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Victoire de Castellane is a French jewellery designer who lives and works in Paris.

She started her career alongside Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, overseeing the house’s costume jewelry designs for 14 years. Since 1998, she has gained international recognition and acclaim as creative director of Christian Dior’s fine jewelry division, a role she continues to this day.

Her personal work has been exhibited in art settings, including a solo show, Fleur d’excès, at Gagosian Gallery in 2011. In January and March 2014 Animalvegetablemineral the second personal exhibition of unique objects by Victoire de Castellane is presented at Gagosian Gallery Davies Street, London & Gagosian Madison avenue, New York.

Family background and early life

Victoire de Castellane was born into the French aristocratic de Castellane family, tracing back to the year 1000 – the family tree includes reigning princes, crusaders, bishops and generals. De Castellane is the great-grand-niece of Boniface ‘Boni’ de Castellane (1867–1932), a Parisian dandy and legend of the Belle Époque.

De Castellane was partly brought up by her maternal grandmother and her uncle, Gilles Dufour, one of Karl Lagerfeld’s principal assistants, first at Fendi then Chanel.

De Castellane has commented that her love of jewelry making was triggered by watching her paternal grandmother, Silvia Hennessy, née Rodriguez de Rivas, Countess de Castilleja de Guzman, “change her baubles to match her different outfits several times a day.” Her first jewelry-making feat was accomplished at the age of five when she dismantled a charm-bracelet – a present from her mother – in order to make a pair of earrings. At 12, she created her first ring using gold melted down from the religious medals she’d received at her Communion ceremony.

De Castellane's formative years were spent in Paris; she later commented that she had “hated school”.

During the early 1980s, Gilles Dufour often took the teenage de Castellane out to famed Parisian nightclubs such as Le Palace where she first experimented with dressing up in playful, flamboyant and ultra-feminine styles, often sporting Mickey Mouse ears or a devil’s horns headband and wearing lingerie on the outside of her clothing.

Chanel (1984-1998)

De Castellane joined Chanel in 1984 where she started as a studio assistant. Creative director Karl Lagerfeld soon asked her to oversee the development of costume jewelry designs. Over

the 14 years she worked at Chanel, de Castellane remained an inspiration for Lagerfeld, bringing her fashion playfulness to the costume jewelry, layering it with cartoon and pop-culture references.

Of de Castellane, Lagerfeld commented, “She follows the rules I like best in life: Don’t compare. Don’t compete. You look at her. You get the message.”

De Castellane sometimes appeared on the Chanel catwalk modelling the house’s collections.

Dior Joaillerie (1998-present)

In January 1998, Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, announced the launch of the Christian Dior brand’s inaugural jewelry division, Dior Joaillerie. In doing so he appointed Victoire de Castellane to become the Dior Fine Jewelry Creator.

De Castellane has been celebrated for having revolutionized the world of jewelry design. Renowned as one of the most creative and fearless jewelry designers in the world, de Castellane has produced both very large or very discreet pieces, played with the barriers between natural and artificial and trailblazed the use of semi-precious gemstones and lacquered gold in bold and diverse colors.

De Castellane’s designs are characterized by combining classic precious stones such as diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires with semi-precious gemstones to evoke wildly fantastical narratives, such as fairy tales and vanitas, as well as elements of Christian Dior’s work and life, including his garden in Milly-la-Forêt.

Her sources of inspiration include floral and natural motifs, as well as a global mix of pop culture, such as “Technicolor, Alice in Wonderland, manga characters, the Brothers Grimm, Walt Disney Pictures, Venus Flytraps, Bassett’s Liquorice allsorts, the visual excesses of Bollywood and the darkest depths of the subconscious.”

Typically, de Castellane’s contrasting designs feature either oversized or tiny elements. The Mimioui diamond solitaire mounted on a fine chain was designed as the world’s smallest ring. In contrast, the 1999 Incroyables et Merveilleuses collection features larger-than-life rings whose centerpieces incorporate 80-carat stones such as morganite, rubellite, amethyst and natural green beryl.

Each year de Castellane creates a High Jewelry collection and a Fine Jewelry collection for Dior Joaillerie, as well as numerous one-off pieces for individual clients.

In an unprecedented move for the luxury industry, pieces from Dior Joaillerie’s Belladone Island collection were premiered on January 12, 2007 on the online virtual world Second Life. The entire collection was subsequently presented on February 27 in an exhibition in Monet’s Water Lilies room at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris.

In 2009 de Castellane marked her 10th anniversary at Dior Joaillerie with the Reines et Rois collection. Each of the 20 pieces – 10 kings and 10 queens – featured a ronde-bosse skull carved from ornamental and often translucent stones such as chrysolite, chalcedony and jade, then dressed in diamond-encrusted collars and crowns.

In 2011, de Castellane presented the Bal des Roses collection – paying homage to Christian Dior’s favorite flower – in the Musée Rodin in Paris. The collection featured 12 unique pieces that evoke the image of blooming women attending a ball in their most beautiful haute couture gowns. Each piece bore the name of a 1950s Dior gown.

As of June 2012, there are 40 Dior Joaillerie stores in 17 different countries.

Women as inspiration

De Castellane widely acknowledges that women, the female body and the feminine world remain her principal sources of inspiration. She has said that, “I love Pin-ups as much as coquettish old ladies. I adore the glamour, the Hollywood style artifice, Marilyn and Liz Taylor in Cleopatra. I look at them, young or old, masculine or very feminine; I love their voices, their way of walking, their heels, their jewelry and their gestures.”

Another key aspect of de Castellane’s work is her desire to create jewelry that empowers and protects women. In a 2011 interview she commented: “I make jewels that are women’s friends; that protect them. I would like my jewels to give women the power to escape from reality.”

Exhibitions

In March 2011, de Castellane had her first solo exhibition of personal work at Gagosian Gallery in Paris.

Entitled Fleur d’excès, the show featured a collection of ten one-off pieces composed of jewelery created from precious materials sculpted into hard stone bases. Each intricately made hybrid contained a wearable element, becoming “jewelry at rest, waiting to be worn”, and each was given a faux-classificatory moniker such as L. Es Delirium Flash, Quo Caïnus Magic Disco and Heroïna Romanticam Dolorosa.

While the titles alluded to the illicit pleasures of mind-altering substances, the works themselves were more expansive, portraying narrative scenes in which flowers played the roles of heroines.

In January and March 2014 Animalvegetablemineral the second personal exhibition of unique object by Victoire de Castellane is presented at Gagosian Gallery Davies Street, London & Gagosian Madison avenue, New York.

“Victoire de Castellane has heard the cry of Mother Nature once again, with a new art-meets-precious-jewerly collection that features moonlight snakes, ultra bright flower blossoms and clusters of flat diamonds meant to mimic water. Her first London show, Animalvegetablemineral, opens today at Gagosian Gallery on Davies street in Mayfair, and run through saturday. Next month, it moves to gagosian on Madison Avenue in New York, where it will be open from March 12 to April 5. Animalvegetablemineral builds on Fleurs d'excès, de Castellane's collection of undulating, sculptural jewels also inspired by the natural world, which made its debut in Paris in 2011.”

WWD 2/4/14 Samantha Conti

Awards and popular culture references

De Castellane had a minor role in Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette.

De Castellane was awarded the Légion d’Honneur in February 2007.

Quotes

“I start with a story, a world, never with the material. I find my stories in everything I observe and experience – rebellion, love, sexuality, pleasure, violence, protection, psychoanalysis, and my taste for fairy tales…” [Gagosian]

“I can’t get attached to something that dies so quickly, so I make flowers that live forever.” [Nowness]

Further reading

Dior Joaillerie. Rizzoli (2012)

Victoire de Castellane, Fleurs d’excès. Gagosian Gallery (2011)

Belladone Island. Steidl (2007)

External links

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