A gentle conversation with Jean-Paul Vaugoin, Jarosinski & Vaugoin Silverware, Vienna
For some reason, April reminds me of Vienna, even both the name of the month and the city has no direct relevance to each other, but it reminds me the great time I had during my last visit there (by the way, I’ve written them in this blog too, feel free to check them out from the archive), it was a day that I was flipping some of the photos that I took, the one that I stood in front of the Hofburg Palace, the one inside the Sisi’s museum, by the Empress’ dressing table and imagine how her daily life was (she is a passionate learner, study multiple languages daily, and, conscious about her fitness, keeping herself in shape by equipping ‘gym gear’ in her bedroom) and then, my eyes gazed at the photo in the Silver Collection, the former Court Silver and Table Room of the Viennese Emperor family, it houses one of the most exquisite and prestigious silverware collection which used by the royal family during the past, the most memorable to me, is the table setting with a Habsburg royal napkin folding on the plate, the complete typical setting during a formal dinner in the palace, what fascinates me the most, is the method of that specific napkin folding, today, there’s only a few people know exactly how to fold them, which I think that’s what makes me impressed about the precision, details and etiquette of the royal living in the past, that something we don’t live in anymore, but would like to have a little ‘taste’ of such prestigious treatment looks like. When we talked about Viennese silverware, that’s one household name that one should visit when they were in Vienna, that is, the Jarosinski & Vaugoin.
The beautiful legacy of Jarosinski & Vaugoin should be traced back in 1847, founded by Mr. Carl Vaugoin, a highly skilled silversmith who is renowned by creating exquisite and high quality silverware, from table top cutlery to decorative objects, all by hand under rigorous workmanship, after merging with the master company of Jarosinski and then moved their boutique on Zieglergasse, the house renamed as L. Jarosinski & J. Vaugoin yet maintain their exceptional quality and standard on producing the finest silverware, which subsequently, earn them the K.u.K. royal honour, and at the same time, attracted countless of royal and elites as their loyal customer. Entirely family owned-&-operated business, this prestigious Viennese silverware house has witnessed the glory of the imperial period, then, moving forward to our time in this modern 21st century without leaving their philosophy behind, this makes them a high-esteemed silverware maker in Vienna, also, bringing the Viennese heritage and know-how forward and let our generation to see and appreciate such legacy. One of the key of making this continuation happen, should be coming from the Viennese gentleman behind, Mr. Jean-Paul Vaugoin, the 6th generation of the family, who has taken the helm since 2005, dedicate his effort on keeping the valuable family heritage by preserving the traditional know-how and respect of refined handmade artistry and workmanship, at the same time, looking after the development of the brand to explore new opportunities in a steady and sophisticated manner, not getting too commercial nor over-expanded unlike some other luxury houses do, but just good enough to offer something high quality, timelessly elegant, and sophisticated silverware product, and the cozy and sincere service with much attentiveness, Viennese elegance and know-how. Another thing that impressed me so much, is the Viennese gentleman classic flair that Jean-Paul exudes, a very polish attire with a navy blazer and khaki trousers, his sophisticated manner, youthful spirit and solid knowledge in his own culture, and, family legacy, which intrigues me to approach Jean-Paul, and, eventually, having this charming Viennese gentleman, to join me for the Q&A this time.
My Modern Darcy: Hi Jean-Paul, what a delight to have you with us this time, as I know that you just had a busy work schedule, in Asia in particular, can you share with us how did it go, and how did you like Asia?
Jean-Paul Vaugoin: Yes, I spent that last weeks in Asia, and generally speaking, I love it! We have great customers and business partners and I´m in South-East Asia 4-8 times a year. Overall I love the food and the splendid service you find nearly everywhere!
MMD: Since taking over your family business in 2003 and became the ‘anchor’ of Jarosinski & Vaugoin, what would you like to bring in (or currently working on) to this long-esteemed family business? And what is/are your aspiration of Jarosinski & Vaugoin to be in the next few years?
JPV: There is a saying “tradition is not the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire”, and I feel that’s absolutely true. Every day is a new challenge and you must never rest! Our history is my base to build up the future of this niche product. Quality and flexibility are the crucial points to win new customers in new markets.
MMD: So what is the signature of the Jarosinski & Vaugoin silverware? What makes your silverware unique?
JPV: Our signature piece are definitely hand-made silver cutlery. We have over 200 different patterns, ranging from very plain, very decorated baroque style up to modern shapes. I guess this is a globally unique collection which we still can offer our clients. Very important is that we just produce in real silver – not brass silver plated – and every piece is made by hand thus every single piece is a master piece!
MMD: To you, what is the challenge of succeeding such profound family legacy and let it flourish going forward? What is/are the challenges that you have faced before and how did you overcome them?
JPV: Well, I guess every generation has to face some difficulties when taking over a family business, in my case, I was very young, just 21. At that time I didn´t really plan to jump into the silversmith business. Many customers had more knowledge about silver than I had, thus I had to learn a lot and show our clients that the will get the same or even better quality than there were used to. Further I think when you are self-employed, the most important is to be every-day ready, and then of course, you also need good luck and to be at the right time at the right place.
MMD: Viennese silverware has a profound tie with the monarchy and their way of living in the past, to you, how did these refined silverware means to us in the present day? And why it matters?
JPV: This is very important! The legacy of the monarchy still reflects our nowadays business; the Viennese culture, the Royal Austrian Court, was always influenced by the French. Actually, noble people spoke French in Vienna, not German. I feel it´s very important to know the roots and cultural aspects of nowadays manners. Austria is in the middle of the continent thus many different aspects could be monitored in our kitchen and on our tables. We have to soak all this up and transport it into the present. Our customers not just buy a piece of silver but also the knowledge and the know-how.
MMD: Having seen the evolvement of the cutlery design, can you tell us how a Viennese style change from the past to now? And what kind of cutlery design / style that are popular in your collection?
JPV: Definitely there is a constant change. Nowadays most families don´t have the staff to maintain a household as in the 19th century, families are small then before and life has changed. Consequently, you set the table differently, although I feel a come-back of table manners and traditional dining. The cutlery patterns haven´t changed too much, it´s a bit depending on the background (geographically and social) of the clients, but over-all speaking, the traditional patterns are still the best-sellers. The modern designs are really nice but I noticed if you spent a small fortune on a real-silver flatware set you normally choose something traditional than a radical new shape.
MMD: As an expert, what is the best way to maintain a fine piece of silverware?
JPV: The best way is to use it and enjoy the silver! As soon as it´s not in constant usage it will tarnish and you have to polish it. New cutlery is dish-washer-safe thus you can use it every day.
MMD: The term ‘artisan’ and ‘know how’, what do they mean to you?
JPV: We have to use our “know-how” to make the “artisan” product available in a certain quantity. We have some projects where 2000 pieces of one cutlery design are ordered, the challenge is not really to make one single piece but that all 2000 pieces look the same, have the same quality and we can deliver the goods in a short period of time.
MMD: Let’s talk about lifestyle for men, in your opinion, what is a good way of living as a modern gentleman?
JPV: Well, I think that´s up to each individual (smile). When looking on the streets and every second I saw some men wearing a sweat suit and I really wonder the purpose behind; I think manners and the man compliment to each other, so dressing up properly, matching to the situation – that´s timeless.
MMD: Can you share with us how is your personal style? What are your favorite 3 items in your closet?
JPV: My style is definitely classic; during the week I wear a tie and black Oxford or Derby shoes, on the weekend it could be a brown loafer as well. I think the colour of the belt should go together with the colour of the shoes as well as the watch tape. My favourite item right now is a hand-made customized blazer made by the atelier of my cousin. It´s my first piece made by him, I love my cuff-links collection and blue Hermès tie.
MMD: In your opinion, what are the great qualities of a Viennese gentleman should have? And perhaps, to a modern gentleman wherever one’s living in?
JPV: I feel, the term “Gentleman” means everywhere the same and that is timeless. I met gents from Great Britain, Italy, Germany, New York, Russia, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Nairobi etc, and they all share one thing – not to show off! A gentleman knows what he has and what he´s able to, so there is no need to boast! Keep that in mind for your job, also, it’s very important about the art of conversation when speaking to the ladies.
Special thanks to Mr. Jean-Paul Vaugoin, image courtesy of Jarosinski & Vaugoin, Vienna.