It was always going to be a daunting challenge, turning a century-old fine cut crystal brand mostly associated with high fashion into one that was all rock and roll. But it was a challenge Swarovski creative director Nathalie Colin took on with relish. And now, three years after her brand first launched its men’s line, she can safely say she’s been more than vindicated.
A sharp contrast to the bright and colourful collection for women, Swarovski’s men’s line is dark and subdued, focusing instead on quality with understated pieces with a masculin edge. Featuring cufflinks, bracelets, key chains and pendants, the collection has proven, despite its initial risks, a great element to the crystal company’s growth as a fashion powerhouse.
Fresh off the annual watch and jewellery trade show Baselworld, where she launched new lines of watches for men and women, The Directory recently spoke with Colin, who took on her role at Swarovski in 2006, to talk fashion, the challenges of selling a crystal brand to men and where she wants to take her brand next.
Q: Has it been difficult turning a crystal brand to one that has strong presence in the fashion industry?
A: Swarovski is a brand which work with passion and love for young designers. Despite our international reputation, we kept this positive and curious attitude. We are always open to share their knowledge with new designers, we have more than 20 talented designers in our studio who brilliantly create more than 600 pieces per season so there is a lot of upcoming projects.
Q: How has the men’s line grown since its launch in 2010? How important is it to the brand?
A: Swarovski has always diversified its activity. When we launched the male line, it was in the goal to respond to all our customers’ needs. Of course we are more known for our jewellery and crystal business, but we think this line has a great potential.
Q: What about the eyewear line? How has it done since its launch?
A: Sunglasses are a hot fashion accessory and as a leading fashion jewellery brand, we are naturally interesting in categories that can reinforce our fashion signature and complete the look of a woman in terms of styling. We are very positive, the style is well appreciated and our model called Amazing has been very successful in terms of sales and is now one of our iconic products.
Q: You have had a few collaborations. How important are they to you and how do you choose your collaborators?
A: Collaboration with designers are part of our history. We have been collaborating with the greatest designers such as Christian Dior since our beginnings. It became so important for us to continue developing this kind of activity that we are implementing it in all our divisions. For example, some pieces of our FW1314 collection were designed by Shourouk.
This season, we are travelling through The Silk Road, passing by India and this was a good reason to invite Shourouk with her jewellery inspired by the Maharajah jewels. Her style is unique, innovating, feminine, rich, colourful, and opulent, not only by mixing and using strong colour gradation but also in her way of emphasising crystal stones stacking them into intricate embroidery.
Q: From your perspective, how has Swarovski evolved since you joined in 2006?
A: Today we have the chance to benefit from a pool of 500 people purely devoted to the brand, which gives us a fantastic opportunity to reinvent ourselves and to create new techniques.
I think it is really important to nurture your own style and have a strong identity. If you have this, it is easy to make collections evolve one after the other. Brand identity is key.
We also look at fashion fads, and have implemented a way to be more reactive in order not to miss a trend that would pop up suddenly.
Q: You’ve also written a book on how to style with jewellery. Any other books in the works?
A: A whole series of course, Multuiface(t)s being the first chapter. More seriously for the time being, we will focus on doing a proper launch, supporting the success of this first edition and to make it even more exciting by developing a whole interactive programme.
We can produce a similar book for men. Our male consumers are very important for us.
Q: How would you rate Swarovski’s performance in the Middle East?
A: Swarovski has very good brand perception and distribution channels in the Middle East. We are planning to expand further in key markets like the UAE, KSA, Qatar and Kuwait along with focusing on our future fashion line. Our dream for the future is for people to have Swarovski on top of their minds when thinking of the words fashion and trendy in the Middle East.
Q: Where do you want to take Swarovski next?
A: Fashion Jewellery will remain our number one priority and the unconditional core growth engine contributing in terms of sales. It spearheads Swarovski’s ambition to be the global market leader in jewellery by 2020.