Phoebe Dahl – one of our in-the-know judges for the Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards – has demonstrable experience of travel as a life-changing force. The clothing company she founded, Faircloth + Supply, was inspired by trips to Japan and India, and its profits are used to support global charity work. Her instantly recognisable surname may denote her as the descendant of beloved children’s author Roald; however, this entrepreneur with radical ideas and an eye for an ensemble, flies her own flag.
The native Angeleno also has a thirst for exploration and hops on a plane whenever she can, so we quizzed her on guilt-free beauty products, inspiring travel hotspots and how to make the world a better place…
Hi Phoebe – you’re judging the Local Hotel Hero award, but for Smith and well-travelled people such as yourself, local could include anywhere in the world – which is your favourite place to fly away to?
I definitely can’t pick one destination! My top three are Amsterdam, Mexico City and Morocco.
On the go, do you prefer a wheelie case or backpack?
The wheelie case. I’m obsessed with the high-quality suitcases from Away – they have one that’s small enough for carry-on that has a phone-charging port attached! Their colour range is amazing, too – I have the yellow one as it stands out everywhere. It’s where I stash my travel essentials: my Kindle, notebook, and camera.
What souvenirs do you save space in your suitcase for?
I don’t really buy souvenirs. I love taking photos, and I consider those to be the best reminders of a place.
We concur (although we are partial to the more unusual travel trinkets); speaking of holiday memories, which travel experience most affected you?
My most recent trip to Morocco had a huge impact on me. I had been searching for some clarity on an issue I was going through, and felt stuck in a rut, and I was in need of inspiration. So, I decided to spend a night in the Sahara desert, where I’d have no connection to the modern world and could think clearly – it was a powerful experience!
What are your must-have natural beauty products?
I love organic skincare brand Cocokind. They have an amazing rose-water-infused facial toner, which keeps you refreshed throughout a flight. It’s important to rehydrate your body – inside and out – too while travelling, all-over body moisturiser is a necessity, and I realised the importance of drinking lots of water.
Are you an ‘on to the next adventure’ or a ‘we’ve arrived, and now, relax’ kind of traveller?
Adventures, absolutely – I love, love, love to explore. I don’t understand how people can arrive and just stay in the hotel – not me! I like to get out there and see and experience as much as I possibly can. I genuinely attempt to fit in eight meals a day, so that I can try all the local dishes. I’m fascinated by different cultures and I love connecting with people wherever I go.
Any tips to enhance your flying experience?
The streamlined Global Entry system at US airports was a life-changer. I always travel with the cosiest things I own – pillows, blankets, eye masks, earplugs – all the essentials. I get on the plane and make a little nest. I love flying; I just cuddle up with a glass of wine and my book, and I never connect to WiFi, even if it’s available. You technically get to pamper yourself, eat what you want, watch movies, listen to music, write, read… It’s the best.
In what small ways can everyone help to effect change?
I think one of the world’s biggest problems is people not caring about events that don’t affect them directly. Everyone needs to get out of the mindset that one person can’t effect change, when, in fact, it often only takes one person to do so. Kindness has a ripple effect, so lead by example and you never know who you might inspire.
What was the most challenging aspect of developing your clothing brand Faircloth + Supply’s ‘beyond charity’ infrastructure and sourcing ethical suppliers?
It’s heartbreaking to see and experience the devastation our communities around the world go through, but when you realise that you can make a difference and provide infrastructure that could effect change for future generations, that’s unimaginably rewarding. To do so, identify a cause you’re passionate about, then work backwards to get to the root of the problem and find a solution. I travelled through different countries and identified a need, then connected with people who share the same vision and values as myself.
I wanted to find residents of the countries we were donating to, someone with inside expertise, and knowledge of the local culture and society. Many of our collaborators have experienced heartbreak or hatred over their gender, the colour of their skin or their religion; they’ve suffered pain and loss while living in a country in turmoil, but despite their hardships they’ve risen up and raised their voices to make a change for themselves and their communities.
How did the idea for the label come about?
I grew to love textiles and design in my grandma’s antique fabric-and-furniture store in Santa Fe, where she would teach me about antique textiles. She was a collector of French linens and 18th-century farm plaids, and I would sit and sew little hats with her — berets made from these beautiful fabrics – so I took on her passion as my own. I launched Faircloth + Supply in August 2013, after a trip to Japan for meetings, then India, for production. Walking around Tokyo, I was amazed by the way people dressed. There are thousands of eccentric looks, but one in particular grabbed my eye: girls wearing oversize linen dresses over ripped Levi’s jeans with espadrilles. It was simple and minimal – natural utilitarian style – but there was something so beautiful about it. After touring Tokyo’s shops and beautiful linen mills, I left inspired to start designing again.
India was the first third-world country I’d visited, and experiencing its economic strife first-hand affected me greatly. The juxtaposition of the two cities, back to back, struck a chord. On arriving home, I quit my job and started Faircloth + Supply, and that was that! I was fortunate enough to have Vogue write a two-page spread about my line just a few months after launching, which really kickstarted my career.
A special holiday meal The Baja Wrap in black, cream or coral! It’s the perfect little wrap-dress for any occasion.
Hanging out on the beach The Lima Romper – the ideal one-piece for mucking around in like a kid!
Which destination has inspired you the most? And how?
A magical trip to India I took with my mother. I love India, and I feel most at home and peace amid its chaos. It was so nice to show my mother parts of the world she’d never seen before. I love watching someone fall in love with a place, especially one I love so dearly. We were on a work trip sourcing ethically made fabrics, and we just went wherever our journey guided us, with no set plan – an adventure that brought us to the most amazing places. While there, we stayed at beautiful luxury hotel Ahilya Fort, by the banks of the sacred Narmada River. Its sister stay Ahilya by the Sea, in Goa, is equally enchanting.
While in India, we met with an organisation called Women Weave, located in Maheshwar, which empowers women by providing education and employment in the hand-looming industry, largely those living in rural areas, to provide them with an education that will benefit their economic growth and success. Our partnership supports Women Weave’s mission by sourcing their fabrics for our products; each purchase of one of these handcrafted textiles serves as a direct donation.
How did your partnerships with the B Project and General Welfare Pratisthan develop?
Very naturally and organically! I was having dinner with a friend who was working on a documentary called Girl Rising, a film about educating girls worldwide about gender equality in developing countries – an issue I knew little about at the time. I was so intrigued by what my friend told me, I dove straight into research; the deeper I got, the more I felt such a strong pull to the young girls of Nepal. I wanted to align myself with a small grassroots charity so I could be hands-on and work alongside the people involved, rather than just throw money at the problem. I discovered this amazing company in Nepal called General Welfare Pratisthan, and since we teamed up, we’ve sent upwards of 5,000 girls to school – and counting.
My partnership with the B Project came about because it was founded my good friend Bojana Novakovic. We bonded over our mutual love of Nepal at a party, and we’ve collaborated ever since!
Do you have any further partnerships in the pipeline?
I’m in the process of starting my own non-profit animal-rescue organisation. I’m passionate about helping animals, and I volunteer at dog shelters in Los Angeles, but I want to help out on a global scale. I’m an animal lover to the core – that annoying person who stops to point out every cat and pet every dog while out walking.
Which eco-friendly hotels have impressed you?
I love Nomade Tulum – it’s one of my favorite escapes. I love that they host workshops specially for women and healing retreats. And El Fenn, in Marrakech, is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever been to.
Thanks Phoebe! Join the countdown to the Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards 2018. Winners will be announced on 17 January 2018.