Giovanna Engelbert Popularized Swarovski’s Cultural Flash – When Marilyn Monroe sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the 1953 film, they were more affordable than diamonds in general. It was a breakthrough moment for Swarovski, which eventually became famous around the world for producing collectible crystal jewelry, chandeliers and miniatures – but had been in decline for several years before the pandemic. Now that the group has undergone a complicated turnaround, creative director Giovanna Engelbert is relying on the label’s “democratic” heritage to turn things around.


Giovanna Engelbert Popularized Swarovski’s Cultural Flash

Giovanna Engelbert Popularized Swarovski's Cultural Flash

swarovskijewelry – Although diamonds form naturally beneath the earth’s crust due to high temperatures and pressure, crystals form during crystallization. For Swarovski, this is done at their headquarters in Austria using a secret mixture of quartz, sand and minerals. This potential appealed to Engelbert. “Crystals are full of light, fun, more democratic than diamonds, so I told myself that the jewelery I designed should be bold, luxurious and fun,” she told the Financial Times.

Engelbert, a former Vogue Italia stylist turned brand consultant, was hired in 2020 by the founder’s great-grandson, Robert Buchbauer, who briefly took time off to run the company before stepping down the following year amid ongoing family conflict.

The company was founded by the son of a glass cutter, Daniel Swarovski, in Wattens, Austria, in the late 1890s. Its sparkling crystals were a favorite of designers such as Coco Chanel and Christian Dior in the 1920s.

Animal-shaped crystal figurines, especially versions released annually since 1987, and small offerings favored by airport travelers, later became the label’s best-selling items, boosting revenues. But in 2020, its sales halved to €1.7 billion from €3.5 billion in 2017. The pandemic was the final straw for the brand, which has a weak e-commerce channel and relies on global tourists, including visiting museums. in Wattens. and wholesale.

Fragmented companies and confusion over brand identity undermine consumer interest. Buchbauer sought to reposition Swarovski in the affordable luxury segment, arguing that “we cannot be everything to everyone.”

Born into a family of Battaglia artists, Engelbert started in the fashion world as a teenager and was considered the “scapegoat” for your interest in various ventures.

Her interest in fashion was hard to contain: “Milan in the 1980s and early 1990s was booming and the city was drowning in fashion when Elton John and [Diana, Princess of Wales] appeared at the Gianni Versace fashion show, you couldn’t even walk,” she recalls.

She studied at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, the prestigious national academy of fine arts, before becoming a stylist and developing a strong personal taste that regularly places her on global best-dressed lists.

Engelbert joins the 129-year-old company as its first global chief creative officer and is the first non-family member in the company’s history to be given a leadership role, along with CEO Alexis Nasardi, who will be appointed in 2022.


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On Wednesday, the company released its 2023 results and EBIT turned positive for the first time since 2019, but did not provide further information. According to the company, sales increased 4 percent compared to 2022 to 1.8 billion euros, with growth in all product categories, especially jewelry. However, turnover is still far below its historical peak.

Swarovski’s capabilities are limited by the limited ability of its factories to bring new products to market and the time required to clear unsold inventory. (Some are now running in parallel with Engelbert’s new collection.)

Under Buchbauer’s leadership, the group divested collections such as Swarovski Atelier, its cousin Nadja Swarovski home decor and jewelry, and closed its professional crystal department. the retail and fashion industry components accounted for 20 percent. percentage reduction in total workforce.

The turnaround was no “walk in the park,” said Engelbert, who speaks half English and half Italian. “This is a difficult task that takes time.” The priority is to develop new best-selling products that appeal to younger and wealthier generations, while the brand continues to sell $60 knick-knacks in airport duty-free shops around the world.

Daniel Swarovski’s original technical drawings inspired Engelbert’s first collection, which included bold, colorful octagonal necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets. The design was an instant hit and the company said it attracted a younger, funkier generation of consumers returning to the brand.

“I think Swarovski has always been a pop brand, it’s Elvis Presley’s iconic Jailhouse Rock jacket, the crystal gown that Marilyn Monroe wore ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ [to US President John F Kennedy in 1962] and the Versace crystal mesh, Engelbert said

Engelbert’s second focus

The brand’s first flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue, which opened in December, is the clearest sign of Swarovski’s transformation. . This is the result of starting a collaboration with Kim Kardashian’s Skims clothing brand, which is also part of Engelbert’s strategy to rejuvenate the brand. The collection includes crystal catsuits, leggings, tanks, panties, dresses and body chains for all body shapes and sizes.

Engelbert said the Swarovski family made deals with reality TV stars, influencers (364 million followers on Instagram) and entrepreneurs. Over the years, the Austrian label has collaborated with more than 250 designers, including Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Paul Gaultier, but has never collaborated with a social media celebrity like Kardashian.


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“Kim wasn’t the right choice,” Engelbert said, but he saw the value in engaging more meaningfully with entrepreneurs. “It was important for me to create a creative relationship with Master Kim and the full brand, not just Kim as a celebrity who is the face of a Swarovski campaign.” It finally paid off: the limited edition sold out within weeks of its release.

The viral marketing moment was also the result of Engelbert’s creative direction. In 2023, they included singer Doja Cat, who attended the Schiaparelli Haute Couture show in Paris, covered in 30,000 red Swarovski crystals; Harry Styles’ crystal harlequin bodysuit at the Grammys; and the goals of rapper Lil Nas

Engelbert is for Swarovski to “continue to express itself.” The availability of these crystals allows for a higher level of “self-care” and plays a role in the “democratization of the rigid stone world,” he says. Her colorful octagonal Lucent earrings were $350, while a large crystal necklace from the Millenia collection was $650.

Swarovski also caters to high-end consumers, having released a luxury jewelry collection last year. Galaxy Engelbert’s first bespoke collection, which includes a $250,000 diamond necklace and a $20,000 white gold ring with a large diamond in the center, will debut in the fall.

Engelbert said he often challenges himself about the role of jewelry among today’s consumers. The conclusion? “In the past, jewelry was used to generate electricity; look at Cleopatra in ancient Rome.” Today jewelry can act as a “giver of joy,” he said. “Crystals even more so.”