Turning 200 years this year, Lobmeyr is an Austrian glass manufacturer that is ahead of its time.
“It’s difficult to tell a product that is 100 years old from a recently designed piece,” says Leonid Rath, owner of Austrian glass-manufacturer Lobmeyr, inside its Vienna flagship. Turning 200 years in 2023, Lobmeyr is undeniably modern and ahead of its time. “Lobmeyr is familiar to me, I grew up with it, heading to the workshops with my father, who shared everything with me and made sure there was a historical continuum. But reading Ludwig Lobmeyr’s biography was the real eye-opener,” adds Rath. “He was so passionate, ahead of his time, curious and relentless about being open-minded. He grounded the business in a basic yet fundamental approach to quality. He brought the brand to what it is today.”
More than a century later, Rath’s parents took a counterintuitive yet sound business decision. As companies turned more and more to Asia to find efficient production systems, invest in marketing and expand, Lobmeyr decided to stay small and beautiful, and kept fighting for quality over profit. Today, this strategy still pays. Exceptional pieces are still crafted in direct continuity with the past. Lobmeyr plans to open a new cutting and engraving workshop in Vienna in the spring, thus doubling its capacity to produce unique pieces in the city.
“It’s wonderful to open the eyes of the designers, to offer them possibilities they never thought existed; they can challenge the dexterity of the craftsman, which industrial design doesn’t allow. They are not faced with a computer-designed object that is then engineered. At Lobmeyr, objects and ideas are brought to life through the hand of the maker,” says Rath. Spearheading countless developments, he has worked with many contemporary talents, designers, graphic designers and artists, to create pieces that stand out. He adds that “customers love to feel the hand behind the material”.
German designer Mark Braun, for example, created the Reichtum (wealth) collection of water carafes on which Austrian lakes, rivers and glaciers are outlined and engraved. For isn’t water the most essential wealth of everyday life, the designer asks? Other collaborations with Ilse Crawford, Murray Moss and Aldo Bakker unveil the same glass designed with a different thickness, which changes the whole perception, weight and way of drinking.
Today, designers still look back at Lobmeyr’s legacy. In 1931, Austrian architect Adolf Loos imagined a set of drinking glasses with geometrical patterns. Later he asked Lobmeyr to replace the original patterns with “butterflies, small animals, and the nude human form”. For the 80th anniversary of the legendary Loos No. 248 bar set, designer Stefan Sagmeister has completed Loos’ wish. Sagmeister painted the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues on the bottom of the Loos glasses. This year, to celebrate another anniversary, Swiss artist Nives Widauer reinterprets a traditional coat of arms on Renaissance goblets using body parts to represent seven great human qualities such as curiosity, respect and courage.
And the story goes on. Whatever century it sits in, Lobmeyr manages to remain altogether timeless and in tune with the main creative spirits of its era.
This article originally appeared in Billionaire's Savoir Faire Issue. To subscribe click here.