On Monday, Swarovski unveiled its first collection under the creative direction of Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert, the beloved fashion industry figure whose work has spanned editorial, design and street-style domination.
Engelbert began working with the Swiss crystal company in 2016 as a consultant. (You may remember her contributions to the company’s limited-edition “Book of Dreams” and related activations through its B2B division, Swarovski Professionals.) Last year, though, she took on a bigger, more involved role: company-wide creative director — a first for the 125-year-old company.
Though the gig wasn’t announced until May 2020, “I started when the pandemic started. A year ago, March,” Engelbert tells me over Zoom from her office in Milan. She’s standing in a room filled with boards featuring the lookbook for her first Swarovski collection — an expressive, crystal-centric array of jewelry — next to a round table displaying the pieces themselves, organized by color. “This is my CNN office,” she jokes, speaking through a headset.
At the beginning of her tenure as creative director, “it was a lot of directional work,” Engelbert remembers. But the product aspect of the job came in early, “because I couldn’t split the two.” Though much of the workflow has changed due to the ongoing pandemic (much more time on Zoom, she says), Swarovski was able to stick with the typical schedule for this launch: “We would be ready to sell in store in February,” she explains. “When you see [the collection] for the first time, you’ll be able to pre-order. It’s all been a Covid-time challenge, but I’m very happy that they made it relatively fast.”
Collection #1 — named after Article #1, the first crystal Daniel Swarovski ever sketched — includes all kinds of jewelry, from necklaces and earrings and rings to body chains and vests, with an emphasis on color and the geometry. “I started from the basics of the basics. I went farther down the archive, to the material,” Engelbert says. “It doesn’t happen everyday where you meet a company that owns the material.”
Engelbert was particularly inspired by the founder’s hand drawings of crystals: “I was very fascinated by how it’s such a precise, scientific approach of design, of the geometrical, technical drawing of the crystal. It’s such a logical approach, but then the result is totally magic.”
The designs are playful, with a big emphasis on color, shape and size (think big “maxi” crystals) — but without ever taking attention away from the stones themselves. “I tried to sometimes take off design to let the crystal shine off its own light,” Engelbert explains of the decision to remove certain coatings and settings in order to better show them off. “Color for me is very important for the collection — it’s, of course, something that I personally love, but it’s also something that’s embedded into the crystal.”
All together, there are 166 SKUs, available online beginning on Feb. 21 and in stores on April 1. Prices start at $49 and go up to $1,790.
Having worked in the fashion industry for so long, she’s used to an expedited timeline for projects. But when you’re working within such a large enterprise — not to mention, one that’s been around for over a century — that isn’t always possible. In her role, Engelbert oversees not only commercial product, but campaigns (for both the B2B business and the collection she designed), packaging, store concepts and overall brand direction. She says it “has been really a dream to work on, even though it’s been challenging. There’s a lot of things to change in such a big company, it’s not really the fastest process, but everybody is hyper-excited and we just can’t wait to show it.”
Engelbert’s first campaign for the company brings in some beloved faces like Adwoa Aboah, Lexi Boling and Tess McMillan, as well as industry legend Penelope Tree into the Swarovski wonderland. She also wanted to ensure there were men among the cast, to emphasize that this jewelry is for everyone: “My dream is to see as many jeweled men as women.”
Ultimately, what Engelbert wants to communicate with this inaugural offering — and with her vision for Swarovski more broadly — is that accessorizing is meant to be expressive, but also personal. “When I say ‘playful,’ it’s about not taking it too seriously — be bold and very serious about what you do, but at the same time, allow yourself to play,” she says. “For me, the core of the message is to have fun with this beautiful, creative element that is the crystal.”
See the lookbook for Collection #1 in the gallery, below.
Plus, some of the product offering from the line:
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