Kym Canter may insist on keeping her beloved stuffed animal by her side at all times—from the airport to the hotel and beyond—but don't be fooled: she's no newcomer to travel. Kym is a fashion industry veteran and expert on the intersection of "wheres and wares" who takes regular jaunts around the world in search of inspiration and the latest and greatest global garments. And hers isn't just any stuffed bunny—it's "Star von Bunny," the 18-inch plush realization of the title character from Kym's adorable children's book chronicling the exploits of a bunny in the realm of the rich, famous, and fashionable.
More than 20 years of fashion writing, styling, and brand development for the likes of Elle, The Wall Street Journal, J.Mendel, and L'Oreal led to her current position as Creative Director at L-atitude.com, an e-commerce "curated marketplace" geared toward glamorous globetrotters—and those who want to be. The site lets shoppers access exotic and edgy spoils of the world's most stylish cities, without reaching for their passports.
We are inspired just hearing about her travels, which have taken her—and Star—all the way from Mexico City to Mombasa to Jaipur and back again, camel tassels and mink ponchos in tow. So we've named her a Fodor's Travel Tastemaker!
Tell us about your work with L-atitude.com—how did that come about?
Throughout my career I have always shopped the world for inspiration. When I was Creative Director at J.Mendel, I would often re-imagine things I had bought at bazaars—for example, I remade my favorite mochile bag from Colombia and hippie poncho from Mexico in mink. By chance, I met Alisa Ng, the L-atitude founder, and we started swapping shopping travel intel. Soon after, she asked me to join her at L-atitude.com as Creative Director, and I jumped at the chance!
So, how do you discover great shops or hidden finds in a new destination?
Well, first you ask your contacts and try to discover local tastemakers in whatever destination you are planning on traveling to. At L-atitude we deliver an authentic shopping experience, and I find this is often the best way to start. If it is a place I have shopped before I will focus on asking about brand new shops or local haunts I may not know about. It actually seems like no mater how many times you have traveled to a country and or shopped a souk, you will never know as much as an actual local.
What's the first thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
Make plans to see friends—usually I know someone or have a friend-of-a-friend who is local. Next I schedule a driver and make my reservations at the restaurants I am planning to eat at. Then I divide my shopping by neighborhood. Sometimes no matter how much you plan, the best things happen by chance—for example, you can take a wrong turn and get lost on a street and discover a tiny out-of-the-way shop that was not even on your radar.
What's the best thing you've ever bought while traveling?
Tough question! I am a fabric and textile junkie so I always some back with endless pieces of cloth. I am currently obsessed with Suzanis from Turkey and camel tassels from India. For this past holiday season I gave everyone including my family camel tassels from Jaipur!
What about the best meal you've had on the road?
Also really tough! Okay, I have two picks: the first is the yummy fresh fish tacos and potent margaritas at Contra Mar in Mexico City. This is a great place for a late lunch—sit outside, eat a variety of small plates, drink fresh margaritas, and look at your shopping loot! The second is Munferit in Istanbul. This restaurant is where all the chic locals go for traditional but modern Turkish fare. It's in Galata, a cool up-and-coming neighborhood, and best of all, it's within walking distance to my hotel.
And what destinations are up next on your travel wish list?
I have been dreaming about going to Burma for years. Closer to home, I want to check out all the new eco-resorts in Nicaragua. A friend just told me about a great place on the beach in Mombasa, so I would love to combine that with a trip to Lamu. Of course I am always dreaming of return visits to anywhere in India or Turkey; these are two places I absolutely love to shop.
What's the best tip you've gotten for looking good and staying fit on the road?
Well I shop everyday and that is actually very physical hard work. I also do Ashtanga yoga, which is really easy to practice solo in any hotel room. Overall I believe being away is a time to indulge and have a real experience—even if it means doubling your calorie count, you can always starve and exercise like a maniac when you get home.
What do you always have in your carry on?
My carry-on always has a combination of two things, one being a small-scale CVS store; I travel ready for any possible illness or discomfort. My friends have nicknamed me Florence Nightingale because I am always the one with an elixir at the ready for any ailment. I also always have my good luck charm Star Von Bunny, the plush rabbit heroine of a book I wrote several years ago: "Star Von Bunny, a Model Tale" published by Harper Collins. Star is an 18-inch plush bunny that prefers my Hermes Birkin bag to any other carry on in my closet. (This is no dumb bunny!)
Will you share some of your favorite NYC places—to eat, drink, and play?
Well I am a bit of a creature of habit, so in my hometown NYC, I tend to eat at the same local haunts. I have been eating at Il Buco Alimentari on Great Jones Street in NOHO; they make simple authentic Italian food and cure their own salami, which you can buy at the market in the front of the restaurant. I always enjoy the true East Village scene at the French Bistro Lucien on First Ave. at First Street. I meet people for drinks so often in the lobby of the Bowery Hotel it is starting to feel a bit like and extension of my living room. Of course, I still always enjoy spots that have been around for decades like The Odeon in TriBeCa and Raoul's in SoHo.
Now, tell us about Star von Bunny—is she still traveling? Still trying to model?
Star von Bunny has been focusing on her acting career but she is definitely up for any A-list modeling jobs that may come her way. Her New Year’s resolution was to join the social media age and start tweeting at Ms_StarVonBunny, but unfortunately the tweeting has been a little infrequent. It turns out it's quite difficult to type on an iPhone if you have paws! Actually, Star mentioned she would like to do a guidebook—something like "Plush around the Planet" by Fodor’s, perhaps?
Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Kym Canter; Burma courtesy of Petrlouzensky | Dreamstime.com