Fusing the jet set and the gypsy, a new breed of adventurous hedonist is popping up all over the globe.
What is your definition of luxury?
Luxury is the perfect balance between creativity and sophistication.
Author Julia Chaplin leads a somewhat envious lifestyle. As a journalist and editor for publications such as The New York Times and Vogue, she covers the art, fashion and design beats, but most jealousy rousing are her travel assignments.
Getting paid to travel for a living, Chaplin gets to cover a lot of ground and meet a lot of people. And amid all the five-star hotels and high-gloss glamour she’s stumbled across a small, subtle but undeniable trend of affluent folks adopting a lifestyle traditionally akin to that of a gypsy. By fusing the words gypsy and jet set, she’s coined a term to describe the phenomenon: gypset. She’s even been motivated to compile a book on the subject.
“Gypset is an approach to life that fuses the wild and unconventional ethos of a gypsy with the sophistication and speed of the jet set,” Chaplin writes. “It’s a lifestyle that crosses high and low – a surfer who is also a fashion designer, an artist who traded the go-go New York City art world for Bali’s low-key tropical shores, a jewelry designer who would rather work out of a town in Mexico than in the über chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés.”
Lavishly illustrated with a mix of modern photographs and vintage shots, the Assouline-published book explains the author’s own gypset background from childhood, in an introduction with the humorous title, “My Life In The Gypstream”.
“I discovered that over the course of the past decade an entire Gypset aesthetic had emerged. There was a group of people who… were living a different type of dream. It was part artist, part pioneer, and part sheer indulgence,” Chaplin notes in the book.
No tome that so strongly references gypsies would be complete without an examination of their history and far-ranging influence. “Gypsies weren’t rich and they wandered and existed on the fringes of society while contributing culturally. Gypset doesn't need to be excessive. It should be glamorous but glamour isn't something you can buy. You must create it,” Chaplin said in an e-mail exchange with LuxuryCulture.
“Gypset lifestyle references the 1960s, but it is not a continuation,” she added. “My book traces the wanderlust tendencies of the counterculture starting with the British romantic poets like Lord Byron and Percy Shelley who left England for the more tolerant shores of Italy in the 1800's. From Victorian adventurers like Richard Burton and Jane Digby on up to the beatniks who lived in Tangier, and then on to the 1960s hippies backpacking around India and Asia. All of these groups needed to go outside of society to find freedom and create.”
She peppers her treatise with lots of luscious fashion imagery, film stills and nods to eternal icons like Talitha Getty, Paul Gauguin, Ernest Hemingway, Frida Kahlo, Jack Kerouac and Paul Bowles, the latter making a life in Tangier that had all the literary flourish, sexual freedom, stylish sartorialism and good conversation that make the aesthete and the sybarite such perfect gypsets.
“Today it’s the jet set that has entered a state of decline. It’s too early to tell if Gypsetters will edge out the jet set, but they certainly provide a compelling alternative,” Chaplin notes. “The lifestyles that they built for themselves in all corners of the world require more risk and style than cold, hard cash – which may explain why many Gypsetters are artists and adventurers.”
Jewelry designers Jade Jagger and Carolyn Roumeguere, fashion designers Consuelo Castiglione and Alice Temperley, the artists Damien Hirst and Ashley Bickerton, musician Devendra Banhart, the hedonistic Mignot sisters – all are examples of people who have, each in their own way, stepped out (sometimes even only on a part-time basis) of the rat race. From houseboats in London, to tents in Ibiza, expansive huts in Mexico and a funky little wooden house in Malibu, the definition of a gypset lifestyle is as eclectic and expressive as the people who form this clique.
“Gypsetters as a group really started to emerge in the 1990s when counterculture had become commodified. Places like St. Tropez or downtown New York City, once alternative refuges, had been taken over by bankers and real estate tycoons,” Chaplin points out. “The gypsetters came along and said, that’s not luxury, that’s tacky. It's something that has soul and creativity.”
The spirit of what were once destinations for hippies and free-spirited jetsetters in the 60s and 70s – Tangiers, Ibiza, Bali, Key West, Goa – continues because these places, despite having attracted new crowds of devotees, haven’t lost what made them so desirable in the first place, namely the beautiful locations, the livable year-round sunny climate, and the mix of culture and local hospitality that has fostered a sense of freedom, openness and acceptance of outsiders.
Julia Chaplin’s Ten Ways to Spot A Gypsetter:
1) HANGS OUT IN PLACES THAT ARE HARD TO REACH: PREFERABLY MORE THAN THREE HOURS FROM A MAJOR AIRPORT; DOWN DIRT ROADS
2) MANSIONS OR VILLAS ARE OKAY IF THEY BELONG TO SOMEONE ELSE OR ARE SERIOUSLY RUN DOWN
3) NEVER WEARS CLOTHES WITH VISIBLE LOGOS
4) MONTAUK NOT EASTHAMPTON; IBIZA NOT CAPRI; VENICE BEACH NOT SANTA MONICA ETC.
5) DOESN’T MIND FALLING ASLEEP WITH SALTY HAIR
6) DRINKS AGUARDIENTE NOT CRISTAL
7) LIKES NEIL YOUNG’S “AFTER THE GOLD RUSH”
8) ISN’T TACKY
9) SURFS/SNOWBOARDS; IF PLAYS GOLF IT’S ON A NATURAL GREEN IN SCOTLAND NOT A DESERT RESORT IN MEXICO
10) G5’s BAD. CESNA’S GOOD