Ibiza style: Designer interview – Hayley Wheatley, Coco Riko

As a little girl, Coco Riko designer Hayley Wheatley would make drawings each night, then sell them to her mum in the morning – it was obvious this was one creative girl who would also grow up to be business savvy!

After graduating with a BA Hons degree in Contour Fashion in Leicester – the only lingerie design specialty course in the world – Hayley made her way up through London’s fashion ranks, designing lingerie, sleepwear and swimwear for big brands… but her long-time love, Ibiza, was calling. Coco Riko was developed and launched here on the island, and is now preparing to export all over the world.

Were you always interested in fashion? I was always drawing and creative, though I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I knew it would always be something in design. But then in my teens, I started to become really interested in fashion. I didn’t want to go to university just for the sake of it, so I took a year out after college in London, and worked for a record company. It was then I had the realisation that I really wanted to specialise in design and discovered the lingerie degree. The course I pursued was absolutely amazing and has set me up for life. I loved it… the rest is history, I’ve had an amazing career since.

Tell us a bit about your experience prior to Coco Riko? I started working at luxury lingerie brand Myla while I was still completing my degree, and then I went on to design lingerie at Debenhams, which was a fantastic experience. I went back to Myla for a while, then on to John Lewis where I was the lingerie, sleepwear and swimwear designer. After four and a half years there, I needed a change of scene – I moved to Ibiza. For the first nine months in Ibiza I would commute back and forth to the London office every two weeks. I was then offered a job as senior lingerie designer with Inditex’s Oysho in Barcelona however I realised that Ibiza was where I wanted to really be.

What was it that attracted you to Ibiza in the first place? I came here in 2001 with a group of girlfriends – we didn’t really want to come, it was just to say we’d been there and done that, tick it off the list. But I fell in love with it and came back every year for the next 10 years. It was never the clubbing side of the island that attracted me, it was more the chilled out scene, the music, watching sunsets at Café del Mar – I just came to chill out. It was only later on that I discovered the party scene! I always knew I wanted to move here, and when circumstances pushed me to it, I came out by myself, I didn’t know anyone… and four years later, I’m still here and I love it.

So Coco Riko was born in Ibiza? Yes! Ibiza gave me the time and headspace to really start thinking what I could do here and how it could work. I started developing ideas in 2012, then 2014 was my first season retailing the brand. With my years experience in beachwear, I knew it would a feasible option in Ibiza and a product area we all know and love on the island!

Where did the name come from? I’d always liked the name Coco, like Coco Chanel, and I had a list of other names to sit alongside it and it was the obvious winner. I’ve since found out from Spanish people, that Coco Riko is the equivalent of ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ in Spanish, it’s a farmyard noise! It’s quite funny.

How do you describe the Coco Riko style? It’s a little bit different to all the boho brands on the island – I wanted something that went with the arrival of the beach clubs and bars, something based on a cool beach girl’s style. You can wear it from beach to bar, on a yacht, and take it to the evenings. It’s glam but wearable, and very versatile, easy shapes to wear. It can be dressed up and down, and the prints and the trims give it that little bit of extra luxury.

What is your design process like? I’m still working with the seasons, though in a normal fashion environment you’d be working a year in advance. The minute summer’s over, come October, I start thinking about next summer, I review what’s happened this summer and the last, see what worked what didn’t. I’ve established my key shapes, so it’s all about prints and colour now. I will look to travel somewhere fab for inspiration and then start working on colour palettes and print on my return. I will have the sample collection ready in the new year.
Do you take inspiration from today’s fashion trends? Since moving to Ibiza I am so out of touch with what’s going on in high street, commercial fashion. I find inspiration from living in Ibiza and when I travel – My surroundings -. People, architecture, food, music, scenery – much more so than who’s wearing what. That’s what is really nice about having you own brand, you can do whatever you want, whereas when you’re working for a corporate company, you have to look at what other designers are doing. Here you don’t have to be led by fashion. You can set the trend, not follow them. However, I draw a lot on my experience, knowing what sells and what colours work. My experience has given me great foundations to work on.

Is Coco Riko reflective of your own style? I used to wear that kind of stuff, bright, flimsy, always making a statement, but now I don’t go to those kinds of places so much! It’s very what I was. I design the range with the girls who go all out, to Ushuaia and Blue Marlin in mind. Although I absolutely adore fringing and will always wear it, and I wear a lot of leopard which are also huge parts of the brand – in fact in my home I even have leopard print lamps and cushions complete with fringe – so I guess when I think about it, it still is very much me! My personal style thought is a lot more pared down now… Coco Riko grown up!