When Cecilia Pitré first came to Thailand in 2005, she planned to stay for just a year or so. But 10 years later, she is still here – and loving the country even more!by Percy Roxas
You meet her for the first time, and an image sticks in the mind. Wearing a shimmering, flowing green gown that matches a slender figure which is crowned by perfect blonde locks, she comes off as highly sociable, ultra-extrovert, a life of the party – as she is known in her circles, indeed.
But while many people may see her as a party animal, Cecilia Pitré – founder of the Phuket Professional and Fun Ladies (PP&FL) Club, and now more fondly known as “Madame Versace” – is not only a woman of style; she is also a woman of substance. “I am outgoing, very friendly, and funny, but I can be crazy and sarcastic, too.” she admits, “I’m open-minded, motivated, honest, and sensitive, but I’m also straight to the point.”
Indeed lots of people see the French-born Cecilia as a strong person with hardly a problem in life. But like most of us, her world is not mono-dimensional. Like most of us, she refuses to be boxed and labeled. She can’t live without her iPhone, and she’s a self-proclaimed Facebook addict. But she’s also a woman who hates wasting time. She plays hard, but she also works hard. She knows what she wants and is not afraid to work hard for it.
Now based in Phuket, Cecilia first came to Thailand in 2005. She planned to stay for just a year or two, she says, but 10 years later she is still here – enjoying herself and living a life that most expat women can only dream about. Cecilia has come a long way, from those years when she was among the first young, blonde farang ladies who decided to settle in Pattaya, which created quite a buzz, and which she took as a challenge.
Cecilia started her career as a TV presenter there but before long, she was already working for the big French hotel group ACCOR, where she was F&B business developer for many years. Many people still remember her stint at the Beach Club of Pullman Pattaya Hotel G, where she organized some of the most memorable theme parties (the G Session Parties) in Pattaya.
Eventually her motivation to do things on her own also grew bigger, and she left ACCOR. And that was how the Bon Chic Bon Genre (BCBG) started. BCBG took Cecilia all over Asia, organizing events in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Bali, and India.
In December 2013, BCBG was booked to organize the opening party of the Bar Lounge Rooftop Le Versace in Patong, Phuket. And as fate would have it, “that amazing night,” as she calls it now, would become a turning point in her life.
Cecilia met Georges Dufresne, the owner of Le Versace, and fell in love with him. Georges, from Switzerland, arrived in Phuket three years ago, found an amazing place in Patong, and decided to take over what is now known as Le Versace. Le Versace started as a restaurant; it is now also a hotel (www.leversace.com).
The two ticked immediately, probably because Georges is a standup guy who also shares Cecilia’s great taste and passions in life: art and culture, fashion and style, good food and fine wine. It seems like a match made in heaven. How so? As a young girl, Cecilia developed a love for good food and wine (French style), early. She recalls how her father always take the family to the nicest restaurants in France and around Europe, which helped them learn how to appreciate a good meal an an early age . “And now I’m with Georges, who is also a chef,” she tells us, “So we can call it, a ‘food lover’s destiny’.”
Cecilia loves to travel too. Calling herself an adaptable traveler, she has done 5-star trips to Singapore, Hong Kong, and India, as well as amazing backpacking trips in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. “Actually, I have been partying in 34 countries by now,” she points out. “And since I am turning 35 in July, I need to find the 35th country for my trip map.” She is considering Japan.
But what does she look for in a place to visit? “Just two things,” she replies: “A day life and a nightlife: monuments and history to learn about the place by day, and going out at night for a nice dinner and a bit of party. I adapt my destination to my mood.”
But Thailand has a very special place in her heart. Thailand is her second home, she says. She lived in France till she was 20, in England until she was 23, and she’s been living in Thailand in the last 10 years. “Gosh, how time flies,” she says.
Thailand allows her to combine her fun spirit with works of genuine compassion and charity. The PP&FL, which she founded on Facebook because, “No woman in Thailand should miss out on an event just because she thinks she has nobody to go out with,” has as of this writing, already a thousand-strong membership and growing. PP&FL organizes various events and activities — from sharing hobbies, interest workshops, to joining health and fitness sessions, from wild shopping sprees to fine dining, fun-filled girls’ night-out and dressed-up theme parties. But they also do a lot of community and charity work.
During her free time, it is not surprising to see Cecilia with Georges just eating and drinking champagne in a 5-star resort. She loves to relax, escape from the throng, and be on her own from time to time. But Cecilia might just be using those moments to develop ideas for a book she plans to write soon about the many anecdotes and experiences she has digested through the years.
“I came to Thailand totally not knowing what I wanted,” she says, “If someone had told me then that I would be staying here this long; achieving what I have achieved, I probably would not believe him or her. But I am where I wanted to be in my life today.” She says she just hope to be able to continue what she’s been doing now for many more years.
Apparently she has no plans of leaving Thailand anytime soon. “There is just something in this country that makes you to not want to leave,” she says. “Of course, there is also a ‘dark side’ to living here, but let’s keep that for another interview!”