How One Designer Turns Travel Inspiration into an Actual Collection
Who wouldn’t want a dose of these Sayulita, Mexico, blues?
When we hear a designer cite an outta-town adventure as the source material for a collection, we want to ask HOW? What exactly is involved in turning trip memories and ephemera into something you can wear? Well, Lizzie Fortunato is a master of the exotic outpost Instagram pic—and one of the best in the biz when it comes to translating her trips into brightly embroidered clutches or thread-wrapped statement jewelry. We asked her to talks us through the process, using a recent—and very lovely sounding—getaway to Sayulita, Mexico, as an example.
GOOGLE, THEN GOOGLE SOME MORE
Lizzie (left) with her biz partner—and sister!—Kathryn.
“I’m a big trip-planner—I do a lot of research before going anywhere. I will ask friends and our buyers to recommend places. I also get deep on the internet. I hit up the obvious sites first, like Lonely Planet and The New York Times. I also like AFAR and Fathom Away, and I recently discovered I-Escape, which is good for getting more off the beaten path. But what I really try to do is Google super hard to get on people’s personal blogs. Like, a blog that someone created when they were on their gap year or on a student exchange semester that has lots of tiny local recommendations. I often find that if they have amazing taste in hotels or restaurants, they’ll also have a great design eye too. The travel guide that Marisa Haskell did was so helpful on my Sayulita trip.”
GET OUT AND ABOUT
Sayulita flags flyin’ high.
“I always encourage people to find a local market. It doesn’t even need to be product or jewelry; it can be something like a food market. The goal is to interact with locals and get a sense of what locals are doing and buying. Also, just keep your eyes out. When we were driving from the airport into Sayulita, there were a bunch of roadside stands selling big copper bowls. I Googled it immediately and found a recommendation on TripAdvisor, so we drove to that stand and got a big assortment of copper platters and plates. A lot of times I get there and feel it out, then do research and pursue the hunt once I’m there. When I’m traveling with friends, they always sigh whenever they see me speaking with a local because the whole group knows that I’ll derail our entire schedule because I found a store that sells buttons.”
PREP FOR SCHLEPPING
Aren’t these Mexican Otomi fabrics SO good?
“I try and bring back product as much as possible. I usually ship back so much stuff, and it can be was such an ordeal—I’ve had to go to JFK to handle customs in person. But I also try to take pictures and collect as many visual references as I can that could inspire an upcoming collection. If I see women wearing great hats, I might not buy the actual hat, but I know they might make a cool motif for one of our novelty clutches.”
KEEP THE ARCHIVE THRIVING
Mexican textiles waiting to find out if they make the cut.
“I do try to archive, but I’m not the always the most organized—Pinterest is a life-saver. I like to pin images by trip and come back to them. When I start working on the particular collection, I’ll print out my favorite stuff from the mood boards and have the physical souvenirs spread out all over the studio, but once the early phases are over, I don’t reference the physical as much as I do a folder on the desktop. I’ll go back to those images much later on sometimes for a specific reason—for example, I reference images from a trip to Morocco quite frequently to remind myself of a certain shade of blue. It’s so helpful to have clear visuals.”
TYING IT ALL TOGETHER
Moroccan pillows and Mexican pom poms piled up at Lizzie Fortunato HQ.
“A lot of the time we find stuff on our travels that we bring back to feature on our site, but there are times when we’ve actually been inspired by the material itself—for example, we did clutches made from Peruvian fabrics that I found on my trip to Peru. We also use design that I find on my travels to inspire pieces. The Moroccan tiles that we saw in the Bahia Palace inspired this Lizzie Fortunato collar and clutch. For Mexico, we still haven’t figured it out yet, but everyone in the office was so inspired by the pom-poms we brought back from Sayulita that we’re trying to figure out a way to make these so we can put them on our clutches.”