interview | east meets west...



while i was visiting singapore for saturday in design back in october this year, i had the pleasure of meeting the likeable ted utoft, one half of textile and design house KORLA. i was automatically drawn to the motifs, patterns and bold colours that designer and the other half of KORLA jane bonsor was creating plus i loved the handmade nature of their products. the patterns influenced by their western backgrounds and eastern surroundings are sure to stand the test of time in an ever changing interiors market. formed in 2011, they create + manufacture fabrics by the metre, made-to-measure curtains and blinds, plus custom home accessories.

fortunately both jane [JB] and ted [TU] agreed whole heartily to be interviewed for state of joy


what do you do?
JB: i design textile prints.
TU: i run KORLA - a print business, currently focused on interior textiles.

how did you start out?
JB: as a designer for a high street store. then set up my own fashion company which became known for our prints |  jane troughton at pocket venus.
TU: this came to being when my business partner and KORLA's designer, jane bonsor, approached me about my thoughts on the feasibility of a new interior textile brand. after some research and some discussion about the potential, i agreed to get on board and bring the idea to life.

what are you working on right now?
JB: summer 2013. layers of colour, some exciting new prints.
TU: to be honest, right now we're really working on growing the business, we're just one year old and have already learned a lot in the first year. now we're focusing on not only creating more beautiful designs, but also creating a more enjoyable and dynamic customer experience through our online store korlahome.com and the whole delivery process, etc – working on speeding up the process and inspiring customers with imagery of KORLA products in situ.

what’s the best advice you’ve been given?
JB: mediocrity is not acceptable. so british! my school teacher said it relentlessly when i was 15! it pops in my head whenever i think, "this'll do" and then I realise it could be better and work a bit more. always worth the extra bit of hard graft.
TU: "do your best and have fun." my mom used to say this to my big sister and i everyday as we'd leave for school and i still think about it as i get ready for work everyday. if you're not enjoying what you're doing, it's time for change.


what inspires you?
JB: random stuff.
TU: i'm really inspired by travelling. i've been lucky to have a few jobs in the last 9 years that have exposed me to some amazing things, working as a journalist in beijing and shanghai, and then as a market researcher and brand consultant, based in singapore but travelling all over the region and the world. i think this informs the way i see and feel about nearly everything from design to cuisine to politics.

what’s on the cards for the year ahead?
JB: a lot. a move. a new office. a new country. new school for my kids. big year ahead but i'm a snake and it's the year of the snake, so i'm hoping it will be OK.
TU: we'll be releasing some new prints, shooting some more photo shoots, and hopefully hitting up the UK and australia press.

what are you most passionate about?
JB: my little family.
TU: my friends and family. my life is somewhat split between family and childhood friends back in the US and my friends and colleagues now scattered across asia. it's a little bit difficult to manage at times, but i love thinking that in a lot of cities around the world I have friends or family to see.

what’s one thing we should know about you?
JB: i have a schnoodle, who won't eat dog food.
TU: i've never watched many of the movies that most everyone else has seen – star wars, none. pre-daniel craig bond movies, none. i'd never even seen an episode of friends until yesterday. i love TV and movies, i guess i'm just watching other stuff!


what’s your greatest achievement?
JB: the duchess of cambridge wearing some of my past fashion designs. and being offered a guest lecturer position at lasalle college of the arts.  one fashion, one interior.

what motivates you to keep going?
JB: new influences, new trends, new things to design....on and on. you can't stop!
TU: i like the idea that the things we make are in people's homes, in their life everyday and that hopefully they make them happy and comfortable.

who’s your greatest hero?
JB: my parents (am I allowed two?). my dad is an architect, my mum is an artist - they made me look and see.
TU: i think it would be my grandmother. especially since starting KORLA I think about her a lot lately, i grew up just down the street from her and stayed at her house often. she was the consummate hostess and only now am i appreciating how tough of a job that can be – she was a great mother, a fantastic grandmother and did it all with a lot of style. she had a stylish home filled with things from her travels all over the world. a great cook, a decent gardener, she could bake, sew, decorate, and make a great cocktail! i think these skills have real value and to pull it off with such fun and such grace is really cool.

what has been your biggest lesson?
JB: quality control. design is only half the story, making it well is the hard part.
TU: patience - and it's never come easily to me. it's very common for me to get overly excited about a new idea or a new plan, but I can get bogged down in the details and the execution. and what I'm learning is that the details and the execution are so critical.

  [all images © korla]

where can we see your work?
JB: my previous work as a fashion designer - on the duchess of cambridge (she's re-worn coats and dresses that I designed) and i design prints for madeleine thompson and austique.
my new work as a print designer at korlahome.com and in stockists such as originals.com.sg
TU: you can stop by our online retail shop at: korlahome.com to see our latest collections, but you can also stop by our blog: korlahome.com/blog to see our products in real homes and to see what's inspiring us as of late.