Elie Khouri, Founder and CEO of Vivium Holding, the company behind bringing Cassina to the UAE discusses success in business the brands design journey.

Talk us through your career.

I started my career in Finance in the mid ’80s and in the late ’80s, I moved into Advertising. This continued until 2000 when I moved into Media to set up the Omnicom Media Group in MENA. The next many years I worked to expand the business and today Omnicom is the leading media company in the Middle East. Parallel to that, I set up my family office, Vivium Holding, in 2017. It is a progressive, first-generation family office specialised in making investments in Art and Design, Real Estate and Technology. Two years ago, I resigned from Omnicom in my capacity as the CEO and now I continue as the Group’s Chairman. For the last two years I have been fully focused on leading the development of my family office. I got into collecting art about 15 years ago when I started to cool down the intensity of my insane work schedule (working 14 hours a day) and found a certain serenity in life. Since then it has become an addiction and over the years I have built a collection of contemporary art from emerging and established artists.

Cassina Vivium Holding

Cassina has been designing for almost 100 years. How has the brand evolved over the years?

Cassina has always been at the forefront of design since its inception. In the ’50s, they led the way with a new approach to industrial design. The ’60s saw them acquire exclusive worldwide rights to serially produced models by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand which then became the foundation for the iMaestri Collection, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Then followed successful collaborations with architects and designers to envision new forms, which continues to this day. Cassina is now focused on developing a complete collection to offer a holistic approach to the home, covering everything from living, dining, bedroom and outdoor pieces and complimenting this with a range of contemporary products like home accessories,
lighting and objects of desire.

The brand focuses on ‘The Cassina Perspective’ – tell us more.

From the eye of a collector, curation is everything in life. That’s how I view The Cassina Perspective, a framework for blending the new and the old, the classic and the contemporary. It is a celebration of eclecticism. It has a pulse on design trends,
and it is always spot on.

Elie Khoury Product

What is the inspiration behind Cassina’s furniture pieces?

Cassina has a very wide collection and each piece has its own inspiration and individuality lent to it by its designer. I can share the inspiration behind three of my favourite Cassina pieces and why I think they are collectors’ items.

Utrecht by Gerrit Rietveld – Cassina iMaestri Collection.

This piece is a classic designed in 1935 and revived by Cassina in 1988. This piece is an icon of the neoplastic movement and very distinctive for its structured look with felt upholstery and signature blanket stitching. I love it for its distorted abstraction – it makes sense.

Soriana by Afra and Tobia Scarpa – Cassina.

This piece was designed back in 1969 and uplifted by Cassina using circular materials
and new colours. This piece is all about generous contours and sophisticated comfort. I
love it for its loose and free-spirited design approach and the feel of leisure.

1 Fauteuil dossier basculant by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand Cassina iMaestri Collection.

Its minimalism and geometric abstraction is what draws me to this timeless design piece.

Vivium Holding has partnered with Cassina in the UAE. How do both your values co-relate?

Our partnership is the result of our shared values of quality, innovation and excellence. We value design in the same way as Cassina and I believe in its role to inspire the way we live. Cassina is all about democratising design. They hold the Intellectual Property rights of some of the most iconic design pieces in history and have made it accessible to the world. This is something we appreciate very much about the brand.

Cassina is known for high-end authentic design. What is the DNA of the brand?

The DNA of the brand is anchored in the values of pure design excellence, authenticity and quality. Cassina is committed to research and innovation and combining technological skill with traditional craftsmanship. That’s how they have been shaping the future of interiors over the last 100 years.

The brand focuses on sustainability. Was this the plan from the outset?

A move towards sustainability is not something that happens overnight. It is a very conscious and deliberate action that takes years to implement. That being said, the brand formally established the Cassina LAB born from the collaboration with POLI.design at the Milan Polytechnic in 2020. Since then, they have reissued classics like the Soriana and historic models from Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand in circular versions. Extensive work continues to be done on the sustainability front. Cassina is committed to creating products that align with conscious living through the use of circular materials and wellbeing features. It goes without saying that every Cassina product is built to last a lifetime.

The Cassina store in Dubai has been designed to feel like a home – talk us through the interiors of the store.

The Cassina Dubai store is the result of a radical revamp of an old villa on Jumeirah Beach Road. We wanted Cassina to have a fitting home in Dubai so we took over a 750 sq.mtr residence and redid the interior architecture to give it a fresh, contemporary look with lots of natural lighting. The interiors of the store is curated by Cassina’s Art Director, Patricia Urquiola and true to The Cassina Perspective, it features an eclectic collection. The house has living, dining and sleeping spaces spread across two levels and the roof top has a cosy selection of outdoor furniture. Soon the walls will be adorned with pieces of art from my private collection. We are taking every step to make it feel authentic and welcome, like you are walking into the home of someone you know very well.


How is Dubai growing as a design capital in the Middle East?

Dubai has undoubtedly established itself as the region’s design capital. Strategic moves were made in this direction over a decade ago with curated fairs like Design Days – which came as an answer to the need of the market for collectible and limited-edition design objects. Today, Dubai is home to the region’s main design fairs, prestigious developments, design schools and a growing ecosystem of global and local design brands. There is also an influx of designers moving to Dubai and practices setting up base here. Interestingly, there is an upward trend in the appreciation of design across younger audiences as well. Everything from real estate to product design and fashion is touched by these factors which will further propel the growth of Dubai as a design capital.

What lies ahead for the brand’s future?

I know that Cassina is continuing to focus on developing a complete home collection range aligned with The Cassina Perspective. For example, during Milan Design Week, the first designer lighting collection was previewed and I am sure this segment is poised to grow. Expansion is also big on the cards – both in terms of the collection via collaborations with designers and global growth through a network of monobrand stores. Cassina LAB is also pushing forth its research towards achieving a more sustainable product model. As for Vivium Holding, we will be streamlining our operations and developing Vivium Living – a vertical focused on art and design. Cassina is the first brand under this vertical. Come Q4 2023/Q1 2024, Spain’s leading outdoor furniture brand Kettal will become part of our portfolio and we will be engaged in opening their first stand-alone store in Dubai. We are also in discussion with five other design brands to bring them to the UAE with a mono brand presence. Our vision is to offer the widest choice of mono brand stores to the region. Each brand we bring will be distinct, innovative and a leader in their own area of expertise. We are invested in engaging with the design community, supporting the industry and elevating the standards of what people can find here. Our long-term plan is also to facilitate collaborations between regional designers and the global brands in our portfolio.

This is The Summer Escape Issue – where do you plan on travelling to?

This year my summer will be spent between Ibiza and Greece to enjoy some relaxed down time.

Emirates Man The Summer Escape Issue – Download Now

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Images: Supplied