May 17 2010
Lucia van der Post
Champagne houses have become awfully cosy with designers of late… Karim Rashid links up with Veuve Clicquot to design a Globalight, all pink and glowy, to hold a bottle of the widow’s famous rosé; Sylvie Fleury comes up with a brilliantly kitsch but somehow beguiling glass featuring a bow-shaped trompe l’oeil lipstick mark for Dom Pérignon; while Marc Newson, one of the world’s most prominent designers, is so bewitched by Dom Pérignon that he has produced a string of designs, each intimately related to that unique bottle shape.
There’s the oversized bright neon-green, bottle-shaped container (what Newson himself calls a Pop Object); but it doesn’t just stand there looking cute, it actually does something – it’s made from a special material that keeps a magnum cool. Since champagne is all about fun and needs to be kept cool and since magnums seem somehow more generous, more celebratory than single bottles (and glass-for-glass are closely priced), one can see that there is a proper role for it. He also translated the idea into smaller, single-bottle-shaped containers in silver and black.
But, for his latest collaboration with Dom Pérignon, he has avoided yet another re-interpretation of the famous bottle. This time he’s come up with what DP calls the Black Box – a clean-looking travel case in matt black polycarbonate, which is not only a very practical and breezy way of carrying a single bottle (show up at Glyndebourne or The Grange with a couple of these and you’ll certainly stand out among the willow picnic cases and silver candelabras), but also it protects the bottle and keeps it cool for two or three hours. “Though champagne,” says Newson, “shouldn’t be drunk too cold.”
Since it seems to me that what really matters is the stuff inside the bottle, I’ve always wondered why the houses bothered with diversion tactics, designed merely to catch the eye. Look more closely at Marc Newson’s designs, though, and it soon becomes clear that they’re much more than extraneous optional extras.
“Of course, what’s inside the bottle matters most,” he says, “but everything I’ve done for Dom Pérignon has a practical function. There are people who love Dom Pérignon, but who also appreciate design.” And here, where the two come together, is a product that lifts the image of Dom Pérignon into a more modern world, injecting interest into the brand.
It’s not about making the brand look posher, glitzier or more expensive, it’s about providing a practical solution to a recurring problem and doing it in a way that captures the DNA of the product, its elegance, its austerity, its classicism and its modernity. Newson loves the idea that somebody can go into a shop and walk out with a perfectly chilled bottle that looks great, looks hip and yet is keeping the champagne itself in perfect condition. “And, ” he stresses, “ it has a life afterwards as you can continue to use it – it’s not just a disposable piece of packaging.”
A bottle of vintage 2000 Dom Pérignon (£115 – the best recent vintage according to Newson, who is clearly a DP connoisseur; he hangs out with Richard Geoffroy, its chef de cave) sells with the Black Box for £150 at Harvey Nichols.