For fashion designer Marie France Van Damme, the woman behind the eponymous line of luxury resort wear, going on vacation is serious business. The Hong Kong-based globe-trotter spoke with the Journal about her favourite hotels in Asia, her dream holiday destinations and tips for looking stylish on the road.
How often are you up in the air?
Almost every month. I fly to Europe four times a year, and to the U.S. at least three times, as well as to Montreal, Canada, my hometown. I fly to Phuket every two months.
Most frequent destination?
I have a small apartment in London in Marylebone, which is one of my favorite destinations. I also have my boat in Phuket. I try to go there and enjoy it as often as possible.
Any travel-related resolutions for 2013?
I have never been to Istanbul. I would love to go, as well as visit Angkor Wat as soon as possible. My favourite destinations are Marrakesh and St. Petersburg—two completely different cities, but I can never get enough of each. I could spend weeks at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and I could spend every late afternoon at the Djemaa el-Fna Square in Marrakesh. I tend to always go back to the same places.
Best hotel in Asia?
I am an “Aman-junkie,” so I would have to say the Amanpuri hotel in Phuket. If your budget does not stretch that far, the Surin hotel next door on the same beach is a great alternative. Amanresorts took it over last year and renovated it completely.
Favorite place to shop in Asia?
Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok, for its incredible variety. There are 30 different sections from clothing and accessories to handicrafts, antiques, collectibles and home décor. Plan on spending the whole day. All-time favorite beach destination in Asia? The beaches near Railay in Krabi, Thailand. They’re white coral sand and have beautiful clear water.
Best discovery during your travels?
Argan oil from Morocco. It’s great for dry skin—just apply it all over your body after you shower. You can even work it into your hair and keep it in for a few hours as a hair mask. It’s miraculous, and you can find it in any souk in Morocco.
What’s your packing strategy?
Packing light is essential, so I always bring clothes that work from day to night. I choose one colour for the trip and one only, and it’s usually black because everything works well with black. Before packing, I create 10 looks with a few pieces by putting them on the floor and arranging them into outfits. I always note everything down.
Any tips on staying stylish on the road?
I wear these very large jersey pajama pants that not only look stylish and comfortable, but they always look fresh. For instance, I’ll slip them on in Hong Kong, sleep in them for 12 hours on my way to London, arrive in Marylebone, go out for breakfast to my favourite coffee shop, and still look chic! Wear them with a white T-shirt and a long black cardigan.And I never forget my No. 11 Chanel lip gloss— just a hint of colour on my lips and my big black sunglasses for the Victoria Beckham look. Finally, and most importantly, I always bring a large black cashmere scarf that can be used as blanket on the plane.
How do you beat jet lag?
I’m lucky—I rarely have jet lag. The key to long-haul flights is sleep. If I’m on a 16-hour flight to New York, I’ll try and sleep as much as I can on the flight. If I have a 12-hour flight to London, I will sleep those 12 hours, land in London in the morning and start my day as if I was in HongKong. I immediately force myself into the new time zone, even if it kills
me. That includes staying up until my normal bedtime. Unlike some, I actually love flying long-haul because there’s nothing you can do except sleep, read and watch movies. It’s the only time you can completely relax—no one can reach you.
Essential travel tip?
Get to the airport early! There are so many reasons to stress before a trip so don’t make it worse by rushing to the airport at the last minute. So many things can go wrong—traffic, a problem with your seat, visas. And if you get there early, you have time to enjoy a nice glass of Champagne at the bar, buy yourself a good book and relax. You’re on holiday after
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