insecurities that go with it. Then again, the whole fashion industry is based on other people’s insecurity.

Is there a TV show you particularly detest?

I suppose I don’t really hate anything on TV that much. If I am not enjoying something, I just turn off the TV. Hong Kong could do a lot better in terms of TV. They should do more to promote travel and Hong Kong’s cultural heritage, all those little things that make this place so absolutely unique.

What was your most extravagant purchase?

A chinchilla coat that I bought in Saks on Fifth Avenue earlier this year. I needed something warm for a ball that I was attending in Monte Carlo in March. I felt rather guilty afterwards. It was just a small bolero coat.

What is in your handbag right now?

Credit cards, my driving licence, some money – in a number of different currencies. I don’t know why I always have a certain amount of US dollars with me. Some make-up, some extra jewellery for the photo shoot today, an Octopus card, my laptop computer and two phones. One is my personal phone and the other one takes better pictures, which is important in my line of business.

What’s your greatest indulgence?

Oh I have a few. I love chocolate. I’d like to say spas, but no, its chocolate – especially dark chocolate made from more than 70 percent cocoa. I also like many of the Japanese chocolates – the ones with spices inside. The Japanese make some of the most amazing – that word again – chocolates. I also love good wine and cheese, especially the wines from the Bordeaux region. I also love good champagne. I try and have a champagne brunch every weekend if I can.

Are you a good listener or good talker?

I don’t think I am a good listener. I admit it. I tend to listen at the beginning and get an idea of what is needed. As I am usually operating in an advisory role, I am expected to talk more. I listen a lot when I am with friends.

What is your favourite style of food?

Japanese, without a doubt, though I am also very partial to fine French cuisine. I especially like duck à l’orange. As a lover of seafood, I am very found of sushi and sashimi. When I am in Japan, I go to those little tiny corner family-style restaurants. You find you’re always in for something of a surprise. There are some places where they have no menu. They just ask if you have any allergies and then make a special dish to surprise you. I love that sort of thing.

Do you keep a diary?

Yes, I do. I like to go back and read things over again. Even my daughter keeps a diary. It is such a busy world. Sometimes I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast, let alone what I did yesterday. I feel duty-bound to write things down for posterity.

Thank you.



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