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April 22, 2013

Leader of a Traveling Brand

By Chris Boyle

A Panel of Elite Travelers at Louis Vuitton's SoHo Store

A Panel of Elite Travelers at Louis Vuitton’s SoHo Store, New York City

By Doug Gollan

Louis Vuitton pioneered the stackable trunk.

Previously, trunks had rounded tops so rain would run off. Monsieur Vuitton’s waterproof techniques allowed for a flat top, and elite travelers of the day no longer had to worry about fitting luggage into their coach — or at least their servants didn’t.

“Vuitton is a travel brand. It’s the super luxurious way of doing travel,” menswear designer Kim Jones told an adoring audience at an evening billed as “Travel Talk” in the brand’s SoHo store in New York last week.

For travel addict Jones, inspiration doesn’t come from sitting at a desk. “It has to be authentic,” he said. A trip to Bhutan led him to incorporate snow leopards into his Winter 2013 collection. “That’s why I have to be there,” he noted. Jones’ youth was spent traveling Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana and Rwanda, so perhaps he was born to work for Louis Vuitton.

Jones was joined by such friends as Conde Nast Traveler’s Style Director Mark Connolly, frequent collaborator Daniela Federici and disco music producer Giorgio Moroder, who has scored various runway shows for Jones. The quartet provided plenty of amusing and dramatic stories.

Connolly and Federici recalled a fashion shoot in the jungles of Central America, where they took advantage of zip lines to turn their leggy models into fashionable birds flying over the flora. Moroder recalled how the drums he heard on a trip to Tibet provided the inspiration for “Hand in Hand,” the anthem of the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

With images of the recent Boston Marathon attacks fresh in everyone’s minds, Connolly recalled an incident in 2008. While preparing for Federici and her team to arrive for a photo shoot on the Great Barrier Reef, he had turned on the television in his Australian hotel room.  To his horror, he saw what looked like a member of his team climbing down the Taj Hotel in Mumbai as it was attacked by terrorists. Federici recalled how she used her iPhone to text authorities about their teammate’s location in the hotel, ultimately leading to her rescue.

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The scary story was juxtaposed with Federici’s memories of a photo shoot at the the Taj Lake Palace just days before. She had chatted with the Raj whose family used to own the property, and he regaled her crew with stories of him as a little king running around the place without a care.

So what were their friends’ bucket lists for travel, wondered Connolly and Jones?

Moroder said he is up for a round-the-world trip, featuring Greece, Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Sydney and Hawaii. Federici mentioned going back to Cambodia and Vietnam as an adult.

And how about favorite places they’d been?

Australian-born Federici listed India, Cuba and summers in Sydney, plus Broome, the wild west of Australia. Moroder cited his home of Italy, specifically the Dolomites.

Finally, the panel of elite travelers asked each other, What’s the most important thing to do when you travel?

Moroder spoke about the value of spotting pretty women, and making sure you are booked in first class and luxury hotels. Federici decreed, “You open your mind and just experience it.”  And I suppose we could also throw a private jet in there, for the most perfect travel cocktail of all.

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