Lalique to Explore More Artist Collaborations
by Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop
Published: October 12, 2013
Yves Klein's Victoire de Samothrace by Lalique
When Silvio Denz acquired crystal maker Lalique in 2008, the French maison had been losing money for over 10 years. Brought in as a white knight by the company’s employees to avoid falling into the hands of a British investment fund, the savvy Swiss businessman acquired Lalique for 42 million euros through his company Art & Fragrance, and after some hard decisions that included cutting jobs and closing some loss-making boutiques, has turned it around.
In the space of five years, Lalique, which was founded by René Lalique in the late 19th century, has reinvented itself as a luxury lifestyle brand resting on five pillars: crystal jewelry, perfumes, decorative objects, interior design, and art pieces.
“When I took over there was only some crystal jewelry looking rather cheap, and perfume done on a very low scale. In fact I was initially interested in buying the company only for its perfumes, because that’s where I’m coming from,” Silvio Denz, President of Art & Fragrance, said in an interview.
He made his fortune in the 1980s developing a family business, Alrodo, into the largest perfume chain in Switzerland. He sold the group to Marionnaud in 2000 and in the same year founded Art & Fragrance, which has been listed on the Zurich stock exchange since 2007. He remains the largest shareholder with a controlling share of the company whose fragrance portfolio includes Perfumes Alain Delon, Perfumes Gres, and Perfumes Lalique.
Bringing ex-Boucheron designer, Quentin Obadia, on board, Lalique launched its high-end jewelry line in 2012, its first in 100 years, with the young jewelry designer drawing on the company’s strong archives to produce a collection that reinterpreted Art Nouveau in a celebration of the founder’s vision.
The crystal maker followed up this year with the introduction of a full range of Lalique Maison accessories, this time in collaboration with Lady Tina Green and designer Petro Mingarelli. The home collection ranges from a limited edition white contemporary bar that can be furnished with Lalique glasses and decanters, to bed linen and lacquered accessories.
“In the beginning, when I started, I was only really looking at the fragrance, that was my focus. Then, we had only one marketing team and one creation team, and I thought it could not work. René Lalique did everything himself. I realized I needed different heads to each pillar. We have now five creative teams. All these pieces have come together like a puzzle; now you could have everything Lalique in your home,” Denz explained.
For Denz, his five pillars are, “completely aligned with what the company’s founder stood for.” René Lalique started his career as a jewelry maker, pioneering glass jewelry, before revolutionizing the perfume industry at the turn of the 20th century when he teamed up with René Coty to develop the first glass perfume bottles. In the 1920s, Lalique also worked on numerous interior décor commissions, creating mirrors and panels for the carriages of the Orient Express, and glass doors for Japanese Imperial Prince Asaka Yasuhiko’s palace, now the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum.
“Those four pillars (jewelry, perfume, decorative objects and interior décor) I see as the DNA of the company that René Lalique founded. The fifth pillar is the art, which he did without realizing, especially all the unique pieces he did with cire perdue (lost wax), which today fetch crazy prices,” Denz explained.
Denz says he’s particularly interested in developing the house’s art segment, and he has put the company’s savoir-faire in the lost wax technique to the service of artists. In 2009, the company set up a new workshop in its factory to revive the lost wax technique that René Lalique practiced until 1930. The complex multi-step technique involves modeling a design in wax, covering it in plaster, and baking it until the wax melts. Once cooled, the craftsman can pour molten crystal in the mold that is then returned to the oven. Each mold can be used just once.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of its founder’s birth, Lalique collaborated with the estate of Yves Klein for a limited edition of 83 crystal pieces of the artist’s “Victoire de Samothrace.” Beyond the difficulty of mastering the lost wax technique for such a big piece, Lalique’s team managed to develop a specific formula with copper and cobalt oxides to recreate the distinctive ultramarine blue, IKB (International Klein Blue), for which the artist was famous, and this is something Denz is particularly proud of.
Denz says the company wants to establish benchmarks by working with a few “top contemporary artists,” and is already well advanced with producing a new piece, though he declined to the name of the artist.
“Our idea is to do something like what Rodin did with bronze, but do it with crystal,” he said.
At the heart of Denz’s re-branding strategy for Lalique has been a host of collaborations with other luxury lifestyle companies (The Macallan, Bentley Motors, Jaguar), along with hook-ups with high profile creatives, like French musician Jean Michel Jarre who created a crystal docking station, and German designer Patrick Hellman who collaborated on a limited edition of striking purple crystal vases. Other creative collaborations have included a lighting collection called Orgue by Studio Andrée Putman that echoed the lighting René Lalique had originally designed for the Normandie ocean liner back in the 1920s.
Such collaborations have helped increase the brand’s visibility among its new target customer groups and reignited the historic brand’s appeal amongst collectors.
This year, Lalique has collaborated with Bentley to create a limited edition Lalique for the Bentley Crystal Edition, and has also created the motoring brand’s first perfume crystal flacon, with a square shaped bottle topped by the British luxury car maker’s legendary “Flying B” mascot. Other new collaborations have included a limited edition table clock for Parmigiani, as well as a new crystal decanter for The Macallan whisky label.
“I’m only doing what René Lalique did in his lifetime, because he did some pocket watches at the end of the 19th century and pendulums in crystal,” Denz remarked on the collaboration with Parmigiani.
The company is now working on a new perfume bottle for Jaguar, which is expected to be unveiled in 2014.
(Link to article):