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0n her first visit here, Ute Schumacher, head of the Trend & Design Department of Crystal Fashion Components at Swarovski, the Austria-headquartered company whose name has become synonymous with crystal, has come primarily to view the creative output of students at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, but also to meet with some of the local fashion and jewelry designers who use Swarovski crystals in their creations.
One of the world's largest producers of crystal jewelry stones and components, crystal objects, crystal jewelry and accessories, precision optical equipment, grinding and dressing tools and synthetic gemstones, Swarovski is represented in more than 40 countries and has manufacturing plants in 15.
The Shenkar students, whose work Schumacher will assess, have completed a Swarovski-sponsored project in which they adorned evening and wedding dresses with crystals in a variety of shapes, cuts, sizes and colors.
The project was encouraged by Elyakim Yalon, who for the past 20 years has been the Swarovski representative in Israel.
The students' works, each inspired by a different theme, will be on display on Thursday evening at the gala ball of the Shenkar International Board of Governors at the Port of Tel Aviv.
The festivities will be preceded by the conferment of Honorary Fellowships on former prime minister Shimon Peres; fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune Suzie Menkes, widely acknowledged as the global guru of fashion reviewers; and designer Silvia Venturini Fendi of the famed Italian fashion house.
Schumacher met on Wednesday with a handful of designers with whom Yalon works closely - among them jewelry fashion, housewares and gift wares designer Michal Negrin who is building up an international empire of her own and who Yalon referred to as "our best customer;" couture fashion designer Tovele Hasson; bridal and evening wear designer Danny Mizrachi, who of late is spending more time in England doing business than in Israel; and jewelry designer Michal Kalmanson.
Essentially a family business established more than a century ago, Swarovski, while all sparkle and glamour in its merchandise, is much more somber about its finances and plays its cards very close to its chest.
While happy to talk about design trends and what influences them, Schumacher carefully avoided any effort to turn the conversation to revenues. A brochure dated 2004, that was given to journalists, contained the information that Swarovski's total turnover in 2003 was 1.68 billion euros, and that the total number of employees worldwide was 14,257.
The company has a policy about not making public disclosures about revenue breakdowns in different countries.
Yalon stuck to the rules, but dropped a hint or two. Although Israel's share in the overall turnover is minuscule, the figure in 2005 came to seven digits in euros and eight digits in shekels he said. The overall turnover was in excess of 2 billion euros he added, but declined to be specific.
Fashion changes as technology changes, noted Schumacher, pointing out that when fashion history is compared with that of technology, there are always changes.
Fashion is also affected by the economy she observed, recalling that in the 1980s when more women joined the work force and assumed executive positions, they started wearing power suits.
Having established woman power, they are more relaxed today and willing to wear more romantic styles replete with frills, chiffon and lace.
Looking around the room, Schumacher said: "Twenty years ago, we would have all been in masculine business suits. Today, women in business show their feminine side."