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Savannah, Georgia brings to mind horse-drawn carriages, historic 18th century homes, bustling Southern restaurants, and only one of the best films, Now and Then. But for Dusen Dusen designer Ellen Van Dusen, Savannah is the chill beach town she escapes to for a break from work.
"I do a lot of hanging out," Dusen says of her yearly retreat. The Brooklyn-based designer, who's spent the last six years refining her vibrant namesake clothing and home label, spends most of her time taking it easy: relaxing on wraparound porches, going to the beach, and eating boiled peanuts. "You don’t get to do that a lot in New York City."
For Dusen, the unique landscape of Savannah's ornate columns and brooding oak trees is enchanting. "It has all this really old Southern architecture you don't see in other cities," she says. "It's such a beautiful, eerie city. There's really nothing else like it."
Dusen rents a big house on Tybee Island, which she shares with her family and Boston Terrier, Snips. Residents can give off the "locals only" vibe, but it’s generally quite relaxed. "It’s definitely not Hamptons-esque," she says of the town, which boasts five miles of public beaches dotted with sand dunes and a Colonial-era lighthouse.
Her recommendations: "Go to the beach on Tybee Island, walk around Forsyth Park (a 30-acre, Paris-inspired refuge), check out the cafes and shops in the Starland District (a trendy neighborhood of art galleries and boutiques), and eat boiled peanuts."
Where to Shop
Savannah's Broughton Street is a shopping district full of big retailers (Lululemon, J.Crew, Michael Kors), but it’s charm lies in its unique boutiques and throwback shops.
Paris Market & Brocante, 36 W. Broughton Street: Consider Paris Market a global marketplace of knickknacks, fabric, and home decor items from Italy, Holland, England, and more. They also carry freshly-baked macarons in their in-store Parisian cafe. (36 W. Broughton St)
Palm Avenue, 223 W. Broughton Street: This Lilly Pulitzer specialty store carries everything you need to for a relaxed bike ride along the coast: short sheath dresses, tunics, and shorts in the label’s bright floral prints.
Civvies, 14 E. Broughton Street: This vintage boutique sells clothing and accessories from a medley of eras and designers, ranging from checkered tweed blazers from the ‘70s to ‘80s jean jackets, and Chanel T-shirts to current Marc Jacobs handbags.
The thrift stores that dot the outer parts of the city are Dusen's fashion secret. "You always find a lot of great stuff," she said of the local Goodwill (7220 Sallie Mood Drive) and the Salvation Army (42 W. Montgomery Cross Road), which are less picked-over than their big city cousins. She recently found several pastel silk button-down shirts which she now calls her favorites. "You'll find a lot of those down there."