The Americas in Seven Objects

Extraordinary, beautiful objects tell the story of their age, from wooden skis to classic motorcycles. Here we curate a ‘magnificent seven’ from around the Americas. On any weekend getaway you'll encounter any of these unique objects. Feast your senses.

There’s something magical about honey. It’s natural, sweet, created by one of nature’s more extraordinary alchemical processes – and it’s great on toasted sourdough.

Small wonder that honey is a food around which myths swirl, and that it is increasingly highly prized in a culinary world which obsesses over source and seasonality. Steve Benbow, who started the London Honey Company 14 years ago, points towards a new honey connoisseurship, whereby enthusiasts talk about the sticky nectar “in the same way we talk about different varietals of wine”. Thyme honey from Greece, he says, is very popular (“really dark and flavorsome”), while lime-blossom honey has floral, citrusy top notes. As well as contributing to a new vein of gastronomy, honey made locally is said to be good for allergies like hay fever.

At The St. Regis San Francisco, bees are kept in rooftop hives and provide honey for the hotel, courtesy of executive chef Olivier Belliard. Around the rest of the world, much of the artisanal honey revival has been led by urban beekeepers. It’s the mark of a progressive city. However, in the US one third of bees have disappeared since 2006, and in Europe it’s a similar story. So when considering a hive on your roof, remind yourself that it’s pro-planet as well as on-trend. Although for travelers, there is a sting in the tale. “Bees really do need your attention,” says Benbow. “I hardly have time for holidays.” www.thelondonhoneycompany.co.uk 

When Led Zeppelin released remastered, deluxe editions of their first three albums this year, they weren’t just streamed digitally or produced on cd. They were released, too, as old-fashioned vinyl records: that circular mold of plastic that for decades had been the favored medium of thousands of music-mad teens. 

This is no anomaly: last year dozens of groups released both digital and analogue sounds, resulting in sales of more than six million vinyl albums in the American market alone (considerable growth given that fewer than 500,000 were sold in 1993). As a result of the boom, record labels that were on the brink of closing are busy again, and new factories are pressing records, working overtime to fill demand. In an interview last year, Chad Kassem, owner of Quality Record Pressings, which is pressing about 900,000 discs a year, told The New York Times, “We’ve always had more work than we could do. When we had one press, we had enough orders for two. When we had two, we had enough orders for four.”

As you’d expect, a growth in vinyl also means a growth in sales of record players: both new and old. Music Direct, one of america’s biggest music retailers, reports selling thousands of models ranging in price from $249 to $30,000 – and more than 500,000 vinyl albums besides – last year. Why do they believe the resurgence is happening? Because children’s parents play cds. And why would you want to use the medium enjoyed by your mother and father when you can handle the über-cool object revered by DJs? www.henleydesigns.co.uk

 

Jacqueline Onassis was renowned for leading many fashion trends: the pink Chanel suit, the Lilly Pulitzer dress, the Hermès scarf. But there’s one item that truly became her signature – those paparazzi-confounding, jet-setting sunglasses.

Half a century after she popularized them, Jackie O’s favourite “bug-eye” Nina Ricci 3203 shades are not only coveted by fashionistas from Lady Gaga to model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, but are being reissued by the French fashion house L’Amy America. Retro specs are flying off shelves from Hollywood to the Persian Gulf. As a result, a growing number of emporia have sprung up selling original retro frames. Los Angeles can claim to be the vintage shades capital of the world, with specialists such as Russ Campbell’s Old Focals dressing the film industry (it furnished Mad Men’s Don Draper with Olympians by Bausch + Lomb). Also scouring yard sales and buying up “dead stock” from old optometrists around the world are the vintage frames company In Montreal, which has 100,000 frames; Klasik in London, which has sold vintage eyewear for 13 years; and Berlin’s Vintage Sunglasses: so enormous it’s become known as a sunglasses superstore.

Contemporary sunglasses lost their allure in the mid-1990s, when mass production made them disposable. Vintage eyewear offers quality, durability and solid technology, which is why you’ll now hear the fashion crowd talking of the classic shapes worn by such icons as Elvis Presley, Audrey Hepburn and Steve McQueen in reverent terms: tear-drop “aviators”; top-heavy “browlines”; slinky “cat eyes” and round “tea shades”. Never has it been so fashionable to look through old glass darkly. www.vintagesunglasseslondon.co.uk

 

There’s a reason why Jay Leno is crazy about pre-war motorbikes: so few survive from the period that those that do exist are highly prized and hugely collectable.

In April 2014 the highest price ever achieved for a 1930s Brough Superior SS100 was reached at the Bonhams annual vintage motorcycle sale: £253,500 (about $430,000), almost double its estimate. In April 2015, an even rarer machine will go under the hammer: the beautiful 1939 Vincent-HRD 998cc Series-A Rapide, only 78 of which were produced between late 1936 and the summer of 1939, and only 50 of which still remain. This one, says Bonhams motorcycle expert Ben Walker, is “in concours condition, and one of those models that collectors and enthusiasts dream of: owned by one family since 1959, and the second-last ever to be produced”.

Not all motorcycles, though, are quite as good investments, according to Tennessee vintage bike broker Somer Hooker. “Buying a bike is like buying art,” he warns. “It’s worth buying something you like because you may have to live with it.” The most solid investments, most dealers will advise, are pre-war bikes, or those that were produced in limited numbers. Where to go if you fancy putting money into two wheels, rather than Wall Street? Bonhams’ international salerooms (New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and London) are a good resource, dealers say. And even if the bike you buy doesn’t go up hugely in price, the pleasure that comes with owning one is enormous, says Hooker. “People get tired of paper assets. It’s more fun to go out in the garage, see what you’ve got and take it for a ride.”

This is the bicycle’s moment. It is the most popular means of transport on earth, with more than a billion models – almost half of them in China – whizzing across the planet. It is championed by such powerful global figures as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

There’s good reason for its renewed popularity. Ridden at low speeds of 10 to 15 miles an hour, a bicycle utilizes the same amount of energy as walking. It’s cheap to run, eco-friendly, requires minimal maintenance and doesn’t get stuck in traffic jams. And for a new generation of smart, environmentally aware men, it is far, far cooler to be seen pedaling to the office than riding in the back of a limousine.

It is, of course, good news for bicycling manufacturers, and for followers of style. Today there are dozens of small new manufacturing companies, such as the Vickers Bicycle Company, which hand-builds its made-to-order Roadster, pictured above, specifically for the sophisticated urban gentleman. What their clients want, says Vickers’ founder Ian Covey, “is an elegant bike on to which they can leap, whatever they are wearing, in whatever weather, and arrive in style”. Hence this model’s elegant handlebars, which help to maintain an upright posture, and prevent suit jackets from pulling or creasing. “But then, because our bicycles are bespoke, we can make anything for anyone, no matter what their wardrobe,” he adds. “If you’re a kilt-wearer, for instance, we just remove the crossbar.” vickersbicycles.co.uk

The film A River Runs Through It has a lot to answer for. When Robert Redford turned Norman Maclean’s novella into a movie starring Brad Pitt, fly-fishing graduated from a pastime for old-timers into a super-cool sport, from the rivers of Japan to the mountain streams of Aspen. Courses became oversubscribed with newbies wanting to acquire angling skills, fishing shops reported a surge in sales, and fishing retreats were all booked up.

Even two decades on, fly-fishing has lost none of its appeal, with increasing numbers going abroad to pursue their passion. “When it’s cold in the northern hemisphere, there’s nothing like sea fly-fishing in the Seychelles,” says Sean Clarke of Farlows, who accompanies international clients to rivers, lakes and seashores all over the world. “Or in summer, going into great wildernesses: in Canada, say, or Russia. You can helicopter into parts of Russia where there isn’t another soul for 150 miles.”

Perhaps the silver screen will inspire a revival of the dying art of fly-tying, too. This year’s cult documentary Kiss the Water tells the story of Megan Boyd, whose skill in creating such fly models as the Jock Scott and the Silver Doctor from feathers, tinsel and silk made her a revered figure among anglers, including her lifelong friend, Prince Charles. Ironically, Boyd hated the fact that her gorgeous lures were ultimately used to kill fish. farlows.co.uk

Ask John Fry, president of the International Skiing History Association, why he believes there’s been an upsurge in wooden skis on slopes around the world, and he scratches his head. “To be honest, I have no idea." 

Wood was abandoned in the 1950s, when the metal ski was invented. By the 1972 Japan Olympics, everyone was using fiberglass. “Wood is a natural material, so it’s really hard to make two skis exactly the same,” he explains. “The torsing of the ski can’t be varied – whereas with modern composites, it can be. And then there’s the upkeep...”

While Fry is right about the improved technical make-up of modern skis, he does recognize that “wooden skis do look nice”. So nice, in fact, that two enthusiasts have set up a website, vintagewinter.com, in order that enthusiasts can buy old pairs to adorn their chalets, homes and hotels. “Vintage winter sports items will always be in style,” says co-founder Jeff Hume. “There is something appealing about an old pair of solid-wood skis.” Which is why Pete Wagner in Colorado has cleverly come up with the perfect combination: hi-tech, ultra-strong skis that are custom-made using the most advanced engineering and materials, but finished with the sorts of beautiful wooden veneers shown here. “What people want is an old-fashioned aesthetic, but with 21st-century technology,” he says.Visitors to his website can fill out a form, and the company will design and ship skis anywhere in the world. Or simply, perhaps, to The St. Regis Aspen Resort, where they will be ready and waiting for guests on arrival. With or without wooden veneers. wagnerskis.com

Check out more at Beyond, The St. Regis Magazine!

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