The transformation of a sparkling brand that is now worth billions
Nadja was born in Austria (in 1970) and educated in Europe and the US where she obtained two degrees in Art History and Foreign Languages at the Methodist University of Dallas, Texas. She then went on to take a specialised diamonds course at the Gemology Institute of New York and various Marketing and Communication Strategies courses at Harvard, Insead and Columbia.
Nadja Swarovski has transformed the brand’s image and has come up with various new and creative ways to use crystal which have revolutionised the industry. The new designs feature collaborations with top designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Ron Arad and Mary Katranzou, amongst others. Last February, and for the fourth year running, more than 6.500 Swarovski pieces were used to decorate the stage at the 2012 Oscars in Hollywood, and the brand has added extra glamour to the wardrobe for the new James Bond film, in another collaboration which has been ongoing for several years now.
Nadja, how did the Swarovski empire begin?
In 1892, my great-great-grandfather Daniel Swarovski, who was originally from Czechoslovakia, invented a revolutionary electric crystal cutting machine which allowed him to found his company in Wattens, Austria with the motto ‘‘to constantly improve on quality’’. Since then the company has become the worldwide leader for the crystal industry and has applied its talent to jewellery, fashion, accessories, lighting, interior design, culture and research and development. I was fascinated by the stories my parents told me about the work Swarovski undertook with the likes of Coco Chanel, Christian Dior and Elsa Schiaparelli. Nowadays, Swarovski fashion and accessories are worn by an infinite number of celebrities, from Beyoncé to Dita Von Teese and a great number of Hollywood stars.
How has the company developed?
The Swarovski group is currently registering a sales volume of 2.66 billion euros, it employs more than 28,000 staff and produces in 8 countries; Austria, China, Czech Republic, India, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Thailand and the US – boasting a global distribution in more than 42 countries and representation in all the world’s continents. The company produces more than 50,000 designs a year, all of excellent quality and owns more than 1,800 shops all over the world including flagship stores in Tokyo Ginza, Paris, the Peace Hotel in Shanghai and Oxford Street in London. In Spain, Swarozski operates 120 boutiques.
After completing your studies, did you join the Swarovski group straight away?
No. I love art so I started working at Larry Gagosian, one of the most influential and powerful art galleries in the world. From there I went on to work with Eleanor Lambert the legendary fashion PR in New York.
You are a member of the Executive Board and as such you have reinvented the brand’s image and revamped its shops.
The Japanese architect, Tokujin Yoshioka, has helped us to create the ‘Crystal Forest’, an entirely new shop experience. It is much more modern and we have replaced the brand’s traditional blue and red colours with white crystal and steel thereby transforming the establishment into a crystal experience centred on sensual pleasures. Changing the commercial atmosphere is a sales strategy as it has been proven that psychology and architecture are very much linked in creating the perfect atmosphere to inspire shoppers. Soon all our shops will have to adapt to the new look.
You also created Atelier Swarovski and the creative services centre.
These were the first things I did at Swarovski. I am fascinated by art history so I found my niche within the firm; making crystal into a work of art. I was working in Hong Kong for Swarovski and was very inspired.
The Chinese love crystal. On returning to New York I opened the first showroom and twice a year we would present a jewellery range designed exclusively by Christopher Kane, Proenza Scholer or Doo Ri, amongst others.
What projects do you have planned for the future?
We will continue working with the Oscars in Hollywood as we have been doing for the past four years. We will also continue work on ‘Crystal Palace’, an innovative lighting project I developed which also reinvents the traditional chandelier. Designers who have worked with us include Zaha Hadid, Yves Bhar, Tom Dixon, Ron Arad, Humberto Campana, to name but a few. We are preparing a new exhibition for Miami Basel and Salon Mobile in Milan and we want to continue expanding within the Asian market. We will continue collaborating in film and television and I want to develop the humanitarian side of the company further by launching the Swarovski Foundation which will bring together all the projects we currently support, which are nearly all to do with women or children, as well as setting up new ones.
Is it difficult to balance family life with so much work?
I have a lot of help at home, and although I do travel a lot, when I am at home my three children wake me up in the morning and I spend time with them as a group and individually, as I believe it is important to see how each one of them is doing. My husband and I have various engagements but I try to limit them to what is strictly necessary so I can put my children to bed at night.
What do you do in your free time, if you have any?
As you know, I studied art, so I tend to take my children to museums and they love it. It is very good for them from a very young age as it has a significant creative impact on them and that stays with you forever. Interestingly, looking at art makes me happy.
What is your relationship with Mallorca?
My parents have been spending time in Mallorca for many years. They started visiting the island when they were invited to stay with some great friends of theirs that live in Valldemossa and they ended up buying their own place on the northern coast. Every day we have more friends who decide to spend time on the island or to buy a house here. As a family we all love the colour of the water in Mallorca and the tranquility. I consider it to be my second home. •