Peroxide paradise riles the natives

  • 2011-05-04
  • By Matt Garrick

SUN AND FUN: A projection, made by designer Valerijus Starkovskis, of what Olialia’s Maldivian ‘Island of the Blondes’ may look like.

VILNIUS - Baltic blondes and business may have once seemed like contradicting terms, but with the final stages of a major investment by Lithuanian blonde-themed company Olialia underway into an island resort in the Maldives to be run exclusively by women of the fairer hair, the stereotype could soon be redundant.

The company grabbed worldwide attention in recent months with news of their possible venture into the tiny Asian nation, and can now add to it recent claims that business players from a number of global sectors were contemplating investing in the island concept, including possible U.S.-presidential hopeful, billionaire hotel mogul Donald Trump.
“There was a meeting held with Donald Trump’s people, but giving any further information would be inappropriate, as this is business and it has to stay confidential at a certain stage,” Blonde brand-manager of Olialia, Giedre Pukiene, told The Baltic Times.

The Lithuanian-born and bred Olialia brand-name, described on its Web site as “a smart blonde company,” has become of late a production juggernaut. The company began in 2001 by publishing a series of raunchy calendars, marketing to connoisseurs of the light-haired fair-sex.

Ten years on, the firm has launched item lines as varied as body lotions to computers, pizzerias to a pop band, ice cream to ice-cool rentable luxury, such as a 98-foot party-yacht.
“Every new product we released was created with sincerity and a great dream of success. Now we have over 75 working projects and we continue to grow,” conveyed a starry-eyed Miss Pukiene.

The brand has become a commercial sensation in Lithuania, and is now determined spread its blonde claws to the outside world. “At the moment, we are most active in Asia and the United States, as we already have considerable propositions,” she impressed.

Executives from Olialia recently returned from the French city of Cannes, where they presented their blonde island resort proposal to entrepreneurs attending the March International des Professionnels d’Immobilier 2011 real estate trade show.
Pukiene has insisted the plans for the island investment, which she said will cost an initial 60 million euros, at minimum, were still well afloat, though the decision-making process has been arduous. “We are still in the process of deciding which partners to work with. We have many different propositions, as it is a long-term project,” she said. “We have to choose very carefully and with great consideration. The deadline for the grand opening still remains the year 2015.”

Finding a business partner for the project was not the only potential woe for the company’s plans, as restrictive working laws in the primarily Islamic Maldives, (where the population “is invariably dark-haired,” according to Maldives news source Minivan News), would mean the peroxide paradise would have to hire at least 50 percent of their staff from the local area.
Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture in the region, Dr. Mariyam Zulfa, spoke at a Maldives press conference recently, stating the labor laws in the country could prove “problematic” for the company. “Although all the staff will be blonde, we will not necessarily make them wear wigs,” the resort’s project manager, Vilte Zukauskaite, has said to the Maldivian media. “Non-blonde hair has to not be visible. So male staff could shave their heads. Hats or scarves that cover the head could also be worn.”

The Maldivian labor laws may not be the only element of disaster threatening to overturn Olialia’s best-laid plans, as widespread backlash from locals living in the minute Asian nation circulates on the Internet. “This should never happen, and this is going too far in the name of tourism. If this happens, there will be bigger issues in the future which will be impossible to handle. Our culture, religion, and values will be gone forever,” commented blogger Junaidh on the Minivan News Web site.
“An appropriate title would be Island of Bimbos,” commented a blogger known as Fanaa, on the same site. “No self-respecting Maldivian will allow this sexist concept to come to fruition in this country.”

However, some Lithuanian members of the wider PR and advertising sector have come to the company’s defense, saying criticism for their depictions of women could be undermined by their steadfast and heady marketing methods. “They are doing a really great job. The brand is known in other countries, their videos on [Google-run] are looked at like a million times,” approved brunette account manager for Vilnius-based public relations firm Publicum, Egle Slizeviciute. “I believe they’re doing something really good, creative, and unexpected.”

As for the construction’s detailed costs of the luxury resort, plans are still very much on the drafting board. “All financial issues depend on the road we will choose to guide ourselves. Whether we are going to buy a resort which is still in the process of construction and invest in its birth, or we re-brand an already existing hotel, or we find the correct partner [with whom] to buy a virgin island and build everything from the first brick till the last. The smallest investment possible is over 60 million euros,” confirmed Pukiene.