One night in November at the Barbican, it was imagination and sustainable innovation that twinkled and sparkled just as much as the flights of fantasy conscious fashion works of art on display, embellished with thousands of bijou Swarovski crystals in all the colours of the kaleidoscope. It was exciting to see the heads of sustainability at Swarovski UK, Stella McCartney, H&M and the new kid on the block, Haeckels, (a disruptive sustainable skincare company based in Margate, on the UK’s Kent coast that harnesses local seaweed and plant botanicals) come together for one night to discuss, share and debate their ideas, innovations and goals on how to create a new age of sustainable, circular economy consumption from T-shirts to couture gowns and face cream to bejewelled crystal works of art inspired by film and popular culture. It was certainly a night where imagination and the circular economy innovation ruled the roost, with the power to captivate the public imagination – and transform the way we make and consume everything.
How about lust-worthy handbags made from mushroom fibre and fluttering Stella McCartney summer dresses fashioned from spider’s silk engineered in a lab, not from the silk moth? Stella McCartney’s head of innovation, Claire Bergkamp, declared that “Recycling won’t save us and the idea that we create things that are not made to last doesn’t make sense.” She said the company would launch their remarkable circular economy fashion ranges within the next 12 months.
A New Culture of Radical Transparency
Dax Lovegrove, Swarovski’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility was equally bold declaring that a new culture of ‘ radical transparency’ was needed for a heritage brand like Swarovski to exist in a hundred years time. He talked about transforming Swarovski into the world’s most transparent, conscious luxury crystal company by 2025. Given that Swarovski already uses 70% recycled water at its plant in Wattens, Austria, 30% renewable energy and is the first crystal company to offer lead-free crystal and recently launched a lab-grown diamond jewellery collection in collaboration with film icon Penelope Cruz, this ambitious target doesn’t seem so out of reach.
H&M’s, Nina Shariati, discussed the challenges one of the world’s biggest global fashion brand faces in how to transform its supply chain. The company has set some ambitious goals that include becoming a fully sustainable fashion company by 2040. Chiariti candidly said that the company has set this goal, ” not because we know how, but because we have to.” She added, “We need innovation because we don’t have the capacity to shift all our products into sustainable materials today, on our own.” H&M was one of the first fashion brands to reveal who its suppliers are. H&M has now ranked number four out of hundred and fifty fashion brands for transparency by Fashion Revolution. In 2017, it launched Arket, a new clothing brand that allows consumers to browse the supply story of individual garments.
A 21st Century Culpepper
The last word went to Dom Bridges the beach warden turned modern-day Culpepper and citizen entrepreneur, who started collecting seaweed and local botanical plants native to his family home in Margate, back in 2012, and transformed them into therapeutic, plant-based skincare. Haeckels skincare was born. Along the way, he has created local employment, galvanized his community and shared the adventure of creating a local business with social impact. As he looks to empower other local communities, notably in Japan, to harness natural resources, without harm to the environment, he declared, “ It’s a very exciting time, it’s all about problem-solving and sharing those solutions.”
“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” Albert Einstein
In 1891, Daniel Swarovski invented an electric machine that could precision cut crystal and launched a twinkling revolution, with the mantra a ‘diamond for everyone’. His crystals went on to light up the jazz age and to epitomize the extraordinary fleeting, freewheeling spirit of the flapper and the illusory world described in F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.
In contrast, Daniel Swarovski was a born philanthropist rather than a mere aesthete. He took care of his workers welfare and powered his extraordinary crystal revolution using clean hydropower at the company factory in Wattens in Austria.
Bohemian Rhapsody and Swarovski
Fast-forward to 2018, and Swarovski is the world’s leading maker of crystals for trend-driven jewellery, haute fashion, interiors and film. It is Swarovski’s artistry in crystal that brings the band Queen and Freddie Mercury to life on screen in the film Bohemian Rhapsody. Where would Hollywood be or some of our greatest cultural icons without the magic and star power of crystal art?
Now, Swarovski has joined a select group of luxury brands including Pernod Ricard and the Kering Group that want to be seen to step up and lead by example when it comes to conscious, responsible luxury.
I would like to think that Einstein, who had a great sense of fun as well as a brilliant mind would have approved of Swarovski and its twinkling approach to sustainability. No one said looking after the planet has to be dull.
Swarovski has set ambitious goals to become one of the most sustainable and philanthropic global brands, espousing the emerging ideals of conscious luxury and consumption through fair-trade, women’s empowerment, responsible water use, recycling and the world’s first lead-free crystal.
At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Atelier Swarovski turned the red carpet green with a little help from actress Penélope Cruz. At the opening-night premiere of her new film, Everybody Knows (Todos Lo Saben), Cruz unveiled pieces from her first Atelier Swarovski fine jewellery collection, illuminating the flowering world of conscious luxury.
Penelope Cruz and Conscious Luxury
The dazzling earrings and ring worn by Cruz are made with the responsibly-sourced materials, including Swarovski created diamonds and created rubies set in 18-karat Fairtrade Gold. This alluring display of eco-chic captured the glamour and razzmatazz of Cannes and demonstrates Atelier Swarovski’s growing commitment to sustainable design. Following this sneak peek, the full collection was launched during Paris haute couture week in July.