A Royal Affair – saved by an unlikely facelift

Did you ever wonder about the love affair Danes seem to have with their porcelain brand Royal Copenhagen. It almost never survived – and only did so because of outside influence on their designs.

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By Lene Arlund and Bente D. Knudsen  Pictures: Bente D. Knudsen

I often hear expat’s ask,” What is this love relationship you Danes have with Royal Copenhagen? We just don’t get it. I can’t visit any Dane without being served on one or the other kind of that porcelain”.

In December it gets even more extreme,as Danes flock to the old house on Strøget, home to Royal Copenhagen for many generations to see the famous Christmas tables.

It is actually only a recent rekindling of the love affair that has made the 240 year old porcelain brand survive. And it  happened quite by chance.

Blue fluted, musselmalet, the oldest design, was often, and still is, handed down from mother to daughter through generations.

However, at the end of the 20th century, Royal Copenhagen was really grandmother’s porcelain, and the younger generation did not necessarily want to invest in more of the same.

The handed down porcelain was left at the back of the cupboard, and used only for special occasions, if used at all.

Royal Copenhagen Outlet Stores’ Winter sale: save up to 44 percent until end of January 2020:

Frederiksberg at Søndre Fasanvej. Open weekdays 10:00 to 18:00 and Saturdays 10:00 to 15:00

Vejle at Vesterbrogade 23. Open weekdays 10:00 to 17:30 and Saturdays 10:00 to 15:00.

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At this time young designer Karen-Kjældgård Larsen was studying at the Copenhagen Design School. She had always had a fetish for Royal Copenhagen, and she had many a meal served on the very traditional 240 year old Blue Fluted porcelain.

For her exam project she played around with the design, enlarging elements.

Her teacher was so enthusiastic about it that she encouraged Karen Kjældgård-Larsen to show her design to Royal Copenhagen.

A rather hesitant Karen finally did so. Her designs divided the management of Royal Copenhagen at the time. Some found it deeply unsettling and disrespectful, while others found it refreshing and worth a try.

According to former employees at Royal Copenhagen, the decision whether or not to launch such a design wasn’t undertaken without many internal discussions.

Luckily for Royal Copenhagen, those who found it innovative, and worth a try, won the internal battle.

Karen Kjældgård Larsen’s new design Mega Mussel was launched in 2000 in the traditional blue fluted colours,  the name Mega was derived from the design, as parts of the blue fluted design elements were massively enlarged.

It became a huge success, and, in 2004, with the launch in black, an important break from the traditional blue colours, Royal Copenhagen’s important 21st century face-lift of grandmother’s old porcelain was on its way.

I remember during those years how friends and family would start mixing their old inherited parts with the new designs, using the porcelain more frequently, and suddenly, their children (teenagers at the time) became interested in Royal Copenhagen again.

Although the new designs did well, the financial crisis in 2008 hit Royal Copenhagen hard as it was relatively expensive porcelain and competition from cheaper brands sent Royal Copenhagen into crisis.

Maybe their new managing director, Mads Ryder, was inspired by the way their customers had been mixing the new and old designs.

During his first years at Royal Copenhagen a less expensive range of basic white porcelain, the White fluted, was launched. It became extremely popular and a young generation of consumers started collecting and mixing it with the other Royal Copenhagen designs, new and old.

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By using the  same traditional blue tone colour for a number of their designs, in such a way that old and new can be mixed and matched in the same colour tone, or combined with white elements, consumers can really individualise their table setting.

Following this Royal Copenhagen once again became profitable. Royal Copenhagen remains the leading brand in the Nordic area for hand painted porcelain.

Most Danes mix and match their grandmothers’ inheritance with new pieces from all price ranges from the various designs.

That’s really the explanation for Danes’ love affair with Royal Copenhagen.

As an expat you might be interested in buying items from Royal Copenhagen at their factory outlets – easily accessible and open daily.

Here you can buy 2nd quality products (often you cannot see what is wrong) as well as discontinued items at special prices.

They have one in Copenhagen in Frederiksberg and one in Vejle(Jutland).

Royal Copenhagen Outlet:

Frederikberg at Søndre Fasanvej. Open weekdays 10:00 to 18:00 and Saturday 10:00 to 15:00

Vejle at Vesterbrogade 23. Open weekdays 10:00 to 17:30 and Saturdays 10:00 to 15:00.


A few facts

Royal Copenhagen, Den Kongelige Porcelænsfabrik was founded in 1775 by the Danish Royal Family  and the first dinner service, musselmalet, the Blue Fluted porcelain, was created.  In the 1990s, the company was owned by Carlsberg under the group name Royal Scandinavia together with amongst others, Georg Jensen and Holmegaard glass-works. In  2012 Royal Copenhagen was sold to Finnish Fiskars, and is now part of their home business area together with brands such as Arabia. When Georg Jensen also was sold, it meant the end of the Royal Scandinavia brand and the Danish ownership heritage.