Victoire de Castellane

Victoire de Castellane. Photo by Gorka Postigo.

On November 3rd, the Museum of Arts and Design will honor Dior Jouaillerie designer Victoire de Castellane—along with hotelier Ian Schrager, furniture designer Ralph Pucci, and Kate Spade CEO Craig Leavitt—at their annual MAD Ball. The jewelry designer has much to celebrate: after 14 years overseeing the Chanel’s costume jewelry, de Castellane assumed the role of creative director of Christian Dior’s fine jewelry division in 1998. In 2007, she received France’s prestigious Légion d’Honneur award and in 2011, her jewelry got the art world treatment with a solo show at the Gagosian Gallery. Here, de Castellane opens up about her unique design process, working with Karl Lagerfeld, and more.

What was it like working with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel?
I enjoyed working with Karl at Chanel; everything was possible. He had just started the artistic direction of Chanel. I learned how to play with identities of a house and we had a lot of fun and it was a great success. I also learned how to create without getting bored—without taking things too seriously…

What’s the most challenging aspect of your role at Dior Jouaillerie?
It is a wonderful to be there since the beginning of the Dior Jewelry adventure, and I appreciate the great freedom I have to create collections while mixing the identities of the house and my personal inspirations. Each time I finish a collection of Fine Jewelry is an exciting moment. It’s magical to see the jewels that I imagined becoming real.

Can you describe your design process?
Everything starts with the concept and the stones are sourced according to the design. I am very closely involved in the entire process of the manufacturing and I have the image of the finished jewel in my mind. I make a quick sketch on a Post-it, I talk about it with my studio who makes a gouache drawing (drawing in the real dimensions of the jewel, often from various angles). We submit this design to the ateliers based in Paris. Then follow many comings and goings between the atelier and myself, so that each stage – from the green wax for casting to the setting or polishing – complies with the image that I had of the jewel. It takes between 18 to 24 months to achieve a piece of high jewelry. I have the chance to work with the best Parisian workshops, who lend their expertise to realize my designs and adapt or develop the necessary manufacturing processes in order to achieve the design I have in mind without altering it.

Your jewelry is considered a work of art. In your own words, can you explain how?
I do not think about it that way. I create as if I was still 5 years old. I make a suggestion, which is understood, accepted, or loved. I never know how people will react to it. It's me who I want to surprise in the first place when I create things. I can only create things that I like. It's my way of expressing myself, my own personal language ...

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