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Swarovski crystal clear

Nadja Swarovski, vice president of Swarovski Crystal Business, has seen her family’s brand change dramatically since she became part of it in the 90s. She tells SHOP what the new decade will bring. By Becky Sunshine

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Becky Sunshine,

When you began working for your family business more than a decade ago, what were your hopes for Swarovski?
I grew up with the crystal bead and by the time I got out into the big wide world, I realised nobody was talking about the crystal bead or jewellery stone; they only talked about those little animals. I wanted to educate the general public about the beads I grew up with and felt so passionate about. We were big in the gift market, but I saw the potential to take it back into the fashion world.

You’ve been credited with changing the image of the company by forging a close association with fashion, film and music. How did you recognise that was the way to take the business into the 21st century?
Swarovski has a heritage in the fashion, music and cinema arenas so we wanted to tap back into that. We changed the old perception of Swarovski by working with as many artists as we could. We’ve had Madonna on stage in crystal, or Lenny Kravitz creating a chandelier, or Brad Pitt admiring a chandelier in Ocean’s Thirteen. I’ve been so fortunate to have these amazing spokespeople out there. By giving crystal a different context it has changed the connotation.

What are your hopes for Swarovski in this new decade?
I have high hopes for this decade, especially in the lifestyle arena – I feel we have such a strong foundation on which to build. Swarovski is a design-driven company. Design means an element that enhances the quality of life, but design doesn’t have to mean expensive – it means desirable. That’s what we’ve been doing for 100 years – adding value.

Swarovski is now a name synonymous with sponsorship and support of young creatives. Why has that been so important for you?
I was so inspired by my time in New York over 10 years ago – no one there was supporting young talent at all. All they needed was a little bit of money and support to help them show their product and explore their creativity. So we forged a new, symbiotic relationship, which was mutually beneficial. We supplied components to the fashion industry and in return our product was used in the most exciting new ways. I’m so proud that we support the best of new talent in that way.

You’ve collaborated with fashion designers such as Giles Deacon, Erdem and Louise Goldin. Can you tell us about any new collaborations for 2010?
We’re working again with Hussein Chalayan. And in Los Angeles we’re working with the Costume Designers Guild for the sixth year. They really are the unsung heroes of the film industry, so we’ve reached out to the costume community. We worked closely with Colleen Atwood on the film Nine, and we’re thrilled about working with David Rockwell again for this year’s Oscars; last year’s curtain was such a great success.

The Atelier collections have been so successful, what’s next for that division of the business?
We have a great list of designers working with us and we’re just launching an Oscars collection by Stephen Webster – that’s really exciting for us. We want to create that connection from what’s happening on the catwalk with what’s happening in the Swarovski stores. Atelier is really trends- and fashion-driven, and so far all of our collaborations have been so successful. Zaha Hadid, Nicholas Kirkwood, Matthew Williamson and Jason Wu, among others, have created pieces for this spring.

Finally, what are your tips for how to wear crystal?
If you’re dressed up, you should place it strategically, like dotting an ‘i’. If you’re wearing black, I love how it lifts an outfit; it lifts you. One of my favourite pieces is the Christopher Kane multi-strand bolster necklace. You can wear it with jeans or to a black tie event – it just completes an outfit, it’s amazing.



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