Three Designers Define the Art of Illusion

“We had the chance to create a provocative personality that doesn’t remain fixed or predictable,” said designer Chris Bangle, explaining Illusions, the latest Swarovski Designer Edition Series that he designed. “Is it a cube or isn’t it a cube…?”

Chris Bangle

Actually, he might have been speaking about himself, because this legendary visionary is no stranger to controversy, having always gone where others feared to tread. As former BMW Chief of Design he was notorious for aggressive, emotional cars—models that predicted by at least a decade the kind of silhouettes that we see everywhere on today’s roads. For the last two years he has “tilted” his eye with a view to reinventing the crystal with Swarovski. The result is three revolutionary cuts—Tilted Dice, Tilted Spike, and Tilted Chaton—that change and compress the crystal’s structure to create false perspectives. Their genius is that they evoke volume, space and dimension even while appearing intrinsically flat. This 2.5D shape is profoundly unexpected… Utterly, surreally mesmerizing.

Clearly inspired by Bangle’s Illusions, three top jewelry designers with very different aesthetics have used them to design pieces for their Fall/Winter 2017 collections. Each has created a unique showcase of the myriad possibilities offered by the cuts’ futuristic geometry. We talked to Andrea Marazzini, José Azulay of UNOde50 and Philippe Ferrandis to find out more about Bangle’s “true geometry made brilliant.”

What was your first thought when you saw Chris Bangle’s crystals?
Andrea Marazzini:
 I just thought “WOW!” That’s such an amazing cut, so inspiring to work with… Suddenly so many lovely jewelry ideas ran through my mind.
Philippe Ferrandis: Swarovski has always developed fantastic, iconic new shapes. These cuts really opened my mind to new and inventive designs; they helped me to create more futuristic objects.
José Azulay: I was impressed by their originality—the profoundly unique geometry.

How did you use the crystals’ deliberate imbalance to create pieces that have balance and harmony?
 Being myself slightly unbalanced, I immediately had a good feeling about these shapes! It’s true that they are unconventional cuts, but because they are so geometrical, it has been easy enough to apply my own technique.
PF: We must use “flat” stones in jewelry. It’s a technical requirement, impossible to avoid if we want to make wearable pieces. I played with a “disorganized order” in the metal structure of this collection.
JA: I tried to keep in mind UNOde50’s design DNA—I bring the crystals into my world and balance their brilliance with metal and suede.

Can you describe how you blended the crystals with your brand’s design DNA?
 My style’s distinctive trait is the harmony between sinuously rounded shapes, linearity and minimalism. I’m attracted to the geometrical universe of the 70s, so I’m fascinated by the concept of optical distortion identified by Victor Vasarely, father of Op Art. It wasn’t difficult to create a collection that amalgamates the two concepts: crystals are protagonists and the wire runs between them like a hypnotic snake.
PF: The deconstructed aspect of the cut suggested the square metal frames. We mixed them with metal tubes to introduce fluidity. The pearls add purity, softness and femininity. I chose black to enhance the cut’s inherent strength and mystery.
JA: The cut transmits a lot of power, combining amazing beauty with very strong edges, but I feel very comfortable designing with them—it’s a natural fit. It means I can incorporate them without losing UNOde50’s personality.

Did you try to use the optical tricks that the shapes play on the eye?
 It was a huge advantage to have this magical aspect. I made use of the cut’s inherent impression of volume to add volume to my pieces.
AM: Falling into the illusionary labyrinth is inevitable. The attraction is the jewelry’s physical construction fused with the optical effect of the crystals.

What did it take to develop the prototypes?
 The crystals impressed me at first sight, so the main collection was easy to conceive. However, the process for the iconic piece was different: I started with a concept, then changed everything. The eventual prototype was a long way from the initial drawing. It was really stimulating, and I thank Swarovski and Chris Bangle for this amazing work.
PF: As soon as I saw the crystals I had an idea of what I was going to create. We designed a number of pieces during the process, and then selected the most wearable for the collection.
JA: It took me more than a month to develop the designs. I did several tests and drawings until I arrived at the collection that perfectly integrates Swarovski and Bangle’s light-filled innovation with the beauty of UNOde50.