Cactus juice and cashmere throws: what we bought on our summer holidays

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It's amazing how many of us lose our shopping savvy the minute we step off a plane and onto unfamiliar tarmac. But if you take a little time to think about what you like and sidestep the beaten track, you can bring back something you'll keep for longer than the time it takes your tan to fade. Take a tip from the movers and shakers of the design world who, unlike many of us, venture beyond the confines of Duty Free more than once a year, and can spot a souvenir worthy of note from 100 paces. These are the people who spot the trends, search out the exotic and shape what we buy for our bodies and homes. Kara O'Reilly asked 10 style gurus what they seek out whenever they head away from home

Simon Alderson: Along with his partner Tony Cunningham, Simon began selling original 20th-Century furniture by the biggest names in Modern Design from a stall in Camden Market. They've upgraded to a shop at 274 Upper Street, Nl (0171) 288 1996.

'I sell things for a living, so when I go away I don't actively shop - I'm more interested in seeing the places I go to. However, if I was in New York and a piece of furniture by George Nelson that I didn't already own happened to fall in front of me, then I'd buy it. He's my favourite American designer and I'd really love one of his Marshmallow sofas. Repros are now available but I want an original with all its charm and pedigree.'

Anouska Hempel (Lady Weinberg). Designer and hotelier. Owner of Blakes Hotel, in London. Her latest hotel The Hempel will open later this year. Blakes, 33 Roland Gardens, SW7 (0171 370 6701).

"I go anywhere and everywhere in the world and I always look for the main street and market and always with shopping in mind, but no list, I don't look for specific things but I look for my couture shop, design team, Blakes, The Hempel. I look for everything and nothing. I try to keep an open mind, but I do prefer shopping in the country of origin - Armani in Milan is different from London, as are Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, I look for anything that catches my eye in a foreign country, not just when I'm on holiday, but when I'm travelling anywhere. My recent best buy was a cashmere shawl to go over the bottom of the bunk in the boat. The colour was perfect and not something I expected to find in the middle of summer in Sardina."

Bill Amberg: Started off designing gorgeously-soft leather bags and has expanded to leather walls, floors and furniture. His shop at 10 Chepstow Road, Notting Hill Gate (0171 727 3560) is opening at the beginning of September.

"When I'm away I usually stock up on food, so this summer in Spain I bought ham, and in France, foie gras and so on. Whenever I go somewhere sunny I buy whatever the local market throws up - oils, jams, jellies. You can usually find pretty strange things when you're away, curious objects like dried iguanas. I also buy bags. I'm interested in looking at the different shapes of basketry and the way people carry things, or tie things up to carry them - I have used some of these ideas in my work. I've really fallen in love with some fabric sarongs which I use all the time. Some are from Tanzania, some from Indonesia, I pick them up wherever I see them. They're the best alternative pyjamas, and I wear them around the house.

"I always go to the markets in Paris like Clignancourt to see what's new. I'm in New York I often go to the big department stores like Barneys to see if they've got anything of interest. I go to the big Army and Navy store there to check out the workwear, and I like to go into snowboarding shops because I love the materials and I think the detailing on the clothes is great. That look has been very influential."

Anya Hindmarch. Purveyor of exquisitely beautiful handbags to the fashion cognoscenti. 91 Walton Street, SW3 (0171 584 7644).

"It's always exciting to buy things that you can't get anywhere else. I love New York for weird stocking fillers, especially 'nerdy' drug store things such as tooth-whitening paste and sour ball drops, Visine eye drops, Carmex lip balm, Maybelline mascara, Hanes T-shirts. Kiehls was a wonderful find before it came over here - it's a very unusual, rich, but not at all greasy, hand cream. This summer I went to one of my favourite shops, a little place behind the market in St Tropez which sells brilliant kids' shoes: little mini Tods, tiny flat ballet pumps, espadrilles which lace around the ankle; I also love Duane Reed - a drug store in New York, and any foreign flea markets." Terence Conran: Founder of Habitat and The Conran Shop.

"I don't go abroad with the idea of shopping, although being a shopkeeper I look at shops abroad with a keen interest. I wouldn't buy anything abroad unless I was passionate about it. I usually find things that I can't resist in flea markets - like a scale model airplaneI bought in Bermondsey, and a large 1930s metal table base in desperate need of repair in a market in Isle sur Sorgue and had huge difficulty getting it delivered. It sits in pride of place in my apartment in its repaired state. Another buy from the same market was a 1930s table football game which I subsequently sold in The Conran Shop and always regretted. At the same market I saw a large charcuterie bench decorated with carved boars and an absolutely beautiful 19th-century model sailing boat which was big enough for kids to sit in, I foolishly didn't buy either. I love going to flea and food markets. I go to Provence each summer and I always go to Arles which has a wonderful food market. I always bring back the finest olive oil in the world from Mausanne - it can be a problem as it quite often leaks."

Andrew Purves: With his wife Pauline, Andrew is the driving force behind Purves & Purves - an independent outlet for the best in new, modern (and affordable) design. Purves & Purves, 80-81 & 83 Tottenham Court Road, W 1 (0171) 580 8223,

"When abroad we tend to steer clear of touristy shops and areas. We seem to be drawn to shops because we own one, but we seek them out in real neighbourhoods, and we buy the really good basics of the country we are in. When we were in China we found a household shop in a backstreet selling pots, pans, bowls and plates. You can find similar stuff anywhere, but when it's made for import it often lacks the original's simplicity of design. And the prices were ridiculous - beautiful handpainted china bowls for about 10p each. On a trip to New York we spent a day in SoHo. It has none of the glitzy department stores of uptown NY, but it's filled with interesting shops of all types: fashion, food and furniture. Sometimes our finds end up in the shop, like these YardBirds made from old tools. We spotted them on our travels, tracked down the manufacturer in Kentucky and now we are selling them."

Wally Olins: Chairman of Wolff Oalins, the identity and design company established in 1965 and responsible for the corporate images of Orange, BT and Channel 5 among others.

"When I go to the States I like buying books. They sell all kinds of books that you can't get here - especially history books on subjects like the Panama Canal or The Building of Brooklyn Bridge, and architecture books on obscure subjects like Victorian Seattle. In the backstreets of Lisbon in Portugal there are about two or three streets full of secondhand bookshops selling books on Colonial architecture and maps of places like the Portugese Empire in 1897.

"I visit Mexico a lot for work and although I can't stand the food, you can find the most marvellous fruit juices in the breakfast bars there: fresh lime, mango, guava and cactus. I like cactus because it's sort of sweet and sour. A lot of the crafty things you find there are phoney, but there are a couple of shops in Mexico City that sell papier-mache artefacts by local artists. Each one is different, depicting jolly street scenes, aircraft, buses and so on. They're painted the most beautiful bright colours. You find similar things in Africa but I think the Mexican ones are more sophisticated. And Mexican colours are so wonderful. The other thing I seem to have picked up a lot of over the years are hammocks.I think I must have about six of them by now. The only problem with hammocks is they seem like a good idea, but when you get them home you don't know where to put them. In Eastern Europe it's possible to pick up plum, apricot and peach brandies which are clear and a bit like Schnapps. They distil it at home and it's very cheap, pounds 3 - something similar in duty free would cost about pounds 25-pounds 30."

Monica Zipper: The designer behind Zipper Image Landscaping who developes new brand concepts for clients including Biba fashion label.

"I have favourite shops that I can't resist checking out whenever I'm near them - Barneys in New York; the shops in Melrose, LA, The Galeries Gaultier in a little covered mall on the Rue Vivienne in Paris. I have to shop all the time for work and I mix it with my personal shopping and I do get shopped out. I came back from Tokyo a little while ago and didn't look at any shops for a month because of all the amazing things I saw when I was there. I never set out to buy specific things but I go away hoping to be surprised, coming across something I wasn't aware of before. And I always make sure I have room in my suitcase. One of my recent buys was a fish-shaped plastic jug from Tokyo. It's 12ins tall and 6ins wide but I just had to bring it back. Then, this summer when I was in Toronto, I found some glasses that matched it perfectly. That's global shopping for you!"

John Pawson: One of Britain's foremost architects, designed the minimalist Jigsaw flagship store on Bond Street. His Book 'Minimum' is published on September 12 by Phaidon (pounds 60).

"I never have time to shop at home but when I travel for work I pick things up all over the place. My wife Catherine is originally from South Africa and we go there every Christmas. I always bring back a box of fresh mangos, which taste nothing like the ones you get over here, and a non- caffeine tea called Rooibosch, which is very light yet tastes of proper tea. There is also a milk chocolate mint crisp, made by Cadburys or Nestle which isn't made here. It's not at all posh but it's very good served with ice cream. You can also find this great old-fashioned shaving cream called 'Prep' which has menthol in it so your skin feels very soft after you've used it. Apparently you can also treat sunburn with it - it's supposedly a sort of panacea for every sore.

"Catherine loves prosciutto, and proper Parmesan. So when I go to Milan I pick it up in a shop on the Via Monti Napoleone, it just tastes much better from there. I try to get a flight back that arrives at dinner time and then she doesn't have to cook. Another shop on the Via sells amazing heavy brass corkscrews, which have a really nice action when you use them - other people seem to take a fancy to them too, as the ones I buy always go missing."

Joseph Ettedgui: Designer, fashion retailer and restaurateur.

"I don't go shopping with ideas in my head. For me it's a luxury when I am attracted to something and can buy it then and there. I buy things that inspire me, and they can be anything.

"When I go to big cities I visit the institutions like Tiffanys or Hermes - traditional places that have been there a long time. If I'm on holiday I prefer to go market shopping. I go to cities for work things, markets for my home; and I love that contrast. I always go to the markets in France. I never have time to in London. When I was in Tokyo I saw watches like little robots and had to bring them back. When I got home a friend told me I could get them here. But when you buy things here you don't see them with the same eyes. When you're away you have time to enjoy shopping, it's luxurious. I love giving presents, so if I see things that I know are right for friends I buy them there and then and save them up for the right time. When you have to go looking for presents you can never find the right thing. I had a very adventurous shopping trip in Bangkok this summer. I fell in love with a huge statue, it was just the thing I was looking for, for my home. But it was very late and the shop was closing, I couldn't speak the language well and then I had to work out how to get it home."