It was such an honour for Bloesem to have the opportunity to interview and meet co-founder of Paola Lenti, Anna Lenti, last week in the DREAM showroom. Sitting on a Paola Lenti piece and being surrounded by many other designs in their collection, it was too surreal. We did have to pinch ourselves to believe it. If you have ever visited the DREAM showroom along River Valley road, you might have noticed the room to the right where the high ceiling and large windows let all the sunlight in. It was the perfect setting to be sitting on outdoor furniture and talking to the one of the founders of the company that created them.
Having been fans of the brand for years, Bloesem last featured Paola Lenti during their exhibition at the 2012 Milan Fair, little did we know that 3 years later, we would be sitting on the same couch as Anna Lenti. We took the opportunity to talk to her about how the company has changed over the years and what sets them apart from their competition.
Bloesem: As a relatively young company, it's impressive what Paola Lenti has achieved. What did you and your sister foresee at the start of the company and did you imagine achieving this much in such a short period of time?
Anna Lenti: Probably not at the beginning. But since the beginning I think we had a very clear idea on what we would like to do, and especially how we would like to do. We have always tried to do something that doesn't exist in the market and that's why we really started doing the outdoor collection...
A: .. And I think it's really the outdoor collection that gave a push to the company because when we started in 2001, there didn't exist anything like our outdoor [collection]. These things take a little bit of time to be recognised in the market, because the market was not ready at that moment. That makes the company really, really grow. What is important is that since the beginning we knew how we would like to do things. We were always keeping to this direction, we have never changed our mind, we have never changed our way to see things. That I think is very important.
B: Could you tell us more about the dreams, passions and vision for the future for Paola Lenti?
A: I think that's a bit difficult [laughs] What we really wanted to see for the future is that the way that we have started. Not to work on a single concept or a single product but to work on more of a lifestyle. We have started with the outdoor, where we have introduced the Cabanne system. Not only what's inside but also the container for the product. Then we have again introduced with the indoors, where we started with the rugs but we are also looking indoors. So maybe next step would be Paola Lenti Complete Home. [laughs]
B: Where do you and your sister find inspiration for new collections?
A: You can find from everything. You can find from nature and outdoor. Any original piece object. You can find it in everyday life. A lot from tradition, history, old Italian art - this is a great inspiration.
B: Since you do all these furniture, how is your own homes, the outdoor spaces, how does it look like?
A: I don't have an outdoor space, because Paola and I, we live in an apartment. So we don't have an outdoor space.
B: That's interesting!
A: Our house is very simple. Of course we have some of our products but for the moment not an outdoor space.
B: Soon, hopefully. [laughs]
A: In my home for example, I love living on the rug - sit on the rug, using the poof as a little table.
B: If you can use three words to sum up Paola Lenti's designs, what would you use?
A: I say simple, colours, and tradition.
Paola Lenti swatches at the DREAM showroom.
B: What are some of the most memorable projects for you in the history of Paola Lenti? And maybe a project that really pushed you guys into the limelight?
A: I think the first outdoor of the Island Collection that we have introduced. It is something that we will always remember because it was the line that really pushed us to grow. And then probably when we have introduced a few years ago, the concept of In The Key of Colour,
because in the beginning we were very limited in the number of colour selections. But with this idea we have started mixing the colours of our materials together so we have introduced a range of 200 different colours. This was another big step of the company. And of course, I think 2 years ago, when we started with this thing called the Simply Indoors, when we started producing fabric for the indoors.
B: So what would you say makes Paola Lenti pieces stand out from other outdoor pieces?
A: First of all, I think it's the quality. To do outdoor pieces is not easy. Now I think almost all the companies is coming to the outdoor. But to produce outdoor pieces, it's not easy. For us, it took 3 years to arrive at the proper materials. We did a lot of research to get to there with the supplier that produce the fibres and we always aim to improve the materials. So this is one thing. It's easy to say this is for outdoor, but sometimes it's not really for outdoors.
And the other thing is that we were the first to introduce the outdoor pieces that really had the same concept and construction as the indoor pieces. So comfort, and style, same materials so that there are no borders between the indoor and the outdoor. So I think it's plus this factor. Nobody has the combination of material and colour that we have, due to the fact that we produce the colours. So we produce the furniture, but we also produce the fabrics of the furniture. This is something very difficult, because we always say that we are two companies - one produces fabric and one produces furniture. So I think it makes a big difference.
B: What does 'Made in Italy' mean to you?
A: I think Italy has a long tradition of manufacturing, and all the different aspects. So for us it's very very important to keep the production in Italy for many reasons. Firstly, we like to maintain this tradition. For example, the weaving, all the kind of weaving you see are produced in Italy. This tradition is very old, but it started not to be very exploited anymore because most of the brand are going to produce in Asia cause it's cheaper. So we are proud to say that we are now creating again this culture and work flow because our supplier is starting to get young people to teach them the way of weaving so this I think this is something we want to do.
Another thing that is very important to keep the production in Italy is that in today's world, we have to try to be ecological. So the system, to send back and forth the materials, the transportation, for us is something not very ethical. So we are trying to avoid it as much as possible.
B: I think that's things people don't really take into consideration when you test a piece and you need to send it back.
A: Yeah. In Italy there's the tradition of doing this kind of craftsmanship. So it's good that we keep these in Italy. Our aim is also to create a school, to teach young people to do these. Something in the future we would love to do.
B: So with the humidity in Singapore, is there an emphasis in the materials like through research and development, do how do you focus on the materials to make sure that it's suitable for a lot of different climates?
A: We have to take into consideration all of the aspect of the outdoors. One of course is the sun. We have to test the material to make sure that it doesn't change in the sunlight. In the same time you have to take into account the humidity. So the test we do on the material, we develop together with the lamps because there is no real specification for outdoor. We have always set to combine humidity with sunlight with salt water because we work a lot with the sea and the yacht, with the chlorine water for swimming. So you have to take into account all these single aspect. The fibre we choose is very durable in the point of view of humidity so it really doesn't absorb the humidity very much.
B: Do you believe that the people in Asia are able to enjoy the designs similar to people in Europe? We think in Singapore, it's not so common for people to go outside and sit in the sun for a long time because you'll start to perspire.
A: But I think why not, really? We also work with other countries that are very hot, very humid like the Central America, South America, Middle East also, maybe it's not so humid but it's very hot there. If you look at the fashion in Asia, you have such a nice and beautiful taste so I see a lot of things in common with the taste also.. it's universal.
Anna lenti and Gian Rizzi (Export Manager) at the DREAM showroom.
Anna was so down to earth and sweet, we are so glad to have gotten the chance to meet her. A big thanks to the DREAM team for this wonderful opportunity!
Image credits: Paola Lenti (top 3 images)