Cover Some pieces from the Atlas range by Ini Archibong, from Sé's Collection IV

Sé Collections’ founder Pavlo Schtakleff shares with us how people and collaborations influence the London-based furniture brand’s collections

Pavlo Schtakleff, founder and director of luxury furnishings company Sé Collections, believes in the power of collaborations. In fact, when he first launched Sé in 2007, the brand’s debut collection was a collaboration with French designer Damien Langlois-Meurinne

“When I met Langlois-Meurinne, the designer of Collection I, he was entirely attuned with what I was trying to create; and thus, Sé came to be,” recalls Schtakleff. The entrepreneur, who had already accumulated almost a decade’s worth of experience by working in the industry selling furniture design before he started Sé, was driven to launch the brand in order to “reclaim the style and quality of 20th-century furniture”.

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“I recognised that there was a need for design with a different kind of aesthetic,” explains Schtakleff. “At that time, the industry was dominated by the more masculine and industrial Italian brands—which are, of course, amazing—but I felt that there was a desire for something more serene and curvaceous; designs that harked back to the glamour of the early 20th-century in a very refined way.” 

Since then, the London-based entrepreneur has stayed true to the brand’s vision of inviting “some of the world’s best design talent to produce collections akin to an art gallery or a couture house” by launching full collections with acclaimed designers from around the globe.

To date, Sé has four partnerships: apart from Langlois-Meurinne, the brand has also partnered with Spanish-born designer Jaime Hayon, Slovenia-based designer Nika Zupanc, and most recently, Switzerland-based Nigerian-American designer Ini Archibong.

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“All the designers we have worked with also have a strong sense of narrative; each collection manages to tell a distinct story whilst remaining very harmonious with the others,” says Schtakleff. 

On the qualities that he takes note of when choosing designers to work with, he muses: “An obsession for materials and combining materials, as well an understanding of forms that marry with Sé’s own aesthetic. Beyond that, there has to be good rapport, as creating over 20 pieces means we are going to spend a lot of time together. Inevitably, there will be bumps in the road that require frank discussions and an open mindset to find solutions.”

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The founder delights in the dynamism of collaborations, which opens up new ways of thinking and enable new opportunities and directions. Each partnership sees the designer introducing their creative trademarks into the world of Sé, while the brand brings their signature elegance and authenticity with the finest materials to the table. 

“With each new designer, Sé is not only able to refresh its creative foundations but at the same time reinforce what it stands for,” he enthuses. “It’s always an opportunity to learn a new craft and new material that enriches our palette of materials. Each designer brings their own perspective and personality, which enhances Sé’s own creativity and culture, making it a very enriching process.”

Schtakleff doesn’t just collaborate with designers, he also ensures that Sé partners with small workshops and family-run manufacturers in order to have the stunning contemporary pieces brought to life by artisan craftsmen in Europe. These experts incorporate their traditional techniques and know-how into the making of the furniture, lighting, and accessory designs. The result is beautiful pieces characterised by their attention to detail and distinctive allure. 

It is unsurprising then, that the entrepreneur finds inspiration in “people and memories”. “I have a close circle of people, including the talented producers and artisans that we work with, who inspire and push me daily,” he says. “But I think for me—as perhaps, for most people—experiences and conversations mature over time. (It could be) a memory of looking at fabrics with my mother as a child, a colour from my time in Florence, or a conversation with an artist; sometimes days, months or even years later, an idea will form.”

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Here, Schtakleff shares more about Sé’s journey, the artists he admires, as well as the objects that have been lending him inspiration recently. 

What are the core aesthetics that represent Sé? 

Pavlo Schtakleff (PS): Sculptural, curved forms which have a sense of character and express a feeling of serenity combined with an abiding respect for materials. I want people to feel drawn to our pieces and to their tactility. It’s hard to put into words, but each piece is intrinsically imbued with a sense of history from the beginning; from the relationships between all the creative parties involved to the skills that have been passed down and used to bring the pieces into being. 

When you are near beauty, it creates a sense of calm and peace. That is the quality I want to convey through the collections. My intention is that there is a timeless air to Sé pieces, so they will be just as relevant 100 years from now.

What is the mark of a well-designed collection to you?
PS: Harmony; a distinct design language recognisable in every piece.

What is one decor trend you’re currently obsessed with?
PS: Not a trend per se, but I’ve always possessed an interest in layering and combining noble materials; bronze, marble, ceramic, different woods… (There are) endless possibilities.

Complete the sentence: You’ll never see___in my home.
PS: I would love to say clutter as I prefer a room just to have a few, very beautiful pieces in it. However, I have two young sons who fill the house with toys and things they collect from the park as well as many items that seem to accrue with life; it’s a bit of a distant fantasy at the moment, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Congratulations on Sé’s 13th anniversary! How has the journey been like so far? 

PS: Thank you! In a way, it’s been what I hoped: an adventure with no way of knowing what is around the corner. With each new collection and collaboration, there have been so many exciting opportunities and conversations. It’s been harder than I could have imagined when I started out, but also more rewarding and inspiring. Sé and I have matured together in many ways.  

As far as advice goes, I would say surround yourself with people you trust and be open to criticism. Be prepared to make mistakes; the greatest lessons come from the biggest mistakes. And stay ambitious—we signed the contract for our new gallery space in London at the very start of the pandemic, which felt crazy at the time.

What can we expect next from Sé? 

PS: The new Sé gallery will open in London later in the year, showcasing our work alongside European artists and artisanal brands we admire. The studio side of the business is also working on several exciting projects and we are looking forward to our next ‘courtship’ (collaboration), having recently created an installation showcasing the work of Lelièvre Paris. Of course, eventually, there will be collection V, but we are prepared to wait for the right designer.

Where have you been looking towards for inspiration recently? 

1. Window panels by Studio MTX and Sé

PS: The work of architectural embroidery atelier Studio MTX reimagines couture embroidery techniques (they are part of Chanel’s embroidery atelier Montex) on a scale for interiors. The level of savoir-faire and sheer beauty of what they produce always creates an emotional response. Sé worked with them to develop a new form of window dressing; layered panels with curves that echo those of Sé furniture, decorated with metals beads and rods in geometric formations. Phase two of this idea is currently in development with their creative director Mathieu Bassée!

2. Kiko Lopez

PS: I met the artist Kiko Lopez in Provence and immediately felt a connection with his work.  A master Verrier, he has spent over twenty years researching and creating his own techniques to produce sensational mirrored artworks. His work transforms your perception of a space and your place within it, whilst providing an incredible sense of history and soul.

3. La Manufacture Cogolin

PS: A highly skilled team of women still weave the rugs of La Manufacture Cogolin on handlooms in a small village in the South of France. Founded in 1924, they were propelled to international renown in the 1930s and have collaborated with design greats such as Jean Michel Frank.. Their archive of high relief geometric patterns are both sensory and timelessly beautiful. These are rugs to be passed down the generations.

4. The Atlas range by Ini Archibong, from Sé

PS: Inspired by the monolithic shape of standing stones, the Atlas range by Ini Archibong plays with weight and weightlessness. I am constantly revisiting pieces and researching new finishes and at the moment exploring different marbles to ground this series further and enhance their air of permanence.

5. The Happiness armchair by Damien Langlois-Meurinne from Sé

PS: We recently showed the Happiness Armchair by Damien Langlois-Meurinne from Sé Collection I as part of our ‘Courtship’ (collaboration) with Lelièvre Paris; dressed in a striped fabric which changed its essence and brought to life in a different way, it reminded me just how much I loved this piece—one of the very first we ever made. 

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