Plus: her ultimate travel uniform.

By Courtney Kenefick
June 03, 2015
Tia Cibani
Credit: Courtesy of Tia Cibani

Fashion designer Tia Cibani has a particularly global history: she was born in North Africa, raised in Canada, and spent 10 years living in China. Her authentic connection to travel is reflected in her designs—since launching her namesake line in 2012, collections have referenced various international sources like Tulum, whirling dervishes, and most recently, artists from Austria and Scotland. “Travel has always been at the core of my design aesthetic,” says Cibani who has also expanded her brand to include childrenswear. Here, the globetrotter reflects on the places that made her, shares vacation stories, and divulges her trip must-haves.

You credit Xiamen, China and New York City as the places that made you. How have these cities inspired your designs over the years?

The eclectic combination of the colorful expat community and the local community [in Xiamen] inspired me to think outside of the box in terms of design. NYC is my absolute favorite city on earth and, again, it is NYC's diversity and openness that leads me to think so globally.

You moved to China for what was supposed to be six months. What about the country charmed you to stay for 10 years?

It was not just the place, but also the timing. It was a very magical time in China back in 1994. The people were so thirsty for the new and different.

Any recommendations for spots to visit in China?

Gu Lang Yu Island in Xiamen.

Tia Cibani
Credit: Courtesy of Tia Cibani

Tell me about the inspiration behind your latest collection.

I have always loved the work of Scottish artist Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh and have been looking for the opportunity to reference her work. It was a fitting transition from my pre-fall collection, which was looking to Gustav Klimt and his gilded paintings, to move into a feminine Art Nouveau-inspired mood [for fall].

How do the designs reflect that inspiration?

The designs reflect the inspiration through color: shades of semi precious stones such as Jasper, Topaz, and Quartz as well as textures of moss and velvet. Shapes take on an organic and fluid femininity. Finally the print, which was developed in-house—a pattern of abstract roses stained with earthen shades in a painted glass effect.

Tell me about your most recent trip.

My most recent trip was to Nevis [Island]. It was more of a relaxation trip since it was the first holiday I have had in two years! It was about taking long walks at the grounds of the sugar plantation—which was converted into a boutique hotel called the Golden Rock Inn—enjoying rum punch in the late afternoons at the local beach bars, and swimming in the Caribbean Sea. Kite flying with my 3-year-old along the beach was a favorite late afternoon activity.

That sounds wonderful. Any can’t-miss spots?

A favorite restaurant is Bananas.

Where are you going next?

I’m currently in a charming little hotel in old Montreal. I decided on a long weekend away, and Montreal is as close to Europe one gets without having to take a flight. We drove [from NYC]—it was not bad—and quite a beautiful drive.

What is always in your carry-on bag?

A sleep mask, slippers, and a cashmere wrap for a cozy and homey feel during travel.

Finally, what does a globetrotting fashion designer like you consider as her travel uniform?