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Travel-Inspired Designers

Portrait of fashion designer Derek Lam.

Photo: Courtesy of Derek Lam

Monique Péan, Jewelry Designer

Destination: Cartagena, Colombia

Local Color: “I was struck by all the vibrantly painted Spanish-colonial buildings along Cartagena’s winding streets. It is an enchanting city.”

Travel Ethos: “My father worked with the United Nations, so I’m fortunate enough to have visited more than forty countries as a child. Meanwhile, my mother was an artist and would take my sister and me to the local markets. This spurred my interest in indigenous crafts and culture. Today, when I visit a new destination, I immerse myself in everything from the arts scene to the nightlife.”

Favorite Hotel: “In Cartagena we stayed at the Tcherassi Hotel & Spa (doubles from $355), owned by Colombian fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi. Each of the seven rooms reflects her uniquely modern sensibility.”

The Dish: “The Tcherassi Hotel’s restaurant, Vera (57-5/664-4445; dinner for two $100), does an excellent penne arrabbiata with fresh mozzarella. If you’re more in the mood for freshly caught seafood and live Cuban music, go to La Vitrola (Centro Calle Baloco 2-01; 57-5/664-8243; dinner for two $85).”

Island Gem: “We took a trip to Isla Barú, off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, and stayed at the eco-friendly Hotel Agua (doubles from $560). On the beach I sketched earrings and necklaces incorporating a naturally shed buffalo horn that I’d discovered through a Bogotá artisans’ cooperative.”

Billy Reid, Fashion Designer

Destination: Florence, Alabama

Vintage Finds:Ye Ole General Store (219 N. Seminary St.; 256/764-0601) is the place to find overalls, hats, and other stock that’s no longer available from old American brands like Carhartt, Pointer, and Duck Head—stuff that my father [pictured with the designer] would wear. He’s a huge source of inspiration for my work.”

Sweet Home Alabama: “The Muscle Shoals area, nearby, is a music mecca. Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, the Stones, and Bob Dylan all cut records here. You can tour the renowned FAME Recording Studios (603 E. Avalon Ave.; 256/381-0801), where so many greats cranked out albums.”

Travel Ethos: “I like to unplug completely but I am always seeking inspiration for my clothing. Florence is filled with ordinary people who exude Southern hospitality and style.”

Luncheonette:Trowbridge’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Bar (lunch for two $9) has been a local favorite since it opened in 1918. I always order the Babysitter: hot dogs with chili and mustard on white-bread toast.”

Favorite Hotel: “The Marriott Shoals (10 Hightower Place; doubles from $157) has a great Tennessee River vista and the best pool in town.”

Amy Smilovic, Owner and Creative Director, TIBI

Destination: Tokyo

Inspiration: “Japanese street fashion is so experimental. The Harajuku girls aren’t afraid of anything—they wear the wildest outfits with confidence. Color is a must. I used a lot of neon accents in my spring collection.”

Top Hotel: “I am such a die-hard Mandarin Oriental (doubles from $485) guest—the service is exceptional. The views of the city from the rooms of the Tokyo tower are incredible.”

Backstory: “I decided to pursue fashion in 1997 when my husband was promoted and we moved to Hong Kong. We lived there for four years, during which I visited Tokyo, too. That’s when I created Tibi.”

Asian Fusion: “The locals love their sushi, but they also love Italian food. At Pasta House AWkitchen (Shin-Marunouchi Bldg., 5F, 1-5-1 Marunouchi; 81-3/5224-8071; dinner for two $135) we had a mint-chip gelato—made tableside with liquid nitrogen—for dessert.”

Bring It Back:“My two boys, Gabe and Charlie, insist that I bring them the latest toys not available in the U.S. Last time it was figurines from a Japanese video game.”

Derek Lam, Fashion Designer

Destination: Bhutan

Travel Ethos: “Spend time in the sacred spots and be open to magical moments.”

Native Charm: “You become aware of the essence of Bhutan the minute you are ushered through immigration. You are treated with kindness and patience by these quiet, dignified people.”

A Place to Rest: “I didn’t exactly rough it the last time I went. I stayed at the Amankora (doubles from $1,400), near Gangtey—one of five rustic-luxe lodges spread out across the central and western valleys. It was one of the only places in the area with electricity. Looking out onto the vast, dark landscape at night was amazing.”

Inspiration: “I stumbled upon a co-op in Thimphu, the capital, where women weave these really unique fabrics using ancient looms. I collect textiles as souvenirs. This time I brought home a very old, embroidered cloth. It became the inspiration for my 2012 resort collection.”

Local Custom: “One must always go around a religious site clockwise. It’s a sign of respect. There are Buddhist shrines everywhere—even along a footpath in the middle of the fields—so stay alert.”

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