Casting a discerning ‘eye’ on luxury

Avril Graham and Carole Haarmann Acunto offer us a sneak peak at “Platinum Eye,” a forthcoming luxury lifestyles TV series that they describe as “your invitation to curated luxury.”

It was kismet at Greenwich Polo Club last August. In one box sat Avril Graham, the gracious executive fashion and beauty editor of Harper’s Bazaar, whom WAG first profiled in September 2015 and has continued to follow ever since. In another sat Steve Acunto, the urbane founder of CINN, a private group of insurance, media and publishing companies. One thing led to another and Acunto said to Graham, “You should meet my wife.”

She is Carole Haarmann Acunto, the sharp-minded theatrical, musical and film producer, who is also partner in and executive vice president of CINN. The two women soon discovered they had a great deal in common, beginning with polo. Why polo?

“I’m British,” Graham says. “Enough said.”

“And I’m American,” adds Acunto, who rides, “and I love horses.”

They are talking with WAG over cappuccino in the sunroom of the Acuntos’ home, an elegant Georgian Colonial in Greenwich that reflects the couple’s passion for music and art. Sitting opposite us, you think that the two women — both blond and attractive — could be siblings. And indeed, Graham says, “We’re like sisters from another mother.”

And like sisters, they are, she adds, “yin-yang.”

“Avril has star quality,” Acunto says. “She has that phenomenal ability to communicate with people.”

That may be because unlike others in the fashion and beauty business, Graham is nonjudgmental. She’s genuinely interested in what you have to offer. She listens and educates. And she in turn says of Acunto, “She is a phenomenal businesswoman. To have anything that succeeds, you want to have the creative and the business side. One doesn’t appear without the other.”

Which may be why we have such a good feeling about their new venture, “Platinum Eye,” a forthcoming luxury lifestyles TV series that they describe as “your invitation to curated luxury.” 

Those who have thrilled to the return of the opulent ’80s — as evinced in the CW’s over-the-top remake of “Dynasty,” perhaps the ultimate armoire and sex nighttime soap — might have visions of the equally guilty pleasure “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” dancing in their heads. Disavow yourselves of that Robin Leach-ian idea. 

As a regular commentator on network and cable TV about subjects ranging from Oscar fashions to the death of couture giant Karl Lagerfeld, Graham had noted that luxury is not a subject well-served by the medium. Acunto had drawn the same conclusion. Their response has been to create a 10-part series of half-hour programs — set to begin running in November — that will transcend the traditional take on culture. The series’ “eye” might peer behind-the-scenes of a heretofore off-limits world, as in backstage at La Scala in Milan, opera’s holy of holies. 

Or it might take an unusual vantage point. On her iPad, Acunto, the series’ principal producer, shows us an eight-minute snippet of an installment on Puerto Rico, which explores how luxe tourism has reemerged on an island devastated by Hurricane Maria. There the “Platinum Eye” team heads to Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Dorado, which has undergone a painstaking restoration. Graham talks with chef-humanitarian José Andrés, a real hero of the disaster-relief effort, who with his World Central Kitchen nonprofit served up 2 million meals alone in the first month after the 2017 hurricane. There are spots on richly patterned creations by local fashion designers; the island’s rum industry — “Platinum Eye” gets its own label; cocktails served up by sexy, young bartenders; and some R & R in the form of a massage back at Dorado Beach. The interviews are shot “live to camera,” Graham says. While there is some scripting and certainly editing involved, the questions are not handed out in advance. This gives the series an immediate, intimate feel.

Another episode will take viewers behind the scenes at the Oscars in a way that will have them salivating. “Platinum Eye” pores over the room where designers, jewelers and other accessory purveyors hope to entice Oscar attendees to don their creations. “It’s a candy store for women,” Graham says. Guys and gals won’t want to miss the “Eye” vrooming around the Grand Prix course in Monaco. The Formula One race is one leg of the Triple Crown of Motorsport, along with the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in a principality that is crusted with luxe hotels, stars, superyachts and nightspots — all within 1 square mile, about the size of Bronxville.

This month Acunto and Graham are off to Highclere Castle, which played “Downton Abbey” in the series phenom, to have a “Downton Abbey”-style dinner with the castle’s proprietors — the eighth Earl and Countess Carnarvon, WAG’s February cover subjects — for another episode.

And the “Platinum Eye” team will celebrate its venture where it all began — with a party at Greenwich Polo Club on June 30. 

The series is not, however, merely for those who appear on the red carpet or jet off to Monte Carlo. Rather, Acunto says, it is also for the aspirational — those who hope to savor in some way the best life has to offer.

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