Cassandra Harper, designer and owner of CASSANDRA HARPER designs, @cassandraharper
After more than 22 years spent living abroad in Asia – 14 years in Cambodia and 8 years in Phuket – designer Cassandra Harper now calls Brisbane, Australia home. Cassandra founded her label, CASSANDRA HARPER, in 1996 and it has since grown into a coveted artisanal brand renowned for its poetic use of Shibori silk. The essence and soul of the brand are its much loved artisanal prints. Cassandra now divides her time between her home base of Brisbane, and her favourite cities of Phnom Penh, Jaipur and Delhi. The endless traveller, creating her own stories in her fabrics that are painstakingly created by hand, hour upon hour, day upon day until they reach their unique perfection.
Tell us about your favourite travel destination...
My favourite travel destination is India, I have been visiting this wonderful vibrant country for many years and it still excites me. Apart from the fabulous food and a culture that is steeped in tradition to me, it is the textile industry that feeds my creative soul.
In every part of India there is a textile that is produced in that particular area, whether it be weaving, embroidery, block printing and the list goes on. The possibilities as a designer are endless and this is where true creativity starts to come alive with working with these amazing artisans.
Do you have any tips for those visiting India?
Stay or at least visit for an evening meal in a beautiful heritage hotel and dream of the days of the Raj…. my favourite is The Samode Haveli.
Visit a block printing factory in Jaipur to see the steps of this incredible craft
Explore the majestic city of Udaipur situated on a magnificent lake, this city is full of lovely shops and galleries full of art and crafts
Visit India at the time of the fun and festive Holi festival, where you will dance the day away and throw colour on people to celebrate Spring and the victory of good over evil.
For a spiritual immersion, you must visit the ancient city of Varanasi and observe daily life on the Ganges. Whilst there it is a must to visit the ever so talented artisan weavers who weave the most glorious brocade silks.
Any hidden markets, shops or restaurants that you’re willing to share with us?
My favourite market in Delhi is the Khan market, I love it for the ever-so-popular shop Good Earth as well as the Indian designer stores.
Favourite place to eat a fresh vegetarian lunch or cheeky piece of cake and ice coffee is the Anokhi Cafe in Jaipur.
A wonderful evening meal experience is at the Samode Haveli, a beautiful setting and lovely staff and even better food!
And lastly, a fun place for a cocktail and admire the colour teal blue at its best is at Bar Palladio.
When did you discover your love for travel?
I lived abroad as a young girl and travelled with my family as I was growing up but my real passion for travel began when I was in my early twenties and I started exploring the world myself.
I have travelled most of Asia and feel very comfortable in this part of the world after living in Cambodia and Thailand for many years. I am lucky as I get to visit Cambodia and India regularly for work but I also want to see more of Europe and America in the years to come.
How have your travels inspired your home?
On my travels, I am always looking for something special and that is unique to a particular country. I am very drawn to antiques and objects made by hand that are collectables and covetable, so my home is an eclectic mix of ceramics, art, textiles and furniture collected from years abroad, travels and just pieces that I love and feel work in my home. My home has colour and layered texture, it's not overly fussy but you can see the things that are precious and have meaning to me. This also includes books and most of all gorgeous old carpets. I think the best and most beautiful homes that you instantly feel at ease and want to plonk on the sofa are the ones that evolve and are not too over thought.
What’s your favourite travel treasure?
My favourite travel treasure is two antique textiles, a maharaja and Maharani, I had them framed and love them, they will work anywhere in my house so I have fun moving them around which drives my poor husband batty!
How have your travels influenced your designs? Is there a particular country you draw inspiration from?
My travels to India influence my designs. My collections are created from the textiles that I develop and design in India. The textiles are influenced from all sorts of things, it could be the beautiful washed out sun-bleached colour on an old building or a gorgeous sari that is hanging out to dry and the motifs or borders I notice on it. The incredible hand painted walls decorating a room in an old haveli like the restaurant at Samode. All the beauty I see around me whilst travelling in India has a subtle translation into my textiles.
Where and what is your favourite hotel and why?
My favourite hotel is the Amansara in Siem Reap Cambodia, I love it first for its incredible New Khmer architecture, it truly is a modern masterpiece of the sixties. It is simple and every elegant detail has been thought through, whilst keeping it paired back and letting the detail of stonework and divine gardens speak for themselves. Then to top it off, it is an Aman hotel! I feel like as a hotel group, they just get it right and go the extra mile to make their guests feel special and pampered from the moment you arrive to your farewell.
What are your top travel tips when it comes to discovering beautiful hotels, restaurants or sites?
For selecting hotels in new destinations I like the website Mr and Mrs Smith. I like smaller boutique hotels and this is what they specialise in.
Where is your next overseas trip?
My next trip will be to India to work on my next collection.
What kind of traveller are you? Do you plan every moment or are you free-spirited?
When travelling to places for work, I like to have my meetings booked and then have time free around them to explore and discover new things. In Delhi I always make time to visit Khan market and the trims market to look at buttons and ribbons. I always make time to visit my favourite boutique Rasa to try on the beautiful block printed silk fashion, visit my favourite Lassi wala and my lovely Kashmiri friend Akib to look at his heavenly collection of pashminas.