You’ve most likely heard of Borgo de Nor, the brand that creates divine dresses, worn by the chicest women. Now step inside the stylish, vibrant world of its co-founder and creative director, Carmen Borgonovo. She is every bit as spirited and inspiring as her collection.
The first thing you notice about Carmen’s stunning dresses – and those custom-designed prints – is that they transcend occasions. Make a statement on the beach, look pitch-perfect at a wedding, or just be insanely glamorous at the farmers’ market. There’s a kind of ‘wear what you want, when you want’ vibe here. And this approach to style is embodied by Carmen, too. Her home and wardrobe are every bit as cool, eclectic and intriguing as you might imagine for a woman who has lived and worked in many of the world’s hottest cities. Meaningful vintage furniture tells of Carmen’s travels, while her enviable wardrobe is filled to the brim with stylish pieces from all over. Read on for Carmen’s clever packing tips and a peek inside her colourful life.
My business partner Joana de Noronha and I were working together on several resort-wear projects when we decided to join forces and launch a printed dress collection. We saw a niche in the market for this type of aesthetic and price point, and decided to go for it. Borgo de Nor is a brand that celebrates women. Our prints are mostly inspired by art (particularly Surrealism) and we aim to create beautiful dresses that are uplifting and make women feel confident and happy.
In the past I’ve found myself inappropriately dressed on vacation, when visiting ruins or doing something more rugged. So I’ve now learned to have some key classics in my wardrobe that are perfect for these occasions. I love anything khaki, like these trousers from Alexander Wang. About two years ago I was traveling to Mongolia and I needed something classic and chic that would work both on horseback or when visiting temples. I went to Gap and picked up this pin-stripe linen shirt that is now a classic in my wardrobe.
In the summer I pretty much only wear dresses and I love colour. I pack several dresses that can be worn with both flats and heels, and also some bold jewellery, in case there’s a last-minute party along the way. I bring one evening clutch that matches everything else, and a small basket bag. For swimwear, I’m surprisingly quite minimal – I love white, black, navy and taupe.
Since I was very young I’ve always been fascinated with Surrealism – the art, design and literature – which is now a huge inspiration for Borgo de Nor. This necklace by Grayson Perry is called the ‘I am a Man necklace’. It looks tribal, but I also love the symbolism on each charm. It feels like I’m wearing a work of art around my neck. The book below is Wonderland, about female Surrealists and their art.
I’ve been eyeing up this Céline bag for several years now, and bought it in November. I don’t have many day bags – I tend to buy one bag every five years and use it constantly. I love how simple and light this is, and also its smaller proportions. It’s big enough to fit my computer in, but doesn’t overwhelm my frame. I always travel with a hat, which I carry with me on the plane to avoid crushing it. I just recently found this one at Aimé in Notting Hill.
I’m definitely a flats person on vacation… and I adore the beautiful workmanship of these straw slippers. These slides from Zyne are perfect for travel and will give a fresh update to my dresses, or jeans and a T-shirt.
Our print inspiration starts in art, mostly the magical realism of Surrealism mixed in with nature, vintage fashion, photography and our general mood when we’re designing. We’re also constantly watching women on the street, how they combine colours and how they dress. A timeless print is something that needs to look unique. The ethos of our brand is to create prints that you can treasure forever.
I love overalls, and this black denim pair from Madewell is the perfect fit. It has stretch in it too, which makes it very comfortable for travel. If I’m going on a beach vacation, I usually travel with my basket bag. I bought this one in the market in Deia. My suitcase of choice is a new brand I discovered through friends of mine in New York, called Arlo Skye. I love the champagne colour, its lightness and modern design.
These two pieces are designed by Vanda Jacintho. I absolutely love her jewellery – it’s bold, colourful and unique and I often wear it with my Borgo de Nor dresses. Below is a beautiful silk scarf/sarong with a coral print. Her prints are very modern yet artistic, and this is a perfect piece for travelling light. The sarong can be transformed into a dress with some simple twisting and draping, making it a great beach-to-restaurant cover-up.
When I’m travelling I always make a trip to the market and look for something artisanal – many times I’ve ended up buying a basket bag. For summer a woven bag is ideal, whether it’s from a market or somewhere more luxe. I wear them both in the city and on vacation, in the day and evening. Personally I love the juxtaposition of a basket bag in the city with jeans or a summer dress. It evokes summer, sunshine and vacations, which are always lovely memories to hold on to.
Most of my furniture is vintage, bought in the different cities I have lived in. They are all a culmination of my travels. My favourite pieces are 19th-century wooden carved Chinese chests decorated with butterflies and flora and fauna, which I found in New York, and a velvet and linen palm-print sofa from the 1930s that I bought from Atelier Bellinzona in Milan. When it comes to furniture, I love to mix all different eras.
My husband and I bought this portrait of ‘Suleiman the Great’ in Turkey. A friend of ours suggested we visit an art gallery in the old part of Istanbul and we fell in love with the painting. My love of jewellery and antiques started at a very young age, and my godmother spoiled me with this antique jewellery box when I turned 14. I keep my most sentimental pieces in there.
This dress is named after a very good friend of mine, Valeria, and I love its timeless design. The print is a combination of florals, a sun-dial design, and floating lips inspired by Man Ray’s painting of Lee Miller’s lips (Observatory Time: The Lovers). The Borgo de Nor woman is free-spirited, creative, feminine, daring and independent. She loves celebrating life and isn’t scared of making a statement.
These gold leather mules by Charlotte Olympia simply make me smile. They remind me of my mother’s gold house slippers mixed with the Latin flair of Carmen Miranda, topped off with a dash of sex appeal: I call them my ‘cha cha shoes’.
I adore all jewellery, whether it’s costume or fine jewellery. In the summer when I travel, I tend to opt for costume statement pieces. The bold silver cuff necklace is a hand-me-down from my mother, the oversized bird ring is from Afghanistan (I found it in the market in old Dubai) and the necklace made out of white beans is by a talented designer from El Salvador.
In swimwear I look for simplicity and a great cut. Lately I’m wearing high-waisted bikinis like the Marysia style on the left, or chic one-pieces. For one-pieces I love how I feel in Ward Whillas swimwear – it’s so elegant but also sporty, perfect for running about on the beach, water-skiing or just lounging around.
My beauty regime stays the same when I’m at home or travelling. I start with the Sarah Chapman Morning Facial Treatment, then I put a drop of aromatherapy oil into my moisturiser, and finish off with sun block and Lilah B Aglow Face Mist. And I can’t leave home without my travel-size Neroli perfume by Czech & Speake.
I love collecting blue opaline. I have several vases and this one belongs to a set of six blue opaline water glasses that I found in Portobello Market. I love wearing cuffs in the summer and here are some of my favourites: Belmacz’s wood cuffs are simply stunning on their own, and I wear a gold Aurélie Bidermann cuff on each wrist.
I don’t have an exact system for packing, I just like to keep everything organised and folded carefully. But one thing is for certain – I can’t live without my dresses and running shoes when I’m on vacation.
All the pieces I’m wearing here have so much sentimental value. The cuff and ring are designed by the talented Aurélie Bidermann. The crescent moon necklace was designed by Marte Frisnes and it’s such a lovely personal necklace that looks great when layered with other necklaces. The locket ring I designed myself, in collaboration with Vashi. It has a sentimental message inside, which I hold very dear to my heart. And finally the opal ring was designed by my very dear friend Aude Lechère, and is one of my favourite rings.
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