Swarovski Innovator Award 2021 - BA Winner and Finalists
- Written byN Brathwaite
- Published date 14 July 2021
The Swarovski Innovator Award is an annual competition for final year BA Fashion Jewellery students that launched in 2017. Swarovski has made notable strides in its ambition to address the world’s most pressing issues which is reflected in their mission statement.
In today’s global climate however, the time has come for actions to be bigger, bolder, and more concrete.
The industry is in constant demand of new ideas and Swarovski stands as a company who supports innovation and believes in the value and input from young creatives. When the Swarovski Innovator award was originally launched, students were asked to consider sustainability in a broad sense and innovate in their application, using Swarovski Crystals.
For 2021, the brief was written by Nabil El-Nayal, Course Leader of MA Fashion Design Technology (Womenswear) at London College of Fashion, UAL which asked the students to write a manifesto about their values or their position as jewellery designers. The brief asked students to explore subjects surrounding the climate change emergency, social responsibility, inclusivity and diversity, political issues, and race and equality. The response needed to be a meaningful concept to develop a piece of jewellery.
A huge congratulations to Oliver Banks, who won this year's award. Read more about Oliver's winning design and hear from the finalists who also took part in the competition.
Oliver Banks – Winner of the Swarovski Innovator Award 2021
My final collection, Defined by Material, looks at the idea of play within childhood; using material as a way to define oneself, or to construct an identity alongside imagination. Material and form are core concepts throughout the collection and are successfully used within the necklace piece also.
A focus on the use of materiality and silhouette of the piece, changes the assumptions of an object and shapes a unique identity and sense of 'unreal'. The links of the necklace have a fluid yet structured form, highlighting this idea of 'unreal'. The fragility and delicateness to the piece, alongside the natural transparency and crystallisation present within the alabaster, exaggerates this idea of imagination and a dream-like piece of jewellery.
The alabaster compliments the craftsmanship of the handset Swarovski crystals, creating an almost natural form in which the crystals seem to belong - encouraging the idea of the 'unreal' and accentuating the importance and association of crystals, that a child has towards jewellery. The placement of the crystals are unique to each link and range from isolated crystals to clusters of multiple.
The alabaster links are designed within Rhino software, creating flawless objects to be CNC milled - creating a uniqueness to form and a flow that would not otherwise be possible in this material.
Sustainability Manager at Swarovski and LCF alumna, Rawnie Whittow-Williams said of Oliver’s winning design;
Oliver did a fantastic job at considering his material choice of alabaster and investigating how the choices he made impacted the narrative he wanted to tell. The journey that Oliver went on and the experimentation he conducted was really fascinating and he was able to tell the story the story of it so well. It was evident that Oliver had put considerable thought into his piece, even down to the sound it made when it was being put on or taking off and the use and placement of Swarovski crystal in his submission was truly perfect, it was a piece of pure craftsmanship.
Selene Zhang - Finalist
This collection is created to criticize the social norms that, on one hand, impose women as being eligible “wife material”, but on the other hand ignore value of housewives’ work, in disregard of their effort. Each piece contains a woman’s resentment, but also a sense of helplessness of being incapable to break free. In contrast, one of the pieces features a white shirt, the “second button” and the Morse code that symbolize “love” in its purest form, to emphasize how shallow and materialistic people evaluate a relationship nowadays. I want to remind people that choosing someone you are truly happy to be with, is an act of self-love and self-care, if we can’t even love and respect ourselves, how are we going to love and respect others.
Polina Voynova - Finalist
The core concept of my design is the ethereal and eternal substance of light. It is also my main material. For the most part, I use basic geometry, pure materials and the absence of any kind of additional colours to prevent distraction from the main “diamond” which is light.
My work is about reducing things to the essence. The whole collection is based on international architectural styles, so I consider it a design for any human being who wants to wear it. Light for me has always been a meditative essence, so I offer it to others to observe it and to take your mind away from the fuss of everyday life, at least for a moment. It is helpful for mental stability.
Albane de Mauduit - Finalist
I decided to participate to the Swarovski competition to challenge myself and develop a sustainable piece. My project focuses on well-being. I noticed that due to the pandemic, anxiety and loneliness increased, so I found my inspiration in parties. Indeed, I designed a distorted chain - a symbolic accessory in the rave culture, on which I have set dead stock Swarovski crystals, using thread. Thread wrapping and beading refers to craft activities I used to do when I were a child, it has a comforting and reassuring dimension for the wearer, as well as the maker. This design is adaptable depending on the materials available. The idea is to give a new value to a hard and cold material like metal chain, by contrasting it with soft and bright elements.
Kiki Tianqi Li - Finalist
My Final Major Project is a critique of classic jewellery. I extracted the materials of classic jewellery from archaeological discoveries, museum collections and family heirlooms, and challenged the value of classic precious metals and gemstones. My inspiration comes from materials of classic jewellery, I found that in archaeological treasures family heirlooms and museum collections, a majority of the jewellery is made from precious metals and gemstones. Even if some gemstones were lost, the metal structure of the jewellery is almost unchanged. That is the reason why diamonds and gold have high value. People like jewellery to be perfect all the time. In many cultures, perfection is placed in greatly overvalued. The perfection of idealism not only creates the standards that cannot be realised, but also creates the standards for mistakes. Because perfection means no further growth or development, perfection equals death. So, I am aiming directly at that issue, I want to create jewellery pieces that are deliberately fleeting, disappearing, existing only in the moment or over a short period of time.
When asking Rawnie what small steps students can take to become more sustainable in their design and thinking, she said;
It’s important for students to think holistically about their designs and how they impact both people and planet – which I see in two parts. The first part is how their design and product creation impacts the planets resources and the people along the supply chain and the second part is how the design gives meaning to the lives of the wearer or consumer, I think we should be more forward thinking about integrating the use phase and end of use phase into our design thinking. According to the EU science hub It is estimated that over 80% of all product-related environmental impacts are determined during the design phase of a product, so it’s imperative that students consider what a consumer does when they are finished with their product. Can it be taken apart and made into something new? Can it be added to? There are a million creative solutions and students have the power to flip the world on its head and challenge people to think and do differently. This should never be underestimated!
Jessica Saunders, Programme Director for the Fashion Design Programme said;
The Swarovski Innovator Award has gone from strength to strength over the years, we are hugely grateful to Swarovski who provide support and insights into their sustainable practices and knowledge. The Award is the highlight of our final year for BA Fashion Jewellery students, who have brought true innovation to the ways upcycled stock can be incorporated into new fashion jewellery thinking.
Bernadette Deddens, Course Leader said;
We are thrilled to have presented the 5th iteration of the Swarovski Innovator Award this year. We have seen that this competition has been instrumental in the careers of our graduates. What’s more, the competition introduces students to the reality that our industry requires sustainable design thinking and innovative approaches to meet today’s global challenges. It shows that a globally leading company such as Swarovski takes this very seriously and integrates this into the core of their business - which is truly inspirational.
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