We’ve had a girl crush on Alicia Rountree ever since we can remember. The Mauritius-born restaurateur and model is our ultimate summer muse. Raised in Rivière des Anguille, a small town in the southern coast of the island, Alicia still calls Mauritius home and splits the rest of her time between New York and London. She's multilingual, a serial multitasker, and now is adding the title of Designer to her impressive career. Is there anything the well-traveled Alicia can’t do? Below, she chats to us about growing up by the water, life as an entrepreneur and her upcoming projects...
Tell us about Mauritius. It’s one of those exotic places everyone dreams of visiting... growing up there seems too good to be true!
It is! I realize it now. When I was growing up I thought it was normal to go waterskiing before school at 6am and have a pet lemur!! Growing up bare foot so close to nature, animals and organic food made me become aware from a young age that’s it’s very important to protect our planet and our environment. I also love the melting pot of different cultures that are existent in Mauritius, the energy is different to anywhere else I have been. Whenever I land in Mauritius, I feel a huge sense of peace, and most problems seem to melt away!
What’s the best thing about island life:
Eating fresh fruits and coconuts in the morning! I also love waking up with the sunrise. I leave my curtains open and wake up with the gentle sun and sound of birds. It’s heaven! The first thing I do in the morning is journal, then I meditate and I’m ready for an amazing day! If the sea is still I go paddle boarding straight away as the sea can quickly change and get rough. That’s another form of meditation for me, no one is around, just me, my paddle and the ocean.
How did you get into modeling? Were you always interested in fashion?
I was scouted in London at a young age. I loved fashion from as far as I can remember. I used to do ‘fashion shows’ at home for my parents and their friends and wear my mother’s makeup and ruin her heels! We would also receive Vogue Magazine and I was so excited whenever it arrived in the mail. I would tear out all the pages from the campaigns I liked with my favorite supermodels and keep them filed. I still have all the tear sheets.
Is there a particular campaign that stayed with you?
I absolutely loved all the Chanel campaigns, especially the ones with Claudia Schiffer. They were so elegant, chic but with power. I would dream that it was me. I am actually still obsessed with anything Chanel to this day. Vintage as well as new. I think those campaigns definitely inspired my style of today.
You opened stylish Nolita restaurant, Tartinery, in 2010: how did that idea come about?
It was quite out of the blue. An idea came one night and my partner and I decided to work on a business plan. We wanted to do something different and create a welcoming atmosphere where people would come and share tartines with their friends. We didn’t know much about restaurants and probably made every mistake possible but in the end it turned out great!
Eight years later, Tartinery is now in three coveted locations in Manhattan. What was that journey like?
It’s well known that having a restaurant business is not easy. It’s a 24/7 job. There is always something that can happen or go wrong. But at the same time, you are creating experiences and memories for people, and that makes it all worth it.
As an entrepreneur, what is one thing you’ve learnt that no one tells you?
I’ve learnt that if you believe in yourself and you keep going, whatever you do will be successful. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes, you could be an overnight success, or it may take a lifetime. Hard work will always pay off. It’s important to surround yourself with mentors, people who are there for you and want to support you.
What’s your secret to multitasking and juggling so many projects at once?
With me, the more I do, the happier I am. I love having projects and pursuing something I am interested in. I like to create, to learn, to grow. Whatever project I am working on I like to learn as much as possible along the way. And I force myself not to be afraid of the unknown. I follow my gut and if it doesn’t go the way I planned, I still take it as something I needed to learn and experience. It’s important to also have a balance and make time for family, friends and self-care. I think that’s the key to not getting burned out.
Your thoughts on “having it all” – is there such thing?
I don’t know if you can ever have it all! And I have now realized that’s it’s not about getting ‘things’ it’s about the experiences you share and the progress you make along the way. I think having it all comes from inside, you are in charge of your life.
You’re launching your own swimwear brand this Summer (congrats, BTW!). Give us the deets!
I think I have been wanting to launch a swimwear brand for at least 10 years! It’s always been in the back of my mind. I own hundreds of swimming suits and I just always felt that I wanted to change something within the suit. I really believe in timing and that everything happens in the right moment. Since I decided ‘ok I want to go for it’, it has all gone so fast! Now I know I’m ready for this. It was important for me to work with ecofriendly materials. The fabric I am using for the suits are sourced in Italy and made from recycled fishing nets, and I am manufacturing in Mauritius. I designed and created the prints myself. The idea behind the brand is that you can mix and match as much as you like and everything goes together harmoniously. I designed headpieces and kimonos as well, so you can go to a head to toe look in the same print, or you can mix it up. All the colors and prints marry themselves beautifully together.
The ecofriendly fabric made from recycled fishing nets from Italy – SO cool! How did that idea come about and what was the process like?
I wanted to have a product that’s different to what’s out there. Being ecofriendly and manufactured in Mauritius was on the top of my list. I did research and I found an amazing quality of recycled fabric that is stronger and more resistant to sunscreen and chlorine. It was a no-brainer. I could have manufactured in other countries but it was important for me to have my label say ‘made in Mauritius’. This is where I am from, I want to give work to Mauritians and it’s really an excuse to spend more time on the island!
As if you don’t have enough going on, we hear you have a book coming out… tell us about that!
I am lucky enough to have the prestigious Rizzoli publishing house wanting to do a book on me and my hometown Mauritius. Don’t want to give too many details, but the launch date will be Spring 2019.
It sounds like you’re on top of the world – what’s next?
I have been appointed the health and wellness curator for Spring Place, setting up the new healthy menu and working on collaborations with health and wellness experts. I’m really focusing on doing what I am passionate about and wellness is one of those things, I graduated from IIN (world’s largest nutrition school) a few years ago. I really want my swimwear line to do well so that will be a big focus for 2018 as well.