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Nygard Cay

There are as many reasons to move to The Bahamas Welcome-1as there are expatrites living here. Sun, sand and sea are big draws for people looking to move to The Bahamas, but so are prime real estate, business incentives and even bird-watching. Following are three profiles of people who weren't content to simply visit.






Even though Peter Nygård lives in a 150,000 sq ft tree house, his feet are firmly planted on the ground.


Welcome-3The Candian fashion mogul and chairman of Nygård International controls his world-wide operations advanced technology, reaching operations in Canada, the United States, Mexico and the Orient. That technology makes it possible for Nygård to spend several months in The Bahamas each year.


Nygård's habitat is anything but typical and neither is the 50 something, Finnish born Canadian who is resident of The Bahamas.


The father of three children has built a kingdom of sorts in Lyford Cay, and renamed his sprawling peninsula Nygård Cay.


The Yard


Welcome-2A peacock wanders out of the cavelike gargage and ducks out of the way of a Federal Express van. Workers move throughout the estate, completing unfinished sections of the elaborate house that looks like a mansion replica of the Swiss Family Robinson home. Outdoor walkways meander up several stories leading to enclosed glass rooms, Standing beside the Mayan temple replica which is actually the house entrance, you can see some of the 16 guest cabanas overlooking the ocean.


Nygård is in meetings in the old house, now an office, which wouldn't look out of character in an average North American suburb. His assistant communicates with a handheld radio in a futile attempt to keep Nygård's day on schedule - a particularly hectic one because "yesterday has been bumped into today." When Nygård comes out, he flashes a wide smile and a quick greeting and heads to the house to freshen up between meetings.


People pop in and out of view in the maze of structures and trees. His daughter, Åliå, chats about the house and its uniqueness before greeting more guests who have dropped in for a tour.


"A prima donna couldn't live here," says the friendly blonde who has inherited her father's ease, style and openness. "It's kind of roughing it." That "roughing it" appeal is exactly what Nygård was going for. Just don't be fooled. Everything is built using the latest technology.


The house takes advantage of air flow and has all the comforts of an elaborate home with unique modifications, including a section of the floor that rises to become a dinner table seating 24 people.


Nygård emerges from the house freshly dressed, looking every bit the yachting champion he was in 1976. The epitome of rags-to-riches, Nygård was born in Finland "about as far north as anyone can survive" and moved to Winnipeg, Canada, with his parents when he was young. "I spent all my life in snow," he says from one of several outdoor seating areas overlooking the ocean. "The novelty of sun and the Caribbean attracted me when I could afford it."


Trees are for living in


Welcome-4He was able to afford it in 1974 when he made The Bahamas his home. He started his dream home 10 years ago and says it maybe finished in the next two. The house looks finished from some perspectives, but the Mayan temple is missing the top, the pool is an earthen hole and mesh army netting around the tennis courts camouflages construction on the qymnasium.


Nygård quest for sun and sand began with a visit to Hawaii. He took with him a romantic vision of staying in a grass hut on the beach. "I saw this huge concrete jungle, these massive hotels sitting on five feet of sand - a little bit of artificial beach," says the former high school jock who was named outstanding athlete of the year. "I said, 'where's the ocean?' and I had to reach way over the balcony to see it... And I said to myself if I ever build, I'm going to build grass huts."


Nygård borrowed concepts from the ancient Mayans in architecture, substituting his own ideas when it suited. Concrete lion heads and snakes dominate the yard and the house, even on the inside. Trees grow through the floor, vines hang down the outside walls and parrots wander the pathways, bringing "nature into the house."


"Mayans could have built this type of structure," he says. "As I visited Mexico and Guatemala and Mayan cities, the history became more evident to me... You have to pick a theme anyway when you build a house.


"What I didn't want to pick was a Beverly Hills house in the Caribbean, or the traditional Lyford Cay houses which have a certain style about them. While there's nothing wrong with them, to me they aren't Bahamian enough, particularly for this part of the island."




Welcome-5Nygård often talks about his home and his business in the same breath. Both are his passions and creative outlets and both employ the best technology available. "Electronics is hard to see, "says Nygård. "But what I'm doing here through architecture is very visual - you can see the uniqueness. The electronics has the same kind of uniqueness. It's not as visual and you can't grasp it, but it's just as rewarding."


In 1992 Nygård set out to accomplish what he attempted in the 1980s - bringing his entire company to the peak of automation. The first try was a piecemeal effort that was scrapped. He started over, spending $30 million to create NS2000 - his codename for the second attempt. "We are the hub of the fashion industry," he says. "We are the number one company in the world in technology - from raw material to the ultimate consumer." Nygård International is so streamlined through automatic reorder to sale that when an outfit is sold in Toronto, the item is automatically reordered from Nygård International, which then reorders fabric from a supplier. "Technology makes it possible to operate a business from anywhere in the world through a virtual company," says Nygård.


"Within split seconds I can have communcations with everybody in the world right out of my little office, sitting in my tree house." Now that he's at the top of ever-evolving technology, he has to make sure he stays there. He prods retailers, factories and others he does business with to keep up.

"We have conferences to teach them how to do it and set them up with what they need to communicate with us," he says, squinting into the sun. As of December 1998, Nygård says paper was no longer an option. "If you send us paper, we have a conversion centre to convert that paper into electronics and send you a bill."


High standards


Nygård attributes much of his success to setting high standards and attainable goals. He has remained focused on his passions rather than dabbling in other areas. "One of the worst temptations I've had is to flirt with lots of things as opposed to specializing," he says. "Every great talent is very focused and very specialized. That discipline is critically important in any line and certainly is in my success story. The temptation  of dancing at too many weddings has never been there." Once Nygård set his mind on becoming "king of fashion," he didn't look back.


In fashion you have room to step out and live more on the edge and keep pushing the envelope," he says. "I'm not out to change the world, but I don't easily conform to other people's standards... No one else has the guts to make a house like this," he adds, laughing.