My Favourites

FREEDOM IS THE ANSWER

Santiago My Favourites December 2, 2016

JANA SINKOVA-COURTIN

 

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My job gives me the freedom to do what I like rather than to do what I must.

Currently the CEO and founder of Secret Spirit, a luxurious line of swimwear, resort wear and accessories, I have a Master’s degree in International and Business Law. I have held positions in the United Nations, worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as for the Ministry of Justice. I have had the opportunity to work with renowned politicians and business personalities, with whom I maintain close ties even today. Additionally, I have practiced international law extensively, in both Europe and the United States. I personally like challenges very much and I’ve always been a real perfectionist. Whenever an opportunity has presented itself, I’ve always made a point of seizing it right away. Every opportunity in my life matters to me. Another principle I live by has been building atop past experiences, and that’s helped lead to a solid and stable career in the business world. Today, my name is my personal brand and professional guarantee, whether in event management, lobbying, or in coaching and consulting on an international level. On top of that, I’ve been able to balance my working life with my longtime passion of designing clothes and accessories. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but today my brand Secret Spirit really says it all: dreams do come true, and real victories actually do happen, and I’m living proof of that.

Do you feel like you’re a French woman?

France has adopted me, I must say, and for that I am eternally grateful. So it should come as no surprise that it’s my second home. At the same time, I’ve always felt like real a cosmopolitan girl. I love to travel, and in fact I travel regularly—basically all the time, since my job requires it. Not only have I had the chance to travel around the world, but living in France has meant that I’ve been lucky enough to live in a foreign country for an extended period of time, and that is incredibly exciting. In being here and traveling so much, I’ve learned a thing or two about who I am too, including why I love to travel and explore, so that’s why I can feel pretty much at home everywhere.

That said, Slovakia will always be a part of me: my eternal childhood memories that seem to have passed me by so quickly. It truly is an indescribable feeling to go back home and find my room, and to see my old box full of mementoes and old photos.

As a business woman, what role does the family play in your life?

My family and everything related to it will always come first in my life. I couldn’t be more blessed in that regard. I have a wonderful husband and a beautiful daughter. Thanks to them I feel I can say that I understand what real happiness is, a happiness that has nothing to do with success or a career. In fact, it’s my family specifically, as well as their support, that have made me the successful woman I am today. I was brought up to believe that family is everything, and that without it, we aren’t even half of what we could be. My husband has avowed that I am his other half, and he too completes me. Without him, and the missing armor of our love, my daughter, I could no longer go on.

You travel around the world, where do you organize your business meetings?

In the beginning it was somewhat challenging but eventually we found a nice compromise, although fairly well-known. Some of the dilemmas that travel can present are not always easy to resolve, but at present I hold client and business meetings in a centralized location, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in Geneva. We’ve always been met by a dedicated and highly experienced conference planner who ensures that our meetings and events run smoothly. It really is a beautiful environment, I must say. The staff, as well, are very friendly and always ensure a sense of absolute privacy.

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You are the founder of the luxury brand Secret Spirit. When was the
idea born?

When I was small I was mesmerized by hummingbirds, and sometimes used to watch them for hours. I remember gazing at a charm of them one day and realizing that the bird’s elegance and beauty are due in part to the fact that throughout its life it only ever rarely touches the ground. Personally, I have always loved the heat, the smell of summer and the rays of the sun, and whenever I see a hummingbird in flight, it’s hard not to notice the colors of its feathers, like some magnificient work of art. So, maybe it was that brilliant iridesence and coordination of flight that inspired the foundation of my company. A kind of symbiosis, if you will.  Travel has also played a huge role in my life, quite like the hummingbird, incidentally. Not just because I love the joy and excitement of travelling, but because when I fly, to me it means I am realizing my dreams.

We’d all like to have wings, of course, if even for just a short while. I was lucky enough to find mine when I was young, thanks to the gentle hummingbird, whose speed and agility have propelled me toward success and innovation.   

At Secret Spirit, that has meant fitting my clothes to every silhouette of the female form, itself yet another masterpiece. In turn, this has led to the integration of high-quality material and remarkable comfort, which allows each and every woman to feel chic and stylish no matter the occasion.

Secret Spirit is a synergy of innovation and creativity. My launch collection is characterized by modern colors and a chic design, and includes a large range of swimwear, beachwear, and
accompanying accessories.   

And when do you call it quits and fine time to relax?

After a heavy day’s work, the best way I have found to relax is doing exercise and fitness. When you exercise, the brain releases a kind of compound called endorphins, which help to relieve stress and reduce depression. That’s what physical activity does for me: it gets rid of mental stress. And, I’ve found that a clear mind is essential for successful business, so that’s also why I love getting in a good work out! I tend to hit a fitness center situated right in the heart of Paris in the Hotel Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris, and then I finish up in their spa, called My Blend by Clarins. They recently transformed the interior into a kind of modern Palace, infused with French spirit, specifically because of the spa, actually. Everytime I work out I always end up there, it’s just so relaxing and peaceful. It may as well be a temple of well-being and beauty!

I also like to ski, and to play tennis and golf. I’ve even tried car racing. In fact I have to tell you that I am a pretty big fan of extreme sports. Aside from all that, another way I like to relax is spending time with my daughter. We love to go to the theater, cinema, opera, to see look at architecture and to visit museums, which I’m also very passionate about and delighted to share with her.

What is your favorite holiday destination?

In the summertime my favorite place to go to is Saint-Tropez. I spend the whole time there with my family and in our house near the beautiful beaches. I love to be with my family, surrounded by my best friends there. It’s amazing atmosphere, the  people, the unending parties, and the all-around good vibrations make it so much fun. I don’t think there is a place where I feel better, and freer. In the wintertime, Thailand is an absolute must for us. Phuket may as well be my very own private piece of paradise.

For our next holiday we’d really like to visit El Oued. A friend of ours is an owner of a new Hotel there, called La Gazelle D’or and since he’s invited us, it’s pretty much a given that we’re going to go. Apparently the absolutely breathtaking decor and Arabian Nights ambience make it a real retreat! He’s said that for some time to come I’ll be able to survive all the adventurous tales that queen Scheherazade narrated so well, so, that will be our next holiday.

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Why is charity important for you?

All sorts of people work for charities and for all sorts of reasons, but the one thing that unites us all is that we find it challenging, rewarding, and exciting. For most people, it’s a chance to try out something different from everyday life and work. As well, it gives you the power to change somebody’s life. Millions of children around the entire world are born into really harsh realities that a lot of us never even know about. There are so, so many kids who don’t get even the basics, like a quality education where they can learn and develop. All children around the globe, no matter where they come from, should have the right to an education, and a right to health! And so that’s why I try to help through charities. Children are our future!

Outside of charity work, I try to help my husband with his Arthritis Foundation. It’s a nonprofit organization supported by Clarins and funded by donors who are trying to make a differece for people inflicted with Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases (RMDs). I can’t tell you how proud my family makes me, and what it means to be a part of them.

You work in fashion and are a businesswoman. What does your wardrobe look like?

I would be lying if I said I do not like luxury. My favorite fashion brand has got to be Mugler. His Couture is both an art and a science. Mugler’s cut and perfected silhouettes are distinct, ultra-feminine, and instantly recognizable. He could literally change your attitude from a businesswoman to an extravagant diva or a glamourous, fairy-like star in just minutes. I wear his line both for business meetings and for my VIP evenings.

In the summertime I’m more or less always in my very own Secret Spirit. And, to go with it, I generally choose an absolutely stunning brand, called Hedera, which is a line of watches and jewelry by the very talented Pierre Koukijan. If you know his work, you know he is basically the free electron of everything that is excellent watchmaking. I don’t know a woman whose beauty wouldn’t be accentuated by his work. As well, since he’s an entrepreneur, his attire really has a different story to it. I simply love it!

What about yours goals for the future?

My long-term goals involve growing with and expanding my own company, wherein I can continue to learn, take on additional responsibilities, and contribute as much value as I can to all the avenues of my life. I see myself as a top performer in a well-established organization. I plan on enhancing my skills and continuing my involvement in similar professional associations. My future projects will therefore most likely be in emerging countries. In 2017 I would like to have my own charity project specialized in rescuing women subjected to domestic violence in the UK. In all though, my future is my family and primarily my loving daughter. I will spend the rest of my life protecting her, teaching her, caring for her, worrying about her and doing all those annoying things my mom does for me.

Next, more than anything, I would like that she follows her dreams as well; whatever they may be and no matter how far-fetched they may seem. I am confident that she will accomplish so many things that will make me proud…

A TRULY MEXICAN WOMAN

Santiago My Favourites March 11, 2015

WHAT MEMORIES OF YOUR CHILDHOOD HAVE SHAPED THE WOMAN THAT YOU HAVE BECOME?

I had a very active and structured childhood. My parents always pushed my sister and I to take part in extracurricular activities, and I very much appreciate that today. I was a competitive swimmer, ballet dancer, violinist and horseback rider. My involvement in sports and other challenging activities shaped me to be not only competitive in everything I do, but also very confident. To this day, I am always looking for all sorts of new challenges to take me to the next level both personally and professionally.

Somebody I have always had an admiration for is my sister Patricia Scarlet. Perhaps as the eldest in the family, I have been the more cautious child when making decisions. I have always respected Patty for her fearlessness and decisiveness. At the tender age of twelve, she told my parents she was ready to expand her wings, and took the initiative to leave San Diego and attend boarding school in Switzerland. One year later, I followed her lead and joined her at Le Rosey, which, to this day, has been my favorite life-changing experience! My experience in Le Rosey was a fast track to my human development, as it allowed me to grow in many disciplines: arts, music, sports and culture. Part of the school’s mission, is to develop its students’ understanding and commitment to social issues and services. Most significant, while in Le Rosey, I developed great friendships with people of virtually all nationalities that I maintain to this day.


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IS THERE ANYONE IN THE WORLD TODAY OR IN THE PAST YOU PARTICULARLY ADMIRE AND WHY?

I admire women who have the capacity to thrive professionally while at the same time maintaining the energy to look after a family. Also I think it important that they take time to pursue personal hobbies and keep fit. The modern woman has so much to contribute to society. Thankfully, our roles in society have changed significantly since the last generation.

I admire women who maintain a balanced life, who make things happen but never lose their style, elegance and those characteristics that make them (us) uniquely feminine. Women who are not submissive and brave enough to stand up for what they believe in are also my role models. Rosa Parks did the contrary, and by not standing up on a bus one day, was able to demonstrate to the world that even small acts of defiance can have a huge impact. I also respect and admire men who don’t shy away from a strong woman.

YOU ARE MEXICAN BUT SPEND A LOT OF TIME IN THE USA. WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT TWO COUNTIES?

I feel very blessed to have been raised in a unique geographical region that straddles two countries and two cultures. Having been raised in the United States in a Mexican household, I consider myself bi-cultural, bi-national and, of course, bilingual. Having been part of the Mexico for a very long time, San Diego has a rich cultural history and possesses breathtaking natural beauty. Mexico is uniquely rich in its customs, culture and traditions, and those traditions vary from region to region and state to state. These variations include artisanal crafts, food, music, geographical diversity and even the typical dresses that the women in each region wear!

Aspects that are Aztec, colonial and even modern. I think any visitor to Mexico can say that the country has a culture of welcoming everyone despite his or her origin. For me, the USA is a place of order and tranquility. It has a culture of respect, punctuality and equality, which I appreciate. But I have a soft spot in my heart for Mexico; also for Europe, where I lived for nearly a decade.

WERE YOU STUDYING THERE?

I lived in Europe for nearly a decade, including my boarding school years in Switzerland and periods in London and Paris. In London, I completed my undergraduate and masters degrees at the European Business School, where as part of the program you must study not only aspects of international business but also a foreign language.

To reinforce my French speaking skills, I chose Paris as my destination during my study abroad year. During my Parisian year, I initially lived in Place Vendome, in a hotel currently undergoing a transformation. During the second half of my stay in Paris, I moved into a very Parisian apartment in the very youthful Saint-Germain des Pres, just a stroll down to one of my favorite coffee time spots, Les Deux Magots. This is of course when I came across some of the famous French brands in situ: brands like Hermes, YSL, Chanel, Dior and Cartier. I loved window shopping at the time and now I find myself returning to these classic brands again and again. I’m wearing Cartier and Van Cleef and Arpels in one of my pictures.


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WHAT LED YOU TO BECOME A MAJOR SPONSOR OF TEAM SPORTS?

I am lucky to have grown up in a city that has two professional sports teams. More specifically, I can say I grew up in a baseball stadium. My father has a lifetime of experience being at the head of baseball teams: Los Ostioneros de Guaymas, and (twice in different professional baseball leagues) Tijuana Toros.

He has passed on his passion for the sport to not only me but also the whole family. Strangers to the sport, don’t necessarily realize this but, out of all professional team sports, baseball is much more strategic and intellectual than it appears to be on the surface. And I love the fact that baseball has such a supportive, family-friendly atmosphere.

However, I am a fan of all sports because they are a positive influence for the community and the economy. Passion for sports provides members of the community something that brings them together.

YOU’RE KNOWN TO TAKE AN ACTIVE ROLE IN THE ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT OF MEXICO AND SIT ON A VARIETY OF BOARDS. WHEN DID YOUR INTEREST IN ART BEGIN?

I fell in love with art during the time I lived in Europe. Having so many majestic buildings all around and wonderful museums at my fingertips, deepened my appreciation for the beauty in art.

I think art history is a fascinating way of understanding world history. Through art you can comprehend in a very vivid sense the zeitgeist of different eras. I just love that! I also took an art history course at Sotheby’s, which changed my outlook and was very enriching.

WHICH PAINTERS MOVE YOU MOST?

I have a diversified taste for art: I have an appreciation for the beauty and sophistication in the art of Renaissance masters, like Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. But I also love Edgar Degas’s delicacy, Fragonard’s playfulness and the symbolism in Hans Holbein and Frida Kahlo’s art. But the one painting that has had its biggest effect on me, perhaps due to its imposing dimensions and the historical content behind the piece, is Jacques-Louis David’s: The Coronation of Napoleon… just spectacular!

HAVE YOU HAD OR DO YOU HAVE INVOLVEMENT IN GALLERIES AND FOUNDATIONS SUCH AS COLLECTION JUMEX?

Today I am honoured to be serving on the Board of Trustees of the San Diego Museum of Art. I’m passionate about the mediating influence of art in society. Like sports, art has a very positive effect within a community. Young people can learn so much from it and are excited by it. Like dancing, every child loves to paint and draw.  Only later do we become inhibited and self-conscious.

WHAT ABOUT MUSIC?

New trend I love is the showing of opera in the cinemas. Opera is an art form that had been slowly losing its audience and has traditionally had little appeal amongst younger people.  Showing opera in the cinema seems to be reversing this trend.

I general I listen to all kinds of music, from opera to jazz as well as my all time favorite, Mariachi.

WHAT SORT OF ART-WORK HANGS INSIDE YOUR OWN HOME? ARE YOU, FOR INSTANCE, A BUYER OF DAMIAN ORTEGA, DANIEL GUZMAN OR GABRIEL OROZCO? IF NOT WHO?

I am always looking for up and coming artists, especially in Mexico. I feel like we have so much talent, with so much to offer, but not enough exposure. In particular I love the work of Vladimir Cora. The first art piece I ever purchased was a self-portrait. I love his expressionism and the colors he uses, which truly capture Mexican heritage.


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WHAT OTHER ROLE DOES COLOUR PLAY IN YOUR LIFE. ARE THEIR INTERIOR DESIGNERS AND ARCHITECTS WHOSE WORK YOU PARTICULARLY ADMIRE?

Architecture in general is something I appreciate. My love for Paris is in large part for the loveliness of its buildings. Mexico city is also a very special place as you find Aztec remains, the colonial buildings influenced by the Europeans, and of course modern blocks, all coming together harmoniously.

One restaurant I particularly love for its picturesque interior decoration is Bel Cielo in Mexico City.

AND FASHION? WHOSE CLOTHES MAKE YOU FEEL MOST VIBRANT AND HAPPY? WHAT ITEMS WOULD YOU NEVER THROW AWAY?

I love wearing bright colors and diverse fabrics. One of my favorite designers is Oscar de la Renta.

ARE THEIR HEIRLOOMS THAT HAVE SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE FOR YOU?

I am always looking for local jewellers in countries I visit. One that I am a fan of is the Mexican silver designer, Delia Gonzalez. She is from the beautiful city of Taxco known for all varieties of artwork and jewelry in silver.

WHAT WOULD YOUR PERFECT HOLIDAY BE? ARE THERE PLACES YOU REGULARLY RETURN TO FOR SENTIMENTAL REASONS?

My favourite travel experience by far was a cruise I took with my family through Antarctica. The peacefulness and glory of a place so untouched and so fragile amplified its magnificence. The beauty of nature humbles me enormously.

WHAT CUISINE DO YOU MOST LIKE AND WHAT RESTAURANTS DO YOU MOST REGULARLY VISIT?

My preference is for fusion cooking, also known as REAL Mexican food!

Two restaurants I love for their picturesque interior decoration are Bel Cielo and La Hacienda de San Angel Inn, both in Mexico City. Another of my favourite restaurants is Las Mercedes, located in the unique city of Guanajuato. The restaurant is well known for its artisanal Mexican recipes. It is a family-run establishment, located in a private home and is simply delicious! The food is a blend of European ingredients that arrived in Mexico with the arrival of the Spaniards and French, together with the native ingredients Aztecs and Mayans used in their own cuisine: flavours such as chocolate and spice fused together.

There is nothing else like it! When accompanied by tequila, everything tastes even better. I am also a huge fan of all Mediterranean food! Especially Italian cuisine! Mimosas at Cipriani are definitely a weakness!

LUXURY MEANS MANY DIFFERENT THINGS. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU? ARE THERE PARTICULAR ARTISAN PRODUCTION METHODS THAT YOU CARE PASSIONATELY ABOUT?

Life experiences have changed my way of looking at what some call luxury. To some, luxury is made and understood in physical or tangible ways. To others, it can have cultural significance. However, to me, luxury is comfort and ease in our daily lives and in everything we do. For example, access to health care can be considered a luxury item in many parts of the world.

Unfortunately, in the USA and Mexico, access to quality health care is a luxury, reserved for the few. Our societies have not yet found a method to bring this fundamental element that we all need to all of those who need it. I hope that we can, one day, see such an essential not as a luxury but as something accessible to everyone.

ARE THERE ANY CHARITIES OTHER THAN THOSE YOU’VE ALREADY MENTIONED THAT YOU’RE INVOLVED IN AND IF SO WHAT DRAWS YOU TO THEM?

There are two non-profit hospitals I am involved with in Mexico: Hospital Infantil de las Californias providing medical care, nutrition and education services to children and their families of the region (San Diego / Tijuana); and Fundación Castro Limón, whose funds go to providing integral attention to children with cancer and their families at the pediatric oncology center.

What I appreciate the most is that that although these organizations are situated on the Mexican side of the border, both provide high-quality medical care to those who need it most – the children of San Diego and Tijuana.

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