She is not just a creative mind, but a brand expert and an accomplished businesswoman.
Parisian Nathalie Colin has a degree in marketing from France’s prestigious École Supérieure de Commerce and a diploma in fashion from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Colin’s first experience in the fashion industry involved working for Perry Ellis, alongside Marc Jacobs. From 1989 to 1999, she moved to Promostyl, and oversaw the development of the company’s consultancy around the world. Colin was creative and quick – she expanded Promostyl with an eclectic range of products, from ready-to-wear fashion to accessories, costume jewelry, lingerie and cosmetics. In 1994, she started her collaboration with Swarovski on a consulting basis, focusing on trends and early product concept development.
All the while, Colin kept fine-tuning and sharpening her perception and vision. In 2000, she founded Cultural Sushi, a brand and design strategy consultancy agency. The funky name of the company reflected her lifelong passion and fascination for Asia.
And then in 2006 she joined Swarovski as the Creative Director.
The company grew quite quickly under her leadership. In 2008, the Swan logo was interpreted to shape an iconic signature pattern: the Swanflower®, which is presently part of the Swarovski heritage and DNA. A brand new boutique design was created in close collaboration with the renowned Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka, resulting in the “crystal forest” concept. Colin also expanded the number of products created by the brand, growing it to include men’s, optical and sunglasses collections.
“Brands need to keep re-inventing themselves, as the world around us is constantly changing,” she once said.
In this issue, Colin tells our readers how she keeps the creative sparkle glowing and what she loves about her industry the most.
HANNAH YAKOBI: How would you describe the fall/winter 2013/2014 collection?
NATHALIE COLIN: This collection was inspired by the Silk Road, which is an old journey starting in China, passing through India, the Himalayas and Persia. In the old times, the silk roads were used for transporting luxury goods.
There are a lot of historic inspirations but, of course, the collection has been modernized. You can see a lot of very decorative necklaces, smoky tones, dark tones, embellished stones. Many maxi earrings too, as well as rose gold contrasted with jet crystal stones.
What is the regular design process for your collections?
There are different stages: we start with sketches, then there are two to three reviews of each product. Once we get the samples, there are two to three reviews of each of them. It’s more or less a process of 18 months from the start of the idea to the final production and delivery in store. We work 18 months ahead of the season.
You’ve been with Swarovski since 2006. What do you like most about your position as the Creative Director?
I think I structured this position, so designers are working together with a creative vision and direction. I worked on signature pieces, as well as on introducing fashion trends. There are so many things we’ve done: expanding to men’s jewelry, watches and eyewear. Introducing new categories. These seven years have been very interesting.
You travel quite extensively. What locations are your favourite?
I love places like New York. But I also love capitals like Tokyo, where everything is going so fast. It’s so busy.
With plans to recharge my batteries, I love to go to places where there isn’t even one store around – like an island or a dessert.
For my job and to fill me with inspiration, I love diversity. But at a certain time of the year, I really need a ‘white page’ to feel new and recharged.
Do you have any plans to visit Canada?
I wish! I really want to come. I travelled so much in 2013, so I need to stay a little bit in the studio with the designers. I hope that this year I can travel to Canada – I have never been. It’s a must!
I should not come for just one day, but for at least a week. I will try to plan a joint trip this year to maybe the States and Canada.
Are there any individuals whose work affects you?
I’m at my desk right now and to my left is a great book from the David Bowie exhibition in London that was held in 2013. For me, he’s always been such an inspiring artist – not only because of his music, but because of his ability to change characters.
But I’d also rather focus on young designers who have a sharp point of view, there are so many who inspire me. I like designers who have a signature style.
Speaking of signatures, how does your work translate into your own style?
We have trendy pieces but, of course, we also have more statement, couture designs that are developed through our couture/atelier, where everything is handmade and more unique.
These are the pieces that I love to wear from time to time. I’ve explored many facets of outwear jewelry on many occasions, and realized that there really isn’t jewelry for day or night. I enjoy mixing things up.
Do you have any jewelry pieces that have a memorable meaning?
My special memories are associated with the very first collection I did for Swarovski for spring 2007. This collection will always have a special place in my heart.
The 2008 collection was the time when we launched the Swanflower® pattern, which is one of the patterns I created – so that was one of the special milestones. Those are the collections I have a special affinity to.
You published a book last year, called Multiface(t)s: Style Yourself With Jewelry, which focused on a lot of well-known women as well as women who work at Swarovski. You place an important focus on diversity. Can you tell us a little bit more about this project?
I think it’s very rewarding for me as a Creative Director to see so many different women wearing the jewelry in so many different ways. I don’t like to be surrounded by clones.
For my design team, I choose very different people: we have about 20 nationalities, coming from very diverse parts of the world and with very different backgrounds.
For me, it’s very important to celebrate diversity and to nourish it. This is what I wanted to reflect in the book. I also wanted to show the style and personality of each woman, so we could help to underline it even more.