There’s a coffee table book in the Fella Villas called The T-Shirt Book. Everyone from Elvis Presley to Snoop Dogg is inside with their guitar or joint and t-shirt of choice, which I guess is supposed to make you ponder the tee’s evolution.
The forward reads: “The T-shirt is something emotional. It embodies memories of a torrid trip to Ibiza or time spent at a university.” Bruno Collin, who was Editor-in-chief of WAD Magazine wrote those words, and it had me thinking about the evolution of something else. Now we’ve reached the end of 2017, and swimwear labels not only spark memories of holidays through their garments, but provide the holiday itself. Holiday the look.
Welcome to the Fella Villas.
If you haven’t heard of Fella Swim you’re either hiding under a rock, without an Instagram account or are a middle-aged man (in this case, you’re probably not reading this; carry on, as you were). The swimwear brand, which built an Instagram following years before selling a single product, is one of the many new-age brands riding the social media wave to success. Everyone from Jesinta Franklin to Emily Ratajkowski have donned their swimsuits and the pieces have rapidly evolved to become a staple for Australian women – a summer necessity.
Their latest venture is a Bali holiday necessity. In a side step and stroke of genius, founders Christine Tang and Rosie Iffla have built a three-bedroom villa nestled in the heart of Bali’s self-appointed creative hub, Canggu. They’ve tapped into Airbnb not only as a booking platform but a marketing channel itself, and what began as an “accident” has quickly turned to gold.
“We were looking for a villa to live in ourselves when some friends of ours showed us the block next door to them. There was a very average looking existing villa, but the property was magnificent,” Iffla said. “The landlord wanted a commitment of five years minimum, so we then thought perhaps if we did a whole new villa on there and got the place for even longer than five years, we could make it a Fella Villa where people could stay during times we weren’t in Bali. Next minute, it was so popular we now don’t even stay there ourselves.”
Inspired by architecture, travel and art, the villa embodies the iconic swimwear brand’s lifestyle ethos, providing a tangible Fella experience for those who step through its doors. So far, models and Instagram stars have been trundling their suitcases inside, projecting filtered images of the modern space across social media for those dreaming of a holiday. So we trundled our own suitcase in to discover what all the hype is about.
To understand the Fella Villas, you must first understand Canggu. Early adopters have begun the Kuta and Seminyak exodus, with Canggu the next stop. Crowded streets, traffic jams and drooping power lines are being traded in for rice paddies and blissful scooter rides. Yet the quality of coffee and smashed avo remains the same here. It’s a dirty paradise – wearing that same charm of Los Angeles’ Venice Beach – where digital nomads, fashion designers and creative directors have found harmonious respite. A palpable sense of creativity has transformed this humble town into a sought-out destination.
In this dirty paradise, the Fella Villas provide a tranquil retreat. Lush greenery outlines the pool, while Moroccan furnishings cover concrete lounges. The home itself could just as easily be found in Byron Bay. For just $300 a night, the entire space is yours. Two of the three bedrooms have their own outdoor bathroom (Insta-worthy shower included), while the third overlooks the Japanese pond, goldfish and all.
The founders understand that in a world of Airbnb and Instagram, details matter. From the artwork to the placement of books, everything has its place. The Chanel helmet sitting atop vintage Harper’s Bazaar magazines in the lounge. The monochrome Fella surfboard perched against the sideboard. It all just works. But there’s one thing I can’t pinpoint: a sense of tranquility is ever present, yet its source proves elusive. This can mean only one thing – feng shui. You will not find any ‘coffin position’ here; from dawn to dusk the villa comforts and embraces.
It’s post-sunset, however – a time you rarely see in the curated Instagram shots – that the villa really shines. Soft, recessed lighting and perfectly lit bathrooms – these are the details often missing, but not this time. This is the greatest irony of a space created by a brand that ‘gets’ social media. No photo or filter can quite capture its essence. Only a trip here will. Maybe therein lies its genius.
WINE & DINE
The villa’s maid, Tia – think a Balinese Queen Latifah – makes breakfast here every morning. Vegetable-filled omelettes, scrambled eggs and nasi goreng frequent the rotating menu, though picky visitors can request their own dish of choice (BYO ingredients). The rest is in your hands, so here’s a push in the right dining direction.
Ji at BALE SUTRA
A Japanese restaurant sitting atop Bale Sutra hotel on the foreshore, this eatery and bar is Canggu’s best-kept secret. The terrace sits three storeys high boasting the finest view in town. The Japanese is equally as impressive. Try the udon and prawn tempura paired with the ginger, sesame soba and tofu salad.
Brainchild of the Ksubi founders, The Slow is a boutique hotel but their restaurant is the drawcard. Located on Batu Bolong and a short stroll from the villa, exceptional share plates and cocktails await. Order the Columbian or forever regret it, and The KFB (Korean fried broccoli goodness), squid ink noodles, cos hearts and short rib beef.
A magical, seaside bar perched right on the beachfront of Echo Beach, book a lounge and settle in for the afternoon with spritzers and some bites, but remember, you’re here for the cocktails. The the ceviche, pork belly bao and green papaya salad. For the main game, try the Herb & Spicy: a concoction of gin, orange liqueur, lime juice, chilli, basil, lemongrass and ginger ale. Those wanting to stick to basics, don’t look pass the Fireside Negroni.
There’s longboards aplenty in this town, with approachable waves rolling onto the main beach break, Old Man’s. Just a short stroll or minute’s scooter ride away, pop down to the beachfront and hire a surfboard for five dollars. If the waves are too intimidating, don’t stick around for a swim. Instead, retreat to Fella Villas. The pool is huge and the sunbathing reads are endless. Settle into the poolside lounge and take your pick of fashion history reads (The T-Shirt Book by Charlotte Brunel, The Leather Book by Anne-Laure Quilleriet, et cetera.)
An in-house masseuse comes to the villa by appointment and Spring, an award-winning spa with enviable interiors, lies just around the corner. Treating yourself is easy here, the only tough choice is picking your journey. And, of course, choosing the right t-shirt.
Tile and cover image: Supplied/All photos courtesy of Fella Villas