Why live an ordinary life, when you can live an opulent one?
This is the philosophy behind Opulent Living, the brainchild of Barbara Lenhard, which began as a biannual coffee-table magazine and has slowly expanded over the years into bespoke travel, events, and an online platform. And now Opulent Living has expanded to include a brand new concept store and gallery in Kloof Street in Cape Town! With expertise in the finer things in life, this was the obvious next step.
We chat to Barbara about her new Opulent Living Concept Store and Gallery, her greatest accomplishment and we get some advice on choosing a piece of art.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself? What does a day in your life look like?
A: I am a very passionate person, and believe in the spirit of ‘if you do it, do it well, otherwise don’t do it at all.’ This means even walking with my dog in the morning is done with passion and joy as I get my cup of coffee at Café Sotano in a take away cup, greet the team there and think each morning 'YES, this is my home'.
And then my day starts as it starts when you run a company. Ours is small but special, and this is how I want it. My phone rings a lot, I enjoy talking to people instead of huge amounts of emails and I try to get things done. My office is located in our Opulent Living Concept Store on Kloof Street in Cape Town, which means my day is filled with beautiful customers, suppliers, admin, projects and ideas – and all related to the finer things in life as well as in general lifestyle, art and travel. It can be a long busy day, but I love it!
Q: What made you decide to settle in Cape Town?
A: My first trip to South Africa was in 2003 for a holiday, but I was so drawn to this country. I loved the vibe, the people, the energy, the language, and I loved Cape Town. I felt the need to come back, which I did a year later for another holiday. I felt there was something happening, but had no idea that in 2009 I turned that feeling into reality by coming to South Africa!
Q: So tell us a little bit about your new store, Opulent Living, in Kloof Street.
A: The Concept Store & Gallery has been a dream and a vision of mine for more than three years. I often try to find out when it started, but I ran a retail store in Germany, a shoe shop, so some sort of idea was there. I knew this is going to happen with a store in Cape Town, and timing was just perfect at the end of last year as we had decided to put our magazine on hold. I thought now it is time. We were lucky enough to receive the confirmation for the space in 24 Aloof Street, even though several other companies were keen. Should I say it was all meant to be? I'm inclined to say so.
Q: What art and design can we expect to see in the Opulent Living store?
A: We expose South African contemporary art and make it accessible. We like when people walk in and don't get the feeling of a traditional gallery (as much as I do like them). I want people to feel the fun, love and energy in our store, and from the feedback it seems we have achieved this! About two weeks ago a woman from New York mentioned that our store made her feel like she was walking into a restaurant, and we welcomed her and her friend as the hosts to come in and enjoy. The best is when people stay in the door and we hear them saying something like ‘WOW’ or ‘this is so different’ – thats what we want to be.
The other items are all beautiful things, from colourful kaftans to handbags, scarfs, jewellery, ceramic, shoes and so much more – it is a store that caters for people who love quality, while at the same time we want to show that luxury is accessible and does not always need to be hugely expensive.
Q: We love Opulent Living, but what in your opinion makes it so special?
A: The brand is like my baby, and my partner. I started Opulent Living in 2009 and everything around it is special to me. Nothing is ‘normal’, all has been created with passion and the aim to deliver excellence. I personally don’t like making promises and knowing you can’t deliver this; why not be clear and honest? From the beginning the brand Opulent Living, has been a brand for the finer things in life, and it has delivered excellence in all areas. From our travel division, Opulent Living Travel, which is a tour operator business, to our experiences division, Opulent Living Experiences, under which the events we established fall under. We put the bar high, high for us and our partners – but with the results it can be done.
Q: What can Opulent Living offer customers that other stores don’t?
A: I hope we offer a more bespoke experience in the sense that people leave and remember our store, their experience, their shopping or even just their time. ‘Turn your customers into fans’ is a motto I learned from a well known car brand. And it is often the small things, I love to sell a little beautiful necklace in our store for R 185, yes, R 185 but I package it in the same way as if our customer buys a necklace for R 10 000, it does not matter. It's all about the experience.
Q: What advice can you give to your readers when choosing a piece of art?
A: When buying a piece of art I hope people buy it because they like it. Art can be an investment and if it is and the prices go up, it can be great, but from my personal point of view the liking of a piece should be the reason behind your purchase. We tell our customers the stories of our artists we represent and sell, and give them their backgrounds. And often people buy as they feel inspired and like the piece. The best and most rewarding experience is when people from around the world, as well as around South Africa, send us pictures when the piece of art is hanging on the wall or standing on a plinth – that still gives me a huge kick!
Q: Who is your favourite South African artist at the moment?
A: I love the work of Jean Doyle, who does incredible sculptures – they are so diverse. On the painting side I love Richard Scott, who does pop-art and who is so creative. And Jimmy Law, who creates the most amazing portraits! Part of my work in the last five years has allowed me to meet a lot of artists personally, as we were part of a big charity gala which incorporated a serious art auction, and a lot of our relationships started from there. So knowing an artist personally, and then working with them, has been a treat for me and I am still super excited about this!
Q: Who or what keeps you inspired?
A: Inspiration to me can come from the man on the street who smiles at me as he recognises me and my dog, from a little child when they say hello, and from the amazing people in this country who I am grateful to have met through our work. I enjoy the energy in people and people with a positive spirit. One of the people who I met at an early stage of my life is Wendy Luhabe, and hearing her voice still inspires me. But as I said, it can be the most down to earth encounter from the old lady who I see regularly on Beach Road, who after so many years I give a hug, and love our regular ‘Good morning, dear, how are you?’
Q: What has been your greatest accomplishment?
A: I can’t say this really as I feel it is a kind of domino effect! I am so content and happy about what I do and what results this brings. I enjoy raising money, working with people, sharing experiences and giving back – all these things are my greatest accomplishments!
Q: We have to ask, are there any new projects on the horizons?
A: My horizon always has something, but for now I am concentrating on the now. Our team is small which means there is always lots to do. But as I need challenges, and love new ventures, I am sure this may look different in a few weeks time!
For more ways to live opulently visit www.opulentliving.co.za