Jaclyn Sienna India: Money screams, Wealth whispers
Sh. The secret’s out. Ultra-luxury lifestyle consultant Jaclyn Sienna India shares the latest trends and hidden gems inside the lives of the extremely wealthy, and Dolce took some notes.
Jaclyn Sienna India transformed her first job in hospitality into her luxury lifestyle business by becoming a student of the ultra-high net worth. Today, her company, Sienna Charles, advises billionaires, public figures and celebrities ranging from George W. Bush to Mariah Carey on ultra-luxury travel and lifestyle experiences.
At a time when inspiration in the form of breathless scenery, gourmet meals and exciting adventures is only an Instagram away, satisfying the demands for an exclusive experience from the ultra-high net worth comes with its own challenges. India shares her insights on the trends in the luxury market and how she’s able to curate experiences for those with the highest of expectations and where money is no object: “People have more money than ever. They’re not looking for mediocre service; they want the best of the best and they’re going to continue to demand that — as they should.”
Having travelled to 90 countries — and still looking to check off exploring many more destinations, such as Papua New Guinea and the Trans-Siberian Express railway — India gives us a look into her growing “Black Book” of people, places and things that will help inspire your next wellness experience, adventure or passion — whether abroad or in your very own home.
Q: Can you tell me about your trajectory in becoming a luxury lifestyle expert?
A: When I was going to university, I started working at a five-star restaurant in Philadelphia, and it was my first time working at a luxury establishment. I became enamoured with food, wine and luxury service. I just became a student of the ultra-high net worth, wanting to study them and study about their habits and their patterns and why they wanted it a certain way and used that to fuel lots of my own success in terms of how to be better and have better expectations. I just became really obsessed with it. I really wanted to bring that ultra-luxury service and personalization to the travel world. I started my company in 2008, and I vowed that every moment would always be about the client. It would be a personal experience about them totally, and we would never book anything that I didn’t personally know. I’ve travelled to 90 countries. I’m on the road 200 days of the year, and it’s really been just building out my black book of people, places and things in order to pair clients with.
Q: You offer services that include sourcing yacht experiences, food & wine, lifestyle, private aviation, estates and wellness. Out of all of these categories, which is most commonly requested? What is your personal favourite, and why?
A: They’re all my personal favourite, and that’s why we really excel at them. I like them for different reasons, for different times. There’s a time to take a yacht, there’s a time to do an adventure experience, and there’s a time to do wellness stuff. I like them all, and a lot of them are a take on those things. A lot of people sell yacht experiences, food and wine experiences and wellness stuff, but it’s my vision behind each of them and how we express that. They all really start with the conversation with the client of what they’re looking to achieve and what their expectation is for that item. It really depends on each one. For food and wine, for example, I know the high and the low as much as the other, so whether it’s to go to Vietnam and eat out of a food cart for a dollar, that could be a really amazing experience. Or, a $20,000 dinner could be really incredible. It really depends on what the person is looking to do.
Q: Can you speak on some of the characteristics, needs, demands and requests that come from individuals with extreme wealth?
A: The expectation is that we were to get it right in the way as if they were going to do it themselves. All the people we deal with are type-A personalities, and they can have whatever they want and they have this vision. We have this very CEO-style of service and when we work with people. Since money is no object, it starts as a conversation. “We want to go away for five days, we want a beach experience, we’re bringing our family, we have a private plane, we’re looking for this type of vibe,” and so I have to, in a short amount of time, understand who they are, what their objectives are and then essentially deliver them the same thing that they would have delivered themselves had they had the time. I think that’s where we’re really successful, is really understanding who they are and what makes them tick and pair that with my rolodex and kind of getting it right every time.
Q: Luxury now includes a second passport, access to health care and the freedom to go when and where they feel safe and secure. That being said, what has been the most frequent and wanted passport requests? Is this common among the ultra-high-net-worth individuals?
A: It’s pretty common. So, when the main lockdown first hit, no matter how much money they had in the world, they weren’t able to be as free as they wanted. I think that they really restructured things to make sure that they could not be bound by any rules and do whatever they want, and it kind of fuelled this egocentric “can’t-tell-me-what-to-do” kind of thing. I’ve helped people get passports — Europe and South America among the ones that we get the most. And a lot of times, it’s a quite easy conversation, because you can get things through investment into purchasing homes or investment into the economy. We have experts we work with for that. As much as also buying assets instead of renting them. During the pandemic, we’ve found that a lot of people were essentially buying the yachts, buying the planes, buying the extra third, fourth and fifth vacation homes, so that they could just fire up their jet or go to their yacht without having to then search on availability and share it with other people from a sanitary perspective.
Q: Do you believe there is a gap in the market when it comes to luxury-lifestyle experiences? How do you differ from your competitors?
A: Absolutely, yes. I think that we have always been where we were supposed to be with the ultra-high-net-worth, and so our hope is that this motto is always about privacy. If you go to our Instagram, it’s not about showing everyone where everyone can go. If you look at our website, we’re not giving testimonials. I think a lot of people dabble and handle a few ultra-high-net-worth people and then kind of are mass market. I think that the hole in the market is to our advantage because we only really handle those people, and we know exactly what they want.
There’s definitely a hole in the market. I think everything in the last five years has tried to become more for everybody — you can rent a private jet if it’s shared, you can rent a helicopter if it’s shared, you can stay in a $40,000 penthouse but then that hotel also sells $199 rooms. There’s definitely a shift lately into what ultra-luxury really is and the ultra-high-net-worth are definitely moving into only working with companies that only understand them because they’re sick of having experiences that don’t match their expectations. There’s been so much growth in wealth over the last year and a half that they could pay and want to pay in order to have better experiences, and so they’re definitely seeking out those types of companies like ours.
Q: Who have been some of your most notable clients?
A: An interesting one was George W. Bush. We worked with him about five years ago. We did a trip to Ethiopia with him, and that one got out because, when we were in Ethiopia, he brought 30 secret service with him, and so it became sort of a media frenzy. That one got out. We have worked with Mariah Carey, but I would say the main people we work with could be celebrities, public figures or just everyday billionaires. We don’t pigeonhole the type of people that we work with; it’s people who understand the taste level.
Q: What are they looking for? Are they looking for luxury or experience?
A: I mean luxury is different things for different people. Maybe that dollar food experience is luxury. I think whenever there’s a trip, they’re looking to gain something. Whether they’re looking to gain relaxation, ultimate wellness or family time, I’ve found very early on in my career that people travel for their passions. They’re looking to go deeper on wine, history or food, to learn more — there’s always an objective for a trip when you’re dealing with the most successful people in the world. They don’t do anything just for the sake of doing it. They’re always looking for an objective, and, so, we pair that objective with the person and their preferences and match it with all the options, and we try to help them with that objective. A lot of times, it may be education for their kids, there’s always a reason as to why they want this experience … just really knowing that there is that objective is really key in being successful and then helping them achieve that.
Q: So, everything is becoming more private, right?
A: It’s extremely private. If you look on Instagram now, you’ll see that people are showing less and less of where they are travelling and stuff. Since the pandemic, since our clients are essentially top of their industry, you have a guy who’s running the banks or running the top tech companies or top companies, and he’s not posting, or his wife’s not posting that they are on a yacht or travelling, because most of their employees are on unemployment or they can’t eat. So, we were always about privacy and discretion, but we found that privacy and discretion are more important than ever. I think that will be a trend that’s here to stay.
“I don’t think we’re going to go back to oversharing. I think you’ll have people that maybe want to prove their worth on instagram, but people that are very wealthy don’t need to do that”
Q: Top three hotels?
A: I just really love hotels that really have a sense of place of the area. I really like Aman Tokyo, Hotel de Russie in Rome and the Peninsula Hong Kong. I think they really embody the place, and you really feel that you know where you are. When you arrive at Hotel de Russie, it couldn’t be any more Roman.
Q: Top three favourite places to travel to?
A: China, Japan, Italy and France — those four. I love everywhere. I’ve been to 90 countries, and it depends on what I’m in the mood for, but those are places that I go back to constantly that I feel are being rediscovered and never ending.
Q: A country that has mastered catering to the needs of the ultra-high-net-worth?
A: I’d say, as a region, Asia, for sure. They’re just service first, regardless. I’d say from the airlines, to the airports, to the hotels to the restaurants, they just have a different idea of wealth and service and so private rooms and better aircrafts, just service first. Even when you’re at the airport, and you have to take off your shoes at TSA, they give you beautiful slippers. It’s very much a thoughtful society, and so that’s a place where we can really wow people and matched with a service that I want to offer. Europe is great, too, like Italy and France. But for me, nothing really beats the continent of Asia.
Q: Top three health retreats.
A: My favourite one is the Amanbagh. They do the Ayurveda treatments; it’s a good one to do a program at. And, I really like Lanserhof in Germany. They have this really cool program where they teach you about chewing, and how all the digestion actually happens while you’re chewing. I like that one because it teaches you something. I also like SHA wellness in Spain.
Q: Favourite restaurants?
A: I’m trying to think — I like so many places. Odette in Singapore, Gaggan in Thailand and Noma. I really like Enrique Olvera’s Pujol in Mexico City. I love fine dining. My husband and I cook a lot at home, and so when I go out to eat, I like to see the chef ’s expression of the region, so I think that’s really important.
Q: Top three airlines if there is the opportunity to?
A: For me, the airlines are important, but it’s also really important for it to be a three-class cabin — anything that’s just a two-class cabin I don’t like. So, I like Emirates first class, Qatar first class. I also love Air France La premiere first class — all those airlines are amazing. Taiwan, Singapore, they all have first class and do a phenomenal job if you’re going to fly commercial.
People have been increasingly flying private. It became a safety and a health thing where people are definitely looking into travelling privately that didn’t before. That way, they feel like they’re in a more controlled environment. If you can afford it, it obviously offers another level of efficiency and health and personalization. You can leave at the times you want to leave, you can have your own catering, you can bring your dog, you don’t have to be with other people, you don’t have to be screamed at to wear your mask. There are so many benefits, if you can afford it, and we find that clients that were not flying private before, maybe they had the money but they just didn’t value it; everybody’s essentially started flying private and it’s been interesting helping them through that process.
Q: Couple retreats or honeymoon recommendations?
A: For honeymoons, we always try to have that conversation of what they’re looking to achieve. The husband and wife may have different ideas of whether it’s relaxation or adventure. We always say with the honeymoon, you are going to have your whole life together, so, yes, you want it to be an amazing trip, but you have the rest of your life to travel together.
We like to go ahead and pair two destinations together because one doesn’t often fit the bill. The bride has so many expectations of how amazing and perfect the trip has to be, and maybe that’s not going to meet all of her expectations, so places in Africa, where we can design two stops — so, if you’re going to go to Kenya and then maybe Mozambique after. You can have privacy and adventure, and then you can go to the beach, and you’re not looking for that one place to be your everything. I love doing multiple stops on honeymoons.
Q: What trends in the industry have you been seeing over time?
A: Buying assets versus renting them. Buying planes, buying yachts, buying second, third and fourth vacation homes, so that you have full access, control and ownership of them, I think that’s one that’s going to stick forever. We were the first to see that and incorporate it into our services, whether we’re helping them charter those things or broker them or if they own them. That expectation level is rising. And, so I think that those are two. We talked about the privacy. I don’t think we’re going to go back to over-sharing. I think you’ll have people that maybe want to prove their worth on Instagram; maybe they’re going to want to share, but people that are very wealthy don’t need to do that.
Q: What are some of those experiences at home?
A: I’d say it’s personalizing your home. We’ve built out a lot of gyms for people during the pandemic. We helped them create really amazing wellness rooms. We got the staff and were able to help them establish long-term relationships with masseuse and beauty practitioners to keep doing that in that space. You’ll find a lot of the restaurants are really busy, and the clients don’t really want to go out to restaurants anymore, so we’ve hired private chefs and we’re doing more at-home stuff, so really curating their time at home and making them feel self-sustainable.
Q: What carry-on items are your must-haves whenever you fly?
A: Socks, because I’m always cold. I have a pair of cashmere socks. My skin care … I use Biologique Recherche. A big Ettro tote that I essentially throw everything in that I haven’t done for the week or the month, so all the magazines and all the crazy rip-outs are there.
Q: Where is one place you’re dying to visit, but haven’t yet?
A: Papua New Guinea is definitely on my list. I’m always freaked out by it, though, because I always think I’m going to get eaten, because there’s cannibals there. I really want to go there, but that’s more of a personal, long journey, so it’s on my list, but I have not gotten there. I do want to do the Trans-Siberian Railway through China to Russia. I want to explore more of remote Thailand by train.
Q: What is the best inside travel secret you’ve learned throughout your years in the business?
A: Don’t eat carbs before the flight home, so it really helps with no jet lag. That’s a big one for me, to eat really healthy 24 hours leading up to when I go home.
Q: What does luxury mean to you?
A: For me, it’s personalization, anticipation of needs, from just a general perspective of luxury. Luxury might be me in my sweatpants at home with my dogs. I love just being home, and I have a house in Los Angeles, and I’ve essentially, for the last three years, been cultivating, creating that as a resort. Taking on the things that I’ve learned in luxury lifestyle and travel and really pouring that into my house.
I’m obsessed with home, and I think that has always made me think of how to portray that into what we do for our clients. When I first started my career, I lived in a six-floor walk-up and thought that travel was the most luxurious thing that clients could do because you’re leaving the house and going to these amazing resorts and amazing glamorous properties. But, as I became more settled and have a home now, home is so luxurious. From the plates you eat off, from the foods you eat, the way you entertain, it’s just so personal, and I’m obsessed with that whole world.
Q: What is the most common question or request you get from your clients?
A: Packing is always a big one. People always ask me about packing. It’s funny because you think the most glamorous people in the world know how to pack. Sometimes, I’m like, “How do you not know how to pack? It’s beachwear!” But, I love giving tips. There’s one lady that was just asking how to pack for Croatia, like, “What do I pack? How do I dress?” And I love giving tips, and so I purchased little Chanel sneakers, and I love telling her that because she’s like, “I don’t want to look like I’m in my yoga wear,” but if you add Chanel sneakers, you can look chic in yoga wear. People that have a bunch of money don’t know the answers to everything, essentially, so it’s nice that they feel OK to come to me and ask me simple questions and stuff like that.
Q: What does la dolce vita, the sweet life, mean to you?
A: For me, it’s about being thoughtful, being still, not running from thing to thing, being able to take your time. That’s what I’m always striving for.