Crys­tal Clear

Lalique’s new owner and cur­rent chief ex­ec­u­tive, Sil­vio Denz is mak­ing crys­tal cool again with con­tem­po­rary artist col­lab­o­ra­tions and an in­spired jew­ellery col­lec­tion.

Bespoke - - LIVING -

The name Lalique might con­jure im­ages of a glam­orous by­gone era, yet the com­pany is mak­ing sure its cre­ations fit right into our mod­ern way of life. Projects like Damien Hirst’s Eter­nel but­ter­fly pan­els and Zaha Ha­did’s Crys­tal Ar­chi­tec­ture col­lec­tion ef­fec­tively rel­e­gate grandma’s dusty old crys­tal vases to the far end of the china cab­i­net, so as to make room for a fresh take on a tra­di­tional tech­nique. It’s all part of a grand plan by Sylvio Denz, the Swiss en­tre­pre­neur who bought the brand in 2008 through his com­pany, Art & Fragrance. Since then, Denz has made strides to­wards re­struc­tur­ing Lalique as a life­style brand, com­ing up with prod­ucts and projects with other lux­ury brands and part­ner­ing with some of the big­gest names in con­tem­po­rary art. Denz is bet­ting that the same peo­ple who might buy a work by Damian Hirst or fine de­signer jew­ellery will be lured into a Lalique store, in search of a lit­tle dose of lux­u­rymeets-art. And it’s pay­ing off. “Ev­ery day, I ask, ‘What’s new?’ be­cause we have to go with the flow of time. We can’t only do re­pro­duc­tions of what René Lalique did in the 1920s and 30s. We try to make things that peo­ple iden­tify with to­day,” he con­fides. That’s not to say Lalique’s her­itage is any­thing to scoff at. In fact, Denz him­self is the world’s big­gest col­lec­tor of vin­tage per­fume bot­tles de­signed by René Lalique, and he started col­lect­ing them well be­fore he ever set foot in a Lalique board­room. (He re­port­edly owns as many as 650, and a lot of th­ese are now on dis­play at the Lalique mu­seum in Win­gen-sur-moder in Al­sace, near the orig­i­nal Lalique fac­tory, which was built in 1921 and mod­ern­ized by Denz when he ac­quired the brand in 2008.) In­ter­est­ingly, the pas­sion for th­ese dec­o­ra­tive crys­tal bot­tles stemmed from work­ing in his fam­ily’s Zurich-based per­fume and cos­met­ics busi­ness Al­rodo, which he took over in 1984. By 2000, the com­pany had 120 branches, mak­ing it Switzer­land's largest per­fumery chain, ul­ti­mately cap­tur­ing the at­ten­tion of French per­fumery chain Mar­i­on­naud, who bought the suc­cess­ful re­tailer to add to its own ros­ter. But Sil­vio’s Denz love story with aro­matic liq­uids in pretty flasks was far from over. That same year, Denz founded Art & Fragrance, a com­pany spe­cialised in the cre­ation, pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing of per­fume and cos­metic brands, in­clud­ing Lalique’s sig­na­ture scent – a path that would lead him to us to­day, fresh off the aero­plane and sit­ting on the up­per floor of the brand’s plush new 400-square-me­tre Mid­dle East flag­ship store, lo­cated in down­town Beirut, for which he has come to at­tend the grand open­ing. “Le­banon is more Euro­pean than any other coun­try in the re­gion. As you can see we have fig­urines of women here, which you wouldn’t find in Saudi Ara­bia, for ex­am­ple.” Sur­pris­ingly, in a re­gion where much of the wealth in con­cen­trated in the Gulf, Denz is bank­ing on the charms of Beirut. He tells us that even the for­mer, more mod­est, re­tail space here was one of the strong­est in terms of sales per­for­mance, on a par with Dubai even. "The much larger foot­print will al­low for a much broader range of prod­ucts on dis­play, in­clud­ing Lalique’s fur­ni­ture col­lec­tion, wall light­ing and door fix­tures." “The prices here are very close to those in Europe, so clients from the re­gion who used to buy in Europe can now buy here,” he adds. This lat­est shop rep­re­sents Lalique’s four­teenth fran­chise in the re­gion, a num­ber that has grown ex­po­nen­tially since 2011 when there was a push to es­tab­lish a foothold in each coun­try. But back to the bot­tles. Just last April, a col­lec­tion of six Lalique-bot­tled Ma­callan whiskies aged 50 to 65-years fetched al­most 1 mil­lion USD at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, mak­ing it the most ex­pen­sive col­lec­tion of whiskey ever sold at auc­tion. It’s the re­sult of a part­ner­ship with The Ma­callan, a brand Denz aptly calls “a kin­dred spirit” with Lalique. In his spare time, Lon­don-based Denz has also turned to an­other valu­able liq­uid in a bot­tle. Of late, he has be­come a se­ri­ous player in the wine busi­ness, ac­quir­ing a hand­ful of vine­yards in France, Spain and Italy, where he is known for in­vest­ing in ex­ist­ing wine­mak­ers and rais­ing their qual­ity stan­dards and sub­se­quently, their pro­file. Denz ap­par­ently has a nose for ven­tures and it seems quite clear that so far at least, pretty much any­thing he touches turns to gold. Or should we say crys­tal?

Op­po­site: Geo, a vase by Swiss architect Mario Botta. Above: The 60-year-old owner of Lalique, Sil­vio Denz. Top left: La Terre Bleu globe by Yves Klein. Bot­tom left: Fon­tana bowl by Zaha Ha­did.

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