people of Faro

Isla Grossi

Março 3, 2023
“Drivintagee“ is a vintage and second-hand shop, coworking space and room for creative minds that has just opened in the heart of the town of Faro. Isla Grossi is the owner of the colourful and unique shop, who has a keen eye for aesthetics. However, appearance is not the primary goal of Isla: She cares about giving people the opportunity to come together, enhance sustainability, and strengthen Faro’s culture scene. Having overcome major obstacles and seen a lot of the world, Isla now has found her home living in a a caravan in the capital of the Algarve."


You are originally from Brazil. How did you come to Faro?

This was a long journey. I was living in Brazil until I was 21. I got married to my first boyfriend super early. We were together for eight years and got married when I was 18. Wow. And then an incident happened in our place in Brazil: Our house was robbed. I could not live there anymore. I didn't feel safe and I was lost in my life and had no idea of what I should do. I was finishing university with a focus on photography at that time. I remember that the time was super hard because the university was in another city. So for me, it was a fight every day to go to this other city to study and come back. Then I arrived home and all my equipment and belongings were gone. Everything that I worked for was robbed. I didn't understand anymore what was happening, what life was about. I was super religious back then and then I started to question God and why I did deserve what had happened. This made me realize that everything can change from one day to another. So I could also choose to change from one day to another. My ex-husband always wanted to move outside of the country. This idea had never really been in my head before because I felt comfortable where I lived. However, after what had happened, we decided to go to Ireland for one year. We had two friends already living in Ireland. We sold the car, which was the only thing that survived after the rob (laughs). We moved to Ireland for one year. And then there was this second incident. The money, we invested in an English school to have the visa for Ireland got bankrupt. We lost all the money. It felt like the end of the line.

It seems that luck was not on your side.

The relationship wasn't very good either. We split up. He went back to Brazil and I decided to stay. I had my first contact with vintage in Dublin and also with the photography world from another view. I think, because I am from a very small city in Brazil, I felt like everything was happening in Dublin that I dreamed about. I realized that dreams can come true and I was super happy - it was the best time of my life.

"This made me realize that everything can change from one day to another."

It’s hard to believe that you could find such happiness in such dark times.

Being independent for the first time, experiencing so much, and being free to create was good for me. I remember when my mom visited me for the first time in Ireland, she said that there were so many other people like me there. I got some jobs and I could stay in Ireland for one more year. After my visa had run out, I had to think about if I wanted to pay a lot of money and renew it or if I wanted to go somewhere else. I have an aunt who has been living in Portugal for almost 20 years now. Back then she was living in the United Kingdom, but my cousin lived here and she invited me to stay at her house.

So that’s how your way ended here in Faro?

I didn’t like my life here so much in the beginning, because it was very different from my lifestyle in Dublin, I could not photograph because no one knew about me yet and specially because I was illegal for about 2 years until they approved my visa, but I was also very lucky since the beginning. I had to go back to Brazil for three months to get a divorce, but then I came back to Portugal. I started to like my new life here. I was very lucky. I met the right people at the right time. I started to work and got a contract job in a wine bar. I saved money and after three years I could buy a camera and equipment for photography again. I could start photographing professionally again. One client here in Faro discovered that I was a photographer and she asked me if I could start photographing her yoga retreats. I am still photographing retreats until today but now all over Europe… It was a huge door for my career…

How did you start with photography?

I started at home by playing with my cousins. I have always loved to dress and photograph. The connection between clothing, fashion, and photography altogether has always been fun to me. I was maybe 12 years old and I didn't have a proper camera. I was a kid and I was just looking for inspiration. I loved the pictures of nature and the travel. Landscapes. For me, it was like a beautiful world that I didn’t have access to. But later on, I was able to attend this photography course at the university that I was talking about.

And you’re still taking pictures.

I was getting a little bit tired of photography. I have been doing this for 15 years now. I started professional photography when I was 15. Oh wow. And I love it. It's amazing. But sometimes, in the summer, I don’t stop taking pictures and moving from one place to another and it can take a lot of energy.

Have you ever thought about going back to Brazil?

In the beginning, I was so traumatized by everything that had happened, that I thought I never want to come back to Brazil. Even not to visit. The image I had of my country was horrible. However, two years ago, I went back to visit my family and friends, because I was missing them so much. I felt a sort of reconnection. I felt that all of my problems were gone and the emptiness I felt here was solved by one week spent in the river where my grandparents live. I thought about going back and rebuilding my life there, but then I opened this shop here. The idea has always been in my head. I have a lot of friends who have no space to exhibit their art right now. I wanted to create a space where people have the freedom to sell their things and work together. I wanted to create a place where people have the freedom to not only sell their art but also have a space to create this art and work alone or in community.

You already had the idea of this shop in Brazil.

I started in the trailer of my mom that had been to some sort of restaurant before. It was in the back of the house. I organized a little event with some of my friends, in which we sold some second-hand clothes. In my head, I always had the idea of my shop inside a trailer. It’s amazing to have this own specific place 10 years later. I bought a caravan here first. That was three years ago. A little bit before Covid. I finally got some money to buy the caravan and then I built the shop inside and it was nice. I wanted to do some festivals there. And then covid started and I could not do it properly, but with time things were happening again and I found my place doing some markets and events specially around community’s in the Algarve.

"I just found myself in the middle of what TV had always shown me"

Drivintagee is also promoted as a co-working space.

Yeah. For example, yesterday this place was full of people creating and working on their computers. There was also a girl who writes a book and asked me if she could work there. I gave her my number and I will reserve a time of the day for her when I don’t have music playing or other stuff going on so that she has the space she needs. I felt like that was a thing that was needed here in Faro. All the time I was coming to town and I needed to work and edit pictures on the computer, I didn’t find a place, where I would like to work. If I go to a cafe, I’ll feel the pressure to leave, or consume all the time, and I normally cannot charge my laptop. Or the internet is not the best, or they’re too crowded…

What else is missing here in Faro?

Some people and I are starting some sort of artistic collective. We are a group of around 10 people right now and we want to win more people because we see that this artistic part is a little bit missing its space here in Faro. Like a place or something where everyone can meet. I see there are people but from different “tribes“: There are the art people and people from the beach. Everyone is kind of connected and we feel there is mutual attraction. We need to find a way to enhance this connection.

Do you already have any ideas on how to do so?

We're gonna do an event in the Music Association at the end of the month. We still are not sure how that’s gonna be, but we just want to mix a little - like one person from each group and put everyone together. Maybe we want to do an exhibition on the day or have someone playing. The idea is just to do some gatherings for now.

"You have traveled a lot through Europe.

It started with photography. One client of the bar I was working for discovered that I was a photographer. She invited me to photograph a yoga retreat that she was doing and I thought this could be fun. I started to do this like every month. Other yoga teacher guests saw me and liked my work. Then it started to spread kind of. I got a few main clients from Sweden. They hired me and I started to photograph retreats in Sweden, where they did their training. I met another 25 people who were also into yoga and I started to shoot for them. Today, I have this network in many countries. I have been doing this for four years now.

Did you feel the need to call a place your home?

I was missing that. When I moved with my caravan to one community three years ago, I started to feel at home again. But then there was a fire in Gambelas. Last summer there was a wildfire. Everything burned and a lot of my friends lost their vans and with that their homes. However, I was so lucky. My caravan was literally in the middle of the camp and I think because there was sand around it, the fire didn't catch it.

So today you're living in your van?

Yeah. Now I'm living in my caravan, not far from here. This is somehow the space, I have the feeling of home.

"Permaculture doesn't involve just growing food but it's also about the feeling of community."

You are also part of an ecological project.

Since the rob of my house, I have started to have this other view on money. Like how people do everything for money: There are many ways how people are being bad because of money and I started to be a little bit angry about society and capitalism (laughs). I was thinking of how I could live or build a life outside of this world. When I got the caravan, I could start to express this desire a little bit more. I moved into this community and started to connect with other people like me. People that are also living off the grid somehow try to live with less money, buying specially less new things. I want to be more on my own or work in this community of people that want to live outside of the system. Somehow I think you can't be completely outside of the system nowadays, but at least a little bit. I bought my first land here intending to do a permaculture project, and after one year I was invited to join another one collectively with some friends I met in Germany. My plan now is to have both projects going on. On my personal project I would like for example to teach the kids how to grow their food and most important to be connected with nature. This is something so important that unfortunately we do not learn at school. I also feel like there is this space missing here in Faro, where you can find a connection with nature.

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Ideia • Ação • Impacto
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co-financiado por:
Dr. José de Matos 17, 4º Direito
8000-503 Faro
(+351) 911 725 377
Chamada para rede móvel nacional
Dr. José de Matos 17, 4º Direito
8000-503 Faro
(+351) 911 725 377
Chamada para rede móvel nacional
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