​ibiza style: roots, origins, and realities

From hippy colony to hedonistic playground, the Balearic island has been at the forefront of style for over six decades now…

by Laura Hinson
13 August 2015, 1:54pm

Photography Dave Swindells

For anyone who's had the joy of watching the planes fly over DC10, falling asleep on Las Salinas beach or dancing amidst robots in Amnesia, you know Ibiza is a pretty special place. Steeped in a history of hedonistic abandon, for generations the white isle's been a place to let loose to a whole new level, shaped by waves of settlers and clubs that have in turn shaped the fashion of youth culture across the world.

The first modern tourists arrived in Ibiza around 1950, drawn in by rumors of its breath-taking, untouched, natural beauty -- an island paradise of stunning seaside coves, clear pure unpolluted waters and picturesque coastlines. Tourism grew and the island prospered and developed. Ibiza was a haven from the political oppression of Franco's Fascist government that ruled Spain from 1936 to 1975. In the 60s, as the hippie movement spread from San Francisco across the world, a huge number settled in Ibiza, attracted to the cheap rent and rural lifestyle.

The isle legendary status was cemented in 64, when the Rolling Stones spent a couple of days on vacation in San Antonio. The lack of transport, worries and carefree (and for Americans, freedom from conscription) lifestyle were a huge draw for the nascent hippie culture. The staple hippie looks were flares for the boys and crotchet bikinis, headscarves, freckles and little else for the girls.

As Europe's hippie dream faced a crisis in 68 (from the Prague Spring to continued anti-Vietnam protests to May 68 in Paris) Ibiza became a refuge for hippies across Europe, encapsulated in the 69 film More. Directed by Barbet Schroder and soundtracked by Pink Floyd, it presented Ibiza as a sun-kissed utopia of free love and decadence, with a dark underbelly of drug consumption. A reputation it's never quite shaken.

By the late 70s the disco scene had spread from the African-American gay clubs of Philadelphia and New York across the globe, finding a second home in Ibiza's hedonistic enclave. Club culture also started to take shape, with Amnesia building a loyal following and other discotheques, such as Ku (which later became Privilege) Pacha, Glory's and Lola's drawing in crowds over the summer months. The spirit of these pre-acid-house moments were captured perfectly by the street photographer Derek Ridgers on a family holiday to the island in 1983. Writing later, he spoke of how "at night the streets and bars around the harbor transformed into a hot and heady version of what was happening in London at places like the Camden Palace, The Batcave, Heaven and The Wag… The kind of after hours dance culture which first kicked off in Ibiza - balearic beats, ecstasy, superclubs and the rave scene - became just about the biggest youth culture story of the late eighties." Revelers wore a lot of white, turbans, leopard print catsuits, capes, peg trousers and string vests. It was a kitschier, sexually promiscuous, beach-to-club metamorphosis of the New Romantic look.

In the 80s, the clubs adapted their very basic soundproofing and invested in huge, all-encompassing and powerful sound systems. Disco had evolved alongside the pop music of Bowie and Madonna, and music genres as we know them started to blur into what defined the Balaeric sound. The line faded between pop and funk, hip hop and early, soulful house sounds coming out of New York. Free style in mixing was embraced by Alfredo at Amensia just as house was about to take over under the magic of open rooftops.

Photography Derek Ridgers

In 87, British DJs Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway, Paul Oakenfold and Johnny Walker visited the island and were captivated by the Balearic sound as well as the open-minded atmosphere on the dancefloor. "We were wandering about Amensia," Nicky Holloway reminisced to i-D, "on our first pills, dancing to music that we might have otherwise turned our noses up at. We were there every night after that, thinking, 'Fuck, this is it. We've found Narnia!'"

They were so inspired that on their return to the UK, they launched the club nights Shoom and Spectrum, put the acid into house, and went a long way to create the dance music scene we enjoy now. At this time, British kids were saving up all winter so they could party all summer, dancing alongside off-duty models and queens, and wearing dungarees, baggy t-shirts and bucket hats. The loose, androgynous style allowed them the freedom to dance.

In 89 the Berlin Wall came down, house music went international and sounds poured across borders. On the night of the 22nd of June, 1991, Amnesia opened under new management and thousands of young people invaded the club. This also marked the beginning of the most lucrative time for clubbing with entry and drinks prices steadily increasing as word of acid house spread and its birth sought to capitalize on the Second Summer Of Love. The clubs of Ibiza started to become famous worldwide and the dress code became more commercial (think furry bras in the 90s and cut out swimming costumes in the noughties.)

In 99 the UN proclaimed Ibiza as: "Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture", a World Heritage City or Patrimony of Humanity, recognizing the island as having special cultural or natural significance to the common heritage of humanity. The island reached one hundred thousand habitants and from the 2000s onwards became a party destination for everyone from Calvin Klein to Puff Daddy and George Michael. No longer simply a scene of outsiders pushed aside and left behind by mainstream Europe, Ibiza's legendary party lifestyle has become a global byword for cool, good music and freedom.

Ibiza continues to change and evolve, and while other party destinations and festivals try to steal its crown, the island with its magnetic pull of 24 hour party people - take Riccardo Tisci's wild 40th birthday party for example (just look up hashtag #ibiza74) - proves Ibiza still manages to be one of the most influential destinations for fashion, style and sound.


Text Laura Hinson

laura hinson