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.
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.