Walking through Pacific Place this holiday, you won’t miss the beautiful exhibition that pays tribute to The Little Prince, one of the most beloved tales written by aviation pioneer and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The exhibition, created by French artist Arnaud Nazare-Aga and his PAJ’Art Studio, is a collaboration between IWC Schaffhausen and the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation which will run as part of Pacific Place’s Christmas programme until January 1, 2016.
To kick off the Christmas programme, Saint-Exupéry’s grandnephew Olivier d’Agay was here in Hong Kong for the grand opening celebration. The delegate general of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation, d’Agay tells STYLE about preserving Saint-Exupéry’s heritage and about the foundation’s partnership with IWC.
1. Was Saint-Exupéry an important figure in the family?
He’s very important but in my family, we are not used to making a lot of fuss about him. It was more a personal process to discover the kind of man he was and how important he has been as the writer of The Little Prince, as a pilot and as an intellectual philosopher. With the new generation now it’s getting a bit more of a family experience, because the young people want to know more about this incredible uncle. He’s a legend, so nobody wants to be a pilot or a writer now in the family. You cannot be one because Saint-Exupéry was too impressive. After him you cannot write, you cannot [fly].
2. What is the mission of the foundation?
It was created eight years ago with the idea to give back what we have received by chance. Saint-Exupéry had no children, so that’s why it came to my grandmother and my parents. We want to give back to the community. We also wanted to promote the values of Saint-Exupéry, and with the foundation, the best thing we could do is to benefit the youth. We fight against illiteracy and marginalisation. We started with local projects, submitted by friends we can trust, and then, thanks to IWC and other sponsors, we’ve gotten bigger, more international. For example, the Ebenezer School for the visually impaired in Hong Kong is a fantastic school. We had an auction of the IWC Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph “Le Petite Prince” to support this project.
3. How did the project with IWC come about?
As always with Saint-Exupéry, it’s a story of a meeting between two persons. I met Georges Kern 10 years ago, and he was a fan of Saint-Exupéry. We actually started to talk on a plane. I said to him, “We want to create a foundation,” and he said, “What a nice idea.” And then I said, “We’re looking for friends and sponsors,” and he said it would be nice to have a limited-edition watch. Now it’s been 10 years and [the collaboration] is still going on.
4. Who came up with the inspiration to put The Little Prince on an IWC watch?
The 70th birthday of The Little Prince was in 2013. The watch has always been about Saint-Exupery, but I talk with Georges every year, and I said to him, “Why don’t we do a Little Prince watch?” He was shocked. He said, “No, we are doing watches for men. Can you imagine a man wearing a Little Prince watch?” I said, “Yes, why not?” It started like that. It was a big revelation for IWC in 2013 when they had this watch with the Little Prince. It was so successful that they said we can do another next year. So now we have The Little Prince and Saint-Exupéry collections.
5. Do you have a say in the design of the Saint-Exupéry and The Little Prince watches?
Of course. We have to approve everything. We discuss, for example, the initial “A” for Antoine. It’s very difficult to work with a luxury company because at the beginning you don’t understand how they think. But we are really open. We give them a lot of ideas. We have a lot of materials, a lot of stories. Saint-Exupéry’s story-telling is fantastic.