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LIFE THROUGH A LENS: RAFA OLARRA

The art director of the Faena Hotel shows us his life in 6 photos

LIFE THROUGH A LENS: RAFA OLARRA

When we were looking for someone to bring our new Atlantic Collection to life, one man sprang immediately to mind: Rafa Olarra. As anyone who follows Olarra, 37, on social media knows, he has a lifestyle that embodies our own ideals: of not just looking good but feeling good too.

You might see him keeping mentally and physically fit training for a triathlon on Miami Beach; relaxing on the dunes at Key Biscayne; or, more often than not, at the beach-side hotel of which he is art director: the Faena Miami Beach.

The Faena is a Miami grand dame. The enormous property takes in two hotels, an arts centre and the Rem Koolhaas-designed music forum. Olarra is responsible for the look of every single part of it – from staff uniforms to the guest rooms.

“It is like managing a movie set at times,” says Olarra. “It helps that I worked in TV and advertising. Because in that world, they want everything done yesterday. But then, I like to be busy.”

Just as well he does, as when he is not at the hotel, he works as a freelance creative director (he once created an indoor beach for German Vogue) and a fashion photographer.

To celebrate our collaboration with Olarra, we asked him to choose 6 images which tell us about his life today.

Rafa Olarra, Byron Bay, Australia

“This was taken at the beginning of 2020, when I was staying in Australia. I wanted a change from Miami, so I contacted some production companies and advertising firms out there and they were really positive, so I went. I loved it. I commuted to Sydney in the week to work but I spent my weekends on the beaches near my place in Byron Bay. Every weekend I found another gorgeous beach – and this picture shows one of them.”

Rafa Olarra at Byron Bay
Orlebar Brown Shoot, Key Biscayne, Miami, USA

“We wanted the shoot to have the feel of a day at the beach with friends. I think you get that from him lying there on the dunes, the lighthouse in the background, the board – active but relaxed. I shoot a lot of work on the beach. If you are creative and you know the area, you can find a lot more than the ‘standard Miami image’ of palm trees and a lifeguard stand. It is a really special place in that way. My time as a prop stylist and as a fashion stylist helps too – I know how to create different looks. I reckon I could probably make Miami look like Portofino, if I needed to.”

O.B Atlantic Coast Shoot
Alan Faena, Founder of the Faena Group

“Alan is my mentor. I met him first about 9 years ago. Someone suggested my name to him as a potential art director for the Faena. So, I went to meet him, we spoke, and the next week I started work. We share an office, so we are always interacting. I'm in charge of all the visual aspects of the property. This means that some days I'm doing interior design for a public space and on another I’m building an art installation for the forum. It’s really varied. One moment I can be doing a show for the theatre then the next I'm creating the content for social media or the newsletter. The busier I am, the happier I am. Over the years, I’ve become an expert at problem solving. I love it. It never stresses me.”

© Rafa Olarra
Actor Luke Evans in Florida, USA

“Luke was the one who pushed me to be a photographer. It is always fun when we work together. He looks good in every single picture you ever take of him. This was taken in Vero Beach in Florida, in the spray of the Atlantic. Luke happens to be wearing Orlebar Brown shorts.”

© Rafa Olarra
Rafa Olarra, South Point Miami Beach, USA

“Since I moved to Miami, the coast has become important to me. It is where I train for triathlons. I get my best ideas swimming, biking or running. I go through the day in my head, make an inventory of events, think where I went wrong and what I can do better. The ocean gives me a sense of relief. Because it doesn’t care about any of the world’s problems. And its vastness makes my own problems seem tiny. I often go running down the beach, then jump into the water and just swim my way home – this is drone footage of that.”

© Leandro O’Brian