GUEST EDIT: RICHARD CHRISTIANSEN
GUEST EDIT: RICHARD CHRISTIANSEN
The creative entrepreneur–who spent years honing how the world's top luxury brands communicate before founding regenerative farm and lifestyle line, Flamingo Estate–shares his favorite works on Platform, plus the best kind of gift to receive.
What do you collect?
I have many large paintings from Ken Done, an iconic Australian artist I loved as a kid, and several David Hockney pieces. Both Ken and David share a love of bold, garden-bright colors. I find comfort in colors and landscapes, probably because I grew up on a farm in Australia. There are 13 of Hockey’s nude drawings around my bed which I find very sensual (my home was once a porn studio). There are a few Giacometti pieces that I treasure. I’d like to find more large-scale sculptures – Flamingo is seven acres and the orchard would be a beautiful place for scale.
Are there any young artists you’ve discovered recently whom you love?
The Haas Brothers are LA Dynamite. Nikolai Haas is our beloved neighbor and deeply valued friend. Fostering a friendship with Nikolai and his family has been one of the highlights of living at Flamingo. It has been an honor to sit on the edge of his beautiful mind and incredible imagination.
Myungjin Kim is a rare and precious talent. Her massive, fragile terracotta creations are improbable and wildly creative. Almost more surprising is the artist herself; she’s one of the most gracious, generous people I have met in Los Angeles. Owls feature often in MJ’s work, fitting for the Estate where barn owls hoot all night in the garden. Said to represent wisdom, intelligence and power, they are a perfect spirit animal for MJ and the estate.
California-Native Sharif Farrag creates bold psychedelic and subversive ideas.
His works are conjured out of personal references, such as his Syrian-Egyptian heritage, and the graffiti and skater cultures of the West Coast. A little bit punk, a little bit '80s, and always an explosion of energy. For me, they feel like watching cartoons on magic mushrooms with the most exquisite degree of handwork and detail.
Zack Nathanson is a new friend and artist. Zack doesn’t approach ceramics like a ceramicist. He approaches the craft as a graphic designer would, creating architectural forms adorned with expressions and lettering with precision. He spends much of his life in the digital sphere but is deeply drawn to the mechanical and the tactile. His work is an excuse to enjoy words and letters for their inherent shape and form, rather than semantic weight and cultural baggage. Zack also happens to be my close friend, and it’s a joy to know the enthusiasm he brings to his work is reflected in his daily life.
Tâm Van Tran. One of my favorite things about Tâm Van Tran is that he studied Film and Television at UCLA before pursuing art. You can feel the eye travel over his work, the way a camera moves over a colorful scene. His Vietnamese heritage feels unique in this context, and I feel lucky to witness it.
Finally, Tony Marsh is the godfather of California ceramics, as far as I’m concerned—and an undeniable asset to the community here in Southern California. His work is precise, yet teeming with life, playing with form in surprising and unexpected ways, like deconstructed amoebas.
If you could collect any one artist, who would it be?
I wouldn’t say no to some of François-Xavier Lalanne’s furniture.
How has it been different building your own brand, Flamingo Estate, compared to helping others build their own brands?
It is different in so many ways. Flamingo Estate is my home; it is very personal. But it’s also a brand and a movement toward regenerative agriculture and extracting pleasure from nature. In 2019, I went through a bit of an existential crisis, and then COVID hit, which was the reset button I had been waiting for. I realized that when things are falling apart, nature is the most healing thing and that led me to spend a lot of time in my garden. Mother Nature is our best doctor, therapist and friend. My garden is my greatest love.
I like to say Flamingo Estate is a home for radical pleasure: a place to bathe, eat and bask in nature's most precious gifts. To relish the slow dive, the deep breath. The bees asleep in the mallow, the drizzle of olive oil on a soft-boiled egg. These are the moments that foster joy. We created products from the garden to help have better sleep, less anxiety, better sex and more calm. What started in my own garden has now grown into a collective of over 110 regenerative farms across California and around the world, all growing ingredients to make products for us to embody joy. We are now a family of farmers and growers fighting for the natural world–with green thumbs and middle fingers.
What’s been the hardest thing about building Flamingo Estate? Did you ever imagine you’d do this?
Honestly, it’s not been hard. It’s been the greatest joy. Maybe that’s the shocking thing: how beautiful and seamless it has been. We have doubled the business every year, but it still starts in my kitchen and bathroom. After spending two decades building my agency I was exhausted, and unhealthy and totally out of alignment. This time around, it’s been the opposite.
I’ve spent the past couple of years learning to shift my focus to essential things–the garden, good food, a smaller circle of friends, my dogs, my partner, creating intimacy, privacy, building a home (not a house). I deleted my personal Instagram. I started saying no to people. This is an uphill battle. In a world that profits off our numbness, it is a radical act to wake up one’s senses.
Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on?
Aside from Flamingo? We collaborated with Hermès just before COVID, which was a deep pleasure. In an industry obsessed with the trendy new thing, there’s a beauty in being classy, taking the slow road, and the high road. In quality and calm.That’s the beauty of Hermès as a brand.
In my old life, we worked for almost all the luxury brands. And I’ve now come to think that Mother Nature is the last great luxury house. And the things we grow and make are her most precious goods. I actually had a meeting recently at LVMH in Paris, and I said, "One day, LVMH will buy Flamingo Estate.” The person I was meeting asked why. I said, “Because if you want to OWN luxury, this is the new frontier of it–radical intimacy and hyper-localization of the things you use on your body and in your home.”
Is there a dream project you haven't worked on yet?
The only thing I have not done is work on an airline. It’s my secret obsession. And also to breathe new life in Laura Ashley, which was once my dream brand, to be honest.
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow?
Dream dinner guests (dead or alive)?
Jane Goodall, Jane Fonda, David Hockney, Yvon Chouinard, Walt Disney, Jen Henson, Yves St Laurent, Grace Jones.
What’s the best gift you’ve given/received recently?
The only gifts I like are trees. That way my friends can grow all around me.
What’s your greatest extravagance?
A long hot bath every day.
NYC vs. L.A.: discuss.
LA is summer–it’s where you come to blossom.
What are you doing right after this?
Going for a walk in the rain with my dogs, then bottle feeding my baby goats.