This is of course a more flattering way of saying that I am a major procrastinator. The worst of this shows up in my travel plans. So even though the borders have opened up and we all have the chance to travel to Europe again, I have nothing on the books. Italy really is one of my favorite places. It has been over two years since I have been there… which is nowhere near crazy for most (who am I, Princess Grace?) but Sid and I have spent the last 14 years going back and forth several times a year as we built our business. Sid makes a huge portion of his line in Italy, so the proximity to the airport – a direct flight and you're almost anywhere – was a big reason why we landed in Atlanta in the first place. As the company has grown, we now have members of our design team that travel, but in the beginning it was just the two of us. Often last minute, always on the cheap, and such an adventure.
It is his most favorite place in the world, and honestly he is at his best when he is leading me through a crazy train station with confidence, or jumping out of our Panda rental car and dashing into a hotel asking if there is a room for us. Very "Two For the Road" – the happier first half. We would usually wing it, having hopped on a flight by the skin of our teeth with no real plan except to visit the factories we were working with, and find more that we might someday use. I do not recommend this mode of travel to anyone, as we made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of fights and stayed at a lot of hotels just one step above a youth hostel. We stayed at the Hotel Locarno once in Rome, which is amazing in every way, but getting the last available room meant that it was SO hot that anyone would start arguing within thirty minutes. Don't tell on us, but it might have actually been a single room, with one of us probably sneaking in later.
On yet another hastily-planned trip, Sid and I were working in Naples and decided to take the weekend off to take the boat to Capri. Again, last-minute, in a hotel recommended by the people from the shoe factory we were visiting. The first night in the room was fine. But Capri is a hilly island, and you can look down from your balcony and see all the other properties and pools and gardens that look even better than the one you're in. So the next morning I pointed to one that looked especially amazing and asked Sid if he could figure out where that one was. He ran down the winding cobblestone street to see if they had any rooms. You can guess how it turned out. Finding the exceptional on your own – spotting it and making it yours – makes good things so much better somehow. Why is that? Is it pride? Is it the thrill of discovery? Is it that it feels more personal that way? All of the above?
And sometimes there is a sense of providence too. We found the maker for our Artisan bags at exactly the right time. We had a great business with Henry Cuir for years and years – he was known for his luxe, boho aesthetic. Slouchy leather bags with hand stitching and funny little iconography. We loved that kind of thing, and sadly, when he went out of business, it left a major hole in our assortment. So when we found this wonderful partner in Italy a few years ago, it felt like fate and now we make our own hippie-ish bags – totes, backpacks – with the same charming hand construction and amazing workmanship. I love them.
Another great Italian find is La DoubleJ. This one I first discovered on the internet – no just-under-the-wire flight needed – and while it has grown into a huge brand in the years since it launched, at the time it was much, much smaller. Back then, JJ Martin was a fashion writer (of Wallpaper* magazine fame) living in Milan and she had this super cool website that sold vintage clothing and housewares. Her style and vibe just killed me. It was charming and kooky and joyful and girl-power-y all at the same time. She had these jazzy subject lines on her emails and always addressed you, the buyer, as BABE! in all caps, and the whole thing was just fun.
Italy has been such a special place for Sid and me, even with our scrappy travel itineraries. Things like this – and the stories behind them – make it even more so. I won't be going there this summer, or anytime soon, but I will enjoy being reminded of it in the wearing and carrying of these things. A mental trip, at the very least. Perhaps I will try to make a Caprese salad tonight to really drive it home.