Sydney - Michael Chard
Narrator: The vibrant cosmopolitan city of Sydney, is home to the iconic Harbor Bridge and Opera House. It's also the Australian home of the world's most opulent furnishings, made by the artisans of prestigious Italian fashion brands. And it's from humble beginnings where Michael Chard, the founder and director of luxury boutique, Palazzo Collezioni, has built his empire.
Michael: So, Palazzo Collezioni means a palace of collections. So it really just means we are the top of the top. You can't get any more palatial than luxury brands. We represent brands including Versace Home, Roberto Cavalli Home, Fendi Casa, Bentley Home, Gianfranco Ferré Home, and Etro Home.
Narrator: Michael's life is adorned by the palatial luxury of iconic Italian fashion brands. Although his world now is miles away from the farm that he grew up on near Toowomba in Queensland, where he worked as a jackaroo and bred exotic birds.
Michael: So for me it was getting up early, I had to feed all my birds. I had established a roundabout a thousand birds, I had quite a collection. Sometimes I'd have to teach them how to get on the perches, so I'd have to put them up on the perch and teach some of them as they were growing up. And then I'd be out there till dark, my mum and dad would actually be screaming for me to come and have dinner.
Narrator: It's this collection of beautiful and rare pheasants and aviary birds, that carefully honed Michael's eye for detail, and his love of pedigree.
Michael: I grew to have a passion with the most exotic forms of ducks and geese, and chickens, and peacocks, and aviary birds, and pheasants. So I was basically collecting the most beautiful, the most unusual styles of birds, and was showcasing them at shows and winning championships.
Narrator: It's also around this time where Michael encountered the first spark to his obsession with the world of luxury Italian fashion.
Michael: When you're sitting there watching TV, you know, you're going from farm life to whatever it is on local TV. And then you see this sort of just quite amazing explosion of color, and glitz and glamor. And this was kind of what drew my attention, and it kind of caught my eye, and I was just fixated for it for that minute.
Narrator: This fixation would stay somewhere within Michael, and he soon moved to the Gold Coast and took up the role of designer for a prestigious landscaping business. Where he now honed a passion for landscape design, and the ancient sculptural beauty of topiary.
Michael: And then because of my passion with plants, the ladies would ask me if I could come over and do their gardens and maybe look at their backyards, and see if I could improve it. And that's when I learned how to also work with clients and work with rich clients who had this luxury level taste. And then I started working with them in their home, so that was my first taste of merging exterior with interior
Narrator: Serendipity played its hand too, when on a trip to Sydney, an old spark lit up Michael's life once again.
And then I actually went to the city one day and I found Gianni Versace boutique, and I didn't know that it was there or existed. And I remember putting my head against the glass door, and I was like, amazed. And it pulled me back to when I was a child. And that's when it just clicked, and something in me was like, wow, this is amazing. And I remember looking through the boutique, and it was luxury, and it was like a palace. And I was just very much in awe. But I didn't dare go in, because I didn't have enough money in my pocket to think that I could even afford anything in there. So I just looked through the glass window and I was just awestruck.
Narrator: Finding his courage to go inside, and after striking up a friendship with the team over the following weeks, a vacancy now landed Michael a new job with the Versace boutique. His design flair quickly took over and his star was now on the rise, as his confidant, friend, and leading hand Maritsa, fondly remembers.
Maritsa: He's creativity, basically, it's intuitive. So everyone was sort of watching him thinking, who is this golden boy that's just come in? And he's, you know, from the merchandising that he did to the networking and the relationships that he built. It was fascinating to watch.
Narrator: As his passion for luxury Italian design grew, he soon stepped up to take the reins of the business, to now become the owner and director of the Versace Home Collection in Australia, among many other world-class luxury Italian brands. Which culminated into Palazzo Collezioni, or Palatial Collection as we know it today. This love of Italian design can be seen through Michael's very own creations, like the Versace House on the waterfront of Sydney.
Michael: Much like a Venetian ceiling, and we created this dome, which we feature Venetian chandelier. The entire building has been painstakingly designed and installed by Italian craftsmen, and all of the materials have been imported from Italy.
Narrator: 24 carat gold rosettes line this staircase like a set of jewelry. While Venetian plaster detailing and Calacatta Marble are framed by his master work of art, a handcrafted hardwood parquetry floor, inlaid with Italian Gelasino marble, embellished with a Greek key design, and crowned by his signature Versace fittings. It's these abilities to effortlessly blend materials as a statement of opulent luxury that Michael has become famous for, in elite circles.
Michael: And I'm very proud of this because it's still a world-class project, and everyone who sees it still today just are blown away. And I feel very proud to have built it, that I was the creator of this beautiful masterpiece.
Narrator: It's said, the sum of all our learned experiences, teaches us the lessons that our body conveys as a gut feeling. This instinctive feeling for Michael is innate, in both design and business.
Maritsa: He's always said to me, "I followed my gut and it sort of led me to these sort of successful places. Throughout my journey I followed a feeling about something and I've worked towards it."
Narrator: Maybe Michael is still that same person deep down from all those years ago. His flock this time, his team of architects and interior designers. This world of luxury Italian fashion brands, his pedigree, and these architectural sculptures, his topiary.
Michael: There was no way I could ever plan this. This was not planned, this was a destination and it was a journey and a path, that I believe that I was meant to be on. Because there was way too many right place, right time moments, and just happened to be in those times that I was just meeting the right person, and given the right opportunity. Yes I worked hard, but still, I feel very lucky and very fortunate to still be going where I'm going now.