Image Credit: @leilabrewster
Dave wears the Candy bow.
For the next installment of our Bellwether Friend series, we were so excited to have a conversation with our brilliant friend, Dave Bragg.
In thinking about curating an aspirational lifestyle, travel immediately comes to mind. This has never felt more relevant at C+L HQ than with the launch of our Re-Discover capsule, which is all about venturing out and finding something new - both in the world and in yourself.
And as Summer is around the corner, a memorable vacation is on everybody's mind. Whether it's the dream trip you've been planning for years, or the laid-back yearly getaway that's a family tradition; travel allows us to unwind, explore, and discover new perspectives.
Our Bellwether series aims to delve into the dapper lifestyle as a whole by chatting with our bellwether friends in their respective fields - Dave is an engineer turned travel consultant - a bold transition that we can only applaud and be inspired by!
And if Dave looks familiar, it's because he was a big part of our brand launch, back in May 2020. In fact, from the start, Dave was the only choice to represent the "Clifton" character in our brand anthem shoot.
Our Founder + Chief Proprietor Christopher recently sat down with Dave to chat all things travel, following passions + changing careers, and his suitcase must-haves. If you take one thing from this interview, let it be "always a swimsuit, always a sweater."
We'll allow him to introduce himself below + their conversation follows:
David Bragg is a full-service, luxury travel advisor based in Nashville, TN.
Everyone experiences the world differently, so I work with clients to provide customized itineraries that are tailored to individual needs and tastes.
As an independent affiliate of SmartFlyer and a Virtuoso member, I have the tools and resources to provide you with an expertly planned trip. Your time is valuable and should be spent relaxing on vacation, not planning it.
I’m always inspired by people who explore our world, so I look forward to hearing about your past adventures and helping you plan your next one.
Interview edited for clarity and brevity.
C: One of the things I was excited to talk to you about was - travel is obviously a passion of yours. It wasn't the path you were on with your career and education, but you obviously have a love for travel. So, I wanted to start with that. Why travel?
D: Yeah, I had an entire different career. I was an engineer for over a decade, and traveled for that job. But it was not what I wanted to do, and I found that what was keeping me there was the travel part. I kept in touch with so many more people, across the states, that I never would have talked to again after college, because of travel. And I just started understanding the kind of opportunities and experiences and viewpoints that travel opened up. So I decided to switch careers. I met some people in the luxury travel space, my friend, literally looked at me the first time I ever met her, at the end of the night and said, 'quit your job. You hate being an engineer. Get into travel." And it just stuck with me!
C: That's a good friend!
D: Yeah I mean it took me a few years, but it's what happened and what I ultimately did. I left a career and did my research, but came into it blindly, and I've never looked back. It's an interesting shift. Because as an engineer, you have a code you have to follow, literally physics, but this is a really different gray industry. It's very creative, which is a welcome change for sure.
C: The thing that sticks out to me in this is the idea of 'never looked back.' So there was obviously something you discovered in travel that was feeding you in a way that the other stuff wasn't.
D: That's true. The thing is, it is very creative, and it is very fun to work directly with clients and create these experiences and make these dreams a reality. But also personally, the perks of being able to travel and being able to travel luxuriously are amazing. It's not why I do it, but it's definitely a huge bonus. If I'm able to experience something firsthand, it's a lot easier for me to explain to a client why they need to stay in this place, or visit this monument, or eat at this restaurant. It's invaluable, actually.
C: I love that. If someone asked me to describe you as a friend, I would say, you draw very straight lines, but you're willing to color outside of them. You're very logical and structured, but you also love the freedom in creativity.
D: Right. You have to have those t's crossed and i's dotted, but you also have to think outside the box. You have to know how to create something unique and genuine. And it's an interesting mix.
C: It's a hard mix, I would imagine. I love that you mentioned connecting to people all over that you wouldn't have connected with otherwise. When I think about travel, it's the idea that we are changed sometimes by travel. This whole collection for us is this idea of getting out and re-discovering yourself, getting out and seeing new places and finding yourself. Can you talk a little bit about how you think travel changes people? And maybe even how travel has changed you?
D: I think we all kind of grow up in an insulated bubble. Once you start exploring, whether it's to a different part of town, or a different part of the country, or across the ocean, you start to see things differently. You start to appreciate what you have, or see how people view what you have with a slightly different perspective. So I think it really starts to broaden the way you see the world, and yourself, and the people around you. I think travel can be life-changing for a variety of reasons, but broadly, it opens your eyes to possibilities.
C: What I find for me, and what we hope for this collection, is, travel is not just the destination, but the people, and the experience. We're all on the same planet, but we all see things very differently. Can you share something that maybe a client has shared with you about something that really moved them?
D: I think the people are always the thing that I hear about the most. You send a client somewhere and they have more of a connection with their guide than the place itself. Because they're talking to a local, they're understanding their perspective and their lives. That's what I almost always hear back from people and what I always personally experience. I always try to reference them when I'm working in the same country like, if we could use this person, that would be great.
C: That's probably life-changing for them! Ok. Fashion and travel. One of the things we wanted to talk to you about is - you have a very sensible fashion about you. You were the person we wanted to play the character of Clifton in our brand launch. In my mind, that person has always been you. You personify all the things I think about the Clifton part of our brand, and it was a great joy to have you be a part of that from the beginning. Your style and my style is so different. But the fact is, when you're spending money to go somewhere, you want to look good. And travel and fashion are kind of in the same space. It's about telling your story and showing up.
D: Yeah. So, I like to look nice, but I'm a pretty basic dresser. I'm not over the top, but I do like to look nice.
C: Does your style change depending on where you're going?
D: Sometimes, yes. There are times where you'll be in a different country and someone is wearing exactly what you're wearing, but they just style it a little bit differently. So certainly I've been in places where I've seen someone wearing something differently than I would and I'm like oh, let me look that store, let me go buy that piece.
C: Italy is famous for that!
D: But also, being fairly basic helps a lot with travel because you can kind of pack the same things and mix and match, and then throw on your Clifton+Leopold accessory and make it a little more interesting.
C: Well we love that. Obviously, we think the accessory is the thing. A white shirt, a great pair of linen pants, in the Summer, you can wear it nine different ways. So, living out of a suitcase, as someone who helps others travel well, we would love to know three things you always pack in your suitcase.
D: A friend told me like 20 years ago, always pack a sweater and a swimsuit. And I've never forgotten that. I think it's like the best advice.
C: Well note to self!
D: I was just in Park City [Utah] skiing for 12 days. And you think Park City, skiing, Winter, why would I ever pack Summer clothes, well guess what? A hot tub is a big part of après ski and was a big part of the end of my day.
C: I've never heard this before! I think "always a swimsuit always a sweater" is the title of this blog post.
D: For me, the third piece I will always pack is a jacket. That I can make dressy or make casual.
C: Oh like a suit jacket.
D: Like a suit jacket, yeah. I had one that - well, I didn't spill it - someone else spilled red wine on it, it was this beautiful, gray, non-lined, deconstructed jacket that I always had in my bag. And I haven't replaced it yet.
C: Yes - I love a perfect jacket that doesn't wrinkle that you just pull out of your suitcase. What I like to do is hang it in the bathroom and take a shower and just give it a quick steam and you're good.
D: Yeah and if I feel like I'm too casual in my jeans I just throw it on and it makes it a bit nicer. I can also add a tie, and throw on nicer pants and it's like I'm meant to be dressed up.
C: Right and still comfortable and approachable. I love that. The next time I travel - a swimsuit, a sweater, and a deconstructed jacket.
D: End of list.
C: Ok, a shift in subject. So, as a brand, this collection is all about going out and rediscovering yourself. Our whole stance is, travel is back, go out and see the world. We're 'visiting' ten different countries throughout the launch. I'm guessing you've been to all of them, is that true?
D: On your list - I've been to England, France, South Africa, Italy, Greece, and Japan.
C: So, out of Finland, Brazil, and India - what would be your next 'I've got to go there!'
D: India has been on my list for a really long time.
C: I'm going this Summer!
D: The food, the culture, the colors, the scale of the country has always been appealing to me. But I always tell my clients - you have to edit your trip. You're not going to have time to do everything. You will have an opportunity to go back and see it all. But I don't always follow my own advice. So I know for India, I'd have to take like five weeks to dig in and see it all.
C: I think about that a lot, which is maybe not the best way to travel, but if I was never to be back here, what's the number one thing I need to do?
D: No a lot of people think like that. I have clients in their 50's who are going to Europe this Summer for the very first time. I'm like, if you've waited this long, this could be your only trip to Europe, OR you're going to catch the bug. So there were certain things where I was like, you have to see this.
C: Ok so of the countries we listed, which is your favorite? I know that's hard.
D: It is hard. I used to have this stock answer which was 'my favorite country is the last country I visited.' Which is true! When I come back from somewhere, I can't stop thinking about it. I think the place I work in the most and have visited the most is Italy. It feels cliche, but I had known Italy very well on paper for so long, and then I finally visited thinking 'there's no way the food's gonna be THAT good, there's no way the monuments and experiences are going to be that incredible' and then everything exceeded my expectations. Italy does live up to the hype.
C: Is there one thing or place in particular that stands out?
D: The people, the food, the Amalfi coast. I love a boat day. Getting out on a boat, on the Amalfi coast, sailing to Capri, seeing Positano from the water truly is magical. And the food is just...I still think about the first time I truly had carbonara on my first trip to Italy. It is literally one of my favorite meals I've ever had.
C: Ok so we're going to say Italy is your favorite destination. Is that fair?
D: With an asterisk.
C: Ok, so, where was the last place you've been?
D: I just returned from Park City. And before that, I was at a conference in Cannes in December.
C: Can you share your three must-do's in France?
D: Paris is always a good idea, of course, but I have a lot of wine clients. I know what I like and I am by no means a wine expert, but I would say Bordeaux was a highlight from my recent trip. I really love that part of France. It's easy, it's approachable, it's beautiful. And as I mentioned before, I love a good boat day, and what better place to get on the water than the Côte d'Azur.
C: Everyone says that! And even if you're not a huge wine person, they'll help you find something you like.
D: They will! And French wine has been around forever and they don't need to be pushy to sell you anything, it sells on its own. The guide we had there, we stay in touch on Instagram, she took us on this incredible walking tour. It's amazing how much wine is a part of their culture, to hear the way they think and talk about it.
C: Thank you so much for everything you're sharing, it's so rich. If someone is thinking about traveling and figuring everything out themselves, vs. using someone like you, can you talk a little bit about that?
D: I love a client that's well-informed and does their own research. However, I'm a professional travel planner. I may not be an expert in every destination and hotel, but I do consider myself to be an expert in my clients. I'm very specific in the partners I choose for my clients. Working together, I think we can really elevate the experience you think you might be able to plan on your own. I think the value I add comes by way of the relationships I have with my partners, and saving people their most precious resource, which is time.
C: I was so excited to talk to you for a lot of reasons, but one being, you moved from something so structured to something creative, but in a lot of ways, they are the same thing.
D: There's a lot of what I used to do. I'm not an engineer anymore but I'm using a lot of what I learned there in my career today. I have to be logical and reasonable, but still think out of the box and be creative. Ultimately, those have to go hand in hand to create your memorable experience.
C: You're engineering people's dreams. Thank you so much Dave!
Image Credit: @pixaroundyou
Contact Dave and start planning your dream trip today!