How to Do Kyoto with CHUFY'S Designer Sofía Sanchez de Betako

Graphic designer and creative directo Sofía Sanchez de Betak is a seasoned traveller. Considering her peripatetic way of life – which has garnered her a 219k Instagram following it’s unsurprising that she quotes travel as her greatest source of inspiration.

With a penchant for souvenirs and a razor-sharp sartorial eye to match, Sofia (nicknamed Chufy) has developed her namesake brand on travel and style. Her capsule collection, CHUFY x The Luxury Collection, melds traditional craftsmanship with a touch of modernity; patterns and silhouettes have an allegorical quality. Inspired by her travels in Japan, where she experienced The Luxury Collection's hotels, including Suiran in Kyoto and The Prince Gallery in Tokyo, Sofia's latest edit includes ready-to-wear, sleepwear and accessories.

Her fascination and connection with Japanese culture runs deep; so enchanted was Sofia by the country's whimsical cherry blossom that she named her daughter Sakura. Clad in hand-embroidered bomber jackets, Sofia took us on a whirlwind tour of Kyoto to discover the best places to eat, drink, shop and stay in the city.

How has the city inspired your collection?

Staying at Suiran was a huge inspiration. The traditional ryokan style of the property juxtaposed with the more contemporary look of The Prince Gallery allowed me to create a collection that struck a balance between the Japanese history that I love and the new shapes of a modern metropolis.

What does the collection say about Kyoto?

While Kyoto is a big city, the ryokan-style architecture is something that make it incredibly unique. It's a city rich in tradition and I wanted that to be apparent in the collection.

What inspired the patterns in the collection?

I used different places for inspiration, from vintage matchboxes to trees and postcards.

What are your favourite Japanese clothing brands?

Minotaur, Uniqlo, Very Nerdy, Undercover and Sacai.

What can't we you know about Kyoto without visiting?

Kyoto has amazing secret bars and restaurants hidden behind closed doors. The last time we were there, we went up into office-like buildings in the middle of the night and started opening doors. They were all local bars, "Japanese only!" they would say - until we managed to get into one. It was an unforgettable night.

How has regional illustration and craftsmanship impacted your designs?

The patterns in this collection are inspired by vintage cutouts that I collected throughout my travels. I wanted them to be bold and fresh like The Luxury Collection Hotels. I presented a bunch of ideas and sketches to the brand and it was instant love. I also kept a personal collection of matchboxes from Japanese bars in between 1920-1950. I used these illustrated boxes to start mood boards for the prints.

Best time of year to visit?

My favourite time of year to visit is sakura (cherry blossom season) which starts in January and lasts through the spring. I named my daughter Sakura since this time in Japan is so incredibly beautiful.

Favourite hotels to stay at in the city?

Suiran- the location and ambiance are perfect.

What's the best way to explore a new city?

Putting down the map, exploring by instinct and probably getting lost. Japan is so safe that you can go into every dark alley without feeling uncomfortable.

Where should we go for after-dinner drinks?

In Kyoto, I love El Coyote Latin bar, and any hidden bars. In Tokyo, La Jetee in Golden Gay has a lot of interesting bars. Piano Bar is a classic, while Grandfather's Bar has great music and late-night drinks. I always order Japanese whiskey or jumaidaigipnjo sake.

Where should we go for a great meal?

Omakase everywhere. I love meeting a great sushi chef and letting him surprise me; I tend to thank him for every nigiri, expressing how much I appreciate each exquisite bite.

In Kyoto, the Arashiyama Yoshimura is just down the street from Suiran hotel. It has a beautiful garden with views to the river. Be sure to order the noodle soup.

A dining experience that my husband Alex and I always like to do while in Kyoto is a romantic dinner on one of the boats on the Hozugawa River. You can hire a private chef to prepare a meal while you take in the views around you. There's also a great little restaurant only a five-minute walk from the Suiran called Arashiyama Yoshimura where you can look out onto the Katsura River while you eat.

If we had just 24 hours in the city what should we do?

Get a geisha makeover and go for a walk around the Forrest and temples.

Tell us a secret spot only locals know about…

The Shiga Prefecture, a beautiful area to the east of Kyoto with striking views and a distinct local culture.

What areas of the city do you spend most of your time in?

Kyoto's geisha district of Gion. For me, it's the ultimate Japanese destination.

Where should we go on a day trip from the city?

Definitely Shiga Prefecture for ceramics that are wholly unique to the region.

Where are you going on your next adventure?


Finally, what's in your SUITCASE for a trip to Kyoto?

A camera, kimono and comfortable shoes.

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