Playing off a name that suggests knowledge and possibilities, Pavlo Schtakleff launched his London-based furnishings brand Sé in 2008 with ambitions for the company to become a strong presence in the world of contemporary luxury design. Eight years later and his dream has been realized. With its headquarters in London, Sé fabricates furniture, lighting and accessory designs across Europe and sells them in over 50 countries worldwide.
Since it’s launch, Sé has created collections by French designer Damien Langlois-Meurine, the Spanish-born Jaime Hayon and Slovenia-based Nika Zupanc. This year, as well as adding a bar stool and a series of benches to its existing collection by Nika Zupanc, 2016 will see Sé focusing its efforts on developing and promoting its extensive Colors & Finishes library, which it showcased during Milan Design Week. Exhibiting at Spazio Rossana Orlandi—a much coveted space the brand has used since 2011—the new pieces were exhibited alongside Sé’s Collections I, II and III finished in a variety of new colors and finishes.
Interior Design: Why have you chosen to focus on the development of your Colors & Finishes library this year?
Pavlo Schtakleff: We’ve got a few new pieces but the real emphasis this year is on colors and customization. The notion of customization is very popular; to be able to put it into practice is more difficult... It’s really to demonstrate that you can pick whatever fabrics you want in whatever color combinations you want and you can see that there’s a very rich diversity. For instance the BB chair is a product we did with Jaime Hayon many many years ago but we’ve introduced two new timber finishes. So there’s a black finish and an oak finish, and we’ve got our regular dark stained wood finish but we’ve also lacquered the legs in lots of different colors and used different fabric combinations with leather together to show how you can transform the chair from something that can look very serious to something that can look very pretty and very feminine. If you can use your imagination you can create something very unique and unusual, you just have to be brave—be comfortable with colors and be comfortable using colors.
ID: What else have you been working on?
PS: In terms of what’s new, we have new benches and a new bar stool that came from the family of the Stay chair, which we launched last year as part of Nika Zupanc’s collection and which has done incredibly well. The Stay chair is our bestseller now, it’s a huge success, so we wanted to increase the family. In addition we’re now entering into the outdoor realm. There’s a movement now where people want the outdoor to resemble the indoor, and the indoor to resemble the outdoor. We started to look at a lot of our products and realized that if we are to change a certain element of the material or to finish it in a specific way they can also be used outside. You can now create a whole outdoor environment based on indoor product.
ID: What prompted the exploration of customization?
It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do. You can always produce new products but sometimes there’s no point. You have so many new things but if you produce something in a different fabric people will say ‘oh I’ve never seen that before.’ One thing I’ll probably get asked 50 times this week (Milan Design Week) by journalists is ‘What’s new?’ and then they’ll take a photo of it and just walk out, but that’s just missing the whole point. You have to understand the DNA of the brand and the product and the creativity behind it. The design is one thing, but how it’s clothed, how it’s finished, how it’s dressed is completely different. And I think that’s really interesting—the fact that you can take a product and show it in 20 different ways for 20 different years is sometimes just as interesting as creating new product. Obviously one has to create new product because the market does demand it, but otherwise I’m quite happy showing different things in different finishes. It’s also nice for me because I get to see my products in a new and different way. For instance this is the first time I’ve ever done anything in red. Every country has different tastes and preferences and I think it will show that these products can fit into different markets.
ID: Why are you moving away from the pressure to produce something 'new'?
Producing loads of new products is not sustainable and it doesn’t make sense because then you’re just churning out stuff for the sake of doing it when actually you should stop think. A lot of companies will revise their pieces and show them in different ways and I think that’s really interesting because you give them a new lease of life. If you’re scared of change with a product you don’t allow it to evolve.
ID: Who are your customers?
We’ve done very much a door-to-door business from the beginning so we concentrated on connecting with interior designers as much as possible and developing a relationship with them. Over the course of the last eight years I think we’ve done projects in around 50 different countries around the world.
We have a strong heritage in France, we manufactured a lot of our products there initially and our first designer was French, so the UK and France are our biggest markets but the USA is becoming very strong for us as well. We have a lot of pieces with a 1920s or 1950s flair, a sort of Hollywood glamour, and those pieces cross over into the US well. We also have some very big pieces and American homes have the space for these. It’s not always easy for a European brand to translate well, and i think we’ve been quite lucky. We’re now looking at the UAE too and we’re working on projects with a number of different hotel groups there.