Swarovski | A Look at the History of our #CAFA2016 Partner

Swarovski has played a pivotal role in the world of fashion for the past 120 years, demonstrating its commitment to both emerging and established designers. The brand will sponsor two of the CAFA 2016 accolades: The Swarovski Emerging Talent of the Year Award for Accessory Design and The Swarovski Emerging Talent of the Year Award for Fashion Design. With its rich heritage and support of creative talents worldwide, Swarovski is a true leader in the international fashion industry.

Swarovski in Fashion

Swarovski-crystallized flowers were featured prominently in the AW16 Collection of CAFA-nominated designer Tanya Taylor. | Photo: Eli Schmidt

Swarovski’s history dates back to 1895 in Wattens, Austria, when founder Daniel Swarovski invented a machine for cutting and polishing crystal. This revolutionary innovation would deeply impact both fashion and jewelry design for the next 120 years.

As a result of Swarovski’s relationships with the most renowned couturiers of the 19th century, crystal became an essential creative material throughout the fashion world. The brand gained international prominence when demand for crystal increased throughout the1920s. Swarovski supplied the era’s most celebrated designers, such as Jeanne Lanvin. The delicate crystal embroidery of Cristobal Balenciaga and Coco Chanel was achieved with the addition of Swarovski crystals to the era’s definitive, feminine silhouettes.

In 1956, Swarovski created the Aurora Borealis, a crystal effect named for the shimmering rainbow spectrum of the Northern Lights. Captivated by the crystal’s multicolored facets, legendary designer Christian Dior used it to embroider his magnificent creations.

CAFA Nominee Thomas Tait’s AW2016 Collection featured Swarovski crystal. | Photo: Eli Schmidt

The triumph of Aurora Borealis was followed by countless pioneering developments, such as the creation of Hot-Fix crystals, which enabled designers to apply the adornment directly to fabrics without the need for settings. Decades later, in 1993, Swarovski created crystal mesh, a fluid, metal material covered in small crystals and applauded for its flexible nature as a sparkling, draped fabric. It has gone on to shine in the creations of noteworthy fashion talents such as Christopher Kane.

Swarovski’s crystals remain an essential component in contemporary fashion design, and are consistently used by the world’s top brands –such as Prada & Valentino –as a means to enhance seasonal collections.

Nadja Swarovski: A Biography

Nadja Swarovski was born in Germany in 1970. She studied at Southern Methodist University in Texas, Sotheby’s Institute of Art and the Gemological Institute of America in New York City. After beginning her career at the Gagosian Gallery, she joined the Swarovski family business in 1995, a century after it was founded by her great-great-grandfather. Since then, she has both initiated and overseen the crystal purveyor’s successful collaborations in the fashion, jewelry, architecture, design, film and art industries.

Under Nadja’s direction, Swarovski has implemented a series of innovative design programs to position Swarovski at the forefront of design and consumer trends. Early in her career, she worked with the iconic Isabella Blow who supported her vision of looking at Swarovski’s heritage and bringing this to the forefront of the brand’s contemporary image. In 1999, she collaborated with Alexander McQueen for his Spring/Summer collection. McQueen’s spectacular collaboration with Swarovski became the model for the Swarovski Collective.

Swarovski Collective x Thomas Tait — “Swarovski crystal was placed on the models right before the presentation, organic to each look—peppering a collar here, a hemline there.” | Photo: Eli Schmidt

The Swarovski Collective program supports both emerging and established fashion talents whilst encouraging creativity and innovation with crystals. Since the success of the McQueen collaboration, the Swarovski Collective has assisted over 150 designers  across the various fashion weeks to include New York, London, Paris and Milan. It has provided over 100 million crystals for some of the most daring fashion looks of the past decade.

The Collective is just one of the ways in which Swarovski demonstrates its commitment to supporting fashion talents worldwide. As evidenced by its partnership with the CFDA, BFC, and CAFA, Swarovski is committed as an organization to designers around the globe. Additionally, under Nadja’s direction, Swarovski has encouraged fashion and jewelry design students to experiment with crystal via scholarships at the world’s leading educational institutions for over ten years. These include Central Saint Martins in London, Parsons School of Design in New York and La Salle in Shanghai.

To learn more about Swarovski, visit the brand’s website , and follow their social pages below.

Instagram: @Swarovski

Twitter: @Swarovski

Facebook: @Swarovski


Text by Julia Martineau


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