Swarovski Inaugurates First Milan Flagship, Giovanna Engelbert Discusses Bold Aesthetics

MILAN Swarovski is officially opening the doors of its first main flagship in Italy with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday during Milan Design Week.

Located in a key shopping and tourist thoroughfare in the city, opposite the city’s Gothic Duomo Cathedral, it spans across 5,940 square feet and includes four expansive windows on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.

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“It is such an iconic street, and what I like and find very interesting is that it is a very democratic street, there are luxury and fashion stores, but it’s also where families go for strolls, there’s the Rinascente nearby,” said global creative director Giovanna Engelbert, praising Swarovski for offering “excellence, quality and degree of creativity in a democratic way.”

Since her arrival at Swarovski in 2020, Engelbert has worked to elevate the perception of the brand, further extending the collaborations — including a major co-branding with Kim Kardashian’s Skims last year — and developing the lab-grown diamonds collections, entering the luxury sphere. She drove Swarovski’s embrace of a bolder and more colorful aesthetic, attracted younger customers without betraying its loyal and established ones and refreshed the brand’s retail network with new stores and flagships in key global cities including Shanghai, Zurich, New York and Seoul.

She said it was important for her to deliver stores that “offer a moment of joy, where people feel they are entering a jewelry box, where they can lose themselves in a moment of creativity. It’s important to draw people in, in spaces that are not pretentious but enticing and welcoming, it’s our secret sauce.”

Inside the new Swarovski <a href="https://wwd.com/home-design/interior-design/aesop-design-salone-del-mobile-milan-store-retail-concepts-1236309277/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Milan;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Milan</a> flagship.
Inside the new Swarovski Milan flagship.

In Milan, the flagship carries Swarovski’s collections ranging from crystal jewelry, watches and home decor to eyewear, tableware and limited-edition products; collaborations with global brands, from Aquazzura to Golden Goose, and the Swarovski Created Diamonds fine jewelry collections, which are unveiled in Europe for the first time in a salon area dedicated to laboratory grown diamonds.

“I have always loved the way Milanese ladies wear their jewels. There is a boldness, an effortlessness and a fascinating intention to it,” said Engelbert, who hails from the Italian city. The store includes eight octagonal vitrines containing crystalized miniature tableaux, each recreating key moments from Swarovski’s history.

In a world first, a special showroom area displays Swarovski’s range of loose crystals and gemstones in all sizes, colors and effects, allowing customers to browse the full assortment for inspiration.

Engelbert has made it a priority that the displays be functional and reminisced about the store that opened in luxury shopping arcade Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in 2021 during the pandemic and “in between lockdowns,” when she “made mock-ups of the displays at home, and realized how important it was to have ‘a verticalization’ of the shelves, which seems easier said than done, but we needed special ‘visual tools’ to hold the jewels in place. We called it ‘Instant Wonder,’ it was the first most extreme, almost artistic installation, and it remains in my heart.”

Giovanna Engelbert

Engelbert said that, given the size of the company, “it’s of course important to have scalability and to be consistent.”

The Swarovski Crystal Business is represented in more than 140 countries worldwide with 3,500 Swarovski boutiques complemented by selected multibrand partners and employs 16,600 people.

Last year, the Wattens, Austria-based company reported revenues in 2023 rose 4 percent at constant exchange rates, reaching 1.83 billion euros compared with 2022, and registered a 10 percent like-for-like growth. In-store profitability climbed 36 percent.

The U.S. is already one of the main markets and Engelbert said that strengthening this region is a priority. “Americans are very loyal, customers and were among the first to believe in the rebranding, the color and the boldness — they were very reactive.”

In a video-call, speaking from her studio in Stockholm, Engelbert herself was surrounded by charts of colors and codes, her “crystal library,” which she described as “extremely practical” to create new objects, countless swatches around her and an image from spring 2024 ad campaign fronted by Karlie Kloss and photographed by Steven Meisel in the background. “Color is everything,” she said. While admitting to being an organized planner, since she travels much of her time, she said her studio allowed her to be “distant from distractions,” and to channel her creativity.

Inside the new Swarovski Milan flagship.
Inside the new Swarovski Milan flagship.

Asked about future steps, she said that “what makes me happy is to establish what has been done, continue to evolve and have more possibilities to bring beauty to life.” She cited the Millenia Watch, for example, as a bestseller, a project that she spearheaded. “I strongly wanted  to created a jewel watch, and it’s become an icon, applying our brand codes to it,” she said proudly of the item, which is made in Switzerland.

The first eyewear collections produced under a license with EssilorLuxottica, which bowed for fall 2023, have also been very successful, she pointed out.

“It’s important to have a helicopter view and bring consistency throughout all the vertical businesses,” including what she called “the embellishments of life for the home,” such as the figurines, for example, or the crystal flowers, that “are like sculptures, and can have a lead time of two years.”

The new Swarovski Milan flagship.
The new Swarovski Milan flagship.

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