Issue 1

HOW DOES A BRAND retain appeal?


A  N  D  E  R  S



The Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg
is the last of its kind in the world: all manufacturing processes
are carried out by hand.

An interview with the CEO Anders Thomas
on his special task of leading a brand with 269 years of history into the future.


P O R Z E L L A N   M A N U F A K T U R

Photos by Sigrid Reinichs Words by Frank Wagner
Anders Thomas

Nymphenburg is the porcelain manufactory of the Bavarian royal family. Since it was founded in 1747, Nymphenburg has -cultivated the great art of porcelain manufacturing. At Nymphenburg, manufacturing is still synonymous with the Latin manu factum, meaning made by hand, with techniques that have been passed down and sustained from one generation to the next. This ensures the porcelain maintains the unparalleled delicacy, finesse and splendour, on which the international -reputation of Nymphenburg rests. The factory’s master workshops operate ahead of their time, as they have produced trendsetting and custom-made designs across four different centuries. Distinguished artists, architects and designers continue to collaborate with the company to this very day.


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Mr. Thomas, on the one hand, your roots lie in Germany, but on the other, you have gained experience internationally in Asia and the USA. You also studied Chinese. Since the start of 2011, you have been the CEO of Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg, a porcelain manufacturing company that is exceptional in many ways. What effect do you think the years at Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg have had on you? Are you surrounded by porcelain and majolica pottery at home as well?



A n d e r s   T h o m a s

I have always had a penchant for tableware and “table culture” as a whole. So naturally I was absolutely delighted when I was offered the job as CEO of Nymphenburg. When you travel a lot, as I do, “home” gains a new significance. It becomes a sanctuary where you spend quality time with your nearest and dearest. I have wanted to celebrate it more than I did just a few years ago, and actively try to make it feel a certain way. This is actually a trend that can be seen in many countries.


In an age of mass production and industrial manufacturing, there is a growing desire to set ourselves apart from the mainstream, for greater individuality as well as exceptional quality. That is where Nymphenburg porcelain comes in: the items we manufacture here are authentic and tell the story of our manufactory. Our handcrafted cups, plates, chandeliers and bowls encourage our customers to live and experience the extraordinary in their lives and dedicate more time to little everyday rituals, as we who work at the porcelain manufactory are ourselves inclined to do.


We intend to strategically take advantage of the fact that the dining experience has become more important to people again. In terms of the company’s international direction, alongside our existing markets across ­Europe, my priority is to enter new markets in Asia. To this end, both my international experience and degree in Chinese are invaluable.






Today, we would like to talk about Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg as a brand and how it will remain appealing and attractive across all trends and styles in future. What would you say is at the heart of the -Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg brand?



A n d e r s   T h o m a s

There are three factors that make Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg unique. First, it is the last remaining company that manufactures its products entirely by hand, with the craftspeople in the master workshops carrying out every single step in the manufacturing process in this way. This is a strong USP. At ­Nymphenburg, manufacturing is still synonymous with the Latin manu factum, meaning made by hand, with techniques that have been passed down and sustained from one generation to the next.


Second is our Arts and Design programme. The factory’s master workshops operate ahead of their time and have produced trendsetting and custom-made designs across four different centuries. Distinguished artists, architects and designers continue to collaborate with the company to this very day. From Franz Anton ­Bustelli back in the 18th century to contemporary designers like Hella Jongerius and Konstantin Grcic, our creations exemplify the principle of innovation and embody this in design.


It is important to remember that Nymphenburg is the porcelain manufactory of the Bavarian royal family. It was a family company for many years, and it is again today. The history of Porzellan Manufaktur ­Nymphenburg is inseparably associated with that of the House of Wittelsbach. During the reign of Maximilian III ­Joseph, Elector of Bavaria, the first manufactory with potters’ and modelling shops, painting and writing rooms was opened in the “Grüne Schlössl” in Neudeck on 11 November 1747. In 1761, the pottery moved to purpose-built Nördliches Schlossrondell at the Wittelsbach family’s summer residence. Since 2011, Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg has been under the ownership of Prince Luitpold of Bavaria, who is personally very committed to preserving this craftsmanship at this unique production site.






In relation to brands, the American author Simon Sinek devised the famous “golden circle” concept, according to which a company’s identity can be defined on the basis of three aspects: “what” they sell or offer, “how” they do this, meaning the strategies and values they apply to sell these services or products and, finally, “why” they do this, the core driving force for their operations. We know that companies which have answered the “why” are particularly successful. Do you know the “why” for Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg? What is the innermost force that has been powering the company forward for the past 268 years?



A n d e r s   T h o m a s

Nymphenburg’s international reputation is based on the constant quest for innovation. This has been a fundamental mission throughout our history, with each era interpreting it in its own new way. Items which you today consider to be classic porcelain masterpieces were the result of pioneering artistic creations when they were made. One need only think of Franz Anton Bustelli’s renowned commedia dell’arte. At the time, the characters were seen as an affront to conservative minds, but look at it now! This site at the Nymphenburg Palace without doubt lives and breathes history, but at the same time remains a magnet and haven for creative pioneers, designers and artists today. We especially regard the development with visual artists as an opportunity for experimentation with things that have never been seen, for the unprecedented. Everyone who works here feels a strong sense of obligation to maintain our high standards of art and craftsmanship. This also involves preserving our culture and passing on relevant techniques to the following generations.






Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg crafts items of unique aesthetic and beauty by hand. The company did not go through the typical evolutionary development to industrial production and has remained a manufactory. Why did it develop in this way? Was this down to foresight or was it in fact a missed opportunity to sell higher quantities?



A n d e r s   T h o m a s

From when the manufactory was founded to the present day, it has been and is a conscious decision to continue manufacturing exclusively by hand. Industrial production has never existed at Nymphenburg, and never will. As briefly mentioned, the desire for individuality is growing in the world of luxury goods. With our pure manufacturing by hand, we are perfectly positioned to meet this need. For example, we can personalise dinnerware sets, with existing motifs or totally new patterns. In this way, we produce unique products for our customers that are timeless in value and importance.


There is another reason why we would not even consider increasing our volume output indefinitely. We work with highly specialised and qualified staff. Our portfolio of around 40,000 historic and contemporary designs and patterns includes a number of masterpieces, which a skilled craftsman would only attempt to make once they have at least 10 to 15 years of experience. As is the case in other luxury manufacturing sectors, such as fashion, it is therefore quite possible that customers may have to wait a little while for their own unique product to be created. We cannot quickly hire someone to carry out some of the skilled craftsmanship of our masters in order to produce greater quantities. It is because of our unique set-up that we have the potential to thrive on the world market.






The world is noticeably changing and there is no longer only talk of innovation, but also of disruption. How do you reconcile tradition with a future that will be shaped by many changes?



A n d e r s   T h o m a s

Tradition can be a very modern attribute when it is actively expressed. Nymphenburg is a prime example of this. We question what we do, seek new ways to visualise and continually explore new expressive possibilities of porcelain as a material. The underlying concept is to shift the conventional view of porcelain in collaboration with artists and designers, to break with convention and promote innovation.


This all starts with setting the tone, for example by photographing the Cumberland dinner set on a concrete block. It also means that we see our product in the context of a broader definition of what art is.


Through the Arts and Design programme, Nymphenburg incorporates interdisciplinary artistic forms such as performance art into the creative process in order to expand the boundaries of traditional porcelain production and explore new ground beyond just the works of art. One example is Saâdane Afif’s work, “The Fairytale Recordings”, which was presented at Art Basel. For this piece, Afif invited writers he knew to develop a spoken text from song lyrics and text fragments that were important to him personally. Afif worked together with the opera singer and actress Katharina Schrade to create a performance piece in which each text is part spoken and part acted out. This resulted in a transfer and processing of the text, of which the final words were spoken into a vase that had been specially made by Nymphenburg Porzellan. At the end of the performance, the vase was sealed and the verse contained within for all eternity.


Through such collaborations, Nymphenburg consciously questions the symbolic nature of a piece of art or porcelain object so as to more strongly position it in an experimental spatial and social context, beyond merely its representative function. However, we never lose sight of what we are best at: manufacturing and handling porcelain.






What do you consider to be the greatest challenges for Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg?



A n d e r s   T h o m a s

Fortunately, Nymphenburg is an authentic luxury brand and has not been engineered. Our customers make a conscious decision to buy Nymphenburg Porzellan. Nonetheless, it is important we regularly communicate the value of our manufacturing process, in Germany, but above all internationally. This allows us to set ourselves apart from cheap products, but also to clearly demonstrate the added value of our handcrafted items. We live in an age of globalisation, when (almost) everything is available at any time wherever you are–that is a real challenge. Through strategically placed storytelling, we can effectively communicate our values, with the internet, social media and e-commerce assuming an ever more important role.

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