Secrets of the Jet Set: 10 Up-and-Coming American Designers Reveal Their Travel Tips

For fashion and accessory designers today, factories–and inspiration–are often found abroad. So it goes without saying that the 10 newest members of the CFDA Fashion Incubator, which is sponsored by W Hotels, are seasoned travelers. This summer, the new new class of designers went to Mexico for a short trip to get to know each other and learn what was in store for them over the next two years of the program (surprise–in addition to studio space and mentors, they will also get to travel!). In between cocktails and surfing lessons, the designers took a break to share everything from what’s always in their carry-on bags to the pieces they’d never ever wear on a plane.

Aurora James
Photo by The Coveteur, courtesy of CFDA and W Hotels.

Aurora James produces all of the pieces for her footwear line Brother Vellies in Africa—so naturally, she’s on the road at least every other month for several weeks at a time to meet with artisans and get inspired. At this point, the designer has packing down to a science. “I usually pack thirty seconds before I’m out the door—as an accessory designer, I usually roll with like 7 pairs of shoes, but it’s part of the fun. And about 8 dresses. I never bring anything black with me,” she says. “Why would you travel and wear black? It’s like a waste of life. You have to bring color, you can wear black in New York.” Her key to traveling light? “I totally utilize the hotel’s cleaning services. It’s shocking to me how many people do not!”

Thaddeus O’Neil
Photo by The Coveteur, courtesy of CFDA and W Hotels.

Model-turned-fashion designer Thaddeus O’Neil is an avid surfer—and takes sunscreen really seriously. “It’s essential. Neutrogrena is one that I bring a lot. I use, like 60+ on my face, for sure. I also put zinc on my face, because when you’re out on the water the sun is so bright. I look almost tribal, covered in white.” Other travel essentials include a surfbord, lots of books (“I’m not really a kindle person.”), a journal, sandals, sunglasses, a hat, a watercolors set, and plenty of his own designs. “I wear my own brand 90% of the time,” he says. “Look at these pants! They’re made for travel.”

Ji Oh
Photo by The Coveteur, courtesy of CFDA and W Hotels.

Korean-born, New York-based women’s wear designer Ji Oh lived in London for years—but her favorite place to shop is in Sweden. “Whenever I go to Paris for work, I go to Sweden for two or three nights to shop. I buy a lot of t-shirts. Like, a lot. They are really well made, the fabrics are amazing, and the cut is never off. In other countries, quality really varies depending on the price, but nothing is ever bad in Sweden.” She also likes to pick up little tchotchkes, such as keychains or bathing suits, when abroad. “They aren’t necessarily rare, but they are special to me!”

Molly Yestadt
Photo by The Coveteur, courtesy of CFDA and W Hotels.

Molly Yestadt, the founder of luxury hat label Yestadt Millinery, always wears baseball hats and a scarf on a plane. “If I take a nap, I just pull the hat over my face and then you don’t get bothered!” she says. Yestadte also has advice for how to bring hats on a plane, without ruining them. “You can wear it, or put it in a tote under the seat in front of you or in an overhead compartment, or carry in a hatbox—which is fabulous! We also make packable pats, that can go in a suitcase with a t-shirt in the crown. It’s classic, but it’s stable and it works!”

Daniel Dugoff
Photo by The Coveteur, courtesy of CFDA and W Hotels.

Daniel Dugoff, the founder of New York-based men’s wear brand DDUGOFF, makes clothes for ”normal American guys who are interested in well-made products, but have a fairly casual lifestyle.” So it makes sense that his favorite mode is pretty low key. “I’m not really a yacht guy, I really like trains,” he says. “There’s something really nice about traveling from city center to city center, instead of taking a cab an hour outside of a city, waiting at an airport for two hours, and flying somewhere just to get back into a city.” Whether on a train or a plane, Dugoff likes to pack light. “I’m kind of an anxious traveler, so I try to bring as little as possible. I never check a bag unless I have to.” He had to make an exception for the trip to Mexico, though. “I wanted to bring a lot of sunscreen,” he laughed.

Jason and Julie Alkire
Photo by The Coveteur, courtesy of CFDA and W Hotels.

Jason and Julie Alkire, the design duo behind women’s wear label Haus Alkire, have been married for nearly twenty years—and in that time they’ve gotten their travel regimen down to a science. “We always take a carryon with some things in it on a plane. A fresh pair of clothes and the three things you each would need to get by for the full trip,” Jason says. “Just in case.” For Julie, that means a versatile Little Black Dress, of their own creation, a red MAC lipstick and “OG black chap stick, it’s like a lip primer,” and Bare Minerals foundation. “If your bag gets lost–you can throw on red lipstick look great.”

Charles Youseff
Photo by The Coveteur, courtesy of CFDA and W Hotels.

Women’s wear designer Charles Youssef worked for Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Gareth Pugh and Cerruti before launching his eponymous collection in New York, in 2014. While running his own business keeps him local most of the time, the young fashion designer is lusting for an inspiration trip to Tokyo or Kyoto, to see the beautiful buildings and architecture. When abroad, he relies on a simple uniform of a “black t-shirt, some black pleated trousers and glasses.” For warm weather, he swaps out the pants for pleated shorts and packs extra grooming products. “I bring a lot of moisturizer, from Shiseido Men’s, and also use Neutrogena moisturizer with sunscreen in it.”

Alexandra Alvarez
Photo by The Coveteur, courtesy of CFDA and W Hotels.

Alexandra Alvarez, the 29-year-old designer of bodysuit brand ALIX, designs a body-conscious product—but loves traveling in oversized pieces that still look chic. “On planes, I always wear a t-shirt; culottes, because they are big and comfortable but still look decent; a sweater; and close-toed shoes. If not, I have socks in my bags so I can change on the flight.” Once she arrives at her destination—she lives in a linen button-down shirt, tied at the navel. “The best one I ever got was at Massimo Dutti, in the men’s section. It was this white linen shirt—the best ever. I wore it all summer long last season, until the drycleaner misplaced it.”

Katie Deguzman and Michael Miller
Photo by The Coveteur, courtesy of CFDA and W Hotels.

Michael Miller and Katie Deguzman, the duo behind sustainable jewelry brand K/LLER COLLECTION, met as students at Parsons—and see eye to eye on just about everything. When asked about the one item they would never wear on a plane, both shouted in unison, “Heels.” “I made that mistake once,” Katie said. “But then again, I’d never wear Uggs either.” “I always wear drop crotch jeans, an oversized shirt, a giant scarf, and some sort of cool slip on shoe,” Michael added. “And tons of jewelry,” Katie said. “I love how you can now go through the 3-d scanner with all your jewelry on, and I don’t have to take it off!”

Tim and Dan Joo
Photo by The Coveteur, courtesy of CFDA and W Hotels.

Tim and Dan Joo, the brothers behind accessories brand Haerfest, are always thinking about travel with their designs. “Our backpacks are for someone who has a coffee in one hand an an iPhone in the other,” Tim says. But they certainly understand the need to unwind and disconnect. In order to handle the New York grind, the brothers always add a day or two to a business trip, Dan explains, “to visit any museum or restaurants we wanted to go to. It’s all about work life integration.”