“Bucolic” and “idyllic” are not the first words that spring to mind when describing Ibiza, especially when one considers how this Mediterranean isle off the eastern Spanish coast is known more for super clubs, raucous spring breakers, and that brassy EDM movement.
There exists an Ibiza that’s a sleepy island, inhabited by peasants and farmers for centuries, long before the clubbers and yachts descended in the ’80s (which, for the most part, are concentrated on the south side of the island). That agrarian imprint is seen everywhere even today in the form of rustic fincas, or farmhouses, many of which lack basic amenities.
Coupled with a natural beauty – think hidden coves and pine forests – the island was a bohemian magnet in the ’60s and ’70s, a halcyon refuge during the time of the Vietnam War. It was a stimulating yet serene type of island life, one that inspired some of fashion’s greatest creatives like Yves Saint Laurent to base their entire collections on.
Among the throngs of hippies who flocked to the island then was a German architect by the name of Armin Heinemann. After his divorce, he settled there in 1972 with his two children and soon earned a reputation as one of Ibiza’s cultural superstars. His newfound calling: fashion designer-slash-retailer, one who’s been credited to have created a hedonistic island lifestyle and accompanying fashion movement that was uniquely Ibizan.
If clothing, culture and art were his creative ends, then Paula’s Ibiza was his nerve centre. Situated on the Calle de la Virgen strip in the island’s Old Town quarter, the shop began as a leather store. Together with Stuart Rudnick – an American selling local herbs on the island – he started a venture that was equal parts fashion boutique, and art and theatre space. It was to become an exclusive yet open multidisciplinary venue that attracted everyone from the typical shopper to creative A-listers like Freddie Mercury and Valentino Garavani, to even the “loonies, pretty people, eccentrics and freaks”, according to Heinemann.
“The magic of Paula’s was the aesthetic manifestation of the hippie philosophy. I was fully immersed in nature and could not think of anything else but to express that in my work,” says Heinemann, who still lives an ascetic life in a finca on the island.
The shop was draped from wall to ceiling with fabrics printed with florals – similarly adorned were the cushions and blanket furnishings, and even the car and delivery vehicles. Rudnick would spend an hour every morning sprucing up the nooks and crannies with flowers. The floral obsession runs through the clothes designed by Heinemann: peasant dresses with ruffles and drapes, and pantaloons paired with an Arabian keffiyeh – colourful, eccentric, romantic.
As if the clothes weren’t theatrical enough, the fashion shows that Heinemann and Rudnick staged – sometimes in their shop, sometimes on the streets – were frenetic, carnivalesque affairs. Shop staff and friends were often roped in as performers and models. DJ Alfredo, a legendary name in the Ibiza music scene, once said: “All the people that worked for (Heinemann) were very well known in Ibiza. They had a special look and character, coming from different parts of the world.”
Though the shop eventually shuttered in 2000, Heinemann had by then revolutionised the way masses experienced shopping. It was an antecedent to the experiential retail concepts like Dover Street Market and 10 Corso Como. Paula’s Ibiza was popular enough to have Rudnick instal a red cord outside the store, allowing one customer in at a time.
In a way, it was their idea of VVIP treatment. “(Rudnick) would make people wait or make them come back in 20 minutes even when there was nobody inside,” says Heinemann. “After styling his customer, he made sure that she did not carry out her new clothes in a bag, but left our shop wearing the dress, jacket and hat she just bought. Most days, the streets and cafes around the boutique were filled with Paula’s outfits.”
That free-spiritedness spoke to Loewe’s creative director J.W. Anderson’s artistic side. The man’s fascination with culture and art has seen him approaching cult artists to collaborate with the Madrid maison he designs for. Among the names he’s tied up with: ceramicist Tomoo Hamada and leather artisan Jose Luis Bazan.
The designer first stumbled upon Paula’s Ibiza during his trips to the island as a child. In an e-mail interview with Female, Anderson says: “Paula’s Ibiza is important right now because it represents a liberal statement. We chose Paula’s because it’s part of the bohemian Spanish culture. That liberal side of Loewe is incredibly important.”
It’s led to an uncanny pairing, the bohemian aesthetics of Heinemann’s matching the modern, abstract designs of Anderson’s at Loewe. The result is a 32-piece capsule collection debuting this month at selected stores worldwide, including the Paragon boutique here. Priced from $295 to $2,600, the ready-to-wear and accessories range boasts three of Heinemann’s original designs: a reversible jacket, a waistcoat and a blouse. Meanwhile, eight patterns from the archives of Paula’s Ibiza that bear prints of musicians, birds and flowers appear on items such as crepe skirts and gypsy dresses.
Seventeen years after the closure of Paula’s Ibiza, the Loewe project has allowed Heinemann to relive that hippie approach to fashion. “My work was based on the necessities of the moment and on intuition,” he says. “My ascetic life helps me to understand that I am part of the boundless creation of nature. I never allow myself to go the easy way, instead I try to connect to nature, be authentic and look for solutions that come directly from intuition.”
This story first appeared in Female’s May 2017 issue.