Well-Heeled and Well-Travelled

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

Often, when we pair our love for travel and fashion, it’s motivated purely by a desire to shop. Or perhaps a walk along the streets of London and Paris during couture week besieged by street-style photographers. But ever since the classic era of travel, fashion and travel have been intrinsically linked: conjuring ideals of freedom and imagination, adventure and glamour, romance and individualism. The pursuit of a well-heeled and well-travelled life. From the streets of Florence and Antwerp — two cities forever linked to their fashion designers, to nights spent in the home of Yves Laurent and days on the Italian Lakes loved by French designers, these are just a few ideas for travel spent in the pursuit of fashion. 

The Florence of Ferragamo, Gucci and Cavalli

Few cities are as connected to fashion as Florence, with the names Ferragamo, Gucci, and Cavalli echoing through the Renaissance starlet’s streets. But it all began when entrepreneur Giovanni Battista Giorgini held a fashion show at Villa Torrigiani — long before Milan became the capital of Italian fashion — and stamped “Made in Italy” into the world’s conscience. Since then, designers have come and gone, with independents often found in small boutiques along the banks of the Arno and jewellery designers training with goldsmiths on the iconic Ponte Vecchio. But it’s not all about shopping, (for that, go to Via Tornabuoni), Florence’s creatives have lovingly added to the city’s fabulous cafe culture too. While the once excellent Cavalli Cafè has closed, fashionistas can sit down to lunch at the Gucci Garden on Piazza della Signoria, a museum, a shop and a fabulous restaurant all in one, or Luisa Via Roma’s stylish in-store Floret Terrace.

There are numerous options for sleeping chicly in Florence, but the Continentale, the second of Salvatore Ferragamo’s hotels, is best. Designed by local architect Michele Bönan, with inspiration taken from 1950s Ferragamo, the hotel evokes a winsome minimalism, and the Michelin-starred Borgo San Jacopo restaurant is perched pertly on the riverside with enviable views of Ponte Vecchio.

Stay in Yves Laurent’s Home in Tangier

When Yves Saint Laurent lived in Tangier, it had already been home to Matisse and Delacroix. Capote and Tennessee Williams followed. Tangier is a city with a strong link, not necessarily to fashion, but to creativity, and perhaps it is this link that led Yves Laurent to this stunning 1930s villa — once home to an Arabian Princess — where he tasked the interior designer Jacques Grange with ‘an eccentric 1950s Englishman who had come to live in Tangier’ as the theme for his new home.

Step forward to the 2020s, and Laurent’s partner Pierre Bergé Villa Mabrouka is the property of English designer Jasper Conran, who has lovingly resurrected the villa with whispering homages to the Tangiers of the 30s. The villa has twelve suites, each minimally decorated, evoking not the works of Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé, but the lifestyle they pursued here. In place of YSL artefacts and flashy design, expect classic Moroccan lanterns strewn in rooms and gardens, antique mosaics, natural materials, and floor-to-ceiling windows lighting cosy crannies. Outside, the gardens flow towards the sea as odes to peacefulness and Morrocan beauty. Pavillions shrouded by vines and arching palms lead to shaded nooks hidden beside idyllic water features. Kiosks provide a social reprieve from the pool, and terraces enjoy exquisite vistas of the Strait of Gibraltar. 

Trace the Avant Garde at MoMu in Antwerp

London has CSM, Paris has ESMOD, and Antwerp has the Royal Academy of Fine Arts: some of the world's finest schools for fashion. And it’s here where Antwerp’s contemporary fashion history begins with the legendary Antwerp 6, amongst them: Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten (and somewhat erroneously Martin Margiela), who rose to fame in the 1980s after driving across Europe to show their collections in London. Much of their fascinating story is traceable in the MoMu Fashion Museum in Antwerp with items from several members as well as early works from Martin Margiela (who left Antwerp before the group found success) and exhibitions highlighting not just local talent but international names in fashion and art such as Van Oostveldt and Man Ray.

Shopping in Antwerp is excellent at the Modepaleis, home to Dries Van Noten’s home town boutique just steps from the beautiful Grote Markt, while Demeulemeester, Wijnants, and other Royal Academy of Fine Arts alumni, have boutiques dotted across the city. 

From Paris to the Italian Lakes

Luis Vuitton utilised Lake Maggiore as a dreamy backdrop to present a recent Cruise collection on the private island Isola Bella. Soon afterwards, Jacquemus opened a pop-up store on nearby Lake Como, and Dior did the same, bringing a temporary floating cafe to the exceptional Villa d’Este Hotel. Of course, cruise shows and pop-up shops are as ephemeral as the fashion they represent, but the collection was inspired by enduring local tales of mermaids, and the backdrops: all mountainous undulations, gardens draped in pinks and reds, and the inky blue curves of the lakes, are always exceptional. Explore Lake Como on walks along the cinematic Sentiero del Viandante, take aperitivo at La Colombetta, and spend long nights staring at the stunning views from a suite in Villa d’Este.

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