Francisco Costa talks personal taste: Part Two

The designer concludes his compendium of passions with Cambodia and Cole Porter’s cigarette box

Image: Martin Adolfsson

My style icon is the British fashion stylist Camilla Nickerson. She dresses like no one else – I admire the way she mixes things up – and is effortlessly elegant and cool; even the natural way she wears her hair is refreshing.

The best gift I’ve given recently was a vintage cigarette box designed by Fulco di Verdura for the American singer-songwriter Cole Porter. This was a special gift to my partner that I bid for at auction and it sits on the table in our library. Sotheby’s, 1334 York Ave, New York, NY 10021 (+1212-606 7000; www.sothebys.com).

And the best gift I’ve received recently is a neon artwork created for me for my birthday by my design studio. It reads “Collaboration. Innovation. Fearlessness”: all principles and ideas we value at Calvin Klein, and it hangs in a very special place in my office.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose downtown Manhattan. I love Wyeth for mid-century-modern furniture, Space NK for potions and lotions, and a wonderful food emporium called All Good Things for stocking up on cut flowers, freshly baked bread and great coffee. All Good Things, 102 Franklin Street (+1212-925 5081; www.allgoodthingsny.com). Space NK, 99 Greene Street (+1212-941 4200; www.spacenk.com). Wyeth, 315 Spring Street (+1212-243 3661; www.wyethome.com).

The books on my bedside table are Rachel Zoe’s Living In Style: Inspiration and Advice for Everyday Glamour and Laura Lima, Ronald Duarte’s fascinating look at the mixed-media work of this Brazilian artist. My stack of reading material changes frequently, though, and might also include catalogues from the Wright Auction House, which highlights the best in contemporary design, and always FT Weekend.

The beauty staples I’m never without are Dr Bronner’s all-natural Organic Citrus Conditioning Hair Rinse, which isn’t particularly fancy but I love it, plus the brand's coconut oil, which I use for everything from softening my skin to brushing my teeth and gargling. It takes all the toxins away. Organic Citrus Conditioning Rinse, $10 for 8fl oz; Virgin Coconut Oil, $12 for 14fl oz; www.drbronner.com.

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The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a full white-tie ensemble that I designed for this year’s Met Ball. Everyone looked so spectacular that night, and I hope I’ll have another occasion to wear this suit again soon.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Cambodia. It is simply extraordinary, from Siem Reap and the spectacular Angkor Wat, to the delicious food and sheer force of nature I witnessed everywhere I went. My stay at the stellar Amansara – a very cool mid-century structure transformed into a luxury hotel – was particularly memorable. It once served as the King of Cambodia’s guest villa, and Jackie Onassis visited in the 1960s. From $1,100; Road to Angkor, Siem Reap (+85563-760 333; www.amanresorts.com).

An object I would never part with is a Lucio Fontana lithograph that was the first piece of art I ever bought. I discovered it in Milan – during a time when I was living and working in London many years ago – and it remains a very special part of my collection.

My favourite room in my house is my library, which gets beautiful morning light and has a soothing atmosphere. I enjoy spending time there alone, surrounded by books from floor to ceiling. It also features a basic, very functional desk and a comfortable sofa of my own design.

The site that inspires me is Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. I love the American west and this area is very rich in natural beauty. The Teton mountain range is particularly breathtaking, with its rock formations, geysers and endless hikes.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Pablo Picasso. He broke all the rules and had a fearless approach to his work. I particularly love his later periods and think that he was a great influence on artists like Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. He fundamentally changed the way we look at art.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a set of little paint vials in very primary colours from Xi’an in China. I went to see the Terracotta Army soldiers at this gorgeous city on the Silk Road and spotted the vials in an art shop nearby. I bought hundreds and had to pay an extra baggage fee to get them home. They are beyond a souvenir to me; I find their pigments very raw and inspiring.

The last meal that truly impressed me was a special breakfast in Cambodia that was served in a simple, local home. We awoke at daybreak to see the sun rise over the temples and were then taken to this very basic wooden shack for kuyteav (noodle soup), fish wrapped in banana leaves and tea. The scent of jasmine was everywhere and the whole meal – and the morning in general – was very purifying.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be growing vegetables on a farm and living off the land. I find the idea of a simple life very appealing. As a child, I loved to construct things – buildings, gardens, whole environments – so I could also envision being an architect.

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