The Swarovski mystery, memories, and celebrities as told by creative director Nathalie Colin

The Swarovski mystery, memories, and celebrities as told by creative director Nathalie Colin

All that glitters

Text: Andrea Sim

At helm of design for a brand that's over a century old, Nathalie Colin talks the elemental — Swarovski's surprises, creativity and of course, crystals

From the perspective of an unwitting bystander, the idea of Swarovski 20 years ago could probably be abridged as a faceted, crystal swan, glimpsed sitting in the glass cabinet in a relative's home who just might have whole host of other animal figurines to along with it. Two decades later, sightings of Swarovski are far more common in its jewellery: those stackable crystal cuffs, the addictive Remix charm bracelets. But regardless of the type of glittery object favoured from the brand over the years, the very same desire to own its pieces in the multiples and, amass an arsenal worth a humble brag, lives on. To say it's purely the magpie effect would be a disservice.

Underneath its glimmering facade is storied history spanning 123 years. Beyond its ubiquitous home decor and jewellery, a cardinal part to play in the worlds of haute couture and pop culture. It is the stuff of memories, yet relevant today by constantly evolving. As we learn from the woman at helm of design at Swarovski — creative director Nathalie Colin — the brand, a cocktail of mystery, creativity, and partnerships.

The Swarovski mystery, memories, and celebrities as told by creative director Nathalie Colin (фото 1)

Let's talk about the fall 2018 collection. What did you want to convey through its design?
I am really happy because I think it reflects the whole fairytale that I wanted to tell. I wanted the collection to be almost like an escape from reality, where women can adorn themselves with fox rings, or spider brooches and necklaces made from the branches of magical trees. I wanted this sense of magic, and I could really feel it in the collection. 

What are your favourite pieces?
The fox ring, which I love for its personality and character. We spent a lot of time designing it because the expression of the animal is so very important. It had to be gentle and caring, yet protective. But at the same time, I wanted it to look witty too. At first, its snout was a little too big, so we tweaked it to have it pointier and softer. 

What's an unexpected way you style your jewellery?
What I like is to create a sense of mystery. If it's a huge necklace, I will wear it under a transluscent shirt to tone down the glamour of such a spectacular piece. It then becomes great for the day and not just the night. It'll shine through a chiffon top.

The brand has such rich and interesting beginnings. Tell us more.
When it started out in Wattens in 1895, our founder Daniel Swarovski had production located in the middle of the mountains as he wanted to be further away from the competition, to prevent them from copying his inventions with regards to crystal cutting. He had a strong connection with artists, and was a visionary. Then, the Swarovski family would drive their little car to Paris with the back full of crystal stones, and sell them to the fashion houses there. They worked with Schiaparelli, but Coco Chanel was one of the first designers that really promoted crystals. She was doing a lot of fashion jewellery then as she'd felt that fine jewellery was a bit boring; people couldn't wear such precious pieces too often because it was dangerous. Hence, she thought crystals were fantastic as they have the preciousness of fine jewellery, but they are more accessible and easier to wear. Swarovski's connection with Coco Chanel was very strong from day one. 

Swarovski has very much evolved over the years. How would you describe it today?
I think our identity is very much multi-faceted, just like a crystal. The brand DNA is about bringing brilliance to people's lives. One on hand, it's built on such rich heritage having been around since 1895, but it's also very modern. We aren't a company with a vintage feel to it. The woman who we speak to is very international as we are present in 17o countries, and I have to keep that in mind when I design the collection. There is not one woman, but many, though what they have in common is the fact that they are modern. They work hard at their careers, but also with personal goals like family. They need to feel empowered and strong.

The Swarovski mystery, memories, and celebrities as told by creative director Nathalie Colin (фото 2)

You mentioned that Swarovski's founder worked with fashion houses back in the day, and this still spirit of partnership is still very much alive at the brand today. Is there a designer you would love to have collaborate?
Probably a brand that's young, as they tend to be bolder in their designs. There's a Brazilian designer who lives in New York that I like. I fell in love with the name of the brand first, then the designs. It's called Fearless Women, or Femmes sans Peur in French. It is such a strong message. I saw them on Instagram and they wrote to me to say that they've started to incorporate crystals in their shoes and I thought that was very cool. 

Do you remember your first piece of Swarovski jewellery?
Yes, I got it from a vintage store and it has Swarovski stones from the '50s, in a very beautiful turquoise colour. 

What's your personal jewellery collection like?
Too big (laughs). I have many, many drawers full. 

And your best memory with Swarovski?
I think it's really the transformation we give. Years ago, we had an event in Paris for some customers at our office with our stylists and make-up artists, and I remember that there was one particular lady whom I thought wasn't too comfortable with herself. She was beautiful, but you could feel the lack of confidence. I spent quite a long time with her trying to build it up and convince her to try on different colours and styles she wasn't used to. At the end of the day, she really opened up. We had professional images taken of the attendees at the start and end of the day, and it was so touching to see her leave with more confidence. She almost looked like a different woman and that was just incredible. 

Swarovski collaborates with designers for the stage outfits of musicians like Beyoncé and Selena Gomez, and they always look stunning. Which one truly blew you away?
There are so many! Everytime you'd think this'll be the one, but you know... Last year, for the Super Bowl 2017, Lady Gaga wore an outfit by Versace with Swarovski crystals that was just amazing. Last Friday, I attended a concert of a disco queen from the '70s and '80s in Paris — Gloria Gaynor, who sang I Will Survive. She had a brilliant necklace from Swarovski on, and you couldn't help but pay attention to it. People were literally calling me after the concert to ask if her necklace was Swarovski. Amazing.