IN CONVERSATION

FRANCESCA BONATO

 Salty water, sandy shores, wind in the hair, coconut oil, barefoot...  inhaling romantic neroli, sweet tobacco leaves and soft fresh linen, while entering the perfumery of Coqui Coqui residence in the Mayan jungle of Coba, made me feel peaceful and brough me back closer to nature. The simple naive scents are telling a story of the mythical far away lands, a tale of adventures, inner exploration and care of one's self. The colonial chic atmosphere of the bohemian hotel is elegant, graceful and easy going, exactly like its creator - Francesca Bonato. Tenderly delicate, curious and free spirited,  she left the conventional life and established her own extraordinary world with her partner and husband Nicolas Malleville. The couple’s passion is obvious in all the small details infused in their vision of Paradise, incorporated into all of their hideaways in Mexico and Bora Bora.

Dive into Francesca's intoxicating world of rawness, tropical freedom, simplicity and appreciation. 

This interview is devoted to all wanderlust souls.

'i don't believe a diamond is a luxury. the real luxe in life is to have the possibility to have an organic life. breathe fresh air on a healthy place, somewhere completely far away. be healthy. be raw.'

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perfumes. rosas secas - dried roses. powdery and feminine with a subtle twist of fresh tobacco leaves.

photo by Andrea Gentl

Can you tell me more about your affinity towards raw and your approach to daily life? Do you believe the term ‘luxury’ is moving towards rawer and more genuine direction?

 

I don’t believe a diamond is luxury. For me the real luxe in life is to be able to have the possibility to have the organic life. The quality of life you spend with your kids in the manner you want to. Breath fresh air on a healthy place, somewhere completely far away. Be healthy. Be raw. Leave with true people. This is the real luxe. To have a job you manage the way you think is right and cleverest for yourself. To be on a super healthy place, where your body and mind can be healthy, you can eat a healthy food, knowing the origin and source of it. If you are eating fish and you get it from the sea or from a fisherman fresh each morning, this is the real luxury for me. Waking up, going down to the beach, jumping in the water and than going back to work. This is another luxe. Food is very important for me. I am Italian and I trust in that to  have a healthy body, healthy mind and a healthy family you need to consume healthy food and you need to know where it comes from, including the way you are processing it. I feel very lucky. We have our vegetable garden and we can directly get the food from the trees, we exchange meet ad fish with neighbors, we create our own yogurt. This is luxe.

 

All of your perfumes are made in the simplest way possible, to regenerate natural scents. What lays at the term “rich simplicity” and do you follow the same approach in your decoration and interior design process?

 

We love genuinity and spontaneity. We try to get the most ancient and native techniques, native materials and we love to use them in our daily life. A carpet made of local material or clothes made of local fibers. We expanded this idea to food, clothing, furniture and everyday life.

 

Do you believe sustainability can be fully implemented in beauty and well-being products?

 

Absolutely. All of our products are sustainable. We do not have any industrial process. Everything is handcrafted. There is a social respect towards all of our artisans. We work with respect towards people and nature, respecting the society we have been welcomed in.

What is your favourite ingredient?

 

I love the fresh roses perfume – Rosas Frescas. I also love the Orange Blossom – Flor de Naranjo.

bora bora. Francesca Bonato with her husband Nicolas Malleville and their son - leon.

photo by Olivier Rimbon  Foeller

Portrait of francesca bonato

Illustrated by Katarzyna Jagielnicka for Noir Catcher

I hope you settled all well, Francesca. How is the magical Bora Bora treating you?

 

It is beautiful. We moved 3 weeks ago. We have been based in Mexico for the last fifteen years. We found a beautiful piece of land three years ago here in French Polynesia, where we wanted to do a botanical garden and work on new fragrances for the perfume collection. We decided it is the right time to move out. Last year I had my second boy, so it was the right time to move. We just started working on the new perfume’s project. It is so exciting and absolutely gorgeous here. There is this beautiful island life. There is also a different culture, which is a big challenge and an incredible adventure.

 

Coqui Coqui is a mirror of your passions. How did it all started?

 

In 2001 Nicolas was in New York on 9/11, he moved out and came to Mexico. In Mexico he found a little piece of land in Tulum, where we started building our house. Then it became Coqui Coqui and a sort of institution. Meanwhile, Nicolas is a landscape architect and have studied botanics. He started working on the garden in Valladolid, where at the same time we were building and restoring the perfumery there, working on the fragrance project. The core business of the company is the fragrances. They are the most important topic. Besides, we also do artisanal products, which is more my side of the business. Nicolas is the creator of the perfumes, and I am responsible for the handcrafted goods. We kept working with local artisans on fragrances, products, natural fibers, hats, houses, clothing. When we moved there there was nothing and we needed to create and produce everything. We started doing this everyday and this is how the products line developed. We got very inspired. That is why we are in French Polynesia, because it is the mecca of it – here are the most incredible fragrances and perfumes.  We always wanted to do this beautiful Gardenia, it is called Gardenia tahitensis.     We want to do this big botanical garden in Bora Bora and eventually open a little place where people can come and stay, live our journey.

 

What is the inspiration behind the whole concept?

 

The key world is perfumery. We always wanted to have a perfumery, which is inspired by the places we love. The residence comes to complete it. 

How would you describe your choice – an escape from reality, rebel or simply wanderlust?

 

What we share through Coqui Coqui is our lifestyle. What we showcase is what we do, what we use. If Coqui should be described with a word it is genuine. It is our spontaneous life, it is the places where we decided to build, the places we love and where we live. Every project that is born is a project that we dreamed of, created and got inspired and passionate about. 

Every of your residences is one of a kind, following its own story and design concept. Which is the one you are most emotionally related to?

 

I adore Valladolid. I really love it. I rose my kids there. We grew up so much there as local people around us. The town didn’t even had internet when we arrived in 2005. It was so beautiful. I love the place because of the Mayan culture, because of the people, the beauty and the colours. I love Coba for the silence, the introspection, the meditation and the organic life you can have there. We have our vegetable garden. It is like a spiritual temple. I also love the Tulum one, which unfortunately was taken from us, which was very painful. It was our landing place from which everything started. 

Valladolid.  Coqui Coqui Spa Hotel

Beside the perfumes you have created your clothing line, Hacienda Montaecristo

 

I created it with my best friend. It is a mix inspired by the most traditional piece of Mexico called the rebozo. It is totally handmade by native people. We have used this old technique of weaving shawl for traditional pieces, revisiting them in more contemporary shapes. We have been recovering all the antique technique of colouring and we have been applied this to the rebozo.

 

Is there any other local colonial accessory or tradition, which fascinated you and you have found on through your way in the far away lands?

 

The most interesting was the textile techniques. I would keep on working on them. There are different types of weaving from which you can create different type of textures and fabrics. I would love to work on the project I will start in 2017 for old techniques of colouring. The blue or the yellow or red, they all come from insects and plants and I will be working on that.  

 

In the last few years, there is an unprecedented surge for niche fragrance brands, and local artisanal products. They became the very notion of exclusivity and differentiation from mass products. How does Coqui Coqui respond to that? Would you like to expand and grow or stay and be sold just on meaningful locations for you?

 

The thing that was amazing for us, both Coqui Coqui and Hacienda Montaecristo is that we have been growing very organically. We never grew one year to the other. After 15 years we have achieved a lot of goals. The company grew, the team grew, we started having more and more exciting collaborations.. I can see we can continue growing but in a very organic way in respect towards our concept. To do this you need time, organization and patience. If you would like to grow up fast you need to betray yourself, become more industrial et cetera. We do not have any hurry. We love to grow slowly. 

How does the creative process goes by with your husband, the perfume designer Nicolas Malleville? I suppose you work with a pre-existing context in your mind…

 

We are both creatives. He is more dedicated to the architecture, perfume and botanical side. And I am more dedicated to the garments and boutique, the artisanal work, the interior decoration. I take also care of the commercial side. We also have our brother in low, who takes care of the business, the legal side and financials!

 

What is your best seller and why it has such a string appeal to people?

 

One is the Tobacco Eau de Cologne, the Mosquito Repellent, which is very chic and pretty and hundred percent natural. From the accessories, people adore our hammocks and our rebozos. There is one called rebozo pareo with leather straps, you can made of it a skirt, a wrap or a dress.

 

What is your dream location for a next residence?

 

We might do Italy. It sounds very civilized, I know. But it is my home country and an incredible culture, of course!

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photo by Andrea Gentl