Wonder what Kate Middleton’s going to wear down the Westminster Abbey aisle this Friday? Or what Michelle Obama’s going to wear on just about any given day of the week? Recently, I chatted with T+L contributing editor and style guru Kate Betts—hot off the heels of publishing her new book,Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style (Clarkson Potter, $35)—about the fashion sensibilities of first ladies around the globe.
Q: People the world over have been enraptured by Michelle Obama’s sense of style. Considering her presence on the international stage, what sort of statement is she making about herself—and America—through what she wears?
A: She is making a statement about the power of confidence. The idea of wearing young, unknown American designers perfectly mirrors many of the ideas her husband campaigned on: new faces, new ideas, change. And at the recent state dinner for the President of China, she made a very bold statement by not wearing a dress designed by an American. A lot of people were upset about that—particularly the American fashion industry. But to my mind her self-possession and confidence define American style better than any label in her dress ever would.
Viva Zapata is a sturdy collection of funky bags made by Argentinian expat Tania Carole Lugones. Each weekend for 7 years she would set up a table in New York City's Soho neighborhood outside of the Camper boutique selling her designs hand sewn out of vinyl remnants from bus seats in Buenos Aires. To date Tania has sold more than 8,000 of them. That’s a lot of seat covers! Up until last year she had to work as a nanny to support herself. This is the first year she can focus solely on design.
On the outskirts of Sweden’s capital, the neighborhood of Birkastan has become a center for the city’s new creative class. Here are our favorite insider spots:
Ulrika Sandström Studio: Feminine frills and romantic ruffles get a dose of rock-and-roll in the homegrown designer’s latest collection, but don’t miss her line of neutral shifts at the pocket-size shop. 36 Norrbackagatan; 46-8/5456-4410; ulrikasandstrom.se.
Carin Wester: The current darling of the Stockholm fashion scene, Wester stands out with sharp silhouettes and playful prints for men and women, all on display in her white-walled boutique. 24 Rörstrandsgatan; 46-8/305-415; carinwester.com.
Over the past week, we’ve heard about dozens of worthwhile ways to help the victims of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, but one recent announcement caught our eyes—and nose.
Renegade perfumer Paris-based Louison Libertin, who produces his label, technique indiscrete, is giving back to the community of Kanku in Northeastern Japan—an area known for its lavender fields. Libertin had been working with a perfume factory there, and the town was hard hit by the recent disasters.
No less than 100 percent of the proceeds of his limited edition flacon "For Them" will go back to residents of Kanku. $52 for a 50ml bottle.
For more than 40 years, the Usai family has been making gear for the Italian armed forces. Now they’re bringing their sartorial tradition and top-notch workmanship to civilians. Our favorite piece for spring? This durable, refined nylon jacket ($865). With its sharp, cadet-style cut and and exposed seaming, it’s sure to stand the test of time for fashion lovers and travel warriors alike. usaicollection.com.
Mimi Lombardo is the fashion director at Travel + Leisure.
If you were eyeing the BRITTO Collection by Heys four-piece luggage set that went to the winner of our "Views"photo contest last December, you can snap it up for half price now on Suitcase.com. The colorful set, which includes a 12" beauty case and a carry-on bag for shorter trips, as well as medium and large suitcases for longer trips, normally retails for $2,120. Through Suitcase.com's Winter Sale you can get it for only $1,059.95 (plus free shipping!)
You can also buy the pieces individually: The 22-inch spinner case—the perfect carry-on size— is now 50 percent off at $249.95.
Put down that SkyMall, Bertram. Male passengers traveling Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic flights can indulge in something a little fancier than bed-side pet ramps or peephole spy cameras: The airline is offering custom shoe fittings from haute Finnish shoemaker the Left Shoe Company. Devote 20 minutes pre- or post-flight to having your foot scanned by a 3D digital scanner in the Clubhouse-the Virgin Atlantic lounge-at Heathrow and choose a style. Four weeks later, a courier will deliver your bespoke kicks. The soles are inscribed with your name, and if you choose, your Virgin Atlantic flight number and destination. The available shoe styles start at €225 ($310 at today's exchange rate), and roundtrip Upper Class fare on Virgin Atlantic runs around $10,000.
Won't taking your shoes off at the security line feel slightly less humbling when they're custom-fitted and inscribed with your name?
Ann Shields is Online Senior Editor at Travel + Leisure.
Run out of clever ways to show off your impressive array of passport stamps? Now you can proudly track your travels with this Places on Earth print. The print, a hand-drawn map of the world, comes complete with a container of pushpins, and four heavy bulldog clips (to keep the print from curling).
Invest in a good roll-aboard—it makes life so much better on the road. Clockwise from top: Tumi Alpha Bravo Bremerton in ballistic nylon, $495; Britto Collection by Heys Landscape Flowers 22-inch hard-side Spinner, $250; Timbuk2 Checkpoint in ballistic fabric, $250; Longchamp Darshan Luggage, $475; the North Face Rolling Thunder in durable nylon, $229; Halsea Roller Suitcase in laminated canvas, $335; Trunkiby Melissa & Doug child-size Trunki Ruby, $40.