My Life In Travel: Stephen Jones, milliner

'I'd like to travel around the world like a student'

First holiday memory?

Mullion Cove in Cornwall, with my parents. We stayed in a cottage with a housekeeper, who made me eat bananas. I was brought up in Liverpool, and in those days there were no motorways so we set off at 4am and arrived there at night.

Best holiday?

Sri Lanka. At Central Saint Martins college, one of my best friends was Sri Lankan, so I went to visit him and I was able really to experience the Sri Lankan mentality, hospitality and culture. Friends of mine run the Sun House hotel in Galle, so it was great to go there, too; it's gorgeous.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

I love Portmeirion. It's very un-British in a way, because it's such a place of fantasy. It's so charming and was my favourite place as a child. I love it as an adult, too – how it looks, and its spectacular location. I grew up by the seaside but live in a terrace in London now, so I love going there to watch the sun going down.

What have you learnt from your travels?

Travelling is a great inspiration for my work. Whenever I go abroad I notice things like the shape of a mountain or a fabulous hat that somebody is wearing. I recently went to Lord Howe Island in Australia, which is the most extraordinary place. It's very remote and like being in the 1950s. The maximum speed is 20mph, there's a gong for dinner, nobody locks the front door and everyone cycles. It was a very inspirational place.

Ideal travelling companion?

A Liberty notebook. I never leave home without it. I always have it with me to write a diary, do sketches and make notes.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I love being a beach bum, but why would you go somewhere if it wasn't for the culture? I never go on a two-week holiday, it's always tacked on to a business trip – it's the variety that makes things exciting.

Greatest travel luxury?

I travel all the time and I think travelling itself is a luxury. It's inspiring and invigorating and a great privilege of our time.

Holiday reading?

I often take books relevant to my next collection. I think I am the only person in the world who would drag half of his baggage allowance in a load of books of Fifties flower arrangements to Australia.

Where has seduced you?

Sri Lanka, because of the combination of the most extraordinary things: the tropics, the wacky British sensibility, the people, the glamour, the green of the tea plantations... Being by a lake on the south coast at dusk and watching ibises coming down to roost is just a wonderful experience as you listen to chants from the Buddhist temples mixed with the tinkling of an ice-cream van.

Better to travel or arrive?

I do enjoy travelling; it's time to switch off. I go to Paris at least once a week on the Eurostar and I really enjoy watching Kent and northern France whizzing past.

Worst travel experience?

I was paddling in the Sea of Cortez in Baja California and trod on a stingray. Its barb lodged between my Achilles tendon and the bone. I was 30 miles from the nearest clinic and was the only one in my party who could drive. It was the most painful thing.

Worst holiday?

Going camping in the South of France when I was a child. There was an absolute downpour and our tent collapsed on top of us. I had to sleep in the car for two nights with my two older sisters, who were bickering and taking it out on me.

Worst hotel?

A hotel in Cornwall. I had gone down there for a friend's 50th birthday and there were lots of fashion people staying. I had a design meeting on the Sunday morning, so I went down for breakfast first at 8am. The waitress told me to move from the table because it was reserved and sat me at a table right at the back by the kitchen, even though I was only going to have a quick cup of coffee. I asked if I could have a paper and she told me they didn't get them on a Sunday.

Best hotel?

The Plaza Athénée in Paris, which is just across from my workroom at Dior. I had a room there and in a funny way it was very low-key, but very beautifully done. It wasn't too glamorous; the pitch of it was perfect.

Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive?

From LAX airport to Desert Hot Springs. There's a gorgeous hotel in Desert Hot Springs called Hope Springs with pools heated by the San Andreas fault line and amazing flowering cacti around it.

Best meal abroad?

In a noodle bar just outside Tokyo. A Japanese friend took me late at night to a truck drivers' pull-in on the motorway. We had noodles in a delicious soup. She told me that truck drivers are the most difficult people to please and are the real gourmet eaters of Japan.

First thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?

Sadly, turn my mobile phone on. Then I'll go out for a walk, no matter how tired I am.

Dream trip?

The idea of having a gap year came in after I had left college so I never bummed around South-east Asia. I would like to buy a round-the-world ticket and travel like a student for a bit.

Favourite city?

Paris; when I'm taking a taxi from Dior to Galliano along the Seine it's the most drop-dead gorgeous place I've ever seen.

Where next?

To New York and then the Hamptons for the weekend. I'm doing a solo exhibition in Antwerp in September so I've been going there a lot. In July, I'm having a week in the Cotswolds with some friends, which I'm really looking forward to.

Stephen Jones has designed a Royal Ascot hat collection for the Dorchester Collection's new luxury country house hotel, Coworth Park, near Ascot

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