The Conversation

How to Travel Like the Assoulines

BY SARA LIEBERMAN  •  PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROBYN LEA  •  JANUARY 17, 2019

How to Travel Like the Assoulines

BY SARA LIEBERMAN  •  PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROBYN LEA  •  JANUARY 17, 2019


The globetrotting husband-and-wife duo behind publisher Assouline continually inspire wanderlust. Their newest subject? Hong Kong.

This year marks 25 years since Martine and Prosper Assouline founded their eponymous publishing house and lifestyle brand, Assouline. From Gstaad and St. Tropez to Barbie and Dior—they’ve captured it in gloriously discerning detail with words and images that spring to life with every flip of the page. Their latest title, Hong Kong: Heritage, Art & Dreams, in partnership with Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, gives readers an inside look at the city from a diverse array of fascinating locals—chef May Chow of hip Chinese diner Little Bao; local calligrapher George Yeung, prominent politico and entrepreneur Henry Tang—matched with eye-popping photography.

The Assoulines sat down with Rosewood Conversations to give a sneak peek of the new book, which is published this month, and speak about their love for Hong Kong, operating a family business, and the best lunch of their lives.

This new book takes us to Hong Kong. What draws you to the city?

Prosper: I love the cohabitation between the old and the new. You have Chanel and Gucci, and then you walk to the corner and you’re in the 19th century. It’s a real blend.

Martine: It’s one of those places that makes me dream, like New York. The kind of places that are strong and have history—dreaming is in their DNA. That’s the beauty of Hong Kong.

How do you explore the local scene when visiting a new city?

Martine: Like everybody, we ask those around us for recommendations. We went to Cuba, for example, and a friend told us we had to have a lunch at this one place. The outside was so common I didn’t think we were at the right address. But I knocked and we were welcomed inside, where there were only two tables. We could see into the kitchen and watch the fisherman smoking a cigarette outside in front of his boat. It was one the most important lunches of our lives.  

Where haven’t you visited yet that you’d most like to?

Prosper: India, but we need to find two weeks to really discover it. I can’t wait to be surprised by the colors and the colonial architecture.

Martine: When I first met Prosper, he showed me a movie called Jalsaghar (“The Music Room”) from [Indian] filmmaker Satyajit Ray. It’s the romantic idea about India I would love to find.  

What’s the best aspect about working with a life partner?

Martine: I would say the best is the confidence you have. With a partner you know and love, you can be quick and real and think aloud together. That is fantastic.

Prosper: I know where my wife is every day!

What makes an Assouline book unique and different from others on the market?

Prosper: It’s a beautiful object…

Martine: …perfectly made. We are naturally curious. If we’re not curious, we are not doing our jobs.

Prosper: We tell stories like a movie. We are about style, feelings, music. There’s history. It’s a beautiful moment…

Martine: …the best accessory for the home.

Speaking of, what are some of your most prized travel treasures?

Martine: The marble sculpture of Emperor Hadrian we found in Rome. It’s in our office in London.

Prosper: If we like something, we buy it even if we don’t have a place for it at home.

Martine: Prosper offered it to me because my favorite book is Les Memoires d’Hadrien by Marguerite Yourcenar.  

Prosper: Also, the hand-painted horse.

Martine: We found that in an auction, and it’s in our home in Paris. We also fell in love with another wooden horse while discovering a new neighborhood in Rome.

Prosper: The price to ship them was two or three times the price of the horses themselves. Then, to install the Roman one in our townhouse in New York was a nightmare!

Some might say you’re the King and Queen of the Coffee Table Book. Around how many books should actually be on the table at once?

Prosper: In Paris, we have just one book. But we change it every one or two days. We don’t want it to feel like a library or a bookstore.

Martine: Since the beginning, we always wanted to be more of a luxury brand that brings our lifestyle to life.

 

A Sneak Peek at Hong Kong: Heritage, Art & Dreams

 

How to Travel Like the Assoulines

Retailer Joyce Ma on Hong Kong's hidden creativity

“There is a lot of creativity in Hong Kong, but it is not on the streets like in Tokyo or Milan: It is our own kind, where everyone has their own take on things. You need to open your eyes to see it in the quirky little shops at PMQ or Sin Sin Man’s sublime gallery at the end of a lane in Central.”

How to Travel Like the Assoulines

Architect Marisa Yiu on Hong Kong's innovative energy

“I see Hong Kong as an urban laboratory of city innovation and connectivity that allows clusters of activities to overlay—it’s a truly dynamic contemporary city, and its three-dimensionality and the mass movement of street and pedestrian traffic add to this great energy.”

How to Travel Like the Assoulines

Architect Cesar Pelli on Hong Kong's power

“Hong Kong has a unique presence. The city radiates power. It is dense and powerful.”

How to Travel Like the Assoulines

Art director Claire Hsu on Hong Kong's changing art scene

“In the last decade, Hong Kong’s art scene has changed almost beyond recognition...I believe that Hong Kong will be one of the driving forces for a wider appreciation of Asian culture globally, and it is Hong Kong’s own history, as well as its unique sociopolitical and economic environment, that is making this possible."

Hong Kong: Heritage, Art & Dreams is on bookstands now. Rosewood Hong Kong opens March 17, 2019.

Rosewood Hong Kong

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Written By: Sara Lieberman

1.17.19

Locations: Hong Kong

See more: Art & Culture

See more: The Conversation

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