Part of Townsend's All-Star Cast
Article by: Rick W. Roseman
The Fanciful World of Cabin Amenities
I think most people who enjoy French cuisine would agree that expertly prepared Coq au Vin is still one of the enduring favorites – a rich entree that fills the senses. But I’m also confident that almost no one would take pleasure in the delicately baked chicken, were it not for the rich wine/cream reduction that finishes the dish.
It may seem a stretch to draw such a metaphor between VIP cabin amenities, and food. But I think it’s sort of the perfect analogy. Wonderful food is almost always ‘finished’ with something to round out both its presentation and the flavor profile. Profiteroles would be nothing without its dark rich chocolate drizzle…and what would a Salad Niçoise be without its shallot, mustard, thyme infused olive oil dressing?
To me…and I spent much of my own career as a designer, I can’t even imagine delivering a new aircraft to one of my customers without the finishing amenities. Not only do they adorn and compliment all the fine work you’ve done on behalf of your customer, but they deliver the human element. In very much the same way the Profiteroles look completely naked without their chocolate sauce, so too does even the most beautiful and seductive new VIP interior. Don’t believe me? Check some of the websites or Google VVIP aircraft. Then tell me which looks more inviting to you; the ones with nothing in them but the architecture, furniture and lighting…or the ones with a couple of Christofle stem glasses on the table, a vase of flowers on the credenza, or a Hèrmes blanket laid over the divan.
Amenities are what make any interior space feel like a home – and aircraft cabins are no exception. After all, it is people that will occupy these sumptuous cabins – and when they do, they bring their own personal influence with them…the accessories, touches and preferences that project their own personas.
"The finishing amenities and accessories are the things that go beyond the completion and into the personal realm -
the embodiment and taste of the aircraft's owners."
The firm is comprised of two principals, Kevin Glancy having started the business in 1989 and Jonathan Fawcett joining in 1991. But not entirely at once were they Glancy Fawcett. As the story goes, the two worked within the same space as close colleagues and friends for many years – but as separate entities; one focused more on CCF and the other predominately on linens and soft goods. It was only just five years ago that they formally merged to form one company.
“Both men were supplying yachts back in the day, says Mr. Batty, “back when 30 meters was considered big. Now a big build is 100 meters. But the yacht work quickly spawned Aircraft and Residential as well, which are the three primary focuses of our practice today.”
The firm is based in Manchester, England (UK), where the main Showroom is housed - but they have two other locations as well. Dublin, Ireland is the home of their European Logistics Hub. In late 2017, Glancy Fawcett opened a location in Albany, The Bahamas – which also serves the US.
Today I had the pleasure of sitting down with Thomas Batty and Emma Spenceley of the preeminent amenities firm, GlancyFawcett. These people and this company have turned the business of cabin amenities into an artform, working with HNW clients around the world. And their business is exactly what we’ve described above – providing the finishing touches for some of the most expensive and remarkable interiors on the planet.
“It was the result of a client at his insistence that many of his friends in the area have yachts, planes and residences that could use their services.” Explains Ms. Spenceley. The decision turned out to be a good one for us.”
I asked what the sort of breakdown was across various project types.
“It's roughly about 50% yachts 30% residential and 20% aircraft” says Mr. Batty, “but it does ebb and flow massively on any given year.”
The breakdown makes sense in general of course because yachts worldwide number higher than VIP aircraft and then of course residences are often a natural outgrowth of the other two. But more specifically, I wanted to know which ‘client types’ they most routinely work with (e.g. designers, owners, etc).
“There is a fairly even mix of both, I would say,” says Mr. Batty. “However, more often than not, owners that turn up at our Showroom will bring their designer along anyway. It’s also a very common situation for us to be closely involved with the owner’s rep, similar to the house manager in a residential project.”
“We've got a lovely client who comes to our Showroom periodically. She has twelve homes, four aircrafts, three yachts… you know, very much at the top end of where we are, right? So, she picks out a plate and her designer said, you already have that.”
He went on to explain that in terms of their client mix, it’s very often intermingled – meaning the people that have yachts, often have aircraft and certainly both groups tend to have multiple residences.
“So for us, the largest sector of our business comes by referral.” Batty explains. “It’s very often the case that when we’re talking to one customer, we’ve already done a project for someone they know, or the person having referred them. This makes for an easier route in establishing the relationship and tends to lead to more referrals.”
“I see that your primary Showroom is in Manchester, but are there other locations as well?”
“Manchester is really our main Showroom” Ms. Spenceley explains. “Although we keep some samples in our Bahamas location, it’s here in Manchester that most clients visit when it’s time to start making selections on a given project.”
“I see, can you give us an idea of the Manchester Showroom in terms of size?”
“Our Manchester Showroom at current is right at 11,000 sq. ft.” Mr. Batty explains. “Our showroom here is hopefully an unrivaled space. We've got an enormous number of samples, in excess of 2,600 plate styles, 1,000 crystal glassware, hundreds of pieces of cutlery, bed and table linen, accessories and more… you know it really is a one stop shop; something you have to see to fully appreciate.”
“So, it sounds as if your Showrooms are key, that this is something they [the clients] really enjoy about your company vs. some other options that might bring samples to them. Is that right?”
“Absolutely, it’s been great for us of course because we can sort of cover everything all in one visit and from one location. For our customers however, I think, wow, that’s really a lot of expense to spool up their jet and fly into Manchester from wherever, you know? But I think it’s just a great part of the process for them – as opposed to some of the more arduous visits to the completion center discussing engineering issues etc. So I think it’s something they look forward to.”
In terms of approach, what would you say the two or three paramount ideologies are for Glancy Fawcett in working with your customers?”
“So, #1 is definitely service. That’s always our primary focus throughout. I think the art of real service is often forgotten. But the significance we place on that, is I think why people choose us to be their partner in these things. But our #2 of course is product range. So essentially, it's all the tableware, it's the cutlery, the crystal glassware, the sushi trays or whatever it might be. But it’s also things like unbreakables. If you have kids on board for example, you want to have some unbreakable items. So, you see it’s working through the practical aspects of how the family works, their guests, what they all like to do on-board - even the routes they fly. We always look at every space and give practical solutions to that based on the intended use.”
“And then from tableware then we go into linen,” he continues “so, from informal placemats to tablecloths. For example, on table cloths, they can’t be treated the same as with a residential client because the tables on aircraft are more restricted. Movements are different - so measurements and drops become an important thing. We will do a 10 centimeter drop as opposed to the typical 30 centimeters in your home. These issues must be considered on an aircraft or it can cause problems for both passengers and crew.”
“Next, we go in to things like slippers and cushions, decorative pillows and related items. We've often got those ready to go. And then you have bedding and towels, sleeping pillows, duvets and all of those sorts of items. As I'm looking outside the window here, we have a 4,000 square feet accessory showroom - so that's both practical and decorative - from your bathroom pump to a lovely little leather tray where your drinks are served. So really, we have the whole A-to-Z here for our customers.”
Ok, so speaking of accessories, what about fully custom items? Can you support those kinds of requests as well?
“Well, for many customers, they like the reassurance of having a ‘brand’ whether it be Baccarat, Christofle, Lalique, Hermès or what have you. In some measure at least, almost all clients will want some of these major brands on board. However almost all clients also seek to have something that is unique to them – completely custom, bespeaking their own taste or a theme that’s unique to them. For these requests, we have an in-house product design team that will work with our customers in flushing out fully custom ideas – and the service is free. We don’t charge for it. We simply want to offer the service so that when the solution can’t be found in our Showroom, we can still help them.”
“Interesting. I can certainly see this being an important addition to your overall offering. So, finally I wanted to say that in my own career as a designer, I often tried to get my clients to involve amenities concurrent with – the early design process in order to provide a certain thematic continuity between the architecture and accessories. Is that something you find in your practice these days? Do some of your product designers seek this kind of early involvement for similar reasons?”
“Well, the truth is…in today’s environment, it can often take 12-18 months for delivery of many items such as CCF and related things; and especially if there is any customization. So, we always encourage this kind of up-front involvement – certainly for the reasons you’re talking about – but also for practical reasons. We of course want to ensure that the delivery of our goods wind up matching the delivery of the aircraft.”
“Interesting. Thank you.” Ok, well, Tom and Emma…I want to thank both of you on behalf of myself and our readers. Not everyone here in the states may yet be familiar with the Glancy Fawcett name but we hope to change that. It’s quite impressive what you offer, the multiple offices that support your operation and of course your unique way of looking after clients. But before we close, I do need to pose one final question to both of you.”
“Let’s say you both are sitting on a veranda somewhere on the Amalfi coast following a meeting with a customer. You’ve just finished a lovely dinner but find that you have room for dessert. The server explains their specialty for the evening are Profiteroles. So, you both order them. Now…do you order them with the rich dark chocolate sauce – or without?”
Both of my perplexed interviewees looked at each other. After a few quizzical seconds they both shrugged and answered….”by all means, the chocolate sauce!”