Salon Interior

Elena Shlenkina: “I had to introduce clients from Russia to Italian interior culture almost from scratch” The Head of Representation of Italian factories in Russia, Elena Shlenkina, talks about the history of the interior industry and her life path.

SALON: Elena, this year you acted as one of the coordinators of the retrospective of the Italian architect Mario Bellini at the Museum of Architecture. Shchuseva. How do you like this experience?

“This is not the first time I have been organizing an exhibition, but this time I felt a special responsibility, since I personally know Bellini and his family. A more personal approach was needed here. I immersed myself in studying the master’s creative path in order to reflect all his versatility and uniqueness in the exhibition. The difficulty was presented by technical issues: it is not easy to organize something within the walls of a museum, we had to find compromises and experiment. Overall, working on the exhibition was interesting and enjoyable.

S: You have been representing Italian factories in Russia for 25 years. This year, SALON–interior magazine celebrates its 25th anniversary. What do you remember about working together?

— I have only warm memories associated with the SALON–interior magazine. From the very beginning of my activity, the magazine provided support, covered exhibitions, and published interviews. We can say that we have developed together and continue to develop to this day.



S: MERONI FRANCESCO is the first factory you started working with. How it was?

— Bringing a new brand to the Russian market is always difficult, but I was driven by enthusiasm both then and now. I remember how 25 years ago I took a wooden carved flower girl with me everywhere to give every potential client the opportunity to touch the object, hold it in their hands, and evaluate the quality of hand-crafted wood. Even the flight attendants knew me and called me “Elena with the flower girl.” (Laughs. – SALON.) You can say that through this jardiniere I instilled in my clients a love for interior culture in general. Today I can confidently say that my efforts have paid off: MERONI FRANCESCO is known and loved in Russia, their furniture can be found even in the Kremlin.

S: You also work with the MOLTENI&C brand, which produces furniture in a much more modern style than MERONI FRANCESCO. Do you like this spread?

– Certainly! I love combining incongruous things. Moreover, this is exactly what has been happening lately in design: interiors are less and less designed in the same style, classic coexists with modern. Combinations of different styles are no longer perceived as chaos, but, on the contrary, contribute to harmony and consistency in the interior.

S: What has been the most challenging part of building relationships between brands and customers?

— I had to introduce clients from Russia to Italian interior culture almost from scratch. This can be said about me: before perestroika, I was a Komsomol organizer at the LIAZ plant (I am a mechanical engineer by profession). Clients had the most questions about production methods, because in the post-Soviet space there was very little knowledge about various material processing techniques. I organized trips to Italian factories, where I learned about all the intricacies of handicraft work. It was important to clearly show how to work with wood, fabrics, and how to apply varnish. Thus, step by step, trust was built between the factory and the client.

S: What are your plans for the future?

– Don’t stop there! I travel a lot, trips help me not to lose enthusiasm. For example, I recently returned from Los Angeles. It was nice to see many young architects from Moscow, Irkutsk, and Krasnodar there. This means there is a demand for design. There are plans to open several showrooms in the USA.

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