CEO Talks: Alexis Nasard on Swarovski Representing Joy and Self-expression

MÄNNEDORF, Switzerland —Crystals are fun,” according to Alexis Nasard, chief executive officer of Swarovski, a brand he believes represents “joy and self-expression. Luxury doesn’t have to be serious.”

In his first interview since taking the reins of the Austrian crystal-maker in July and speaking from the modern, light-filled and sprawling Swarovski offices in Männedorf, a 30-minute drive from Zürich, Nasard is set on leveraging the brand’s “strong personality” to steer the company through its next phase.

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“I am a brand man, I’ve worked with hundreds of brands and character is essential,” said Nasard, the first CEO to come from outside the Swarovski family in the brand’s 127-year history, marking the latest step in the transition from a family-managed to a family-owned company.

Nasard took the helm at Swarovski after 17 years at Procter & Gamble, six years at Heineken and five years as CEO of Bata, followed by Kantar.

At the same time, he believes “product is king, and here we have an incredible, bold product that makes you smile.”

Accordingly, stores are “the first moment of truth” and should provide “a fun experience, sort of a treasure hunt, letting customers navigate, be surprised and get excited, leading to spontaneous, impulse purchases. This is fundamental and at the heart of our offering. We don’t sell essentials, it has to be about joy and self-indulgence and we have to be tempting.”

Joining the company, he saw the opportunity “to drive all these elements harder.”

The holiday campaign bowing Monday exemplifies this fun-filled imagery, conceived by creative director Giovanna Engelbert — “a fantastic talent,” he said — and fronted by Bella Hadid as a miniaturized playful fairy, with giant bows for wings, emerging from and peeping into huge colorful Swarovski boxes and marveling at the sparkling, supersized bracelets, necklaces and Christmas stars.

Bella Hadid in Swarovski’s new holiday campaign.
Bella Hadid in Swarovski’s new holiday campaign.

Nasard is keen to further develop and expand two relevant initiatives for the company: the Creators Lab project, launched in 2021, and the Swarovski Created Diamonds.

The executive reignited the former through a collaboration with Aquazzura, which bowed in September, as reported, and is the first of a series of drops.

“These creative collaborations are a natural evolution for us and build on a heritage dating back to when the use of Swarovski crystals in fashion was a true revolution, partnerships that began with the likes of Chanel and Christian Dior and continued for example with Nike and shoe designer Amina Muaddi,” said Nasard.

“We collaborate with creators to be part of the cultural landscape and will implement these even more. It’s a good business and a cross-fertilization in creativity, having an impact on culture and critical mass.”  He said there is coherence in the choice of the designers or brands Swarovski is working with for “the role they play in their own category. They are points of reference in their field.”

Swarovski’s holiday Stella pieces.
Swarovski’s holiday Stella pieces.

In parallel, following a successful pilot in key locations across the U.S., the company will roll out its Swarovski Created Diamonds jewelry collection in 200 stores in that market and Canada over the next year, and on its online platform beginning in November.

The Austrian crystal house has been offering lab-grown diamonds since 2016 as part of its business-to-business portfolio and Nasard sees the development into fine jewelry as a natural evolution for the brand.

This fall’s rollout includes four ranges of earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets featuring Swarovski Created Diamonds and crafted from 14-karat gold and sterling silver. Nasard said the success with American consumers of these collections exceeded expectations.

“We are proud to be offering fine jewelry made with lab-grown diamonds that are 100 percent identical to mined diamonds in every way except their origin,” he said.

“A Swarovski Created Diamond is made using an innovative process that flawlessly replicates nature, resulting in a laboratory-grown diamond whose level of execution and quality is indistinguishable from a mined diamond in all chemical, physical, and optical attributes. It’s a great product and offers better value for money. It’s a win-win for customers,” he explained. “Once grown, after forming layer-by-layer from a tiny carbon seed, they are precision-cut and polished to perfection revealing maximum brilliance, scintillation, and fire.”

Asked about questions swirling over the actual sustainability factor of these diamonds, Nasard said the company “is proud to offset the energy used to produce Swarovski Created Diamonds, making the process certified climate neutral. We work complying with high-level environmental, safety and labor standards. As the business becomes more important, there will be additional solutions to be climate positive. Sustainability does not have to be a cost, and the best way is to embed it in innovation.”

Alexis Nasard
Alexis Nasard

Swarovski has a retail network of 6,900 stores, of which 1,300 are directly operated. An expansive flagship will open in New York on Fifth Avenue in November, following a new unit in Shanghai earlier this year.

The company’s largest markets are the U.S., representing 18 percent of sales; China, accounting for 12 percent, followed by the U.K. and Italy, representing 7 and 5 percent, respectively.

The best-performing markets are Italy, Germany, Spain and Canada.

Nasard sees high potential in the U.S. market, and plans to focus on the region even more.

While declining to provide sales figures, the executive said revenue growth in 2022 was in the low double digits and that profit rose 70 percent compared with 2021. “This is a good momentum for the business, and we are increasing production by 50 percent.”

Online sales represented 20 percent of the business.

Swarovski offers a broad range of jewels that retail at between 500 euros and 15,000 euros. There are also collections of crystal figurines that have become true collectibles. “One of our best sellers is the Yoda of ‘Star Wars’ fame,” remarked Nasard.

In addition to eyewear produced by Marcolin, Swarovski has introduced ceramics by Rosenthal. The company is vertically integrated and all products are made in Austria. In its manufacturing headquarters in Wattens, the company in 1995 opened an attraction called Swarovski Crystal Worlds, marking the centennial anniversary of the company’s founding.

The group is comprised of Swarovski Optik, which makes optical devices; Tyrolit, which produces abrasives materials, and the Swarovski Crystal Business.

Swarovski’s Zurich store.
Swarovski’s Zurich store.

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