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Crystal scion puts sparkle into fashion

Every fashionista wants to shine, but very few were born with the same kind of innate sparkle as Nadja Swarovski.

She is the great-great-granddaughter of Daniel Swarovski, the man who in 1891 began working on a brilliant-cut crystal stone fashioned after a diamond. The company he founded is the basis for the modern Swarovski crystal company, which provides thousands of stones in different colors and shapes to jewelers, artists, chandeliermakers, home decorators and fashion designers.

Nadja Swarovski is in charge of international communications and serves as the liaison to the fashion community. Runway Rocks, a catwalk show held during New York Fashion Week featuring crystal creations by top jewelers and designers who include Erickson Beamon, Peter Som and Proenza Schouler, and Swarovski's sponsorship of the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards are two of her pet projects.

"I love the magic of stones, and I have since I started playing with bracelets when I was a little girl," says Swarovski, interviewed at the Swarovski Creative Service Center on Manhattan's 57th Street, one of New York's most fashionable shopping streets. The center is set up like a penny-candy shop that encourages designers to sample stones that could embellish their clothes.

"It was hard to convince designers to work with crystals at first. They didn't know how to use them. But crystals can be sewed on, used for crystal mesh or as a chain," Swarovski says. (Swarovski invented the crystal-mesh fabric in 1993.)

The tide turned after a collaboration with Alexander McQueen in the late 1990s. "He used crystals in such fantastic ways," she says. "I like when designers push our creativity, and our products push their creativity."

Hollywood also has always loved glitz, and Swarovski helped make tiaras for Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, the "ruby" slippers that Dorothy wore in The Wizard of Oz, and the sexy gown that Marilyn Monroe wore to sing Happy Birthday, Mr. President to President Kennedy in 1962.

Of course, crystals don't make for subtle fashion.

"Most "fashion' isn't to go unnoticed," Swarovski says. "Any adornment is decoration. The volume is your choice."