Watches & Jewellery

Precious instinct: An Exclusive Interview with Dior Jeweller Victoire de Castellane

After 20 years under the command of Dior's creative jewellery director, Victoire de Castellane maintains her vision that real precious jewels must have a soul
Reading time 8 minutes
Victorie de Castellane is one of those responsible for a revolution in jewelry. Photo: Frederike Helwig

If there was a real revolution in jewellery today , believe me, there is a finger (or, in this case, two hands) to point at Victoire de Castellane for this movement. When the French designer started using not so precious stone in the creation of jewellery, much of this concept started to fall in the consumers' taste and these gems, like quartz and opals, started to have an even greater aesthetic value. In other words, all that serious air over necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings initially carried gained a certain lightness. And this transformation was thanks to its enormous attraction for colors, textures and all the magic that happens during the development of the pieces. 

Victoire’s attraction to this precious universe of jewellery began in childhood, when the little girl admired the extravagant jewellery of her grandmother, Silvia Hennessy, the countess of Castilleja de Guzman. According to Victoire, it was incredible to see her change jewellery several times a day to match her clothes. A few years later, at 12, she melted some gold medals to create her first ring. In the following decade, at the age of 22, she started her career alongside Karl Lagerfeld, at Chanel, and stayed at the maison for 14 years, working as an assistant at the jewellery studio. After the experience, Victoire joined Christian Dior and, in 1999, presented her first collection as creative jewellery director with a fresh, fun and feminine look. 

The designer, in a very special interview, reveals more about her relationship with jewellery and, of course, tells about one of the most important launches for the French house, Gem Dior, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of Dior Joaillerie and which she sees as a defining compilation of her work.

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L'OFFICIEL Were you that girl who usually dreamed of your mother's jewelry?

VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE I got my love and taste for jewellery from my grandmother, Sylvia Hennessy. She wore jewelry that matched her clothes and could change them up to three times a day. She was impeccable. Lipstick and nail polish always on the hands and feet. She was a real sight of beauty, fascinating. She was not a grandmother in the classic sense of the term. She was a bit like a Hollywood hero. She was a close friend of Barbara Hutton, the American millionaire married to Cary Grant, who wore emerald tiaras during the day and lived in a palace in Tangier.

 

L'OFFICIEL And did you think that one day you would work with gold and precious stones?

VC Not really.

 

L'OFFICIEL How did you start working with jewellery?

VC I started working alongside Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, overseeing the jewellery design of the house for 14 years before starting the Christian Dior fine jewellery division in 1998.

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Victorie has several inspirations: art, exhibitions, films, photography, the female world, love, sexuality, psychoanalysis .... Photo: brand

L'OFFICIEL You have already used contrasting colors in your designs, masked high jewelry as jewelry and even used blackened silver in your most extravagant creations for Dior. Where do all these ideas come from? What is the connection of your creations with Dior's DNA?

VC Since I arrived at Dior, I developed the themes of the house: the Christian Dior garden in Milly-la-Forêt, the eccentric balls and, of course, haute couture. However, the themes that inspire my collections are just a starting point and I mix them with my own inspirations: art, exhibitions, films, photography, street, female world, love, sexuality, psychoanalysis, life itself. When I create, I'm still 5 years old, and that hasn't changed. I like to approach creation as children approach a game, with an open mind and the freedom that childhood offers. Each of my collections leads to the next and I love the idea of going even further, where I least expect it. I hate being bored because it makes me unhappy. I always need to create something to have fun.

 

L'OFFICIEL Do you see beauty in hard semi-precious stones?

VC I see beauty in all the stones that nature offers.

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L'OFFICIEL Do you remember what your first day at Dior was like?

VC I realized that the house was very different from Chanel and I started to discover its codes in search of DNA

 

L'OFFICIEL Currently, what is your challenge in developing the collections?

VC I am working two years ahead, so I make four collections at different stages. The challenge for me is to make sure that in two years I will be happy to show my creations. It would be too late and too expensive to make changes at that stage. Therefore, it is important to project myself and make sure that I love now and I will love then.

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Victorie believes that women can mix and adorn themselves with the most precious accessories any way they want. Photo: brand

L'OFFICIEL Do you think there has been a change in the world of jewellery?

VC The jewels have become more casual.

 

L'OFFICIEL I know you had a good relationship with Raf Simons, especially during your collection called Dear Dior. Do you now have any connection with Maria Grazia during the development of all the pieces or are you more independent?

VC Designers don't work together to create their collections. Each one acts in his field. The presentation of the Gem Dior collection in Venice was the first opportunity for Maria Grazia and I to mix our worlds.

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L'OFFICIEL Tell us more about your latest high jewellery collection. How did you start?

VC I decided to work with abstract geometric shapes for the first time. I call it abstract, but also organic, because nothing is symmetrical or geometric.

 

L'OFFICIEL You are celebrating your 20th anniversary at Dior. What kind of inspiration did you put into the collection?

VC I wanted to play with the idea of looking at all my previous collections and zooming in, so that the stones would be pixelated. I like working with shapes and colors and I found it fun to make mono and polychromatic jewellery. The collection starts with the monochrome, which goes through gradients and ends with the multicolored. It is a game with all the colors and stones that we find in the world. It is the first time that I have created an abstract collection, a kind of style exercise that I really love and never tire of.

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L'OFFICIEL I heard that, for the first time, Dior presented the jewellery collection with models, as did Monsieur Dior with the haute couture collections in the 1950s. How do you see this form of presentation? Is it better than just seeing the pieces in a shop window?

VC Yes, absolutely. It was a new way of presenting jewellery, showing them how they live on the skin and in the light. It is much easier to project yourself as a customer when you see the jewellery on.

 

L'OFFICIEL Do you believe that women's relationship with jewellery has changed?

VC When I started at Dior, the jewels were very classic. It made me feel that the jewellery stores were creating pieces with the investment value in mind, targeting men who wanted to buy jewelry for women. I wanted to change that and started creating jewellery for them. Suddenly, they could mix and adorn themselves with the most precious accessories however they wanted.

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