Housed in a 400 year-old Ibicencan farmhouse with whitewashed walls and wooden beams, La Galeria Elefante, with its intriguing labyrinthine layout and beautifully curated treasures, has earned itself a reputation as something of an Aladdin’s cave. We speak to founder and designer Victoria Durrer-Gasse to learn how the store came to life and how she uses it to champion creative talent in less privileged parts of the world.
How did La Galeria Elefante come to life?
On my very first visit to Ibiza with my mother in 1970 I fell hopelessly in love with the island, spending every summer here thereafter. The scent of the pine forests, the sunsets, the relaxed vibe, the hippies and all the dirt roads really captivated me.
Then in the late 1990s, my husband François and I decided to move here permanently after our son Emile was born. Finding our dream house – an old finca perched on the top of a hill in Santa Agnes – was the first step to calling Ibiza home and we have never looked back.
In 2010 we began the journey of turning La Galeria Elefante into a museum-like treasure trove. The building itself is a maze of ever-changing little rooms leading into one another, each telling its own story with a curated selection of textiles and soft furnishings, art, vintage clothing and my “Victoria: Made With Love & Laughter” collection. You can also find a wonderful range of books, stationary, scents, unique gifts and even toys for the little ones.
How has the island, with all its idiosyncrasies, informed your designs?
The “Victoria: Made With Love & Laughter” label was born nearly 20 years ago. I started off making bags, then matching jackets and trousers to go with them. The Pocco Loco velvet bags and eye masks were among my first pieces and I still stock them today. The Frilly Rock bikinis are another signature design that are still customer favourites and come in a whole spectrum of colours. I draw up designs from my hilltop studio in Santa Agnes and this season I’ve taken inspiration from dreamy moments in my garden, the crystal-clear waters and the incredible light and blue skies of Ibiza. I like to think my dresses encapsulate the carefree, bohemian spirit of Ibiza – joyful times on sunny shores. The shapes have a touch of the feminine pirate to them – ultra-comfortable and easy to wear.
How do you factor sustainability into your business?
Giving back is at the heart of the La Galleria Elefante ethos. Items I design are handmade for us by artisans around the world in support of disappearing crafts, fair trade enterprises, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and small businesses to empower women and give due respect to the artisan and their skills. One of the foundations I work with in Nepal is instrumental in keeping the Himalayas clean.
Discarded paper and plastic is collected, cleaned and processed to then be recycled into fabulous homewares like placemats, trays and laundry baskets – a perfect example of reducing, re-using & recycling. Our close relationship with NGOs such as the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and the Women’s Interlink Foundation (WIF) allow our designs to be produced with love and attention to detail, while simultaneously improving working and living conditions for those who are struggling. We also champion local talent, working closely with many island residents and promoting their brands within La Galeria Elefante, whenever possible.
How does the brand balance an offering of both fashion and interiors?
The interior décor side of the business has really grown through searches for my own home and items collected on travels. I would see pieces that would work well in Ibiza, with the whitewash walls and blue sky, and wanted to share these with others, so I started to source for friends and then the shop.
What does home mean to you?
We’re very blessed to live in Ibiza and love our home – a 17th century old finca in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by sheep and pine trees. We sensitively 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 with unique crafted textiles, art and furniture from the shop. I love waking up early in the morning to the smell of pine and the sound of bird song. I make my cup of hot water squeezed lemon (picked from our tree) and wander barefoot outside into the garden or take my dog Pluto for a walk to a neighbouring ruin. I also adore spending time in my studio painting with oils – it’s a true sanctuary.
Where is your favourite place on the island (and why)?
A secret cove in the north-west of the island, where there are less people, cars and boats, out at sea in my 1940’s fishing boat. Or walking in Santa Agnes and San Matteo – the forests and cliffs with their stunning sea views.
Finally, what’s next for La Galeria? Can you share any exciting projects in the pipeline?
I’m working on a new John Lewis collection for Autumn, plus some new prints and I’m also planning a project with a new NGO in Madagascar. Lots to come!