Catching up with Nadja Swarovski, whose family’s firm has been lighting up Hollywood for nearly 80 years.
As the head of the 122-year-old Swarovski brand, Nadja Swarovski has a front row seat to the sparkliest events in the world, including this Sunday’s Academy Awards, where the Austrian crystal firm will for the tenth year in a row light up the Dolby Theatre.
In collaboration with Oscars Production Designer Derek McLane, the 89th Oscars stage will feature more than 300,000 crystals on set pieces and the dramatic curtain.
Swarovski has a long history in Hollywood costume that started with adorning the ruby red slippers in The Wizard of Oz, and continues to today; the brand is sponsoring Saturday's “Sketch to Screen” program at UCLA, and has a collaboration with Disney’s forthcoming Beauty and the Beast film.
The brand is also a key player in the fashion world, sponsoring up-and-coming designers and providing materials for their collections; Swarovski’s presence at the recent New York Fashion Week amounted to 3 million crystals on the runway collections of Jason Wu and Creatures of the Wind among others.
This award show season, the brand is debuting an Atelier Fine Jewelry Collection on the red carpet, with pieces handcrafted in Paris that combine crystals, diamonds and sustainable gold. The collection will be available at retail next year. We recently caught up with the London-based Nadja, great-great granddaughter of Daniel Swarovski, who founded the company in the Austrian Alps in 1895, to talk fashion and film in L.A.
Have you been to the Oscars for all 10 years?
No I have not, it’s a challenging time because you have fashion week and I’m playing hooky from board meetings right now, too. But we’ve actually been coming to L.A. this time of year longer than that, since 1999, when we were in a suite at the L’Ermitage Hotel with Jimmy Choo seeing stylists. I remember the first time I went to the Oscars I was so intimidated. I was behind Sarah Jessica Parker who was wearing this huge dress and it was so glamorous.
How has Swarovski’s Oscars focus changed in the past 18 years?
The focus when we started was on the red carpet, then we started working with costume designers and set designers, then with the Costume Designers Guild, then with UCLA on “Sketch to Screen” and the year long program with have there with Deborah Landis. We’re now doing a film with UCLA graduate students on Swarovski Waterschools, which provide clean drinking water around the world. So filmmakers will be going to various locations in India, Uganda and Brazil documenting that work.
Tell me about the new fine jewelry collection.
This has always been our dilemma, we’ve been trying to adorn actresses on the red carpet with our jewelry, but it doesn’t make sense. For handbags and gowns, it’s amazing to have crystals. But for us, this is the ultimate solution, 18 karat gold with lab-created diamonds sustainably sourced, the diamonds cut the same way we do the crystal, then made by a jeweler in Paris. You feel the craftsmanship in the pieces. We’ll see how it will be received. The designs are very delicate, and the combination of crystal and diamonds works.
What will you wear on Sunday?
I was always so worried then I realized, I’m not the celebrity. For me, I have a black dress, then it’s all about the jewelry. I get last dibs on our jewelry collection. I have plenty of other crystal, too, and my own jewelry designed by my mother.
You’ve collaborated with so many fashion designers over the years, supporting their clothing collections and tapping them to design Atelier Swarovski jewelry capsules. The Rosie Assoulin and Peter Pilotto collections are in stores now.
It’s been amazing to see how many of the young designers we’ve worked with are now established designers, including Proenza Schouler and Zac Posen. In terms of Atelier Swarovski, we just launched a collection at New York Fashion Week with Jason Wu, who showed it on the catwalk and it will come out in fall.
What else is coming up for you this year?
We are continuing our collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and this year will be giving a Swarovski Award for Positive Change at the awards ceremony in June. We're about to launch Atelier Swarovski Home, one of the designers doing that is Barbara Barry based in LA, and another is Greg Lynn who is in Venice Beach. He is doing a collection of bourbon-inspired drink wear which is totally specific and amazing. That will be in Ron Robinson. After the Oscars, I'll be headed from L.A to Paris for fashion week, then to Art Basel in June, and we're doing something in Hong Kong later in the year.
I don't know how you do it all!
We have to make the world a sparkling place, that's the mission!
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