Tulum The Quiet End of the Runway
Source: The New York Times
IT was a honey-gold morning in Tulum, Mexico, the low-rise, high-key ocean strip in the Yucatán 75 miles south of Cancún. While many visitors saluted the sun in various yoga poses along the white swatch of the Atlantic Ocean beach, Irene Albright and her daughter, Marina, stared at a computer screen in the open-air lobby of the Hotel Nueva Vida de Ramiro. They were looking at Chloé’s Web sit
On separate cellphones, their voices competed with the birds in the palms. “So it’s long sleeve?” asked Irene, who owns the Albright Fashion Library, a high-end rental boutique in Manhattan. “How much is it?” A few moments later, Marina chirped: “The quilted jacket is how much? Is the sweater beaded?”
Nearby, Nian Fish, a creative director, had just finished a conference call about a coming Tommy Hilfiger show she is producing in New York. She was barefoot with a faded blue bandanna on her head. “Welcome to my office,” she told a friend.
And welcome to Tulum, a destination so popular with the fashion crowd this time of year that it almost feels like Fashion Week. While Teva-wearing backpackers look for sea turtles and New Age naïfs look for nirvana, the fashion obsessed don’t have to look at all to find one other. They are everywhere, artfully dressed down in high-peasant style.
The scene in late December included Nicola Formichetti, the stylist for Lady Gaga and creative director for Mugler; Amanda Hearst, the It Girl of Marie Claire; Tom Mendenhall, chief operating officer of Tom Ford; and Johan Lindeberg, the big-bearded Blk Dnm designer.
“It’s like my Miami,” said Kim Vernon, a former Calvin Klein executive who is now a fashion brand consultant in Manhattan. “But I didn’t go this Christmas because I just didn’t feel like seeing everyone I know.”
But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know who was there. “Francisco Costa rented a house,” she said of that Calvin Klein designer. “Linda Fargo from Bergdorf Goodman was there, too, and so was the designer Naeem Khan and Michael Carl, the fashion market director of Vanity Fair.”
There were movie stars, too: Evan Rachel Wood, Jamie Bell and Kate Bosworth, who stayed, as she often does, at Coqui Coqui, the limestone spa and hotel owned by Nicolas Malleville, the international male model. In past years, Ryan Phillippe, Neil Patrick Harris, Sienna Miller and Alexander Skarsgard have also been spotted on the beach.
But never mind the air-sucking dust clouds of celebrities. They have St. Barts and Miami. Laid-back Tulum, which Italian Vogue called the new Goa, has its own players — minor ones to the masses, but important to those who speak fashion-ese.
“We were calling it the fashion jungle by the end of the week,” said Jym Benzing, a New York advertising casting director who visited during Christmas with a pack of stylists and photographers, staying in what he described as “huts” at Hemingway beach cabanas. “Every year, it’s more fashion people, and they’re all huddled together on top of each other.”
Anne Slowey, the fashion news director of Elle, wasn’t as enamored with the scene during the holidays. “That place is like going to Fort Lauderdale for spring break,” she said. “Only instead of shots and wet T-shirt contests, there are shamans and yoga classes. The flight back was like the fashion plane from the shows in Paris. Yeesh!”
SO how did a former stop on a low-budget hippie trail become a magnet for Seventh Avenue materialists?
Location, maybe? Flights to Cancún are quick and direct from New York, a little under four hours. The cab ride from the airport is an easy 90 minutes, made even easier with a recent highway upgrade that serves many new all-inclusive resorts (no, thank you) on what the Mexican government calls the Riviera Maya. There’s also the allure of a pristine white sand beach that stretches for miles.
Another draw? Sustainability. Tulum is consciously and adamantly off the power grid, which means it often uses solar generators and wind turbines to keep its lights on. Showers in many hotels are low pressure and often brackish, not fresh.
It makes people who spend their lives creating disposable luxuries feel slightly virtuous, or at least more rugged than they feel while wearing stilettos. And fashion people, often questing for self-enlightenment, are drawn to places with a strong spiritual feeling. Steeped in Maya lore, Tulum is a veritable sample sale of yogis, psychics and seers.
“I work with the spiritually challenged,” said Robert Klein, a Los Angeles transplant whose business card lists “integrated healing” therapies. “My goal is to open doorways to more spiritual aspects of ourselves.” A former restaurant owner, fashion photographer and psychologist, Mr. Klein said he was in a sweat lodge last year when he heard a voice tell him to move to Tulum. “L.A. had something missing, so I came here,” he said.