Victoria Durrer-Gasse has been visiting Ibiza for 50 years, and has lived here permanently for the last 23. Well-known on the island as the creative mind behind Ibiza concept store, La Galeria Elefante – a haven for fashion and homewares on the road to Santa Gertrudis – she spends much of her time in winter travelling across the globe for work. The travel and lockdown restrictions due to the spread of COVID-19 meant Victoria had to put her trip planned to India at the end of March on hold for the foreseeable future. “It’s a very different reality now,” she admits.
“Normally I would be in India to to finalise our summer collections, overseeing our second collaboration with John Lewis, and I was about to start a new project with an NGO empowering young women, focused on educating young women in India on issues regarding menstruation and helping with the supply of sanitary towels, so that girls can go to school and not feel ashamed. So I’m finding new ways to keep occupied now.” Her beautiful home in the countryside of Ibiza, which includes her painting and design studio, is her haven now more than ever. Here, Victoria talks us through her experiences during these challenging times.
Describe your current Ibiza lockdown situation?
I’m on lockdown here in Ibiza with my husband Francois, a doctor and epidemiologist, our son Emile, a musician and photographer, and our spirited dog Pluto. We’re very blessed and eternally grateful to live in Ibiza and we love our home which is a 17th century old finca (farmhouse) in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by sheep and pine trees, with a fabulous panoramic view of the valley and hills beyond. We have renovated and restored the property using local materials: stone for our one metre thick walls, and olive and juniper wood beams for the ceilings. It has a cosy feel, styled by me with unique crafted textiles, art and furniture from the shop and sourced on my travels, so it’s perfect for lounging comfortably and dreaming (my speciality!).
Did you expect the Ibiza lockdown to be as lengthy and restrictive as it has been?
Everything feels slower now and detached from previous routines. I didn´t really know what to expect and so was quite open-minded and understand the necessity, however I’m not liking the drones and the tightness of it all – such as not being allowed to walk the dogs or being able to go for a run. The problem with this present situation as there is so much unknown and learning to live with the unknown, and not able to make plans.
What is your daily life like now?I love waking up early in the morning around 7am. First I make my cup of hot water and squeezed lemon (picked from our tree) and wander barefoot outside into the garden, still in my pyjamas, and ponder on the things I plan to do that day. Once I am dressed, I take my dog Pluto for a walk around the property and a neighbouring ruin and have my hour of contemplation/meditation and ‘empty’ my head. Sometimes I enjoy a fantastic yoga class using Zoom with my dear friend Vivianne. After a small breakfast with Francois, I might go back to Zoom for work meetings or call a friend or family member and then during the day I work on our website and product images and often spend some time in the kitchen cooking. I also LOVE spending time in my studio. I’ve been enjoying slowing down and getting creative to keep grounded and focused. Painting with oils, decorating branches for display and taking this unique opportunity to update our website with the support of my wonderful Elly team. With this new focus on our homes, we are expanding our homeware collection, available online and in the Ibiza shop, which we hope to be able to re-open soon.
How are you feeling on a personal level?
Moments of true stillness and calm and then sometimes waves of anxiety and worry for future in my business – retail. I deal with any stress with yoga and breathing exercise. My studio, where I can paint, has been my true sanctuary, even if I just stare at the trees outside – I find it calms me and I can be internally quiet.
Who or what do you miss most right now?
The beach, the sea, boating and swimming. Walking my dog freely and of course, my friends and human contact, and the places we meet each other such as La Paloma! And dancing somewhere with a bunch of friends too…
What’s been most the challenging thing for you throughout this experience?
Not being able to make a plan and all the unknown factors. Sometimes waves of anxiety can be very challenging and of course, I feel for those much less fortunate and honestly am in awe of how some of my friends are coping being in a small apartment with two or three children alone!
Has there been anything about the lockdown experience that you’ve enjoyed?
Yes – adaptation wasn’t too difficult for me as I work from home anyway and it has been lovely having my son and husband together – we have been really enjoying our time together, cooking together, Emile playing on his guitar and us lounging together in the garden. I truly feel so grateful living where we do and that our old finca is so cosy and embracing. This is time of year that the island is in full spring bloom, with carpets of brightly coloured flowers stretching across the fields and am so grateful for the smell of pine and waking up to bird song. I wake up counting all the different sounds and it’s inspired me to find out more about the different local species.
How do you keep in touch with the outside world?
Much more – thanks to Zoom and WhatsApp! I’m often on social media and love looking at Instagram and now, with more time, I have been much more available for phone calls with friends and family too which has been lovely.
What’s been entertaining you during this period?
I’m reading a great book, The Overstory by Richard Powers and watching Netflix and HBO: Unorthodox (Netflix), two series of Succession (HBO). I also very much enjoyed Gwyneth Paltrow´s Goop lab on Netflix. I’ve been painting and making things in my in my studio. As a family, we have spent time chitchatting, cooking together, listening to Emile play his guitar, generally lounging, doing yoga together and dreaming.
What’s been educating you?
Documentaries on National Geographic, likw Jane Goodall’s The Hope and on YouTube, Jeffrey Sachs Tells Vatican conference – re: Trump.
What’s made you laugh during this time?
Some Netflix series and movies like Grace and Frankie and the Hangover, and sharing funny stories with the family.
How is your general health and wellbeing right now?
Good – I’m doing more yoga and breathing exercises than ever! So I do feel very well. I stroll amongst our newly planted vegetable patch, take Pluto for a walk around the property and neighbouring ruin too.
How are your eating habits these days?
Much more healthy and vegetarian. We’re home-cooking locally sourced and grown produce, but eating too much of it! I love squeezing oranges and lemons and drinking healthy juices.
Are you factoring exercise and movement into time at home?
Zoom yoga with Vivianne most mornings, walking with my dog, and breathing exercises. Movement is really important now and so I make sure I spend at least 40 minutes with some sort of exercise – I’ve even played about with my son’s weights! I have downloaded the Headspace app for meditation and stress relief, and I actively practice the Wim Hof breathing method and end my morning shower with cold water – not something I ever planned to do before!
Have you set yourself any goals during this period?
To do more yoga and exercise. I have become totally vegetarian, so learning more new recipes, and I’ve actually been super busy with building up our online presence and learning to work with Zoom! Without any social life or other places to go, our homes have literally become our everything. The space that holds all. The space in which we relax, connect with our families, work, create, dream. It has made me appreciate mine so much. I want to help others find as much joy in their homes – so when we are all free again, I would like to help others style their homes and source special pieces for them.
How has the lockdown impacted your work/business/industry?
Of course, retail has suffered and with the shop closed we have absolutely no revenue, so now we’re building up as much as possible online and have been thinking about other ways to move forward which has been challenging but interesting.
How do you manage stress during such uncertain times?
Breathing, yoga, walk my dog and listening to the birds.
What are your hopes for Ibiza in the future?
That after this lockdown there is more awareness of what Ibiza needs – be it the sea and not anchoring in the posidonia, buying more local produce and more awareness of the environment.
What about your own future – how is that looking?
With the new focus on our homes, we are expanding our homeware collection to be available online and in the Ibiza shop, which we hope will be able to re-open soon. And we’re offering our interior styling services to help you re-create the laid-back, colourful, bohemian look typical of La Galeria Elefante in your own home and garden. We have a new fashion collection launching in John Lewis and plans to start new projects working with NGOs in India supporting women and children. We’re building more online presence and we’ll be having some fun events – when we are allowed!
How do you feel Ibiza has come together (while staying apart) as a community during lockdown?
Many people are reaching out with delivery of food and ready-made meals also and loving Zoom chats with friends over dinner. I’ve been observing a group working voluntarily on fundraising for medical PPE (personal protective equipment) for the medical teams here in Ibiza and my husband is helping them (he is a doctor and epidemiologist). They have been amazing with such care and dedication. And I live quite far from our neighbours but when I walk my dog, we have built a lovely chit-chat ‘over the fence relationship’ where we share stories of local history.
Do you feel safe here? Is there anywhere else in the word you would rather be quarantined?
Totally feel safe – couldn’t imagine a better place to live and be in lockdown. Also lucky to be married to someone who is very well informed and keeps me updated!
What are you most looking forward to when the lockdown restrictions are lifted?
I’ve watched numerous videos of dolphins playing close to the shores here and even in the harbour in Ibiza town. How amazing! I long for the moment when we’re allowed to visit the beaches and swim again or go boating in our old wooden fishing boat.
Is there anything you might miss?
Spontaneously enjoying the freedom of time to do things – being quiet – finding the time to do things I don’t normally do, like discovering new things such as the Wim Hof breathing techniques.
Any other reflections you’d like to share?
One of the beautiful gifts we have all witnessed in lockdown has been the genuine care, love, encouragement and nurturing for humanity that everyone has shown – either on social media, or for the public workers and medical teams or our neighbours. Looking ahead, I do hope this time we’ve had to pause and reflect will see us continue to be compassionate with each other and more respectful of Mother Earth and her seas.