Champagne & Charity – Jan Josef Liefers and Olaf Hajek.

“Champagne is a sociable drink”, says actor and musician Jan Josef Liefers. At Ambiente 2015, this actor in a famous German detective series joined internationally renowned illustrator Olaf Hajek to present a sparkling collection of champagne glasses – from which a large chunk of the proceeds goes to the NCL-Stiftung, a foundation for childhood NCL dementia. We asked the actor over a couple of drinks why even his much-loved character in the series Tatort – charmingly kooky medical professor Karl-Friedrich Boerne – can’t resist a glass of fizz.

They are both from Berlin. They’d heard of each other, knew and liked each other’s work, and after all Germany’s capital city is a small world. You can tell that Ritzenhoff’s brand ambassador Jan Josef Liefers and illustrator Olaf Hajek have the right creative chemistry. We met them at their trade fair stand, chatting like old friends. They were laughing and teasing one another. “Your first designs for the glass decoration included wild boar roadkill”, Liefers claims. It was his idea to commission Olaf Hajek for this charity project for the German glass manufacturer. Hajek’s brilliant drawings had already graced the pages of Vogue, The New York Times and Rolling Stone (among others), and featured on stamps for the UK Royal Mail. The spark became a flame, sketches were debated fiercely at face-to-face meetings, and in the end eight champagne flutes were born, with animal motifs: a leopard, an ape, birds and other exotic beasts.

Illustration Liefers Hajek - Champagner Gläser - Messe Frankfurt Ambiente

With the eight-piece, white-label special edition of its best-selling ‘Champus’ glass, the traditional Ritzenhoff company is supporting research undertaken by the NCL-Stiftung, a cause that has been close to Jan Josef Liefers’ heart for many years. To date, little research has been undertaken on NCL dementia (Batten disease), the most common form of childhood dementia. The actor explains his engagement with this foundation: “NCL does not lobby, and is not attractive to the pharmaceuticals industry because it affects relatively few people, but the children and families who are affected suffer greatly.”

Olaf Hajek’s work typically features almost surreal arrangements, drawn from a diverse range of different cultures. His flowery style, which the artist himself calls ‘the imperfection of beauty’, has been honed during his many travels. Some of his work is reminiscent of old botanical and zoological reference books, some uses lovingly crafted fairytale imagery. We find it enchanting without any trace of kitsch. Hajek’s fairytale flora and fauna are also currently causing a stir on wallpaper and on high-end fragrance packaging.

Illustration Liefers Hajek - Champagner Gläser - Messe Frankfurt Ambiente

“Doesn’t the leopard look as if it’s fallen into the glass?”, jokes Jan Josef Liefers, then enthuses: “I like the light, floating feeling. The drawings fit in with the typical upbeat champagne feel. They’re also evocative of paradise.” Liefers likes to drink champagne with his wife, fellow actor and musician Anna Loos, “whenever we fancy staying up all night, since I won’t be able to sleep even after a single glass – champers makes me very bubbly and alert.” Liefers does point out that there’s no reason you shouldn’t simply drink water from these fine glasses: “Where does luxury begin and end? That’s for us to decide for ourselves. If I’ve got a fine glass in my hand, I feel as if it’s downtime, with no deadlines. I can let go a little.” Olaf Hajek’s glasses might suit the local speciality – cider. Liefers may have been born further to the east in Dresden, but he’s a big fan of this cult beverage. “Whenever I’m in Frankfurt for a concert, I feel like I could happily dive into a barrel of it, it’s so good!” This time there’s another good reason to be here: he’s at Ambiente to support the NCL-Stiftung. “Otherwise you’re more likely to find me at motorbike trade fairs”.

These two Berlin boys make a really strong team. They work together in harmony, unlike the on-screen partnership Jan Josef Liefers has in the detective series Tatort. Liefers has been playing articulate forensic scientist Boerne in the series for nearly 15 years. Boerne is painfully arrogant and always wants to have the last word. Jan Josef Liefers explains his psyche: “Boerne is a red wine drinker. He’s lonely and has no-one to talk to. Perhaps one day he’ll meet a lady who’s intelligent and well-read enough to meet his exacting standards. Or to drink champagne with him – which would be a new experience. He’d need her to introduce him to sensual pleasures.” The actor laughs: “Oops, that sounds a bit like a personal ad for Boerne”. On the plus side, Boerne would certainly find caring for his new Ritzenhoff glasses straightforward, since they’re dishwasher safe.