From trims on a Bu­gatti su­per­car to a vase that en­cap­su­lates the spirit of com­poser Schu­mann; Königliche Porzel­lan-Man­u­fak­tur Ber­lin doesn’t pro­duce your typ­i­cal porce­lain.

Schon! - - Porcelain Perfected - Words / Rachel McCul­loch Images / Cour­tesy of KPM

Strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween moder­nity and tra­di­tion is some­thing that many brands from all in­dus­tries strive for, not want­ing to leave their val­ues be­hind, but in turn not want­ing to be left be­hind by their peers. The battle of print ver­sus on­line is a well-pub­li­cised de­bate for the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try, but far less broad­cast is the plight of porce­lain.

Dubbed ‘ The Pot­ter­ies’, Stoke-on-Trent in the Mid­lands was once the epi­cen­tre of the in­dus­try, but as pro­duc­tion mi­grated over­seas and, cru­cially, less prece­dence was placed on truly beau­ti­ful porce­lain in the house­hold, the land­scape of the city be­came punc­tu­ated with un­used kilns. How­ever, as with pub­lish­ing, there are suc­cess sto­ries, and lead­ing the way is Königliche Porzel­lan-Man­u­fak­tur. Ac­cord­ing to Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent Mau­rice Frei­herr von Dal­wigk, suc­cess hasn’t been easy, but has been at­tained by con­tin­u­ing to do what KPM does best, “pro­duc­ing high-end porce­lain.”

For over 250 years, KPM has been chal­leng­ing the di­ver­sity of pot­tery, col­lab­o­rat­ing with cre­ative brands and pro­duc­ing con­sis­tently beau­ti­ful porce­lain, that is much more than some­thing that you would eat your ce­real out of (although you could if you wanted to). For Frei­herr von Dal­wigk, form and func­tion are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked: “Form fol­lows func­tion, not for­get­ting that aes­thetics and sym­bol­ism do have a func­tion, too.” By col­lab­o­rat­ing with high-end fash­ion brand Bot­tega Veneta, Bu­gatti and an in­ter­na­tion­ally ad­mired orches­tra, the Ber­lin Phil­har­monic, KPM en­sures that cut­ting edge porce­lain re­tains a place in the con­tem­po­rary luxury life­style.

A thor­oughly royal af­fair, the com­pany in its cur­rent form was cre­ated in 1763 when King Fred­erik II pur­chased it and branded it with his own em­blem, the cobalt blue scep­tre. Its rich her­itage in aris­toc­racy and qual­ity is a key fea­ture of the brand, some­thing that Frei­herr von Dal­wigk uses to KPM’s ad­van­tage, but with an added touch of moder­nity. He be­lieves that: “A bright fu­ture opens up to those who man­age the bal­anc­ing act of main­tain­ing the cul­tural her­itage and trans­fer­ring tra­di­tion to mod­ern times.” In fact, the abil­ity to keep up with mod­ern meth­ods is also em­bed­ded in the his­tory of KPM, from em­brac­ing more en­ergy ef­fi­cient kilns as early as 1796, to in­vent­ing new glazes in 1878. The re­sound­ing com­mit­ment to qual­ity as a re­sult of this tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment has seen KPM stay in high de­mand with the world’s roy­alty, from Fred­erik II him­self to the Sul­tan of Brunei. Un­for­tu­nately, not even high pro­file devo­tees can pro­tect a brand from dev­as­ta­tion. KPM suf­fered some of Europe and the world’s most en­dur­ing bat­tles, from be­ing seized by Napoleon in 1807, to be­ing lit­er­ally smashed to pieces by a WWII air raid in 1943, to tur­bu­lent eco­nomic times while owned by the state in the lat­ter half of the 20th Cen­tury. How­ever, due to a re­birth in 2006 un­der the own­er­ship of Jörg Wolt­mann, KPM has se­cured its fu­ture, em­pow­ered by a staff of highly skilled and ex­pe­ri­enced artists.

A pi­o­neer­ing at­ti­tude to­wards col­lab­o­ra­tive prod­ucts, as well as work­ing with other brands that are ded­i­cated to ex­cel­lence, from su­per­cars to mu­sic, has en­sured KPM’s fu­ture suc­cess. For Frei­herr von Dal­wigk, the cri­te­ria for part­nered brands “are as sim­ple as they are de­mand­ing: pro­found knowl­edge about crafts­man­ship and fo­cus on top qual­ity”. In per­fect demon­stra­tion of th­ese dis­cern­ing qual­i­ties, KPM cou­pled with luxury fash­ion house Bot­tega Veneta in 2008, cre­at­ing a se­ries called In­trec­cio Svan­ito, com­bin­ing KPM’s crafts­man­ship and Bot­tega Veneta’s trade­mark in­trec­ciato weave. From the suc­cess of this ini­tial part­ner­ship, Bot­tega Veneta was also there to cel­e­brate KPM’s 250th an­niver­sary, to­gether recre­at­ing the fa­mous ‘Knot’ clutch bag, in­scribed with KPM’s royal in­signia, and a se­ries of fine jew­ellery, which is a sym­bol of the crafts­man­ship and luxury of the two brands.

Most re­cently, KPM part­nered with an­other of Ger­many’s most highly re­garded ex­ports, the Ber­lin Phil­har­monic Orches­tra. In cel­e­bra­tion of the orches­tra’s first al­bum un­der a new la­bel, Ber­lin Phil­har­moniker Record­ings, KPM has pro­duced a pre­cious vase pay­ing trib­ute to the com­poser Schu­mann. Re­flect­ing the mood of his four sym­phonies with dif­fer­ent flo­ral mo­tifs, and fea­tur­ing asym­met­ric rip­ples to sym­bol­ise Schu­mann’s com­plex per­son­al­ity, KPM has cap­tured the essence of the sym­phonies within an ex­clu­sive porce­lain body.

An un­wa­ver­ing sense of tra­di­tion and a pas­sion­ate em­brace of moder­nity; this tricky bal­ance has been per­fected by Königliche Porzel­lan-Man­u­fak­tur, trans­form­ing an an­ti­quated in­dus­try into an em­blem of pro­gres­sion, longevity and luxury.

A strictly limited edi­tion of the Schu­mann Vase will be avail­able at the sales gal­leries of KPM Ber­lin from au­tumn 2014.

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