MAN OF THE MOMENT: MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
A near-obsessive fascination with vintage fragrance bottles led Swiss entrepreneur and collector Silvio Denz to the helm of one of the most prestigious crystal makers in the world.
A nearobsessive fascination with vintage fragrance bottles led Swiss entrepreneur and collector Silvio Denz to the helm of one of the most prestigious crystal makers in the world
With a career in scents that spans three decades, Silvio Denz’s fascination with perfumes began in the 1980s when he joined the family’s distribution business, Alrodo. He went on to build the firm into the largest perfume retail chain in Switzerland before selling it to a competing French chain in 2008. In the same year, he founded Art & Fragrance, a firm that specialises in creating and marketing scents. Throughout his career, Denz’s love for fragrance evolved from selling to creating, along the way amassing the largest private collection of Lalique perfume bottles in the world. It was this initial fascination with fragrance bottle that led him to acquire Lalique in 2008. With a unique talent to turn passions into business, Denz shares how he invites elements of art, real estate, and watches into his work.
Your first experience with Lalique was as a collector, how did you begin collecting fragrance bottles? With I started working in the fragrance industry in the 1980s, it was mostly for work that I would study and collect all kinds of fragrance bottles. But over time, I acquired a major collection of Lalique bottles. I now have about 800 bottles in my personal collection.
You must have been very excited when you found out that Lalique was for sale in 2007? Well yes, I was. But I was initially interested only in the fragrance arm of the company. I wasn’t really interested in crystal, but I was told I needed to buy everything, factory and all. So on Valentine’s Day in 2008, I acquired Lalique.
You’ve facilitated numerous collaborations with artists at Lalique, were any particular experiences that stood out in your mind? I think it’s very important to join forces with other talents, not only in design but in terms of exploring different ranges of lifestyle products and initiatives. We worked with Elton John very closely. He’s a huge fan of Lalique and buys a piece from every collection. He approached us to create a special angle piece for the 2016 auction for his AIDS foundation. At the end it sold for US$400,000 (HK$ 3.1 million). You’ve worked with watchmaker Parmigiani to create several clocks in the past few years. Do you have any plans to venture into watchmaking? Yes, watches was something that Réne Lalique (founder of Lalique) was very interested in creating. So it’s something that I intend to bring back to Lalique. I’m still looking at how best to approach creating a collection, whether to create a line that’s more for collectors or a broader fashion watch collection. I’ve brought up the idea to Michel Parmigiani and there’s a possibility for collaboration there. Are you a watch collector yourself?
Yes, I have a collection of Patek Philippe. There are a few that I wear daily. But some of the pieces are too expensive to be worn. Do you have a favourite fragrance?
Actually I’m pretty loyal when it comes to fragrances. I’ve been wearing L’eau d’issey Pour Homme Issey Miyake for men for 40 years now. I also like some of the fragrance my company has created with Jaguar [automaker].
You’re also an avid art collector. What approach do you take when you make art purchases? I always buy a piece of artwork with owning it in mind. So I’ll only buy something that I love. I never buy something with selling it again immediately in mind. I believe if it’s something that’s beautiful and I love, I’ll always be able to find a buyer for it.
You’re also involved in real estate. Do you approach buying property in the same way? Yes! I see each property I purchase as a generational project. It’s usually a place that I can see myself living in and I’ll spend time renovating it because I always buy a property with owning and using it in mind. I’ve taken this similar approach to renovation with Réne Lalique’s house in Wingen-sur-moder, France. The house is on 30 acres; we decided to renovate the property and transform the house into a Villa Réne Lalique. We’re now able to put those who visit the factory in our hotel.