A Heritage Brand’s Modern Take On Tea Service



Fiskars knows a thing or two about place settings.

Its brands, such as Wedgwood and Waterford, date to the 18th century, when tea parties were the norm, and everyone dressed for dinner. Royal Albert is a relatively young brand at only 100 years old.

But just because a tea or dinner set has a long history doesn’t mean it’s dated. “It’s timeless,” says Jeffrey Chapman, head of visual merchandising at the company. “Even if a set dates back to 1952, you used it then, you can use it now.”

Younger buyers are bringing bone china and crystal stemware back to the table in new ways, whether by mixing and matching prints or playing around with accent plates. In turn, Fiskars is creating interactive showrooms and Instagram-ready packaging to fuel the enthusiasm.

“When people think of crystal and china, they think about old settings and the traditional, formal look,” Chapman says. “We want to get rid of that stigma and not necessarily make it more casual, but make it more of an everyday luxury.”

That means there’s no wrong occasion to break out the fancy stuff, whether it’s Royal Albert’s Modern Vintage, a reimagined tea collection mixing roses and polka dots, or a classic set of perfect white plates by designer Vera Wang.

And Chapman is quick to allay any fears that the tableware isn’t up to everyday use. “We put a car on top of four teacups at a recent show,” he says. “Bone china is very durable.”

A line designed with Ellen DeGeneres
A line designed with Ellen DeGeneres.

Wang, a longtime Fiskars collaborator, has been known to stand on teacups from her collection at events to show how strong they are. And they’re dishwasher safe, too, Chapman adds.

Partnerships with celebrity designers help the brands to keep evolving, says Michelle Westcott-Richards, the director of public relations and special events at Fiskars. In 2002, Wedgwood was the first brand to work with a designer in the bridal world, she explains, and that was the queen of bridal herself, Wang.

“It reintroduced the Wedgwood brand to the world,” according to Westcott-Richards. Wang’s line now includes dinnerware, flatware, and stemware, plus silver giftware. Wang is very involved in the design and marketing of her products, Westcott-Richards adds, from combing the archives for pattern inspiration or bringing her “tabletop chic” sensibility to in-store events.

Fiskars has also collaborated with the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, whose playful sayings are on a set of oversize mugs, and model Miranda Kerr, who puts a modern spin on traditional tea sets. Celebrity florist Jeff Leatham has branched out with a Waterford collection of vases, playing up what he calls a “punk-stud cut” of the crystal, Westcott-Richards says.

Collaborations bring not only a fresh aesthetic to the brand, but fresh eyes as well. Via social media, the designs reach millions, some of whom may be in the market for dinnerware.

The company is also bringing its china off the wall, Westcott-Richards adds. While traditional displays featured five-piece sets lining a showroom, today’s “style studios” allow clients to handle the merchandise. Using sample linens and other accessories, they can play with accent plates and create a unique look for the table.

Sets are no longer the sole choice, and Wedgwood offers an à la carte dinnerware menu.

“If they just want dessert plates, that’s an option,” Westcott- Richards says. And some of the sets they do sell have been updated, including, for example, mugs instead of the teacup and saucer.

“People want to create their own style,” she says. “They want a more contemporary aesthetic.”

Fiskars is making bold designs
Fiskars is making bold designs

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