While most of us find comfort in stability, Hotelier, Nicolas Malleville finds it in change. His resorts dotted throughout Mexico and now Bora Bora are the alchemy of a nomadic existence growing up in Argentina, and a transient life as one of the world’s most successful male models - fronting campaigns for Burberry, Gucci and DKNY with the likes of Kate Moss. An inimitable aesthetic grounded in primitive luxury, Coqui Coqui Resorts are approached like patchwork as he travels the world with his family, extracting beauty from their surrounds, and collecting moments that seep into every crevice of the properties he creates.
Fuelled by passion and innate creativity, Nicolas lives in a world that dissolves the boundaries between reality and fantasy. Driven by watching his grandparents spend their entire lives working to later reap the rewards of hard labour, Nicolas has created a lifestyle through Coqui Coqui that flips the entire model of reality and delayed gratification on its head. One that weaves together fantasy and reality through bold life choices and creative risks.
We spent a few days with Nicolas in the Mexican jungle of Coba exploring his Mayan inspired masterpiece, getting to know what drives this inspiring hotelier, botanist and perfumer, innately…
You have an innate style. Every piece at Coqui Coqui is imbued with story and soul. How important is it to you, that design has meaning and purpose?
For me every single piece at Coqui Coqui is like a collective archive of my past, of my present and of my future. I don’t ever just design ‘things’. Everything I create are ideas that together tell bigger stories. I make my own fantasy.
I like to go to places that have meaning. And every element of design is inspired by the location. At Coqui Coqui Coba the jungle is the first key – it’s a story about native culture, civilizations, Mayan war and natural elements – flowers, trees, water, fresh caught fish, coconut oils. These become the guidelines that then come together with textures, scents, fabrics… and we’re almost like little kids trying to put it all together.
Where did your approach to design through storytelling stem from?
Growing up we used to travel a lot, my grandparents were always in different houses and they used to take me exploring through South America. But it was always about places that had strong roots, and sensibility. With Coqui Coqui I can feel this same authenticity, in a contemporary way. And we are able to share that, because it is so accessible here in Mexico. It’s easy to arrive from anywhere in the world.
When it comes to design, it’s all about putting together a fantasy and narrating that story. All Coqui Coqui’s are a little bit like a patchwork, it’s always a work in progress. You’ll never see the same picture again. They call me “the tornado” sometimes. Every time that I go to Coqui Coqui, I just go on a search, I just move things around, to give the same identity but always make sure I never get bored. For me every single item holds meaning, and when you rearrange it and place it alongside other pieces, it takes on a new meaning.
Stepping into coqui coqui has a profound effect on you. Explain what the magic of this places is all about, and what experiences you create for guests unlike other resorts?
What happened at Coqui Coqui was not about marketing at all. It’s just about pure genuine thoughts, and everything is real – whether that’s a crack in the wall, or so many of the details which are imperfections. And all of these imperfections feel quite familiar to people. You can find beauty in that when viewed with an artistic eye. What people really start to see in Coqui Coqui is just that genuine, simple thoughts can be brought to life in a very austere way. And this fantasy really means a lot to people who visit and can’t believe that this exists in the middle of nowhere.
And our process is a collaborative one. It’s kind of a mixture of my imagination, the people I surround myself with, and my guests as well. Because the guests who come over, obviously we are sharing, and the moment that you are sharing a lot of your thoughts, or a work in progress – from a new idea or a dream to go and explore a new place… our guests want to know what is next, what we will be adding, or what is the new perfume… and they’re kind of part somehow of the process. But always by accident, I really believe in destiny and accident. What we do is never really planned. Every year we create a new fragrance, and it’s always an expression of the feelings surrounding what happened in that year.
Where did the concept of Coqui Coqui first begin?
Coqui Coqui was a bit of a search for something that represented my own personal integrity after travelling so much and experiencing so many different places. I created the first resort when I was 27 years old. Somehow after looking all around places in this local area, it ended up being a journey that took only one day. From the beaches of Tulum to all the haciendas in the Yucatan area to Coba, and it was pretty fantastic to be able to travel between it all in only 3 hours. But after being at the beach for 3 days I’d get bored and I want to go to the jungle, and after 3 days of the jungle I would want to go to the city (laughs)… I think I’m a nomad somehow in my mind. The integrity of Coqui Coqui was really about that journey – I wanted to be at the beach, to then feel like Indiana jones in the jungle, then James bond in a kitsch city like Valladolid, followed by a very decadent glamorous city like Merida - but in a very camouflaged way.
What is scent to you?
Scent for me is like the first spark of a fantasy. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. It’s a spark that all begins with that first note of a scent, and the story begins.
Scent plays a big part in my designs. I like to create the future based on folklore of the past, and a lot of that revolves around certain scents that draw you back into past moments. It’s just about collecting experiences and ideas that your mind almost feels like an archive smells and senses
What is an early memory that has influenced the work that you do and really inspires you?
I always looked at what my grandparents did in their 60’s, and my fantasy was always focused on how I can fast track that. Why can’t I do that in my 30’s or in my 20’s. I was obsessed with understanding why my grandparents had to work all their lives to create this reality to enjoy life.
Maybe because I was the first man in my family, it was always like, "Come over here, come over to the garden!" – they really shared a lot of insights with me, in the same way that I do now with my family, friends and guests. It’s all about family, and I highly believe in family and love.
Who in your life embodies the kind of drive that inspires you? And why?
I’ve been very influenced by my grandparents in my childhood, to my father I miss him so much, to my mother… and then obviously when you meet the love of your life. It’s just amazing when you are able to share your passions and your fantasies with the love of your life. Meeting Francesca was the key moment when everything started to flower in so many ways, because of the genuity of being in love and making your own families. I don’t think it’s about one person, it’s all the people that I love that really inspire me. And now there’s a way to inspire them and vice versa, it’s a constantly evolving world around sharing. And I think the key of happiness or success is to try & share a dream in a different way.
The biggest lesson you ever learned?
The biggest lesson is to always follow your instincts. It’s the risky part but in these insecurities become security somehow. The biggest lesson always to remember is to keep risking and keep going for it. A lot of the time risk means insecurities, but these insecurities can transform into huge securities. It’s the genuine wealth of thoughts and if the thought is genuine, that is the key.
The best advice you were ever given? or a favorite quote that resonates?
Maybe the best advice was from my father, who today is not with me, his advice was always to go to explore the world. You know where you come from, you know what you have, don’t be lazy, dream but always with your feet on the ground. It’s good to dream but it’s good to have solid roots and enjoy your roots. It’s a sacrifice sometimes to go away from your roots, that’s the biggest sacrifice. As I said before, your family is your integrity but that is the risk. When you go to explore there is always a risk but it is the only way to collect experiences, memories, and become a human being rich of circumstance, rich of a very lively life.
Something you’re proud of with Coqui Coqui?
At Coqui Coqui we have a big responsibility, it’s about imprinting onto people memories of their happiest moments - for the moments they’ve been fighting and working so hard for are their holidays. Knowing we’re responsible for that I’m very proud to know that sometimes people make that relation to their happiest moment, because its about sharing. Coqui Coqui is a place that has brought me so much happiness through sensory details like scents, textures and memories created there. And long after our guests leave, those memories are sparked again through scents which are so intrinsically tied back to those experiences.
Your next adventure?
I'm on board the next adventure which is the creation of a botanical olfactive didactic garden on the hills of Matera beach in Bora Bora. It's a place that can really be enjoyed by people of any age - from a child, to a grandfather. With views over the blue lagoon and vast sky it's a space for contemplation, idleness and feeling. The inspiration is all about the fusion of Yacatan and Polynesia - two places that hold meaning for us. So for the new Coqui Coqui Poly collection of fragrances we've used deep natural fragrances that blend both - from frangipani, ylang ylang, sandalwoods, tiares, coconut, mint, grapefruits, vanilla, gardenias, vetiver.
Visit the Coqui Coqui website for more info about the resorts and perfumeries.