Erdem Akan, Design Director at VitrA

By Matt Balmer
May 16, 2019

May 2019

Erdem Akan, Design Director at VitrA, shares his thoughts on collaborating with Claudio Bellini, aroma therapy and jazz music.

When was the business founded, and why?

VitrA is a leading brand of Eczacıbaşı, a prominent Turkish industrial group originating from 1909, when the renowned Turkish pharmacist Süleyman Ferit Eczacibaşi began producing bathing and cologne products at his pharmacy in Izmir. His son, Dr Nejat Eczacıbaşı, continued to expand the family business in 1942 by establishing a pharmaceutical laboratory in Istanbul. With the establishment of Turkey’s first ceramic sanitaryware factory in 1958, VitrA was born. VitrA was adopted as the brand name for Eczacıbaşı sanitaryware in 1966. The opening of a faucet production plant in 1979 heralded the strategic decision to diversify into complementary bathroom products.

How many staff?

There’s around 50 of us in the VitrA UK team.

Where is it based?

VitrA ‘s global headquarters is located in Istanbul, whilst the UK team is based in both London and Didcot, UK. From these locations, we are able to manage the sales and shipping for all our international clients.

What is your latest significant achievement/project of note?

I am very excited about our recent collaboration with architect and designer Claudio Bellini, which launched at ISH in March this year. A complete range of bathroom furniture, Equal explores the fusion between the organic shapes found in nature with the more structural lines present in an urban environment. We have a long-standing tradition of working with acclaimed international designers and it was an honour to have the opportunity to develop this collection with Claudio Bellini.

What is your best-selling product?

I think everyone is still very much into the ‘Scandi-style’ pieces – our Nest washbasin unit definitely reflects this trend, which is why I think it’s our most popular piece. The grey, natural wood finish gives off a minimal look that’s easy to fit into most bathroom aesthetics.

I’ve just discovered…

Aroma therapy and essential oils to support my wellness journey – my favourite ones are peppermint and rosemary.

Who inspires me…

I’ve been inspired by quite a few radical thinkers within my career – Roland Barthes, Kenya Hara, I could go on forever! For me, it’s always been important to learn from others in order to develop as a person and as a designer.

I’ve always been a fan of…

Jazz music. I love that it can be both rational and creative – jazz works within specific templates and yet is open to improvisation. It’s always challenging something!

My highlight of the last 12 months…

Milan Design Week is always lots of fun. This year, amongst all the new launches and parties to attend, we presented a new ceramic light in collaboration with French designer Charlotte Juillard at the Wallpaper* Handmade exhibition. Working on such a conceptual piece was really interesting – the piece interpreted the theme of ‘love’ through its function, shape and material into a beautiful, minimalist design. This was a unique opportunity for VitrA to display its remarkable manufacturing capabilities within ceramics.

My next design trip is to…

Copenhagen. Denmark is a country with great design heritage, so I’m really looking forward to this. I’m going to be travelling there to do some market research and user analysis related to bathrooms in public and private spaces in the Scandinavian market.