We caught up with sisters Marie-Amélie and Marie-Caroline Guillot to discuss all things Haviland & Parlon, following our appointment as exclusive sales agent for the UK & Ireland.
What attracted you to buying a porcelain manufacture?
The reasons are numerous...
Haviland & Parlon has contributed greatly to the international reputation of Limoges porcelain since its creation.
The manufacture is a work of art: to decorate a plate, it passes through the hands of 20 craftsmen (mainly women!) to achieve such quality.
Then there is the challenge. As entrepreneurs, the challenge of taking over this manufacture and waking up this sleeping beauty on the eve of its 100th anniversary is a very exciting one.
What changes have you made since arriving?
During the first two years of the takeover, we watched, listened and assimilated a lot; in a way we've absorbed the heritage.
We don't want to touch the production system - to retain the heritage - but we know that everything must change for nothing to change. Therefore we are in the process of implementing profound changes, so that in the end, the company will keep its craftsmanship and its spirit of excellence, but in a more rejuvenated version of itself; capable of adapting to its time and to future challenges.
What roles have you assumed within the company?
I am the president of the company, but I also have operational responsibilities [Marie-Amélie].
I am in charge of sales, communication and artistic direction in collaboration with my sister [Marie-Caroline].
On her side, as general manager, her functions are also varied - she has several hats including HR and marketing. However, we work very close to each other and love making decisions together. We are very complementary - what I hate doing, she loves, and vice-versa - so it's the perfect match!
How do you ensure keeping the heritage alive at the same time as rejuvenating the brand?
It's a clever mixture with very precise dosages. It's a bit like when you prepare your paint to decorate a plate. Your mixture must be extremely precise otherwise your colour at the firing can be different from the expected result.
But I think our work, over the last two years, shows the rejuvenation we are doing without altering the heritage of the house.
We have preserved the whole production and we have made it grow. We are assuming the transmission of knowledge from the hands of craftsmen, some of whom have been with the company for more than thirty years, to the younger generation. We are developing programs to attract the new generation, to interest them and to do so, to make them grow up at the same time as we do, and this means investing in us by learning new skills.
How has the Haviland & Parlon manufacture evolved into the company it is today?
The history of Haviland & Parlon is not an easy road. It is a story full of little stories, twists and turns that make it a beautiful story. And its history can be summarised through the evolution of its stamp.
At first, the factory marked its porcelain with the Robert Haviland stamp. But very quickly Robert Haviland decides to partner with his brother-in-law. Together they will create the Robert Haviland and Le Tanneur stamp. But this duet does not last long, and Mr Le Tanneur sells his shares to Mr Parlon. Then the stamp changes again to become Robert Haviland & C. Parlon.
Finally, in 1941, after taking over his grandfather's brand to the existing one, which contains Charles Field Haviland Limoges on the inside. And since our takeover, we have very slightly revised this stamp to transform it into a real pattern of its own.
What is Haviland & Parlon most well-known for?
For our expertise in responding to special demands; being able to propose for each one a targeted offer that meets the requirements of the customer.
This is made possible by our singular and eclectic offer but also by the mastery of the hand painted colour.
We are able to offer a very wide range of designs and pieces, allowing our customers to create a real mix & match of tableware within the same collection or several collections, and thus create their unique style on the table.
And last but not least, it is also our domain of expertise: the incrustation to create decor in relief, which we then paint in gold or platinum.
How much of your production processes remain heritage techniques that Limoges porcelain is famous for?
All our production processes still preserve the heritage that made Limoges porcelain famous. We work in our workshop in the pure French artisanal way; our production processes are still manual and our will is to pass them on to new generations.
We are adapting to our time, in favour of societal and environmental charters, creating a new ecosystem adapted to our time.
Since Limoges porcelain uses local raw materials, have you found you've been able to maintain shorter lead times than other tableware brands?
The challenge is no longer the delivery, but the production capacity. Thanks to our size and our team, we can quickly and strong meet the ever-growing demand for exquisite tableware.
What are your best selling or most iconic collections?
Our top seven are:
What three words would you each use to describe the brand?
[Marie-Amélie]: exceptional, manual, know-how
[Marie-Caroline]: family, artistic, international