French businessman Olivier Dassault has his toe dipped in many industries. First, he oversees holdings for his family business, Dassault Group (which includes private aircraft manufacturer, Dassault Aviation, producer of the globally renowned Falcon jet model; newspaper Le Figaro and Investir; and the FC Nantes football team). The France native also is an avid photographer who exhibits in major cities around the world, Paris and New York to name a few.
Dassault also has a knack for interior design, and his home in the exclusive Corales neighborhood at Puntacana Resort & Club is a stunning property that he helped design himself. Elite Traveler sat down with Dassault to talk about his creative upbringing, what inspires him most about traveling and his current projects.
Tell me how your family’s upbringing influenced your current work.
Everything in my family’s upbringing has been influencing me. Discipline, first, in work, and dedication. I have been so lucky; my grandfather taught me so much about planes and life, and my mother took charge of my arts education. Since I was a toddler she used to take me to museums, the Louvre in particular, to the Comédie Française to see plays, and I was surrounded with classic-style art pieces at home. I developed an eye for arts and decoration very early. In photography this culture gave me the sensibility to [see] beauty, and a sense for framing. Yet I made my own path into modern and contemporary arts, and in my creations of course.
Tell me a bit about your photography background, and what you love to shoot.
Photography is so important in my life, maybe the most important thing. Ever since I started, I couldn’t live without it, really. It’s a whole language to me, my very own way of expressing myself and of thinking with light. I don’t have favorite subjects. I just let them come to me as I watch through the lens. Anything can be an inspiration, from a [specific] shade to a door or a reflection. Lately, I’ve been working on stones, and it’s fascinating. Fortunately, my works are being exhibited in Paris, soon in Madrid, and some are part of contemporary art collections in national institutions around the world.
You also are heavily involved in Dassault Aviation – what do you love about the private-aviation industry?
Ever since I graduated from the L’École de l’Air [School of Air in Provence, France], I’ve been working on the civil part of our activities: private aviation. First with my grandfather and now after my father, I’ve been being involved in the conception of new products, and as a pilot I provide technical advice on the Falcon [jets]. But when one has got the chance to carry the name of what he is proud to manufacture and sell – the prestige of it – that’s the best you have to offer, our clients really appreciate the fact that they can deal with me personally. And I’m sure they’ll enjoy next what I love most about private travel: absolute freedom and complete comfort. It’s unique.
What do you love most about traveling on Falcons?
Dassault Aviation is one-of-the-kind. The company has been able to apply its military knowledge, experience and know-how to private planes. That gives the Falcons incomparable qualities and performances, be it the solidity, the availability (no fail!), the software. We also make and provide the best flight controls in the world, hydraulic or electric. Also, most of the time, Falcon pilots are former military Rafale pilots, they have the best training ever. The aerodynamics are optimized and also beautiful.
As my grandfather used to say: “In order to fly perfectly, an aircraft must be good looking!” As a kid I used to choose the seat foams myself, and I’ve always been picky about the interior fittings. Falcons also offer the best acoustic qualities: They’re the most silent on the market. When in one, you enjoy all that instantly, and the feeling grows when you fly more than a few hours. You’re free to go anytime, anywhere, no boundaries, no luggage limitations, an amazing comfort, and for me, to fly it myself, is an incomparable pleasure.
Private air travel allows you to see so much of the world at an incredible ease. Where do you love to travel most?
You can travel that way in all the cities of the world, but also where there are no big airports or airlines. To me, traveling to Palm Springs or Palm Beach is priceless. But it could also be Marrakech, Hungary, Spain or the UK. Last but not least: Punta Cana, Mexico. My house is only a half-mile away from the airport. I land and I’m home.
Speaking of Punta Cana, tell me about how you fell in love with the destination and your home there.
When I first came to Punta Cana I loved the atmosphere, its people and the Belgian community there. I was invited by my good friend Robert Geldof who’s Belgian as well. He took me in three years in a row and by then, I couldn’t resist any longer to get my own place there. So I did, and near the Corales Golf Resort because, oh my, it is a great one!
What was the inspiration behind your interior design, and how did you work with Stephane Olivier to bring your vision to life?
Stephane and I discussed about the project, shared ideas and picked some creations of mine for him to work with and around. Then I let him do his magic, yet in close collaboration with my wife, Natacha, who has got a fantastic taste and a strong sensibility. She uses those talents for our pleasure, but also for her art gallery, whose sales benefit the Pompidou Foundation.
There is a distinct French flair in your home – how does your Punta Cana residence bring together the best of a tropical paradise paired with French sensibility? Is this what you were striving for?
That’s indeed what we wanted to achieve. You said it yourself, it is paradise but with a French touch. We call it the ‘organic chic’ style, or what can be defined as dedicated to nature, but revisited with furniture from the 18th century mixed with contemporary art.
What is your favorite part of your home?
I particularly enjoy having breakfast by the pool and also wandering around in the library to contemplate the 19th century Italian sculptures and the photographs – and maybe have a cigar at the same time. It really is a place to enjoy. Every corner has its charm and delicacy.