Ten years, 25 houses, and six cities. A nomadic track record that suggests a life destined to be eternally cosmopolitan. But a chance encounter with a bungalow deep in the Austrian woods sparked a change that would alter the lives of Nadia Rivelles, founder of vegan cosmetics brand Rivelles, and her partner Mario entirely – marking the beginning of a new family business, new routines, and a new sense of home.
This interview was originally featured in our publication City Quitters, which portrays creative pioneers pursuing alternative ways of living and working away from big cities.
Götzwiesen, Austria – What brought you to this part of the world?
We were living in Lebanon. My husband Mario had quite a lot of work as a photographer, and I helped with the post-production. We would have loved to stay, but getting a permanent visa was tricky.
We came back to Austria and lived in Vienna for a while, but it didn't really suit us. So we started to look for a home in the countryside that was still close to the city.
How did you find this particular place?
It found us. We discovered an amazing 70s bungalow in Götzwiesen and instantly fell in love. We didn’t know the village or the area, but decided it was where we wanted to live. Now my sister lives in the bungalow and we’re building a house for ourselves on a new plot.
Where did the inspiration come from for Rivelles?
It all started when we cut down a row of trees behind the old house. Suddenly all these different plants started to grow in their place and, after a bit of research, we found that many had medicinal properties.
We experimented and started mixing our first shampoos and lotions at the same time as I was reading about the ingredients in conventional cosmetic products. Having Yva (Nadia and Mario’s child) made me more aware of the stuff we expose our kids to, and I was really shocked, so developing organic, natural cosmetics seemed something worth pursuing.
Up to that point Mario’s work and mine revolved around developing concepts or advertising for other people, but to create your own product and brand is a lot more satisfying.
How do you manage the demands of a successful business in such a remote place?
My sister is a doctor in a medical laboratory, so she got involved with product development. My mum looks after sales and distribution and runs our shop in Linz. We’re a real family business [laughs].
Mario does the photography. He's also a trained hairdresser, so he developed all the shampoos and hair styling products. Everything worked out quite nicely, and we’re proud to say we can make a living from doing what we love.
At the moment we forage a lot of wild plants, but it's quite labour intensive. The next step is to grow our own ingredients.
I’m a total city person, and my creativity was inspired by city life. Or, at least that’s what I thought
How have your lives changed since moving to the countryside?
The best thing here is the peace and quiet. Every day I go for a walk in the woods. I used to go shopping or meet friends for coffee, now I go for walks [laughs]. If I'm stressed or struggling with something, I just go for a walk in the woods and everything is fine. Then I go back to the studio and I feel happy.
I love being able to enjoy all four seasons. I hated winter in the city, but now we get our snowboards out and ride down our little hill. Rain, fog or thunderstorms are great here, too. It’s amazing how the atmosphere can change so quickly. You see some incredible spectacles in nature.
Did you have any connection to this part of Austria before?
Not at all. In the beginning it was a bit of a shock. It took some readjusting. I’m a total city person, and my creativity was inspired by city life. Or, at least that’s what I thought. Now nature is my source of inspiration.
How aware are you of what’s going on in the city?
I'm still very aware of trends even though I live in the middle of nowhere. After all these years of moving around I became bored and oversaturated with popular culture. Everything starts to look the same everywhere and I just didn’t appreciate it anymore. Now, I can keep up to date with the things I’m interested in online, and don’t feel as bogged down by it all.
Has living here had an impact on your health?
Generally I would say we both feel better, but there was a time when I had to stop working for a while.
It was when we first started the business and Yva was still a little child. We were working other jobs to make ends meet, and it just got too much. I couldn't function anymore.
Mario dragged me out of the house every day to go for walks, and that was the only thing I did during that time. Back then we decided to get a dog to make sure we stuck to the routine of taking daily walks. Otherwise it's easy to get lazy. I recovered quite rapidly after that.
We are less distracted. And when we have a bit of downtime, we’re more inspired to come up with ideas for future projects
Do you approach work differently now?
I have to. It's hard for me, because I love what I do. But during those 6 months I really lost the desire to work. I didn't want to do anything at all. It felt as if someone had taken away my greatest passion.
Now I know exactly when things are becoming too much, and I make sure I slow down. Then we sit in the garden and just chill out. Or we go to Vienna and have a nice meal.
Things have really fallen into place for us since we’ve moved here, much more so than in the city. We are less distracted. And when we have a bit of downtime, we’re more inspired to come up with ideas for future projects. We're much more focused.
This interview has been edited for length.