Meissen, the creator of high quality hand-made and hand-painted porcelain, set up a UK business in 2013. Shipshape catches up with Fiona Milne, managing director of Meissen UK, who explains how the UK office is helping the firm achieve its international aspirations.
Meissen’s heritage dates back over 300 years, when it discovered the highly valued secret of creating porcelain, making it the first European producer of ‘white gold’. Today, with over 15,000 different designs selling across the world, from ornate gilded figurines to traditional and contemporary dinner services, unique sculptures and sophisticated murals, its entire range is still hand-painted and each piece individually crafted.
While artistry reigns supreme at Meissen thanks to the years of specialist training received by its craftspeople, Fiona explains that the firm embraces the future with a passion for innovation and a commitment to grow its overseas markets. Its base remains the small town of Meissen near Dresden in Germany and it employs around 650 people around the world. Meissen porcelain has been available in the UK for many years and in 2013 the firm established Meissen UK Limited. Fiona was appointed to run the UK arm and tasked with setting up a concession store within Harrods.
An international outlook
“Our Harrods store is far more than just an opportunity to reach the UK market as it effectively showcases Meissen porcelain to an international clientele,” comments Fiona. “Sales from this outlet have grown year-on-year with 2016 showing the greatest increase.”
Asprey’s, Thomas Goode and William & Son have also become key retailers for Meissen ware. “London provides great appeal as an international shopping city: our biggest customers come from Russia, Japan and Taiwan with sales to Chinese and Middle Eastern customers also on the rise.”
Meissen UK’s office is in Chelsea Harbour, close to the Design Centre. “This area represents the home of interior design and being here makes it easier for us to keep in touch with many of the UK’s best designers who work on interiors for clients all over the world,” says Fiona. “In this way, we keep an ear to the ground about the next big projects coming up. Besides, I can catch the bus from the end of the road and be in Harrods or the West End, where we also have important retail clients, within minutes.”
Telling a story
“Every piece of our porcelain tells its own special story as it’s created individually,” explains Fiona. “We’re therefore pleased to take account of specific wishes to create bespoke pieces, including choice of colour and patterns, right through to customised monograms. Everything we produce is authenticated with two crossed blue swords: the unmistakeable Meissen symbol, used since 1722.”
“We recently created a special collection for Asprey’s, which has been a fantastic project and is sold in their stores around the world.”
A helping hand
Fiona has worked in the luxury tableware industry throughout her career. Fiona was UK MD of Lalique from 1997 to 2004, which is when she first worked with Shipleys. Shipleys currently does Meissen’s UK accounts, corporation tax, VAT, payroll and helps with HR, as well as assists with forecasts and projections to help them really understand the numbers.
“While I was at Lalique, Shipleys did a great job for us, so it was a natural decision to choose them again for Meissen UK. I’ve worked closely with Joe Kinton for years – he’s been involved with us every step of the way and an enormous support to the business. Colin Garvey has also provided invaluable help.”