Wrapping elegantly around the corner of 52nd Street and Madison Avenue is a storefront unlike any other in midtown Manhattan. Gone are the fashion moguls and mad men, the financiers and tourists, replaced instead by Incan kings, dragons, ballerinas, baseball players and a variety of other porcelain creations pulled from the imagination of Spanish décor specialists Lladró.
Though celebrating its 60th anniversary—and 25th year in New York City—in 2013, Lladró’s captivating new 500 Madison Avenue boutique represents a complete renewal of the brand’s American presence. Highlighting the intricate beauty of its products with seamless and contemporary Jaime Hayon design, the boutique debuted earlier this week and Elite Traveler’s Coleman Bentley was there to discuss art, business and family with President Rosa Lladró.
ET: Could you provide a brief background of the Lladró brand?
Rosa Lladró: My father and uncles began Lladró in 1953 from scratch, from virtually nothing. Despite this, though, we grew quickly. Around 1958 my father began to push for and develop an individual style for the brand, something to differentiate it from everything else out there. From there everything took off. By the 1960s we were importing to America, Japan by the early 70s, and today Lladró sells its product in over 120 countries.
ET: Lladró is a family-run company. How has this affected the brand’s approach to business? What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with it?
Rosa Lladró: In family you are used to the discussion so it’s fine, it makes communicating easier. It’s all I’ve ever done, though. I don’t know any other way to do business.
ET: You have been on the Board of Directors since the early 80s. How have you seen the brand change over the years? Has it modernized or has it stayed the same?
Rosa Lladró: I joined the board in 1983 and since then the brand has steadily improved, not only in business operations but also in the products that we make. We have always worked within the same porcelain tradition, using ancient techniques instead of machines, but since the 80s we have added brighter colors, better shape and more sophisticated design.
ET: Lladró has been in New York City for over two and a half decades, what is it about the city that appeals to the brand?
Rosa Lladró: We came to New York City in 1988, opening our 57th Street location. The city works for Lladró because we have local customers from all over the United States who come to New York City. In fact, we have customers from all over the world who come to New York City. It is a place where our customers and brand can come together.
ET: What does the new 500 Madison Avenue Flagship location bring to Lladró’s NYC retail presence that the 57th location didn’t?
Rosa Lladró: Now we are near the nice hotels, the offices, Rockefeller Center and more. This location generates so much more window and foot traffic—within the first week alone we realized that this is truly the right place. Inside, the interior was designed to approximate the size of a small house so customers can get a sense of just how significant each piece would feel in their own homes. Not to mention the space is very open and clear, which is good because we are from the Mediterranean and need our sun.
ET: How does the brand feel about launching a new flagship in tough economic times? Is it an opportunity or a challenge?
Rosa Lladró: Despite the economy, Lladró has found itself growing, especially in New York City. It might not be the easiest time to open new doors, but we really are changing for the better.
ET: Will the location feature the whole range of Lladró products or focus on particular lines and/or market segments?
Rosa Lladró: The boutique features many different themes and collections, from our traditional ballerina pieces to our Incan collection and more, but we organize them in vignettes so it is easier for the customer to digest. But we have a taste of virtually everything here—classical, new classical, modern, trendy, experiments.
ET: Are there any pieces/lines to be featured that you are particularly excited about?
Rosa Lladró: Oh, I like many things. We will always work with the classics but I like the new pieces; I feel they manage to capture the modern surrealistic style. You could say we have changed the language, but not the message. We are the still the same brand, trying to connect with the same people, but now we are making those connections with a thoroughly modern product line.
ET: Store designer Jaime Hayon is a longtime Lladró colaborator. What is it about his artistic style that works so well with the brand? Why was he selected for the store design and what was he able to bring to the project?
Rosa Lladró: Jaime is important to the brand because he is always traveling and always working with new designers and therefore keeps us updated and current. We like his design, of course—his furniture especially—but one of the best parts of working with Jaime is that he knows the company. Our relationship to his design has become very natural, we have worked together so much that there is almost no need to even talk.
ET: You are currently the president of the Spanish Confederation of Glass and Ceramics and were invited to chair Deco-Cevider, an international ceramics, glass and décor trade show. What is it about interior décor, and porcelain in particular, that you are so passionate about?
Rosa Lladró: I love the art. I love porcelain. I love the colors, how it’s both modern and classic and, thus, how it lasts forever. It’s also very difficult to do well, which thankfully gives us the excuse to surround ourselves with incredibly talented people.