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Meet Miami's Own Designer Behind The Nomadic Collector

For accessories certain to whisk you away to faraway places, one need look no further than designer Stefani De La O’s The Nomadic Collector handbags and luggage. Born in Costa Rica and raised in Miami, Stefani is a self-professed nomad with a proclivity for traveling to exotic corners of the earth such as Morocco, Turkey, St. Tropez, St, Barths, Brazil and beyond. Channeling her keen sense of wanderlust, Stefani’s collection of handbags and luggage comprised of natural skins and wood beckon one to rove the world. We strike up a conversation with the jetsetter here.

What is the story behind the brand’s name? The Nomadic Collector is intended for all those who, like me, believe that travel is a state of mind. Paul Theroux once said, ‘Travel is at its most rewarding when it ceases to be about reaching a destination and becomes indistinguishable from living your life.’ The Nomadic Collector is about collecting experiences not things, our pieces are meant to commemorate the experiences of your unique journey.

You were born in Costa Rica and your handbags are a nod to your nature-loving heritage — explain how. I was indeed born in Costa Rica but it stopped being home base when I was 4. However, we kept a home there and returned at least twice a year. All our homes were full of antiques and family heirlooms dating to the early 17th century, so craftsmanship and quality are for me synonymous with beauty and efficiency. 

I was drawn to wood, through smell, a famous wood carver had a studio near our Costa Rican home and the odor drew me in.  Yet the innate uniqueness of each log made it my favorite material. Its ability to be molded, its strength and longevity keep me in awe. I have had leather workers make my saddles and my bags since I was a child — I still own the first suitcases they ever made me and use them on every trip. 

How are your creations sustainable? The fashion industry is a heavy-polluting industry second only to oil production. Therefore it is paramount that we as a company contribute to the planet rather than destroy it.  In an era of disposable fashion, our first approach is in our ideology — producing products that are meant to last and are void of frivolous trends so their relevance as a fashion piece lasts as long as the product does. 

From a more tangible aspect, Costa Rica as a nation aims to be carbon neutral by 2020. The cattle industry is on route to attaining this goal by 2018. Our leather is truly a byproduct of free range, livestock and 100 percent of the animal is used, even the blood is used as a component in biofuel. Our wood is sourced from trees that were grown for logging.  While we have many philanthropic plans in mind, we are beginning as a one-percent-for-the-planet company, whose proceeds will go toward reforestation. 

Fashion is a rough and tumble world! What is the best advice you can give budding designers? Like all things in life, ‘The starting point of all achievement is desire.’  Those who succeed are the ones who work harder than the rest. My first advice would be to stop using the word “problem.” You are a designer — obstacles and deviations from the plan should be embraced as new possibilities to create.   

Wanderlust is embedded in your DNA. Where is your go-to vacation spot? Anywhere I haven’t been — a place that doesn’t welcome tourists and is off the map sounds right up my alley. Right now, travel is limited to work trips but Dakar, the Senegalese coast and Zanzibar are in the works. 

Describe the perfect day: Every damn day.