In a world driven by inordinate, escalating demands, traditional artistry is often lost and ancient handicrafts, bested by machine-made goods. But in this realm of substandard mass production shines a multifaceted retail business that’s brought back a hint of ancient grandeur to modern society — Lotus Arts de Vivre.
Founded by German industrialist Rolf von Bueren and his wife Helen in Thailand, in 1962, the brand was born out of curiosity for craftsmanship, an admiration for South-Asian tradition and a passion that takes precedence over profitability. At the heart of it all is an ingenuity, inventiveness and individualism that’s driven by this curiosity and vigilance, which preserves its vivacity. As Rolf says, “We personify a ‘chamber of curiosities.’ We’re trying to do things that have more or less died out, things that are not being done anymore.”
Juxtaposing traditional artistry with the pragmatism of the modern world, the von Buerens personally oversee every facet of the business, starting with conception and design to even production — an aspect of his job that Rolf jovially labels a “curse.”
“My design head is like a curse. I dream of design, and I wake up thinking of design,” he shares. “I go into a room and think of what I’d do differently. Design follows me 24 hours a day!” Today, their sons, Sri and Nicklas von Bueren, carry forward their passion for preserving the dying arts and customs.
While Sri is a trained jeweller invested in the intricacies of the craft, Nicklas heads operations. Together, they lead the company towards unprecedented success on a global scale — from holding international exhibitions to establishing signature stores across Thailand, Malaysia and, most recently, India. Yes, the brand has entered the Indian market with their first flagship store in Colaba, Mumbai.
“The clientele is changing and our traditional clients are getting older,” says Nicklas. “We have to find fresh blood and sell differently.
Today, it’s all about social media; we have to be part of that, or risk becoming obsolete.” Unlike the multitude of profit-driven MNCs today, Nicklas believes that the ethos of their company “is to grow sensibly.”
In their traditional, wooden home in Bangkok, Rolf and Helen welcome guests from the world over, preserving Thai culture in their day-to-day living, dining and entertaining. However, the couple has traversed the globe together, and on those trips were heavily inspired by classical mythology, exotic artefacts and, above all, the natural world. These experiences inspired their use of opulent natural materials, such as ebony, emu eggs and bamboo, in their products.
The delicacy and diversity of these materials demanded a high level of skill and expertise, which they then sourced from the artisans they met during their travels.
Over the past three decades, the Bueren family cultivated mutually beneficial relationships with the craftsmen they employ, whether it’s with a silk embroiderer from Thailand, a lacquer artist from China, or an ivory carver from Indonesia. In this context, Rolf reveals the secret to their staggering success: unlike others that force pre-decided designs upon local craftsmen, he simply purchases the finest material and hands it over to the artisans, with minimal direction, granting them the creative liberty to showcase their skills without restraint. It’s this creative freedom, we believe, that’s made Lotus Arts de Vivre as internationally revered as they are today for their exquisite, one-of-a-kind designs, each piece brimming with meaning and substance.
“The exoticness, the curiosity is in Asia,” Rolf insists. “You have a hundred thousand gods. In Thailand, we have Buddhism and Animism, and the spiritual capital of Asia is India — it all started there!”
In fact, their jewellery is an ode to the royal lineage of both India and Thailand, fashioned out of the most magnificent gems and precious stones and set in the finest gold and silver, along with the most delicate scarab wings. These designs transport their patrons, many being members of high society and even royalty, to the gilded ages of the bygone days.
The latest in their line of unique, personal designs is The Ani Bag Collection, which traverses the age-old connection between man and animal and speaks of their family values.
Earlier this year, the couture collections of several high-end brands paid homage to this bond, especially with faux animal mounts on dresses that took over runways. Lotus Arts de Vivre continues this conversation with six incomparable handbags,each piece paying tribute to its Asian origin and representing the familial spirit of the multicultural Buerens.
For instance: ‘The Ele’ in the form of a crouching elephant represents the strength and loyalty of Thailand’s national symbol. ‘The Babe’ is sculpted to resemble a cuddly pig, a symbol of wealth and good fortune according to the Chinese zodiac and many other Asian cultures. ‘The Lotus,’ a green lotus leaf bag, is an ode to the brand itself; the leaf, from which climbs a little gilded frog, is a symbol of fertility, regeneration, and rebirth.
These Ani bags — each a collector’s item — are carefully crafted from resin and coated with three layers of lacquer. Available in a blazing red, with 24k gold leaf accents and a black lacquer handle, they also feature gilded prayer bead clasps and silk-lined interiors with practical side pockets.
All in all, Lotus Arts de Vivre is the perfect blend of modern and traditional, a marriage of the old and the new, with the Buerens reuniting their 21st-Century customer with his ancestors.
This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the July 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!