Maybe we’re not all travelling to the South of France, but we can channel French girl chic with luxe wicker brand Bembien.
Founded by Brooklyn based Yi-Mei Truxes, she created Bembien whilst working at Vogue. “It was inspired by a woman I saw while walking to work—she had an effortless elegance about her (very 1970s coastal France), and she was carrying the chicest, most disheveled straw bag. It launched me onto a hunt to find something similar, and I quickly realized that you can’t find quality woven goods from mainstream retailers, but that they best come from small weaving villages around the world.” “Bem” means “good” in Portuguese and “Bien” means good in French and Spanish!
The bags are designed in Brooklyn, New York, then communicated to the Head of Production in Bali who works with local artisans using the traditional Balinese weave from within their homes. Once complete, the bags are collected, smoked over coconut husks (to strengthen the rattan and achieve the beautiful brown tone you see), the leather strap is applied, and the bags are sent back to Brooklyn for the finishing touches.
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And so fitting a gap in the market, Bembien is inspired by vintage coastal French and Italian style (think Slim Aarons in the 1970s) with the mission of the brand to put the traditional weave of our artisans on the global market and in the public eye. To be found on the shoulders of every girl from the streets of L.A. to the coastal cities of Italy to the heart of London’s Soho.
We delve into Yi-Mei’s suitcase psyche…
What is the first trip you remember taking?
A trip to Paris with my mother. We stayed in a tiny apartment along the Seine and had the best time just the two of us.
Which holidays have been your favourite and why?
Italy has always been synonymous with “holidays” for me… so Lake Como, Tuscany, Puglia, Amalfi Coast. There is something about Italian people: they are filled with so much warmth—it’s contagious!
Where or what is your escape?
My cabin in the Catskills, three hours north of NYC. It’s located at the top of a mountain, and has the most incredible views of the valley below it. There is almost no light pollution, so the stars at night are incredible…and in the morning, the valley is often covered in a thick layer of clouds so you feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s a true escape, and a place we feel really lucky to have.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from your travels?
Less is more! As long as you have basic lodging figured out, there’s really no need to plan too much. The best moments come when you’re wandering down a side-road and discovering a little wine bar, or popping into a shop and talking to the store owner. Sometimes having too much of an agenda prohibits you from engaging in smaller, unexpected moments that—in my opinion—make travel so special.
If I could go anywhere tomorrow I go to…
A cozy dinner with friends, crammed around a table, telling stories for hours into the night.
How would you spend your ideal afternoon in NY?
Walking aimlessly with my husband with no agenda other than enjoying our time together.
What’s your idea of a luxury holiday?
An empty, rugged coastline, with cove beaches where you can jump into the sea.
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Where do you get your holiday inspiration?
Photographs, of all kinds! It could be a stunning shot featured in National Geographic or something I see while scrolling through Instagram. But imagery is what moves me, one way or another.
If you could sit next to anyone – dead or alive – on a long-haul flight, who would it be?
My husband, Gray.
How do you recover from jet lag?
A shower and 25-minute power nap upon landing. And if possible—avoiding making any major plans for the first day in.
Your flight’s delayed an hour and your phone’s out of battery. How do you pass the time?
People watching! My favourite past time, even when my phone is fully charged.
Favourite Hotel? Why?
Hotel Il Pellicano. There is something so thoroughly peaceful about being there….that sliver of the Tuscan Coast has a certain magic about it. Hard to explain!
Korean Air. They’re how I travel to Bali for Bembien, and they have fantastic in-flight service which makes the long trip incredibly pleasant.
What’s on your travel playlist?
First Aid Kid, Milk Carton Kids, Lake Street Dive.
I’m currently binge watching…
HOME on AppleTV+
What are your must-have travel picks?
One daily travel ritual?
People watching while enjoying a local glass of wine at the end of the day
I’ve been enjoying staying local to NYC during this time—but once travel opens back up, I’ll likely head right to Bali, to make up for a work trip which got canceled in February due to Covid.
First thing that comes to your mind?
A large carry-all
Packing: roll or fold?
Inflight book or inflight film?
Film (a true indulgence!)
Music or podcasts?
Time killer on a long-haul flight?
Cherishing the uninterrupted time alone! If I can avoid it, I stay off of Wifi and use the time to truly unplug. Long flights are more of a much-appreciated gift, rather than something I need to kill-time on.
Holiday tipple of choice?
Bucket list top destination?
A road trip around New Zealand
Best shopping gem found abroad?
Ceramics from Puglia
Beach or City?
Anywhere on the coast feels like a holiday to me.
Ultimate holiday treat?
Enjoying a second (or third) wine! 🙂