MILAN — Nadja Swarovski is a businesswoman, but she is also socially conscious. Since joining the family-run, Austria-based company in 1995, Swarovski has been committed to education, promoting emerging talents, enhancing the focus on sustainability and empowering women.
In 2013, she set up the Swarovski Foundation, a nonprofit organization and a platform for the company’s philanthropic projects.
Ahead of the Anna Dello Russo book launch event topped by an auction and a dinner here on Feb. 24, Swarovski sat with WWD to reflect on the industry and sharing some insights on the projects she’s working on.
“It’s amazing to see how the world has changed and how the industries have changed,” said Swarovski, who is also a member of the company’s executive board. “A lot of people are grateful to [the] Harvey Weinstein [scandal] because of the positive impact [his story] has had, that’s definitely a silver lining around the cloud,” she said recalling how the #MeToo movement has helped individuals stand up “with a sense of accountability and responsibility.”
Swarovski insisted “females seem to be the most fragile members of society, yet by the same token, it’s the females, the mothers who can have the most positive impact on the family, so for us it’s really important to focus on those elements.” The executive stressed the importance of education, pointing out that “awareness is the first step of change.” This resonates with the diversified projects aimed at supporting women’s power and talent Swarovski works on, on a daily basis.
According to Swarovski, educational programs in Africa, China and Dubai have demonstrated that “if you can support a female designer and empower her, she will raise different children, she will raise her children to have respect of their mothers and that will create a different person so it’s almost like a long-term plan to empowering people in a positive way.”
While acknowledging that a lot has been done, Swarovski is determined there is still much to do. For example “with this #MeToo movement it’s really been shocking to hear the statistics of the discrepancy of salaries between male and female,” she mused.
Upcoming projects are aimed at supporting a more environmentally friendly approach, as well. Swarovski is teaming with “The Nature Conservancy,” a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, to replant trees in the Amazon rainforest. The executive also praised the company’s effort in communicating and raising awareness. “The business can support that bigger picture, it becomes the mean to do good. It’s a paradigm shift and it’s really synonymous to our generation of creative problem solving,” she said.
The “Swarovski Water school” division, which promotes educational programs on the scarcity and pollution of water, has partnered with the University of California, Los Angeles on a documentary called “Waterschool,” which follows the experiences of several young female students who live along six of the world’s major rivers: the Amazon, Mississippi, Danube, Nile, Ganges and Yangtze. “This film is all about educating young children about the water issues, and these things are different: in Africa, it’s about sanitation, in Brazil it’s about scarcity,” Swarovski explained. The Swarovski Foundation is also working on initiatives aimed at preventing water’s pollution with plastic.
Business-wise, the company introduced its fine jewelry range under the Atelier Swarovski line at the Oscars, last year. One year later, the brand is banking on the traceability of the pipeline to further enhance the customers’ engagement; lab created diamonds, together with synthetic gemstones or sustainably sourced gemstones and fair trade gold meet the consumer’s interest in sustainable products, which Swarovski believes is subconscious among the younger generations — a “collective consciousness.”
Swarovski partnered with Dello Russo, whose auction’s proceeds will help the Swarovski Foundation fund scholarship programs for students at Central Saint Martins. Swarovski has been partnering with the school for 15 years as well as with London-based Royal College of Arts; New York’s Parson, and the Condé Nast School in Shanghai, among others.
The executive explained she joined Dello Russo’s cause because “it’s so synergistic and it makes so much sense, it demonstrates how fashion is a strong mean of self-expression and we just felt her entire concept of really sharing her collection with the world was such a fantastic idea.”
Recalling her earliest days at the company, she reflected on when she met Isabella Blow, whom she feels has a lot in common with Dello Russo. That meeting paved the way for Swarovski — the woman and the company — to “really get back to the forefront of fashion.” The company has supported talented designers such as Lee Alexander McQueen, Phillip Treacy, Erdem Moralioglu and Jason Wu, among others.
In keeping with supporting new talents, Swarovski is gearing up to host a panel discussion at UCLA ahead of next week’s Oscars night with nominated costume designers.
Most recently, Swarovski sponsored the “Commonwealth Fashion Exchange,” an initiative aimed at showcasing design and artisanal talents across the 52 countries of the Commonwealth. The project was unveiled with an exhibit hosted by the Duchess of Cambridge with a reception at Buckingham Palace on Feb. 19.
“Women in Africa, or in Third World countries who can’t even leave their house because it’s a physical threat if they do, they stay at home and they do their craft there, so that’s certainly something we are looking to support,” she explained, anticipating that the exhibit will fly to New York to the FIT museum in September.