In conversation with Samer Al Isis, CEO of Poltrona Frau Group ME, on increasing the brand’s reach, challenges of the luxury retailing industry, and the grand launch of Cockpit Chair in collaboration with Ferrari

By Roma Arora
Photography: Dhananjay Shekar Poojari

The business of luxury is not an easy one and to be at the top of the game call for real commitment. A commitment to make a luxury brand a household name in the Middle East. This is the vision for Samer Al Isis, CEO of Poltrona Frau Group ME, an international leading high-end furniture brand. Al Isis is a high-powered, business-savvy corporate leader, with 20 years of experience in the industry both locally and regionally, and his forte lies in team development and strategic planning. He joined the luxury Italian brand in 2011 and over the years he has executed successful high-level tasks and major corporate decisions at top-tier institutions across the Middle East and Europe.

Throughout his career, Al Isis has remained passionate about luxury in all aspects and therefore he wants to make Poltrona Frau Group of brands a “household name”. The design enthusiasts and endusers are stressing upon quality and impeccable craftsmanship and Al Isis knows this is the USP of Poltrona Frau Group of brands and he wants it to be the most-preferred brands in the Middle East. “Fundamentally, we spend most of our lives surrounded by design—at home, in the office, in the airport lounges, in the museums, etc. In the last 10-15 years, I have witnessed the evolution of taste in our region, from the baroque and rococo classic to modern and contemporary. In essence, furniture buyers for their homes or organisations have moved from over-the-top opulence to intrinsic luxury in the choice of material, quality of craftsmanship, and the excellence of industrial processes in manufacturing quality furniture. This works in our favour as we are known for our superior quality products.”

Al Isis wants the brands to reach out to a wide section of the market and he is taking the right steps forward. Recently, Poltrona Frau and Ferrari launched a limited edition Cockpit Chair that brings together imaginations and industrial philosophies of two Italian brands. The grand launch was attended by the crème de la crème of the design industry. Poltrona Frau has for long upholstered the interiors of Ferrari cars and now this was another challenging task for the Tolentino-based furniture manufacturer. “The Cockpit Chair is a result of years of close collaboration between both the brands.

MOMENT OF PRIDE: Samer Al Isis sitting on the Cockpit Chair

For decades, Poltrona Frau has been manufacturing the interiors of Ferrari cars as well as Ferrari showrooms worldwide. The Cockpit is the embodiment of what a cult brand represents: a chair in which the owner feels as if he or she is sitting in a Ferrari car seat. Since our launch event in February 2019, we have been receiving enquiries about colour customisation and firm orders. The typical owner of the Cockpit Chair is a 35-45-yearold Ferrari car male owners.” The armchair has an architectural and modular structure and offers expansion possibilities. For the moment two versions are available, the President and the Executive. Both comprise a reclining base and seat, integrated with two different backrests. The President is the managerial model with a high backrest that offers generous support for the top half of the body and which is inspired by the ergonomics of competitive racing seats. The Executive model, a chair that adapts to all work contexts has a deliberately low and narrow backrest to ensure freedom of movement. The furniture retail industry is a competitive place and with a great number of international brands coming into the region. What gives Poltrona Frau Group of brands an edge over the other brands? Al Isis says: “Our brands are timeless and appeals to the international, well-travelled, and highly cultured clients. Of course, there are some good brands out in the market but our strength in addition to the top brands we represent is the quality, durability, and the level of our white-glove service.”

Poltrona Frau Group has a quite diverse clientele like homeowners of high-value properties, government entities, cultural venues, design-oriented hospitality properties, the group of family-owned or multinational companies, for their executive offices, amongst others. “For us, the most important thing is the general appreciation for good design, high-quality furniture, and the cultural shift from tolerating and accepting to rejecting unauthorised reproductions of copyrighted furniture design,” says Al Isis.

Chic and contemporary furniture by Poltrona Frau

With e-commerce coming out to be a big knock out the winner, it has clearly shaken up the morale of the brick and mortar showrooms. Are these online platforms any threat to luxury brands? Al Isis answers in support of the tangible showrooms: “In the highend design furniture industry, digital platforms still act as online catalogues of several brands and products. For individuals, the act of buying comes only after physically experiencing the product and interacting with the sales and design team to get better customer service, especially locally. For corporate buyers, with attention to the commercial side of the transaction, dealing with a local trusted company, with better commercial terms and greater attention to the client is the key.” With the retail market industry going through an overall rough patch, Al Isis’ mantra for success is not just based on the numbers.

He says: “On a local level, we have had a successful 2018. The brand performed very well globally. The year 2019 is very promising too with solid projects backlog and a strong pipeline. For me, success means being honest with yourself, knowing your strengths and building on them, identifying your weaknesses, and improving or eliminating them” Al Isis has all praise for Dubai and how the design industry has evolved and matured over the period of time. The UAE is a regional leader when it comes to all things design, be it graphics, interiors, or furniture. Al Isis believes: “In our business, the general taste for furniture design is driven by the architects and designers who present to their clients with the right furniture solution, aesthetically, and practically. Dubai, in particular, is becoming a true regional beacon of design innovation and we are very lucky to be based in this dynamic city.”

But Al Isis can also sense the challenges which luxury retailing Industry will go through in the coming few years and it won’t be an easy road to travel. Al Isis delves in some deep thoughts and says: “There will be various challenges to place our attention on like millennial price sensitivity and how consumers are already increasingly willing to pay for brands that offer distinguishing value. Also, the continuance of the price gap between unbranded and branded products keep growing high, this will definitely have a negative impact on luxury retailing industry and last but not the least, expansion of the parallel market that diverts goods to unauthorised sales channels.” But clearly, success comes after one conquers the biggest obstacles and Al Isis is ready to take on the challenges and turn them into achievements. “By leveraging the various strengths of our group, my vision for the coming five years is to set Poltrona Frau Group ME as a regional benchmark for the design, elegance, and excellence of Italianmade furniture. Our aim is to position this brand as the first choice for people and companies seeking luxury in their residential and commercial spaces in the Middle East,” signs off Al Isis.

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