Nadja Swarovski, the style-setting heiress of the eponymous crystal empire, has crystallized her dream of positioning the 112-year-old brand as a leading light in luxury.
Nadja Swarovski has turned crystal into the sparkling ingredient for avant-garde fashion and design, crystallizing her dream of positioning the eponymous crystal manufacturer as a leading luxury lifestyle brand.
Ever wonder why fashion is flickering with futurist light, why chandeliers are making a lifestyle comeback and why products once unworthy of embellishment are now glimmering? Thanks to Nadja Swarovski's bedazzling crystal crusade, just about everything these days is adorned with her family's perfectly cut luminous prisms. The great-great granddaughter of Daniel Swarovski — the Bohemian crystal maker who established the world's largest crystal manufacturer in 1895 — Nadja Swarovski couldn't help but notice crystal's brilliant potential from a young age. "My dream was for everyone to be able to wear those necklaces that I made out of crystal beads," remembers Swarovski of her childhood living across from the family's factory in Wattens, Austria. Steering the company into the 21st century as Vice President of International Communications, she is fast turning her dreams into an illustrious reality.
The leading purveyor of high-end crystals for everything from binoculars and engine interiors to Dorothy's ruby red slippers in the Wizard of Oz, Swarovski has enjoyed a discreet monopoly of the industry since its inception. But it wasn't until Nadja Swarovski began placing crystal in the hands of the creative avant-garde that the gems started generating cult cred. "We chose designers on the cutting edge of fashion and who were visionary in realizing the endless youth of crystal within fashion," explains Swarovski of the roster of hot talent, such as Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Zac Posen, Bruno Frisoni and Jean Paul Gaultier, who now swear by her sparkling machine-made stones for emphatic embellishment. While the ravishing rocks have always been fit for the runway, it's outside of fashion, however, that Swarovski's unexpected celebrity glows brightest. Since 2002, Swarovski's annual Crystal Palace Collection has become a showcase for groundbreaking design in the name of light, giving carte blanche to a roster of chosen designers to reinvent the chandelier using their brilliant beads. Luminaries such as Ron Arad, Torn Boontje, Yves Behar, Basso & Brooke and Tom Dixon have demonstrated crystal's astoundingly diverse allure, creating breathtaking works that range from the surreal and poetic to the sensual and sublime.
What is your definition of luxury?
If luxury were an object, what would it be?
A beaming machine, à la Starship Enterprise, that could transport me instantly from New York to London to Wattens to Shanghai without having to spend endless hours on the plane.
If luxury were a person, who would it be?
If luxury were a place, where would it be?
A quiet, serene, comfortable, beautiful and soul-uplifting place. For me, a mountaintop with a panoramic view over the world.
If luxury were a moment, when would it be?
Concentrated, uninterrupted time spent with my children.
What was your goal for the brand when you joined the company in 1995, and what were the essential steps taken to achieve those goals?
To elevate the brand perception of Swarovski, to bring Swarovski to the forefront of fashion and to become an authority within the design community. The essential steps have been to associate with cutting-edge talent in fashion, jewelry, architecture and design—people who would incorporate our product as a creative ingredient within their work, thus repositioning the perception of crystal in these industries as a high-quality and creativity-enhancing product.
When and how did you recognize the potential for turning your family's crystal into a coveted design material?
Ever since I was a little girl and used the crystal beads creatively myself. However, within my career, I realized its uniqueness. It has always been a coveted design material, yet has always been unbranded. As the sole supplier of crystal to the design industries, in the late '90s the aim was to credit the material—which often was referred to as strass, paste, diamante, rhinestones—as what it actually was: Swarovski crystal.
Where did the idea come from to give the chandelier a modern makeover by collaborating with the best names in industrial design? Have you always loved chandeliers?
Swarovski has three business-to-business divisions, one catering to the fashion industry, another to the jewelry industry and a third to architecture and design. Since the late '90s, we have succeeded in reintroducing Swarovski into the fashion and jewelry industries, and in 2002 it was our mission to reintroduce ourselves in a continuous way into the architecture and design arena: whence the mission to 'reinvent the chandelier' while collaborating with cutting-edge architects and product designers in that industry.
What were the reactions to the latest collection of chandeliers presented at Miami Design? Which designs did you like best?
The reaction seems to have been positive and my favorite designs are rock crystal by the Hariri sisters and Morpehus by Yves Behar, both of which integrate technology with good design.
Which collaborations have been the most rewarding and/or difficult for you thus far?
There have been collaborations with designers who did not appreciate crystals as a creative ingredient but who ended up using them in the most creative way, with boundary-breaking results.
Which of the Swarovski products do you personally enjoy most?
I love all the jewelry stones and the beads, as well as the big 'Power rings' and evening handbags, also the large tabletop objects and the precision binoculars.
You have doubled Swarovski sales and revolutionized the brand image by working with the best fashion designers and industrial designers, and by sponsoring events and artists. Where else would you like to take the brand?
I would like to see Swarovski become a highly design-driven company, catering not only to the luxury goods market, but also providing products for the masses. We challenge ourselves daily within the research and development department to invent new means of the application and use of crystal.
Through lighting, fashion and hospitality, you are turning Swarovksi into a lifestyle brand. What does that lifestyle stand for?
Lifestyle is a holistic approach to design. It is not limited to a female audience, but to the entire family.
When can we look forward to the opening of the rumored Ron Arad-designed Swarovski Hotel?
Stay tuned for that fantastic news to hit the press; you will be the first to know.
What other projects are you currently working on?
Besides our continuous sponsorship of young and up-and-coming designers in the fashion industry—support of CDDA and BFC, support of various design schools, development of our Runway Rocks jewelry collection as well as our increasing collection of Crystal Palace chandeliers. We are thrilled to be the title sponsor of Swarovski Fashion Rocks, which will take place at the Albert Hall in London on October 18th. We are proud to have launched a new advertising campaign, and we are proud to commence the launch of a new retail store concept in the third quarter of this year.