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If objects could talk, these would have juicy stories to tell.
Mouna Ayoub, the Lebanese socialite, jet-setter and couture patron, is auctioning off the contents of her yacht Phocéa, which she owned between 1997 and 2009. All and all, 1,000 objects are going under the hammer at Paris’ Drouot Richelieu in late April.
This story first appeared in the March 19, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Why now? “Because I gave up hope of getting her back,” an exasperated Ayoub told WWD.
Ayoub, a former waitress who married Nasser Al-Rashid, a billionaire adviser to the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, is the world’s most well-known customer of haute couture, owner of a total of 1,598 pieces, “plus or minus two, I have to redo the math after a new inventory.”
She had been trying to buy back the yacht she had customized to match her tony lifestyle from its present owner, who is of Asian provenance but whose name Ayoub did not disclose. But after six months of painful negotiations, the deal came off the table.
“I had told him to take good care of her, but he is not doing anything with her,” Ayoub lamented. She then reminisced about the good times she spent on what used to be — until 2004 — the largest sailing yacht in the world.
Her charters — priced at 290,000 euros, or $403,605 at current exchange, a week — were legendary. The sailing ship carried supermodels and royalty, including the Prince Albert II of Monaco, high patron of the World Music Awards.
“Every singer who performed at the awards came to a cocktail on the Phocéa the night before. Alicia Keys once came with so much security we hardly had room for them,” she said.
More than one movie script was memorized on its deck. “I’m sorry I can’t reveal more. I signed a confidentiality agreement,” Ayoub purred.
The lots she’s auctioning off include tableware and lifestyle objects, most custom-made by the world’s chicest houses — Hermès, Tiffany, Cartier — for the Phocéa, dubbed “bateau couture” (or “couture ship”). There’s even a Christmas tree Tom Ford designed for Yves Saint Laurent in 2001.
The toughest to let go will be her “messages in a bottle,” 46 flacons especially made by Bulgari, 1,000 of which were sent to various royals and celebrities as invitations to spend time on the yacht. “The design I did with Mr. Bulgari took a lot of time, because once the message went in, it stayed there, and you had to be able to read it from every angle,” Ayoub said.
One of the couture lots, “Bateau-Lavoir,” an ensemble featuring a sailor-striped top and black culottes by Jean Paul Gaultier, one of Ayoub’s favorite designers, comes with a particularly colorful backstory of its own.
In 2002, the yacht hit a rock off the Corsican coast and eventually capsized, pitching Ayoub and two of her children into the sea but not before she grabbed the Gaultier. “I said, ‘Oh my God, I have to dress in couture in case there are photographers!’” she recalled. “Now, look where my head was.”
She made sure to point out it’s the only couture look she has ever worn twice.
“Once in the water, once outside of the water,” she said.