People who make Monaco: Noriko Bonafede
For the latest of our series of photo-portraits of People who make Monaco, we visited Noriko Bonafede
. A specialist in luxury marketing and exclusive entertainment, Noriko has lent her business consulting expertise to dozens of international organizations and events. Her extensive consulting practice includes TV and film companies such as Fuji, Pajamanation and NHK TV; the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Green Energy Japan, and NTT DoCoMo, among others. Her range of business interests is vast, taking her across the world from California to her native country, and, of course, to Monaco.
Noriko, your work has brought you into contact with many countries and cultures: what has that meant for you personally?
"You'd have to distinguish between my family and professional situations. In San Francisco it was wonderful to be a single, specialized professional (I worked as a psychotherapist), surrounded by many friends from university and graduate school. People were so 'down to earth'. However, because of my work (shrinks tend to see the negative side) I could never have thought of raising children in the city. Now that I have a 14-year-old daughter, Monaco provides the most excellent family life for me. It's a very kids-friendly place
, and I advocate it to all mothers in the world! In terms of business, needless to say we already have a top brand name for luxury and stability in our business, but the name Monaco definitely enhances our credibility as a marketing tool. Japan? For me, Japan is like a foreign country to work for. I tend to be super-polite and quiet whenever I deal with Japanese business people!"
You are the co-founder of IEFTA, the International Emerging Film Talent Association, a fantastic project which identifies and supports film-related creativity in developing countries around the world. Can you tell us more about it - its origins and its achievements?
"The original founding members all recognized the difficulty for new or young film makers from up-and-coming countries to be connected to major film industries such as Hollywood, despite the fact that many of them make great movies. We wanted to create a path for those who have less chance to be recognized by the major film world, and again, Monaco seemed the best place to create more opportunity. Recently we have created a film school in Ethiopia, and most of our charitable activities support this school. Thanks to generous help from the University of Addis Ababa, the Government of Ethiopia, the Embassies of the USA and India and UNESCO, IEFTA
can now provide a small but solid path for future film makers. We would like to expand our work in other countries in a future. It's so important to continue to support these hidden talents from little-known regions because intellectual audiences are waiting to see and hear about their world. I believe a film can change the world, and cinema is such a great introduction to many parts of world culture."
Clearly Monaco is now a big part of your life, and through your experience in luxury marketing you have established an important communication channel with all kinds of areas from media and fashion to motor sports and yachting. In your opinion, what is the current growth area in terms of luxury marketing, and is there evidence that we have we now bucked the financial crisis?
"Slowly, the economy seems to be moving forward into a period of recovery, I believe. I noticed more conservative clients are seeking to invest in properties in Monaco, compared to a few years ago, when we had many 'bling-bling' clients who were just looking at the top of the market. I remember some years ago, I had such a client who purchased a property without even visiting it! That is not happening now."
With the Japanese Garden, the Yoshi restaurant, last year's Samurai-Manga exhibition and a thriving Japanese-Monaco Association, there's a well-cemented link between the two countries. What do you see as the future of this relationship?
"Between Monaco and Japan there's a long and loving history. For the Japanese, Monaco has always been so far away to visit. However in the last ten years, thanks to media exposure about life in Monaco, that sense of distance has shortened. In the future, Monaco will be recognized by discreet high-profile figures as the ideal country in which to live and to set up or transfer their own companies. Since the earthquake, quite a few top ranking business figures from Japan are seeking information about moving to Monaco with their own companies."
Of course, we cannot end without offering our condolences over the recent natural disasters in Japan. What effect have these had on you and your work - have you been able to work towards any projects in aid of your home country?
"The earthquake of 3/11 definitely changed my life. It has shaken my philosophy, to the point where I have been
questioning my career and life priorities. I mean seeking more
than just the Luxury industry. I have been super-active in helping out many non-profit projects within and outside Japan, starting with the Monaco-Japan Association charity event, a travel guide for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to aid our destroyed travel industry, and most of all helping those orphaned by the tragedy.
"When the tsunami hit those areas at 2pm, most of the kids were in school, and survived under the instruction of their schoolteachers. But their parents were missing, and some are still missing. The government has not yet released accurate numbers of children who lost their parents. I have been very closely following local informations from NPOs, which help orphans, thanks to the internet and twitter - and I continue to provide my skill and knowledge to help those NPOs to get more help from overseas. I'm very worried. But I feel so fortunate to have wonderful friends around me, who have been wonderful in offering continued help for my Japanese projects."
Photos by Naneen Rossi / interview by Alex Went