DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT: VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE
Victoire de Castellane has been the Creative Director of Dior Joaillerie, Dior’s jewellery division, since its inception in 1998. The jewellery world, especially the kind that Dior makes is a cut throat, competitive business, especially as you have the world’s fiercest brands chasing a tiny clientele across the world. It is a testament to Victoire’s creativity that she has managed to maintain her position in such an aggressive business for such sustained period of time.
She is impeccably aristocratic and her story starts like that of many other jewellers: playing with her mother’s jewellery box. Breaking rules and conventions was always part of her personality- in her youth she was well known on the party scene wearing extravagant outfits that included devil’s horns and Minnie Mouse ears. Her break came early when in 1984, at the tender age of 22 she was snapped up by Karl Lagerfeld and put in charge of Chanel’s costume jewellery department. There are fewer rules and conventions in costume jewellery, which allowed Victoire to fully form her creative talent. She remained at Chanel until 1998, when Bernard Arnaud appointed her head of Dior’s new jewellery department. From then on, she has been responsible for creating at least one high jewellery and one fine jewellery collection a year. Incidentally, she follows the footsteps of another famous Chanel jewellery designer: Fulco di Verdura, who was responsible for some years for designing costume jewellery for Chanel under Coco, until he upped sticks to foray into the world of fine jewellery.
Her inspirations are sometimes random and totally across the board. They include Technicolour, Alice in Wonderland, Walt Disney, Venus fly traps, the Brothers Grimm, Bollywood and Versailles. She is utterly fearless in her use of colour, enamel, mixing precious with semi precious as she pleases. ‘I forget completely the value of the stones’ says Victoire. Just because it’s precious it doesn’t have to be bourgeois. Voila!’ Her pieces are slightly irreverent and are known for their jolie-laide: literally translated and ‘pretty-ugly’. Her influence on jewellery has quietly pervaded into the mainstream, and a lot of people wear designs directly influenced by Victoire without realising. Her bold use of undiluted colour is evident in the way she works: photographs of her in her studio never show her far from a pot of felt tips, coloured pens and pencils.
Recently, her jewellery has begun to transcend into art. Some of her work for Dior has been shown in the Musée Rodin; in 2009, to mark her 10th anniversary at Dior her work was shown at the Orangerie in Paris alongside Monet’s water lilies- a fitting setting for jewels inspired by Dior’s favourite roses, with romantic names such as Milly-la-Fôret. Victoire had her first solo exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in Paris. Being sponsored by Gagosian has to be the highest endorsement for the modern and contemporary.
Even though she has been at Dior nearly 20 years and has been awarded the Légion d’Honneur Victoire shows no signs of slowing down. In her own words, ‘I don’t want to be blasé. I don’t want to bore myself. Voila!’