By Katherine Houston
From an early age, Swiss entrepreneur Silvio Denz has been exposed to fine art and craftsmanship through the family fragrance and cosmetics business. His father was also well known for his extensive art collection and love of fine wines. Studies in finance and marketing in Switzerland and the US aided his knowledge of entrepreneurship and a natural eye for the lifestyle industry. Denz went on to take over his family’s company in 1980 and grew it over the next 20 years. Today, Denz is the majority shareholder and Chairman of Lalique Group S.A..
By 2000, Denz’s business had grown substantially. Over the 20 years he was in charge, Denz helped open up 120 new perfumeries, transforming the business into one of Switzerland’s largest fragrance franchises, before selling the company to Marionnaud Paris later. Denz then set up his next project – the Art & Fragrances S.A. – known today as the Lalique Group.
Lalique combines contemporary designs with its strong heritage, founder Rene Lalique is a continued inspiration for today’s designs, and modern collaborations with high-profile figures such as Tom Ford, Tequila Patrón, Sir Elton John, and Damien Hirst, keep the brand current.
In true entrepreneurial spirit, Denz has branched out in many areas over the years. In addition to crystal, fragrances, jewelry, and art, Denz’s business endeavors further extend across fine wine, interior design, hospitality, and real estate, where he owns a number of hotels and chateaux including Villa René Lalique and Château Hochberg in Alsace.
We speak to Denz when Lalique is on the verge of launching its next hotel venture in early 2018, in the form of a new luxury hotel and gourmet restaurant at Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey in Sauternes, France, neighboring famed Premier Cru Château, Château d’Yquem. We discuss his career journey, his most memorable moment to date, and his favorite Lalique collection launched this year.
How did you get to where you are today?
After my studies and after working in finance and marketing in Switzerland and in the USA, I began my career in my family’s fragrance and cosmetics business in 1980. Twenty years later, I owned a chain of 120 perfumeries in Switzerland, which I sold to Marionnaud, Paris in 2000. In the same year I founded Art & Fragrance S.A. (known as Lalique Group today), specializing in creation and marketing of fragrances worldwide. In 2008 Art & Fragrance S.A. acquired Lalique.
Why did you choose branch out in the areas that you have?
Savoir-faire and savoir-vivre – the art of living – is all about lifestyle. Art, tableware, fine dining, great wines are inextricably linked – as are perfumes and jewelry, part of the heritage of Lalique. Art and architecture has always been my passion. My father was a great art collector. At home we were surrounded by art. He was also a wine aficionado, he liked great Bordeaux wines; reason why I developed a passion for wine, as well.
Lalique has collaborated with several famous designers and artists over the years including Damian Hirst and the late Zaha Hadid, who has been your favorite collaboration with Lalique crystal so far?
It would be hard to mention just one. We are proud and privileged to work with luminaries from contemporary art such as Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst and Terry Rodgers, famous architects like Mario Botta and the late Zaha Hadid, and international stars such as Elton John and Jean Michel Jarre.
Lalique has also developed stunning decanters in collaboration with great distilleries such as The Macallan whisky, Hardy cognac, Patron Tequila and Beluga vodka – all inspired by the work of René Lalique.
Lalique forms partnerships with prestigious luxury brands, artists and designers who share the same values, the same excellence of quality as Lalique. René Lalique is still the source of inspiration for our creative teams.
A major and strategic collaboration between Lalique and Singapore Airlines (SIA) was announced in January 2017. Lalique will become synonym of the SIA’s First Class as of 2018 – for the next 10 years to come.
What would you say is your favorite collection launched by Lalique this year?
Most recently we launched a new collection with Damien Hirst – depicting a series of motifs emblematic of the cycle of life in limited editions. Each one is a true work of art, imagined, sculpted and perfected through hundreds of hours of work using the mastery of the lost wax process – a traditional technique carried out by the Master craftsmen at the Lalique factory in Alsace.
Were you a collector of antique René Lalique perfume flacons before you acquired Lalique in 2008? Which has been your most difficult piece to acquire?
I have been creating fragrances over the past 35 years. René Lalique’s perfume bottles have been a great source of inspiration. René Lalique designed them like fine jewelry. Each bottle is a piece of art – stunning and fragile.
I started my collection 30 years ago – firstly for business, then as an avid collector. The most difficult and symbolic piece to acquire was a small fragrance bottle made in the lost wax technique called “poissons” (“fishes”), created by René Lalique in the kitchen of his apartment in Paris at the end of the 19th century. It symbolizes his professional transition from a jeweler to a glassmaker. It was René Lalique’s very first fragrance bottle. René Lalique carried it with him as a good luck charm for over 20 years, while he revolutionized and industrialized the international fragrance industry (together with François Coty) in the early 20th century. He finally loaned it to the Louvre Museum in 1925. Marc, René Lalique’s son took possession of it in 1945, after his father’s death. The fragrance bottle is now exhibited at the Lalique Museum in Alsace France, which attracts more than 50,000 visitors every year.
What sets your luxury hotels apart from others?
The passion for combining savoir-faire and savoir-vivre – the art of living. Lifestyle pure! The timeless modernity of our creative endeavors shapes our present and vision for the future, transcending borders. In tune with our convictions and our vision for the art of living we are bringing dreams to reality, creating emotions, waiting to be discovered, to be shared and brought to life at Villa René Lalique, Château Hochberg in Alsace and soon at Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey in Sauternes,
What has been your most memorable moment to date?
The birth of my son Claudio on January 31, 1988.
What has been your most exciting business venture?
The acquisition of Lalique, an iconic and historically important brand: the crown jewel of the French crystal industry, on St. Valentine’s Day in 2008.