Armin Heinemann

Paula's Ibiza
Originally published in Apartamento Magazine issue #15

Ibiza: Last summer in Ibiza, while in the house of my friend Grillo Demo, I set my eyes on the colourful fabric of his kitchen curtains. ‘Ah, that’s from Paula’s’, he said. By pulling some strings I came to meet Armin. He lives in an old farmhouse in the mountains of Santa Inés. Access is not easy and the house has no power or running water. There is a wood-fire kitchen, where he prepares tea and bakes bread with olive oil. He washes himself every morning with buckets of water from the well; he sits and prays and looks at the landscape. Life is very minimal. But then he drives to his office in Ibiza town, where he works with Stuart Rudnick, his right hand since the beginning of this adventure, and he walks into a different world. The office is an indescribable rococo playground—extravagant yet somehow classic—where every wall is covered in fabrics and dresses, kitsch memorabilia, and old paintings of women. The essence of Paula’s must lie somewhere in between these two fantasies. Named after Armin’s two children, Paula and Mopitz, or just Paula’s, was not only a cult shop or a label but the expression of a dream, a celebration of joy and love and freedom in a time and place that, like the landscape and the people of the island, are no longer the same.

Armin Heinemann | Apartamento Magazine
Armin Heinemann | Apartamento Magazine

I read that you were born in Germany and had a pretty normal life before coming to Ibiza.

I don’t think I had a normal life, no. First of all, I don’t know what a normal life is. I was born in the middle of the war, so I spent my first three years living with bomb attacks, hiding in the basement, surrounded by people who were scared of everything and trying to cope with all the drama of the war. Everybody that I met in my childhood had lost somebody in their family. Of course, I was not conscious of that at the time. As a child you see things that are happening around you as normal. It was only later that I saw what an intense impact that situation had on me; war became the basis of my life. First I lived it physically and then I became conscious of the fact that there was not one single day in my life without war somewhere in the world and without people getting killed by other people.

Post-war in Germany, would you speak about this?

No, in my family after the war, we didn’t speak about it. These things came afterwards; when you live through a war, the war is happening to you. People who have nothing to do with war think that other people make a war, that they sit together like us and decide, ‘Now we’re going to make a war, we’re going to go over there to Ibiza and kill everybody’. It’s not like this. The phenomenon is something that happens to the people. So, war happened to the population of Germany. And when the war was over, there was no money and there was no food. There was nothing. It looked like Iraq or Afghanistan today. You could only try to build your house and get your food and try to put your life together and get some money so that you could live. That was the ‘50s. There was no thinking about who did what and why—that was not the point, how could it help in the moment?

For you it was an immediate situation.

It was the reality. Then afterwards, in the ‘60s, there was some unease because of this obsessive search for material welfare. And my generation and the following one, we didn’t feel right. We didn’t think that that was enough for our lives. There should be something more.

How old were you in ‘68?

That was the year in which this feeling that something was missing came to an explosion. I was 26. I was studying architecture. I was right in it. There were the political issues, plus my own issues. I was married and I grew up in a macho family with three sons and a dominant father. My wife grew up in a feminist family with two daughters and a dominant mother. There was a big attraction towards each other, of course, but it didn’t work. My private life was completely chaotic, egoistic, and highly dramatic—a reflection of what was happening in society.

It wasn’t an easy situation.

People wanted to have some ideas to live for, not just to live like animals, having sex and eating and earning money to buy things. So these ideas of love and peace and freedom came in perfectly from America. The hippie story as a reaction to the Vietnam War.

Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Photo from the book 'Paula's Ibiza 25 Years'.
But, really, I didn’t come following a dream. I think it’s very important to understand that you do these things out of necessity and suffering.

And why did you think about Ibiza? Did you read about it?

Somebody told me about it. But, really, I didn’t come following a dream. I think it’s very important to understand that you do these things out of necessity and suffering. The idea of something better comes together with that. It’s not that you are halfway comfortable and think of changing your life.

Was there already a community here?

There was a whole bunch of people in Ibiza living like that at the time. We all came from backgrounds that had many difficulties, where we did not feel happy at all. Everybody had taken the same decision to leave one place and go somewhere else to look for a better life.

Fugitives from your lives.

The idea was to run away to get freedom, peace, and love, because, in that society and in those conditions, they couldn’t find it.

What happened with your family when you came?

I had two children in Germany. I was fighting with my wife, and I took the children with me.

Usually a man, a macho man, would run away without the children. How did that happen?

Women’s liberation was at its peak. The reasons for our fighting were that I had a better education, that she had to have the children, which spoiled the beauty of her body, that she could not work, that she couldn’t develop herself. I had to make up for that.

I was a normal macho, not the fighting and dominating type, but I had a good job as an architect and thought it to be the most normal thing in the world to go to work and have my wife take care of the children. And I wanted to have a big family.

My wife also loved children, but she did not want the work of taking care of them. She wanted to study, build up her career, and have me take full responsibility for the children. She was physically fighting for her ideas—there was not a minute of peace. I tried to adjust, but I could not handle my job plus the children. When she went to another city to matriculate at university, I decided to leave Germany together with my children.

It was a big decision.

Yes. That was a very big decision. The best decision of my life.

Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann

And how was the move? Where did you go?

I first went to Ibiza town, because one of my friends in Cologne, where I was working and living, told me about Ibiza and about a bar on Calle de la Virgen. So I went and saw the bar, but it was closed. I sat there in the street with my children in front of a closed door, waiting for some magic to happen in my life. And there was actually magic happening in front of that door, even though I did not realise it. Paula’s Boutique was later going to be a few houses away, and the lady that told me about the opening hours of the bar was later going to be one of our main seamstresses. After several hours there I went over to Talamanca, on the other side of the port, and booked a room for a month in a hostel, so I was temporarily settled. And every night I would leave the children there to go to the bar.

What was the atmosphere like?

It was very international. There were many people from Germany, America, England; fewer Spaniards. So, in that bar I was telling everyone my story, all my problems, over and over, hoping that someone would come along and solve them. They were all listening, all drinking. Then they all started to tell me their stories and they all had the same story as me. After spending nights and nights getting drunk I realised that I had to do something myself.

What did you do?

I tried to find a house and work as an architect. One night I found a little note that said that some girl wanted to let a house, and I made an appointment with her. I hoped it would be near Ibiza town, but I found myself in a house in San Juan without electricity and without running water, as simple as this one, and she sat at the table with a bottle of wine the whole night telling me the drama of her life.

I left thinking that I would never come back, but two days later, I packed all my belongings and went to live there. It became my first house and I was happy. That’s how I came into contact with all the campo hippies. In the bar, there was a different kind of hippie; the one that wants drinks and blah-blah-blah. In the campo are the ones that are looking for peace and tranquillity.

Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Photos from the book 'Paula's Ibiza 25 Years'.
These are big words: love and peace and freedom. But it was all possible because Ibiza was cheap.

When did people start coming to Ibiza to live like hippies?

About that same time, or a little bit earlier. Before that, Ibiza went through different waves of national and international artists in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. Many Catalan painters were attracted by the traditional, rural lifestyle. The first hippies came at the end of the ‘60s.

I have some friends whose parents came here, and I’ve heard some bad stories, too. I imagine it got heavy as well at some point at the end of the ‘70s.

Yes. If life becomes a little more complicated and not so cheap anymore, then the conditions for living, loving, and living in peace and freedom are more difficult. These are big words: love and peace and freedom. But it was all possible because Ibiza was cheap. We could easily find a house to live in and, if not, there was no problem sleeping outside. Those were easy conditions; the people here were all very generous and the food was there.

Do you think it’s possible to live like that anymore?

Under certain conditions, yes. But it became very difficult. Ibiza changed into a fashionable luxury place for chic jet-setters, and life became very expensive. We are living under capitalism, and so you have to know the rules. Even in order to live outside society, you have to fulfil the rules of capitalism. There are many people that do have the money and they know how to do it, but then they get hooked on the money and lose themselves. For me, the solution was to focus on a spiritual goal. It helped me to separate from materialism and at the same time I was able to live in it. That is how I got my life and my business together. But the hippie situation of the ‘70s—you cannot do it anymore.

For most people it was just a dream?

Yes. But that’s what it is: it’s all dreams. If you couldn’t dream that dream, you couldn’t bear life, perhaps. You need to go through reality to be able to live that dream in a way that is possible to live it. I practise discipline every morning for hours, living in peace, love, and freedom, but for somebody from outside I am not doing anything. I am sitting wrapped up in my blanket and that’s it.

And as soon as there is contact with the world—

As soon as you go out, there is war. Who is more important, more intelligent, more attractive? Do you have that thing? I’ll buy it, too. It is all about comparing, judging, and ultimately fighting. That’s our condition.

Do you really believe that?

Of course. But I don’t judge fighting as something negative, I just take it for what it is. The whole theory of evolution is based on the survival of the strongest: animals and plants fight to survive, and so do humans. Even the cells of our body have to be destroyed so that new cells can live. The majority of people kill animals to eat. Destruction is the base of creation. The new does not come from preserving the old. The cycle is destruction, creation, preservation, destruction. You have to accept that in order to live.

Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Photos from the book 'Paula's Ibiza 25 Years'.
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann

How did the shop start? When you took it over, was it already selling clothes?

I was really forced to get the shop. This German guy from Morocco showed me the place at night, locked me inside, gave me enough to smoke, and kept pushing and pushing me to buy the place. In the end he came down so much with his price that I thought, ‘Well, OK, next week I can sell it again. I can always sell it for more’.

That’s why I say it’s not a dream I had: ‘I’ll go to Ibiza and open a boutique’. What the hell did I have to do with clothes? I was an architect.

So, how did it happen?

I left the shop without touching it. And when I went back a month later I found a note from a German lady who had bought a blouse there and wanted to order more pieces. She described its design and this blouse was hanging there. So I found a shop selling curtain material. And then, in a notebook, I found the name of the seamstress, Antonia, but no address—and that was the beginning of a new adventure. I had to drive over the whole island looking for her. I went to each and every farmhouse and I got to go inside all the houses and see how people were living. It was just incredible.

And finally I met my Antonia. She made me the blouses and I sent the package away, and the lady sent me the money. ‘Well’, I thought, ‘Perhaps she can make some more blouses or some more dresses’. That’s how it started.

Then one of my hippie friends said she knew about patterns and sewing and I brought her to the seamstress. But when she started to speak to Antonia they were not able to communicate and the conversation became so complicated that I decided to leave the professional out of the story. So I said, ‘Well, listen, Antonia, you still have the pattern for a dress, let’s try to do something with it’. And I bought the fabric. But Antonia was in her own world. The result was an accident. The fabric was used from the wrong side and the dress was longer in the back and shorter in the front.

But struggling as I was, I said, ‘Well, that’s OK’. I put it in the shop and I was more than surprised that it sold right away. People thought it was beautiful, and so I continued. Then I met Stuart, who was sitting in the street in the old town, selling herbs.

Herbs to eat or herbs to—

No, no, to eat. Imagine this 23-year-old American boy coming here to San Juan like me, and wondering how to make some money to live. He would go to the woods to pick herbs, like rosemary, thyme, sage, then collected old papers that were thrown out from the tobacco shop, ripped them into small square sheets, got some coloured pencils, and drew pictures of herbs on them. He added some written explanations, like ‘rosemary for remembrance’ or ‘thyme for breathing’, folded them into little packages, filled them with the herbs, and wrapped some cord around them that he’d found in the street. He put everything in a jute bag, hitchhiked 24km to Ibiza, spread out his bag in the street, decorated the herb packages on the bag, and sold them to tourists for 25 pesetas each. I was impressed—a business with zero investment. I thought he was a genius businessman.

Streetwise, for sure. But what did you need him for?

When the shop started to pick up I realised I needed someone to help. I had my two- and three-year-old children in San Juan. I would give them enough food in the evenings, put them to bed, leave the door open, and go into Ibiza. Nowadays, the police would come and take the children.

Stuart was willing to help; he was a good, selfless worker, very creative, and he had an incredible sense for beauty and art. He turned out to be really the guy. I mean, we are still working together today, and he is incredible.

Did you have the feeling you were doing fashion, or didn’t you think about it?

Well, I don’t know. I never wanted to do fashion like what I saw in the fashion magazines.

What was your aim when doing the clothes?

It was just about discovering my own creativity—what I was feeling, what I was seeing in nature—and transforming all my experiences into what I was doing; in this case, designing clothes.

Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Photos from the book 'Paula's Ibiza 25 Years'.
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann

It could have been anything else. It was clothes because you got a shop.

Right! It just came like that.

Were you designing the fabrics?

Yes.

Because you couldn’t find the right ones?

I found a nice cretonne material here in Ibiza, which was used for curtains. We treated it, we used it from the wrong side, or washed it to make it different. We ordered it in a fabric shop here, but they did not want to give us exclusivity. They started to show it to other boutiques.

So, you had to stop working with them?

Yes. I mean, what was the point? I started to look for another way to get my own exclusive fabric. Then we went to Bali and I brought back some batik fabric. I went to a workshop and had them print that, copying exactly the material, and I didn’t sell any of it. I still have bed sheets out of it, and all my friends have pillows out of it, and in our office in Ibiza the walls are all covered with that fabric. I learned that copying is not the right way. I needed to do something new, by myself, and started making designs to be printed on fabric.

They’re very beautiful. Before even knowing about the shop, the idea to find you came from these fabrics that I saw. Did you have your own workshop?

No, but I studied the whole process of manufacturing fabric, starting with choosing and buying the right thread, deciding how to weave and design the ornaments and colours. Luckily I found a Catalan factory with some old-fashioned weaving machines from before the war and another factory that still used the traditional method of hand printing. That made it possible to design my own fabric and gave it a very personal, handmade artistic touch.

How did you develop the image of the brand?

There was no thinking about the image. It was an artistic explosion of that wave of love and peace and freedom that was moving the Ibiza of the ‘70s. When you change your life in such a drastic way, like we did, then all the creative energy in you is released. The word ‘hippie’ at that time—and even now, with all the clichéd images that are connected with it—means freedom, fantasy, flowers, colours, a creative expression that shapes your way of life. You don’t do things to fulfil the expectations of society, you live in the moment, and you are alive. That is how we managed the shop and that is what other people understood to be our image. Stuart was the magician; he knew how to make everything attractive and tease the customers so they wanted to buy what he was showing them.

Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Photos from the book 'Paula's Ibiza 25 Years'.

Do you still feel that you’re a hippie?

I still feel hippie, but I’m not a hippie on the outside. It just wasn’t enough. It didn’t work. The hippie movement is over. It was a fantasy with very simple ideas, a great possibility for people to go ahead in their own development, but also a big danger for people who got stuck in it as an outside fashion.

One of my best friends, his father died here, I think.

It went wrong for many people because they took the dream for the reality. They didn’t want to give up the dream because they thought—

They were losing.

Exactly. But in reality you can only win by giving up your wanting. When you clearly see the contradiction between dreaming/wanting and your possibilities, then you can also see the energy that runs between those two poles and you become creative. Then the miracle happens: by giving up your dream, your dream becomes reality. I feel privileged that I was part of the hippie movement and could live that dream together with so many people from so many different cultures.

How did you get through all that having a more or less healthy life?

Through India and through Cuba. I spent much time in India with spiritual masters and in Cuba with Alicia Alonso, head of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. In India I learned the maxim, ‘In my dream, life was beauty, when I woke up, life was duty’. And in Cuba I learned that ‘art is nothing but an endless battle and discipline is the weapon’. Both mean the same thing: the only way to go ahead in life is to sacrifice your ego for the sake of something higher.

So, Cuba and India brought down your hippie dream to your inner self?

Both places showed me how to make the dream come alive. Alicia was over 70 when I met her, and she was still regularly dancing on stage. What she was doing was pure art—she was hovering in the air—but every morning she was doing exercises and training for hours together with the rest of the company. She never missed a day. How could any 20-year-old dancer start complaining about not feeling good?

Armin Heinemann | Apartamento Magazine
Photo from the book 'Paula's Ibiza 25 Years'.

How did you meet her?

I wanted to do an opera; I had always been fascinated by opera. When Alicia, at that time also the director of the Cuban opera house, was touring in Barcelona, a friend of mine introduced me to her. We immediately had a very nice connection and at the end of a long conversation we decided to do a Wagner opera together. I was responsible for stage settings and costumes, and the singers were supposed to come from what was then communist East Germany. But before we could start working, the dream was over. When the Berlin Wall fell, the German singers would not go to Cuba anymore and there were no Wagner singers in Cuba to replace them.

Alicia suggested that we create a ballet about film stars of the ‘20s to Lecuona’s music El Vals de la Mariposa. This ballet was the beginning of a 14-year-long successful artistic cooperation. One of our productions, Cinderella by Strauss, was so successful that it ended the cultural blockade with the US and went on tour to New York, California, and Philadelphia.

How did you organise your life with your children later on? Where did they study? Did they live here?

After two years of back and forth I left the children with their mother. My daughter came back to me at the age of 15 and continued her studies at the Krishnamurti school in England. My son studied in Italy.

What do they do now?

My son got inspired to go to India when he was 18 and has spent more time there than me. He has now lived in Barcelona for the past five years. My daughter lives in Amsterdam and has three children.

Where in India did you go?

I go to Calcutta, to Puri in Odisha, and to Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh. I stay in traditional ashrams, leading the ascetic life of a spiritual disciple, which means strict discipline, little sleep, many rituals, and much work. I have been going to India regularly for the past 35 years, and when I am in Ibiza or travelling in Europe I keep up that discipline for three hours every day.

And in Cuba? How did you move from the ballet to the opera?

After working with Alicia Alonso for so many years, the directors of the opera asked me to do a production with them.

Finally! So it took you 14 more years to do an opera in Cuba! What was it?

It was Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, in the Gran Teatro de La Habana. I did the stage direction, the decoration, and the costumes. It was a very successful production and ran for some years. And from that, I thought I’d go back to Europe and I could just go to any opera house anywhere and make another opera, but I learned that it was not like that.

It didn’t happen.

No, and I was already 60-something. I didn’t want to start trying to make a career and go knocking from door to door. Finally I decided to build up an opera festival in Ibiza, a place without any cultural infrastructure and without any opera tradition at all. It was full-on pioneer work. Luckily we were famous enough from our fashion shows that people were anxious to see our first opera, La Traviata. We made it an exciting mix of live piano and recorded pop music. That was eight years ago; then followed some of the big titles, like Rigoletto, La Bohème, The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Tosca, Cinderella, and Carmen. In the meantime we have drawn professional singers and musicians from the opera house in Barcelona, and the Spanish opera magazines have written about us as a serious opera location, between Barcelona and Madrid.

When you did the first opera, you stopped the shows and the fashion?

I stopped the shows here and also stopped pushing the fashion business. It was the right moment. After 2000, tourism in Ibiza changed completely. Charter flights, discotheques, and international companies became more important. Our new show is the opera; it is a continuation and perfection of what we did before on a culturally higher level.

Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Photos from the book 'Paula's Ibiza 25 Years'.
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
Apartamento Magazine - Armin Heinemann
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