We sat down with Parla Designer Betül Inci to find out more about the brand.
What is the history of Parla?
Parla started at the end of the Ottoman Empire, 1910, with a craftsman who repaired furniture in the Ottoman Royal Palace. This original furniture craftsmanship combined with the technology and design of the last century, enabled Parla to become an international company.
Our main business is bespoke hospitality, but we have a strong inhouse design team, and we realised that a lot of demand was coming from standard items in the collection. So, we’ve established Parla Collection. This is now our second business line and we’re really excited about it. We’re selling to UK, US, Australia, Israel, and UK is our biggest market.
The name ‘Parla’ means ‘Shining’ in Turkish.
How important is it to you that your products are manufactured locally and that those skills are passed on to the next generation?
Our factory is close to the airport of Istanbul and now we have opened a second factory – they manufacture different lines. We have many workshops in our factory – metalwork, panel workshop, and so on, so we’re doing everything in-house.
It’s important to us to preserve the craftsmanship so as a designer I will try to incorporate these unique techniques into a product.
What do you do as a manufacturer to reduce the impact of your furniture on the environment?
Generally, we are modest and take care of the sources of materials. The furniture forms are simple because it's important that these are hand-crafted.
We are trying to create a really strong structure because it's for heavy usage. We test our furniture; we want it to be used for decades.
Although the concept of sustainability is established in Europe, it is a very new concept for Turkey. However, as Parla, we continue to be a pioneer in sustainability as in every other subject. In this sense, we work with experts who can guide us; we have determined our steps in order to carry out environmentally sensitive works especially in terms of production and logistics, and we plan to implement them gradually until 2025.
What changes are you seeing in the marketplace that impact your designs?
Appreciation of craftsmanship is really visible right now. The feeling of hand made products and the material are really important to us. We work closely with Interior Designers because we produce bespoke work, so developing custom furniture influences our design. Some of the standard line products started as bespoke furniture for individual clients.
We follow the market we are in and our partners with whom we do business very closely, so we have sufficient command of the fashion of our industry. However, while following this fashion, we blend experiences and information from both the roots of our brand and the past of our designers, and we try to preserve the design approach unique to Parla.
Where do you find your design inspiration?
I’m personally really inspired by craftsmanship because the original chairs were made by bare hands. As a designer I go around old coffee shops and take note of all the different chairs they’ve collected, and I’ll try and catch the idea and transform into a Parla design. Historic places are great. I’d like to put together a collection of old photographs – an archive – for inspiration.
As the famous sculptor Rodin said, "Where others see trees and stones, I see sculptures" and thanks to this perspective, I actually try to reveal my designs based on the objects that are around us in our daily life or the objects that are not actually with us and that we need. Of course, as a designer who spent my early youth years in a small city in Turkey and continued my design education in Sweden and Italy, I think that all of these different cultures have an impact on my perspective.
Can you tell us about the new products you launched at Clerkenwell Design Week?
Hug Sofa is the one of my latest designs. After the pandemic I liked the feeling of hug and making the furniture soft and round.
Nigiri is an Asian inspired chair, the name is from Sushi. I am impressed with Japanese style, but it is quite strict, so I try to combine with Turkish culture for softer and welcoming furniture. Turkey is very multi-cultural, a mix of East and West. Our design style is fusion. We bring the styles together and Nigri is a good example of this.
Arven is the best-selling product and it’s a sophisticated product that combines different materials. We’re detail orientated and the touches – the brass detail, for example – you see this in bars and restaurants, and it's used in our bespoke products.
Morwi Chair and Bar Stool are made for outdoor usage, and look industrial, but we mix it with the intricate pattern of the crafted woven back.
Oyster Chair is a metal and wooden frame and it’s a challenging production technique. It’s an organic form and so this would normally be done by hand, but we are developing modern techniques for production.
We are passionate because we love what we do.
Who is the ideal Parla customer?
Architects and Designers. We work like a team with them, so we focus on realising their expectations for their projects. They want to make changes, to play with design details, we are flexible and use different types of materials. We’re not strict with our products. We create a playground for them. We’re collaborative. More boutique.
Can you describe the brand in 3 words
Respectful, Modest, Smart.