English English French French

Victoire de Castellane, what did you do with your childhood dreams?

February 6 2018

[Click on the image to see the gallery]

I had met the artistic director of Dior Joaillerie in autumn 2016 to ask her to tell the child she was, and her dreams. A way of better the adult she has become. Diving into the world of his memories and his imagination. - Isabelle Cerboneschi.

Officially, Victoire de Castellane is the Artistic Director of Dior Fine Jewelry since 1998. But the reality is different. She is a polymorphous character emerging from a fairy tale by the main door: she is both the fairy and the witch (the beloved of course), the fiancée of the vampire and Alice in the country that amazes us. Very clever those who can define it.

Officially, Victoire de Castellane creates jewelery. But it's a blanket. In reality, she prepares talismans, invents objects of curiosity, brings in whole magical stories on a few square centimetres. And this by the grace of stones with shimmering colours, if possible fire opals, if possible Paraiba tourmalines, if possible sapphires Padparadscha, and emeralds. Diamonds too. Her ornaments are symbols of alliance, her jewels, embellishers. Everything is a question of look and intention.

Victoire de Castellane could have been painted by Alexej von Jawlensky, who knew how to draw the souls in a few strokes: two eyes hemmed like buttonholes, a straight nose, a scarlet mouth, a fringe which delimits the expressive space and overshadows the whole.

Victoire de Castellane is not of this world, but works in it. She uses the word "wonderful" a lot. It's so good to cross the path of a marvellous wonder.

IC: What was your biggest childhood dream? Victoire de Castellane: To be able to enter a cave like Ali Baba's, to discover treasure and to be able to have him serve me jewellery at will! I would love to have an entire room in which all my treasures would hang on the walls and that I could count, watch, observe, that would fascinate me. I love being fascinated. As a child, I loved coloured stones, very bright and gold too. I loved molten gold. It made me think of honey in Winnie the Pooh. It's magic, as if the sun had frozen in a metal.

Finally, did you realise that dream? Yes, a little bit anyway. I play with stones, I have fun, I invent lives for them, I like to mix them, put them in families. I find it wonderful to be able to tell myself that my work is a continuation of my child's play.

Do you believe in the power of stones? Not really. I just believe in kindness and honesty in the work, that's it. And I think that if we did things sincerely with love, it shows.

What did you want to do when you grew up? I wanted to be a psychoanalyst or surgeon. Finally, I created little treasures for women. I like the idea that a woman builds a little treasure so that she can say to herself: I leave with, he protects me. The jewel has a talisman side. And then I find that it erotcises the body, that it dramatises, that it emphasises. I always observe how women choose their finery. I like the jewel in its archaic, primitive meaning.

In its magic dimension?
Yes, it amuses me to believe it. I like to invent stories and tell myself that it can bring good luck.

Are jewels the best friends of the woman, as Marilyn Monroe sang? It is the intimacy that one develops with the jewel that I find fascinating. It touches your skin; it lives on you. There is also all this symbolism of the transmission. I like to imagine that the jewel has been there for so many years before and that it will live long afterwards. I always feel that when we pass a jewel that we love to a loved one, this person carries us on it. I have antique jewellery that a woman, or many have looked, cherished, pieces that have been offered with love. All this is pretty wonderful.

It is also a form of humility. Of course: it reminds us that we are mortal and that the jewel will survive us. That we are only passing through these jewels.

What was your favorite toy?
I loved Barbie dolls, dressed by myself, I made shows. I loved locking myself in my room and playing hours.

What did you dress?
The dresses were requested at each birthday so there was plenty: princesses, squaws, Mary Poppins ... I do not know what I had, but I loved to disguise myself. I loved playing with femininity. We can be so many women!

Was it a way of trying to enter other lives? Oh yes, completely! It was a way of being she or she or her. I became her.

You were not good at being yourself? If, except that I still do not know who I am! I have a vague idea.

This is a default definition?
Yes. It's complicated to be oneself. We are very much asked to be another too. We want to know what it is to be another.

Have you kept all these toys, all these disguises?
I did not keep anything.

What was your favorite game at recess? I loved playing hopscotch and rubber band! I jumped bungee! Hours! We hung them at the feet of the chairs and when we were only two. Was it good!

Did you climb trees?
Not at all. I was not a tomboy, although I have a pretty masculine part of me, but she did not speak like that.

She was expressing herself how?
Maybe in my need to be very friends with boys. I love friendship with boys. Although I really like girls, I have a lot of male friends and I have fun with them. In my work too, I find that I have a male part: in my choice of volumes, in my desire to create things strong enough, powerful.

What was the colour of your first bike? I do not remember, but all of a sudden I remember that I had a little blue cane. It had been offered to me and I was fascinated by this little shiny blue wooden cane. Maybe because she came from Switzerland. It's funny!

This is not the same use as a bike. It must be red, I think ... I mostly had roller skates. I loved to skate: at the time, it was not rollerblades, they had four wheels. I had a scooter too and I was doing it at the Trocadero.

What superhero did you want to become? I identified a lot with comic heroines like Lili et Aggie. For me, they were two superheroes. They had a lonely side in which I found myself. And I loved their looks: Aggie for her rolled up jeans worn with cuffed socks and tight waist and Lili for her more Parisian side, with her ballerinas. It conditioned me.

In your look?Aggie was America. You had to have Levi's! This side fifties, American student was very inspiring for me. And at the same time, she has this glamorous side, very Marilyn Monroe, when she goes to the Beginners' Ball. Lili, with her side sixties, was more existentialist with her skirt. I arranged all this to my sauce in the 80 years when I started going out. The looks, at the time, we had to go find them. Fashion was not at all what's happening today. You had to go to the flea, find some stuff vintageI spent my life there. At the time, I bought new pumps out of old stocks 60 years for 5 francs!

What superpowers did you want to have? I think I would have loved flying. It's quite wonderful to be able to walk in the air with the possibility to look at everything down and to land where you want. It's a super power to run away and at the same time to discover something else.

Did you dream in colour or in black and white? I think I was dreaming in colour.

What was your favorite book when you were a kid?
I loved the works of the Rose Library and the Green Library too. I loved everything.

Have you read them since?
No, but I read again Lili et Aggie. It's not very deep, but it's funny. I try to find those emotions. It's nice enough to go back to something nostalgic, I like melancholy too, I think it's quite inspiring.

Does drawing something helps you create? Yes of course. It is also a way to fight against the anxiety of creating. I need to dream every day.

If your childhood had a taste, what would it be? I think rather of an odor. That of the mimosa. At the time, my grandparents had a house on the French Riviera, in the Midi, and there were those extraordinary Mediterranean smells, that of the pines too. I find it wonderful, the smell of these little paths with umbrella pines. It's so Mediterranean for me!

And if your childhood had a fragrance?
THE 'Hawaiian Tropic! A suntan oil that smelled like a holiday.

During the summer holidays, you went to see the sea?
Yes. Always. I can not do without the sea. It's wonderful the sea! There is no space-time. We do not know what time it is, what day, what year. Nothing stops the eye. All men could look at this landscape. It's like heaven: we can not fix time with the sky. We are not stopped by something that gives a clue to the time.

Did you know how to build paper planes?
No, but I knew how to make paper pots. And I also loved something else, which I saw in a Jean Yanne movie the other day: the tac-tac. It was two balls that clashed and made, clack, clack, clack. It made me crazy! I had a rose. Sometimes, it was taken in the eye! It was hyper-dangerous!

Were you afraid of the dark?
Of course! I'm always afraid of the dark.

What's in the dark that scares you? I find it very scary to sleep completely in the dark, because, as I have a lot of imagination, anything can happen. In horror movies, there is always something going on in the dark. And then in the dark, we have no landmarks. I like the dim light or a small night light. But I especially like light. I prefer to be in the light only in the darkness! I am not very gothic.

Which did not stop you from drawing some gothic jewels, like this collection called The bride of the vampire.
I find that the romantic-gothic side can be inspiring. But there must always be a possibility of hope. When I created this collection, I liked the idea that the girl was bitten by the amorous vampire, and that she lived forever. There is always this hope of life anyway.

And of love?
And of love. Absolutely. Life can not be without love.

Exactly, do you remember the name of your first love?
His name was Pierre. He was in class with me. But I had several lovers. I had a Grégoire also, that I found quite a lot. I met him at a birthday.

And of the child you have been?
Very good! She is always in me. I think you always have to keep the child that you were, otherwise you become a monster. But you have to be careful because this child can be a bully. It takes a happy medium. You have to know how to keep this curiosity. The good side of the child: amazed!

A version of this interview appeared in the Hors-Série Architecture and Design of Time on November 12 2016