Whether you’re going to a movie, the theater, a fashion show, or even Vienna’s Life Ball, chances are Swarovski is there, twinkling on some embellishment on a curtain, a chandelier, a costume, an evening dress, or, in the case of the Life Ball, a very blingy, very large AIDS ribbon. All those little crystals do a lot to support the arts–especially fashion. At Monday’s CFDA Awards, Swarovski sponsors awards for womenswear, menswear, and accessories.
The woman at the helm of all that glittering support is Nadja Swarovski, whose great, great, grandfather, Daniel Swarovski, founded the company and worked with all the major couture houses in Paris at the start of the 19th century. We grabbed a few minutes with the extremely busy Swarovski in advance of Monday’s awards to pick her brain about everything from how Swarovski scouts and supports designers to her background working with famed fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert.
Fashionista: How does Swarovski find designers to support?
Nadja Swarovski: We’re always on the lookout for new design talent, whether it’s through our scholarship programs at major design schools like Central Saint Martins in London and Parsons in New York, or through the Swarovski Collective, where we support both emerging and leading designers to work imaginatively with crystal in their collections at New York, London, Milan, and Paris Fashion Weeks.
What qualifications do you look for in an emerging designer?
We look for designers who push creative boundaries and test the limits of craftsmanship; who embrace crystal as a creative material and are inspired by its limitless potential. We see our role as catalysts, enabling the designers to realize their vision at a crucial stage in their careers.
What does Swarovski’s support entail?
Designers are our creative partners, so we give them free reign to experiment with our diverse product range and also the technical support they require. Further down the road, they can also benefit from global exposure from our PR, digital and social media networks.
Can you talk a bit about this year’s Swarovski nominees? What struck you about each designer?
Creatures of The Wind are an amazingly talented design duo who have come a long way in a very short time. I love the way they take inspiration from other disciplines by collaborating with artists and other designers. Their collection draws on incredibly diverse themes like mythology and youth culture, and I love their use of artisanal detailing and unusual fabrics. As for Cushnie et Ochs, Michelle Ochs and Carly Cushnie’s…bodycon, streamlined aesthetic has proved highly commercial. And finally, ethical fashion is fast gaining traction and SUNO shows how it can be done. Erin Beatty and Max Osterweis’s work is fresh and optimistic, using unique prints, textures and embroideries layered together to build a bright and modern wardrobe for a confident, independent woman.
Swarovski lends its support to so many industries–how do you stay so connected to the fashion world? I know Swarovski’s ties to fashion go way back…
The aim of Swarovski’s collaborations with talents in art, design, fashion, theater, and film is to promote artistic inspiration across the creative industries, and it’s never hard to stay connected. Designers are our creative partners and we draw so much energy and inspiration from working with them. Swarovski’s ties to fashion go way back to the dawn of the 19th century, when my great, great, grandfather, Daniel Swarovski, travelled to Paris to work with the first great couture houses. His revolutionary crystals soon became highly prized in the dressmaking ateliers of Paris. He drew inspiration from the couturiers’ fabulous gowns, and they in turn were inspired by his unique products, beginning the tradition of close collaboration between Swarovski and haute couture that remains to this day.
Can you tell me a little about your personal involvement in the fashion world? What was it like to work for Eleanor Lambert? What made you want to be so involved with fashion and support young designers?
I started my career in fashion with the one and only Eleanor Lambert in the 1990s. My time with her was a true inspiration and gave me such insight into this amazing industry. My second fashion inspiration was Isabella Blow. She introduced me to the young Alexander McQueen in the late 1990s and we immediately started working together. He was so creative, developing new applications like crystal mesh. Working with Lee [McQueen] revealed the magic that can result from putting our crystals into the hands of cutting edge talent, and collaborating with emerging designers has become a cornerstone of what we do ever since.