Former fashionista Elizabeth Kiester gave up a crazy-glam-hectic New York lifestyle (complete with full Sex and the City trappings, requisite high heels and sashimi-platter lunch dates) to give something back to the Khmer people she’d fallen in love with on a trip to Cambodia.
She sold her apartment, packed her bags and (quite literally) set up shop in Siem Reap. Which is where we discovered her, while researching star stays for our next hotel guide, Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection: South-East Asia (out later this year).
The result, Wanderlust, is a lifestyle concept boutique selling hand-made clothing and homewares, all created by local women – it’s been so successful that there are already three outlets in Cambodia.
Tell us a bit about Wanderlust, Elizabeth – how did it come about? What drew you to Cambodia in the first place?
I came to Cambodia in 2008 on a short-term volunteer holiday through an American NGO. I wanted to take a vacation, but I really wanted to do something. I was at crossroads in my life, and the idea of a week on a beach just didn’t appeal at the time. I have always loved south-east Asia and Cambodia was on my ‘must check out’ list. So I came to Siem Reap and installed water pumps in rural villages, painted a pagoda, and taught songs and English to the kids at a local orphanage.
I just loved the magic of the place: the light, the sounds, the unfamiliar and strange smells, and the sense of hope that I felt everywhere, in every eye and every smile – even in every tear I saw shed. I wanted to be part of it on a deeper level, and try to do what I could to help instill a sense of security in the Khmer people, and above all, to celebrate and make noise about all of it.
Shopping in New York, anyone? Attention, all lovers of vintage clothes, second-hand finds, thrift stores, fleamarkets, retro furniture, antiques fairs and rummaging through any or all of the above (especially those based in the Big Apple or planning to stay in New York anytime soon): the excellent Brooklyn blogspot Brownstoner has reminded us that Brooklyn Flea’s annual winter pop-up market is back!
… and, as the saying goes, this time it’s bigger and better than ever. As a Brit, I love the fact that it’s referred to as the Dumbo Flea, however, more sophisticated readers will know that this actually signifies a specific location in New York, near the Brooklyn Bridge, and is not a reference to what we in the UK might call a ‘white elephant’ stall (Bring and Buy ring any bells, anyone?).
Sometimes we’ve got to be pretty imaginative when visiting hotel rooms during the transitional golden hour of the hotel maid, but our most recent research trip to NYC was a lesson in a new kind of creative thinking. It’s safe to say that I had never thought of purchasing a personal hard-hat for hotel site visits until this trip. We’ve got faith in the grand plans of groovy hotel designers working in the Big Apple though, and on our shortlist for upcoming Smithiness you’ll find the following:
In our series of insider interviews with hoteliers, we caught up with Philip Truelove (what a name!) – GM at Bob de Niro’s super-cool hangout, The Greenwich Hotel in New York – to find out what makes him tick and reveal some behind-the-scenes goings-on (You lookin’ at me?). The Greenwich is located in – clue’s in the name folks – Greenwich Village, just north of TriBeCa, and is one of Mr & Mrs Smith’s favourite New York boutique hotels.
Introduce yourself to our captive audience: tell us who you are, where you are, and what you do…
My background is influenced by a multitude of countries: I was born in Sri Lanka, educated in Europe and, as well as working in both London and Paris, have worked in three major US cities – Washington DC, Los Angeles and, of course, New York. I have owned an Inn on an island in Maine for the last 13 years and am General Manager at the Greenwich Hotel, New York.
What makes the Greenwich Hotel so special? How would you describe its style?