LONDON — The family shakeup at Swarovski is gathering pace, with longtime brand champion and foundation founder Nadja Swarovski stepping down as executive board member and exiting the company as of Dec. 31.
Swarovski, who founded the Swarovski Foundation, will also quit day-to-day operations of that organization, and hold the title of chair emeritus, according to a joint statement from Swarovski and the Austria-based company.
The changes come nearly two years after Swarovski left her longstanding brand and marketing role at Swarovski as part of a corporate and management reshuffle that also involved a slew of layoffs.
At the time, her cousin and fellow board member Robert Buchbauer stepped into the role of chief executive officer, but he has since resigned to make way for a new CEO. Another relative, Mathias Margreiter, has given up his chief financial officer role. The company has initiated a search for their replacements, both of whom are likely to be from outside the family.
As reported last month, Swarovski has also welcomed a slew of new board members from around the world — and outside the founding family.
Nadja Swarovski was a longtime champion of young design talent, donating billions of crystals to budding designers, including the young Alexander McQueen, sponsoring their shows and putting money behind myriad fashion initiatives in the U.K. and the U.S., including Central Saint Martins, London Fashion Week, the Fashion Awards and the CFDA Awards.
Her team also worked closely with costume designers for the stage, screen — and many a Madonna concert.
Her passion for the family products, and pride in the brand name, extended far beyond fashion and into the worlds of lighting and architecture, too.
On her watch, Swarovski teamed with architects and designers including John Pawson, Ron Arad and Daniel Libeskind on a series of projects, and supplied the crystals for the Academy Awards stage set on many occasions.
Swarovski said in the statement she is “deeply grateful for the experience of working in my family’s business and, in particular, very closely with my father, Helmut Swarovski, who taught me so much. My time at the Swarovski company has been the most rewarding journey.”
She said that “what started with creativity and design has culminated in human empowerment and sustainability, and using Swarovski’s platform to support the environment and the community has been the greatest privilege of my career.”
Swarovski joined the company in 1995, becoming the first female member of the executive board. In 2007, she set up Atelier Swarovski, the company’s fashion, sustainably crafted jewelry, accessories and home decor line.
She oversaw the line’s implementation of non-mined diamonds and fair-trade metals within Atelier Swarovski, and brokered some 250 collaborations with designers including Christopher Kane, Viktor & Rolf, Jean Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld.
She was a sustainability pioneer, taking cues from the eco-friendly manufacturing processes used by her ancestor Daniel Swarovski 126 years ago and promoting the use of deadstock crystals in fashion and jewelry collections.
Luisa D. Delgado, chair of the board of directors, said Swarovski made an “indelible imprint on the business. Her contribution over the years has been decisive in bringing Swarovski to the forefront of the fashion industry. This will remain her legacy. We are pleased to be able to continue to count on Nadja’s involvement in the Swarovski Foundation going forward.”
Markus Langes-Swarovski, member of the board of directors, said Swarovski’s greatest legacy is the progress “that the company has taken in sustainability and ethics under her skillful direction. We are grateful for her continued involvement in the Swarovski Foundation, that is an important pillar of the sustainability commitment of the business and family.”
Until now, Nadja had been dedicating herself full-time to the Swarovski Foundation, which she created in 2013 and which has sustainability, environmental and social issues at its core.
Earlier this year, the foundation unveiled a program aimed at challenging creative talents across a variety of sectors, including design, fashion and engineering, to create, invent and make in a sustainable manner.
Known as “Swarovski Foundation Institute: Creatives for Our Future,” the new global grant program was devised with the United Nations Office for Partnerships.
The aim is to “identify and accelerate” the next generation of creative leaders in sustainability.
Earlier in December, the first cohort of young creative talents presented their final projects for sustainable development at a virtual graduation ceremony with United Nations Office for Partnerships.
Ideas presented during the ceremony included a card game that helps to teach sign language; a renewable electricity generator designed to bring power to remote rural areas; and a range of footwear created with a novel material made of kombucha cultures.
Worldwide applications for the next cohort will open in March 2022.
As reported, Swarovski International Holding AG, which is based in Wattens, Austria, is working toward separating “control and management roles,” which have historically been run by the descendants of the founder Daniel Swarovski.
As a result of that new strategy, Buchbauer and Margreiter withdrew from day-to-day operations, and are continuing “to help shape the future of the company” as members of the board.
Swarovski has said it is open to the possibility of non-family management, and that it plans to reorganize and expand the various boards of the company “to qualified, independent persons.”
The family interests, meanwhile, will be bundled in a newly established holding company.