Returning to the Roots of
Near Strasbourg, in the Alsatian village of Wingen-sur-Moder, the Lalique crystal factory is under the direction and creative energy of Sylvio Denz. This Swiss businessman was able to give a second wind to this great house while still respecting its history and its craftsmanship.
By Stéphane Le Duc
Denz is in the process of renewing and restoring the blazon of the French crystal factory, while respecting the audacity of founder René Lalique, who was an inventor of modern jewels and a master of art deco. The brand Lalique, today, is not only about dream-like objects, but it is truly a way of life, with luxury, refinement, and craftsmanship combined.
By buying Lalique in 2008, Sylvio Denz, a great collector of old Lalique bottles, knew that he had to respect the source of these creations. The factory which opened in 1921 was to remain in Alsace because it was the backbone of the company. He understood that the wealth of a large house is in its artisans, many of whom have won the prestigious title of “Best Worker in France” or who perpetuate ancestral knowledge. The factory is made up of more than 400,000 pieces that are created by craftsmen of decorative objects, interior design elements, jewellery, perfume bottles, and works of art, in what we can qualify as a real dream location. It is also by diversifying the world of Lalique that the wise businessman was able to revive the interest of the customers, just as René Lalique had done in his time by decorating the mythical train of the Orient Express or the legendary Le Normandie boat, and Lalique even made radiator caps for luxury cars.
After redesigning the factory, Sylvio Denz decided to develop a hotel and restaurant by opening a first establishment in Wingen-sur-Moder in 2015. He decided to transform the main Lalique family residence in Alsace into a magnificent palace. The careful decoration of interior designers Lady Tina Green and Pietro Mingarelli respects the soul and authenticity of this house. With this attention to detail, the exteriors have been restored identically to stay faithful to the 1920 building, for example, keeping the blue shutters. Upon their arrival at the hotel, customers live and breath the Lalique lifestyle: while retaining the interior structure of the villa, the hotel has six furnished suites that refer to themes that are important to René Lalique, including Swallows, Rose, Dahlia, or, his favorite theme combining nature and women, Masque de femme.
In terms of gastronomy, a passionate collector of fine wines, the renowned Mario Botta, is at the crown of the villa’s exceptional restaurant. The architect placed a beautiful window that allows you to admire the stunning park surrounding the villa. The restraint of the hall’s decoration underscores the talent of Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Klein whose reputation transcends borders. Visually stunning, his dishes follow the seasons and refer to a creativity based on the pursuit for excellence. The irreproachable quality of the products makes it possible in the summer to savor a swallow-shaped foie gras, an Omble Chevalier cooked to perfection followed by a potato and truffle cappuccino, or a confit rabbit shoulder squeezed for 16 hours. The chef is accompanied by the Sommelier Romain Iltis, the Best Worker of France 2015, who surprises with daring suggestions, allowing him to help travellers discover wine off the beaten path with unknown Alsatian wines. Moreover, the exceptional cellar allows a unique look at 12,000 bottles, including some rare Bordeaux and Sauternes centenaries. The excellence of the chef and his brigade is rewarded, because only three months after its opening, the restaurant obtained two stars from the prestigious Michelin guide.
Art also occupies an important place in the life of Sylvio Denz, and this passion brought about several collaborations with designers, architects, and prestigious artists such as Zaha Hadid, Anish Kapoor, Mario Botta, and especially Damien Hirst who signed several unique pieces and exceptional works with the Eternal mark, which symbolizes the various cycles of life. These collaborations with the greatest contemporary artists make it possible to discover the exceptional know-how of the factory’s artisans. The work of crystal-making requires a great mastery that can take up to 10 years of learning before reaching the level of excellence demanded by the house.
Before leaving this beautiful region of Alsace, a detour to the Lalique Museum is needed. Even if the creations of the famous glassmaker were found in the largest world collections, no museum was previously dedicated to him. Since 2011, we can finally admire these beautiful creations in a place worthy of his talent. There are more than 650 pieces in a box signed by Wilmotte Agency; these fascinating pieces reflect Lalique’s dreamy mind, actualized into the physical world.
One hundred and thirty years later, the soul of René Lalique is alive and well, and his future is assured. There’s no doubt that he would appreciate Sylvio Denz’s audacity and intelligent business sense. Without knowing it, Lalique has found his worthy heir.