Interview with Baroness Marina von Lison
Originally from Russia, now based in Germany, Baroness Marina von Lison is the Managing Director of the Elite Club – an international club of outstanding personalities with clear vision and philanthropic missions. Married to Daniel von Lison, who came from a noble family, Marina came into her noble title two years ago. HUF Magazine had an opportunity to speak with Marina and find out more.
Where do you live and work? What’s it like living and working there?
I’ve been living in Germany for eleven years now (time flies), and I guess this country’s choice had already been pre-decided by my parents. Originally coming from Russia, I started to learn foreign languages very early and developed significant literature and art skills that undoubtedly formed my love for this huge and important part of our life. I just cannot imagine myself, not reading or visiting the latest exhibitions and talking to passionate, well-educated, and inspiring people as I always try to learn something new from them. Due to our family business, we are blessed to meet interesting, good-hearted, and trustful people and to not only do business with them but also be good friends. In Europe, particularly Germany, it gives people lots of such possibilities due to the rich history, friendly politics, well-educated and polite people, and no geopolitical borders.
How and when did you become a Baroness?
I married into nobility to get the title two years ago [smile]. My husband’s family, the Barons of Lison, comes from the ancient Milanese family of an old-Bohemian knightly family, who was awarded the title “Baron of Lison” in 1608 in the hereditary imperial aristocracy. They were talented Italian artists, and the monarch granted them a noble title almost 500 years ago.
As a baroness, do you feel the pressure to live a certain way, speak in a certain way, and behave a certain way all the time?
I definitely have some rules to follow and behave in an elegant lady-like way, which I didn’t need to especially learn as I grew up in a similar atmosphere and surroundings. I am very grateful to my parents who gave me a good education and right intentions.
In some countries, it no longer exists regarding nobility, but in most European countries, it still does, it has only lost its privileges. It is mostly known from the rainbow press and the social columns of the newspapers. Most of the nobles do not live the way the rainbow press likes to portray them—parties, glitter, jet setter life. Even nobles must work today for their living, have visions and ideas that they want to realize as other persons do. Most aristocrats are masters on the social floor and in small talk. On social occasions, they usually behave in a friendly and jovial manner, giving the impression that they are open and accessible to everyone. Still, in everyday life, they are often reserved, even dismissive, and seemingly arrogant. Many aristocrats are endearing, humane people with interesting ideas and visions. Unfortunately, they hide their humanity and true thoughts, often out of fear and concern, to lose their acceptance within the aristocratic society. The majority of aristocrats are an important force for a healthy, positive, and stable social fabric. But my family has a wide circle of acquaintances, business partners, friends, etc. so of course, not all of them belong to the nobility, and sometimes we are happy just not to follow some “rules” and live our everyday life. [smile]
Frankly speaking, I cannot say that A LOT has changed since I married my husband and became a baroness. I already mentioned that even nobles must work today for their living and have visions and ideas as other persons do. So I appreciate that my husband does not belong to the aristocrats who behave arrogantly, showing their noble ways of life and titles and earning money with yellow press. We have completely different life goals that are very well described in our family business’s postulate and concept – Elite Club World – international business society.
But of course, I would like to mention that since I became a baroness, I started to visit more and more high-end events like charity gala dinners, exclusive events, exhibitions, and VIP get-togethers in top-locations Europe-wide. My husband was a successful pianist in the past, spending almost twenty years accompanying famous opera divas such Anna Maria Kaufmann, etc., during their concerts worldwide, which opened many doors and brought close friendships with celebrities. And this formed a perfect base for establishing a luxurious international networking platform with a focus on charity and support of needy people – Elite Club World – that nowadays we supervise and manage together and heavily expand with members in more and more countries.
You are very much into fashion, art, and style. Do you have any family history in fashion, art, and style? Or was it something you’ve developed an interest in?
I guess my love for fashion, art, and style, I inherited from my mum. She has always been my fashion icon with her perfect taste and style, although she was born in the Soviet Union, and back then, it was a real challenge to find some outstanding, good quality clothes – you know what I mean? People who had the possibility of going abroad and buying, e.g., in the Baltic states or France, some nice dresses or shoes considered themselves the luckiest on Earth. [smile] In this way, I have grown up already with love for fashion, read a lot about trends and style, fashion history, and all renowned haute couture designers, tried to watch fashion shows, and visited fashion weeks after I moved to Germany. I am incredibly happy that my home country has been heavily developing in fashion and style direction, organizing its own fashion weeks (Mercedes-Benz fashion week). Russia has lots of very talented young and some world-known designers. My absolute favorite one from Russian renowned is Ulyana Sergeenko, with her haute couture worn by many celebrities worldwide. And for the relatively young ones, I can name the Russian brand Maison D’Angelann and the Georgian contemporary women’s clothing brand LIYA which is all about functional everyday wear with distinct lines in an edgy yet feminine touch.
Who’s your favorite fashion designer, and why? Whose designs do you have most in your wardrobe? And what is the essential element that you look for when choosing your outfit?
For me, it is absolutely impossible to answer this question and name only one fashion designer, because I think nowadays, people are so lucky to have such a tremendous choice in the fashion industry with highly professional and incredibly talented designers. I belong to fashionistas who always look for new fashion trends but also try to stay more classy and elegant. As you see, it is not always easy to combine these two directions [smile]. I very much love the new shoe design by Bottega Veneta by Daniel Lee; I bought several shoe models as I find them super trendy and comfy. Burberry with Ricardo Tisci designs who revamped the company’s brand identity. I love jumpsuits and dresses from Self-Portrait because of ruffles, lace, and figure-flattering silhouettes – absolutely feminine and sexy. Of course, dreamy dresses from Alexandre Vauthier for special occasions. From young designers, I like Jacquemus. I think he is one of the most enthralling designers in French fashion today with his evocative dresses, exaggerated shoes, and of course, his famous “Le Chiquito” bag. And recently, I have fallen in love with dresses from the Australian designer Toni Maticevski- his feminine fashion with avant-garde innovation. Flawless craftsmanship! I already know what I will wear at my next event when the COVID-19 finally disappears from our planet.
You’ve recently made a photoshoot with a Lebanese fashion designer Gaby Charbachy and Haute Joaillerie Pheres Fine Jewelry from Hong Kong. Was that your first photoshoot as a model? If not, whom have you modeled for before?
I had several photoshoots in the past, but this one was very special for me because the brands I represented were worldwide renowned and extremely successful. I felt a massive responsibility on my shoulders [smile]. The idea to organize a beautiful shooting with a high-jewelry brand and haute couture dresses in the Hermitage Hotel Monte-Carlo came to my mind very spontaneously. One year ago, during a reception by Chanel Boutique in Monte-Carlo, I met a wonderful and highly-professional Narcisa Pheres – an owner and Creative Designer of the Pheres Fine Jewelry brand from Hong Kong. When I saw that she would be back in Monaco for a couple of days, I contacted her. I asked if she would be interested in assisting me by the photoshoot with her gorgeous diamond jewelry, famous among not only Hollywood stars on the red carpet. But Narcisa is also an official jewelry supplier of Her Highness Princess Olga Romanoff. And we came to the agreement that Elite Club World will publish in our annual issue a big article and interview with the unique Pheres Fine Jewelry brand. If I tell people that I organized the whole preparation process within one week, everyone would definitely be surprised. It usually takes time to think over every detail and look for a team in advance because their schedules are always overbooked, to talk to venue representatives, etc. But I was lucky to have worked already with my favorite make-up artist on the Côte d’Azur Olga Lozitskaya, and we coordinated this shooting in a fast way. Bunch of thanks to my friend Julia Berisset (The Glam Magazine owner), who organized gorgeous haute couture dresses from the Lebanese designer Gaby Charbachy. And recommended talented photographer Kateryna Volynec who has already worked with many celebs and bloggers and makes outstanding portraits. It was really one of my best photoshoots yet. I was blessed to have such a friendly team of highly professional people – make-up and hairstylist Olga Lozitskaya (one day hero make-up), photographer Kateryna Volynec and videographer Jaroslav Ziko from Ziko Concept, who created a phenomenal two minute backstage video. This true masterpiece deserves to be on Fashion TV someday.
You are the Managing Director of Elite Club World. How do you balance your work and personal life?
Since Elite Club World is an exclusive international private business club and belongs to our family, Baron von Lison, my father-in-law, my husband, and I, as board members, do not have strict division responsibilities. We love what we do and are happy to dedicate our lives to bring together good-hearted and motivated people of different origins and cultural aspects to mutually benefit from the ideas and expertise. To name just a few of the most significant tasks: we all take on the job of showcasing and providing actionable opportunities for collaborations and partnerships with some of the world’s most successful businessmen, dignitaries, artists, writers, diplomats, and industry leaders. One of the most important things is a steadily built relationship between the members based on trust, which you can only achieve if you are frequently in contact with our Elite Club’s existing and future members and partners. We do not have weekends and real holidays, and most of the time, work 24/7 to be always reachable for any inquiries. Thus, in the morning, I can have introduction calls with potential members and, in two hours, sit together with our editor’s team and work on improvements for the annual issue of our Elite Club Magazine or do some administration tasks. And the same for my husband and my father-in-law. We multitask most of the time, especially my husband. I sometimes call him a king of multitasking [smile]. Of course, we have a team that scrupulously assists us and is a great help as a back-office, but the final decisions remain with us. I guess the balance between work and private life in our case is very transparent. If you do what you really love, you do not need holidays, you get inspired by your business ideas, by people that are around and support you. And this is a huge boost of energy to go forward and reach your goals.
You graduated from a state pedagogical university in Russia in foreign language teaching. You then got a master’s degree in International Relations and Cultural Diplomacy, focusing on Russia and the EU at the Bergische University Wuppertal in Germany. Are languages and cultures something you’ve always been interested in?
Absolutely. As I mentioned already that I have always been since childhood keen on foreign languages, literature, art, and history. In my opinion, this is a classical education and gives you lots of opportunities to work in different business areas.
What is your definition of success, and has it changed over the years?
When we talk about “successful” people, we usually think about someone who has a bank account reaching into the billions, a prominent historical figure, or a world leader. But when those successful people are asked about their definition of success, most will say those achievements are not what make them feel accomplished. In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are, how to be used in the greater service to life. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives- inventing something or raising kids or helping people in need. My husband and I are extremely happy to raise money for needy people during our charitable actions at the gala dinner we organize on an annual basis. That is a significant part of our business club concept that seeks for good-hearted, trustful members who share our ideas and support us by all means. At the Elite Club, we believe the sustainability of our planet – and the well-being of all the people in it – is everyone’s responsibility. That’s why we partner with passionate, and often, grassroots charities who strive to do good in the world like us. The Elite Club is committed to addressing disadvantage and making a tangible difference to the people’s lives in our community. We partner with like-minded local organizations to fund explicit projects and activities that have clearly defined timelines and outcomes and, in doing so, provide real support where it is most needed.
Are you inspired to leave a legacy of sorts for future generations? If yes, what do you hope to be remembered for in a long and distant time?
I had a discussion that made me ask a disconcerting question: how will I be viewed after I die? I like to think of myself as someone ethical, productive, and essentially decent. But perhaps I won’t always be perceived that way. Maybe none of us will.
No matter how benevolent the intention, what we assume is good, right, or acceptable in society may change. From slavery to sexism, there’s plenty we find distasteful about the past. Yet, while each generation congratulates itself for moving on from its parents and ancestors’ darker days, that can be a kind of myopia. The truth is we will never escape some measure of disapproval from our descendants. If, though, we can grasp their possible futures with sufficient faith and rigor, we may achieve the best anyone can hope for:
• Averting the worst
• Aspiring toward the best
• Handing on a culture (if not a planet) in better shape than the one we inherited