Nicklas von Bueren's Rise To Taking The Reins Of The Family Business—Lotus Arts De Vivre
Lean, rangy and in his prime, 48-year-old Nicklas von Bueren, also known as Nicki, steps into the room and towers over everyone, his deep, laconic voice and relaxed bearing reflecting his confidence as chief executive officer of Lotus Arts de Vivre, the objet d’art, jewellery and collectable handicrafts business established by his parents almost four decades ago.
But then the youngest son of Rolf and Helen von Bueren developed confidence from a young age because he had to. “I was sent to board at an English prep school when I was eight years old. Believe me, it’s an experience that either breaks you or toughens you up very quickly,” he chuckles. “I went on to Gordonstoun School in Scotland in 1985. If you’ve ever watched The Crown you’ll know it was the school the young Prince Charles attended. He didn’t like it, whereas I did.”
An international upbringing meant Nicki’s youth was an exciting tour of different parts of the globe. “In winter my family would visit me in the UK and we would go skiing around Europe. Summers were often spent in Bali where we have a home. The travel meant that elder brother Sri and I were exposed to various Asian and European cultures, especially via their art because mum and dad are collectors,” he explains, gesturing to the many items that decorate the room around us.
After Gordonstoun, Nicki returned to Thailand and worked briefly as a translator for the Population and Community Development Association, a non-profit outfit founded by Mechai Viravaidya. Fluent in Thai—picked up during his primary school years at Bangkok Patana—the young man got to see a different facet of Thailand on a posting to the northeast. “I think it’s why I have always enjoyed trips to obscure places,” he says.
The call of the wild aside, in 1992 he decided to return to Europe to further his studies at the Business School Lausanne and after graduating he came home to work for Siam Commercial Securities. He describes the experience as invaluable in terms of understanding how business is done in Thailand and emerged from the 1997 financial crisis battle-hardened and finally ready to join the family firm.
“I’d always considered it. In the early years, Lotus Arts de Vivre was run partly as a hobby. When I joined in 1998 I wanted to take it up a notch but of course, I had to learn the ropes.”
Learn he did and while much has changed since he joined, the doting husband of Rekha and father of Arri, 11, Leo, 10, and Tara, 5, also says much at Lotus has remained the same.
“The way we approach our products, our use of natural materials and handcrafted artisanal techniques, these are constants. We visited local craftsmen around the region frequently in the early years and it’s something we still do now. The family brand is what it is today because of the respect and rapport built up over the years between our clients, our skilled artisans and us.” Now a globally renowned brand, Lotus Arts de Vivre has expanded its reach with stores dotted across Asia, Europe and the US.
A goal now is to use technology to reach a wider audience for its products. “As the creators of unique objects, we offer pieces that tell a story,” says Nicki of the brand’s unique style, which highlights cultural and historical influences in rare natural materials. “We have beautiful, inimitable works that deserve to be seen and admired by many more people than just the collectors who see them now, so we are focusing on developing an online platform—including social media channels—to create greater recognition and avenues for our artisans.”