Monday July 2, 2012
By S. PUSPADEVI
Photos by SAM THAM
INTERIOR design is a multifaceted profession that includes conceptual development, liasing with stakeholders of a project and the execution and management of the design.
With the property industry booming, the role of interior designers has become more significant.
Established in the mid-1980s by three young friends, Fella Design is a home-grown brand that offers interior solutions to customers.
When two of them became unemployed, they decided to start a business in renovation and furnishing, and called it Fella Design. The word “fella” means fellow or friend.
From renovation work, the trio branched out to the marketing of fabrics. In 1988, the company changed its direction by venturing into settee manufacturing and retail, which remains the mainstay of the group’s business today.
Four years later, Fella Sales & Services Sdn Bhd was formally incorporated to manage and control the retail arm of the business throughout Malaysia.
However, the branches continued operating under the name of Fella Design furniture galleries, making Fella Design a household name.
With the vision to build a conglomerate, Fella Holding Bhd was incorporated in 1993. With Fella Design and Fella Sales and Services under its umbrella, Fella Holding became one of Malaysia’s pioneers in the furniture industry.
Fella Design single-handedly mounted a Malaysian challenge in the Asian furnishing industry by producing quality designer fabric sofas, with a collection of more than 50 sofa designs and more than 500 imported European fabric selections.
With a wide array of sofas to offer, the company added dining sets, leather sofas, coffee tables and bedroom sets to make Fella a complete home-furnishing destination. It also has a wide range of imported accessories such as paintings, posters, table lamps, classical ornaments, mirrors, artificial flowers and others.
“Under the flagship, we now have five retail subsidiaries — Fella Design, American Accents, Urban Culture, Morph and Fella Interior,” said Fella Holding group chief executive officer Ching Kok Cheong.
American Accents was established in 2000, offering American lifestyle furnishing concepts. It is the first and largest American-home concept gallery in Malaysia.
“As people are exposed to western culture and lifestyles daily, the demand for premium quality western home furnishings is there,” explained Ching.
American Accents features affordably priced luxurious furniture and accessories partially imported from India, China, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Ideal for large and spacious homes, the concept showcases more than 50 different American lifestyle designs in themes such as country, modern, classic, farmhouse and colonial.
Meanwhile, inspired by “Zen” , Urban Culture emerged due to the growing fascination for things of Oriental influence or Asian origin in the western world.
“Asians really appreciate their culture and heritage. Urban Culture introduced its resort-style concept in 2006, featuring a wide range of natural elements in crafted, hemped, weaved and rattan furniture. There was great demand for this concept, as it demonstrates a awareness of light, textures and colours,” said Ching.
Morph, another subsidiary, was established in 2010. It is managed by Fella Interior, a subsidiary that has successfully created interiors for many well-known and established residential as well as commercial spaces, hotels and resorts worldwide.
“Having established its network of resources globally, Fella Interior is able to design, create and produce furniture and interiors at more affordable costs when compared to others,” said Ching.
Morph features two concepts — modern minimalist and avant garde. The modern minimalist concept comprises furniture and accessories, featuring a combination of steel, leather and glass, while the avant garde features the combination of colourful bold fabrics and structures with finishings that are modern and European in style.
Ching said as the company is striving to offer more than just retail, Fella set up its interior consulting arm Fella Interior Sdn Bhd in 1993. With this subsidiary, Fella’s very own team of professionals and experienced interior consultants is able to make inroads into the interior industry.
“In the past three and a half years, we have restructured several key areas in terms of cash flow, human resources and corporate social responsibility as well as staff affairs. These efforts have boosted our performance,” said Ching, adding that this has enabled the company to achieve a gross profit margin of about 50% a year.
He said understanding clients’ requirements is not an easy task. “The interior field is a challenging profession influenced by time, fashion and demand. This is why our interior designers travel extensively to various parts of the world and are constantly updated with the latest trends and fashion in furnishing.
“As long as people accept the products we offer, then we have managed to keep up with trends,” he said, adding that 90% of Fella’s clients are Malaysians, while the rest are export buyers, who visit the Malaysian International Furniture Fair, held annually.
When asked whether people generally perceive Fella as an expensive brand, Ching said this is associated with the quality of materials used in its furnishings.
“We do not compromise on the quality. Our pricing is very moderate and usually our sofa sets have a life span of between five and 10 years,” he said, adding that the sets are hand-crafted.
Fella’s headquarters in Bukit Subang, Shah Alam occupies floor space of 200,000sq ft, which includes the factory and showroom.
The company spends more than RM10mil a year just to purchase fabrics, TV cabinets, coffee tables and bed sets, among others.
“The mainstay of the group’s business is principally the manufacture and retail of the mid- to high-end lounge sets,” he said, adding that Fella’s strength lies in its strong distribution network of furniture galleries.
Ching said more than RM3mil is spent a year for advertising and promotions mainly in print media, adding that the average sales turnover a year is about RM60mil with a growth rate of 7%.
He said the company intends to build more self-owned megastores in all states, providing the best in terms of quality of products and services.
“We will be opening a megastore in Johor Baru by end August and two more stores in Kajang and Penang in the next two years.
“In addition, we will also bring in new concepts, as part of our strategy in keeping up with the latest trends,” he added.
Fella Design currently has a total of 15 showrooms nationwide with a workforce of 200 people.