The new naked Stables Private Reserve luxury retreat, located an hour’s drive north-west of Hangzhou on Mount Mogan, stands in stark contrast to the naked Home Village’s more humble collection of eight distinctive lodges. Instead of repeating themselves by going rustic with the new resort, naked has opted to attempt combining the diverging notions of luxury and sustainability with its new Stables Private Reserve.
If you’re a believer in the naked brand, then you don’t need convincing that they can pull it off. But if you’re a skeptic, to whom “luxury + sustainability” sounds like a contradiction in terms on the order of “Smokeless Barbecue” or “Fat Guy in a Little Coat”, then read on, perhaps we can figure this one out together.
From the moment we arrived at the clubhouse and took off our shoes to enter (Aussies rejoice!), buzzwords like Eco/Natural/Local/Sustainable/Organic started whizzing back in forth in our conversations with the warm and unpretentious staff. The naked vision can probably be summed up as high-end tourism with a conscience, which is part of a larger trend that’s been gaining critical mass over the past decade.
The new resort outdoes naked’s first offering in terms of both ambition and scale. Whereas the Home Village’s occupancy maxed out at 62 guests, the Stables Private Reserve has 121 rooms spread throughout 40 Earth Huts and 30 Tree-Top Villas. The three-bedroom villa we stayed in featured amenities like our own personal butler/host, full kitchens, barbecue grills, flat-screens and even an open-air jacuzzi set on the villa’s balcony.
When the resort is fully up and running, we’ll have the option of filling our stay with dips at one of the Reserve’s three pools, getting a meal at Kikaboni (most likely Zhejiang’s only Afro-Asian dining concept) hiking through the Moganshan hills, or even booking a riding session with one of the horses that give Stables Private Reserve its name.
Though that’s all very well and good, we experienced an uncomfortable muttering in our internal monologue that wouldn’t go away: Isn’t there an inherent contradiction with environmental protection and being the existence of a luxury resort? Wouldn’t it be the ultimate in sustainability to have left the area alone in the first place, rather than carving brand new facilities and amenities out of the mountain?
It is an argument that holds water for all of two minutes. Anyone reading this right now might be considered too far entrenched in the framework of modern technology to seriously advocate returning the world in a state of green untrammeled purity. We happen to enjoy showering and refrigeration and the clicking of our keyboard, and we don’t believe that a truly sustainable resort would give you a shovel to dig holes to use as toilets.
Returning to nature and forgo our luminous screens? Sounds like something for the post-Apocalypse. Arguing for returning to a state of nature in an online forum seems as non-sensical as a fashion rag giving dressing tips on how to hide belly fat on one page, while then encouraging readers to accept themselves on the next.
The Gilded LEED Platinum Future
What naked and its founder Grant Horsfield are attempting to do, with their goal of becoming the world’s first LEED Platinum-certified resort (what cachet!), is to argue that there can be a different way of building things. In a place like China, where the questions asked regarding development are “How fast and how cheap?”, it’s especially relevant that an entity like naked asks, “How sustainable and how environmentally aware?”
Simply wishing for development to stop occurring would be impractical and fruitless. And there’s little chance that the Chinese public’s hunger for luxury consumption will abate anytime soon, so why not work instead towards redefining development and what constitutes luxury?
There are rumblings of future international celebrities booking trips out to the Stables Private Reserve to be part of feature stories in well-known publications. If it’s possible that enough buzz was created for the resort, then perhaps wealthy or famous Chinese people might pick up on the endorsement and book for a visit themselves. Then in turn, domestic Chinese media would cover the resort, ensuring that regular laobaixing would hear of the Sustainability Gospel, and Know That It Is Good. And even if most locals who’d hear about naked could never afford to go, merely positioning sustainability as a positive and desirable quality is a victory in and of itself.
So tacky and nouveau riche persons, wise up and ditch thy wasteful ways! We’re of the mind that sustainability and organic is a gimmicky trend in the same way that wearing clothes was a gimmicky trend back in the prehistoric day: it’s something that simply makes sense, and isn’t going away anytime soon.
Call +86 (21) 6431 8901 to make a booking with naked, or you can email them at [email protected], or visit their website for more information.
A ‘Buy One Night Get One Night Free’ promotion is being offered for all bookings during October and November.
Related: Photos: Weekend escape to Moganshan 莫干山