A Diamond Geezer and a Mini Mogul: Two Men Making Waves in Design

Alain Lorenzo

Age: 46

Nationality: French

Profession: CEO De Beers LV

"Try it on," urges Alain Lorenzo, as he holds up an exquisite diamond necklace. The web of white gold and perfect rocks is a far cry from the traditional diamonds of other jewellery houses, as Lorenzo explains: "We wanted to create a collection that women can wear in the daytime, that can be worn informally with casual clothes."

This relaxed direction is apparent in the new London store, a friendly temple of opulence. The store, at the junction of Old Bond Street and Piccadilly, is the first retail outlet of an interesting partnership between two luxury brands. De Beers, with mining and trading expertise, but little retailing experience, approached LVMH (owners of TAG Heuer, Dom Perignon, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior) which was new to the jewellery sector and keen to expand.

The modest and amiable Lorenzo has a surprising hobby: he's a radio ham, but he can't put up the big aerial he needs in London. In fact, he's taken with all things electronic; an interest that perfectly contrasts with his business life of diamonds, the most natural earthly mineral.

He pauses to show me a man's ring, a substantial, elegant affair, boasting a huge green diamond. "Yesterday," he says, "a man was deciding whether to buy this ring or an Aston Martin." The customer chose the car. I've seen Astons before. But I'd never seen a very rare green diamond. De Beers Enquiries: +44 (0) 20 7758 9700

Adrian Van Hooydonk

Age: 39

Nationality: Dutch

Profession: Industrial Designer

"I've already shown you more than I should," says Adrian Van Hooydonk as he ushers me into a "neutral" room. I'm deep inside the Designworks/USA top-secret design laboratory in California, where they conjure up everything from sleek new BMWs to revolutionary prosthetic limbs. Van Hoydonk is the President, and if he accidentally lets me see anything I shouldn't he'll have to accidentally kill me. "It's the nature of our business," he assures me, as we rush past dozens of men in white coats frantically covering huge objects with white sheets. "If we can't keep things under wraps we would never get any business."

And it's quite a business. Set up by BMW to keep their cars at the cutting edge of modern design and also to explore third-party opportunities, Designworks/USA employs over 100 people, designing key products for such disparate clients as Motorola and Formula One teams. The firm has created railway rolling stock for the Deutsche Bahn, as well as the Nokia 9110 Communicator mobile phone. But perhaps Adrian Van Hooydonk's most talked about design is the new Mini, which perfectly reflects his working ethos. "Design should make the world less complicated," he says. "The world is crazy enough without designers making it worse. The trick is to simplify but maintain the emotion, give the impression that it is a living organism." So now we know at least one big secret: the best British car of recent years was designed by a Dutchman, in the US, and built by the Germans.

By Joanne Glasbey and Tim Southwell

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