All it took was a pearl earring for pundits to deign the 2019 Met Ball a watershed moment in men’s style. When Harry Styles stepped onto the gala’s pink carpet with a lone pearl dangling from his right lobe, many heard the creak of an open door, heralding an era of flamboyance within menswear – particularly when it came to jewellery. But really, men had been adorning themselves with glamorous stones for centuries; from the icey figureheads of hip hop, decked in hefty chains and dazzling grills, to the Maharajas of India, who procured some of the most extravagant – and actually camp – jewellery collections in history.
As we break from the chrysalis of the past year, this is precisely where Swarovski has turned its attention. Exuberance, decoration, rebirth. Jewellery as a medium “to ignite self-expression,” as Giovanna Engelbert, Swarovski’s first ever creative director, puts it. Engelbert’s debut collection, which landed earlier this year, glistened with all the joie de vivre that makes her colourful personal style so covetable – first as a model and then as a fashion editor on the street style circuit. Think gargantuan gobstopper rings, crystals and semi-precious stones strung together in boho loops, and vibrant, studded chokers. Together, they form a sparkling, “mathemagical garden”, which has now been reimagined by Dazed editor-in-chief IB kamara, in an exclusive editorial photographed by Carlijn Jacobs.
“IB is a modern poet,” Engelbert says, “he uses images as words.” Here, the ebullient pieces of the designer’s first outing at Swarovski have been reinterpreted with historic flair – floating, transparent Millenia necklaces have been repeated across the torso like livery collars, while the label’s clustered, geode-esque Somnia bracelets are garlanded along headpieces and turbans. “Throughout history, men have always worn jewellery – this adornment had been lost but now men have the courage to express themselves through their looks more than ever. With IB we found this poetic way of visualising an unapologetic, inclusive expressive way of self-decoration.” Though excessive decoration fell out of favour in the early 19th century as attention turned to practicality, all signs now point to a turning of the tide as more and more men open themselves up to experimentation.
Painted faces, and fashion styled as traditional dress, speak to the cultural mythologies at the heart of IB’s work. It’s a global vision that the editor has championed during his time at Dazed and signals a new era for Swarovski, which, as the brand say, is “ageless, genderless, bold, and brave”. As such, shards of crystal have been festooned across the face and body, splintered like crumbled, glossy candy – suggestive of “a new way of self-decorating, creating ultra-expressive, crystal royals, and joyful self-expression,” Engelbert says. By blending jewellery with fashion and beauty, Swarovski and IB have imbued heritage with a newfound creativity. It’s a rallying cry for our collective reemergence back into society, embodied by Engelbert’s new mantra at Swarovski – to “ignite your dreams”.