In 2007, when the sought-after European furniture brand Sé began, Pavlo Schtakleff had a goal – to reclaim the glamour and quality of 20th century furniture and to become a dynamic and innovative presence in the world of contemporary luxury design. Since then, Sé has invited some of the world’s leading design talents – Damien Langlois-Meurinne, Jaime Hayon and Nika Zupanc – to produce collections, akin to an art gallery or a couture house, with the ultimate aim being to build a catalogue of highly-crafted and beautifully-finished objects, made of the finest, noble materials, by the best craftspeople in Europe.
With timeless forms, a curvaceous aesthetic and a spirit of play, Sé pieces are now feted for their characterful, sculptural profiles, and their ability to captivate the senses. Not only has Sé’s flagship showroom in London’s Chelsea become a firm and exciting addition to the capital’s burgeoning design scene, Pavlo has taken the brand into global markets with stockists in North America, Europe and Asia.
What is the story of the brand, how did it get off the ground?
My background is in the design industry, I’ve worked with Promemoria, Flexform, Rabih Hage at Interior Bis and several established French brands. I have also introduced high-end contemporary European furniture to the US market with Repertoire and opened Flou’s flagship store in the US under the direction of Rosario Messina, owner of Flou and President of Cosmit (the company behind prestigious Milanese design fair, Salone del Mobile.)
In 2006, I was approached by Marc Sharifi who had started a company selling ultra-luxurious bespoke chairs. Back then industrial design was hugely popular and I felt there was an opportunity to create a new, more feminine, design aesthetic ; I wanted to bring back a sense of old-school glamour through understated elegance, curvaceous silhouettes and flawless finishing. Together, Marc and I, reshaped the proposition and Sé was born.
Luck. I actually had no intention of venturing into the design industry but I got a job as a stock assistant at Interiors Bis whilst I was still studying History at University. They were at the forefront of curating the best of high end European design for interior designers and I discovered, completely by chance, that I had a genuine passion and intuition for design. I had the incredible opportunity of working with Romeo Sozzi from Promemoria who introduced me to the manufacturing side of the business. I fell in love with European furniture production and it instilled in me a desire to start my own furniture company one day.
I’m immersed in the design industry but in many ways, because of my lack of formal design education I still feel like an outsider. I quite enjoy the freedom this gives me to pursue the direction I instinctively feel is right, commercially and creatively.
How is Sé different from other luxury furniture brands?
Sé produces collections rather than individual pieces. We commission one designer per collection, giving them an opportunity to create a universe within the constraints of the brand. Working with a different designer brings a new energy, and adds another dimension to Sé, allowing a freshness and newness with each collection. We focus on using noble materials such as bronze, marble, steel and ceramics, which give a sense of history and timelessness to our pieces. As well as our signature forms we’ve also become recognized for our distinctive palette of pastels, jewel tones and metallics intended to continue this feeling of richness, timelessness and serenity.
What are your main influences when creating a new collection?
It happens organically. I have ideas and the design in my mind, and have a conversation with the designer in order to bring it to reality. It is something that happens quite naturally, there is no fixed strategy. There is a fascination of the materials, which is intrinsic to Sé. It is about the moment and whom I’m working with. With Nika Zupanc, the designer of Collection III, I wanted to focus on the glamour of the 1950’s and bring out the femininity of the brand.
When I started Sé I wanted to bring back this feeling of glamour, which for me has always meant effortless, timeless style. It’s immaculate, polished, elegant yet never austere. I think to find something really desirable, in design as well as in life, there must be an element of surprise, an attitude that is both playful and approachable. The aim has always been to try to capture these qualities in our pieces. Real glamour isn’t a trend it’s perpetually intriguing and part of the reason I hope Sé pieces will stay relevant for many years to come.
How do you choose and source materials?
It is an ongoing process. It started from Collection I, when we worked with French interior designer, Damien Langlois-Meurinne. We were extremely driven to work with rich materials, going to any length to source the right materials to match Damien’s designs. I am constantly researching and meeting with lots of different manufacturers; it is a lengthy, considered process that takes a lot of time. With every collection we introduce a new material. In collection I we revived the use of bronze, in Collection II, designed by Jaime Hayon, we introduced marble, and in Collection III, glass and polished brass. It is a constant evolution, always encouraging the designers to work with these timeless materials.
We produce through small-scale manufacturers throughout Europe, championing the ‘made in Europe’ label, and work on the sustainability of craftsmanship with a focus on the human element. We form personal relationships with our manufacturers and innovate together finding ways to produce contemporary pieces using traditional techniques. We try to keep their craft alive and revitalise industries, giving the artisans an opportunity to keep working when mass production has hit the market so hard. In our campaigns we always push the manufacture process, as it is such a vital part of Sé and what we do.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Survival. We launched the brand in 2007-08, which was very bad timing considering the financial crisis, which has a huge impact on the luxury industry.
We have sold Sé in 54 countries whilst striving to maintain our ethos of quality and care. And hopefully we will continue this way.
Putting together a furniture collection draws similarities to the creation of a couture fashion collection. Launching one product is simple but full collections take time to get right.
What is next for Sé?
Our goal is to continue to focus on our key markets whilst promoting Sé internationally. I’m excited to be embarking on our fourth collection and we will be announcing the designer Collection IV later this year – and next year marks our 10th anniversary.
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