You have a home in the Turks & Caicos Islands – Why did you choose the TCI?
My good friend Christina Ong owns Como Shambhala on Parrot Cay, where Stephan and I would go and get away from it all. Christina also owns my favorite resort in the world – Como Shambhala in Ubud, Bali, but it’s halfway around the world. Stephan and I fell in love with Parrot Cay – what I still call my 3-hour Bali, since that’s all it takes to get there. Stephan gave me a gift of property on Parrot Cay, when we renewed our wedding vows there, during what was to be his last Christmas visit. He urged me to build a family home, which is exactly what I did.
How do you like to spend your time in the TCI?
For me, Parrot Cay is heaven. It’s family time, retreat and yoga time, beach time, all the things I love doing most when I have the time. We often spend our holidays on Parrot Cay.
You have also spent a lot of time in Haiti with your foundation Urban Zen working with Haitian artisans – What is so special about Haitian art and crafts?
I went down to Haiti right after the earthquake with the intention of doing all I could to help them rebuild. But then I fell in love with the people and the island itself, and Haiti became an all-consuming passion, a place where I felt I could make a difference. I realized that Haiti has the potential to be like Bali – a sustainable artisan community that used its natural resources and talents to 1) preserve its culture and 2) create viable businesses. The artisan communities just need guidance and support to make it happen. I joined forces with the Clinton Global Initiative and go to Haiti to work with the artisans every chance I get. I’m lucky, because Parrot Cay is just an hour away from Haiti, so I can stop there before or after a visit.
How can people support your work in Haiti?
Just go onto my website urbanzen.org and see the many ways. You can also support Haitian artisans by buying their products at Urban Zen stores.
For many people Haiti conjures up images of an earthquake-ravaged country – What are Haiti’s hidden gems?
Haiti is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, yet no one knows it! The nature and topography is second to none. Many realtors and resort developers are looking to invest in Haiti, so hopefully the negative perception will fade. There are so many hidden gems I don’t know where to begin. Jacmel is one of the most charming towns you’ll ever visit. That would be first on my must-see lists.
Where else in the Caribbean have you enjoyed spending time?
It’s all beautiful. Yet to be honest, it’s been so long since I’ve gone to anywhere other than Parrot Cay….
How has the Caribbean influenced your work?
I’m so inspired by the beach – the melding colors, the white clouds, endless skies, aqua waters and of course the sands. This is the palette and textures I return to for my Spring and Summer collections, year after year, in one form or another.