Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Milestones issue 09/10/2012

Nadja Swarovski learned everything she knows about the Council of Fashion Designers of America from the source.

This story first appeared in the September 10, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In the early Nineties, Swarovski, a member of the executive board of her family’s Swarovski crystal business, left the art world—she had worked for Sotheby’s and Gagosian Gallery—for the glitter of fashion, taking a job as a communications coordinator with Eleanor Lambert, then 92 years old.

“The first thing she made me do was go clean her files, and I was absolutely insulted,” Swarovski laughs. “But then I started to go through her files and found personal letters to Jackie O, and vice versa, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and all these amazing people. She had an incredible ability to detect talent and connect it to different people to do something. She was such a good catalyst. I learned so much about the CFDA from her point of view directly.”

Fast-forward two decades, and Swarovski herself plays a significant role in the organization. For the past decade, the Swarovski company has underwritten the annual CFDA Fashion Awards, and for seven of those, it also sponsored the night’s three awards for emerging talent (formerly the Perry Ellis Award, now named the Swarovski Awards). Swarovski supports the awards with $1 million each year.

“We felt that supporting the CFDA was our way of giving back to the American fashion industry as a neutral force,” she adds. “We’re not a fashion brand, we’re only an ingredient within the fashion industry. [This is a way of] supporting the creative community and celebrating the platform that celebrates creativity.”

Swarovski is full of praise for American fashion, which, she says, “had always been so commercially orientated compared to Europe, but the creativity we have seen here in the past 10 years has been phenomenal. Suddenly the young ones—like Proenza Schouler and Rodarte—are now winning the senior category awards.”