Rene Women Interviews 0001: Laris Kilimci
The neighborhood of Arnavutkoy is a hidden gem for someone new to Istanbul like me, and it turns out that Laris Kilimci is, too. I figured I knew her already from her company and instagram (I should know better).But who I discovered in our hour together, over tea and chocolates and discussions of our chakras, was so much more complex than instagram could ever hope to convey (we should all remember this). Last year, when I moved to Turkey I did what I always do– begin the hunt for all the cool, creative, passionate women doing their things. And I found LAR, a vibrant art studio turning the dreamlike prints of Laris into scarves, shirts, bags, bikinis and more. I knew I wanted to meet her, and also add a few items to my own life-on-the-Aegean collection.
Laris Kilimci, aka Laris Rugmaker (in Turkish), does not turn her wildly colorful designs into rugs. She also doesn’t create music videos (what she went to London thinking she’d end up doing). And she doesn’t live in New York City (where she was born).
She lives in tree-filled Beykoz, where she can easily find herself back with her favorite teacher– nature. For as much of a business-woman she is (with a very I-know-myself brand and raving fans and collaborations with US companies like Sabah) she’s also just a human, an artist looking for her own version of home and using her work as a conduit to discovering it.
In fact, that’s where LAR (Laris’ namesake brand) began. After design school in London she thought maybe she’d return to her city of birth but that didn’t end up feeling quite like home. Soon she was back in Istanbul and was turning her beautiful cubist-meets-seventies psychedelic sketches into scarves. Scarves because rugs can’t go with you. Rugs are less easy to turn into whatever fashion you need you migh have– an impromptu dress, a headscarf, even a bandeau top. Really it’s only your imagination that will limit you.
Laris wants you to have options that help you express yourself colorfully, while also letting loose of your learned expectations. Her art is freeing for so many of us. Her imaginary scenes are sometimes recreations of actual places (Paris) and others are just purely dreamlike scenery powered by symbols like stars, palms and arcs.
I went with my new friends Rana (Rene Homes) and Derya (AIT Istanbul) to visit Laris in her bright and airy studio and ask her a few questions about her work and home life. I can only speak to my own experience, but I was immediately under the spell of LAR Studio, her pure artistic talent is equally impressive as her humanness. We all felt so inspired and cared about by her, and I can imagine that’s why so many love her brand so much. We feel seen and loved well ahead of time, even before that beautiful package arrives. We can tell she’s thought about us and our own internal journeys and she is there encouraging us, one design at a time.
Here’s a brief look at our interview, below–
Steph: When did you begin your business?
Laris: In 2017.
S: Where did you go to Design School?
L: Saint Martins in London. (University of the Arts, London)
S: What’s your favorite restaurant in Istanbul?
L: Apartiman. They always change the menu and it’s very good, fresh stuff. And they always have great service. (https://www.instagram.com/apartiman_yenikoy/)
S: What’s your favorite neighborhood?
L: Well, the old version of Suadiye, before the apartments changed. I’m nostalgic and I like cozy and quaint. And also the old Moda, before it was too commercialized.
S: What’s the hardest part of business right now?
L: The hardest part is that what we do is not a necessity, and there is a major economic crisis. It’s hard to stay motivated and optimistic even when you do love your meaning.S: What is one part of your process that you love?
S: What is the most exciting part of your business?
L: When we get the first batch of our samples from the manufacture, it’s really the most exciting part. It shows that it’s actually happening.
S: What are you most excited about right now?
L: Traveling. I want to go to Bali next. Every time I travel, it’s like a different mood. Also, pants. We’re making pants and boxer shorts for our new collection and I’m really excited. I like loungewear and stuff you can breathe in. The new collection, it’s very oversized, baggy, chill, funky.
S: Do you have a pet?
L: Yes, a dog named Lucky.
S: What’s your home like?
L: It’s white, like my studio with lots of colorful stuff around. I think of my home as a canvas. It’s like my studio, except there’s a disco ball. It’s very kitch.
S: Who inspires you in your work?
L: What I feel connected to about the modern artists is that most of them lived by the seaside, alone. They weren’t at parties or in the hype. They were actually expressing something that exists in history and that exists also in themselves. Maybe that’s why I’m more inspired by modernists.
S: Do you have a name for the new collection yet?
L: I was actually thinking about naming it today. And I think it has a lot to do with personal experiences and finding power within yourself. It feels connected to movement and the power of movement. When I feel low, I just dance. I dance like crazy. It’s inspired by travel, and in general what movement brings to you.
S: What’s your favorite part of your home?
L: My bathroom. I like rituals of self-care. And most of the time when I’m in the bathroom I’m not thinking too much. I’m just looking at myself and pampering myself.
S: Where do you live?
L: It’s very quiet. It has a forest near it. It’s a private place, it’s not like a city.