Inspired by / Dior Fine Jewellery designer Victoire de Castellane
I design a line of high jewellery for Dior—Dior Joaillerie—and also my own collection, Victoire de Castellane, which includes high jewellery, one-of-a-kind pieces. My last collection was focused on flowers and very precious objects… I love the idea of artisanal work, craftsman work, and I have all kinds of influences. See, I am Parisian-born, but my grandmother was Spanish, and I have Cuban blood from my great uncle. But, what can I say? I feel like a French woman; Paris is really my city, my town. I do love to travel, though, especially to Latin countries, to stay close to my Latin roots. My grandmother was from Andalusia—she was a really strong character and very feminine. She was always matching her clothes to her jewellery always wearing lipstick, her nails painted until she was 90. She had four husbands and she had five children… It was another time—things were much more sophisticated, in a way. To me, it was really a marvellous glamour world—thats why I was very inspired very early on, by this glamorous world. But I can say that I dont want to be like her. [Laughs] Her fourth husband was really in love with her, but she lived a lot before that: she was a widow at twenty-one with three children. Then, she managed her life with a different old man with a good title—an old but very passionate man. At some moments in her life, she had love stories with men, but also sometimes she just married because she had to survive and go on…
I think that everybody is in charge of their own destiny. I think that you have the choice; its only you that has the choice to say yes, or to say no. I think that I choose to imagine, in my head, a marvellous world. My parents divorced when I was one or two—really early. And I was very quiet and a little sad as a child. I chose in my head to create a fantastic, amazing world—with the jewellery with the glamour I saw—to play in. I loved to play dress-up as a girl. Also, I was really inspired by all of the movies I saw on TV, like Hollywood in the 50s, and the 60s, 70s movies. I was always looking at these saturated Technicolor images; this was really inspiring for me. I loved Mary Poppins, Cleopatra with Liz Taylor, also the musical comedies. I love Gigi, An American in Paris. And after that, I was inspired by Jean-Luc Godard, Nouvelle Vague movies. Theyre really about finding freedom.
"I chose in my head to create a fantastic, amazing world -
with the jewellery, with the glamour I saw—to play in."
When I was younger—in the 80s—I was always wearing black. But I think when youre getting older, black can be too harsh. Thats why I love to play with white close to the face, or bright crimson, and to play with my faux sombre [fake blacks]: navy, indigo, dark green, dark blue. I love that. Its very important to know yourself well—to know your style. I always observe all types of women—the young, the middle-aged, the old ones, the old ones that are very coquette, old ladies that are very sophisticated, or ones who look like men—and Im very inspired by them. For women and men, the worst thing about getting old is getting ringard, which is French and means to lose your taste, and to stick to something that was fashionable at the time. Since we cant fight aging, the best thing we can do is to just keep our style, but not to try to look how we did when we were younger…to be neat and well-groomed and not wear cheap materials. And not to wear too many things—you have to simplify. When you are young, you can do anything, But when you are getting older, less is more. You cant play and start to experiment—its best to not change your hair, and to keep your silhouette. You can still play with your accessories and build up a style that way, with quality jewellery or something like that.
Dear Dior actually plays with the classic culture of couture. To create the clever appearance of fine jewelry masquerading as costume jewelry, de Castellane set rare stones, like Wollo opals, sphene, and neon blue apatite, in gold lace filigree, a design she riffed from a pattern she found in a 1950s Dior couture sketch. Historically, couturiers used only costume jewells on the runway (fine jewellery was considered a separate business), and de Castellane sought to capture some of that real-versus-replica frisson.
De Castellane never set out to become a jewellery designer. Her career began in 1984, when a friend asked her to help work on costume jewellery for Chanel. But Karl Lagerfeld soon offered her a full-time job. "I said, I don't want to work, I only want to go out and have fun with my friends,' " de Castellane recalls. "I stayed at Chanel for 14 years." She left, though, in 1998, when LVMH's Bernard Arnault asked de Castellane to dream up a new world for Dior Fine Jewellery. His proposal was highly inspiring: "to create something from nowhere," she says. As a result, de Castellane has worked to transform the world of accessories, and occasionally even transcend it, venturing into the realm of contemporary art with her exotic, floral Belladone Island collection for Dior, which was shown at the Muse de l'Orangerie in 2007. She counts Sigmund Freud and Stanley Kubrick among her references, although there is no television or book in sight within her apartment. (Turns out her sometime studio and library is hidden behind a false wooden door, though she jokes, "I can't read, because I daydream.")
Along the way, de Castellane's work has explored psychotropic drugs, carnivorous plants, and fairy-tale princesses. "I'm obsessed with the feminine universe," she says. To her, jewellery was never meant to broadcast status or wealth, but to act as a protective talisman—a weapon, even. "When you are bored, feeling alone, jewellery protects you," de Castellane says. "I love all bad vanishing, just the memory of what's beautiful staying in my mind. Life is not like that.
That's why I do jewellery."
Photography KATJA RAHLWES