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Suitcase Series

Suitcase Series: RHODE Founders Purna And Phoebe

Founded by lifelong friends, Purna Khatau and Phoebe Vickers, ready-to-wear brand RHODE celebrates a jet-setting spirit with holiday-wardrobe essentials inspired by the duos’ travels – with pulls to India, California and New York.

Bold colours, vibrant prints and feminine silhouettes with a sense of escapism encapsulate the brand’s DNA, and their pieces can be worn around the world, from Tulum to Tokyo.

Here, Purna and Phoebe talk to Citizen Femme about their most memorable trips, how they spend a day off in their home cities and the biggest lessons they have taken from their travels.

What is the first trip you remember taking?

Purna: I don’t remember my very first trip, but I remember taking lots of them as a child. I grew up in Bombay and my parents pulled me out of school often to take me and my siblings to fun places. As a family we all love wildlife, and safari holidays have been a part of our lives since we were little. I distinctly remember one of my trips to Kenya as a child and complaining about waking up at 5AM to go in the jeep for a safari drive. Now, those 5AM drives are my favourite. I am always awake and ready to go before anyone else. 

Phoebe: The first trip I remember taking was when I was about five years old; with my parents to the Greek islands. I can still remember the colour of the water being a blue I had never seen before. It was on this trip that my father taught me how to properly dive, and where my love of doing handstands in the sea began.

What’s been your most memorable trip and why?

Purna: There have been many, but a few months ago I travelled to London and Portugal with my two boys and husband. We thought it was going to be exhausting with two young and energetic boys. It was, but it was also one of the most rewarding trips. I am so excited to go on so many more adventures with them. We have a wedding in Florence soon, and I’m taking the boys along. 

Phoebe: There have been many, but probably the most memorable and formative trip I have taken would be to northern Sri Lanka when I was about 20 years old. While there I worked at an elephant orphanage and rescue organisation. Being on my own, not speaking the language, and working with animals of that size was sometimes scary and uncomfortable, but also so incredibly invigorating and exciting. It cemented my love for elephants and created a love for Sri Lanka and its people.


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Where or what is your escape?

Phoebe: My escape will always be heading to the water, wherever it is. Growing up in New York I would always walk over to the Hudson River to take a moment away from the buzz of the city. Now living in Los Angeles, most weekend mornings you’ll find me heading to Malibu in the early mornings to walk on Zuma Beach. If swimming is an option, even better.

Purna: The shower or bath. It really helps me reset and centre.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from your travels?

Phoebe: Plan food reservations in advance.

Purna: Packing skills! We’re excellent packers now – from luggage organisation to the actual contents, we’ve really refined our skills following years of travelling for both work and pleasure. Packing for a work trip is always more challenging and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to build RHODE. We always struggled to find pieces that were special, effortless and suitable for both high summer heat and off-the-grid dining destinations. You want pieces that are lightweight (hence our use of natural materials); can be folded or rolled up super tight; and that are versatile – meaning you can wear them from day to night and style them in different ways. You want your wardrobe to work hard for you when travelling and this is what makes our collections special.

If you could go anywhere tomorrow you’d go to:

Phoebe: Lamu, Kenya.

Purna: Little Mombo Camp, in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

How would you spend an ideal afternoon in your home city?

Phoebe: Though I’m between New York and Los Angeles, I’m originally from NYC. My ideal afternoon there would be a long lunch at Altro Paradiso with friends, and a long leisurely stroll around the city afterwards. You never know where it will lead you. 

Purna: At home in Los Angeles. On summer Sundays we spend the mornings as a family going to the local farmer’s market. By noon it’s always an open house pool party at ours that extends into the evening – with friends dropping  in throughout the day. I love having people over and impromptu gatherings. 

If you could sit next to anyone – dead or alive – on a flight who would it be?

Phoebe: My parents.

Purna: David Attenborough and Jane Goodall.

How do you recover from jet lag?

Phoebe: Water, walking, and no naps longer than 30 minutes.

Purna: Stay away from food…that’s what makes you sleepy.

What’s your in-flight beauty routine?

Phoebe: I always fly with a clean, makeup-free face, and apply Dieux Instant Angel Moisturizer and Elta MD sunscreen throughout the flight. I’ll also use some Shiseido eye cream and, if it’s a long one, the new Pillowtalk Derm Depuffer Roller is amazing. Weleda hand cream is also a must.

Purna: Always makeup free. Moisturise with Vitner’s Daughter Serem and Tata Harper moisturizer. And drink lots of water.

Your flight’s delayed an hour and your phone’s out of battery. How do you pass the time?

Phoebe: Technically my phone wouldn’t run out of battery, as I always carry an extra one when travelling. But if that mysteriously disappeared, I would people watch.

Purna: My phone is always out of battery so this happens often. Probably reading – either a book or I’ll go and buy magazines.

Favourite airline? 

Purna: Emirates, by far.

Phoebe: In the US, Jetblue. Internationally, Singapore Airlines. The reasons for both are great staff, punctuality, and the food.

What’s on your travel playlist?

Purna: I love to disconnect when I am away so I try to stay away from my phone as much as possible – so no playlists for me. I listen to the local radio or, quite frankly, enjoy silence and taking everything in.

Phoebe: I usually listen to classical or more ambient electronic music when travelling. I’m currently loving the album “When the Lights Go” by TEED (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs), and the album “Summercamp” by Rob and Jack Lahana.

What are your must-have travel picks? 

Muji packing cubes so clothes are categorised and easy to unpack. Pearson detangling brush. Vinter’s Daughter botanical serum. Comfy versatile shoes, plus a RHODE dress and our RHODE travel pouch (which will be back in stock soon) – it’s the perfect travel companion as it fits so much in, and looks cute.


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Hand-luggage essential?

Phoebe: Hand cream.

Purna: Sanitiser and wipes.

Packing: roll or fold?

Purna: Fold – inside packing cubes.

Phoebe: A combination based on items and luggage size.

Inflight book or inflight film?

Phoebe: Film.

Purna: Neither. Sleep, always sleep.

Music or podcasts?

Phoebe: Music.

Purna: Music.

Time killer on a long-haul flight?

Phoebe: Sleep! Either that or watching Forrest Gump. That’s a good three hours knocked off the travel time.

Purna: Binge watch a season of TV. 

Holiday tipple of choice?

Phoebe: Depends on time of year and where you are, but a cold glass of Sancerre is always welcome.

Purna: Perrier.

Bucket list top destination?

Phoebe: I’d love to explore around the Himalayas.

Purna: Horseback riding in Mongolia.

Beach or City?

Purna: It depends: beach with kids, city to explore.

Phoebe: City.

Ultimate holiday treat?

Phoebe: Local food.

Purna: I love shopping at local markets, so some kind of jewellery or interiors purchase that I know I won’t be able to find anywhere else in the world.

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