In 1968, Iris Antola embarked on a trip around the world. She bused through Afghanistan, lived on a wooden houseboat in Kashmir, and even worked as a nanny for the chief of protocol of Iran’s shah. Everywhere she went, she was inspired by clothes: She saw bold prints, colorful fabrics, intricate embroidery, and elaborate beading as entry points into other cultures.
Her travels shaped her own sense of fashion and style. Iris and her husband raised their children on adventure, too, taking them to places such as China, Tibet, and other destinations around the globe. One of those children, Jessica Antola, became a photographer. Now, mother and daughter look back, in words and pictures, on Iris’s sojourns and the many memories woven into her clothes.
A world of creativity
“My own mother and grandmother made everything. My mother would buy fabric in catalogs because we didn’t have department stores. I saw her decide what types of things would go together; she’d make the patterns. Sometimes I did bring home fabrics as I was traveling. When we were in Zanzibar in 2012, the staff around the resort at Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel wore uniforms made of this fabric that blew me away. I bought some of it there, and my seamstress in L.A. designed the dress [above]. At home in California, it looks a little different. Everything about that fabric brings back memories of travel in Zanzibar.”
“I love that my parents had that sense of adventure. It’s part of why I ended up as a photographer who focuses on travel—I share that wanderlust and desire to see and explore and understand.” —Jessica Antola
Embracing new cultures
“We were with a group at a jewelry store in southern India, and I loved that necklace [above, on the silver tray] at first sight. It’s temple jewelry: We were told the designs are inspired by architectural details of temples. [The necklaces] also may serve as a donation. I pointed the necklace out, but the other women weren’t interested. I had already bought some items, but I asked the owner if he could come by our hotel that night if it was still available. He did; I also bought coin earrings. The next day, the others’ husbands were so impressed and asked to contact the jeweler. I had to say, ‘No, this is an antique necklace, one of a kind!’”
Threads of memory
“I connect clothes with the places I’ve worn them. Usually I wouldn’t pack anything like this Oscar de la Renta coat with fur trim. But I took it once when we were going to see Carmen at La Scala in Milan. The tenor Jonas Kaufmann performed; he was excellent. We stayed at the Grand Hotel et de Milan and walked to the opera house. Afterward, we had a late dinner at the hotel’s restaurant Don Carlos, which was named after an opera by the composer Giuseppi Verdi, who stayed at that hotel for many years.”
Jessica Antola’s work has been featured in Time, Vogue, and Vanity Fair. Her monograph, Circadian Landscape, was published by Damiani in 2018.