Trifu Boronka Two worlds combine
By Courtney M. Paschal -- Casual Living, 8/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
It's not easy to talk about the designer behind Designer Wicker & Rattan without mentioning the founder and president himself. They are one and the same.
Trifu Boronka and his wife, Stella. The sectional, below, is one of the new outdoor products Boronka will display at the Casual Show next month.
Trifu Boronka has managed the company's evolution from a small producer of willow baskets in 1985 to the much larger manufacturer of wicker and rattan furniture and home accessories it is known as today.
Under the name Tribor International Trading, Boronka exhibited his line of Yugoslavian baskets and brass and copper accessories for the first time in February 1986 at the New Orleans Gift Show by Hellen Brett Enterprises.
"I found myself in the position that I can do better in that category, and I realized I can do it better if I designed different products like accent pieces and furniture," Boronka said.
With a background in mechanical engineering, computer technology and marketing, Boronka formed Designer Wicker, developing 11 full furniture collections in just three years, including the company's first line, the Florida Collection.
The new direction didn't come without challenges. In the early '90s, a civil war broke out in Yugoslavia, forcing Boronka to seek other means to import wicker. He visited Asia and found raw materials in Indonesia that could most closely duplicate his previous work.
"I decided to continue developing product in Indonesia," he said. "Today, we do some business in the Philippines, too. That (time) was very challenging to me, and really, still is today. You have to figure out, what does the market want?"
Between 1994 and 2000, Designer Wicker & Rattan had its highest growth period, and now sells all around the globe, from Canada and Brazil to the Caribbean. The company first found a home in High Point, N.C., exhibiting in a space totaling 1,000 square feet. Today, its permanent showroom has grown to 4,000 square feet.
Strongly influenced by the European market, Boronka recently introduced more products than ever — 40% of Designer Wicker's Atlanta showroom was new introductions. From completely indoor lines to totally outdoor, no room of the house is off limits when designing. In fact, Designer Wicker & Rattan's largest customer base is designers, who find it appealing they can furnish and accessorize an entire house — from the front porch, inside, and out to the back yard — just from Boronka's products alone.
"Our customers are specialty stores selling wicker and rattan," he said. "Designers are the biggest part of the business at 60%, furniture stores about 5% and casual stores 10–15%."
Boronka added wood products to the mix at the recent Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market, an introduction based largely on market trends and the company's promise to always deliver unique product to the marketplace.
More contemporary, transitional looks sweep the new collections, from the coastal living Country Corner line that meshes wood and other materials, to the Clarissa Collection, a line that may appeal to the Gen Y crowd, named after a young girl Boronka would always pass at a traffic light in the Philippines.
"We're going nuts," he said. "We are not only doing wicker and rattan, we are mixing materials and changing our product look — updating to today's lifestyle. "
Despite the new products, Boronka's favorite material to work with is still wicker and rattan. "We are not selling the wicker look — we are selling real wicker furniture," he said.
Being born in one part of the world and living in another has helped Boronka shape his career path. "It's difficult to explain my inspiration," he said.
"When people think I am working, I am really relaxing and creating. For me, that is my enjoyment."
Perhaps a testament to that enjoyment is an '82 Isuzu pickup truck Boronka and his family drove to their first trade show 21 years ago.
"It's still alive," he said with a laugh.