Lladró goes pop

There is a curio cabinet I remember from my childhood. Four shelves of glass and rosewood, each housing delicate figurines of pirouetting ballerinas, coy shepherdesses, and my favourite, a hunting dog with his catch — the elongated lines unmistakable of Lladró’s Mannerist inspiration. It took pride of place in my neighbour’s drawing room, each anniversary and birthday marked by a new addition sourced from Valencia. It was something I aspired to own when I grew up, but then I grew up and realised that dainty, non-functional pieces were not what I wanted anymore.

As it turns out, I am reflective of the larger, and younger, market that the Spanish brand is targeting today. “The time for collectors is over, so we have to adapt,” says Ana Rodriguez, Lladró’s global CEO, who is in town to launch their new store at Palladium. “We are reorienting our strategy, to go from figurative pieces to all kinds of elements made with porcelain that create a lifestyle. We are creating new products like lighting, jewellery, furniture and candles, so anyone can find something that fits their tastes.”

With many millennials going the minimalist way and others looking to keep their acquisitions to the minimum, it is admittedly a tough market. But while the need of the hour is utility and functionality, she insists, beauty has not lost its appeal. “The trend now is towards ‘real’ things — handcrafted, original pieces. So we are paying attention to statement makers.”

Lladró goes pop

Throw some light

In the last decade or so, designer collaborations — with names like British fashion icon Paul Smith, American artist Gary Baseman and Japanese designer Hisakazu Shimizu — have been key in this push towards diversity. Who can forget The Guest, the quirky atelier collection with Jamie Hayon from a few years ago? The Madrid artist’s vision replaced bucolic Lladró staples with rocking chickens and aliens in pop colours. “We work with both well-known designers and emerging names. Currently we are working on a lighting collection with Marcel Wanders, which we will launch early next year,” says Rodriguez. “We haven’t done a collab with an Indian artist yet, but it is something we are exploring.” While Hayon’s pieces have moved to their historical catalogue (available on order), you can pick up Shimizu’s Hairstyle lamps — a black-and-white series inspired by Japan’s historical hairstyles — along with newer experiments, including the Origami Series (the panther, showcased at the Milan Design Week in April, is a showstopper).

Meanwhile, I spot a beautiful leaf bracelet on Rodriguez’s wrist. She confirms that jewellery is their latest experiment, keeping their evolving clientèle in mind. With three collections launched a few weeks ago — Aquarium, Haliconia and Magic Forest (organic shapes in porcelain with gold-plated silver, from ₹8,000) — they plan to launch four lines ever year. “Each collection will have between 10 and 12 pieces, from simple pendants and cuff links to statement bracelets, earrings and collars.”

Lladró goes pop

New narratives

At the new format store — designed by Puerto Rican architect Hector Ruiz with distressed walls, metal grill work and yellow lighting for a luxe feel — the wide glass window displays a large, intricately-wrought ceramic dragon. On the other side is a limited-edition Lord Balaji (just 299 pieces, at ₹18.5 lakh each). It is their signature release of the year and highly appreciated. “It took us two years to create,” Nikhil Lamba, Lladró’s India CEO, tells me. “It is hand-painted, with a lot of gold lustre work, and hundreds of hand-crafted flowers.” While deities form a substantial part of sales, customers are increasingly looking at newer offerings, he adds.

Brand connect
  • Lladró’s collections are available in over 120 countries, but each piece is handcrafted in Valencia by 240-plus master artistes. While Japan is their biggest market, followed by the US and Europe, India is catching up. “We plan to have 60 new launches every year,” shares Rodriguez. Are they open to customisation? “Yes, but it will be very expensive because we spend many hours creating each prototype, with a team of over 50 people working with different technical expertise.”

Lighting is a big draw. Amidst the chandeliers, including the popular Belle de Nuit collection, I spy the ‘smart’ Firefly range (₹30,000 onwards). Portable, and chargeable via USB port, it is definitively aimed at their younger customers. The home fragrances range of candles (the 1001 Nights collection, inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, is a stunner) is also finding fans among this audience.

With eight boutiques in seven metros, Rodriguez says, “Indian sales is 8% of the global market. As a strategy, we are getting into better locations now. We are also looking to tie up with interior designers and lifestyle stylists.” The next few months will see them strengthening their recently-launched e-commerce site, too — especially in light of how, globally, their online sales have grown 20% in just one year.

A new creative director, Pierre Favresse, at Lladró has also meant a renewed focus on product development and collaborations, she says. “We are constantly doing R&D on different materials, finishes and colours (moving away from its pastel palette, with bright colours). Right now, we are working to expand our furniture line, with more tables and the like.”

Starting from ₹4,000 (for candles and glow lights) onwards. Details: 9952964216

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 1:22:01 AM |

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