The Swarovski Collective was founded in 1999 as a collaboration between Nadja Swarovski, Isabella Blow and Alexander McQueen with the objective of pushing the boundaries of crystal use in fashion. As innovation is a key brand value for Swarovski, this program is a natural extension of the company’s mission.

Since its launch, the Swarovski Collective has collaborated with some of the most remarkable fashion designers—Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler, Marios Schwab, Alexander McQueen—and is pleased to celebrate its 16th year of designer support with the first annual Swarovski Collective program.


150 COLLABORATIONS

IN 16 YEARS


SWAROVSKI IN FASHION

The Swarovski story began in 1895 in Wattens, Austria, when Daniel Swarovski invented a machine for cutting and polishing crystal. His invention not only revolutionized crystal manufacturing; it went on to inspire the worlds of jewelry, fashion, art, design and cinema over the next 120 years.

LEFT: Christian Dior and Swarovski Advertisement. RIGHT: Lanvin, 1969 IMAGES: Swarovski Archive

LEFT: Christian Dior and Swarovski Advertisement. RIGHT: Lanvin, 1969
IMAGES: Swarovski Archive

Swarovski’s pivotal role in fashion grew as a result of Daniel Swarovski’s relationships with the great couturiers of the 19th century, most notably Charles Frederick Worth – hailed as the Father of Haute Couture – who embroidered Swarovski crystals across his bespoke ball gowns in Trompe L’Oeil effect, to be worn by his elite clientele, including Queen Victoria. This collaboration sparked an awareness of crystal as a creative ingredient throughout the industry; its versatility as a loose stone to be sewn into garments or worn simply as jewelry became desired by couture designers and celebrities alike.

Throughout the 1920s, demand for Swarovski crystal soared, in keeping with the free-spirited and alluring aesthetic of jazz halls and flapper girls. As a result, Swarovski began supplying the era’s most illustrious designers including Jeanne Lanvin, Madeleine Vionnet and Jean Patou. 

By the 1950s, Swarovski began to flourish in the hands of iconic couture designers such as Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Cristobal Balenciaga, who were defining the new dress codes of their eras with feminine silhouettes and delicate crystal embroidery. Swarovski crystals are still an essential component for today’s fashion houses, including Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino, who consistently use crystal to embellish their seasonal collections. 

In 1956, Swarovski created the Aurora Borealis, a crystal effect named after the shimmering rainbow spectrum of the Northern Lights. The crystal and its multicolored facets captivated the attention of Christian Dior, who used it to hand-embroider his exquisite creations, many of which reside in the Swarovski archive.

LEFT: Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 1999. RIGHT: Swarovski Crystal Mesh, 1999. IMAGES: Swarovski Archive

LEFT: Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 1999. RIGHT: Swarovski Crystal Mesh, 1999.
IMAGES: Swarovski Archive

The success of Aurora Borealis was followed by many pioneering developments; the creation of Hot-Fix crystals enabled designers to apply them directly to fabrics without the need for settings. The crystal pearl, which is almost indistinguishable from its pristine, natural counterpart, continues to be popular for trimming and embellishment amongst designers today.

In 1993, Swarovski created crystal mesh. This fluid, metal material covered in small crystals was applauded for its flexible nature as a sparkling, draped fabric. It was quickly embraced by the fashion industry, and has gone on to shine in the creations of some of the most cutting-edge talents of the 21st century, including Mary Katrantzou, Hussein Chalayan and Christopher Kane, who also used it to create his Atelier Swarovski Bolster jewelry collection.

Hussein Chalayan, Spring/Summer 2007 IMAGES: Swarovski Archive

Hussein Chalayan, Spring/Summer 2007
IMAGES: Swarovski Archive

When Nadja Swarovski joined the family business in 1995, she was determined to re-establish her great great-grandfather’s connections with the fashion industry, and set about implementing a series of visionary design programs that aim to revive the use of crystal among the creative industries. 

In 1999, following an introduction from Isabella Blow, Swarovski supplied a young Alexander McQueen with crystals for his Spring/Summer 1999 collection. The designer worked spectacularly with crystal mesh, and the collaboration provided the blueprint for the Swarovski Collective.

The Swarovski Collective has since supported over 150 designers across New York, London, Milan and Paris, providing over 100 million crystals for some of the most avant-garde fashion looks of the past decade. Previous Collective members include Joseph Altuzarra, Rodarte, Alexander Wang, Hussein Chalayan, Anthony Vaccarello, Christopher Kane and Viktor&Rolf. 

The Collective is just one of the ways in which the crystal house demonstrates its commitment to supporting fashion talents. This support extends to emerging, as well as established designers – Swarovski has been encouraging students to experiment with crystal across jewelry and fashion via scholarships at iconic institutions such as London’s Central Saint Martin’s and New York’s Parsons for over 10 years. 

In the US, Swarovski proudly supports the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Fashion Awards, where it sponsors awards for up-and-coming talents across Womenswear, Menswear and Accessories, and in France, ANDAM, the prestigious program that has launched some of the industry’s brightest stars.

With its rich couture heritage, support of contemporary designers and continued commitment to championing creative talents around the world, Swarovski has cemented its position as an essential high fashion ingredient.

Sketch: Erdem Spring/Summer 2009 Collection

Sketch: Erdem Spring/Summer 2009 Collection

15 MOMENTS IN CRYSTAL INNOVATION