Hubert Burda Media

Shaken, not stirred

Yong Yoon Li, Executive Director of Royal Selangor International, chats about the third edition of Royal Selangor’s Bar collection and the burgeoning cocktail culture in Malaysia.

The mid-century was a particularly compelling time when the Roger Sterlings and Don Drapers of the world always had a staple drink in their hands – be it a glass of vodka martini or old fashioned. It was also a time that sparked off the mid-century modern design movement, where aesthetics and function converged.

Royal Selangor’s Bar collection fuses the best of both worlds, introducing essential bar pieces inspired by the geometric motifs of mid-century architectural screen blocks. The sleek pewter lattices evoke a sense of nostalgia reminiscent of elegant witty cocktail parties held in suburbia homes or swank bachelor pads.

When did Royal Selangor first introduce the bar collection and how has it grown today?
It started with our Chateau collection three years ago. It was our first foray into the bar cocktail segment to cater to a market request from our overseas market. The Chateau range became a big hit and featured a number of wine accessories such as goblets. When we moved on to the Bar collection last year, it was so popular that we came out with this third edition of Spring/Summer 2017. The first and second edition were mainly double old fashioned and highballs which are tumblers. For this third collection that we are launching, we have created the ice bucket, jigger and shaker to add to the whole collection. The range is really not for the commercial space; it’s mainly for people to use at home because it does adds a certain elegance rather than serving a drink in a tea cup or glass. Since we launched the Bar collection a year ago, we found that most of the pieces were bought as gifts for men especially during Father’s Day or birthday occasions.

The bar collection takes inspiration from the geometric motifs of mid-century architectural screen blocks. What do you find fascinating about the design from this period of time?

I’ve always liked mid-century modern architecture, the whole Danish movement to Mad Men is really fascinating in the sense that they keep the lines and design very clean. We have done quite a bit of that in the past especially working with Erik Magnussen. For us to design something inspired by mid-century is pretty straight, there is a lot of inspiration not only just in the US but even in Malaysia as we have plenty of architecture from the 1950s and 1960s.

Were there any limitations when it came to designing this collection?
One of the limitations we faced was working with the material as it is actually quite soft. That’s why I mentioned earlier that it is less appropriate to be used in a commercial setting where it might get knocked around. However, we have also designed it in a way where it can get knocked around and still look good. If you look at the motif, there are very shallow facets and simple shapes, so when the piece does get knocked around, it doesn’t look damaged. If you have a piece that is more heavily sculpted, the damage will be more noticeable. That’s when we find that we have to design around the material as opposed to just design alone. We design for both form and function. We also use the softness of the material to our advantage. For example, the cocktail shaker. We’ve designed it so that it doesn’t require a seal or screw before shaking. Since the material is soft, it is able to fit any sturdy glass. It’s designed with a nice fit that is firm and water tight.

The abundance of speakeasy bars has also contributed to a sudden boom in malaysia’s cocktail scene. How has this trend opened up the market for Royal Selangor?
It has created awareness among the public. Today, I found out that you can decant your whisky and store it in a decanter to age it to make it more mellow and give it more character.

Royal Selangor products have gained popularity as gifts and the brand has also introduced a personalisation service. What are consumers looking for when it comes to purchasing gifts and how does Royal Selangor cater to these demands?
We do a lot of gifts, more than just our Bar pieces. People come to us to buy unique and personalised gifts, whether it’s a company or VIPs. They are always after something that is different and personal. The customisability of gifts is driving the higher-end gifting market. We have already introduced an engraving service on our pieces back in the ‘70s. When I was 18, I had a tankard made with my initials monogrammed on it. I used to carry my tankard to school when I was studying in the UK because we had a little sixth form centre where you can drink beer. Today, I carry a business card case with my monogram on it because it’s elegant and I believe every person should have something that is close to them.

What are your favourite pieces from this collection?
The tumblers are great, they are versatile as you can either have water or a nice 30-year-old whisky in it. It’s brilliant and doesn’t look too formal, so you can use it every day.