Relax and unwind at one of the most beautiful hotels in Mexico
BY ANJA FAHS
History teaches us that the first Franciscan monks arrived in Mexico with the first conquistadors. From the lush abundance of native flowers, plants, herbs and tropical forests they soon started to distill their very own perfumes. For over three centuries the Spanish Empire smelled of these expensive essences as entire generations fell in love with the exclusive perfumes from the Yucatán Peninsula. However, hundreds of years later the perfume legacy of the monks lay dormant and forgotten until under the name of Coqui Coqui it was kissed back to life by Argentinian landscape architect and model Nicolas Malleville.
Nicolas Malleville has developed no fewer than thirteen perfumes as well as toiletries and accessories. His first Perfumeria is still in the small town of Valladolid where he turned his own beach into an exclusive resort and spa consisting of four residences. Coqui Coqui as a consequence has not only become a global luxury lifestyle brand, but also happens to represent one of the finest hotels in Mexico.
Centerpiece of the resort is the residence Nicolas built for himself in 2003 on the white sandy beach of Tulum, called Coqui Coqui Tulum Axchilatlan. “I never wanted to be a hotelier, but simply built my dream house on the beach,” the handsome man who still pursues an international modelling career explains. The resort surrounded by lush jungle benefits from the Caribbean climate. Coconuts are everywhere. “Palms are the most beautiful trees in the world,” according to the landscape architect. “To me they mean paradise.” The hotel represents the typical simple, rustic style Coqui Coqui has become synonymous with. The design of the complex was strongly influenced by local architecture, the nearby Mayan ruins of Tulum. Constructed of limestone, the beautiful light-filled rooms offer breathtaking sea views.
Once his house was finished, Nicolas started renting it out to guests. Designer Jade Jagger, daughter of Rolling Stone Mick, was one of his first to stay over. Through his modeling jobs for fashion labels like Bally, Burberry, Cavalli and Tod’s Nicolas had made many famous friends who were happy to enjoy a holiday with him: Kate Bosworth, Sienna Miller and Eva Mendes, and they certainly helped advertising Tulum on the Caribbean Sea. Nicolas built a second Residencia, called Coqui Coqui Coba Papholchac, situated among the picturesque ruins of Coba, a city forty minutes inland from Tulum towards Valladolid. This small and romantic hideaway consisting of two towers offers magnificent views over ancient Mayan pyramids and in the evenings at the foot of the ruins stunning sunsets over a green lagoon.
A hundred kilometers from Tulum in another city is the third Residencia: Coqui Coqui Valladolid, and a fourth: Coqui Coqui Merida L’Epicerie, a single suite with private pool and spa in a beautiful, decadent Belle Époque building in the centre of Merida, a city in the north of Yucatán. Merida L’Epicerie and Valladolid are both romantic one-room retreats. The first is located near the perfumery, which next to the hotels and spas is the second pillar to the lifestyle brand of Coqui Coqui.
Nicolas grew up on a ranch outside of Córdoba, Argentina. During a family holiday in Uruguay in his last year of high school, he was scouted by a model agency. Despite the lucrative job offers, he decided to study landscape architecture at the University of Córdoba. His final thesis was of course being on the subject of his favourite plants, palm trees. A few years later he moved to Paris to take landscaping courses at the famous Bagatelle gardens. Other studies in Kew Gardens in London and the Giardini Botanici Hanbury in Ventimiglia worked as an inspiration to become a parfumer and to rediscover the old recipes of Franciscan monks from the Yucatán.
Nicolas’ modeling career in Paris had been very successful. Already at the very beginning he started posing for Mario Testino, who continued to photograph him for the big international campaigns. Thus the young Argentinean quickly became one of the most sought-after men’s models in the fashion industry. At the same time however he devoted himself to landscaping and gardens and started designing residential gardens in London. Nicolas also developed a great passion for travel and hotels – where he was in the habit of converting rooms to his own tastes. Beds were occasionally moved, colourful scarfs were placed over sterile hotel lamps and in came scented candles.
After his first trip in 2001 to Mexico, Nicolas fell in love with the Yucatán Peninsula: “It was like paradise.” In the same year he bought a beach property in Tulum and shortly after a house in the sleepy town of Valladolid. Here plant lovers launched his perfume business, selling pure essential oils from indigenous plants, perfumes and soaps. “When I came here everyone said I was crazy – coqui coqui!” So this became the name for his company. “I wanted to create fragrances in a very simple way,” Nicolas explains about his start. “It was a quest for the right, original scent, not something soulless or intangible. My perfumes are simple, naive, concise. My children can wear them just as well as my grandfather, a Maya or a Parisian. They are scents appealing to everyone.”
The perfumes, essential oils and care products are of course prevalent in the spas and Residencias. However, each of the four houses offers a rather traditional and personalized experience. There is so to say a holistic approach to each respective Coqui Coqui scent. Coco Coco thus fits to Tulum with its many palm trees along the white beaches whereas the treatments in the spa of Coba Residencia scent of the lush gardens in the city: Lime and Menli. In Valladolid the dominating smell is Rosas Secas, and Merida is characterized by a warm, elegant fragrance of tobacco, as the city is surrounded by plantations. However, all perfumes, toiletries and spa treatments are based in Yucatán. The natural tropical scents of the region have inspired all perfumes, just as much as the scenery, the people and the culture did. In any case there is always the age-old tradition and history of the local perfume industry that began many centuries ago with the Franciscans and the Mayans.
Nicolas Malleville is still a popular model and has no plans of quitting his job as long as things go well. “Modeling helped me a lot: I have traveled the world, met wonderful people and made a lot of money,” he sums up. What satisfies him most however is his work in Yucatán. “Important for me is the quality of life, nature, authenticity, just something real.” Altogether it’s something else than to pose for photographers.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q2 2016. Picture credit © Sidney Bensiman