Where do the world’s most fashionable people choose to spend their holidays?
From Anya Hindmarch’s Moroccan escape to Jason Wu’s Mexican idyll, here’s where the fashion set holiday.
Uxua Casa Hotel and Spa, Brazil
All my friends say Uxua is the most beautiful place to stay in Trancoso, a seaside village in the Brazilian state of Bahia. Bahia is exactly what I expected it to be: quaint, authentic and filled with culture.
Trancoso is a small village just like where I grew up in the south of Brazil. It seems almost stuck in the past, which is so special. Bossa Nova floats through the air, the food is unbelievable, made from super fresh ingredients, and there’s always a little party going on somewhere.
The Uxua is in the centre of the old town, next to the picturesque square, the Quadrado. What’s unique about Uxua is it’s made up of lots of little casas and each is completely different, but all have a rustic beach vibe. One, Casa de Arvore, is literally the house in a tree. My children love it here. It is spread across three floors that straddle the branches of a jackfruit and a cinnamon tree. Beneath the room is a swing seat.
If you’re a couple, I think the perfect room is a traditional aqua-painted house called Gulab Mahal, which faces the square. I love just lounging around, looking out the window, watching and listening to life on the Quadrado, where guys play guitars and people sing old songs and children run about in front of one of the prettiest and oldest churches in Brazil.
The beach bar, fashioned from an old fisherman’s boat, is deeply relaxing and only a five-minute stroll from the hotel. I love drinking the most amazing pineapple-and-ginger Caipirinhas here and watching other guests learning capoeira on the beach while my children splash about in the water where the river meets the ocean.
Hotel La Mamounia, Morocco
Marrakech is less than a four-hour flight from London, but when you step off the plane, it’s a totally different climate, a place of palm trees and hot African sun. It feels almost as if time has stood still.
That’s especially true at La Mamounia. It was the epicentre of that time in the 1970s when Morocco was a jet-set location; the Marrakech of Yves Saint Laurent and the Rolling Stones.
I’ve been back to stay here many times but I remember on my first visit being absolutely wowed by the location, tucked away in these enormous gardens, yet so close to The Medina. You get the best of all worlds – space, peace and garden views – while the bustling ancient city is just steps away.
My favourite rooms here are the suites overlooking the gardens. They are big inside and out, and I always feel I could easily settle in for days. I like just sitting on the terrace, letting the sun soak into my bones as breakfast appears, wrapped in so much starched linen. The endless stream of little treats – fresh oranges, Moroccan biscuits – is a balm to the soul. For the ultimate rejuvenation, having a hammam in the spa here is like being reborn.
One of my favourite things to do is to walk to the end of the gardens, past the olive trees and orange blossoms, and look back at the hotel while listening to the sounds of the world outside on the other side of the walls. There’s nothing more evocative than the call to prayer reverberating from all sides of the city, jarringly out of sync and out of tune.
But it is the birds that make Marrakech. They are the sound of the city. They, combined with the cobalt-blue skies and dry, restorative heat, never fail to make me happy.
Hotel Esencia, Mexico
Hotel Esencia feels like a sanctuary. The first time I visited, I arrived at night and was led through the winding, narrow paths to the main whitewashed villa. It was once the holiday home of an Italian duchess. It lends itself to the idea of being a home away from home, which is often easier said than done.
The property’s owner, Kevin Wandle, has become a close friend. He has impeccable taste and is one of the most generous hosts I know. On that first trip he gave me a suite on one of the top floors in the house, which is all glass with 360-degree views. I woke up that first morning to see the beach, the trees and the lush scenery. It was so incredible to wake up in the middle of all that beauty when I’m used to waking up in New York, where it is buildings, buildings, buildings and traffic.
I’m not a beach shack person and Hotel Esencia is a much more sophisticated spot on the sand. Everything is refined: the décor, with mid-century furniture and curated art; the food, lots of ceviche and delicious avocado fries; and the tequila.
I discovered one brand on my last trip called Casa Dragons that is so smooth that you sip it from a champagne flute.
When I’m here I hardly leave the hotel. This is a place where you just let the day pass, drifting from breakfast to the beach, from lunch to the pool and spa. I love to draw on the beach and I always take my sketchbook with me. Sometimes to really design, you need there to be nothing crazy going on around you, and Hotel Esencia is exactly where you’ll find that pocket of perfect peace.
Four Seasons George V
I first came to Paris from Beirut when I was 17 years old to go to design school. I have good memories of that initial taste of the City of Light and knew immediately that I would come back. After all, it is the fashion capital of the world.
Since that moment, my dream was to establish my brand. Although I returned to Lebanon to launch my label the following year, French women, with their carefree attitudes and simplicity, have always been central to my designs.
I started staying at the Hotel George V in 2000 when I began showing my collections during Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week.
It’s one of my favourite hotels in the world. I love its elegant white stone art deco architecture, its gilded interiors and its remarkable art collection – not to mention its wonderful location in the heart of the Golden Triangle, in the middle of the Champs-Elysées, Avenue Montaigne and Avenue George V.
I love the 8th Arrondissement so much that I’ve bought an apartment nearby and in 2015 opened my second Paris boutique right next door to the hotel.
I still adore the George V, it’s like a second home. I can spend hours with family and friends talking and relaxing in Le Bar or I simply slip in to see the exquisite flowers created by the hotel’s artistic director, Jeff Leatham. The whole scheme changes every three weeks and there are hundreds of vases in just the lobby alone. It truly is spectacular. On each occasion, no matter how many times I visit, it never fails to wow me; just like the George V itself.
It’s an overused word but Claridge’s is iconic. Even before visiting for the first time, I’d heard so much about its fascinating history that as soon as I stepped into the polished revolving doors, I knew I was entering somewhere special.
I first stayed here about 20 years ago but had been going for drinks or dinner for some time before then. I’m not a big drinker but tea in the Reading Room is a great treat for anyone visiting London.
I’ve been so many times since my first stay that I’ve lost count. My wife, Pauline, and I have been together since I was 21 and we still like to go on dates. Claridge’s is somewhere we love to visit, particularly if we’re celebrating.
I love the art deco feel that runs through the hotel. From the black-and-white tiled foyer to the mirrored ballroom where I’ve held fashion shows, everything about it is reminiscent of that stylish period. The history attached to the whole place also comes through in the countless interesting people who have stayed over the years; from film stars such as Cary Grant, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to politicians such as Winston Churchill, who moved in after the war.
Even now, every visit feels like a treat. When service elsewhere has become rehearsed, formulaic and homogenised, Claridge’s has so much personality – especially John, who works in the lift. Many of the staff have been here for such a long time that they are as much a part of the hotel’s story as its famous guests. Claridge’s is part of London’s own story in a way that few others can claim to be.
Chic Stays is available for purchase at Assouline boutiques worldwide and through assouline.com