Landed in a postcard
Katja and Colin Willoughby, founders of the family company Isla Ibiza Bonita, are celebrating the company’s 20th Anniversary this year!
To discover the unique story of Isla Ibiza Bonita, we must go back to the year 1974. Katja, a 13-year old girl at the time, first travelled to Ibiza with her Dutch childhood friend Ino and her family. It was on that first trip to the island that she fell in love with Ibiza. “It was like I landed in a postcard.”
The Ibiza family
Ino’s family was very adventurous and stayed in a fisherman’s cottage on top of the hill near Cala d’Hort. It was an extremely small cabin with no toilet, electricity or running water. The family led a very primitive lifestyle. And it was this simplistic Ibicenco lifestyle that Katja admired so much. “I felt in love with the pure and rough landscape of Ibiza and the pure simplicity of the community of people. It was all about friendship and being together.”
Ino’s father was a spear fisherman and a very talented diver. They lived from the barter trade and the fishery on the island. And they made everything else themselves. It was a totally different world, but Katja loved the way of living in Ibiza and still does. “When I’m there, I feel completely peaceful, independent and I realize what really matters in life.”
Selling homemade items on the beach
After the first lovely summer in Ibiza, Katja just had to return every single year. Every summer vacation, she spent six weeks in Ibiza. The first few summers, she always went with Ino, but later in life, she went on her own. “The Ibicencos became true friends, like family.” Most of them have been her friends for over 40 years now.
When she was 14 years old she started to bring suede fabrics, shells, copper wire, and other materials with her to Ibiza. With suede and lace she would make beautiful lace skirts and with the shells eye-catching jewellery. She would sell her handcrafted items on the beaches of Ibiza. Her father was a tailor of kids clothing, so as a young girl she learned a lot about making clothes. “Making my own items and trading has always been a big love of mine.”
A mix of different cultures and traditions
One thing that fascinated Katja was how people dressed in Ibiza: the style was free, wear whatever you want! Every summer, her suitcase was full of homemade clothes that she only wore in Ibiza. “I painted or tie-dyed old granny dresses and lingerie and wore them with thick Indian boots.” It didn’t matter what you wore, people in Ibiza didn’t judge.
What she liked the most about the fashion of Ibiza was the mix of cultural influences. Typical Ibiza clothes included, for example, a mix of beads from India, fabrics from Guatemala, and shells from Ibiza. The style was a cocktail of different traditions and cultures. “It was an inspirational clothing culture, something you didn’t see in The Netherlands.”
1981: her first boutique
When Katja graduated from The Fashion School in The Netherlands in 1981, at 20 years old, she started her own boutique in Voorburg, Babelou’s Children Boutique. She sold clothing which she had made herself in the atelier of her father. She also sold sheep wool jumpers which her Ibiceno friends had made for her.
After years of running her own boutique and countless trips to Ibiza, Katja met the love her life, Colin. Luckily, he shared her passion for the island and her boutique. They had three beautiful children together and created more boutiques with popular brands for women and children. It was the beginning of a beautiful adventure…
1999: the beginning of Isla Ibiza Bonita
Their love for the island Ibiza and the typical Ibiza style never changed. Katja wanted to sell the distinctive Ibiza hippy look in her own boutique- think gipsy skirts with beads and feathers, leather cowboy boots, and fashionable corsets. But it was nearly impossible to find that type of Ibiza-inspired design in The Netherlands. So together, Katja and Colin decided to design their own label with this specific style, and Isla Ibiza Bonita was born.
In 1999, they started designing their own Ibiza-inspired clothing for girls and women. Every item was easily recognizable by their iconic roses, delicate bows, and unique charms. Details that make it a true Isla Ibiza Bonita item. “I always associated the style of Ibiza with vintage and romantic lingerie in combination with edgy and cool items, like cowboy boots.” It is for this reason that Katja always adds unique details to the clothing, which is now iconic for the label.
Another important characteristic of the brand for Katja is that every item must give you a nostalgic feeling. “I always think in themes with a nostalgic atmosphere. Think about the Pirates, Indians and Western culture. Every item must have its own character or personality”. Katja had seen in the past that the typical Ibiza clothes were a cocktail of different cultures. And with this mix of all the cultures you could create your own personal style. Every item had a story and a lot of character. And that is exactly what Katja wanted to achieve with her own label: to design items that have their own unique personality and story.
And it worked! Isla Ibiza Bonita became more and more successful. Every year the collection grew, and new Isla Ibiza Bonita shops were established in The Netherlands and around the world. In 2004, Katja and Colin decided to stop designing clothes for children to focus completely on the women’s collection. “My children became older and we saw more chances and growth opportunities with our women’s collection.”
In the upcoming years Isla Ibiza Bonita continued to grow and innovate. Together with her family, Katja has spread the true and pure Ibiza style. Tara, Katja and Colin’s daughter, runs her own Isla Ibiza Bonita Boutique in Ibiza. Colin and Scott, one of Katja and Colin’s sons, run the Sales department. And Lee, their other son, helps where possible when he’s not busy with University. “We are a true family company and I think that’s the power of our label Isla Ibiza Bonita”.
Nowadays, the family company Isla Ibiza Bonita is a well-known, bohemian fashion brand with a large women, men and accessories collection that is inspired by the island Ibiza and it’s hippy charisma and pure, rough landscape.
♡ We hope to continue to inspire you for many years to come with our unique, pure, and true bohemian style! ♡