Rafaella Carnevalle in Yerevan to design first boutique hotel in Fendi, Feragammo style and conduct Xcat boat race in Sevan

19:56 • 09.12.17

Tert.am has interviewed  Rafaella Carnevalle, a successful Italian entrepreneur who is now a manager of Moda Milano, a family business based in Milan. Carnevalle currently works on the design of famous hotels, recreation areas, corporate offices and other facilities in different parts of the globe.

Thank you for this opportunity. As you are here, I think you have certain plans and projects in Yerevan. Can you tell us a little bit about them?

I think we need to meet many times to speak about all the projects that we want to implement. Number one, it is really impressive for me because it’s my first time in Armenia, and so far, it has been so exciting … Of course, I have to thank someone a lot for it, his way of convincing me to come and to visit Armenia. I had heard a lot about Armenia - I knew where it was - but I didn’t actually know what it was (Armenia). I knew that the Armenian people are extremely proud, and definitely very knowledgeable; their historical roots are well-known and a get a bit close towards us, i.e. - Italy.

But of course, it was a big surprise when I discussed that with Mr. Dino Awadisian. He is, of course, a very prominent businessman, but what really captured my attention was the way he was talking about this country, i.e. – where it should go, and what he wants to do for this country. There are ideas for hospitality development which is already part of this business. And I really liked the idea not because I’m used to challenges in my life but because I loved the way he was proposing that.

And I am here now; I have been visiting the city, and of course, I visited the Roman temple which was just taking me back to my history, my country, and I felt even more the close connection between this country and mine. I have seen most of this city, and I think that it has really a lot to do and show to everybody. We are here to start, and I think it is going to be a very beautiful journey.

Why did you choose Armenia?

Actually, I’ve only chosen to be part of this project. The way this project was proposed to me was so capturing. Actually, the emotions Mr. Dino was conveying to me, his way of talking about this initiative and the way of seeing someone so dedicated to a country really attracted and convinced me. We receive so many requests from other countries around the world, because we got a certain experience.

Almost 13 years ago, my family decided to open a branch in Dubai. We are a Milan-based company, Moda Milano, which is, of course, a family business. It was decided from the beginning that I would be the one in charge for the UAE expansion. Of course, that expansion was not limited only to the UAE; it covered all the GCC countries. It was a beautiful challenge, because everything was just happening there. I saw the country developing and growing and becoming an international hub. We have been doing the most beautiful projects over there – government projects, private projects etc. At the moment, for example, we are working on a beautiful project for the government to build a 600-villa hotel complex in Masdar City, the greenest city in the UAE. It is a big challenge, as I think it is the first eco-oriented hotel in the world, which is now under construction.

I came into the luxury brands from a fashion background, which was definitely a big experience for me. My mother worked for Valentino for more than 11 years; then she launched her own brand, and we have been producing haute couture for the most important people in the world, mostly royal families. Our experience, and my experience personally, is coming from that level, and I believe in luxury lifestyle. And this is what Dubai gave me the chance to implement. I have been the chief PR officer of our official council for two years; it's been an amazing experience because I had to bring together all our designers around the table and explain to them what it is [to do business] in the Middle East. I had to bring the most important university of fashion in Dubai to grant scholarship to the Arab new talents. So, these two years were really beautiful and intensive.

I understand you have friends in Armenia. Can you share your impressions of them?

Oh, I have made friends with great people since I came here. And it's so beautiful and so exciting. Of course, friend number one is Mr. Dino Awadisian, because he has been the one that brought me here, and I think I will be grateful to him for the rest of my life. And of course, the people around him have been really wonderful. I have met beautiful people here; I assume all the Armenians are the same.

I would like you to speak in more detail about your projects in Yerevan. I know that you are involved in the Xcat project. What can you tell us about it?

Actually, we have two beautiful projects. One of them, which deals with hospitality, is going to be unique in its kind. It will not be like the brand of hotels in Dubai; it's going to be a beautiful boutique hotel. And the land that I have seen is just stunning. I am not allowed to say where it is, but it is really going to be a very beautiful boutique hotel. We are now in the process of deciding the brand name, because as you know a boutique hotel has to be really related to an important brand. It may be Fendi or Ferragamo.

Really? Do you think it is possible?

- Why not? We are just in the process of deciding it now. It is definitely going to be something that will change the prospective of this country and the way this country attracts new tourists and new business people. I believe this will change a lot, and this is one of our beautiful projects. Of course, along with the this, we are going to have also retail [trade centers] and a special FMB restaurant in this beautiful box. It will definitely be a unique experience for Armenia, and I am sure we will really make it happen.

And what is the difference between boutique hotels and ordinary hotels?

What matters in a boutique hotel is the service. It is not going to be just a big hotel, because the people we are going to cater for will need privacy. They need really to be taken care of, and they need certain standards; then the design has to consider certain criteria –the room layout, the ceiling design and color, scheme and comfort. There will be a variety of services – different kinds of restaurants, as well as retail stores. Our client is very often a specific kind of tourist or a businessperson who needs a last-minute service. The concierge service is going to be extremely important. Booking a private jet ticket or a helicopter ticket at the last minute will be possible. And we will arrange the booking of theatre tickets from all around the world. These are going to be some of the services that a boutique hotel has to give, and definitely, we will implement them.

What do you think should be the most important thing in a hotel? What is the standard of a high-class hotel?

I am a very creative personality. As I enter a hotel, I need to have the feeling that it has a certain lifestyle, and I need to identify myself with that particular lifestyle. It's a kind of character. And I think it's the same with the people.

What impresses you most of the time you meet different people is definitely the character.

Character is what charms us. Any place I enter needs to kind of attract me and give me messages. I love to see a corner with a certain piece of art and have lots of people around. Everything has to be very clear, as I need to feel that this place really belongs to be. A real boutique hotel is having to give you the homey feeling.

I want to talk a little bit about XCAT. I have heard that you are planning to bring them to Armenia, particularly to lake Sevan. Is it possible?

I think with the people I met everything is possible. Yes, that's a beautiful project. I love engines, and I love speed - although my look doesn't give that impression. But I really love XCAT.

Xcat is also racing, i.e. – the kind of sports that you can compare with F1 (though there are very very fast boats there). You know it started as a hobby for me, because my cousin is a pilot; this year he really distinguished himself as he was named the Pilot of the Year. And I became passionate; I can love anything in the world just because someone is transferring to me the passion for it. I have been just following XCAT in the past year, and I really fell in love with that concept. And yes, you know, again I met the right people, this time Mr. Dino. He is in all places because he's man of challenges. We hosted him in the last race of XCAT in Dubai. And my boat got the third place in that championship. Our competitors were, of course, top racers. The winners were the Dubai team, which belonged to the royal family of Dubai, and the Abu Dhabi team, which belong to the royal family of Abu Dhabi. Both of them are the greatest clients of mine and very good people, and I really adore them. For me, it's unfortunately a kind of dual life between the UAE and Italy, and then I found myself competing with both of them. Now I have promised them a really tough competition for next year.

Do you expect this to be a unique kind of investment in Armenia?

I think it's going to be fantastic for Armenia. Especially for next year, XCAT has a very rich and strong calendar of boat-racing. We are going to cover several countries, which I believe will be a big added value to Armenia; that's why I believe that XCAT will bring the whole world to Armenia. We have teams from all over the world – Australia, Russia Italy etc. And the teams bring with them so many people, including the media, and also the pilots who come with their families and friends a few hundreds of people will gather together here. Armenia is going to be under the world spotlight, and I think this is the most strategic solution and idea that could be invested here.

What is your key to success in interior design?

It's my passion for it. Without passion you can't do anything. It's my passion, and it's the way I live. And the way I live is the way I communicate with my clients who are not just clients - actually my friends. I started my career only working in royal palaces in the GCC countries. I got so close to those people that my relationship with them developed into friendship. We learned a new way of living which is their way. The most beautiful thing for me is that they allow me to transfer that passion. They never obligate me, and they never restrict me; they just let me do what I wish to do. It's just because I love what I do; I am addicted to it. I can do many things, but this is what I love to do every day. And then from royal palaces, we moved into hospitality, into hotels, and I found it extremely interesting for me. Our team has so many architects, and each of them, of course, does his own job. We have designed the most beautiful restaurants in Dubai. We have designed restaurants around the world – in Miami, New York, Mexico, Shanghai, Hong Kong and other cities. This is just vibrant, you know, and I can't really live without it. But we are not just interior designers; we are architects and do also our plans. We are now designing an amazing, beautiful gulf club for the royal family in Oman. It's all about how much you love it. And I love it so much.

Which is your source of inspiration. Tell us about your approach to design and philosophy.

My philosophy is that I love beauty, and I love perfection. I am a perfectionist, so everything for me is harmony and balance. Everything inspires me. And you too, are inspiring me in a way. Being here is inspiring me; meeting people is inspiring too. I love people, I love cultures. Don't forget that my father is a historian, and since younger ages, I have been travelling a lot around the world. And my father has been always telling me, 'Whenever you travel, don't think about yourself, don't think about where you are coming from; just listen to the people, smell the streets, look at the details, look at the children, the way they approach you. Look at the way people talk to you.' This is about how you build experiences. When I have to start a project, I generally sit with my clients (they are clients at the beginning, then they become friends) and just ask them 'What do you want?' 'What do you want to see in this place?', 'What do you want this place do give you?' Then I just concentrate on them, listen to them. I spend some time with them, and then - it’s just a second: the project is up.

Has Yerevan inspired you?

Of course, it has. I know what we are going to do, and what it [our idea] is going to look like. How can a place full of culture, history and roots fall short of inspiring you

Have you noticed many Italian restaurants in Yerevan? Have you tasted their dishes, their pizzas?

Well, I have to tell you something. In this, I am very Italian. Leave the pizza to the Italians … No, I haven’t tasted any pizza here. You have magic foods, so don’t please go to the pizza. But I am sure it’s going to taste good …

And my last question. Where can we see the results of your work in Yerevan?

Very soon; I will be back to Dubai and later leave for Italy to set up what is missing in our network. And the project is already on, by the way. Surprisingly, you will very soon have the most beautiful and magic boutique hotel that the whole world will be talking about.


Tigranuhi Martirosyan

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