For almost 125 years, Swarovski has been one of the most renowned names within the Austrian economy - how do you succeed in bridging the gap between tradition and innovation?
The innovation lies in our DNA – the company’s founder, Daniel Swarovski, was a pioneer and has proven that his new technology doesn’t just cut glass, but that it can also be applied to many social aspects. That’s why I would say that innovation is in our genes. We are a company that may be considered traditional due to its 125-year history, but we are also constantly trying to create something new.
What challenges does the company face today?
We live in a digital age and have to explore what possibilities are open to us. For example, we have planned a new store concept for the coming year, designed by architect and designer Patricia Urquiola. I cannot reveal too much just yet, only that there will be much more interaction between the customer and the brand. Our digital landscape has also increased and we have created a hub for our business-to-business division where customers can order crystals directly and in smaller quantities. Digitalization also helps us to contact our customers directly and react faster.
Environmental responsibility is also taken very seriously at Swarovski...
I think that when you talk about a tradition you also talk about family values or company values. Daniel Swarovski’s values brought us here and will lead us into the future, through our Foundation, the Waterschool and our internal Department for Sustainability.
Can you elaborate on this?
We are a member of the “UN Global Compact”. Here, companies are regularly audited and must adhere to ten key principles - from human rights to the use of green technologies. We are also co-signatories of the “UN Women Empowerment Principles” and adhere to these principles worldwide. Our Waterschool, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary soon, helps to promote educational work on the topic. You can see quite clearly that the more effort we put into teaching children how to protect our water resources, the sooner we will come to an understanding of a way to use this resource in a sustainable manner. Every person can have a positive impact on the world and its future.
It is great to see a private company advocate in this way - but isn’t this a political issue?
Yes, in any case, it is also a question of politics! Unfortunately, politics isn’t up to date on this issue. But I do not just see just politics and business as being responsible, but every person individually - every initiative helps!
How would you appeal to the rest of the fashion industry?
My wish would be that the various companies would simply invest the time and money to implement better methods. You also have to question the concept of mass production. Swarovski has done both and I can proudly say: we operate sustainably! A development that we can also observe in other large companies, but unfortunately there are still too many fast fashion ones. This requires a change in the consumer’s purchasing behavior, which ultimately determines in what direction the market will go.
This is often a challenge financially, especially for young designers.
That’s a sad thing! But I think that is currently only a matter of time. In 10 to 15 years, that will not be the case anymore, or so I hope. We collaborate with a number of fashion institutions such as the German Fashion Council, the Fashion Awards in London, or ANDAM in Paris to help young designers in becoming sustainable through the mentor's program.
Is sustainability a luxury that only very successful companies can afford?
No, I do not think so - you just have to do it! Yes, we have had to invest a lot and not just seek to maximize our profits, but the bottom line is that it is our duty to do so.
Photo: Nick Knight