She might have a background in banking, but Jennifer Chamandi swapped the trading floor to live out her dream of designing shoes.
From learning Italian to enrolling in Footwear Summer School, Jennifer spent 18 months immersed in the universe of shoes and now has her own namesake label, Jennifer Chamandi. Though she has roots in Lebanon, her home is in London and her heart is in Italy where she has an atelier in Milan and an ongoing love affair with Florence (more on that later).
“I grew up in Lebanon, then moved to London when I was 18 years old and never left,” Jennifer says. “Travel is my biggest source of inspiration. I get inspired by the buildings, the stories, the people I meet, and the food I eat.”
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The easiest way to spot a Jennifer Chamandi shoe on your travels is to look for the intricate ‘eye of the needle’ detail sitting pretty at the top of her signature heels. And her vacation shoe of choice? “Something comfortable yet chic so you can walk in them all day but stay in the same shoes if you go out for dinner.”
So, besides the enviable shoe-drobe, what does the founder of a footwear label pack in her designer luggage? From her Chanel beauty haul to an app by Chris Hemsworth, we delve into the suitcase psyche of Jennifer Chamandi.
What does travel mean to you?
Travel is my biggest source of inspiration. I get inspired by the buildings, the stories, the people I meet, and the food I eat. I also find that I’m super-productive on airplanes and trains, especially when I travel alone.
What is the first trip you remember taking?
Paris as a young child – I visited every year with my family.
What’s been your favourite vacation?
Anywhere I go in Italy, but Florence holds a very special place in my heart. I got married in Florence six years ago and I still feel the magic of the city every time I go there – the streets, the restaurants, the museums, the shopping…
Where or what is your escape?
Believe it or not, my office is my sanctuary. I can spend hours there, working, catching up on calls, tidying up (honestly, it relaxes me!) and working on myself through meditations and breathing exercises.
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What’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from your travels?
Pack as light and possible and be smart about what you take with you – especially shoes as they use up a lot of space and weight. This was also a crucial factor for me when designing. I’m very proud that my shoes are super-comfortable but chic at the same time so you can minimise the number of pairs you need to pack. I’ve learnt that it’s always a good idea to plan outfits around the shoes you want to take so you don’t end up with too many pairs that you won’t wear.
My top three bucket list destinations I’m planning to visit post-isolation are:
I’m a huge lover of gastronomy and I would travel the world to try all the 3-star Michelin restaurants. My favourite series on Netflix is Chef’s Table – it tells the stories of the most incredible chefs and the amazing journeys they’ve been on and how this inspires them to create dishes that combine emotion, magic, flavour and beauty. So my first stop would be Chicago to try Chef Grant Achatz’s Alinea. Second stop would be Barcelona for Chef Albert Adrià’s Tickets (he’s the former creative director and head pastry chef of El Bulli restaurant in Spain). And the third stop would be Chef Francis Mallmann’s Patagonia Sur in Buenos Aires.
What’s your idea of a luxury holiday?
A vacation that is the total opposite to my hectic London life, so somewhere peaceful and serene by the ocean with my family. I love the water and have always felt very calmed by it. Also, any holidays that I can take my twin daughters on where they can visit somewhere new and learn about new cultures, customs and people. That feels like a luxury to me as I get to watch them learn, grow and develop as young ladies and feel incredibly proud.
Where do you get your holiday inspiration?
Talking to my friends and clients. I love hearing their first-hand recommendations and experiences. Luckily I have such an international network so it means I constantly find out about amazing hotels and restaurants that are the well-kept local secrets that you won’t find in any guide books!
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If you could sit next to anyone – dead or alive – on a long-haul flight, who would it be?
Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino. I look up to him in every way. I would love to ask him about the way he designs and how he finds inspiration. It would be my dream to collaborate with him one day.
How would you describe your suitcase aesthetic?
Monochrome, comfortable and chic. I normally start with my shoes and build my outfit around them.
Describe your ultimate vacation outfit…
During the day, flowy short dresses – preferably white – with puffy sleeves or ruffles. Simone Rocha has amazing white flowy dresses. For dinner I always opt for shorts and top or shirt combinations from Valentino. I have them in just about every colour.
Your flight’s delayed an hour and your phone’s out of battery. How do you pass the time?
I always carry my laptop with me so I’ll catch up on emails.
Favourite Hotel? Why?
Bulgari Hotel Milano It is my home away from home. The service is impeccable and it’s always my hotel of choice when I visit my atelier in Milan.
Cathay Pacific – their service is unequalled.
What’s on your travel playlist?
Lots of podcasts – normally meditations to reduce the stress of travelling, especially with little ones. I love ‘Mindful in Minutes’ by Kelly Smith on Spotify. I also love the app called ‘Centr’ by actor Chris Hemsworth, especially the kids meditations, which I try to do with my daughters.
What are your must-have suitcase picks?
My Hermes bag fits in everything I could possibly need and looks incredibly chic so I always feel well put-together no matter what I’m wearing. Although I love heels, I travel exclusively in flat shoes that are comfortable yet smart enough to go straight into a work meeting. I also love my Vittorio 105 Glitter Crystal Buckle heels for smart dinners. Skincare-wise, I love Chanel for face, masks, eyes and body – the products make my skin feel calm and give me a glow that means I don’t need to worry about doing my make-up as soon as I step off a flight.
THE PACKING EDIT
First thing that comes to your mind?
Packing: roll or fold?
Inflight book or inflight film?
Music or podcasts?
Time killer on a long-haul flight?
Downloaded Netflix episodes.
Holiday tipple of choice?
Bucket list top destination?
Chicago to visit Alinea restaurant (https://www.alinearestaurant.com).
Best shopping gem found abroad?
Aishti, the temple of fashion in Beirut (http://www.aishti.com).
Beach or City?
Ultimate holiday treat?
A visit to the spa.