Global Caring - what you don’t know, will hurt you.

**originally published by Distrikt Magazine 02/2006**

Most scientists agree in that global warming is happening at top speed, but if you work with it and use it effectively, more power to you. What is global warming? If you don’t know, you are decades behind and your ignorance can get you in big trouble. Wikipedia’s definition of global warming, “It’s an increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans.” What this means is that changes are occurring and they will affect people and the environment. The atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and CH4 have increased by 31% and 149% each, since 1750. It sounds serious, and it is. Now the good news: A tree called leucaena, a Central American company claims, can impound carbon dioxide (CO2). It’s time to find solutions, and perform experiments to retrieve other alternatives. For example, start planning for Solar cells, hydropower, wind power, and nuclear power.
There are many people preparing and doing something in pro of climate changes. According to a recent New York Times magazine article, a professor in Columbia University is working on a structure that will take carbon dioxide from the air and capture it. But also, we have learned that Europe is way ahead in the designing aspect; for example, architects in Amsterdam are creating floating houses, offices and stadiums. It sounds pessimistic but they are preparing in case the Netherlands inundate. In Bulgaria, 12 joint projects with industrialized nations aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And, K. Eric Drexler says, nanomachines could be used to reverse global warming, in his book “Engines of Creation”.
About 40 developed nations have decided to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2 percent by the year 2012, according to the U.N’s Kyoto protocol. To begin with, let’s give a big round of applause and standing ovation to the states that agreed to do their part in cutting carbon dioxide emissions: Vermont, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire and New Jersey. You guys rock! Rhode Island and Massachusetts, we hope, will join the cause too. The U.S Department of Energy reported that the greenhouse gas emissions increased 2% last year, which translates to an additional 130 million metric tons of pollution into our atmosphere. Very high.
What can we do? Simple steps that should become a habit in our lives, you already should know about the 3R’s, from our previous feature in Distrikt: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle; now listen to these:
Consider a fuel-smart car: They are stylish, practical and save money.
Give your car a day off: Hitchhike or share a ride.
Insulate your home: Watch your bills go lower at the same time.
Go solar: It’s energy and from a free source, the sun. Encourage your utility to help: Call up and ask them to care!
Get involved at work: Share your concern with others and entice them.
Join an EPA program such as ENERGY STAR ®. It can’t hurt to find out more.
Plant trees: Do it as a family adventure, a gift for a relative, or just for fun.
Educate others: No matter how, education is always a positive thing.


**originally published by Distrikt Magazine 02/2006**

Why is Miami so attractive? And more to the point, why has Miami become so attractive for Mexicans? As exciting as the presence of Mexicans and their investments in the region is, we are talking about a new phenomenon that was not always like this.
For decades, Mexicans tended to focus more on California or Texas when looking at the US, be it for investments or vacations, even more so for settling down, regardless of their socioeconomic origin. The main driving forces for migratory patterns, particularly in the case of migrant workers, were family reunion or the ‘oriundez’ factor –a network of natives of a specific Mexican state or, sometimes, a particular town in Mexico. In short, other Mexicans attracted Mexicans or, more specifically, natives of, say Zacatecas, were being welcomed and helped out by groups of Zacatecanos already established in specific areas.
This pattern began to change in the mid 80’s and was completely overcome by a policy of contention of new migrant waves with border operatives at the beginning of the 90’s. We all know the rest of the story and the end result is that migrants - or daily laborers, as they are also known- began to settle down in non-traditional destinations such as Oregon and Washington, the Mid West, Idaho, the Carolinas and Tennessee, New England and yes, Florida. With the advent of the new century, it is evident that the ‘pull factor’ -the demand for daily laborers, not often recognized- is playing an increasingly important role in defining migratory flows.
Professionals and small –and large- entrepreneurs have followed the same trend, settling down wherever there are opportunities. Apart from an extremely welcoming environment for migrants, Florida’s location and its vocation for international trade have attracted Latin Americans for several decades. But Mexicans remained somewhat behind, attached to other places in the US, and possibly the only Latin Americans underrepresented in the state. It was as if Florida were a very rich and eclectic Latin American recipe where the Mexican ‘chilito’ was missing. Well, not anymore.
A first wave of migrant workers who settle down in Homestead in the 70’s was followed by a second, much smaller wave of pioneers in the entertainment industry who began arriving in Miami in the mid 80’s and keep coming as you read. But then the patterns changed in the last decade and Mexicans became the key labor force in agriculture and later in other sectors. As a result, according to the 2000 Census, Mexicans became the largest Latin American community in Florida after Cubans and Puerto Ricans, two groups that enjoy a special immigration status. Most estimates put the current figure of Mexicans in the State in half a million. But, as opposed to most of the other communities who are heavily concentrated in South Florida, Mexicans are spread around the State, with only one out of ten living in Miami-Dade. Mexicans are relatively less visible in this part of Florida, dominant in the rest.
In spite of this, a growing number of Mexicans are investing in a second home in Miami. Some are jumping into the roller coaster of speculating in real state –which, at least for the time being, seems to be going only up. A few have sent their families to Florida, attending their businesses in Mexico and commuting every weekend to Miami. Others have settled for good in the region, identified by head hunting companies for highflying jobs in multinationals or finding opportunities for new businesses. Many more pick South Florida as their destination for vacationing and shopping as often as they can. No doubt about it, the Mexicans are finally here.
What has happened? Issues that could have created tensions in the past have disappeared or at least receded. A decade ago, the majority of Florida’s congressional delegation voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Why? Agriculture. But that was then. Now Florida’s economy is more focused on trade, tourism and services. As some sectors in Mexico did after NAFTA, agricultural entrepreneurs in Florida have adapted to the advantages of NAFTA and are embracing new trade and investment opportunities with Mexico. At the same time, Mexican President Vicente Fox has brought changes to Mexico not only in the domestic arena but also in international affairs, with emphasis on democracy and the respect of human rights. I can think of few places where those changes in Mexico’s foreign policy have been so broadly noticed and acknowledged as in South Florida.
On the other hand, the performance of Miami-Dade’s economy in recent times has been unique in the USA and probably the Americas. While in the past few years, the US economy suffered a contraction and some symptoms of recession, Miami continued to grow, benefiting from cash flows coming from Latin American countries in trouble. Those flows have begun to recede, but the US economy is growing again and consumption expands once more. If the local economy can successfully ride the new cycle of expansion of the US economy, we may be looking at an unusual region in the USA that has enjoyed the best of being in the USA and being of Latin America.
But, fortunately, Miami is much more complex than that. The city and its society have changed dramatically in the past years and keep transforming everyday. Miami is indeed a sophisticated tourist destination, a successful economic experiment –nowadays driven by a real state boom- and an example of racial, religious and social tolerance. Miami is also a passionate city, as anyone can attest to from observing any of South Beach’s dance floors or listening to the heated political debates on AM radio.
And Miami has aspirations, as every world-class city should. Many of those aspirations have to do with economic growth. Others are more related to the soul of the city and its people. The former have been much easier to achieve, although some talk about growing pains. Trying to give substance to its claim of being the ‘Gateway to the Americas’, it is working hard to host the FTAA’s secretariat. But first-rate art, music and film exhibitions have also mushroomed in the last few years and a new cutting edge Arts Center is under construction. As it is usually the case, it has taken more time and effort for cultural or artistic initiatives to mature than their economic development equivalents, perhaps confirming the notion that money is much more pragmatic than culture and thus investors are first to set ground and pave the way for intellectuals.
While all this is taking place, in other regions of the country some fortunately isolated groups are increasingly concerned about the presence of migrants, their ability to integrate and their capacity to transform US society. But if Miami is to be used as an example as to the path some regions of the US might take in the future, a completely different script might be written, a story that might prove isolationists completely wrong.
Is Miami a failed experiment or is it a success story both socially and economically? Miami is indeed a bilingual and bicultural community. Both languages and both cultures coexist in perfect harmony not only not dividing society, but also complementing each other. Spanish is the language of socialization and entertainment, but English remains the language of business and official business.
It is precisely because of its bilingualism and biculturalism that Miami has become ‘the gateway to the Americas’. The industry, particularly in entertainment, has found a very lucrative market niche in doing business with and for Hispanics. And all of this is precisely because of what the anti-immigration rhetoric calls ‘the Hispanic challenge’, in this case to Miami. Not too bad for a region that only 40 years ago was a vacation spot with many non- surfaced roads, where numerous properties for rent were not available for - and I quote some state agents’ signs of the time- “Cubans, Negroes and Jewish”.




Eli Bravo began his media journey in his country, Venezuela, via TV and radio, earning national awards for his talent. Then, in Miami, he became the face of People and Arts, thanks to Discovery Communications and the BBC. After his success in TV, radio and print -with 4 books under his penmanship- Eli takes it easy but continues to broadcast and write. Eli, who finds himself at the best stage in his life yet, is clearly spiritual, a bit bohemian, and always has a smile impregnated with humbleness. He admires people who take time off from their professional life and is also a proud Boy Scout. His laugh resembles a machine gun in full effect.

What are you doing tomorrow?
I don’t know. I try to think of tomorrow as a promise, not a fact; the only thing we have is today and now. I try not to live in the past or the future. I will plan some stuff like go ahead and begin writing my weekly newspaper article (published every Saturday in El Universal, Caracas), so I can spend more time with Isabel (daughter); I have to plan my radio program, and you know what? I would really like to begin reading Thomas Friedman’s book, The World Is Flat... (Pause) So, I would say I am being very ambitious for tomorrow. (Laughs)

An anecdote that really had an effect in your life was:
My sailing trip was one of the most incredible things in my life. I have always liked separating myself from work for some time; I think it’s important when you have a good job to have the sensation that you can leave that, and you don’t lose your life, that you have another life that is more important. Everyone needs time to do what makes him or her happy. In my case, this trip was intense. It was in April 11, 2002 as I was going through a divorce, leaving my job at People and Arts, and coincidentally, it was the day of the coup d’etat in Caracas. My phone was ringing off the hook; my journalist side was telling me, “You can’t leave now, are you crazy?” But my adventurer side was asking me to go. So I weighed anchor with my brother, who just stayed for 5 days (Laughs). I spent 5 months sailing by myself learning how to enjoy solitude and achieving a dream I had since childhood, which was to sail. It was excellent to cure the scars of a divorce although I get really seasick, and I got very seasick; plus my biggest phobia is sharks (Laughs). So needless to say, it was miserable and dangerous sometimes, but I had a lot of fun and my life changed. It connected me to my actual wife who was living in Miami, so I had to come back to Miami. (Laughs).

As a person, how did this affect your evolution?
I learned that the world is not how we think. One time, I was in a beautiful island all by myself and I caught myself thinking about the past, what I had gone through, everything that I lived in Caracas, etc. The mind is deceitful. And so, I learned that I was carrying this baggage, very unnecessary at this gorgeous place I was. It made no sense to relive that, then. Like Buddhism, I realized that we build the world with our thoughts; you get so involved in a specific thought that you begin to see things the way your mind is filtering it instead of how they are. This journey helped me to be more balanced, and regard all the achievements as secondary.

What is your definition of ‘fun’?
Be outdoors...Read and write... I like to write for me. Also, I really like to travel and be outside of an office.
Right now, it’s a lot of fun to be with Gaby (his wife) and Isabel (his 1-year old daughter)..

What do you write?
I have two storybooks and two opinion chronicles. I also have a newspaper column every Saturday in El Universal - a national Venezuelan newspaper-. Now, I’m writing a novel. One always finds time for everything except for what one really is interested in.

What do you enjoy the least?
Obligatory things... Pay bills, taxes, meet with accountants, and all legal paperwork. It’s really tough for me but I have managed to discipline myself to achieve it. I also dislike being where I don’t want to be and dealing with people that I’m not fond of... (laughs).

What do you love?
Life and all it has to offer... To feel alive, not to cling because it can disappear, but love life and enjoy it.

What do you hate?
Intolerance in all its manifestations. Dogmatism. Imposing a view and not respect the rest of the people.

If you were not a journalist, you would be...
An actor. I admire talents such as Sean Penn for example. I have always been attracted to acting but my father was horrified about me getting involved in drama. I still think that somehow, a journalist or TV personality has to act even as he is genuine and authentic.

If you could chose a mix of three people, who would you say?
Francisco De Miranda, The Buddha and Julio Cortázar. I did not include any women (reflecting)...Well, next time.

Which was your most important professional moment:
I think that it was while I was in Mexico. They called me to attend the casting for People and Arts, and I was chosen. I really enjoyed it deeply and learned so much, and as time passed I started taking it easy and not get frustrated when things didn’t go the way I wanted.

Any vice?
My fingernails, I bite them. I have tried stopping...(thinks) Maybe when I’m in my 50’s I’ll quit (laughs).

Do you walk or fly?
I Fly

Alone or accompanied?

Answer the following:
Life is: A Marvelous illusion
Power is: An insatiable lover. It gives you pleasure, it sucks you, it uses you. It’s like in the Lord of the Rings, power is like the ring, it owns you even while you think you own it.
Art is: It’s to see the world through the eyes of someone else. It’s a window. It can be non-verbal but it will enlighten you.
Money is: It’s great when you have it, but alas it’s an illusion. The idea that it gives you freedom is a lie; you are free when you don’t need it. If you do, you are a slave.
Sex is: Fundamental energy, the basic one. The initial flame.
Love is: The final flame; the max. The one that burns and transforms you, like a halo that covers you and changes everything.

Do you think we reach a professional destination?
I don’t know. Good question. You have to have goals because it motivates you. There may be a moment in which you find yourself saying, “I’m going to quit doing this and do such instead. I achieved it, I obtained this and that, and now I want to explore something else.” Your professional life reaches a balance. There are things that will not happen and one must resign from those dreams, not get frustrated or obsessed.
Life is like a sail; you may have a plan, and want to go straight to a destination, but then the wind changes and you reach your target by shifting directions, slowing down, etc. What matters is that you enjoy the trip navigating.

What would you tell God if you met him?
Thank you for this life I have the privilege of enjoying. I don’t ask him for anything. I think God is everywhere; I can see him daily in everyday stuff.

A place that marked you:
South East Asia really impacted me. I lived the cultural shock in 1994, amazing. When I was 14 I went to Zimbabwe with the Boy Scouts; it was beautiful, but at 14, it was more an adventure. I didn’t understand the dimension. I dream about going back to Asia; I’m dying to visit China.

Any mistakes?
Many. I have made mistakes, mostly in love. I think I wasn’t being honest or perhaps I didn’t discover my feelings; not to say it, when you love someone, is very sad.

A dream that you have to achieve...
A lot. Everything. I want to be able to finish my novel and feel happy with the result. I want to see Isabel grow up. I want to take a vacation with her and Gaby, look at the world, go to the Pacific. It’s not true that you don’t have time to take a trip; if you don’t have time for yourself, what do you have time for? People postpone their vacations not knowing if they will die tomorrow. It’s important to know that you can take time off, just plan ahead, you always can.

Do you think we reach a professional destination?
I don’t know. Good question. You have to have goals because it motivates you. There may be a moment in which you find yourself saying, “I’m going to quit doing this and do such instead. I achieved it, I obtained this and that, and now I want to explore something else.” Your professional life reaches a balance. There are things that will not happen and one must resign from those dreams, not get frustrated or obsessed.
Life is like a sail; you may have a plan, and want to go straight to a destination, but then the wind changes and you reach your target by shifting directions, slowing down, etc. What matters is that you enjoy the trip navigating.


THE ART of taking care of the greater ones


BY ALFONSO CORONA & ISA TRAVERSO BURGER, **originally published by Distrikt Magazine 02/2006**

Omer seems to have been born with a star over him. He arrived to New York from Cuba at the age of 10 and after adapting to a new culture and obtaining a Bachelors Degree in Communications, he set foot in RMM Records where he worked for celebrities such as Marc Anthony and Tito Puente. At the age of 16 he met the coolest woman on earth, Celia Cruz; he instantly became a fan of her talent, charm, and humane ways. One day, in 1998, he was approached by Celia and her husband Pedro Knight; they asked Omer to manage Celia’s career. Talk about a challenge! With everything to gain, or lose, and at such a young age, he accepted to be Celia’s manager and was determined to make her shine the same way she had been doing for decades. He was the one responsible for the Sony deal, an excellent move. Until the day she passed away, Omer was there with her. Now, he is the Founder and Vice-President of the Celia Cruz Foundation and he keeps very busy
managing the musical career of another Cuban sensation, Lucrecia.

Where were you born?
Camaguey, Cuba and I live in Miami.

What part of your body feels good?
My head

What do you do?
Many things, principally I manage Lucrecia, a cuban artist who lives in Spain. I am also a consultant. I have a producer in LA who is working with Celia Cruz, and her image. I deal with everything related to Celia. In this moment I am working on making the Celia Cruz movie.

What are you doing tomorrow?
I have about 4 meetings. At night, every friday, I go to the bar of the Mandarin Oriental.

What would you like to be doing in 10 years?
Keep working and producing because I started very young in this business and if I have a free hour, I don’t know what to do; I get anxious. I need to be involved in my business and keep busy. And I think I will be working until 80 or 90 years of age, like my grandfather who worked until he died.

Tell me an anecdote that changed your life.
In Colombia, in Cali, years ago, a lady came to the hotel and she started telling Celia Cruz about her terminally ill son. She lived in an unsafe place and couldn’t remove the child from home because it was very delicate. She told Celia that it wasn’t convenient for her to go to that part of town to visit her son, that it was dangerous. Celia told her that it didn’t matter where, that she was going and that nothing wrong was going to happen to her; Celia knew she would be okay. That incident touched me because, we sometimes live up on a cloud, and it demonstrated to me that well-known people can be humanitarian. If Celia did it without thinking, to visit a terminally ill kid whose wish was to meet her before he died, anyone can do it. It changed me forever, because now I don’t think too much about decisions, I just do it.

What do you like to do?
I like to do stuff related to my field and I love to be with good friends. I enjoy the small family I have.

What do you dislike?
Having to lie, and sometimes it’s necessary to lie, even if it’s a “mentira piadosa”. I hate doing it.
What do you love?
Life and the beautiful people who surround me.

If you didn’t do what you do, what would you do?
I would be an architect.
If you had to change professions, how, in 3 or 4 steps, would you achieve so? I collect books on architecture but I would have to go to school again; it would be difficult because I am too active. I just started learning Italian and when I found myself sitting for a hour in a classroom, I had to leave. But it’s all in the head, if you want something really bad, you have to go for it. I love architecture, but I don’t know if I am capable now of starting from zero.
If you could mix 3 people to create a perfect or ideal person, who would you mix? My mother, my grandfather and Celia Cruz.
What moment in history has impacted you the most? When the Berlin wall fell. I never thought it would happen, I was there two months after and I was impressed.

What did you feel?
I thought it couldn’t be rushed down, and to watch the people cross over was incredible.
What do you do that you shouldn’t do? Drink a couple of champagne glasses here and there....or ten for that matter. (laughs)

Do you walk or fly?
I walk, I like to have my feet grounded. I walk everyday to feel the earth beneath my feet. Flying is to imagine things you can’t achieve.

Do you walk alone or with someone?
I always walk alone, but if I walk with company, it has to be excellent company.

Complete the following words:
Life is: The best
Power is: Sometimes necessary
Art: Most beautiful
Money: Unnecesary
Sex: Necessary
Love: Beautiful when it’s shared.

Give us a tip for someone who wants to obtain a career like yours.
There is nothing impossible. Even when you want to be a photographer and don’t have a camera, you can make it. First, you have to focus on getting the camera. In life there is nothing impossible. I think that if you are determined to do something, it can happen.

Do you see yourself doing the same thing the rest of your life?
I believe so. I can say that my job is addicting and when I hear people say that they will now become realtors, or do something else, I can’t relate. Impossible. If I turn around, I get to the same point. It’s a vice.

Do you think it’s a factor ?
I think that when you are immersed in this field, you can’t see yourself sitting 8 hours in an office; you keep the inertia of interacting with people and moving from here to there.
In what are you the best at?
In managing. I have always had visions, and they always are good feelings. If an artist lets himself be managed, it’s a good chemistry. I like to keep everyone happy and serve everyone.

What would you tell God if you saw him?
I would thank him because he has been very good to me. I would ask him to avoid anymore natural disasters but, I have to thank him everyday.

What anecdote has added to your belief?
Celia’s funerals caused an influence in me. I never thought that so many people could be invoked this way. Thousands of people of all ages walking towards the Tower of Liberty in Miami, playing homage to a respected person, really caused an impact in my life.

With what are you happy today?
My mother. Seeing her fills me with great energy. I get charged by talking to her.
If you could ask all people in the world to do something positive, what would you ask them to do? To talk more in order to reach harmony and understanding.

What did you listen to when you were 18?
Disco music. Whatever was happening in NY.

And now?
A lot of World music, Arab, and sounds that attract me. International mostly.

Are you visual or auditive?

What question would you ask me?
This is the most difficult interview I’ve ever done, or the most intelligent one. Well, I guess, I would
ask you if you feel happy about what you’re doing. The people who do what they like are the most joyous ones. I am always curious and ask people about there happiness.

What is the difference you see between the people who do what they love and those who don’t?
When you don’t love what you do, the outcome cannot be all positive. I have a friend who is banker out of necessity, but he really loves baseball; he’s 27 now and he will always be a banker with a bat under the desk. He may want to give all that he’s got to the bank business, but he will never let go of his dream. I think you have to be in love with your career in order to fully succeed.



the AVANT GARDE magician
BY ALFONSO CORONA & ISA TRAVERSO BURGER, **originally published by Distrikt Magazine 02/2006**

Nicolas Mirzayantz
is the SVP of Fine Fragrances & Beauty Care of International Flavors and Fragrances Inc, which collaborated with Visionaire for an outstanding art publication that you can smell and taste. You would think that his job is basic, but it’s nothing quite. He is devoted to pushing the limits of scents and fragrances by leading, with a very talented team, a business dedicated to giving taste and flavor to scents and emotions. The same way you use a breath mint the size of a postage stamp, these inventions dissolve in your mouth as well, but instead of mint, they can taste like nothing you ever tried, or as weird as eggs and potatoes. It’s referred to as edible art, because it includes photographs associated with the taste and smell. For example, there’s a “Power” taste, which mixes the flavor of sea spray and sweat as surfer Laird Hamilton envisioned it; the photo of his back decorates this one.
Did you ever think of savoring sweat? Now you can. This is what Nicolas told Distrikt about this haute couture craft:

What are the most desired taste and smell among people?
Flowers are popular. People exposed to flowers always remember a certain scent; in France it’s the most popular. Sensuality and femininity are wonderful because they give the freedom to explore some notes that the palette is not used to, in terms of new territory. Tastes include fruity notes, skin, sensual. Taste is more regional, and more fascinating than smell alone.
How wide is the variety?
When you look at variety, you need to realize what are the expectations when you’re growing up. Litchi is what my son is requesting, at 4 years of age; I didn’t know
what Litchi was at that age. What are the expectations when you look at beverages, yogurts, etc? Some are doing contrasting foods together in strange combinations. What are people looking for? We focus on that.

How do you look at the market?
The European market is different, historically fruitier. Europeans are much more floral and sensual. Latin American countries are much more close to European than American influence. Brazil, for example, is much more sensual, like Mexico. The style depends on the tone and expressions.

What would be the first 3 steps to design a taste or smell? First is the brand, is it from scratch or are we replicating?
What is the expression of the brand; consumers are driven by emotions, what is the emotional connection?
It has to be in harmony -the fragrance and the taste-. Then, we get all the different players together, building up exponentially. We are out to emotionally connect the concept and how does it bring differentiation to our brand. Flavorists are the key drivers of the preference of a product. No matter the advertising, packaging, etc, you have to love the product.

Is it an urban myth that Asian fragrances are being remade or pulled up?

People say they smelled something peculiar of the late 70s; it’s true that you use formulas that were effective in the past. Our world is similar to fashion; you see the return to the earlier periods. Essential notes that were popular come back. Our scents and tastes can be built upon the heritage, connected to the past, but with evolution.

Is there anything in this planet that you’ve never smelled before, or tasted before?
The brand new Christian Dior pour homme is something I never smelled before. It’s a real creation. They used some ingredients never before used for men repertoire. It’s a surprise that made sense.
You mention that you have to talk to designers, developers, flavorists, and brand managers. Who is in charge? The people managing the brand and the illustration of their vision. Graphic designers are important tools. Fragrances and flavor play the major role though. The sense of smell is the most developed in humans; the first sense we perceive is smell; even in animals. It’s a powerful sense we don’t fully appreciate. We have worked for the last 20 years in emotion drivers. We pay attention to details, colors and textures. When people smell ingredients, what is the first color that comes to their mind, for example.

What is the perfume that lasts longest?

Aromatic elixirs last all day. So do Oriental scents with amber and patchouli.
If you increase the quality of the product will you have a perfect perfume? Yes, we go back to traditional roots, with modernity, exploring ingredients never used, being natural. The market is overwhelmed; only innovative products will stand the test of time.

Is it important to make the perfume last longer?

In the US market more than in Europe; lighter fragrances are prefered by some consumers because they are lighter, not demonstrative. Are you wearing something more elegant or outstanding and flashy? It all depends. The lasting fragrance of Dolce Gabbana explores more of that than other brands.

Are you still using the skunk blend as a fixer?

No, for many years it hasn’t been used. It was powerful and potent. Is the technology able to replenish completely? No, regulations need to make effective messages, safe for the environment and consumers. You can recreate special effects.

If someone wanted to create a personalized perfume, how much would it cost?
A fortune.

More than $100 thousand?

We don’t personalize perfumes, only some exceptions. But it costs too much. If you look at watches, and other categories like such, is aligned with what’s happening to our same industry. That too costs.
You need to upgrade?
I think it’s important to go back to quality. The consumer has a good feel for quality and it’s interesting that brands created a long time ago are still selling. The wonderful ingredients used to make them; it’s thanks to that. It’s perfect timing for the perfume industry to use superior ingredients, mixing it with creativity and exploring new territories. Consumers are seeking for customization and experience, and it’s about time to respond as it’s happening in other industries.
Does it depend on each person if the scent smells different?
Scents change depending on the person, even what you eat will affect it. Some skins are drier, warmer; it also depends on the environment, the climate. I distinguish a fragrance in Paris differently than in New York. You react and smell differently because it’s about alchemy.

Can it be decoded?

Can you recommend something for a dry skin, fruit eating person in Canada? It would be very difficult. What is interesting is how someone scents. The world of smell and taste is amazing and we need to understand it more.
I was using my wife’s shaving gel and I liked it very much, but it was because it reminded me of my favorite drink when I was younger, in France. I relive the fantastic experience every time, that’s how powerful it is. How do people feel? We want to develop fragrances that resonate with emotions.
Today we are breathing, not smelling. We tend to be protective and afraid of emotions. How do you smell yourself? A century ago, ‘I cannot smell them’ meant you couldn’t stand a person. So much effort goes into making the exact fragrance, people don’t realize how hard, yet fascinating, it is.


TOYS /phase 1 ART / phase 2
BY ALFONSO CORONA & ISA TRAVERSO BURGER, **originally published by Distrikt Magazine 02/2006**

Remember the cuddly and tender teddy bears? Well, there is a new bear in town and unlike the ones you are used to, this toy is more a work of art than anything else –and not for toddlers so much as for young adults-.

Kuma (bear in Japanese) is Maria Sarmiento’s creation, and instead of trying to attract consumers by stereotypes and careers, it does it by focusing on emotions, attitudes and personalities. Maria has been designing toys for the big companies out there, now, this Colombian industrial designer fusions nostalgia with spirit to give birth to a very original bear inspired on Oriental trends. There are 10 bears right now: Geek, Super K, Metal Kiss, Graffiti, Love, Nippon, Polar Madness, Kumaniac, Y2, and Samurai. Each of these represents a feeling, an era, and a belief. You could easily see Kuma become the next Mickey Mouse, but honestly, that’s not what the artist wants. She likes to launch limited editions and avoid the mainstream. She calls her design “art inspired by toys, and toys inspired by art”; we agree.

Where does the idea of making little bears come from?
First, it begins with my profession –designing toys-, which I’ve done for 10 years. I’ve designed for big companies, and it’s still my substitute job. The idea of the bears originates from my illusion of creating an original design to be launched without the back up, or involvement, of a big company. The bear, known as Kuma, is based on Oriental tendencies, like Manga, Japanese comics, Anime, etc. The fashion trend inspired this movement where artists use the toy as a medium to express themselves and create individuality. It is not necessarily the massive, commercial aspect of the business what drives us.

What did you study?

I studied Industrial Design in Colombia and Toy Design in New York.

How long have you done Kuma?

It launched as a brand on December 2004, in Art Basel. Basically, the concept is art influencing toys and toys influencing art. That, is Kuma. So, there is the element of toys and influential art, plus, the component of collective art.

How has it evolved?

The evolution of Kuma as a toy revitalizes the original ‘Teddy Bear,’ as it intends to stay away from the tender bear, and explore other feelings. There is this new generation that loves to convey sensations. The usual ‘Teddy Bear’ always has the same attitude and facial expression; this one is more offbeat. Since Art Basel it now sells in stores such as Base, Bass Museum, and Miami Art Museum; we participated in the Gift Show of Los Angeles, and Kuma is now selling all over the West Coast, and even Boston. At the present moment we are creating new products as we bring people to collaborate in different stages.

What does Kuma bring to the people?

It targets to young adults, from 18 to 35 years of age. It is also appropriate for modern kids who are experiencing the need to communicate. Kuma offers the opportunity to express individual feelings. It is associated with pop culture, music, design, and nostalgia, as you bring that hero back from the past –meaning the ‘teddy bear’-.

How do you see your career and products in 10 years?
The new project is to collaborate with different artists as we combine fashion, sculpture and other forms of art to customize the bear with interdisciplinary mixes. Our idea is to create an alliance with different companies such as Swatch and Apple to generate trend-setting and unique products.

Why a bear and not a rabbit, turtle, or other animal?
Because the ‘Teddy Bear’ is the first toy we all had; people even keep the ones from their childhood. So, it’s nostalgic yet modern.

How do you like people to recognize Kuma?
I like for people to wonder and become curious as they approach Kuma; it means it’s creating an interrogation.
The bear is trying to accomplish an expression on people with its own distinctive personality.
How is the procedure, the conceptual beginning to develop a bear? The 10 characters available were born from different sketches, icons, themes, etc. that are based on progressive and vanguard tendencies. After the initial concept, we bring them color, and the bear is modeled in clay, then vinyl. The expression is what changes on the Kuma, because the shape of each one is exactly the same. The idea of the production is to have a limited edition, to create the urgency to have it before it runs out. We did 500 of each Kuma and are now working on a new collection.

Are they your kids?

Yes, of course, and it’s also the medium through which I have been able to express myself. It also collaborates to the fact that, as a designer, I have worked for brands like Fisher Price; now I have my own brand to express what I believe people need to express.

Who else have you worked with?

Fisher Price, Mattel...and others.

Where would you not like to see Kuma?
I don’t want it to become the next Mickey Mouse, to overwhelm the market. I want it to be a brand of longevity that keeps causing impact; I am interested in, that during the years to come, it keeps relating to evolution and fashion as a trend maker. Art will never seize to exist, and Kuma should be adapting to whatever comes, it’s something unimaginable, but I don’t see it as a mass product.

What element should you avoid in order for Kuma not to expire?
The center of this creation is the influence of art and toy; the moment Kuma begins to be sold massively and generate a lot of money, it will lose validation as a concept. I am interested in letting people know that, the ‘bear’ has had acceptance with the public –although there are some people who don’t like it- and it carries a designer stamp amid handcrafted roots. Each style is a limited edition and avoids being mainstream; it maintains individuality. Because it was a personal choice, Kuma is influenced by the oriental philosophy of balance, spirit, and even the samurai. With the eyes and face they express a lot. The eyes, for example, are not tender, but are not aggressive either; they convey a real message.