The destination:The West African Market in Nairobi, Kenya. It was my first time in Nairobi and my good friend from Lamu told me about this market. It was hard to find — on several floors in an unmarked building, no street number, no address. I spent about three hours there and could have spent all day.
The goods: New and antique necklaces. We sold some of them and took some apart. We used the colors for inspiration and used the patterns for beading layouts for the spring/summer collection.
What makes the market special: My visit to the market inspired and set the tone for my collection called Love Lamu/Bush Walk. I saw the most amazing beadwork and handwork from all over Africa. It is truly the mecca of beads. Each room had a different selection of beaded items from different African countries: rugs, carpets, beaded shell curtains, beaded statues, artwork, totem dolls. It was so exciting and inspiring to be in a place like that.
The goods: Scandinavian glass. These three sit on a shelf in my bedroom and are a very happy reminder of the thrill in being able to find these beautiful objects in their home setting. They are quintessential representatives of the peak of Scandinavian design, so when I see them it transports me back to beautiful city of Helsinki.
What makes Helsinki special: I had three shows as an artist in Helsinki and always enjoyed my visits to the flea markets and antique stores. The best buys are regional glass and ceramics, particularly from the mid-century, which saw a huge flurry of creativity in these areas.
The goods: An indigo suit, an indigo pocket square, remaining Yen stuffed into an indigo wallet, and my hands dyed blue.
What makes the blue ensemble so special: Okura is a mecca of indigo-dyed women's and men's clothing and accessories that you won't find anywhere else. It's one of the most unique merchandising and customer service experiences I have ever encountered. I spent two hours there!
Sabah says Konnichiwa to Tokyo: We have recently expanded to have a sales presence in Tokyo (at Le'Choppe in Aoyama) and are launching new fall Sabahs in an array of suede and nubuck leathers!
The destination:Pisac Market — about 40 minutes outside of Cusco, Peru.
The goods: Frazadas, great traditional Peruvian vintage skirts, hippie bags, and beaded shoe laces that cost about a dollar — I tie them on my wrist and ankles and have given them countless times as presents.
What makes the location so special: The local girls bring their baby lambs to market. For about a dollar, you can hold them and play with them. The one pictured is named Valentina. I wanted to keep her as a pet! There is nothing better than baby animals and good shopping!
The destination: Biarritz, France. I go to all the markets — whether food or antiques. The Brocante de la Reine Victoria (9 Avenue de la Reine) is a market on one of the main roads and has unclassifiable but great shopping.
The goods: I get the best furniture there.
What makes the market special: Every single time we go, I always unearth great finds.
The goods: Iranian kilim with pom pom tassels that I purchased from a rug dealer. The bazaar dates from the sixteenth century and was built next to, and at the same time as, the architecturally magnificent and beautiful Imam Square by the Shah Abbas the Great.
What makes this souvenir special: It was made using natural vegetable dyes and used to adorn entranceways (here it is hanging at the front door of my country house in Tuxedo Park). Every time I walk through the hanging tassels, the exotic and enchanting memories of the wonderful food, rich culture, and the beauty of the people and architecture of Iran — both outside and inside — come flooding back. It is even more potent right at this moment as it symbolizes Iran and the US being at the threshold of healthier and improved relations, which makes me very happy!
The destination: A tiny shop off of a cobblestone street in the quaint fishing village of Kaş, Turkey.
The goods: An antique nineteenth-century embroidered Turkish textile from the Ottoman period.
What makes the souvenir special: I was visiting Turkey for my brother-in-law's wedding and after all of the festivities, he and his lovely Turkish wife took the family to a seaside getaway for swimming, relaxing, and shopping. I had just started my textile business and was so inspired by all of the spectacular things I discovered from the days of Silk Road trading. I stumbled upon a shop filled with the most gorgeous antique textiles and objects. The owners were a lovely husband and wife and I spent about three hours talking to them. I had come upon a particular fabric and I fell madly in love with the color and the embroidery. One side is still completely vibrant and rich in color while the other side is totally faded, which makes it that much more special. I was on the tail-end of the trip and I had already purchased way too much to fit into my suitcases, so all I did was talk about it to my family. On our last day, my in-laws came to my hotel room with that exact textile as a gift. Truly special. That trip was one of my greatest adventures and it is burned in my memory for life.
The destination: The Fondouk Chejra (Marché des Pauvres Bldg., first floor; Rue de la Liberté) in the old medina of Tangier, Morocco.
The goods: Beautiful textiles woven out of wool and cotton.
What makes the textiles special: The market is open pretty much every day of the week. There are a wide variety of fabrics available for sale but what makes this particular market interesting is that you can design pretty much what your heart desires. Weavers, for the most part, can have it ready within just a few days and at a very reasonable price.
What makes the shop special: A South African lady came into our pop-up shop in London wearing an elegant ribbon-style necklace made from thousands of tiny beads. I asked her where it was from and she replied "The Kim Sacks Gallery." When I arrived in South Africa a few months later, I made a bee-line for this shop. I was stunned by the beauty and humanity of the store from the moment I walked in. Everything in it had obviously been chosen by someone with an extraordinary eye, as well as network of makers, whom I found out all came from sub-Saharan Africa. There was a serendipitous moment where I told the gallery assistant about the lady who had walked into our shop, and she exclaimed "The New Craftsmen! We just signed up to your Instagram account. I'll ring Kim and ask her to come over to have tea with you."
While having tea with Kim, I realized that our quest at The New Craftsmen, and our concern for the future of artisans and making traditions, is not just a local one but a perspective shared by those making and selling beautifully crafted objects around the world. One day, I will return to Kim's shop and leave with a container filled with goods!
What makes the print special: Fifteen years ago, my husband and I stayed at the Four Seasons near the Blue Mosque. A wonderful hotel. We explored the city and found a small shop in the bazaar run by a young Turkish man just back from his studies in the UK. We bought an ikat and a suzani that now hang in our house in London and behind our bed in Rome. They are the best pieces we have ever found.
Positano with a splash of Istanbul: I started designing caftans and embroidered cushions with my niece in Mumbai. I took a photo of the Turkish pieces and my niece transformed them into new prints so that they can live a new life.
The goods: A vase, a tulipiere, a porcelain inkwell, and vintage caftan.
What makes the shop special: Every time I'm in London I make sure to stop at Alfiies. Over the years I have bought some of the most wonderful antique and vintage furniture there — as well as fabulous vintage clothing. It's an inspiring destination for me.
What makes this store special: Growing up in my Greek-American household, Ilias Lalounis, Greece's most iconic jewelry designer, was a household name. Every Christmas, my father would purchase a piece of jewelry for my mother, and I would look forward to the pages of available styles coming across the fax in his office, sent by the salesgirl at the Athens store. I remember sitting on the sofa with him, circling the ones I liked the best. The line is now run by his gorgeous daughter Akaterini, and my mother still loves the collections. When I went to Greece as an adult, I went to the store and met his daughter. It was so lovely to tell her this story. I now live part-time in Greece, and every summer I purchase one item for myself from the store.