Posted on 16 March 2017
FRANCESCA BONATO, what a woman; she depicts strength, and love, and liveliness, and all of those traits, that daily, we all aspire to. Although I have never met her, I spoke with her, which felt as much of a blessing. I phoned her up on the island of Bora Bora, and I asked her the finer details of her life, and as I did, she poured her heart out; speaking openly, and truthfully, and passionately, as she ran me through the world that she is currently immersed in. I'm searching for descriptive words, the perfect way to describe her, and how she made me feel while we conversed. The only words that are coming to me are radiant, and soulful, passionate, and so deeply, deeply, authentic.
Francesca seeks out the beauty in this world, that is her gift. She then hones in on those things, which she finds so beautiful, and she pursues them, and enjoys them, and lives for them; and then, with the heart that she has, she shares them, through her words, and her time, and her creativity. One of both hers and her husbands greatest creations, and an extension of who they are, has been the brand Coqui Coqui, which produces perfumes, and lifestyle experiences through residences and spas which guests can stay at around the world. Throughout our interview, Francesca speaks her mind, and shares her heart on the topics of living, mothering and playing out many of her wild fantasies.
Styling & Photography @MADELINE.JOHNSON
Words & Interview @SOPHIE_RENZEN
Please tell me a touch about your life, where are you living right now, and with whom?
Right now, we are living in Bora Bora, French Polynesia. We just left Mexico, life was busy, we had lots of daily commitments due to our business, and we wanted to withdraw from that, and re-emerge a bit more quietly, doing more of what we love. We decided it was time for us to move some place new, somewhere beautiful, and fresh, where we could work on a new dream that we had been planning. So we made the decision to continue our adventure, to pack up our lives into suitcases, and move to Bora Bora. We are now living barefoot, in a Cabana, with a grass roof, surrounded by natural beauty, and it is so wonderful to get back to the roots, to be able to do this while the children are small, to give them this kind of childhood. There is nothing luxe about it, we have no car, so I am riding my bicycle around town, but it is so real and so rewarding.
You have just left Mexico, where your brand Coqui Coqui all began, can you tell me how you ended up in Mexico, and a little about your life there?
I am Italian, but have lived in many countries. There was a time when my husband and I were about to move to New York, all of our friends were moving there, or living there, and we thought we wanted to as well. Though, we weren’t sure, we loved New York, and also London, but on top of this, we’d been throwing around the idea of creating a bed and breakfast in Mexico, it seemed crazy at the time, but we kept revisiting it. After lots of back and forth, we finally decided to go with our hearts, and live out this wild idea that we’d had. So we did it, and we ended up falling in love with Mexico, and really immersing ourselves in the culture.
I started asking so many questions of the locals, becoming friends with them all, whilst remaining respectful. People began inviting us to their homes, and sharing with us their way of life, it was a beautiful time. Throughout it, our own way of life began to form, and as it did, we began to share this lifestyle through our bed and breakfast, Coqui Coqui, in Talum, Mexico. Our friends from big cities would come, and fall in love with what we had created, sharing with us the Mexican way of life that we’d grown to know and love. From there, our business grew, and it kept growing, and now we are 13 years on, and have multiple guest residences and spas, that we continue to run.
Though, with all that comes publicity and meetings, and so many things that take up much of your time. With small children I felt I needed more time for them, to be around to witness their first milestones, and to offer them more of me. So we decided to move on, to some place more simple, which is what led us to Bora Bora.
Where did you go in your mind, when you invented the idea of Coqui Coqui? how did it evolve, how were you thinking and feeling when it made its way to the surface?
Coqui Coqui definitely evolved. I think to live well, you have to be yourself, and be spontaneous, and by doing this everything will evolve the way that it should. With Coqui Coqui, it was effortless, it was a total reflection of how we are, and how we live. At our hotels, for example, we share with people the food that we eat, the decor that we love, the raw truth of the way that we had been living in Mexico. By being authentic, we then attracted similar people, people who were drawn to that same authenticity; and by doing so, we became surrounded by a community of likeminded people, who loved what we'd made, and could share with us what we had created.
What can we, as visitors, expect to get out of our stay at Coqui Coqui? What will it feel like for us, and then what will we take away?
My hope was always to be able to share with anyone who visited Coqui Coqui, the essence of living in Mexico. I wanted them to be able to taste the food, the flavours, and see, fall in love with, the Mexican way; meet the people, experience what it felt like to be us, to live like us, to temporarily, adopt our lifestyle, and also enjoy it.
I wanted people to leave knowing what Mexico was, I feel very responsible for that. We have travelled ourselves to lots of countries and stayed in many hotels, and the ones I have loved the most, are always the ones that are the most authentic to the country, to the town, to the place they are in. For example, I don’t want to see a Buddha in a Mexican hotel, I want to see what Mexicans would have in their home, I want to experience what life is like for those people. So that is what we aimed to do with Coqui Coqui, to share with people not only a place to stay, not only a spa, not only perfumes, but experiences, holistic experiences from the places where they are from.
What has come from your creation, not aesthetically, we know that what you have created on the outside is nothing but magic, though on the inside, what has it done for you? How has the creation of Coqui Coqui changed you as a person, or added to your personal growth?
Basically, it has allowed me to get to know myself a lot better than I already did. It has helped me to discover sides to myself, that otherwise, I don't think I would have been able to. It has challenged me over and over, so much has come from this experience. Even now, learning a new language, moving somewhere, with no friends, to a straw roofed shack on the beach, with no help, nothing at all, starting again as if I was 20. All of these things, all of these changes, challenges, all of this creation, has done so much for me.
My friend asked me recently how I get to the grocery store, because I no longer have a car, and I told her that I ride my bicycle to get there, and she could not believe it. I am so enjoying it though, the simple things, and i’m teaching myself more and more that i’m capable and that my family is capable, of things we may not have thought we were before. So overall, I guess this whole thing has taught me who I am, and what things I do and do not like to do, what I am good at, what my capabilities are, a lot more about me, and with all of that, I have been able to live a better life.
With regard to becoming a parent, how have things changed for you throughout the years, and how have you adapted your way of life to make room for these changes?
It came to me very naturally, I think I was born to be a Mother. I’m a woman but I really love to work also, I have a lot of energy, I always have, and although I love motherhood dearly, I can’t just be a mother, I have to balance the two, I have to work, as well as be with my children. I need the stimulation work brings me, and the creativity.
I think my biggest change, has had to do with organisation, there are so many things that need to be managed when you become a mother, to do with yourself, and your children combined. So for me, it’s been trying to work everything out, manage it all properly, so I don’t lose time to the silly things; so I have the best quality time for my children, my husband, and also my work.
All of this, I have found, has to do with organisation, and becoming very strict with timings and schedules, creating a sort of rhythm, for myself and my family. I have found my children have actually gained their security through these rhythms; they know when they eat, when they bath, when they sleep, and that is their comfort.
We travel a lot, and have also moved house a lot, so my children’s comfort doesn’t come from being at home, it comes from the consistency and security they find in having a structure, a routine, that they can rely on. Even if we’re on a plane, from Mexico, to French Polynesia, I still make sure the routine is the same. They will carry their backpack with their pyjamas, their toothbrushes, and we will carry out the same sort of rhythm, wherever we are. I really believe this consistency can have so many benefits once you decide to bring it into your family life.
What are you working on right now, what are you in the process of dreaming up?
Well, here in Bora Bora we have actually just bought some land and are in the process of creating our own Botanical Garden; with my husband being a perfumer, this has been a great dream of ours for a long time now. We will have a lab here, where we will create all of our scents, and our home will surround it. Right now, this is what we are creating, and eventually, as we did in Mexico, we will share our home, so guests can come and stay, and experience with us, our new way of life here in Bora Bora.
Where will you be, do you expect, in 10 years time?
I think we will still be travelling, in a new place probably. No idea where, I just feel I would love my children to do secondary school in an Anglo-Saxon country. So I would say we will be some place beautiful, where I know my children can get a good education. For their minds, I think from about age 14, an Anglo-Saxon education would be good for them; for the structure and the mindset. So maybe New Zealand, Australia, somewhere completely unknown to me now? The thing that would move me though, I feel, would be school, for Leon, who right now is age 7.
Francesca wears AIKO ROMPER