Portuguese Luxury Brands: Discover Vista Alegre’s History ♦ In 1824, just outside the town of Ilhavo on the outskirts of Aveiro city, and in close proximity to Ria de Aveiro lagoons, an entrepreneur and industrial visionary by the name of José Ferreira Pinto Basto opened the doors of his new enterprise. His inspiration came from the success of another Portuguese business, located in Marinha Grande, Leiria, dedicated to the production of glass and crystal ware, Pinto Basto decided to follow suit and create his own glass, ceramic and chemical process complex – that’s how Vista Alegre was born.
Written by Carolina Costa
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Today, Vista Alegre is one of the most luxurious Portuguese brands and they are certainly the most famous ceramic, glass and tableware designers and manufacturers in the world. With high-quality products, their work of art has already decorated tables of presidents, monarchs, embassies and famous people across the globe.
Unlikely what you may think you’ll find when you first arrive at the Vista Alegre production works, there are no signs of heavy machinery, towering warehouses, large trucks or the usual industrial atmosphere usually seen in a complex with over 600 workers.
Instead, you’ll be welcomed by a village square surrounded by the bucolic image of a picturesque church and a collection of neat and orderly white houses with yellow windows and complimentary green wooden shutters. The only nod to the industry is a tall red-brick chimney that rises from behind the gated facade of what looks like a traditional Portuguese manor house.
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Once you enter the complex, you’ll be greeted with the sight of the original factory kiln, a reminder of exactly where you are. The factory was initially designed to produce just glassware and soapstone pottery. The quality of the glassware’s decoration and the engraving was immediately recognized. Later in 1880, Vista Alegre decided to end its production of glassware and dedicated exclusively to the production of fine porcelain.
There’s a lot more to discover in Vista Alegre’s museum, in Ilhavo, than just a vast production line and the turnover of porcelain dedicated to the hotel and hospitality industry all over the world.
On a tour through the factory, along with witnessing the complexity of the process and the scale of the firing processes, the studios of fine artists employed in the hand painting of ‘limited edition’ works come as a genteel throwback to a bygone age.
Over the years, Vista Alegre has had a long association with some of the most famous Portuguese and world artists, ensuring the company is willing to change, reflecting the artistic and cultural change which each new era brings about.
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