May, 2019 – Hong Kong

Why jeweller to the stars gives time, effort – and money – to underprivileged cancer patients in Hong Kong – Corina Larpin

Corina Larpin

Corina Larpin, founder of luxury jeweller, Stéfère, who lives in Hong Kong with husband, Christian, and son, Alex, says her life is blessed, which has inspired her to give back and help others. Photo: Akif Hakan Celebi

As you enter the spacious Repulse Bay flat of Corina Larpin, founder and head designer of luxury jeweller, Stéfère, you are likely to see a velvet tray of bejewelled accessories on display.

These edgy, highly complicated pieces have attracted an A-list clientele that includes Madonna, Pink, Lady Gaga, Fergie, Jane Fonda, Khloe Kardashian, Taylor Swift and Janet Jackson.

Diamonds and Luxury Jewelry by Stefere

Corina Larpin, founder and head designer of luxury jeweller, Stéfère, inspects some of her brand’s collections at her home in Hong Kong. Photo: Akif Hakan Celebi

And business is growing. Larpin is always on the road – she was set to fly to Shanghai for meetings the day after the interview and – following a break in Vietnam – would be off to the US for another business trip.

“I work a lot, many hours a day,” she says. “Now I try to take one or two hours a day out for myself, but before I was pretty much working, working, working 20 hours a day, so I sleep very little.”

Yet since last year, she has also made time to help the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital Foundation (HKAHF) Cancer Fund raise money to support efforts to bring timely treatment to underprivileged cancer patients in Hong Kong.

Diamonds and Luxury Jewelry by Stefere

Corina Larpin says she has taught her 13-year-old son, Alex, to give back to society and help others as much as he can. Photo: Akif Hakan Celebi

Larpin was named one of the 2018 Women of Hope (WOH), an awards scheme founded by HKAHF in 2014 to honour influential women in Hong Kong that advocate change for social justice.

“In 2016, my good friend Anna Treier [founder of Sense of Touch spas] told me about the organisation and introduced me to Jo Soo Tang,” she says.

Tang is the Chairman of Board of Governors (Stubbs Road), Hong Kong Adventist Hospital Foundation.

“My husband, Christian, and I feel that we receive a lot in our life and we need to give back to society, help others as much as we can, and also to teach our son, Alex, to do the same.”

Diamonds and Luxury Jewelry by Stefere

Corina Larpin sits at her desk, with a photo of her 13-year-old son, Alex, in front of her, as she works on new designs for her jewellery brand, Stéfère. Photo: Akif Hakan Celebi

Alex, 13, who is attending international school while keeping up with a gruelling tennis training schedule in preparation for a planned professional career, spends his spare time as a volunteer offering peer support to the children of underprivileged cancer patients.

He seems to share his mother’s innate determination and longing to connect with people from different backgrounds.

Corina, who was born and raised in Romania during the communist era, has never settled for the boundaries – even those laid down for her in her highly restricted home country.

“We were taught to look at the world in a certain way – that it is flat, it is just black and white, right and wrong,” she says.

“But the way I see the world is different – it is diverse, vibrant and colourful.

“I find people, landscapes, lights and scents captivating. My background gives me sensitive eyes to the interesting surroundings.”

Diamonds and Luxury Jewelry by Stefere

Although Corina Larpin is always working and spends much of her time travelling the world on business, she still tries her best to make time for philanthropic endeavours. Photo: Akif Hakan Celebi

As a teenager, she was very interested in fashion and had already decided she wanted to be a jewellery designer – even when access to luxury goods, or information about them, was limited in the country.

“I remember that when I had my hands on Western fashion magazines back in Romania, I would tear out the pages and hide them in my secret drawers,” she says.

“Then I’d alter the clothes I had bought in state-run stores to make them look personal.”

As communism in Eastern Europe fell in 1989, Larpin decided it was time to travel to the West and see it for herself.

She was already the owner of a modelling agency and her work allowed her to connect with one of the world’s leading agencies, Elite Model Group, in Switzerland, where she would later relocate.

It was also in her adopted home where she founded Stéfère and first met Christian, who was Elite’s chairman at the time.

Business opportunities later prompted the couple to make Hong Kong another adopted home.

Diamonds and Luxury Jewelry by Stefere

Corina Larpin, who was born and raised in communist Romania, says she was interested in fashion and wanted to be a jewellery designer while still a teenager. Photo: Markus and Koala, B. Akerlund (@bcompleted)

Larpin’s creativity and inclination to think outside the box are great assets for her work for HKAHF Cancer Fund – not to mention her global network.

As a committee member of WOH, she organises engaging charity events that raise not only funds, but also the foundation’s profile, including last March’s “2000s: David Bowie and Beyond” exhibition in Central, Hong Kong.

Well-heeled guests were given the opportunity to view a series of images celebrating the life and legacy of the late singer, taken by celebrity photographer Markus Klinko.

Stéfère is the official sponsor of this year’s WOH Awards.

Yet getting involved with HKAHF Cancer Fund was not a random decision by Larpin; she has first-hand experience of cancer being a deadly disease that can affect anyone, because her grandfather was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

“He had surgery, but he didn’t want chemotherapy so he just fought it with diet and the mindset,” she says.

“He had a house in the countryside with a lot of land and his garden with all the vegetables.

“Together with the love he got from the family, he lived for 20 years. His mind was very strong – he was a fighter.”

Diamonds and Luxury Jewelry by Stefere

Corina Larpin says she believes a person’s mindset plays a big part in one’s well-being and education is key to better public health. Photo: Akif Hakan Celebi

Larpin values the importance of a healthy lifestyle and tries to make time for exercise, including weekly Pilates workouts and swimming in the pool at the building where they live or at the hotels where she stays when travelling.

It also does not hurt that her husband is a good cook and loves to entertain at home.

However, as she learned from her grandfather, a person’s mindset plays a big part in one’s well-being, and she also believes that education is another key to better public health.

“I am stunned to see that our children learn a lot at school, but rarely [anything] about food, for instance,” Larpin says.

“As a mother, I am very sensitive about children’s well-being and, as a daughter, that of the elderly.”

With help from her sister, Didi – who is also her business partner – and staff at her company, based in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Los Angeles, Larpin has been able to expand Stéfère while involving herself with philanthropic endeavours.

She says she hopes to continue supporting HKAHF Cancer Fund.

“I enjoy a fabulous life, but unfortunately we are also surrounded by too many misfortunes – be it poverty, illness or war,” Larpin says.

“I never forget how blessed I am and it is my duty to give back as much as I can – not only in terms of money, but time and effort as well.”

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