Few things epitomise the classic "English Look" more succinctly than Royal Doulton tableware. Its characteristically rich flower patterns and ornate gilding have maintained a surprisingly broad and consistent appeal, both in the UK and abroad.
Patterns such as Old Country Roses, which was introduced in the early 1960s, is typical of Royal Doulton’s lavish floral decorations, and is still not only the company’s best-selling pattern, but also the best selling pattern of any manufacturer anywhere in the world.
Yet times change, and for Royal Doulton, which was first set up in London in 1816, the new millennium has provided the perfect opportunity to create a new line of tableware that looks to the future. As a result, the FUSION line was introduced in the UK in March and in Hong Kong only three months ago.
According to John de Bono, managing director for Asia and India, part of the idea behind FUSION was to create a range of tableware that would appeal to members of the new economy – young professionals who are just setting up house, or have just bought an apartment.
"For a lot of people, Royal Doulton brings to mind the kind of tableware their mothers or grandmothers have locked up in a cupboard and only bring out for special occasions.
In the past, the kind of people who bought Royal Doulton were usually women aged between 35 and 55. The kind of market we are aiming at with FUSION is much younger – 20 to 35: younger people who have their own financial identity."
In line with this profile, the FUSION pieces have a cool, sleek tone in sharp contrast to their more heavily decorative cousins. The pieces here are stripped down to their most essential forms and feature the least amount of decoration. Often this is as simple as gilding around the edges of cups and bowls, although this also takes the form of broader bands of gold.
Just as revolutionary for Royal Doulton, however, is the flexibility of each of the pieces, which, according to John, can be used just as well for breakfast, lunch, dinner or cocktails. "People are a lot less formal today," he says. "They just want to be relaxed and enjoy company. The FUSION range fits in with this more casual modem lifestyle."
As a result, for more traditional fans of Royal Doulton, the new FUSION range will be almost totally unrecognisable. And, sporting names such as Rock, jazz, jive, White, Gold, Platinum, Black and Ice, about the only thing that has remained consistent is the quality of the bone china, which is the same as that used in lines such as Old Country Roses.
At present, FUSION represents only a small proportion of the range of pieces available from Royal Doulton. Yet as John de Bono says, it is the first step on what is potentially a very exciting future.