Miss Dior exhibition opens in Monsieur’s Provençal chateau
Parfums Christian Dior has opened the Miss Dior Exhibition 12 Women Artists featuring interpretations of the fragrance in Monsieur Dior’s famed Chateau de la Colle Noire in Provence as the brand opens the designer’s home for the first time to the general public.
Miss Dior remains the house’s most iconic fragrance, ever since Christian Dior sprayed a whole liter of the scent in the stairway and salons of Avenue Montaigne to welcome guests as they arrived to witness his debut show, the legendary New Look collection on February 12, 1947.
The house acquired the chateau in 2013, and after careful restoration opened it to editors and VIPs two years later. Though La Colle Noire has always held a special place in the Dior iconography, and in fashion history.
The exhibition’s opening coincides with the publication of Miss Dior, A Story of Courage and Couture, by noted magazine and editor and author Justine Picardie, which focuses on the remarkable life of Christian’s youngest sister Catherine. A botanist, rose grower, muse and brave member of the French Resistance who was tortured by the SS in Paris before being sent to Ravensbruck camp, and remarkably surviving. On returning to the Gare de l’Est railway station in Paris in 1945, she was so emaciated that her big brother Christian failed to recognize her. After helping to nurse her back two health, two years later Christian would christen his first fragrance Miss Dior after Catherine.
A latest declination of the scent Miss Dior was launched in early September with a rather magical ad campaign starring Natalie Portman, directed by Manu Cossu. Underlining how important Portman is to the house, the entire production team decamped to Australia, where Portman was filming Thor: Love and Thunder in order to shoot her in floral glory. Necessitating that the whole crew went into isolation for 15 days before the shoot began.
It’s a long way geographically from the Colle Noire. Yet somehow the emergence from the pandemic mirrors the revival in France after the horrors of World War Two and darks days of collaboration under the Vichy regime.
“Precisely because he had been through his own dark moments – Monsieur Dior’s rich family went bankrupt in the 1930s; the Depression forced him to close his art gallery; his eldest brother returned from WW1 permanently shell-shocked, his other brother ended up schizophrenic and Catherine was taken to the camps – Dior was doubly determined to celebrate beauty, freedom of expression and the independence of women. Out of darkness can sometimes come great beauty,” commented Picardie, before a book signing in La Colle Noire’s garden.
Which is what the artists of this show achieved, using the key codes of Dior and the Miss Dior flacon – hound’s tooth; the colors pink and gray or its satin ribbon – to express their different visions.
“We decided to create this exhibition Miss Dior to render homage to Dior, who imagined the scent one summer evening right here in La Colle Noire, thinking of his sister Catherine. So we thought it was the correct thing to ask these female artists to reflect on the very origin of Miss Dior right here in this special location,” explained Jerome Pulis, Parfums Christian Dior’s International Communications Director.
Hua Wang’s Love is a gift concentrates on the elegant satin bow in massive ceramic and resin rectangular box; while Mimosa Echard in Andréa utilized all the materials of a couture atelier – crystals, quartz, plastic beads, earrings, horsehair and even Miss Dior perfume caps - to create a quintet of transparent resin flacons in the color rose – the basis of the scent.
Pia Maria Naeder, a former investigative TV reporter, created hand-made flacon and min Dior gown festooned with thousands of beads in a work entitled Miss Stardust; while Behan Laura Wood, a blue-haired Englishwoman in a kimono dress built a two-meter high Miss Dior Trellis Folly Sculpture in borosilicate glass and stainless steel arches in a hound’s tooth pattern.
“We gave the artists carte blanche. What was interesting was that they all took very different approaches to using Dior codes like, for example, hound’s tooth. Certain artists also used the personal history of Catherine Dior, who was a great resistance fighter. Such as French sculptor Ingrid Donat, who created a metal box with pink parchment inside, as a symbol of Catherine’s courage,” added Pulis.
While in the south of France, the Dior team also organized the makeup for a series of TV stars at Cannes, including Ana Giradot, Vera Kolesnikova, Niels Schneider and Virginie Efira; as well as Naida Ayadi and Marco Prince, members of the jury led by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones fame. The house even sponsored two awards in this festival of television series: A Dior Revelation Prize that went to Malik Gervais-Aubourg for his performance in Je Voudrais Qu’On M’Efface and the Dior Grand Prize for the best series, won by The Allegation from Germany.
Located 45 minutes northwest of Cannes, the chateau is a beautiful expression of Monsieur’s multiple influences – grand neo-classical, earthy Provencal and posh haute bourgeoisie. The structure began life as a sturdy postal sorting office, then became a small stone chateau, before Dior bought it in 1950 and nearly doubled its size, building a new entrance and avenue of staggered spaced poker pines to heighten the sense of distance.
It’s a rarefied and beautiful setting, where all the artistic meditations on beauty and independence seemed very much at home. Boasting extended views over rolling ridges, known locally as The Black Hills, hence the chateau’s name. One can find the olive tress planted by the designer; the five-hectare estate even produces its own olive oil. Christian’s symmetric 40 by 10-meter pond is home to a shoal of Japanese carp, as it was in his days. While white doves and white peacocks – with a new generation of offspring –amble in the meadows and before a the 19th-century chapel. Inside, one finds a floor in star shapes much loved by Dior, a discovery which delighted the famously superstitious designer.
Due to his early death aged just 52, Christian Dior only got to spend two full years in the chateau, but his spirit and the idea of the human spirit overcoming the evils of the world to imagine a finer and nobler place lives on in La Colle Noire. For lovers of fashion and beauty and the myth of Dior it really is a must-see.
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