5 Questions for Swarovski’s Ute Schumacher

Swarovski continues to be the go-to name for designers who want to add a little shine to their shoes.

Now more than a century old, the Austrian company furnishes high-quality crystals, crystal pearls and beads to such tony labels as Stuart Weitzman, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin and Sergio Rossi, as well as casual brands including Dr. Martens.

For the spring season, designer Alejandro Ingelmo used Crystal Rock, a multifaceted raw crystal, from Swarovski’s Elements Collection, the company’s components division.

He said he liked the organic look of the raw crystals, which came in a variety of sizes and shapes. “They felt natural,” said Ingelmo, who applied them to the $1,050 Annie flat and $1,300 Crosby wedge bootie, both of which will sell at his New York store and Saks Fifth Avenue, in addition to retailers in the U.K. and Russia. “I’m a little more classic [in my designs]. I don’t just put a jewel on a shoe.”

Celebrities also are stepping into these glam looks. Princess Letizia of Asturias, the future queen of Spain, was spotted in a pair of Pretty Ballerinas made with Swarovski elements, and Beyoncé has been seen in Stuart Weitzman’s Swoon crystal heels.

For spring ’13, Swarovski has identified four top design inspirations: a subdued white palette; sparkling iridescent colors in myriad hues such as purple, blue and silver-black; classic cosmetic colors such as rosy reds and pinks underlined with black and white; and bright and bold ethnic combinations.

Here, Ute Schumacher, director of trend research and design for Swarovski Elements, goes beyond the basic details for embellishing footwear with the company’s bling.

What defines Swarovski crystal?
Swarovski crystal is a synthetic, solid material formed by irregular, repeated patterns of molecules. Crystal has the molecular structure of a frozen liquid: It is the purest, clearest and most brilliant form of glass. It is not found or mined; it is a synthetic material with unique properties, and the exact formula is a well-kept secret. And all Swarovski crystal is manufactured at the factory in Wattens, Austria.

How do you know if a retailer is selling authentic Swarovski crystals?
Select designers and brands are permitted to use the trapezoid-shaped “Made with Swarovski Elements” label, which serves as a certificate of authenticity, denoting products that are made with genuine [crystals]. Swarovski also offers [our] partners additional services, including trend consultancy and technical expertise. Participants can leverage our customized branding solutions to build their businesses.

How does Swarovski work with footwear designers to create the final projects?
Designers from all segments are welcome at our creative service centers, where the entire Swarovski Elements range is available for browsing. The concept has proved so successful that we now have centers in Dubai, Milan, New York, Paris, Wattens and Mexico City. A special global application support center focuses on providing Swarovski customers with technical assistance when working with [the product]. Additionally, Swarovski fosters the creativity of young design talent through the Swarovski Elements Application Rooms project with the Donghua University in Shanghai, the Shenkar College in Israel, the Royal College of Art in London, Bunka Fashion College [in Tokyo], Marmara University in Turkey and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Application rooms offer students the opportunity to design with [the product] and learn the art of crystal application using equipment provided by Swarovski.

What footwear materials can accept Swarovski embellishments?
According to any footwear designer’s vision, Swarovski Elements may be combined with a number of materials, from leather and natural textiles to rubber and a whole range of synthetics.

What have been the most outrageous shoes to use Swarovski Elements?
[It] stretches from the original “Wizard of Oz” ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland to killer heels created by Kurt Geiger for Swarovski’s collaboration with Harrods for the 2011 holiday season. Also included are Stuart Weitzman’s 2012 Millionairess shoe, originally introduced at the 2002 Academy Awards. The updated 2012 version is lusciously detailed with Elements and worn by supermodel Natalia Vodianova in his new ad campaign.

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