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Simon Doonan's Guide to Capri

 Designer Jonathan Adler, author Simon Doonan, photographer Jonathan Skow, and designer Trina Turk in front of La Scalinatella.

Photo: Jonathan Skow

Ah, La dolce vita! For most people, this intoxicating phrase is synonymous with Rome. Not for me. Reluctant though I am to irritate the ghost of Federico Fellini, I think the concept finds its fiercest and most fabulous expression on a certain little nugget in the Bay of Naples—Capri.

What makes the island so sweet? Just how dolce is the vita? How dolce are the dolce? How dolce is the Gabbana?

Capri is, first and foremost, a fatally appealing combination of rusticity and glamour. The juxtaposition of simple pleasures—plopping in the Med; hiking deserted cliffs; scarfing down bowls of fresh figs—with a full-throttle commitment to style makes for an extremely dolce vita. It also makes for great creative inspiration. As somebody who spends most of the year whirring like a hamster on the wheel of fashion, I naturally find it necessary to hop off and refuel every so often. Recently, I decided to seek relaxation and inspiration in Capri. My traveling companions are my designer/ceramicist husband, Jonathan Adler, L.A.-based fashion designer Trina Turk, and her photographer husband, Jonathan Skow. (On our trip, we avoid confusion by referring to the latter as Mr. Skow.) We spend a thoroughly dolce week at the legendary La Scalinatella. Eccentric and luxurious, “the Scally,” as we affectionately dub it, looks as if it were decorated by Salvador Dalí after dropping acid. With its improbable collection of borderline-kitsch antiques and its stark white architecture, the Scally is the perfect base from which to sally forth and forage for inspiration.

Lay of the Land (and the Sea)

Jonathan is addicted to blue: baby blue, navy blue, azure blue—he has yet to meet a blue that does not inspire a pot or a pillow for his stores. The blues of the water here—best viewed while swimming in a grotto—are incomparable. Trina is also something of a Med-head. She finds inspiration in every rock and ripple: the coral stripe that runs around the island and pops into view when the water is choppy suggests an entire beige-and-pink resort collection to her.

And then there’s the people-watching. On Fontelina Beach—a great place for a voyeuristic lunch—Trina takes further inspiration from the sighting of a bronzed Monica Vitti look-alike in a white cotton lace kurta with long flared sleeves over a teeny bikini. “White lace and a deep tan—a phenomenal combo,” says Trina, as if writing the Women’s Wear Daily review of her own upcoming show. Mr. Skow photographs the moment and, unsurprisingly, a white lace kurta appears in Trina’s spring 2010 collection.

On every descent to the sea, Mr. Skow plays the role of intrepid paparazzo, hanging off cliffs and boat decks to get the perfect shot. He enjoys taking pictures without the usual ramparts of photo equipment, likening it to “swimming without a swimsuit—very liberating.” One afternoon, Mr. Skow decides he wants an action shot of Jonathan and me diving off the side of our sailboat. Much to the amusement of Giancarlo, our captain, it takes about 15 tries before Mr. Skow finally gives the thumbs-up.

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