She could live anywhere, but Jade Jagger chose Ibiza. Bob Morris finds out why there's much more to this laid-back European island than discos and all-night raves
The quiet little village of Sant Joan de Labritjaon the quiet northern end of Ibiza isn't so quiet during the celebration of its patron saint, John the Baptist, which is proceeding in a less than saintly way. Firecrackers are popping, music is blaring, and revelers are jumping over bonfires. The walls and cupola of a white 18th-century church are illuminated with a lurid psychedelia one would associate more with the Grateful Dead than with a religious feast day. Across the church square, black lights and a tangle of Day-Glo streamers hang from a trellis in preparation for a rave. In an adjacent plaza, dreadlocked dancers on stilts and dressed all in white are banging drums as if possessed.
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At 10 p.m. Jade Jagger walks into the middle of this scene. She is with her boyfriend and her two daughters, ages 9 and 13, and she's wearing a flowing, ruffle-bottomed Gypsy-style dress. Barefoot and tawny, she looks as if she could be an earthy vacationer here to enjoy the Ibiza vibe. But look again. The dress is by Louis Vuitton. The big pink bag she's carrying is Chanel, and inside it are Manolo Blahniks taken off after dinner.
When her girls run off to buy candy, a hippie (also barefoot and English-speaking) approaches to say he's angry with Jade for suggesting recently that the village would look better if he'd wear something on his feet. "When you told me that," he says, "you bummed me out." Jagger apologizes. The man smiles. Then she laughs about the loopy irony of one barefoot expat telling another barefoot expat to wear shoes in order to make their village in the middle of nowhere a bit more respectable-looking. She offers to buy him a drink. Then she pulls the Manolos from her bag, teasing, "You want to wear these?" The barefoot man demurs, but is still smiling.
"What can I say?" she muses. "I'm not a hippie anymore, but I'm still into hippie places." Which would explain how, after so many years as a resident of an island that is a vortex for every kind of New Age fetishism, she found herself giving up yoga for weight training; fighting to help hip-hop music supplant the trance-like (and to her mind, boring) dance-music culture of Ibiza's club scene; designing flashy jewelry collections with names like Superstyle and Graffiti for the bling-bling crowd; and making sure that unlike the other towheaded, sunbrowned children on this expatriate-heavy island, hers always wear lots of sunblock.
Jagger is a highly nocturnal hipster who has always done things her own way. Perhaps that's why she works nearly 900 miles from the London offices of Garrard as the company's recently appointed creative director. The esteemed 270-year-old English jewelry firm turned to her four years ago to add a youthful edge to its staid collections.
The daughter of Mick and Bianca, she grew up in New York, was expelled from an English boarding school at age 15, then at 19 had her first child. When she moved to Ibiza eight years ago, Jagger was a young, yoga-oriented single mom and independent jewelry designer from England looking for a place in the sun to raise her children.
"It had to be in Europe and it had to be funky," she says. "I wanted a quiet place, but also one where it was okay to make some noise." When she checked out Ibiza, it was with reluctance. She thought of the island as a kind of cliché of hedonism that was way too obvious for her iconoclastic mind. The first time she came to Sant Joan, it was for a dance party that she found appalling.
"At the time, I was sure that I would never live here," she says. But doors flew open—a house with sunset views, a good English school for her children—and she realized that Sant Joan was primarily a place for landed locals and artistic British expats, rather than the tourists and party animals who define other parts of Ibiza. "I thought to myself," she says drily, "Well, this will do." And she committed.
Up until the 1960's, when jet travel suddenly made Ibiza accessible from all over Europe, the island had been untouched by tourism. Then came the bohemians, remaking the place into a Bali H'ai for the young, the beautiful, those on the lam and on the edge. "Artists, poets, drug dealers," recalls Dakota Jackson, the New York furniture designer. "I remember all kinds of Europeans living there without any means of support. I had no idea what I was doing there either, but I knew it was the place to be."
By the eighties, dance clubs had become as important to the Ibiza culture as Greek temples were to ancient Athens, with DJ's treated like high priests. "The clubs are theater, pure theater," says one frequent visitor from New York. "Some of them make Studio 54 look like kindergarten." Today, even the discreet and well-heeled clientele of the island's most isolated and expensive resort, Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena (a Relais & Châteaux property located on the northern coast nine miles from Sant Joan), hit the discos in the wee hours. Many are a half-hour drive away, in or around Ibiza town (called Eivissa). Others are on roads closer to Sant Antoni, a tourist mecca. None are near Sant Joan.
Though nightlife is what Ibiza is best known for, it is by no means the only thing on offer. For all sorts of people seeking ways to pleasure themselves—partyers, gay and straight, sun worshipers, boaters who like to anchor in bucolic coves, hikers, bikers, nudies, and foodies—Ibiza delivers handily. Much of the piney landscape is unmarred by development, and the island's ancient architecture shows the marks of Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, and Catalans, with Carthaginian relics that are some of the best in the world. In rural areas, a strong North African architectural tradition is present, too. The cuisine is sophisticated and internationally varied, churches survive near nightspots, and village matrons in black garb share cafés with global nomads wrapped in crystals. The attitude on Ibiza is Live and let live.
Jagger, who grew up vacationing with her parents on the Caribbean isle of Mustique, loves the rustic beauty of life in the north of Ibiza, where she swims at nude beaches and runs along country hills lined with oleander, bougainvillea, honeysuckle, almond and olive trees. But she also likes what's going on in the thriving, manageably sized capital, the decidedly urban city of Eivissa. Its medieval, walled town, called Dalt Vila, is full of museums, cafés, and atmospheric plazas. Below it, the hip Sa Penya district has galleries, shops selling adventurous fashion and furniture (reflecting the ad hoc style of Ibiza), and restaurants and bars as good as any in Paris or St. Bart's for people-watching."I like being on an island where there's some big-town life," says Jagger. Here, the barefoot earth mother of the north can dress up, drive 30 minutes from her isolated hill home, hit the city, and be the out-and-about It Girl, day or night.
The day after the festival in Sant Joan, Jagger is in Eivissa to pick up a cake for her 13-year-old daughter's birthday party later that afternoon. She stops by Inkadelic, a big tattoo parlor with an Eastern spiritual vibe that is one of her favorite haunts because of its silver-toothed owner, Neil Ahern. A golden mandala painting of hers adorns the walls, which are filled with religious objects from Tibet, Japan, and India."Neil is my male muse," Jagger says. "His work is eccentric, and he has great integrity."
Around the corner is the vintage clothing store Ganesha, another rendezvous for the local artycrowd. Its owner, Vicente Hernández, manages to sell her two Wasilly chairs and some retro bowls before she has to scurry off on cobblestoned streets to the party. Hernández smiles with the warmest affection. "We need more people like Jade on Ibiza," he says. "She finds friends here, and she's good for the island."
Clearly the island is good for her, too, with its seen-it-all response to celebrities and eccentrics. Jagger, who regularly sketches and paints as inspiration for her jewelry designs, considers herself more artist than business- woman. She likes the people she meets, who have left Milan, London, and Paris to create a kind of South Beach on the Mediterranean. "I enjoy being here, even if it is somewhat overrun," she says. "You don't always have to be in the newest spot, complaining about overdevelopment while you've got one foot in the virgin sand. Maybe it's better to ruin a place that's already a little ruined."
It's Friday night, and a friend is having an opening, a painting exhibition at a small bar in Eivissa. Jagger wants to be supportive, so here she is, looking both laid-back and fabulous (denim jacket over a white jersey dress and flip-flops), talking to other artists, and taking international calls on her cell phone between drinks. Then she's off to her preferred Italian restaurant, Macao, on the seaside promenade in Sa Penya.
Everybody is greeting one another and Jagger seems happy to be at the center of it all. A friend, a former Versace model who lives part-time on Ibiza and part-time in Goa, shows Jagger some pictures on her laptop. Others from Ibiza's creative circles stop by to say hello. It's as if Jagger, the toast of the town, has lived here her entire life.
"Who wants to be lost in a pine forest all the time?" she says later. "I'd go crazy."
T+L contributing editor BOB MORRIS writes a biweekly column for the New York Times Sunday Styles section.
WHERE TO STAY
In the northern farmlands, a Zen-inspired retreat.
DOUBLES FROM $290
KM 15, CARRETERA SANT JOAN, SANTA EULALIA; 34-971/338-838 www.atzaro.com
A rural 16-room hotel near Sant Joan, Jagger's village.
DOUBLES FROM $145
SAN MIGUEL; 34-971/334-587; www.caspla-ibiza.com
Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena
DOUBLES FROM $220
APDO. 423, SAN MIGUEL; 34-971/334-500; www.hotelhacienda-ibiza.com
Navila Chateau Marmont-cool, located high in the walled Old Town.
DOUBLES FROM $180
1 SAN LUIS, EIVISSA; 34-971/303-901
WHERE TO SHOP
Designer Spanish fashion.
1 PASEO JUAN CARLOS, EIVISSA; 34-971/312-863
14 MONTGRI, EIVISSA; 34-971/193-605
10 PLAZA MERCADO VIEJO, EIVISSA; 34-971/192-985
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Excellent steaks served outdoors.
DINNER FOR TWO $48
KM 15.4, CARRETERAIBIZA-SANT JOAN; 34-971/325-019
El Clos Denis
"Sophisticated Provençal food."
DINNER FOR TWO $110
PLAZA DE IGLESIA, SANT RAFAEL; 34-971/198-545
DINNER FOR TWO $90
11 PLAZA DE SA RIBA, EIVISSA; 34-971/314-707; www.macaocafe.com
Restaurante La Paloma
A cute looking restaurant" that serves a global mix of cuisines.
DINNER FOR TWO $60
SAN LORENZO; 34-971/325-543; www.palomaibiza.com
This disco gets crowded on Sunday afternoons. "Who wants to have to go out at three o'clock in the morning?"
PLAYA D'EN BOSSA; 34-971/396-793; www.space-ibiza.es
A small club where Jagger once hosted a hip-hop night.
KM 7, CARRETERA IBIZA-SANT ANTONI
Restaurante La Paloma
El Clos Denis
Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena
A cliffside luxury hotel.