Veuve Clicquot Vertical Limit Giveaway: Interview with Roland Heiler of Porsche Design Studio


Champagne house Veuve Clicquot today launched Vertical Limit by Porsche Design Studio, a stainless steel cellar tower of superb design (at right, click on image for enlarged view). Measuring over six feet tall, it holds 12 magnums of Clicquot's most prized vintages and only 15 were made worldwide. In celebration of this special release Cool Hunting is giving away your choice of two potential prizes. What do you want? A pair of rare vintage Veuve Clicquot champagnes (1988 and a 1985 Rosé) encased in the Pablo Reinoso Cellar Box (below left) OR Veuve Clicquot's limited edition La Grande Dame 1996 vintage with special Emilio Pucci casing (below right). La Grande Dame is Veuve Clicquot's Haute Couture Vintage Champagne.

Each Vertical Limit is fully handmade and each of the 12 vintages are housed in its own compartment with the temperature set at a constant 12 degrees celsius—ideal for tasting and the same climate as the Veuve Clicquot cellars in Reims, France. Of the 15 produced worldwide only two will make it stateside and they will be showcased at the Porsche Design Stores in New York and Los Angeles during the month of November. Each cellar containing the 12 vintages is approximately $70,000.


Porsche Design Studio designed and fabricated all 15 Vertical Limits. Roland Heiler, Managing Director of Porsche Design, sat down with us to talk about the design of the cellar tower and about the design world in general. A gracious, smart and witty design mastermind, he's seen the past and can predict the future.

Conceptually, how did the thought process begin in designing Vertical Limit? Was it a collaborative effort with Veuve Clicquot?
Veuve Cliquot approached us with the idea of creating a product that would refrigerate select vintage champagne magnums in a stylish and luxurious way. They showed a tremendous amount of trust and faith in us by giving us creative freedom even though it was our first time working together. This is a designers dream.

We approached this project the same as we approach each and every design project. We aim to fuse form and function and follow our philosophy of trying to create timeless design. Take the Porsche 911 for example, designed by Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the grandson of the original founder of the Porsche company, it's arguably the most timeless car ever made. We try to mirror this effect with every project. This type of authenticity and quality must always flow into the design of a product for it to be timeless and successful.


What was the primary goal in designing the Vertical Limit for Veuve Clicquot? How did you translate the brand into the product?
We wanted to create a product to match the ultra high-end superiority of the Veuve Clicquot brand, so we tried to emphasize the importance of each bottle. We thought that each bottle should have its own stage essentially. This is why we gave each bottle its own door coupled with the classic Veuve Clicquot yellow as a light. We did this so each bottle received the attention it deserves, rather than opening one door to a collection of bottles. In making a superior looking product we also decided to make the Vertical Limit a tall object. A tall tower seems to command authority and I think it serves to this effect well.

They are all made by hand correct? Every bit? How long does it take?
Yes, every bit is made by hand but it didn't take much longer to design than our other products. It is actually quite a normal design process. It helps that we have stainless steel specialists and we don't have to take manufacturing methods into account. Oftentimes these limited edition pieces, can be easier to make in some respects because of this. Only 15 were made.

Obviously not everyone can afford the Vertical Limit and the fact that only 15 were made makes it something of even more value. Who did you have in mind as the target buyer? Did you picture it in museums, people's homes…?
I have to admit this was more on the Veuve Clicquot side of things as far as their marketing aspect and target criteria. On the other hand we are known for creating luxurious products here so that was an obvious aim for Veuve Clicquot. We take our time in the design process and use high quality materials, so naturally a lot of our products cost a bit more money.

There has been a boom of increased awareness and emphasis on design lately. As a design studio that has decades of experience, what are your thoughts on the state of design today?
I agree, design is definitely more of an important factor in consumer culture these days. I think this is quite natural. We welcome this and we've always wished for it to be more like that. However, these things also bring with them other effects. In my opinion design as a word and phrase has undergone a certain inflation. There are a lot of things called design that I don't necessarily agree to be actual design or well designed for that matter.

When thinking about design. it's necessary to consider all of a products functions and aesthetics. We aren't a styling or engineering firm, it is essential to bring these two together as equal partners. Here at Porsche Design we don't even like the phrase "form follows function," it doesn't. They are equal and on the same level of importance. That's been a very strong element for Porsche design. Typically our products have a certain amount of engineered character and many have kinematics. I think this stems from our heritage as a car company and this is where we benefit.

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More and more designers are designing for bigger and more commercial brands today. Why do you think this is? Where/when was the shift?
I don't know, it's an industry of ebb and flow and full of changes. When I graduated from college in the '80s there was a lot of money going into design so everyone seemed like they were having success and design companies were growing so big. Then the entire dot com world collapsed. Shortly after that all the design companies had to cut back since there weren't any resources. Since then everything has recovered and been rediscovered. In some cases designers have helped companies to be succesful against all marketing predictions. In my opinion this was due to the fact that they would break the rules of the market and in turn this spurned a revitalization of design.


For the most part, high end design has been reserved for the wealthy. In your opinion how do luxury and design fit together?
Luxury is a funny thing. It has become more democratic, then the question is, is it still luxury? This is something that has been brought up in many Luxury summits lately. The thing about these products and brands is that they are no longer only in the hands of the wealthy and affluent. Some will buy one such piece to be a part of the club.

I think the best way luxury and design fit together are through some virtues like honesty, use of high end materials, truth to the materials and quality craftsmanship. This authenticity is what we feel to be important and in my opinion this is what ultimately makes something of more meaning. The aim of luxury for me is for something to be a lifelong companion.

In your opnion, Is there a difference between high and low end design? If so, what is the difference?
It's usually not a difference between high or low end design, it's high or low end product that then gets design applied to it. The parameters for both groups is very different. Margins are higher on certain products or development costs, materials are different and so forth. That said, design quality on a low end product can be just as high in terms of creativity and execution. In fact, I have a big admiration for people who design low end products. This is something that is becoming very desirable. Sometimes this sort of design is even more challenging.

Then what, in your opinion, is the main function of design in our world?
Good design serves product in two ways, form and function. To me something pleasing and desirable only works for me if the function is also optimized. Well designed products combines the two, this is our philosophy at Porsche. You may see something and like the looks but it doesn't function correctly and doesn't live up to it's apparent promise and ultimately you are disappointed.

In terms of the Vertical Limit, I see it as something that lives up to the brand and both form and function.

…So do you even like champagne?
Veuve Clicquot is an incredible product. I like champagne, but tend not to drink it often. I reserve it for special occasions, any more than that and my appreciation would diminish.

To enter the giveaway, just follow the contact link at the bottom of the page, select "Vertical Limit Giveaway" from the pull-down menu and tell us three individuals you'd like to share a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne with by Monday, 5 November 2007, 11:59pm EST. We'll chose our favorite ensemble from the entries.