THE SEASIDE VILLAGE

 

Owned by fashion designer Wilbert Das, the former creative director at Diesel, UXUA is a series of guest hotel-houses next to the beach. Wilbert’s story is one of the great ones of where the hospitality has attracted another great soul. His chance encounter with Trancoso has led him on a journey where he has combined his vision of paradise and passion for design. He recalls his first journey to the town, “I had been recommended the area by friends and upon arriving, its serene qualities actually made me worried I would get bored. By the end of the trip I felt as if I had found paradise on earth. I have travelled extensively and been to some of the world’s most beautiful places, but none of them achieved the perfect harmony that I found in Trancoso in all aspects: the nature, the people, the culture, music and food all came together to form this magical place.”

That first visit was a turning point for Wilbert and came at a time where he had started to notice a sense of change occurring with fashion, “Everything had started to become about price and quantity and not about fashion and quality. Leaving the industry was a relief, as I’d become too involved in creating materials with no longevity. Designing a line of clothing for a season meant that three months later my creations would be out of date. I was ready for a change.” Initially, Wilbert travelled back to Trancoso to build himself a home. The passion he felt for design traversed from the catwalk to creating 3D drawings of what he desired his home to look like. Upon finding the ideal location, his current project began to take shape.

The idea changed from a single home to a set of homes where he could entertain fellow paradise-seekers. An avid traveller himself, Wilbert combined the aspects he most enjoyed within luxury travel with those of staying at home. He fully immersed himself in the creation of UXUA; he was involved in every aspect from the 3D designs and architecture, to the landscaping and furnishings within.

“I always like to rent a house when I travel in terms of space. You get to feel more at home and more at ease. That being said, I also like the luxuries you have in a hotel: having someone to cook and clean for you, and getting to enjoy a level of pampering. I decided to fuse these to create this casa-hotel or hotel within a home. UXUA means ‘marvellous’ in the language of the local tribe of Pataxo Indians.” Proposing the idea to the local community was not an easy task. Families were sceptical of the Dutch designer who had arrived initially to build a holiday home that had then been transformed into a boutique hotel. Wilbert won them over by demonstrating the adoration he felt of the area and the respect he had for the community. He only worked with locals when it came to building the hotel and gave back to the community by adding to the tourism offer in a non-invasive manner. All houses were designed and decorated by Wilbert in collaboration with local artisans using traditional building methods, reclaimed and organic materials and Brazilian antiques and art.

 

“THIS IS REALLY AN HONOUR FOR ME AS IT IS THE NEXT STEP IN DESIGN. FOLLOWING MY PASSION HAS LED ME TO OPPORTUNITIES I DIDN’T IMAGINE”

 

“Brazil has great problems with social inequality and Trancoso is no different. When I came here there was quite a lot of poverty and many issues with healthcare and education. Through the hotel I’ve been able to positively impact these areas. We give English lessons to all employees and organise proper healthcare for employees and their families too. The people here are naturally so hospitable, and once they began accepting me as part of the community I found other ways to show my respect and gratitude for this tremendous opportunity. I support local sports groups like the capoeira organisation and work with the local fishermen organisation to try and make this place better.”

The positive impact Wilbert has had in the community is evident in the way that the locals treat him. Wilbert has been nominated to organise local religious festivals – an honour usually only bequeathed to local families. “I can’t explain when it first occurred to me but part of me always wanted to have a compound where I lived together with friends and we would share our creative forces. I have an artist in residence programme where I invite an artist to stay with us for a couple of weeks to make projects that then stay at the hotel. There is a natural agreement that any projects are made using local materials.

The artist is able to create something they never could have made in any other place. One of the first artists that came was someone I met through a furniture fair in Milan. I love the idea of continuing this creative aspect of life through unique projects that contribute to the community and widen its exposure. In return for their art, I am happy to give them an unforgettable hospitality experience in Brazil.”

Wilbert has not only encountered success in running the hotel. The designs of his guest houses have been admired so much by visitors that he has now transitioned into designing private houses. “This is really an honour for me as it is the next step in design. Following my passion has led me to opportunities I didn’t imagine occurring.”

It is clear Wilbert and the village’s tranquil nature has become part of his personality. Despite his growing success and accomplishments, he is humble and focuses his energy on developing different ways to give back to the community that has allowed him to realise his dream.

“I consider myself truly fortunate. I have no desires to make this a chain or build other hotels. UXUA for me will always be a dream that I fulfilled and is now slowly becoming a business.”