Baccarat: Marcel Wanders celebrates 15 years of collaboration on Harcourt glass

Baccarat once again entrusts Dutch designer Marcel Wanders with the task of revisiting the Harcourt glass. This reinterpretation of the historic icon of Lorraine crystal and tableware celebrates two milestones: 270 years of Baccarat and 15 years of fruitful collaboration with Marcel Wanders Studio.

 

A new idea is said to “blossom” like a flower bud in spring.

 

Designer Marcel Wanders, who has been collaborating with Baccarat crystal since 1999, delivers his interpretation of the famous Harcourt glass, this time in a floral aesthetic called Tulipe.

 

A historic piece dating back to 1841 and the oldest of the crystal manufactory’s creations, the Harcourt glass is also a best-seller that needs to be brought into line with new table uses and younger generations.

 

The grace of blossoming

 

To celebrate 15 years of collaboration, Marcel Wanders has just unveiled three creations revisiting the sculptural form of Harcourt 1841 glass, under the name “Harcourt Tulipe”. “For me, Harcourt is one of the most beautiful symbols of French elegance, a timeless icon that transcends the ages,” said the Dutch designer.

 

The fruit of the two-hundred-year-old expertise of Baccarat’s master glassmakers, this capsule collection comprises a bowl, a cup and a footed plate. Here, the emblematic facets of Harcourt glass are transformed into six petals evoking the grace of blossoming. The power of the base contrasts with the delicacy of the curves. Add a touch of organic fantasy to any table or console.

 

As for the choice of the name “Tulip”, it’s explained by its symbolism, that of the flower of declarations of love, often associated with feelings of positivity and affection.

 

An unexpected friendship

 

 

At the dawn of 2000, a designer from Boxtel (Netherlands) known for his Knotted Chair, a solidified macramé chair edited by Cappellini, walked through the doors of the famous crystal manufacturer. What’s his name? Marcel Wanders. An enchanting designer in more ways than one (Wanders sounds like “wonders”), with an iconoclastic style that’s not afraid to get off the beaten track.

 

Baccarat entrusted him with a series of objects, including photophores, candleholders, candelabras, vases and wine-tasting accessories, including the Harcourt glass. The de facto successor to artist-designer Jaime Hayon, responsible for a previous modernization of the Harcourt glass, brings his whimsical spirit and poetic flair to bear on the crystal maker’s renaissance, proposing a sylvan inspiration of animals and flowers.

 

Since then, the designer has offered numerous variations on the famous crystal glass.

 

Targeting a younger generation less inclined towards the ceremonial of the table, the versatility of the pieces and other consumer rituals, the designer offers the Harcourt glass a rejuvenating treatment. In 2013, the silhouette of the glass is more feminine and slender. Called Harcourt “Eve”, its design features a taller, slimmer stem and is available as a flute, wine glass and water glass.

 

Like a nod to a generation lulled by pop culture, notably the series Game Of Thrones or Queen’s Gambit, it also plays on textures. Not without audacity and grandiloquence, he chose to create a duo of sculptural marble glasses, one black, the other white, in association with Pelletti E Simonetti, Tuscan marble masons. In 2021, he set out to restore a popular beverage to its former glory with Harcourt Proost, the company’s first beer glass.

 

The glass of kings and world leaders

 

The glass redesigned by designer Marcel Wanders occupies a special place in the history of the crystal factory founded in 1754, under the reign of Louis XV. Its success is due as much to its plastic qualities as to its timeless elegance, which have earned it the right to celebrate its 180th anniversary in 2021. Its hexagonal base, bevelled stem and six facets give it a distinctive architectural form.

 

Created in 1841 but christened in 1920, this iconic object was designed by an anonymous artist. Baccarat produces more than 20,000 pieces a year for this model, considered the oldest in its catalog.

 

Featured at the table of Emperor Napoleon III – the epitome of the “Fête Impériale” period – the glass, like the Harcourt service, now enhances the meals of foreign sovereigns and heads of state the world over. It is a fixture at the Vatican, the Elysée Palace, the presidencies of Brazil and Lebanon, the royal families of Cambodia and Morocco, and the French Embassy in the United States and the United Kingdom.

 

Since then, Harcourt glass has gone far beyond its original form, becoming a goblet, a vase, a lamp, a champagne bucket and, most recently, a whisky decanter.

 

The hope of a renaissance

 

Since 2018, Baccarat has flown the Chinese flag, when the company was bought for an estimated 164 to 185 million euros by Fortune Fountain Capital, a family office headed by billionaire Coco Chu. The latter committed to investing 20 to 30 million euros in the short term, and up to 50 million euros in the medium term. This investment was intended to relaunch the brand by targeting the luxury hotel-restaurant sector – a strategy initiated by its former owner, the American Starwood Capital – and by developing the network of physical boutiques. Both the pandemic and the 19% drop in Baccarat’s sales weakened Fortune Mountain Capital, which was placed under receivership and caused its wealthy owner to flee.

 

Bought back for 80 million euros in 2021, the manufacture is currently under the control of the two Hong Kong-based investment funds from which Coco Chu had borrowed 50% of the funds required for the transaction: Tor Investment Management and Sammasan Capital. However, this merger has enabled this emblem of French luxury to benefit from the long-awaited injection of 50 million euros into the transformation of its ageing industrial apparatus in 2023. Its craftsmen were thus able to acquire furnaces capable of producing lead-free crystal.

 

However, despite a profitable business, Baccarat has yet to find a buyer capable of absorbing the debt of 164 million euros left by its indelicate former owner. This difficult task has been assigned to Messier & Associés, France’s third-largest independent investment bank specializing in financial advisory services, on behalf of the Hong Kong creditors.

 

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Featured Photo: © Baccarat

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Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin is a journalist specializing in luxury, HR, tech, retail, and editorial consulting. A graduate of EIML Paris, he has been working in the luxury industry for 9 years. Fond of fashion, Asia, history, and long format, this ex-Welcome To The Jungle and Time To Disrupt likes to analyze the news from a sociological and cultural angle.

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