Unknown-3Mimi Xu.

This week I was invited to attend the Cannes Film Festival and to deejay at the Viktor & Rolf and Swarovski party. The Austrian couture crystal brand has a long relationship with the silver screen. Remember Dorothy’s crystal-encrusted ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz, Marilyn Monroe’s sparkling gown in Gentle Prefer Blondes, and Meryl Streep’s Nirvana ring in The Devil Wears Prada? They were all made from Swarovski crystals. This year Nadja Swarovski, Executive Board Member of the international (but still family-run) business, celebrates her collaboration with design duo Viktor & Rolf in Cannes. I caught up with her for an insightful conversation.

You are hosting a cocktail party with Viktor & Rolf on the Croisette this year. Where did the idea come from?
We wanted to celebrate our collaboration with Viktor & Rolf, so we’re having a cocktail reception at L’Ecrin on the Croisette. It’s such a fine location, and it encompasses Swarovski’s values of creativity, fashion, and glamour, as well as capturing the inimitable spirit of the Cannes Film Festival.

UnknownViktor Horsting, Nadja Swarovski, Rolf Snoeren

Atelier Swarovski is such a brilliant concept to support talented fashion designers. What are the criteria to be part of the Atelier?
Atelier Swarovski is our haute couture line. We work with designers from across the creative disciplines of jewelry, costume design, and architecture who are inspired to explore the boundaries of creativity with our crystals. Our Fall/Winter 2014-15 Atelier collection features lines by avant-garde fashion house Viktor & Rolf, luxury scarf designer Emma J Shipley, and Chinese fashion designer Ye Mingzi. Working with Viktor & Rolf is always so inspiring because of the way they blur the lines between art and fashion. I love their conceptual approach to modern glamour, and their surrealistic use of materials is so witty—but it also resulted in one of the most technically involved collaborations we’ve done. They wanted to use flocking, and we knew that would be a challenge. We worked hard to come up with the exact Pantone [shade] of gray they wanted, and to find the right application solution for them. Their pieces are bold and sophisticated, but also a touch subversive. We love that. We want our Atelier artists to really push the boundaries, and we’re always surprised and delighted with the results.

With your background in art, architecture, and design, you’ve pushed Swarovski into so many great cultural arenas. Is the movie industry something you personally champion? And it’s amazing to find out Audrey Hepburn’s tiara was from Swarovski and not from Tiffany & Co., even if the movie is called Breakfast at Tiffany’s!
After more than eighty-five years working with costume and set designers to add sparkle to the silver screen, Swarovski’s move into film production felt like a natural evolution. I’m thrilled with our first feature, Romeo & Juliet, starring Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth and scripted by Julian Fellowes, which came out last year, and we are looking at other properties now. Meanwhile, we continue to collaborate with the world’s leading creative talents in the fields of costume design and production design.

Audrey Hepburn’s tiara in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is just one of the many Swarovski pieces that have had supporting roles in iconic movies. Others include Dorothy’s sparkling ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz and Marilyn Monroe’s gorgeous jewels in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. More recently we have collaborated on costume design in such films asNine, The Young Victoria, Black Swan, Moulin Rouge!, and Die Another Day, to name just a few.

You are at the head of this incredible family business. What are the challenges you face every day as a woman?
I face the same challenges as many working women, those of balancing my career with my home life as a wife and mother. But, as the amazing Cate Blanchett pointed out a few days ago when she was asked that question on the red carpet at Cannes, why are men never questioned about “having it all”? I grew up knowing that joining the family business would be my destiny, and I’m in an incredibly fortunate position of having a job I enjoy and am passionate about. But I am most proud of my three children.


How would you define your personal style?
Fashion has always been at the heart of Swarovski and I’m lucky to work with so many amazing designers, so it is natural for me to be interested in style, but I like to keep it simple and chic.

What has been your best souvenir from Cannes so far?
My best souvenir from the Cannes Film Festival is the memory of the fantastic reception in honor of Viktor & Rolf, who are incredible visionaries and so much fun! Cannes is always glamorous and inspiring—and it’s a great opportunity to forge links with the creative worlds of film, design, and fashion.

What is the next Swarovski cultural project that you’re excited about?
I’m really excited about our collaboration with the legendary Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas for the 14th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Rem is curating this year’s architecture biennale, and we are working with his practice, OMA, to create a spectacular archway called Luminaire. It will be illuminated by thousands of colored lights reflected and refracted by Swarovski crystals, and it will act as an uplifting and transformative portal to the world of Monditalia, Rem’s vivid tableau of Italian history.

Name your top three cities in the world (and why).
My work takes me all over the world, and especially to the key fashion capitals of London, New York, and Paris, where I can also indulge my other passions of art and design. Each has its own charm and character: the dynamism, diversity and experimental spirit of London, where I live; the romance and exquisite elegance of Paris; and the buzz and excitement of New York.

Photos: Courtesy of Mimi Xu


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Mimi Xu

Music Director/Sound Designer
Mimi Xu is an internationally renowned music director, deejay (under the name of Misty Rabbit), and sound designer. Raised in Paris, Shanghai, and Copenhagen, Xu eventually headed for Sydney, where ...