GESA - PARIS
Gesa Hansen grew up in a Scandinavian family of carpenters, designers and architects. She graduated from the Bauhaus-University and Nagoya University of Arts. She worked at a few design studios such as Jean Nouvel and H5 in Paris, before creating her own label in 2009, with the aim of combining contemporary design with her family’s savoir-faire.
From her youth in Danemark, this creative entrepreneur kept a strong connection with nature and now spends her weekends in Courances, outside of Paris, where she can disconnect, cook, walk and play polo, an activity that had helped her bring back the warrior in her.
INSIDE/OUT: What’s the first sport you ever practiced?
GESA HANSEN: My father owns a boat and my first sports related memory is being on an Optimist boat, sailing solo. There was also a farm next to where we lived, so by the age of two I was on the back of a poney. My parents were never into horseback riding so I had to fight and convince them to let me ride. They accepted it, but never pushed me or really supported me. Perhaps that explains my special, intimate relationship to horses.
I/O: And the first one that made you feel confident?
GH: Fencing, for sure. I practiced with my brother. It was the first activity that taught me to push my limits. Defending myself, picking the right moment to attack, facing an opponent, practicing the same activity as my brothers and being able to perform as well as them was exciting and gave me strength. And this is a similar feeling I experienced when I started playing polo. I still do.
I/O: Was physical education a central element of your identity at school when you were a kid?
GH: Absolutely. It was also important to my mother to give me access to the same sports as my brothers. I was partnering with my little brother during the regattas and fencing trainings.
I/O: What sports heroes do you remember from childhood?
GH: My generation was all about Boris Becker and Steffi Graf - everybody was talking about them. And I was born next to Dortmund so I am a lifelong supported of the Borussia Dortmund soccer team!
I/O: A special memory?
GH: Sailing under the rain for hours. My father never allowed me to quit because of the weather. I guess that is why I love facing cold waters and storms today. They make me feel so alive.
I/O: How would you define the relationship Parisian people share with sports?
GH: Our city is stressful and aggressive. Parisians - and it is true for almost all the people I know - do not practice sports to perform but in order to take a moment for themselves, to reconnect with their inner selves.
I/O: What is your ideal performance garment or product?
GH: My leather Argentinian Polo boots, bought at Tierra de Gauchos.
I/O: Your favorite activewear brands?
GH: Odlo for performance. This is a brand founded in Oslo in 1946 and rooted in Winter outdoor sports. Lacoste and Ralph Lauren for polo, which are more lifestyle and timeless.
I/O: Do you have any lifestyle rituals after practicing?
GH: I often drink a ‘La Marise’ beer produced by my husband (Charles Compagnon is the co-owner of Le Richer and 52 Faubourg St Denis restaurants in Paris.) A nod to my Scandinavian-German roots!
I/O: What activities say 'Paris' the most?
GH: At the moment, I would say cycling thanks to the prominence of studios like Dynamo. Pilates as well. And always swimming, as there are public swimming pools available to all throughout the city.
I/O: How would you define your style?
GH: I like wearing clean minimal classic pieces that are a bit messy and dirty, like after a fight.
I/O: What trends do you see happening?
GH: I see such a hunger for outdoor sports now, like surfing, horseback riding, trekking and climbing...They all reduce stress, connect you with the nature and bring a large variety of other health benefits.
I/O: What activities have you recently discovered or want to try?
GH: There is a surfing training in the Icelandic iced waters that I would like to try. Reykjanes has some of the best and most consistent waves in Iceland, volcanic surroundings, geothermal pools among other amazing things. It looks amazing and I'm sure that's quite of a personal experience too.
I just came back from a surfing trip in Scotland and I absolutely loved the feeling of freezing in the cold water and then being warmed by the effort.
I/O: How do you strive to find balance between different areas of your life?
GH: I have three kids, I love my job and I love moving but I don't try to 'find' balance anymore. I found my balance by accepting to change my pace, to surf the wave, to change my rhythm regularly and as needed, by accepting that at times certain things take up a lot of space and then others replace them. To me, finding balance means dealing with constant changes.
I/O: Do you think that challenging yourself on a horse or in the water helps you in your everyday life?
GH: It does. When I have to face a difficult situation I compare it to a physical challenge and it gives me more strength to grit my teeth and fight.
I/O: How do you connect locally when you travel for an active trip?
GH: I have traveled a lot for surfing and it’s always a great way to connect with people. It is a very social activity. But there was this time in Malibu when a seal touched my foot and I screamed 'shark.' Everybody in the water took it very badly and I never went back to that spot. I still feel so embarrassed when I think about that!
I/O: What destinations are on your wishlist?
GH: Iceland for surfing, and Scotland because I fell in love with this country. I also need to return to Japan with my family. I once lived there for two years.
I/O: Does music play a big role in your practice(s)?
GH: In the past, I could not imagine practicing without a good playlist. But, because you don't listen to music when you surf and ride I learned how to listen to my breathing and it brings so much more energy.
I/O: What does female empowerment mean to you?
GH: To bring out the warrior in every woman. To help them confront with the world. And to feel strong enough to do it.
I think that, if I love playing polo so much it is because after three pregnancies and the nesting that goes with that, it helped me helped me find the fight inside of me, enabled me to take risks again, to feel strong and in touch with an energy that was bigger than me.
TIPS AND ADDRESSES
1 power song: 'Hells bells' by ACDC
1 piece of apparel: Lacoste polos. Classic!
1 site: The Hansen Family
1 store: Tierra di Gauchos
1 food address: The 52, my husband's restaurant and a place I designed.
1 beverage: La Marise
1 trip: To experience surfing on an exceptional island in the North Atlantic sea with Artic Surfers.
1 woman we should interview: My friend Charlotte Huguet who is an interior stylist .