“Well, they squash the grapes to make champagne, so I thought, ‘Why not crush the cooler in which the Blanc de Blancs bottles chill?’”
The eminent Israeli designer and architect Ron Arad is talking about his collaboration with Ruinart. The oldest champagne house – established in 1729 in the eponymous Reims village by Nicolas Ruinart and now a jewel in the crown of the LVMH portfolio – has a longstanding relationship with the arts. The maison made headlines in 1896 when it nominated Czech illustrator Alphonse Mucha to create one of France’s first advertising posters, and continues to work with virtuoso, edgy designers. The latest of these is Arad, who enthusiastically entered into Ruinart’s 2015 commission to design the ultimate champagne cooler.
“The project took about six months, nothing compared to how long it takes to produce prestige cuvée champagne,” he says. “Of course, I went to visit the vineyards, but that’s not entirely where the interpretation came from; inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, in any shape and form. It was fascinating to combine the skills of L’Orfèvrerie d’Anjou pewtersmiths, a 300-year-old company of French artisans, even older than Maison Ruinart, with modern technology.”
With his signature felt hat (“I make them myself”) firmly on his head, Arad presents his very limited edition of five magnificent signed, numbered and crushed pewter champagne coolers at his north London studio. “I’m delighted with the result; it’s more beautiful than my team and I ever imagined,” he says. These shiny and sensuously curved vessels (€5,000 each, second picture) are available from mid-November and come packed in a handsome wooden trunk (first picture) branded with Ruinart’s coat of arms, not forgetting the white gloves, cleaning kit and magnum of Blanc de Blancs.
“Before I began to design the rafraîchissoir I appreciated champagne, but the experience has made me highly respectful of an incredibly interesting and historic product that combines the strengths of man and nature,” Arad reflects. What would be his desert-island champagne choice, I ask. “The whole cave,” he laughs.