Henri Bendel’s Windows on New York

Fifth Avenue just got a little brighter. Henri Bendel has partnered with Atelier Swarovski to create a special Fifth Avenue Window Shop to show off the Sping/Summer 2011 collection of the coolest crystals in the city.

The collection features directional accessories designed by the likes of Mark Fast, Christopher Kane, Prabal Gurung, Joseph Altuzarra, costume designer Michael Kaplan and architects Hariri & Hariri. Working with Swarovski gives designers the opportunity not only to expand into accessories and jewelry, but also to enjoy the freedom of really challenging what one can expect from a crystal. Two designers I talked to looked both inside and outside of the (jewelry) box for their equally impressive, though vastly different inspiration.

Christopher Kane, who makes the top-selling pieces, created his jewelry from rolled, uncut sheets of crystals—no other designer has thought to do that.

Mark Fast, who had used Swarovski in his knits, looked to immortalize a heirloom from his late grandmother for his first collaboration with the Atelier. “Her name was Olga Fast. When she died I got one of her necklaces, which I used to play with as a kid when I snuck into her room,” he explained of he inspiration for the cut and design.

“The crystals are quite raw, and almost archaic and a little bit off, held together by the metal. It’s that dichotomy of soft and hard, romantic and severe,” he continued.

Gisue Hariri of Hariri & Hariri, on the other hand, actually created her own new crystal. “I’m not a jewelry designer, so as architects, we are always trying to reinvent everything,” she explained of the process behind her creating her own forms. “I told them I don’t want to use crystals that look like diamonds or like precious stones. Which are beautiful, but the whole idea is that we can create a crystal that is beautiful purely as a crystal, and not as a gemstone.”

The end result? Stunning, oversized asymmetric crystals on statement cuffs, rings and belts. As architects are specially attuned to scale, shoppers will agree that in this case, sometimes bigger is better.