Ella Branford is the fashion editor you’ve never heard of. Tall and lithe with a brunette mop up top, she’s going from Manhattan to Milan in search of interviews, models and the perfect shoot locations. Off-hours, she’s hitting up Via Montenapoleone for its shopping, the trendy Navigli district for the nightlife and, when she’s thirsting for some high culture, the grand operas at La Scala. The 32-year-old is also, as it happens, a fictional avatar dreamed up by designer Yansi Fugel.
Branford is just one of three muse-personalities invented by Fugel to help launch her new luxury travel line, Travel Jersey, out this spring. The Mustique-bound Marlena Smathurst and zoologist Ally Saige, who’s headed to the Singita Game Reserves in South Africa, are others. “What’s missing today is fantasy,” says Fugel. “We need that, we need fiction. And coming up with a great story, it’s entertaining; it’s fun.” It goes without saying that the easy, breezy offerings — there are different deliveries for each locale — are inspired by the various destinations. Milan features chic jackets, simple LBDs and sequin-embellished tops while Singita, safari-esque merch, like zebra-print frocks. A core collection of basics — muscle tanks; hoodie jackets — will continue alongside the more fashion-y, thematic items from season to season. Wholesale prices, meanwhile, range from $45 for camisoles to $450 for coats.
“I did a lot of research in terms of what you need at each place,” says Fugel, adding that she created imaginary itineraries, starting with the moment each character gets off the plane. To wit, the Mustique girl has “clothes for playing tennis, sunset horseback riding, island-hopping on a catamaran….It’s whatever you would take with you, the total package,” says Fugel. She’s even delved into the nitty-gritties of weather and temperature; her Singita April delivery, for example, coincides with the best time to go on safari. And come February 2009, when the designer launches an e-commerce site for the line, she plans on turning travel agent, as well. Each of her chosen spots will include recommendations on where to dine, places to stay and shop, and so on. “So it’s one click and everything’s there,” she says. “I went through it all as if I was planning the trip for myself.”
That globe-trotting mind-set will resonate in everything from the buyer line sheets — laid out like itineraries — to the showroom, done up with subtle airport motifs. Fugel is also looking to expand on her current store base with hotel, spa and resort retail outlets.
But Travel Jersey isn’t simply about mining geographic inspiration. Fugel is quick to point out that, like other designers, she’s always been influenced by a certain wanderlust. What separates this from her main Yansi Fugel line, launched in 1993, are the seasonless — “we really have to take the seasons out of the [fashion] calendar” — and functional aspects. Here, everything’s cut from wrinkle-resistant knit jersey, making the garments easy, convenient and very packing-efficient. So take that, American Airlines and your check-in baggage fee.
“The clothes pack to nothing, and you can wear and layer the pieces in different ways,” says Fugel, noting that she recently went on a 10-day trip to China with a single carry-on. “I don’t even bother with checking luggage now. You roll onto the plane, you roll out. What ends up taking the most room are the shoes and cosmetics.”
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