“Traveling to Forget, to Remember, to Learn and to Feel”, by Laris Alara Kilimci

Traveler: Laris Alara Kilimci – Designer & Founder of Lar Studio

Why do you travel?

To forget, to remember, to learn, to feel, to collect beautiful memories, details and beauty. To meet new people, to interact.

What are some of your most unforgettable escapes that have inspired the identity and story of your brand?

I don’t think any place specifically inspired the story of my brand, it’s a bit of an ongoing process. One day I talk about Catalonia, the next day I talk about Mardin. My favorite place in the world up to now has been Mexico. It’s about the history, the beauty and the spirit of places that I want to grasp. 

Where do you search for inspiration?

The energy of the sun. My music archive. Shops with beautiful objects. Architecture. Colors. Hearing about the stories of how people used to live back then, nostalgia. Details of everyday life. Art books on design and furniture. 

How does travel shape the development of new collections and new pieces?

I love seeing architectural and lifestyle details of how people live, the shapes of balconies, windows, plants that only exist in that zone and all these elements that show character. Also finding out about designers from different times.. For instance when I was in Vienna I always thought I would not like the art and design culture so much as it seemed from the outside too ornamental. Symmetrical and intricate.. but when I stayed longer I learned about the Glass objects that were made by architects (you can see some of them at MAK) and it was really intriguing, surreal and in a way psychedelic to my eye which I liked. 

What are your favorite escapes at home, unique hidden gems in Turkey that everyone might not know about?

Anywhere with sea and sun is my preference. I would be honest and say that Kaş, Fethiye in general have my favorite spots. The mountains and sea combined have a powerful and very warm intense energy.  The mountain of Olympos has so many mythological stories, it inspires me. I even have a Shirt called OLYMPOS in our collection. This is more for retreat.

Mardin, where I never actually lived but where my family is from also gives me an interesting energy every time I go. My ancestral root is 3/4 Assyrian, we are a very closed community of Middle Eastern Christians (so said the first Christians). Of us the ones who migrated to Istanbul are not so Assyrian anymore when compared to people who continue to live in Midyat. For example I hear people speak in Assyrian and I wish that I too knew this ancient language. It sounds like Yiddish and Arabic if I had to give an example. This got me interested in researching more on Assyrian culture. I learned for example that my grandmother’s last name was Shemsi (meaning someone who prays to the sun)! I loved that as I actually do worship the sun today in a way. 🙂 

How is your brand tied to our culture, geography, heritage and history?

I would say there are ways it is tied and there are ways it is not. Because more than anything LAR comes from imagination, the abstract and joy of life. LAR’s patterns are open to interpretation but also subconsciously take inspiration from everyday life.

I don’t like putting major limitations to my sources of inspiration, so last season for instance with the MIRAGE collection we shot our catalogue with Sophie Bogdan and Can Dağarslanı in the Deyrulzafaran Monastery at Mardin. I think this created a major contrast with our colorful, bold pieces and that clash is what makes us so different in Turkey. I feel people don’t like being so bold visually, it’s not in our visual culture. People don’t like wearing color so much for instance because we tend to be more conservative and free self expression is rare, so I’d like to change that. 

Share with us some of your favorite summer stays here in Turkey.

I would say rent a boat and go to one of the quiet coasts. Last summer me and my friends had a bachelor party and we visited the coasts of Marmaris for 3 days. We then added 2 more days along the way because we enjoyed our time so much. Good wine, good fish, and jokes are the best, this is what the Mediterranean is about food. The Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean is beautiful, I think it’s best to enjoy it on a boat with people you love.

I love good food. I especially love food from the Southeastern border. If you ever go to Mardin or Diyarbakır you must try to find a good Kibbeh or Kitel. They are my favorite dishes that my grandmother makes. 

Favorite restaurants?

I miss Kantin. It used to be my favorite restaurant. I got really upset when the chef decided to close it down, especially because their old location was lovely with the back garden.  

But to be honest and I am sucker for good kebap. I am saying unfortunately because I used to be vegetarian and am trying to not eat so much meat as it’s bad for the environment and I feel guilty but every once in a while I love eating street food. Kebap is my thing, the type you find on the road. Kardeşler in Fulya is one of my favorites. 

Favorite local finds from local brands, artisans and craftsmen?

If in Aegean coast, everybody needs a peştemal. They are super cheap, and feel good and pure. You can find them at the local bazaars. (Ask the merchants around for the times and locations, it’s all about word of mouth in Turkey). Alaçatı Bazaar is one of my favorites, you can find beautiful floral %100 cotton dresses. Turkey is a source of natural remedies, you should definitely collect natural herbs of the Mediterranean, and special oils you can find at the Aktars or the Bazaar. Definitely get yourself a load of Sages, Lindens… 

In Mardin, Sabuncu Mehmet is an artisan soap maker. These soaps are %100 natural and my favorite…

In Istanbul my friends Damla and Burak just opened a shop for their brand Epicene in the Topağacı, Nişantaşı district. Their approach is very meditative, genderless and everyday. Pay them a visit and get yourself a cuff earring from them, they are so easy to use everyday and feel edgy at the same time!

Ideal travel partners?

Someone who is modest, curious and easy going. Loves long discussions, enjoys going to random streets, spending at least 2 hours in bookstores or stopping for a coffee or a sangria (based on the location the drinks changes) and likes to blend in to the city. I almost always meet and get to know new people everywhere I travel. I like going to local parties and living like a local when I travel. But I also am a collector of beautiful furniture, books, LP’s and souvenirs so get ready to go to every flea market everywhere and also hunt out local design brands. 

Can you share with us an unforgettable memory from a Mediterranean escape. 

Last year a friend of mine got married, for her bachelorette party we were on a boat like I mentioned above. We all dressed in white, took champagne and had a very picturesque picnic. 

Where are you dreaming of escaping to next?

I really would like to go to Brazil. It’s one of the few places for which I really have no prejudices in my mind, and I’m trying to ignore all the bad commentary about the crime and only take in the positive. The music, the architecture, the scenery. 

What does traveling mean to you?

Escape! New homes, new laughs and lots of mental references (architectural, sensory, …)