âIt’s literally like living in a disco ball here,â says the fashion designer Michel schmidt during a video call of the new exhibit he has put on showcasing iconic fashion items worn by mega-stars and all adorned with Swarovski crystals. Shining and dazzling to new heights, the Embellished Costume Exhibition opened in November at Swarovski’s Kristallwelten – this is Crystal Worlds in English – a park and museum, opened in 1995, which is located near the jewelry company’s headquarters in Wattens, Austria.
Most of the objects in the exhibition, entitled The art of performance, are original pieces, including one of Michael Jackson’s famous gloves. âFor me it’s the greatest pop memory ever, so I’m so glad to have it here. This is an original. It’s a loan from Michael Bush, who was Michael Jackson’s designer. He made all of Michael Jackson’s clothes for the second half of his life, âsays Schmidt.
Loan from Bob Mackie and Cher, a headdress and top designed by Mackie and worn by the singer for her residency in Las Vegas. âTo see it in person, it’s really overwhelming. It’s pleated and meant to evoke feathers, and then, of course, it’s crystallized, âsays Schmidt.
His own design of a glove for Lady Gaga, which she wore in American Horror Story: Hotel as Elizabeth the Countess, is also on display.
“She was playing a killer and she would cut your throat with the nail on that glove.” This is 11,000 Swarovski crystals with a sterling silver filigree, âsays Schmidt, who is known for his unique and elegant designs for pop stars such as Madonna, Elton John, BeyoncÃ©, Cher, Rihanna, Cardi B and Katy Perry.
Schmidt spent three years putting on the show, which was due to open last year in tandem with Swarovski’s 125th anniversary. But it has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. âIn fact, it gave us a lot more time to integrate other things that I wouldn’t have access to. These pieces were scattered all over the world in various archives, âexplains Schmidt.
Other pieces on the show are recreations, such as a sculptural replica of the chandelier dress – designed by Jeremy Scott and made by Schmidt – that Perry wore to the Met Gala in 2019.
Schmidt also had the Swarovski encrusted Jean Louis dress reproduced which Marilyn Mono was wearing when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in 1962. (The original is owned by Ripley’s Believe It or Not! who bought the dress in 2016 for $ 4.8 million.)
And he recreated the white tuxedo Marlene Dietrich wore in the 1932 film. Blonde venus. âThis was the very first time that Swarovski crystal had appeared in theaters, in the famous scene with Marlene and Cary Grant. The original no longer exists,â says Schmidt, adding that Blonde venus marks “the introduction of Swarovski into the world of cinema, and after that all the great designers of the time, from Adrian to Edith Head, all used Swarovski on all the big movie stars of the time.”
Additional original items in the exhibit include pieces worn by Bjork, Lizzo, Elton John, Selena Gomez (a crystal floral headdress), Grace Jones, Dita Von Teese and BeyoncÃ©. There’s the real crystal slipper created for the 2015 film Cinderella, plus a scarf worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch not far from the elaborate headdress worn by Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones in the 2015 film Jupiter’s ancestry. A leotard worn by Simone Biles is also on display. âIt was very important for me to have Simone in the show,â says Schmidt. âI wanted to broaden the scope beyond singers and movie stars to include sports. “
âWhat is really amazing is that all of these moments of the last 100 years have all been touched by Swarovski. There has never been an exhibition like this that connects all these amazing moments and this company and its people. products that are truly indispensable to the entertainment industry, âcontinues Schmidt.
The exhibit – which will run for seven years (although some elements will only stay for a year while new ones will be added) – was designed by Tony-winning set designer Derek McLane, who designed everything from Red Mill! and Ragtime on Broadway to the Oscars stage (2013-2018). McLane’s designs for the Swarovski exhibit include a crystal-covered mannequin-like sculpture of Elton John on stage, appearing to fly above a piano. âWe have very special personalized lighting on [the exhibition] therefore all the crystals sparkle in a spectacular way, âexplains Schmidt. Another highlight: A sparkling corset worn by Nicole Kidman in Satine in red Mill, the film.
The art of performance is just one of 17 Crystal Worlds exhibition spaces, spaces Swarovski calls Chambers of Wonder. Elsewhere in the 17 rooms, an installation called The chandelier of mourning by artist Yayoi Kusama; a tree nearly 6 meters high made up of 150,000 crystals co-designed by designer Tord Boontje and the late Alexander McQueen; and a crystal dome with 595 mirrors inspired by one of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes. The 18-acre park even has a carousel made up of 15 million Swarovski crystals. âThe museum, which is built in the foothills of the Alps, is quite extraordinary,â says Schmidt.
With Schmidt’s knack for stunning design, his exhibit is a fitting addition to the mix. âOf course I had heard a lot about Michael Schmidt designing all these amazing costumes, and then I went to LA and he invited me to his studio,â says Carla Rumler, curator of Swarovski Crystal Worlds and cultural director of Swarvoski. There and there, in Schmidt’s studio, Rumler offered to do an exhibition together. âHe said yes immediately,â she recalls, adding, âI’m so overwhelmed with the result. When I saw him for the first time, I had tears in my eyes. Without him, we could not have done this. He had access to all the rooms.