At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we always want to make sure we’re doing it right. So we’re talking to globe-trotters in all of our luxury fields—food, wine, fashion, cars, real estate—to learn about their high-end hacks, tips, and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.
Artist and creative director Andrew Yang first gained widespread acclaim a decade ago when he began creating one-off fashion dolls, which quickly became staples of high-end window displays in department stores across the world, from Joyce in Hong Kong to Barneys New York and Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Fans and collectors include Oprah Winfrey, Thom Brome, Lady Gaga, and Burberry’s Riccardo Tisci.
Now he’s moving beyond doll designing and creative direction via the launch of his own lifestyle brand, with one of the first items a travel-friendly, luxury silk robe and a sleep mask studded with Swarowski crystals. Domestically, he’s loyal to Delta, though he’ll travel on almost any airline for international trips; each year, he logs around 80,000 miles.
Yang lives in Los Angeles with his partner, Daniel Randell. Here are his travel tips.
Make the trip to the airport more than a drive.
I always strike up conversation with my driver when I’m going to LAX. It’s a little bit like a free therapy session, as I go through everything—I tell them about the trip, and it’s like real-time prep. What are my expectations? What do I have to think about, and what do I have to achieve?
The best shopping in the world is in Belgium.
My favorite shopping city in the world—my favorite city, period—is Antwerp in Belgium. It’s small and quiet, and feels like a place you can retreat to but still be part of the world. I fantasize about moving there. It’s known for the Antwerp Six, the designers Dries van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester [among others], and it’s a very stylish city. So the resale stores are magic.
I went to one, Rosier 41, and they had suit jackets from Raf Simons for under $300. It was really a bizarre, insane little find. There was just enough stuff that you had to dig to find the special gems, which makes it fun. My favorite local designer there is Cedric Jacquemyn. He has an atelier on 29 Gijzelaarsstraat, where he hosts amazing seasonal sample sales.
Get business class seats to Asia for the price of economy.
I have great agent in China. When I told her I didn’t know if the client’s budget allowed me to book business class, she said to look at the local airlines, like Hainan Xiamen or China Airlines, since most U.S. customers stick to the brands they know or can get their miles on. These Chinese airlines can be anywhere from 20-40 percent cheaper [than their U.S. counterparts].
If you travel off-peak, say right after Chinese New Year in March, you may be able to score a business-class seat for the standard cost of an economy seat—which I’ve done. Always check Ctrip, which is the Chinese answer to Expedia; it has an English version and has really good hotel bundles, too. And anyway, I like the local Chinese airlines because they’re a bit of a time warp, like luxury from 15 years ago but very comfortable. You can stretch out without worrying, wake up, and feel amazing.
The one item to keep in your toiletry bag—and desk drawer.
I always have to have a bottle of Naphcon-A eye drops with me. You might come out of the plane after a long flight, and it doesn’t matter how many hours you slept or not slept; if you have a bright, interesting gaze, that’s what people see and remember. Naphcon-A is hydrating and refreshing—and the fastest-working, too.
I’ve adopted them in everyday life, not just while traveling. If I’m going out for a meeting and have been working all day and feel exhausted, I use a few drops, and people will say “Wow! You look so awake, so bright and interested.”
The best massage isn’t always the most luxurious.
My favorite spa in the world is in New Delhi, the Auraveda Wellness Center. There’s an alleyway of massage parlors and places like that. Massages, for Indians, are a functional activity, so it’s more like going to a health clinic than a five-star luxury experience, but I had this really lovely massage by a cute little old man in a gorgeous, small, clean space.
Hack officious immigration officers with an outré outfit.
A few years ago, before the days of Global Entry and passport scanning, I was doing the fashion week circuit, with exhibitions in London, Milan, and Paris. London had the worst airports, in terms of customs and everything; it didn’t matter how many other people were there, it always took longer than any other city in the world. I was complaining to my friend [fashion blogger] BryanBoy. He looked at me point blank and told me that the best way to swiftly move through the airport is to dress as insanely as possible. People automatically assume you are supposed to be exactly where you are, say, if you are in a neon-color-blocked fur coat and studded glasses. So I started wearing this amazing full-length silver fox fur coat, and people didn’t mess with me; it was kind of intimidating. On one trip to New York wearing that coat, people literally stepped aside for me in the security line. And it was a great travel blanket, too—it turned every seat into a first class one, it was so cozy.
The true test of quality for any hotel.
My favorite thing about any hotel I stay in? Silence. I really like a room that is soundproof so I won’t hear anybody in the hall. So when I enter for the first time, I listen when the door closes. If it closes loudly, so will all the other doors, and so you’ll hear them every time—the cleaner coming in, or jet lagged travelers at 5 a.m. It’s a great test of the quality of the hotel room design. And soundproofed silence is what marks out a luxurious hotel experience for me.
For an adventurous eater such as Yang, nowhere comes close to Osaka.
Osaka is a special gem—it’s like Japan’s answer to San Francisco, with a sense of family and country pride and friendliness. It’s less formal, too; I mean, you can’t go to Japan without offending someone, I’ve found, except there. The Hankyu Umeda Station in Osaka is an amazing glimpse into the wonder of Japanese metropolitan life. It is a labyrinth of shopping and restaurants, but also tiny smoking rooms filled with exasperated goth girls, older businessmen, and tourists side-by-side silently puffing away while waiting for their train. My agent in Japan was determined to find this place there, one of the oldest Japanese restaurants specializing in oden-style food. (That’s Japanese hot pot.) It’s called Takoume Bunten. Going into the restaurant itself is like stepping into a time machine, all dark, wooden beams and a giant vat of dashi cooking up everyone’s meal. They do have an English menu, but there were no foreigners to be seen. I always want to try the weirdest thing on the menu, which was whale sperm. It was lightly fried, like a halloumi ball, and kind of tasted like a fine French cheese.
Goofiness is essential to great, standout travel photography.
I take a travel doll with me everywhere I go. I’m a firm believer in the power of play as meditation and rejuvenation, and social media has become an extra job in and of itself, but if I’m posting a portrait of the doll looking out the window at a cityscape, it feels like less work than a selfie and more interesting. It jazzes up Instagram, and you get to poke fun at selfie culture. One time, I was at the Forbidden Palace in Beijing, and it was so crowded that there was no way I was going to get the golden photo I wanted of the moment, so I took one of the dolls there, instead. It’s a different mindset than sketching or reading a book, or catching up on the newsfeed, and can add texture to a lot of those boring “in between” travel moments. The doll’s requirements are that she is easy to pack and dressed in one all-purpose travel look—and pose ready.