You know, it’s funny because I grew up always going to different places – I’ve never really looked at the world as having a lot of borders. From a young age, my parents never took me to the same place twice. It was never glamorous places, it was more about them wanting me to experience different cultures, accents, foods to make me understand the world better. And I think it imprinted such a strong point of inspiration for me. It’s what makes me feel excited about life in general – getting to experience and push the boundaries, so to speak.
With all that ingrained, it was quite a crazy feeling having it completely cut off for the best part of two years. I think, like so many people, I started to get too comfortable as a result – being at home, being in your bubble, feeling a sense of safety. It was something I’d never really experienced before.
So when a friend made the suggestion to go away for a week or so at the end of January just to escape the cold English winter it felt almost like an extreme one. It’s not something I’d done before; usually there’s a short break over Christmas and new year and then I’m straight back in it so the thought of taking an extended break just seemed so foreign to me. In retrospect, I’m so glad he pushed me to do that because when we landed, it was like that moment in a movie when it goes from black and white to colour.
We drove through the desert from Dubai to Zighy Bay, and turned off through the gates into the Six Senses resort. But then, instead of going into the main entrance, we started going up this super-windy mountain track. We got out at the top and, without a moment to question what we were doing, these guys strapped a parachute to us and said: ‘Okay now run’ and gestured toward the edge of the cliff. ‘And when I say “sit” you sit’ was the only other instruction and, all of a sudden we were taking off into the air.
It’s really like being a bird. You’re just kind of…floating. And such a stark contrast; the juxtaposition of this beautiful turquoise blue sea against this dry desert was so beautiful. It was an unforgettable way to arrive to say the least.
Right away I was completely inspired by the service and the experience from the paragliding arrival into the main area, and being taken to the villa – it all felt so seamless, organic and, if you’ll excuse the pun, grounded.
I like to think that my brand, Métier, is a luxury service business in a way. Each of our leather goods is designed to serve our customers by elegantly solving the pain points they experience in both every day and overnight journeys. I feel strongly that a luxury product should be as seamless and refined as a luxury service, like a hotel, so it’s unsurprising that I have always drawn so much inspiration from hospitality – and obviously Six Senses are world-class at what they do. In particular, I love that every detail reflects uncompromised luxury, but in a way that’s completely unpretentious. People are not showy, it’s just an incredibly relaxed environment, and done to such a degree where everything is taken care of without the guest being aware of the effort that has gone into it. Exactly what we strive to achieve at Métier.
We were keen to learn a bit more about Six Senses sustainability efforts while we were there – they’re doing so much interesting work to become a fully circular economy. We took a private tour through their water filtration system and saw how they recycle the grey water and how they repurpose used glass into other things like soap dishes. There’s a small farm on the property and then a bigger Zighy farm further away where they get all their fruits and vegetables. These aren’t even things they necessarily publicise as a group, it’s just inherent ideals and values. It was both fascinating and inspiring to learn about their initiatives and long term ambitions.
Then, wow, there was the Omani food. On our last night we went to a very traditional feast where they cooked lamb underneath the sand covered by rocks for a very long time. It was served with all the traditional meze style food and the chef explained the process and story behind the meal. There was such a sense of pride, it was intoxicating. I have always loved that food has the power to bring people together and break barriers. As you literally break bread together, you viscerally share your culture and invite people to take a seat at the table with you. Any pretence quickly erodes– I love to experience these moments. It’s why if I wasn’t doing what I am doing now, I wanted to train as a chef.
Of the Arabic countries I have visited – Turkey, Morocco, Qatar and Oman – where so much of the architecture is rooted in geographical shapes, my eye is always drawn to the symmetry and balance of the architecture.
I studied sculpture; I have always loved to create shapes and my time sketching in the studio is some of the best moments in my day. But equally I love math, too – so I also studied business. Both of these passions are reflected in my design. Our products start with functionality at their base – the mathematical; setting the guardrails of what you need to achieve. Then I colour in the lines, so to speak, with developing the shape and choosing the right materials; the aesthetic design aspects. It’s that push and pull, the left-brain/right-brain that makes a lot of sense to me.
Even just functionally travelling again reminded me of the practical pain points we experience from travel. How stressful it is not to know where your passport is or whether you’ve lost your charger or when you come home and can’t remember where you’ve put your house keys and you’re terrified you’re not going to be able to get in. Not to mention all of the various vaccination and testing paperwork. It’s all manageable if you have the right functionality to ease your experience. That’s where we come in.
When I got back, my team were like: ‘Whoa, you need to be travelling again more often’. I’d returned totally refreshed, inspired and reset. I think it’s just so important to get out of your bubble, see different things and remember, while it’s such a big world, that we’re all connected.
We need to make time to get out of our own worlds. Honestly, you never regret it, no matter how busy or daunting your schedule and to-do list seem. You remember again how worthwhile it is to really feed your soul – it sounds quite cliched but it’s true. There’s a reason why people live for travelling. It’s because we are inherently social beings, we’re meant to be together and exchanging ideas. There’s something extremely powerful about it.
Get out of your comfort zone at one of our most adventurous escapes
As told to Richard MacKichan. Additional photography by Melissa Morris