As a young girl, I remember sitting in the lounge at home staring at my parents’ collection of Swarovski fi gurines. I would sit for hours, playing with them and watching as the light refracted through the crystal that formed the small creatures. Swarovski, synonomous with crystal, has always played a role in my family – my mom used to wear the crystal tattoos and we have collected the décor items for years. Perhaps it is because of these old family ties to the luxury brand that when my editor told me I would be going to Istanbul to attend the launch of the Swarovski Spring/Summer 2017 collection, I was overwhelmed by a feeling not only of anticipation but also of nostalgia.
Arriving in Istanbul at 5am was disorienting to say the least – the drive from the airport to the hotel was surreal and I kept trying to make the connection between the world of crystals and this Eastern European city. From the pastel-coloured, Swarovski-esqe invitation I knew that the collection was entitled Crystal Gardens, but that was all I knew about it, and I’d have to wait until the evening to discover more.
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I spent my first day in the city walking through the streets like a deer in the headlights. Well done, Istanbul, you caught my attention. The streets were filled with people going about their day – walking, working, catching trams – and with trac like I had never seen before (so much of it that at times the vehicles literally didn’t move). Yet, in among all the busyness, I saw tall trees towering over each Istiklal (avenue), green lawns of the parks flanking the roads, and mosaic-decorated mosques on just about every corner, and heard the call to prayer that reverberated through the city five times a day. The contrast between the city’s ancient heritage and its modern elements was almost overwhelming.
Completely captivated by the small side streets, old buildings and columns of Turkish Delight everywhere, I reached the Bosphorus Strait – the dividing sea between the Asian and European sides of the city – and the Galata bridge, which links the Modern City of Istanbul to the Old City. I realised that I had been walking for over three hours, completely distracted by the mix of cultures and diverse scenery around me. That night at dinner I started to understand the connection between Istanbul and the crystal powerhouse. Founded in 1895 by Daniel Swarovski l, the Swarovski brand was built because of one man’s belief in the beauty of crystal, the diversity of light and the importance of tradition. He was not only a visionary and entrepreneur but also a scientist. He revolutionised the crystal industry when he invented a machine for cutting and polishing the stones.
And today, his legacy lives on – the company is now run by Robert Buchbauer, a fifth-generation Swarovski family member. The brand continues to evolve: along with adopting the Pointiage technique (enabling ultra-precision work to be done by hand – with brilliant results), Swarovski collaborates with couturiers such as Chanel and Christian Dior to custom-make garments. Nathalie Colin, the creative director for the past eight years, works closely with designers before Paris Fashion Week, where she designs encrusted, once-o pieces for the runway shows. Swarovski was established (and is still based) in the lush valley of Tyrol in Austria – surrounded by mountain peaks, glossy lakes and evergreen trees. So it’s little wonder that, having developed in these surroundings, the Swarovski brand has always incorporated elements of nature in its collections. It was also no surprise, then, that the latest collection was entitled ‘Crystal Gardens’.
At the launch, Colin explained that Swarovski regularly includes classic pieces in its collections but that she works hard to introduce new items – achieving a delicate balance between tradition and innovation, and pushing the boundaries of what crystals can do. She also spoke about the benefit for the modern, busy woman of accessories (or ‘successories’, as she calls them). ‘Women want to be able to move seamlessly from a day at the office to drinks with friends, and to feel sexy and confident at all times.
It is this that we always keep in mind when we design our collections, to create a range that captures the trends of the moment, provides versatile styling options, and elevates an outfit, while still allowing the wearer’s personality to shine through.’ Since the release of its first crystal mouse in 1976, the brand has grown and developed into an international success story. Still family-run and staying true to the brand’s heritage, Swarovski has changed the way women see, and wear, accessories. I’m a plain Jane when it comes to accessorising, but I now understand the importance of these pieces in a woman’s wardrobe – and I can’t wait to start building my own collection of ‘successories’.