BlackBook Interview: Indian Designer Anita Dongre on Her New Grassroot Label + NYC Boutique

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For Anita Dongre, fashion has always been in her blood. But as one of India’s most powerful and influential designers, she has now set her sights on creating sustainability within her country’s artisan textile communities, by means of her new woman’s label, Grassroot. Her latest collection marries her signature contemporary design aesthetic with the various forms of centuries-old heirloom traditions that have been passed down through the generations.

We caught up for a chat with the fashion visionary at the recent opening of her first U.S. boutique, in NYC’s Soho.



What is the philosophy behind Grassroot?

Grassroot is very special to me. The idea behind the brand was to help to sustain traditional crafts from India – I wanted to work with the artisans from each of India’s different regions, all of which have their own indigenous specialty craft. One of my goals was to ensure sustained employment in those areas – and then to take these traditional crafts and to make them into contemporary clothing that today’s young woman can wear and enjoy. That’s what I love about Grassroot. I want our customer to come in and realize how special every piece is. Every garment has a story to tell, it is a special skill which has been perfected and passed down from father to son, mother to daughter, for generations.

So you work with artisans from all over India?

Yes, we’re working with various communities, and each one has a different method of weaving or embroidering which is intrinsic to that community. We develop an understanding of the skill so we can create wearable, modern fashion with artisan craftsmanship. Our weavers and artisans are highly skilled, which is what makes all of our pieces so special.

How often do you travel to the different communities?

When I begin working with a new community I often go to meet with them, and then my team will continually follow up. We partner with several NGOs, some of which have a global presence. They have the skills, systems and manpower to get our materials to the artisans we work with. But they need design intervention and the introduction to a marketplace – this is where I can contribute.


What are some of the standout pieces?

I think my favorites are the pieces that are done by the women of SEWA: the Self Employed Women’s Association. Many pieces in the current collection were crafted by hand by these women. They have also done couture pieces for me, and their embroidery is amazing.

How do you see yourself influencing the next generation of Indian fashion designers?

I am on the board of Lakme Fashion Week, and for a couple of years I did mentor the younger designers.  It’s very rewarding and I will continue to do it.

Do you feel that there is a lot more potential in the Western fashion world for Indian design?

With people shopping across the world, fashion aesthetics are unifying globally. As an Indian designer, I have a different voice and access to a different textile tradition that I can bring to the Western fashion world, within silhouettes that have a universal appeal.

What can we expect for fall?

More classic evening wear.

What are your plans for further expansion in the US?

In addition to Grassroot, I’m planning on opening a bridal couture store in Soho this fall. It will carry traditional Indian evening wear and, as with Grassroot, everything will be handcrafted.



Isabelle Huppert, Laurie Anderson, Robert Downey Jr. Gather for the Annual Watermill Benefit

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Image by Lovis Osternik


One of the genuine highlights of the Hamptons’ season is Robert Wilson’s annual Watermill Summer Benefit & Auction (this year sponsored by Van Cleef & Arpels, Karma Automotive, Robert Piguet Parfums and Don Julio Tequila), replete as it always is with A-listers, philanthropists, art world bigwigs and, of course, the artists themselves. Celebrating its 24th anniversary this past Saturday, 2017s theme was “FLY INTO THE SUN” – and with a dress code of “Dark Shiny Matter,” the decked out crowd was as interesting to behold as the performances themselves.

Each year the performance artists vigorously test the boundaries of imagination, and this one definitely did not disappoint. Upon entry guests were greeted by Jared Madere’s colorful, large scale installation, ushering everyone into an imaginary and ethereal forested landscape. While exploring the Center’s 8.5 acre grounds, nude models lay above cellophane-wrapped archways, which led to more than 20 other works and performances curated by Noah Khoshbin and Ivan Cheng, in tribute to the late Lou Reed’s life and work.


  • Image by Maria Baranova
  • Image by Chloé Bellemère
  • Image by BFA
  • Image by Lovis Ostenrik
  • Image by Lovis Ostenrik
  • Image by Lovis Ostenrik
  • Image by Lovis Ostenrik
  • Image by BFA
  • Image by Chloé Bellemère
  • Image by Maria Baranova


Some of the visually arresting works included a 90-foot wall featuring Jenny Holzer’s work titled She Outwits Him / She Outlives Him, with a haunting Gregorian-esque chant playing in the background. Other suggestive performances along the tiki torch lined path included Storyboard P. Presents’ Formless Expressions, Kate Gilmore’s Beat, Nile Harris’s Monkey on His Back (Love Laboratory) – which featured a man nearly buried under a towering pile of bananas – Stephen Shanabrook’s sculpture of a headless man with billowing cotton candy left for brains, and a chilling performance piece titled Salute by Croatian artist Vesna Mackovic…which seemed to have been inspired by the Grady twins from Stanley Kubrik’s The Shining.

Notables amongst the star studded crowd of 1000 guests included guest of honor Isabelle Huppert, Francesco Clemente, Paula Cooper, Peter Cramer, Damien Davis, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Susan & Robert Downey Jr., Countess Elisabetta Giroldi, Audrey & Martin D. Gruss, Anne Hearst & Jay McInerney, Daniel Libeskind, Dalia Oberlander, Maxwell Osborne, Tatiana & Campion Platt, Polina Proshkina, Lucien Smith and Alex Soros.

To keep the soiree going until the wee hours, Laurie Anderson gave a special performance, followed by a DJ set by Flat White (aka Virgil Abloh), who turned it up to get the dance floor hopping.

Proceeds from the benefit, as always, went to supporting the Watermill Center’s year-round artists residency and education programs.


Image by Chloé Bellemère


Ethereal Winter Getaway: Swedish Lapland

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Even for the well-travelled Swedes, a winter weekend in Swedish Lapland is an exotic adventure. Set amongst the majestically snowcapped mountains, it is all ethereally lit by sunlight that straddles twilight and dusk.

But it is also home to Europe’s last remaining indigenous people: The Sami.

Here’s how to do it right.

Aurora Hunting in Abisko Park

The most storied attraction is The Northern Lights, aka the Aurora Borealis, nature’s dancing lightshow caused by solar wind showers hitting the Earth’s magnetic field. Since its first otherworldly observation, dating back to 2,600 B.C., it has captivated humanity, generating untold folklore and myths. According to one Swedish legend, frequent displays of Northern Lights is a sign of good crop yields in the coming year.
The best place to view them is in Abisko Park, which is home to a cozy hotel and the Aurora Sky Station, perched atop a mountain peak that offers unobstructed views of the heavenly skies. When you’re done with your heavenward gazing, there’s gourmet restaurant serving local Arctic cuisine.

STF Abisko fjällhotell :Abisko Mountain Station, Swedish Lapland

Staying at the ICEHOTEL

Located 200 km above the Arctic Circle in (the barely pronounceable) Jukkasjärvi is the design focused ICEHOTEL. What started as an experiment 27 years ago by founder Yngvt Bergvist to attract visitors to the region has grown into a year-round, full-service hideaway that is, yes, actually crafted from blocks of ice…by different artists from around the world. This year marks the launch of ICEHOTEL 365, with ‘permanent’ ice rooms sustainably maintained by solar powered refrigeration technology, which keeps the hotel at a steady 20 degrees Farenheit (-5 degrees Celsius) year round. Traditionally, the ICEHOTEL would melt back into its source – the adjacent Torne River – by May; but now all the 365 rooms (including 35 Art Suites) will remain open during spring and summer. Though ice ‘glamping’ doesn’t come cheap: rooms start at $600, and up to $1000 for the luxury suites.
No surprise, it is also home to the original ICEBAR, launched in 1994, where guests can sit on ice stools lined with reindeer skins and sip cocktails in ice-crafted “glasses.” Every year the ICEBAR is redesigned by artists who take inspiration from a central theme.
At the on-site restaurant, indulge in Chef Alexander Meier’s delicious Nordic tasting menu, featuring local provisions like moose, reindeer and arctic char, all served on plates and bowls fashioned from ice from the Torne River.

Entrance ICEHOTEL 365


Spa Ritual at Aurora Spa in Camp Ripan

Nordic spa traditions are of the serious sort, especially at the Aurora Spa in Camp Ripan, Kiruna. Indulge in treatments based on Swedish and Sami heritages, experience various sauna therapies, Torne Valley medicinal scrubs, and hydrotherapy pools, including an outdoor one illuminated by the night sky – and with the possibility of a Northern Lights show.

Dogsledding in Bjorkliden

Characterized by its beautiful snowy mountain range and vast landscapes is Bjorkliden, easily accessible by train from Kiruna. It’s also home to the region’s most popular winter sports, including skiing and dogsledding. Take a huskies-propelled ride through the peaceful wilderness and experience a few moments of absolute zen.
Stay at the nearby Bjorkliden Fjallet hotel, designed as a traditional ski lodge with panoramic views of the snowcapped mountain range and lakes.


Taste of the Arctic

Nordic and Arctic cuisine has become a “next big thing” amongst the food cognoscenti. Experience the best of the region with the exclusive and intimate Taste of the Arctic dinner, led by an emergency rescue team leader and guide, Anders Bergwall. He shares tales of his Nordic adventures (such as battling a polar bear or sleeping in -50 degree extremes on a rescue mission) while preparing a glorious meal of local provisions like smoked reindeer and arctic char.

The How To

With unpredictability of the weather, such as gusty, 100mph wind storms, avalanches, and heavy snow, getting around on your own isn’t the best idea for this region. A 4-day adventure from Kiruna to Bjorkliden, can be booked with Off the Map Travel, whose seasoned guides can provide an enriching, safe, fun and memorable experience.

Getting There

The best way to arrive in Kiruna from anywhere in the world is with SAS airlines, who recently celebrated 70 years as the region’s preferred carrier. Daily nonstop flights are available from the US to Stockholm, with regular connections to the North.


Northern Lights Chad Blakley

Image by Chad Blakely 

The Ultimate Guide to Eating & Drinking in Copenhagen Now

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It’s hardly a secret – Copenhagen, with its trendsetting design scene, its influential chefs and its innovative fashion designers, doesn’t really have to try hard to be cool. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also one of the most beautiful capital cities in Europe, something of a fairy tale utopia with majestic castles, the nostalgic Tivoli Gardens, a handsome harbor district, and the hip neighborhoods of Norrebro and Vesterbro all existing in a singular sort of harmony. It’s distinctly pretty in winter time, with its snowy squares and stylishly bundled up locals.

Danes are a genetically blessed, friendly and enlightened lot, who take their gastronomy and partying very seriously. Though it was Rene Redzepi’s Noma (with its life-altering 20-course dinner) that decisively put Copenhagen and Nordic cuisine on the culinary map, there are scores of other inventive chefs keeping the spotlight on the city’s food scene. And who wouldn’t love a place that operates a weekend party sightseeing bus until 3am, full of “happy people and good music” and stopping at the city’s best bars and nightclubs?

Last summer iconic restaurateur and Noma co-founder Claus Meyer, along with chef Gunnar Gislason, brought Scandinavian epicurean flair stateside, when the Great Northern Food Hall opened in the Grand Central Vanderbilt Hall in NYC. Meyer’s book, The Nordic Kitchen, came out around the same time.

Still, it’s no substitute for the real thing. Here’s why and where to go.



Set in the heart of the trendy Nørrebro district – a (naturally) former working class neighborhood that has been invaded by the Danes’ own version of hipster culture – Manfreds & Vin is located on Jægersborggade, a quiet street lined with coffee roasters, craft beer joints and eco-chic boutiques. Run by Christian F. Puglisi and Kim Rossen, the team behind Michelin starred Relæ, Manfreds started out as a cozy wine bar and soon became one of the neighborhood’s most revered restaurants. Locals come for the vast selection of organic wines and the wildly creative seven course tasting menu, comprised of locally sourced seasonal vegetables, seafood, meat and cheeses, served up in a cozy but stylish atmosphere.




NO. 2

The younger sibling restaurant to the famous Michelin two star rated AOC, the architecturally striking No. 2 is located directly on the waterfront of Christianshavn, with breathtaking views of the futuristic Black Diamond royal library and Circle Bridge. To complement the modern setting, Soren Selin, co-owner and chef de cuisine of both restaurants, prepares contemporary Nordic dishes served up in a simplified but still visually stunning fashion, with the seven course tasting menu best exhibiting the breadth of his culinary vision.



Specializing in natural organic Nordic cuisine, Restaurant Radio is a laid back yet modern and airy restaurant located near the Forum Copenhagen, in the hip Frederiksberg neighborhood. Chef Jesper Kirketerp was formerly the sous chef at Noma and set out here to create a menu using unique ancient grains and legumes sourced from organic farms just outside the city – all paired with local seafood and meats.





Located in a picturesque courtyard behind Royal Copenhagen and Georg Jensen, if Eloise were to take tea with Alice in Wonderland this is the fairy tale setting they would surely choose. Full of whimsical fantasy, yet decidedly elegant and sophisticated, it flaunts angelic feather plumed lighting, large tables for sharing, and shelves full of curiosities that happen to be for sale. The specialty is the selection of smushi – a smørrebrød, which is the traditional Danish open faced sandwich, but aesthetically inspired by sushi, with Danish flavors presented in artistic, delicate, bite sized portions. No surprise, the Danish pastries and cakes are also delectable.





At this time of year, a visit to Copenhagen wouldn’t be complete without stopping in the magical Winter Wonderland of Tivoli Gardens, which was an inspiration for Walt Disney’s Disneyland. And Kähler i Tivoli is its most intriguing dining destination. The setting is 70s postmodern, with the furnishings and place settings created by some of Denmark’s most renowned designers: Verner Panton, Le Klint, and Arne Jacobsen, as well as Kähler, of course. Amidst the festive holiday atmosphere, order the seasonal three course Christmas dinner with venison, pork loin and a Danish “snowball” to get into the seasonal spirit.





Gourmet hot dogs, champagne and cocktails – need we say more? As wieners have gained popularity in Denmark, Foderbraettet has created ever more elevated versions, including a Korean shrimp dog, a smoked bacon dog with Danish cheese, and a wild boar sausage topped with marinated pumpkin. Set in the uber trendy Vesterbro neighborhood, it’s open until 2am on weekends and turns from a popular casual dining spot to a late night party lounge, with seasonal tipples and a DJ spinning the latest Euro EDM.





Just under 10 years ago founder Mikkel Borg Bjergso was a physics teacher and beer geek experimenting with hops, malt and yeast in his kitchen to create uniquely flavored brews. Today he has a microbrewery that exports to over 40 countries with several outposts in Denmark as well as international locations in San Francisco, Tokyo and Bangkok. The Mikkeler bar in Vesterbro is where it all started, serving over 100 varieties of rare and limited run brews.





Hailed as one of the best bars in the world, Ruby feels more like hanging out at a wealthy friend’s luxe abode – with the private club ambiance of Norwood and Soho House, but without the membership hassle. Lacking any frontal signage, it’s located in a townhouse dating to 1740, in the historic center of Copenhagen. The resplendent setting features mahogany wood paneled walls and sumptuous Chesterfield leather seating, with huge bay windows overlooking the canal. And lots of pretty people.



The sister bar to Rubys, Lidkoeb is set in a former pharmaceutical factory in Vesterbro – the sprawling three-story space is located at the back of an open air courtyard that accommodates the crowd overflow. The bottom two floors are warmly decorated with modern and luxurious Danish furnishings, with large leather banquettes and a long bar. For a more intimate setting, head to the third floor whiskey bar, with exposed wood walls, beamed ceilings and sumptuous vintage leather seating. Serving only whiskey, you get your drinks from the “Dispensing Chemists” bar serving extremely rare vintages and creative cocktails.





Set on the nightlife border of Vesterbro and the Meatpacking District (Kodbyen), finding 1656 can be tricky – the entrance is behind a graffiti-marked black metal door. An Old World ambiance prevails, with dim lighting, leather Chesterfield banquettes and dark wood paneled walls. Talented mixologists create a new menu of potent concoctions each season, with a modern take on classic cocktails using retro ingredients such as chartreuse, falernum and absinthe, mixed with seasonal elements. A cozy, Polynesian themed sub-speakeasy Tiki Bar is hidden behind a velvet curtain, and serves modernized versions of potent rum-based drinks such as Planters Punch or Pina Colada – something like a hipster Trader Vic’s.



Magically situated right within Tivoli, the Nimb Hotel has just fourteen elegantly designed rooms – mostly suites – with mod four poster beds, warm woods, leather couches, and Venetian gothic windows looking out over the Gardens. It’s also an epicure’s dream, with a brasserie, steakhouse, the Vinotek, the Fru sandwich cafe, and a sophisticated bar with a fireplace and crystal chandeliers. Swish.




Sotheby’s Parties for Exclusive Auction ‘A Rock ‘n Roll Anthology: From Folk to Fury’

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Images by BFA

There’s no doubt that the great rock music from the 60s and 70s has left an indelible mark on the world and had an incalculable effect in shaping not just our culture, but also our society and our politics. And now Sotheby’s is offering the opportunity to own a piece of that illustrious past, with its exciting auction A Rock & Roll Anthology: From Folk to Fury, taking place Saturday, December 10.

The astonishing collection features the greatest of the greats of, as the title says it, rock, folk, and punk. To wit, musical instruments played by Bob Dylan and John Lennon (including the piano on which the latter wrote “A Day in the Life” and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”) There’s also the original lyric manuscript from Eric Clapton’s “Layla”; the hand-painted awning from CBGB; and the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” Jubilee boat banner, for those with more seditionist tastes.

To kick off the sale, Sotheby’s threw a fabulous pre-auction bash Thursday night, with a performance by Lez Zeppelin, the awesome all female tribute band. It was followed by an electrifying set by star DJ Hesta Prynn – she’s performed alongside the likes of Kendrick Lamar, St Lucia and Jay-Z – which was all very in-the-know and very, very rock & roll.

As guests mingled amongst the rare memorabilia from the Pistols, Stones, Beatles (including the aforementioned John Lennon Chinoiserie inspired piano), BB stopped for a couple of questions with the lovely and talented Ms. Prynn.

So, what is your favorite piece in the auction?

I really love the Janis Joplin nude photograph with the flowers. And also it was great to see the original CBGB art represented here.

Who would you say are some of your biggest influences represented here?

I was originally a hip hop DJ, but what’s exciting about doing what I do is that I can blend different genres. So I’ll mix in the Eagles, Bob Dylan, and I can combine it with a Drake track and it works. Something hip hop can go under a Stevie Nicks song or a Tom Petty song, which is what makes me stand out from the crowd. I can mix a rock ‘n roll song that you know with a track that everyone can dance to – like a Rolling Stones classic with an Ariana Grande song. 

Hesta Prynn

REPORT FROM ART BASEL: Patricia Findlay Presents Atelier Biagetti

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As sexuality and exhibitionism has continued to infiltrate mainstream art, the renowned Milanese creative design house Atelier Biagetti has explored the subject to address the human obsession with sex, unveiling their latest installation NO SEX in Miami at Art Basel offshoot DesignMiami this week.

The concept was originally launched during Milan Design Week, with the curio designed as a therapist’s studio incorporating familiar clinical elements that tease the viewer and challenge our notions of what sexy is…as well as the role it plays in contemporary design.

The brainchild of Alberto Biagetti and Laura Baldassari, they experimented with a provocative ‘Performing Design’ scenario, using twins Elena and Guilia Sella, that creates a narrative around the striking design pieces that have now suddenly taken on a life of their own. Ever provocative and thought-provoking, we can’t wait to see what’s next from them.


REPORT FROM ART BASEL: Aby Rosen, Vito Schnabel and Dom Pérignon Throw Glamorous Annual Bash

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Images by BFA

With the art world descending on Miami for Art Basel this week, turning the flashy beach town into a billionaire’s playground, by Thursday night the moguls, celebs and the art cognoscenti were ready to celebrate their purchases and sales at the annual blowout bash thrown by Aby Rosen and Vito Schnabel. As ever, there was plenty of free-flowing Dom Perignon.

The night started with a private dinner hosted by Aby and Samantha Boardman-Rosen at the Dutch, followed by an afterparty at Wall that lasted well until the wee hours of the night – fueled by DJ sets from Angel + Dren and DJ Ruckus. TRANSFORMATION was the theme of the night, with an electrifying light show inspired by Dom Perignon’s limited edition bottle, which was created by artist Michael Riedel.

The guest list? An impressive convergence of boldfaced names from the worlds of finance, sports, film, art and fashion: Alex Rodriguez, Karolina Kurkova, Barry Sternlicht, Paris Hilton, Calvin Klein, Paloma Picasso, Shanina Shaik and Rosario Dawson. In other words, just another night at Art Basel.


Pussy Riot, Ja Rule Electrify the 2016 Hamptons Watermill Benefit

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Image by Zach Hilty for BFA

If anyone knows how to throw an unforgettable Hamptons bash, it’s Robert Wilson. On Saturday night he and the Watermill Center celebrated its 23rd birthday and raised over $2 million with its annual summer benefit to support the center’s year round artist in residency program.

The dress code called for a “colorful disruption” and drew luminaries from the worlds of art, fashion and philanthropy, such as Tory Burch, Anne Hearst & Jay McInerney, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Polina Proshkina, Michaela de Pury and Jill Stuart. Though rumors of a Kanye West appearance amounted to nothing, the controversial art and live performances did not disappoint this year. As the Watermill Center is known for its avant-garde artistic proclivities, this year’s theme was FADA – The House of Madness, which was a futuristic rendition of the dada movement laced with timely Orwellian political overtones. And during the cocktail hour guests were able to walk through a dreamlike candlelit bamboo forest.

23rd Annual Watermill Center: 2016 Summer Benefit

Image by Ryan Kobane for BFA

Ja Rule

Image by Zach Hilty for BFA

Other highlights included Make American Great Again, a performance by the Russian feminist-punk protest group Pussy Riot, a reactionary piece inspired obviously by Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, as well as John Margarita’s One ton tank
a poured concrete vessel filled with water and a man wearing a black speedo held down by weights. For the first time, the Watermill Center collaborated with artist collective Bruce High Quality Foundation University, to present As We Lay Dying–a variety of works and performances interspersed throughout the center’s 8.5 acres, that were a reflection on coming to terms with the contemporary world through personal, political and aesthetic perspectives.

During dinner, guests enjoyed a performance by Norwegian artist Tori Wrånes; and the party extended into the wee hours with DJ Mia Moretti at the turntables, interrupted only by a surprise performance by Ja Rule.

23rd Annual Watermill Center: 2016 Summer Benefit

Image by Ryan Kobane for BFA


Celebs Abound at Glamorous Opening Bash for The Blond

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Images by BFA

Sometimes Blonds do have more fun—at least that’s what Aby Rosen has planned for his swish new bar/lounge, aptly named The Blond. It’s perched on the second floor of his hotly anticipated new NYC hotel 11 Howard, which opens to the public in April—but it was christened with a glamorous fete we had the privilege of attending this past weekend.

Tapping the sophisticated, yet inimitable design aesthetic of Anda Andrei, formerly of Space Copenhagen (who designed Noma restaurant) as well as the midas touch of nightlife veterans Angelo Bianchi & Julio Montego—the former gatekeepers of the Beatrice Inn—The Blond is set to be electrifying Soho all over again. Sumptuous chocolate velvet couches, contemporary statement art and sultry lighting create a vibe reminiscent of the old Bungalow 8—the sort of sultry opulence that has perhaps been missing from NYC’s nightlife scene.

Rosen is known for his lavish bashes during Art Basel; and the opening soiree for The Blond was nothing less. Luminaries from the art, fashion and entertainment worlds who came out to revel in the festivities included Cuba Gooding Jr., Darren Aronofsky, Rose McGowan, Harry Brant, Princess Olympia of Greece, Brian Atwood, Lyor Cohen, Rory Tahari, and Charlotte Sarkozy—who all partied ‘til the wee hours of the morning.


Peter Brant Jr., Princess Olympia of Greece, Harry Brant, Charlie Rosen


Tobias Sorensen, Justin Hopwood


Aby Rosen, Samantha Boardman


Georgia Fowler, Jordy Murray