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Travel Diary: Hotel Designer Philippe Starck

Sarah Maingot

Photo: Sarah Maingot

Few designers have been as popular and prolific as Paris-born Philippe Starck. The cheeky, irreverent artist is the creative genius behind an endless list of places and things — from sofas, lamps, and houses to juicers, toilet brushes, sunglasses, airplanes, sailboats, and motorcycles. Of course, stylish travelers know Starck as the force driving Ian Schrager's greatest hotel hits, like the oversized flowerpots at the Mondrian and the underwater music accompanying the Delano's see-and-be-seen pool party. More recently, Starck began styling minimalist-chic luggage for Samsonite — although the 52-year-old admits he hates to leave home. Travel + Leisure caught up with the always witty, always entertaining designer to find out how he copes with the stress of being a citizen of the world

Global villager: I go everywhere on the map, but Venice is my favorite city. If I could have a "virtual citizenship," I would be Venetian.

Between the lines: I'm always reading five books at the same time, so I keep two or three copies of the same book at my different houses and take others with me when I travel. Right now, I'm reading about dictatorships, African colonialism, and science.

Packing Strategies: I have a home almost everywhere I work, so I don't need to bring that much by way of clothing. I travel with two of my Samsonite bags filled only with my music, an MP3 player, folding headphones, and folding speakers. I also bring good drawing paper that's made specially for me from plastic—so I can travel from a very dry country to a very wet country and it always stays flat, and you can't destroy it—and pencils. I never check luggage.

Survival Tools: I travel with a GPS [Global Positioning System] because I love to know where I am at all times. And I always bring a Prada Gore-Tex parka, because it's the best and you can go everywhere with it. I bring a cashmere sweater or something in mohair or organic alpaca produced by me, because it's light and warm and convenient. Almost all my clothes, by me or other designers, are made of organic materials. Also, I always pack my black jeans, a white cotton shirt, black boots, and four pairs of my Starck Eyes eyeglasses.

Songs Of Inspiration: I have more than 300 albums on MP3, and I pick one depending on the time of day, my mood, which project I'm working on. You need different music for different times. Sometimes I listen to reggae, sometimes classical, sometimes world music, sometimes something lurid.

Second-guessing: I go back to the places I've designed often—I was in the Delano last week. Strangely, it's not so bad to rethink your designs when you go back; some things could always be better. But there is no shock and no shame. I love the pool at the Mondrian. When my wife and I stay there, we love to wake up very early and sunbathe. We spend the whole day working by the pool, looking at boys and girls, my wife on her computer and me with my drawing paper—it's paradise.

The Woes Of Flying: Jet lag has been the trauma of my life—it killed me for 25 years. I used to be obsessed with treating it, so I took a lot of pills and vitamins. But for the last two years I've taken no more sleeping pills, no more vitamins, and I have no more jet lag. Maybe it's because now that I travel with my wife, we just dance all night when we arrive somewhere. That way we forget we're tired.

Style In Midair: My father designed airplanes, and I once did a private plane interior, a long time ago. It was like a flying carpet in the sky. I think I'll design my own plane soon. It's horrible to be obliged to buy a jet, because it costs so much money—and it means that you need one because you work too much. But soon, I'll be part of the club.

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