From the Road founder Susan Easton scours the globe in search of undiscovered cultures, infusing ancient techniques and craft into their indigenous products. Her latest endeavor is creating cozy scarves, hats, and home accessories from hand spun Alpaca. Watch the video about this lost art of alpaca weaving in Peru and read more about Susan's off-the-grid lifestyle.
How does travel inspire your collection?
I have always been an avid traveler. Everywhere from the mountains of Kyrgyzstan or the monasteries of Bhutan, to the bush land of Kenya or the volcanoes of Rwanda. Experiencing different cultures has been key in my designs. I draw inspiration from what is around me. Sights, sounds, textures?they all play into the finished results. Lately, I have been focused on exploring older cultures in more remote parts of the world. I'm so inspired by their ancient customs, rituals, and techniques.
What is it like working from the road?
It is a dream. It combines everything I love: travel, design, and storytelling. Every day is a completely new adventure.
How do you work with the local artisans and incorporate centuries-old traditions into your collection?
I am not someone who comes to a place with designs in hand and asks to have them created. We usually spend time getting immersed in the culture, meeting the local artisans and getting a sense of the place, the materials, and the techniques. I see how they live and what they create, and then ideas emerge for collaborations. For example, around a high altiplano lake in Peru, I was inspired by the indigenous women's braided hair styles adorned with alpaca, so I created the Josephina Braided Scarves and Hats. In the Ecuadorian Andes, we were introduced to a local finishing technique passed down through generations, which uses thistles to soften blankets after weaving. I decided to work with local artisans there and create the Armando Brush Alpaca Blankets and Pillows.
How does New York and other cities you've lived in inspire your collection?
I've had the opportunity to live in New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Sao Paulo. Each city has their own incredible energy and sense of style. As I travel to remote destinations and see traditional art forms and techniques, I can't help but think about how they can translate into pieces that will work in these urban settings.
Give us an idea of the day in the life of From The Road - from when you arrive at a destination to when an idea becomes concrete.
When I first arrive in a new destination, I like to explore ? I take in the sites and meet people. When I find someone interesting, I always end our conversation by asking them for three people that we should visit and three experiences that we shouldn't miss. This opens up the place in a really interesting way. From these early days, we find our inspiration and form artisan relationships. The designs are developed together from an indigenous process or technique and reinterpreted in a fresh way that neither of us could have come up with on our own. All of the pieces are created locally and then brought back to New York. Throughout the process, we take videos and photos to help share their stories and explain what goes into making each piece.
Is there a city From The Road identifies with most?
I don't actually think we identify with one city. Rather, From The Road loves exploring and learning. We get excited about creating items that celebrate different time-honored techniques that are often overlooked or nearly forgotten.
Describe From the Road in 3 words.
Curious, collaborative, luxurious. We travel the globe with open minds and hearts to learn about other cultures. From these experiences we are able to forge relationships to make limited-edition pieces that merge ancient techniques with a modern aesthetic. I like to say that each design starts with a conversation and ends with a conversation piece.
Your collection of products keeps growing, what creative endeavors are on the horizon?
There are a number of new collaborations on the horizon. We will be in Bolivia later this year and then in Asia for early spring. We are excited to spend time in each place and then see what emerges. I'm currently infatuated with traditional silk-making techniques as well as indigenous weaving and leather-working, so I'd imagine some of those will be showing up in our collection.
Bolivia. Courtesy of Broketravelers
Who is your muse? Describe the From the Road woman.
My muses are the amazing artisans that I meet during my travels. I gain so much from slowing down and learning about who they are what their lives are about. I find inspiration from their culture, daily routines, and rituals. The From The Road woman loves luxury and follows her own compass. She's driven to own that perfect piece that no one else has and wants to know the story behind it.
Tell us about your favorite pieces (or one of them) and where you were when you were inspired to create it.
It is hard to pick just one favorite piece because each piece has its own wonderful backstory. For example, the Peruvian Saturnina Alpaca Hats and Scarves are hand-spun with freshly sheared rustic alpaca using an ancient technique that is close to disappearing. The shape of the Boma bracelets were inspired by the traditional African bush homesteads that house both people and livestock, and each is uniquely hand carved and tethered to locally cured leather.
How would you describe your own style? Please name the three staples of your wardrobe you could never live without.
My style is minimal modern infused with warm elements. I look to texture rather than pattern. I love natural muted colors. I admire simplicity and clarity of form. Three wardrobe staples: a hand woven black alpaca wrap that is perfect for any occasion. I can pair it with leggings and an oversized tee for a long flight or drape it over a little black dress when going out on the town. I love foldable soft leather ballet slippers--so comfy. Lastly, I have a turquoise bead from my last trip to Tibet that I wear on a string close to my heart which helps keep me feel grounded.
Your collection has a strong global vibe, what are some of your favorite cities to visit and why?
I love Buenos Aires (great food, tango dancing, and the markets in San Telmo), Shanghai (high energy and interesting art scene), Barcelona (architecture and food), and Paris (shopping, wine and cheese).
What are some destinations on your bucket list?
The more I travel, the more I want to see, there are so many places on my bucket list. Papua New Guinea, more of the "Stans," Antarctica, and Mongolia are some at the top of my list.
How would you describe your travel style?
I love adventure and luxury, and I like to go on trips where I can indulge in both.
Which upcoming travel plans are you most excited about and why?
Right now, I am really excited about going to Bolivia. I love everything about the place from the sacred Titicaca Lake to the markets of La Paz.
Which three products from L-atitude are you coveting most right now?
Souk or department store?
Definitely souk. Local markets are the first places I check out when I'm somewhere new.
DIY or concierge service?
DIY. I prefer serendipity to prescriptive any day. I do, however, check in with locals to help shape my experiences.
Buy everything or buy nothing?
Somewhere in between. Living in New York, one tends to be space conscious so when something inspires me, I buy it.
Camping or 5-star hotel?
I love to be pampered and I also love nature. Whenever possible, I try to combine the two worlds.
Drive or be driven?
Be driven. It leaves me free to enjoy the experience.
Room service or street food?
Street food. Authentic cuisine is an amazing way to experience a culture and I usually find something that I'll want to incorporate into dinner parties back home.
Lots of luggage or carry-on bag?
Lots of luggage. Even if I start light, it never stays that way. I usually bring one or two empty bags and fill them as I go.