Daniel Swarovski’s sparkling legacy
Let’s start with fashion: From its beginnings in 1895, when Daniel Swarovski was perfecting his precision-cutting techniques in the Tyrolean Alps, the world’s most gifted couturiers were inspired by crystals’ transformative power. Couture’s founding father, Charles Worth, was the first, but the likes of Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jeanne Lanvin, Madeleine Vionnet and Cristobal Balenciaga were quick to follow. These iconic figures established an aesthetic of sparkling experimentation that has made crystal an essential high-fashion ingredient today. Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, Versace, Alexander McQueen and Prada—all of them modern masters who have grabbed the blazing baton. Looking to the future, Swarovski also supports programs and scholarships that nurture our rising fashion stars.
Architecture and design have provided some of the most spectacular moments in Swarovski’s history. It started in 1966 with forty futuristic Sputnik chandeliers created for the grand opening of New York’s Metropolitan Opera House. Limited-edition décor objects by leading creatives—New York art legend Keith Haring, among them—continued to be produced, until the millennium saw a major leap forward with the launch of Swarovski Crystal Palace in 2002. This initiative has allowed the likes of Zaha Hadid, Tom Dixon and Tord Boontje to reinterpret the traditional chandelier for the 21st century. A collaboration with architect Rem Koolhaas for the Venice Biennale; the V&A for London Design Festival 2014; Fredrikson Stallard for the British Independent Film Awards trophy; the Bouroullec brothers for their stunningly modern chandelier at the Palace of Versailles; and the incredible giant lens for John Pawson’s Perspectives installation, have further melded Swarovski’s name with design innovation in the cultural imagination.
Stage and screen have been a fascinating part of Swarovski’s story since the Thirties. Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Audrey Hepburn are just some of the Golden Age sirens to have lit up ‘picture houses’ with crystals. Modern Hollywood has continued to use its unique reflective qualities: think Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge; Bérénice Marlohe in Skyfall; the fabulous costumes in Black Swan; and, most recently, Disney’s live action Cinderella and those gorgeous crystal slippers. Then who can forget the dazzling Oscars backdrop? Rihanna in a glittering sheer sheath firing up the red carpet? Or Beyoncé, Madonna and Lady Gaga on stage in a blitz of crystal? That’s just a mini snapshot of Swarovski’s impact on contemporary showbiz. Add Swarovski’s venture into film production with 2013’s Romeo & Juliet, and the future of film looks bright.
Jewelry begins and ends the story. Daniel Swarovski’s original aim was to create “a diamond for everyone.” After over a century, during which the company has been instrumental in making costume jewelry an essential fashion item, even overtaking ‘real’ jewels and heirloom pieces, we can celebrate the success of his vision loudly and proudly. Milestones that mark the journey include creating (with costume jeweler Trifari) copies of Van Cleef & Arpels’ famous invisible set jewels in the Forties, and transforming Dior’s jewelry collection with the rainbow Aurora Borealis effect in the Fifties. In an interesting twist to the tale, Swarovski’s costume jewels were so successful that in 1965 it began to cut genuine gemstones for fine jewelers. Come the Eighties, the company launched its own jewelry label with signature ready-to-wear pieces—notably the Nirvana ring and the Slake bracelet—alongside leading-edge collaborations such as the Maison Martin Margiela Crystallactite collection for Atelier Swarovski. All this has ensured that the famous crystal maison has remained in fashion’s vanguard for 120 years and still counting.