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How I Travel: Kate Crofton-Atkins

Kate Crofton-Atkins, the founder of fragrance house Cochine, on managing a busy travel schedule. 

Kate Crofton-Atkins at the Park Hyatt Saigon, testing fragrances

When Kate Crofton-Atkins moved to Vietnam over a decade ago, she did not expect it to become the inspiration for a new business. A skincare and fragrance specialist, she was charmed by Saigon scenes; hidden streets overflowing with Jasmine against the stylish backdrop of French architecture. She set about designing a range of fragrances, spent a year working with essential oils, and ultimately partnered with a New York-based fragrance house to launch Cochine in Hong Kong in 2010. The name of the brand is derived from La Cochinchine, the name given to Southern Vietnam by the French.

Ten years on and she is busier than ever with Cochine available in stores across US, Asia and Europe. 

Here she describes her travel routine. 

Where did you just get back from?

I’ve just got back from New York where I was meeting our retailers and press for the launch of our new candle Orange Amère & Star Anise. We’re extremely excited about this new fragrance, it’s reminiscent of glamorous Christmas nights, and perfect for the US where we are growing our presence this year and they love a stylish winter evening!

How often do you travel a year?

I travel around twice a month, usually short trips in Asia to Saigon (where our products are manufactured), Singapore or Shanghai. I do around 5 long haul flights a year to the US and UK to meet retailers and press- these are always the busiest trips, as I try to cram everything in to as little time as possible so as not to be away from my 3 daughters for too long. The eldest is almost 8 now and I can’t get away with it like I used to.

Mainly business or pleasure? And what class?

I wish I could say pleasure and business class, but the opposite is more true! I do try to fit in seeing friends when I am away on work trips and I’m lucky that I still have a good group of friends in most of the places I visit regularly. That’s one of the best things of running a business with roots in many places, I get to catch up with friends in all corners.

Do you take hand luggage or check-in and what are your tips for packing/travelling?

In my dream life, I’d be the sort of person who travels with hand luggage only, and a perfectly curated edit of outfits. In reality, I’m normally carrying lots of samples, brochures and new products to show people, so my cases weigh a ton!

What is your usual routine when you are on a flight (eg sleep, work, entertainment)?

When you’re a working mother with three small children (my youngest is 1), alone time on a plane is quite a treat. Even though many of the flights I now take have wifi, I try and steer clear and use the time to be free from e-mail and the culture of “instant responding” that we are all beholden to, so it’s very much still flight mode for me.

I’ll treat myself to a good film – I’m often found weeping at a good rom-com – before trying to get as much sleep as possible so I can hit the ground running when I arrive.

What five things do you have onboard with you?

Always a Madeleine Thompson blanket and eye mask, paw paw cream (for my lips, and I put it around my eyes), I always buy a magazine before a flight, as it’s not often I get a few hours without e-mails to read one. I take a refillable water bottle- I’ve finally found one that doesn’t leak, and I drink a lot of water on a flight, and then one of our lovely hand creams- they’re a great size for travel.

How do you stay well on a flight and afterwards, eg avoiding jet lag, eating/avoiding certain foods and alcohol?

All the things you read a thousand times over- drink lots of water, avoid carbs and caffeine. I know people say avoid alcohol at all costs, but I always have a glass of red wine to help me sleep. After a hectic work trip, I tend to feel I’ve deserved it! If I’m lucky enough to be in seat shielded from too many eyes, I’ve also been known to put on a face sheet mask – not hugely elegant to look at, and slightly frightening for those around me, but they make a huge difference to how your skin looks on landing!

What do you usually wear on a flight?

Never tight clothes - I don’t know how people do that! Or bare legs. I wear a long sleeve t-shirt, loose black trousers and trainers.

Where are your fave cities/places to visit and why?

Saigon holds an extremely special place in my heart. I lived there back when I started Cochine, it inspired our brand and I still get such a buzz whenever I visit today. I love staying at the Park Hyatt, wandering around the shops and restaurants of Thao Dien, dining on delicious food at The Deck and doing some serious shopping in Ben Thanh market.

What are your must haves in a hotel and why?

Excellent wifi, good coffee and a swimming pool – an early morning swim is the best cure for jetlag. I’d love to say a spa etc, but I never seem to have time!