When Journy co-founders Susan Ho and Leiti Hsu met Gwyneth Paltrow at an event, one piece of advice stood out.
“Gwyneth said finding cool things to do in cities she was in for shoots was so challenging until she perfected her formula of spying a cool girl in a cute outfit and asking her where she shops and where she hangs out.”
Shopping at local boutiques is one of our favorite strategies for looking like a polished traveler instead of an awkward tourist. But what if you want to blend in with the well-heeled local crowd as soon as you step off the plane?
We talked to Olivia Lopez, who runs the design, style, and travel blog Lust for Life. Olivia’s work has taken her across the globe—from Rio for Carnival, to Tokyo for Vogue’s Fashion Night Out, to Sydney for a collaboration with the Australian tourism board—so she’s become an expert on how to dress with the best of them.
The land of Carnival, samba, and more than a couple Victoria’s Secret supermodels, Brazil oozes sultriness, and the attire of Brazilians no less.
“Brazil is so sensual that you can wear your sexiest outfits. As a woman, there is no shame in coming out in a little tiny dress.”
It seems obvious that in a city as famous for its beach culture as Rio de Janeiro, people are happy to bare some skin. But even away from the sand and surf, the sex appeal continues.
“Everyone’s interpretation of sexy is different, but I remember in Brazil, everyone was wearing really tight clothing.”
Planning a trip? It might be time to hit the gym.
If Brazil is the epitome of seductive dress, then Japan is its foil.
According to Olivia, “It’s the extreme opposite of sexy. The silhouettes are a lot looser and have more of a relaxed shape. I see a lot more Japanese women wearing wide-legged trousers.”
To many visitors, what is striking about Japan is the juxtaposition of styles.
“In Japan there’s so many different trend groups. There’s like the Harajuku cosplay group, and then there’s this super-feminine schoolgirl look. There’s a lot of avant-garde, a lot of materials that are really soft.”
A single trip to Tokyo has the potential to reveal all of these styles, if you know where to look.
The trope of a quick-tempered Sicilian woman shouting and waving her hands is a reductive stereotype, but it’s not unfair to say that Italians often show fire in their clothes.
“Italians very much have a flair. They’re very bold in the way that they dress. When I’m in Italy, I plan all my most daring styles.”
Milan is synonymous with Italian fashion, but of course, Italy is a country of vastly different cities. What unifies the diverse climates and regions is how picturesque they are, and that’s something to take advantage of.
“The backdrop is very beautiful for wearing lots of colors.”
Fashion choices in Scandinavia are largely tied to the environment. Cold climes mean that Olivia wears “a lot more coats and layering” and, more generally, items that place less of an emphasis on skin.
“I just tend to want to wear more relaxed, but tailored, clothing.”
Weather aside, cities like Stockholm and Copenhagen are eminently pedestrian-friendly, and that’s had an effect on sartorial style.
“The chunky 80’s sneaker trend is making a comeback. People are always on the go, and everything is so walkable.”
Bangkok, Singapore, and Manila may be wildly different cities, but they all share a similar climate: “It’s tropical weather and always sticky and hot.”
The humidity in particular is what can make high temperatures unbearable, so Olivia dresses practically.
“If I’m going to southeast Asia, I’m wearing a lot more linens, a lot more breathable fabrics. It’s definitely going to be more resort wear.”
Few places rival New York and Paris in global clout, especially when it comes to fashion. Though perched on opposite sides of the Atlantic, both cities demand especial attention to one’s attire.
According to Olivia, “Paris and New York are where I am my best-dressed self.”
Part of the motivation to look one’s best is social pressure. But Olivia notes another dimension that reflects the appeal of the cities themselves.
“I love dressing up in Paris. There’s something about cities where you walk a lot where you want to express yourself.”
And though the designers that show at New York and Paris Fashion Weeks are always trying to reinvent their collections, some things never change. The little black dress, popularized by Coco Chanel and made iconic by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is a perennial favorite.
“I got invited to the César Awards in France, and these two girls were like, ‘Why is everyone wearing black?’ ”
What’s Olivia’s dress code in her home base of L.A.? “Athleisure all day.”
The sunny vibes of southern California are reflected in its citizens, who care more about keeping mind and body happy and healthy than dressing to impress.
“I want to take advantage of being comfortable. I’m way more focused on taking care myself.”
Compared to New Yorkers, Angelenos spend more of their time in outdoors activities, and they prioritize functionality over high fashion as a result.
“People are just more generally active, so even though it’s a big city, it doesn’t have that cosmopolitan vibe.”
Region-specific menswear reflects many of the aesthetics of the corresponding womenswear, but Olivia makes a special note of the contrast between men who live in hot climates and those who reside in cold ones.
“If you go to Sydney, you do get those stereotypes of surfers. In Hawaii, everyone’s just in board shorts and a cotton T-shirt.”
And back at home? “A lot of men complain they feel overdressed if they wear a tuxedo jacket out in L.A.”
On the other hand, menswear excels in places like Denmark. “Menswear is more striking in cold countries. In all the cold countries, men take much more conscious measures of how they present themselves.”
Where cities have a long-standing tradition of bespoke tailoring, the standard is also higher.
“I find that in London, menswear is so much more tailored. Men are more conscious about how they dress in the UK, and in Italy as well.”
But what is Olivia’s vote for the sharpest-looking men?
“I really love how men in Japan dress. They care so much about craft that the quality of everything they wear is always of the finest quality. Presentation is really important there and you really get a sense of that in the street style. When I went to a menswear trade show in Italy, the best dressed people were coming from Japan.”