Lives of Style: Isha and Asim Abdullah 

Panache. They invented it. Elegance. They exude it. Savoir-faire. They embody it.

Meet a glamorous couple with élan, éclat and brio, leaders in fashion and taste, pacesetters among the beau mondes.

Isha and Asim Abdullah, photogenic, kinetic, talented, give grandeur an au courant flair.

He: tall, handsome, brilliant, owner (for just more than a year) of haute couture design house Emanuel Ungaro (one of only 10 official haute couture houses); she, beautiful, brunette, slim, an M.D., nephrologist, philanthropist; both: parents of two adorable young boys, Mikyle, 11, Zyer, 8.

Together they are a designer couple with plein d’espirit, vision and the quest to evolve, originate and cultivate. In short: to make a difference.

Originally from Karachi, Pakistan, the two met there after Asim received his master’s in engineering management from Stanford (he received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan), and Isha was about to embark on a medical school elective at Harvard. Within a year they were married and ensconced themselves in the Bay Area.

Asim was soon scaling the heights of Silicon Valley. From Rolm Systems, IBM, to executive director of Taligent — a nonprofit funded by the U.S. government to promote the Internet for commercial purposes — he founded and was CEO of VEO, which he then sold to Commerce One, and he stayed on as director when the company went public.

Isha, who completed her fellowship at Stanford, practiced medicine full time until very recently. She still donates one day a week to a clinic. "It helps others and keeps me current," she demurs.

Asim, a frequent traveler to Paris on business ("I was seduced by the culture, architecture, interior design"), met the CEO of Ungaro, then owned by Ferragamo, socially. They expressed an interest in developing a consumer luxury brand, and a deal that closed at the end of 2005 was negotiated.

"It’s quite exciting and renewing," Asim says. "Different dynamics than I was used to in 15 to 18 years in technology. Fashion has been labeled froufrou. But there is an amazing amount of talent there. You’re marketing luxury. And management comes into play. There’s a streak of genius in it. It’s very refreshing to see."

He hired "the best people," (CEO is Mounier Moufarrige, who has led Dunhill, Montblanc, Chloe, Goyard, and head designer is Peter Dundas, former senior designer at Roberto Cavalli, who worked for Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix), and "got out of their way. Fashion is who Ungaro is. We’re very good at it."

Ungaro, "more of an evening, cocktail, ‘go-to-an-event’" brand, will expand into accessories and menswear in 2007. But Asim keeps a careful focus on the future. "There’s a natural

physics to how much a luxury company can grow and should grow. It can lose its cachet of being an exclusive brand. Further expansion can come from additional brands. If you look at great luxury houses, they’ve stayed in private ownership, without external pressure."

The couple purchased a striking, resplendent and expansive San Francisco penthouse from the iconic Madame Soong in 2001. The capacious residence comprises an entire floor high above The City’s rooftops and features 360-degree panoramic views of the Bay, three bridges, Marin County, the East Bay, South Bay hills and towers. Soaring 15-foot ceilings, original, classical, ornate crown moldings and majestic chandeliers reside among precious antiques, art and artifacts, many from Pakistan, level with warm, neutral walls and august windows. The wraparound deck is accessible from every room.

Newer renovations, such as the tasteful, harmonious, classical library, transformed from an open-air enclosed deck, add a superb symmetry to the abode.

For Isha and Asim, a stunning couple for whom family is foremost and advancement is undertaken for growth or significance, home is where the heart is.

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