Visit The Waterford Pop-up In Soho To See The Evolution Of The Irish Crystal Brand

by Freya Drohan

Growing up in Ireland, it’s custom for your grandparents to have an immaculate and unused “good room” in their house—which is more like a museum or film set where the family could enjoy a meal, but rarely do. Because both sets of my grandparents are also from Waterford, a coastal county in the South East that is known around the world for its homegrown crystal brand, within these rooms you would always find a display cabinet of precious, glistening glass pieces. As almost every Waterford-based family had a relation who worked at ‘The Glass,’ there was seemingly no end to the amount of crystal you’d find amassed over time in these good rooms—from gravy boats and the handles of cake cutters to clocks, lamps, and Christmas tree ornaments.

But despite Waterford Crystal being so abundant everywhere I looked as a kid, it always felt a little out of bounds and something not to be messed with. (I also learned this the hard way when my mother would charge me the exorbitant rate of €50 per wine glass my friends or I broke during our teenage house party years.) Alas, this is where Alice Bastin, the new creative director of Waterford, is stepping in with a fresh new vision. And one that’s centered around making crystal more approachable and something to be enjoyed endlessly; because why hide it away and only bring it out your holiday dinners?

British designer Bastin has serious fashion chops, having cut her teeth at labels like Celine, Chloé, and Christopher Kane, before moving to Alexander McQueen where she became head of women’s leather ready to wear. She’s taking the approach she honed at McQueen—how do you reinvent a material like leather season after season in a way that’s true to an iconic brand, while still innovating?—and asking the same questions about a heritage company which has been producing crystal since 1783. It helps that Bastin’s great-great grandfather was born in Waterford too, adding a personal connection to this new challenge.

Alice Bastin’s debut campaign, with photography by Seán McGirr

The results of her exploration are now on display at the Waterford pop-up, located at 160 Mercer Street in Soho. Upon arrival, the first thing visitors will notice is a striking image from her inaugural campaign: a black and white portrait of a model, holding a decanter against his shoulder insouciantly. Inside the red brick wall boutique, artful images of models nonchalantly showing the crystal in motion continue, and it occurred to me that this brand was never really viewed as a brand-with-a-capital-B before now; and how it’s only right that it’s given the luxury, elegant, and elevated treatment it so deserves.

Plus, when the phrase ‘luxury brand’ can feel ten-a-penny these days, Waterford is blessed with what others wish for: over two centuries of craftsmanship, a global reputation, and the ability to evoke an emotional connection to a country that millions of people in America have an association with. The importance of that relationship and synergy is reflected in the store too, with no shortage of information about the history and tradition behind the glassware on display.

When I was about six-years-old and my parents were out of town, I remember their friend watching me for the weekend. To me, this woman was the most glamorous person I’d ever known, with fluffy white carpet in her walk-in closet, a red convertible Mercedes SLK, and giant, sparkling Waterford Crystal doorknobs throughout her home. I quickly developed a wide-eyed childhood obsession with these doorknobs every time I’d visit, and dreamed of one day having them in my own adult Barbie Dream House. “Never settle for anything less than Waterford Crystal doorknobs,” she jokingly told me once.

To this day, I think of it as an analogy to fill your life with beautiful pieces that spark joy—and if you can make something as mundane as a door handle or gravy boat that bit more glamorous, then why the hell not.

Find your special somethings at the Waterford pop-up or online here.

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