A true measure of passion is the desire to share. Just ask Evguenia and Fabrice Ivara. When the couple moved from Paris to Singapore to venture into the hotel world and raise a family, their passion for gastronomy, luxury, art, and fine wines came with them. Theirs was a moveable feast, and one born as much from work experience as personal passion. Evguenia flitted between fashion and fine Champagnes, conceiving luxury experiences for clients of some of France's most exceptional brands. Fabrice, aside from his business ventures in finance and digital, was no stranger to the Parisian food scene, living a passion for gastronomy through his award-winning blog Coup de Fourchette. Now the couple’s ardour for Parisian fine living and their eco-mindset have found a new home on the relatively unexplored island of Sumba, where their Cap Karoso hotel serves as a bridge between French lifestyle and the authentic local Marapu culture.
Evguenia Ivara: Well, we feel like there’s a part of Paris within us that goes wherever we go. For example, we envision our beach club exhibiting the kind of lively vibe of a Parisian brasserie, and we’ve brought a handful of Parisian talents with us, so the project feels rooted in Paris, conceptually speaking. But we also fell in love with the island of Sumba. We felt there was so much potential, and we wanted to get there first and help guide the island’s development with a project that was environmentally conscious, and not some 300-room budget place. We wanted to create something special, and leaving Paris physically was unfortunately the consequence.
EI: We chose Sumba because it is pristine and not polluted like many other Indonesian islands. So, from the start, our aim with Cap Karoso was to reduce energy consumption and be smart about water usage and waste treatment. Sumba can be quite dry, so water is a talking point. One part of the project that we are very proud of is our farm. It came out of our interests in sustainability and gastronomy, and started with simple questions like “What are we going to eat?” There weren’t many supermarkets around. So we found someone who is really knowledgeable about organic farming in France [Philippe Guiglionda, whose farm Gorbiologique supplies produce to La Petite Maison in Nice, the Michelin-starred Mirazur in Menton, and a handful of top chefs in Monaco] and he came to Sumba to set up the farm. Sometimes at a hotel, a “farm” is a bit of a joke—it’s just a little garden or even a few herbs on a wall. But we have three hectares, and they produce almost all the vegetables we need for Cap Karoso, as well as dairy, meat, and so on. Everything’s organic, of course.
Fabrice Ivara: This also pushed us towards our zero-waste target. We have animals that eat the surplus food from the restaurant, and they also naturally fertilize the land. So, yes, the farm is very important to the project. What’s more, in addition to being physically central to the guest experience, it’s educational for the kids here to witness a whole process instead of having an urbanized concept of food and farming.
EI: It’s also an opportunity for us to bring knowledge to the villages. If you ask the locals what they do for a living, they’ll say that they’re farmers. But they don’t necessarily know about the kinds of crops, the fertilizers, and so on.
FI: We aim to open a small school to teach about sustainability, landscaping, and organic farming. We would be giving people useful skills, for example, in the hotel industry. This is our way of giving back to the local community.
FI: Sumba is all about the soul. The locals here have their own ancestral, unofficial religion called Marapu. They believe that the souls of their dead are looking over the living world and deciding what will happen. Getting to know this culture is an incredible experience as it makes you take a huge step back from your life and reconsider some of its objectives and struggles.
EI: It was not an easy task to introduce the local culture to our guests. So our idea was to do it with the help of art. We commissioned several Indonesian artists to give their perspective on Sumbanese culture and its symbols. One of them is Alexander Sebastianus Hartanto who works with Sumbanese textiles, playing with the identity and history of the indigenous culture and land. We showcase all the artwork in our rooms and we also have a program for installations and artist residencies.
EI: Yes, and for each other. We would have never ventured into a project like this if we were not together.
EI: Before having children, I read something about how the problem with contemporary kids is that they’re never bored—because of iPads and all that stuff. The gist of the book was that kids need to learn to be bored in order to access their interior worlds and their imaginations.
FI: I find boredom quite constructive. For instance, when I’m working out or running, I never listen to music. That’s when ideas come to me.