The connoisseur: Jennifer Chamandi
The Lebanese-born banker-turned-shoe designer – whose fans include Amal Clooney and Bella Hadid – creates sought-after heels with her signature ‘Eye of the Needle’ design. Here, she reminisces about her most memorable family trips, favourite hotel and who she can’t travel without
I can’t wait to go back to Milan. I miss travelling to Italy and staying at the Bvlgari Hotel, where I feel most at home. My shoe manufacturer is also based close to the city in a town called Parabiago, and I have to say it’s been very challenging over the past year creating a shoe collection over Zoom! I miss touching the shoes, the smell of the leathers and having creative meetings (in-person) with my pattern designer Rolando, my manufacturer Lorenzo and his father Vittorio – who is 81 and still comes to the factory every day. He also crafts all my shoe straps by hand. The factory has become my Italian family and I love it there. Of course, no trip to Milan would be complete without having my favourite pasta, ‘spaghetti and tomato’ from the Bvlgari Hotel’s restaurant, Il Ristorante, where the three-Michelin-starred chef Niko Romito creates a dream recipe from the simplest ingredients.
The best souvenir I’ve ever brought home is an apron from my stay at the Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco in the province of Siena, Tuscany. I have a passion for food and cooking so, while my husband and I were on holiday there, we decided to take some private lessons with the chef at the hotel. He taught us how to make homemade pasta and at the end of the class gifted us an apron. Now, whenever I wear it at home, it brings back all the memories of that trip and of that year. It turned out to be a very special holiday as it’s where we discovered that I was pregnant with twin girls, and so we called one of our daughters Sienna. It was a magical time.
I had my most memorable meal at Mirazur in Menton. Every summer we go to stay at our holiday home in the south of France with the girls. Last year, I was lucky enough to get a reservation during our visit in July (when lockdown was briefly lifted). Mirazur is currently the number one restaurant in the world. If you know me, you’ll know that, after shoes, food is my second passion in life! (I once considered following the Cordon Bleu Grand Diplôme). I’m in awe of Michelin-starred chefs – they are so creative and evoke such extraordinary emotions when creating dishes. It was nine courses, and the theme of the meal was flowers. The plates were beautifully decorated and we ate all sorts – from seafood to vegetarian dishes and a bit of truffle.
The best hotel I’ve stayed at is the Four Seasons in Florence. My husband and I got married in Florence, so the city holds a special place in our hearts. The Four Seasons is where we stayed and had our pre-wedding party. The Giardino della Gherardesca is a true sanctuary and is one of the biggest Florentine gardens. The hotel’s swimming pool is pure bliss, and, whenever I have the chance to visit, I instantly get immersed back into the magic of the place.
My greatest travel companion is my husband. We love to travel together and, luckily, we have the same taste when it comes to hotels, restaurants, museums and art galleries. Although, as much as I love to explore the world with him, he is the worst flying companion. He falls asleep the moment we take off, no matter how much sleep he’s had! Also, I must admit, I can’t travel without my laptop. I know that travel is for disconnecting but, if you run your own company, you will understand. I am most productive when I work on a plane!
To destress on holiday, I gift myself a facial at the spa. For me, holidays are all about slowing down and taking time for myself because I don’t get a lot of time to do that these days. It’s in these calm moments where I recharge and refuel.
I get inspired by everything around me. Any time that I travel, my eyes are open and I’m really in awe of everything and life. I admire anything that’s been created, whether it’s a little mug, a plate, or a dish that’s beautifully been put together – I could get inspired by that. If I had to pick a place, I have to say London. I design all my shoes here. It’s been my home for the past 17 years and the vibrant energy of the city inspires me so much. From walking around the streets to the incredible window-dressing designs – I feel very blessed to call London my home.
If I didn’t live in London, I’d live in Milan. I’d love to have a little holiday home in Tuscany – that would be a dream. I would never leave London, but Milan has changed so much in the last five years. It’s so much more dynamic and there’s an energy that’s so cosmopolitan – it’s buzzing, and people are so wonderfully dressed there. I’d also like to be closer to my factory. I just love everything Italian.
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