Being the creative director of a family-run business is a challenge – and no one knows this better than Ilda Pires. Armed with a sociology degree, the determined 62-year old, Lisbon-born Ilda and her siblings are building on the Serip lighting empire founded by her parents. She recounts the initial uncertainty over her work and how she managed to overcome the seemingly impossible.

How did you get started in glass creation and lighting design?

Serip is 60 years old this year. The company feels like a younger brother or sister to me. From an early age, family times were equal to working times. I used to watch my father and my mother making glass and brass chandeliers, and would accompany my father to the crystal company to see how the glass was made by hand.

Ilda Pires, creative director at Serip. PHOTO: SERIP

I was so intrigued by how things worked at the factory and how products were designed that I joined the company in my 20s. At first, my father was against the idea because he wanted me to study instead. I was pretty stubborn and said I would work during the day and study sociology and design at night. Serip was my first job – and will likely be my last as well.

What was joining the family business like?

It was a natural path – and smooth as I was used to being at the company. Vacations and family time mostly took place at Serip. I was in love with what the company represented: family. 

What’s the story behind the move towards an organic style in the brand’s core design DNA?

The breathtaking Coral chandelier, both a work of art and a functional lighting object. PHOTO: SERIP 

Our amazing childhood in Sintra may have something to do with that. With nature all around us, we were never short of inspiration. Injecting a fresh, organic style into the brand seemed like, well, the natural thing to do.

My favourite times there were and still are during spring and autumn. Spring represents a beautiful beginning after a cold, dark winter. Everything is always greener and colourful. Autumn is usually a time of silence and calmness as the leaves change colour and fall when the wind blows.

The mono-brand showroom in Beijing. PHOTO: SERIP

The journey to organic lighting products was rough at the beginning as our clients found it hard to step out their comfort zone. The concept was too far ahead of its time and I felt that many couldn’t understand my designs. 

Then, around the year 2000, I introduced a collection that heralded a new era for Serip at the Habitat Valencia trade fair. The receptivity was mixed; people weren’t sure if they liked some of the ethereal and whimsical pieces – like the Glamour chandelier, the modular Pathleaf, the Aqua chandelier and the Nenufar as well as the Bijout collections – or not. That reaction in itself was pretty impactful to me as I’d made people wonder about my designs. 

The suspended Coral lights, dripping with colourful glass pieces. PHOTO: SERIP

Did your background in sociology help?

Yes. It was important to my development as a designer and an entrepreneur as it helped me to understand the individual needs of each market, the people and their tastes, the different cultures and the importance of interpersonal relationships. These are crucial when it comes to segmentation and product development. 

What do you think homeowners are looking for now in terms of statement lighting?

I believe that the need for technological innovation, design and differentiation is starting to influence their decisions. However, while the concept of design may be universal, one’s taste isn’t. That’s why the Nordic countries continue to seek simplicity while the Middle East and the Russian markets, for example, continue to lean towards grandeur.

The personalisation of a design to make it more outstanding is also gaining prominence in interior design. Hence, every piece becomes a singular, exclusive work of art produced with as few mechanical elements as possible. 

Serip’s presentation at Euroluce 2019 in Milan. PHOTO: SERIP

What is Serip doing in terms of sustainability?

We are trying not to compromise the possibility of meeting the needs of future generations by minimising the environmental impact of our production and thinking about the life cycle of the product as a whole.

We are also searching for solutions that reduce the energy consumption of our products while giving them greater durability.

This means that while our pieces are linked to design trends, there’s still a sense of timelessness about them, thanks to the superior quality of materials used. And we are more careful about using raw materials that can be recycled at all stages, from pre-production to production and distribution.

The very detailed vine leaves of the new Folio collection. PHOTO: SERIP

Of your creations for Serip, which are your favourites?

The Bijout and Aqua collections and Folio, our latest launch.

Aside from glass and metal, has Serip been experimenting with materials such as fibre optics and plastic?

No. However, we have had requests for designs using porcelain and have considered making a collection using it even though it’s never been a part of our portfolio as we focus on this organic style.

Serip’s booth at the Maison&Objet 2019 trade show in Paris. PHOTO: SERIP

Can we get a sneak peek at what’s in store for the upcoming collection?

Well, it is not just one, but three collections that are in the process of development. I believe that by the end of 2021, we will have news to share. Stay tuned. 

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