Swarovski’s Sparkling Secrets exhibition debuted in Shanghai last summer, and provided visitors with an immersive dive into the famous crystal company’s century-spanning history. But the teamwork that went into creating the exhibition stands out—with a European-based client, a U.S.-based agency and creative team and an Asian venue, the challenges were many.
The team, headed by Havas Luxe Events and Havas Worldwide, was charged with creating an environment that for the first time provided the public with a comprehensive look at Swarovski’s history, its partnerships with celebrities and fashion designers—even a peek into the brand’s creative process. Here’s a deep dive into how Sparkling Secrets was brought to life.
Late last year, Havas Luxe Events pitched for the project because the agency had previous experience with the brand. Havas Luxe Events president Thomas Serrano says the concept for Sparkling Secrets was born out of organic thinking about the project and how best to tell the brand’s story to the public.
“When we were looking at every step of the heritage of the brand, with the fashion designers and celebrities, we realized there were a lot of secrets to be revealed to those visitors. The sparkly qualities of the brand’s crystal also played into the design. ‘Sparkling Secrets’ was born. We proposed a logo and name and a number of rooms where visitors would progressively go from the heritage and introduction to the celebrity collaboration,” Serrano says.
The creative freedom in coming up with a design for the exhibition was challenging and exciting, according to Ivana Kalafatic, who was the project’s creative director.
“We did a little bit of soul searching and a lot of research [when designing the exhibition]. We did not have a specific game plan from the client, which can be thrill and it can also be a challenge, because the company started in 1895. There were many different periods of time that the company progressed through to deal with. The parameters we focused on were based on innovation, the fact that Swarovski’s founder was an entrepreneur, and that this is truly a family owned and run business. We worked closely with their archive team, and pulled out some real surprises,” Kalafatic says.
Irma Hardjakusumah served as design director for the project, and took inspiration from the client’s goals for the exhibition.
“This is the first time the brand has done an exhibit that actually touches on their heritage. You see a lot of Swarovski installations and they usually focus on the phenomenon of the crystal and its power in transforming light, and there are great artists who have made many, many beautiful installations that are Swarovski-based. What corporate wanted to do was create a global exhibit that touched on several points, and the brand’s collaboration with designers and movie stars would be in focus. They want to tell the story of how they started, and tell the entire story,” Hardjakusumah says.
Visitors entered into a timeline zone called the Crystal Maze. This was a three-dimensional timeline with a video wall showing crystal imagery, which led visitors into a blue room with a series window displays built into the walls. Inside the boxes, key dates in Swarovski history were brought to life.
As visitors weaved through the crystal curtains to see the stories told inside the boxes, they were able to learn more about the brand through pictures, graphics, videos and Swarovski crystals.
“Each of the products and milestones of the company are included in the window boxes. You walk through the timeline, you understand where they started, and then you get a feeling of their world,” Hardjakusumah says.
Leaving the timeline area, visitors entered the Swarovski Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame focuses on all of Swarovski’s collaborations with music stars and celebrities including Madonna, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and Audrey Hepburn.
The showcases in this area focused on the stars and the crystal-laden creations, as the content really spoke for itself.
“When you have the bra from Madonna you don’t need to do much—you just display it beautifully and everybody is going to stop and look at it,” Serrano says.
The famous ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” ruby slippers were actually Swarovski, but designers were having trouble securing the actual shoes for the exhibit, so they used technology to help them out. As part of an augmented reality-style interactive, visitors stood on a platform in front of a mirrored surface, triggered a button and the famous ruby slippers appear on their feet.
“I think for a lot of consumers, their favorite was the Hall of Fame because everyone loves celebrities and learned more about Swarovski,” says project manager Jennifer Baker.
The next destination for visitors was the Creative Lab, where they were introduced to the world of the Swarovski creative team, headed by Paris-based creative director Nathalie Colin.
“She designs a lot of Swarovski’s jewelry line in her Paris office. This is her world, and we showcased her creative process, her team, what they do, her inspiration. We did a mock-up of her actual office in Paris,” Hardjakusumah says.
Also included in the Lab was a drawing table with paper and pens where people could design something and put it in the P.O. box on the table. After the exhibition is over, Colin will pick the design she likes best and actually create it out of Swarovski crystal.
Visitors then walked out of Creative Lab and into a lounge-like hub area that led to the Hall of Fashion, which showcased the brand’s partnerships with fashion designers over the years.
“We tried to provide something a little more glamorous there. It’s almost like looking through a kaleidoscope because it’s all mirrored,” Hardjakusumah
Mannequins adorned with amazing Swarovski-laden fashions in the center of the space played off the surrounding mirrors to create the kaleidoscopic effect.
The Fashion Show zone was next, and as the visitor walked down a fashion runway they could see themselves as models. Visitors’ walks were filmed and the video was projected onto a screen at the end of the runway, which was lined with more mannequins displaying Swarovski’s collaborations with fashion designers.
“It’s upbeat, sexy, glamorous. Where the Hall of Fashion is more like a jewelry box, the fashion show is much more edgy and glamorous,” Hardjakusumah says.
Next up was the Sparkling Treasures environment, which showcased the brand’s jewelry design history. The darkened room featured displays highlighting Swarovski’s most iconic designs.
“It was a womb-like, dark, almost underwater experience where we wanted to have the jewelry explode in front of your eyes,” Kalafatic says.
The darkened space was illuminated only with with neon lights and the jewelry displays, leaving the visitor with only one thing to focus their attention on.
Finally, the Nirvana zone was dedicated to Swarovski’s most iconic jewelry piece, the Nirvana ring.
In this zone there was a planetarium-style half-dome, with a projected media presentation on Nirvana, walk-through displays presenting the jewelry, and a stunning a hologram animation of the ring in the center of the space.
“Nirvana is the epitome of the past, present and future of the brand. It’s idealized within a ring, where the concept of how they cut crystal, of form and function of beauty and the heart itself, are all represented within this ring,” Kalafatic says.
In the end, the team pulled together to create an environment that made a big impact on attendees through input and teamwork across three continents.
“It was a really interesting foray into the brand, each area had its own sensory experience. We didn’t allow the guest to just walk through and leave. Our intention was for the guest to be fully immersed in every single space,” Kalafatic says.
That focus on the journey for attendees is what set the exhibition apart, in the end.
“It was really a journey for the consumer, and I think we did built up that crescendo from A to Z. There were different feelings and emotions, because every room had a different story,” Serrano says.
Project: Swarovski Sparkling Secrets Exhibit, Shanghai
Agency: Havas Luxe Events and Havas Worldwide
- Thomas Serrano (president, Havas Luxe Events)
- Ivana Kalafatic (creative director)
- Irma Hardjakusumah (design director)
- Jennifer Baker (project manager)
- Rebecca Coons (project manager)
- Catherine Lee (project assistant)
Scope of work:
- Exhibit concept and story line (Creation of name and exhibit segments)
- Creative Campaign (Exhibit logo and visuals) and Communication
- Content Curation and Program
- Exhibit Design and guidelines
- Technology design and guidelines
- Technology content (Music and video creation)
- Supervision of local execution and implementation
- APAXgroup (fabrication and installation)
- Prime (Display styling and merchandising)
- Cedric M (Video)
- TAG (Video)
- Chut On Vous Ecoute (Music)
- ITP (Multimedia and special effects)