In her 24 years as creative director at Dior Joaillerie, Victoire de Castellane has explored every aspect of the Christian Dior universe, from the designer’s beloved roses to his adeptness with couture’s finishing touches – ribbons, lace and braiding among them. Instead of the traditional, formal parures that once dominated high jewelry, she has helped herald a new, more relaxed, ultimately more wearable, era for the ultra-luxe category, marrying exquisite craftsmanship and the finest gemstones with a joie de vivre and lightness of touch, which her clients – female and male alike – find irresistible. For Dior Print, de Castellane’s latest collection, British Vogue’s jewelry and watch director Rachel Garrahan tells you five things you need to know.
Dior Print is a quest for joy
For de Castellane, creating jewelry for Dior is always a search for Christian Dior’s identity and, above all, “a quest for joy”. More than ever since the pandemic, color and pattern have become important to her since they’re guaranteed to raise a smile. “I want joy because the world is tough,” she says. She was among the first high jewelers to incorporate a wide palette of colored gemstones beyond the traditional Big Three (rubies, sapphires and emeralds), opening our eyes to a juicy kaleidoscope of opals, spinels, tourmalines, and many more. That passion for color together with her love of playfulness and asymmetry is brought to bear in Dior Print as opals jostle with sapphires and diamonds, and ear cuffs and mismatched earrings encapsulate a youthful wearability and a contemporary edge.
The collection is an original take on the Dior archive
Given her mastery of color and mixing of gem cuts to 3D effect, it is perhaps surprising that this is the first collection in which de Castellane takes a turn into couture’s mastery of printed patterns. Always pushing herself to experiment, “to not be bored by myself” as she puts it, she recalls of the collection’s genesis: “Why don’t we play with classic prints, and rewrite them, in rhythms for example?” Checks, stripes and floral patterns are realized in precious stones, their setting a confection of cuts, a rainbow of color, a harmonious cacophony of texture that encompasses voluminous curving rings and simple diamond line brooches that suggest abstract offcuts of couture fabric. The floral print of one 1948 dress inspired a necklace of tiny multicolored daises set in relief on an asymmetric ribbon of diamonds and gold that wends it way about the neck. In a matching set of necklace and earrings, an ombré effect is achieved by blue sapphires that bleed their way haphazardly into a network of white diamonds.
The show was set in the ancient Sicilian town of Taormina
The historic Grand Hotel Timeo in the hilltop town of Taormina on Sicily’s Southern coast provided the dreamy backdrop to the collection’s presentation. With an ancient Greek theatre on one side and, on the other, gardens of bougainvillea and lemon trees that spill down the hill overlooking the magnificent Bay of Naxos and a smoking Mount Etna – from which red hot lava was still flowing after a recent eruption – it was a suitably dramatic setting for the collection’s unveiling and a welcome opportunity post-pandemic, says de Castellane, “to enjoy the presentation of fashion and jewellery coming together”.
Maria Grazia Chiuri created 40 haute couture dresses specially for the show
As she did for 2019’s Gem Dior presentation of high jewelry in Venice, Maria Grazia Chiuri created 40 unique, exquisitely detailed black gowns and louche trouser suits for the collection’s candlelit presentation on the Timeo’s extended top terrace. For de Castellane, this effortless and fruitful collaboration with her fashion counterpart is one for which she is grateful, noting that it is particularly apt at a house like Dior, which has femininity at its very heart. “Women understand women,” says de Castellane. “There’s a complicity even without our speaking.”
The idea comes first, then the challenge of creation
“In every aspect of my life, I don’t want to be bound,” laughs de Castellane. She is a designer who lets her imagination run riot with an idea for a jewel, before challenging Dior’s atelier of master craftspeople to bring it to life. One such creation is Dior Print’s masterpiece necklace, a delicate interlacing of multiple precious ribbons in different patterns, colors and textures. The challenge of how to make this magnificent bib flexible, light and wearable owes its success to Dior’s watchmaking skills. Beneath its bejeweled patterns lies a hidden network of tiny watch bracelet links that ensures a perfect fit every time. Ultimately, de Castellane is led by a quest for balance and harmony of color, shape and movement: “I think of every piece as a family, a family that has to work together.” Fait accompli.
Originally published in Vogue.com uk