photographs and interview by OLIVIER ZAHM
portrait by PIERRE-LE TAN
On January 1, 1998 Victoire de Castellane, a young woman from an eccentric French aristocrat family, started Dior Haute Joaillerie, reinventing the world of fine jewelery. Breaking all the conventions and overcoming all the restrictions, Victoire introduced explosive colors, amusing fairytales, and personal fantasy into jewelry, taking her inspiration from popular culture, video games, Japanese mangas, custom cars, and erotic fantasies. She introduced the use of precious and semi-precious stones, many long ignored because of their audacious brilliance — gigantic amethysts, huge citrines, and crystalline aquamarines. She repainted gold, creating rose-lacquered gold, translucent purple gold, and ultra-green gold — all in all, nothing less than
a revolution in sense and sensation.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You’re seeing a psychoanalyist four times a week? When did this all start?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Five years ago. I love it! It’s like being back in school. It’s a real discipline and extremely interesting.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Self-exploration?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANEe — It’s an exploration, both of myself and of others, because when you begin talking about yourself and the people around you, you start seeing patterns, like in a puzzle. It’s a good thing to get to know yourself — it can help you to understand other people.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Did you start therapy out of curiosity or were you really suffering?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — At first it was because I was suffering. It isn’t good to hang on to things that make you suffer. It’s better to try to find out why. Neurotic things repeat themselves and accumulate and are hard to manage; they keep you from moving forward. Discharging them clears the way for greater creativity. People who are scared of psychoanalysis often say they’re scared they’ll lose their creativity, but you actually refocus it. In any case, creativity is in you. Everything that’s happened to you still exists in your subconscious, so you shift around the anxieties that make you creative with psychoanalysis, but you remain creative. Since I’ve been in analysis, I’ve been pushing the envelope even further, making even wilder and more excessive designs! It’s a matter of desire, of course. But psychoanalysis really frees your head up.
OLIVIER ZAHM — I’ve always considered you to be an artist, even though you make jewelry. You were a fashion designer at one point, though, right?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes. I started working at Chanel when I was 20, and stayed there for 14 years, working with Karl Lagerfeld at the Chanel studio. Already when I was 14, I was making looks for myself, for the body I had, which wasn’t really a body, although at the time people were less into androgyny. But, really, what’s fun for me is being a girl. I adore the idea of being a girl!
OLIVIER ZAHM — You say girl, not woman?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — No, not woman. I’m talking about when I was 14, when I already had a very feminine body and figured I might as well have fun with it — go all the way with shapes.
OLIVIER ZAHM — This was around the time of Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana, right?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, the time when feminine form was celebrated by designers, in the ’80s. I was inspired by Dianne Brill and by Azzedine Alaïa, who was very successful with figure-hugging dresses.
The female body was celebrated by designers back then. And I joined right in.
OLIVIER ZAHM — But the Chanel woman is more androgynous.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, she wears men’s clothes and is leaner and stiffer. She takes on a kind of independence. Other designers’ women are creatures who use their femininity as power. On the other hand, those outfits with the huge shoulders from the ’80s make me laugh. The power side, the masculine side, wasn’t interesting to me.
OLIVIER ZAHM — How did you come to work at Chanel so young?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I’ll tell you what happened. When my parents divorced I went to live with my uncle, Gilles Dufour. I was ten. My mom had remarried and I got used to staying with my grandmother. Her youngest son, Gilles, was working in fashion. He was Karl’s assistant at Fendi at the time. So I was living with Gilles, who was still living with his mother in a kind of chic-gay French tradition.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So Gilles Dufour got you into Chanel?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Everyone thought so, but he actually came to work there six months after I did. I came in when Hervé Léger was Karl’s assistant. Gilles replaced him. I had a friend who worked in PR at Chanel. She said they needed a girl to help them for two weeks with Karl’s first haute-couture collection. I’d spoken to Karl four or five times on the phone because Gilles was his assistant. We ran into each other at Chanel when I was doing my internship. He said, “Oh, Victoire! How funny! Why don’t you come work at the studio?” I asked myself, “Do I really want to work at Chanel? I’ll be trapped. I’d rather go out, have fun.” But when I started working for Karl at Chanel I loved it. It was extremely enriching, fun, and interesting. I dealt with jewelry. I learned a lot and I had unbelievable freedom. I spent 14 extraordinary years at Chanel, an entire lifetime.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Tell me more about the influence that designer Gilles Dufour had on you as a teenager?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I was raised in part by him. He taught me everything. He helped me to understand what’s important about being a girl: that it was in my best interest to emphasize my form, that that was what boys liked, and that I had to wear high heels. I immediately subscribed to the idea of being extreme. At 14, I was going on 16, not 12.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Did you dress like a Lolita?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I dressed like a young prostitute! It was an ideal for me. I adored that esthetic. At the time they didn’t make really high heels so I’d go up to Pigalle and buy prostitute’s shoes. Prostitutes had a very creative look, extraordinary really. They were real girls with red thigh-high boots, white miniskirts, and black or electric-blue leather jackets. When people went to the Palace or to the Privilège, they would borrow that look. It was party-via-the-sex-shop. I’d go to Jackie Jack, which was run by two old ladies. It’s still around, but unfortunately it’s completely changed. Now the clothes are made out of stretch vinyl. At that time the corsets were made from silk. Real materials. There was a poetic side.
OLIVIER ZAHM — I remember those small lingerie shops. They all seemed to be owned by former prostitutes.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Exactly. It was a kind of enjoyable retirement for them, finding a little job in something they knew.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Was your sexiness a form of rebellion again your bourgeois family?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — My mother’s side of the family is very French, very bourgeois and aristocratic, but not my father’s side. My father lived in Tangiers and in Madrid. My father’s mother was Cuban, so there’s Colombian, Cuban, and Spanish blood on my father’s side. Basically, I ran away from the monotony of bourgeois life, which from my point of view creates absolutely nothing good. I’ve hated that world since I was five years old!
OLIVIER ZAHM — Didn’t your parents divorce at a time when it was scandalous?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes. Divorce was considered a failure.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So, your uncle became a kind of adoptive father to you.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Gilles is 18 years older than me, but he was more like an older brother. He showed me what glamour was and I loved that! I’d always loved Hollywood movies. When I was little I hated the world I lived in. Glamour was my ideal world. I still hate the world I live in! I don’t like society. I find it frightening. I think people are barbaric. I think Man is violent and brutal and capable of the worst. In making jewelry, I create a world in which violence is under control and symbolized. I like the Hollywood idea that all ends well.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Are you more inspired by the world of women?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Women fascinated me when I was little and they still do now. The world of women is my greatest source of inspiration. I watch women — young, old, fat, ugly, beautiful, small, unfeminine, and very feminine. I adore women. I find them extremely creative and playful. I like their voices, the way they walk, their heels, their jewelry, their gestures. I design jewelry that’s meant to protect women from harm.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Even when there’s fire to go through?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Exactly. Even through forests of thorns that rip your clothes, like when Snow White was caught in the claws of trees. My jewelry creations are women’s friends: protecting them, accompanying them through life. Women can pass them on to their daughters. They’ll be eternal. When I wear a piece of jewelry that my great, great, great-grandmother wore I feel her presence. I feel she’s there, that she never died. In 4,000 years, if an asteroid doesn’t blow everything up, the jewelry will still be here. It’s about continuity and the eternal.
OLIVIER ZAHM — The transmission of life, a lineage of women. What about jewelry that belongs to other women?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — It doesn’t matter if it’s from another family. I know that it was coveted, that it was offered with love. It’s charged with energy. Someone was affected by wearing it, perhaps thrilled by it. If a woman had to flee, she’d take her jewelry with her, like a dowry, something to survive with. There are still countries in which jewelry is a safe investment. In the Middle East women need jewelry for dowries. If their husbands repudiate them, it’s all they’ll have.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Can you get to the essence of what jewelry means to women?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Well, fashion is a way we distinguish ourselves from animals. We make ourselves into something by our dress and the clothes we select. But clothes are useful, whereas jewelry isn’t a necessity. Clothing is going to get ruined, to tear or burn. But jewelry endures. That’s really important for me. It comforts me. My father abandoned me. He never took care of me. I need to have a comforting thing in my life. A piece of jewelry will never abandon me.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Does jewelry symbolize feminine love, the bond between women?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, absolutely.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Men give jewelry to the women they love. But the paradox is that jewelry then abandons the world of men, and it’s transmitted from woman to woman, becoming a link between them.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Exactly. Men usually don’t get jewelry back! It no longer involves them. I like it that men lose that control.
OLIVIER ZAHM — A man can say to a woman, “I would like you to wear this outfit or this pair of shoes.” But can he say, “I want you to wear this piece of jewelry?”
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Generally, no. But a man can force a woman to wear a piece of jewelry to bed.
OLIVIER ZAHM — But that’s pretty rare.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I’m talking about people with imagination. There’s an erotic charge in jewelry. I think women are so pretty naked, wearing jewelry. That’s why I did my Soumissioncollection: pieces I designed to be hidden under clothes.
OLIVIER ZAHM — What do you like about the erotic jewelry line that you design? Is it about sex and not about the conventional love between a man and a woman?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I like the idea that a woman and a man are the only ones who know the woman is wearing jewelry under her clothes.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you still make that line of jewelry?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes. It’s a classic line of ankle, waist, and neck jewelry. I’ve also done fine jewelry for piercings on request. I think it’s ravishing to have things that shine in the night and move when a woman is naked.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Doesn’t it then become a symbol of submission or surrender to someone you love?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I was inspired by the Story of O, the part when the heroine places a ring inside her vagina. I wondered if it was a ring that closed her genitals or if it fit inside of her. I love the idea of the private and the mysterious. Everyone knows everything these days. With an internet connection you can find out anything and see everything. There’s nothing more stimulating than maintaining a notion of the mysterious and the private.
OLIVIER ZAHM — That brings us back to your desire to protect women from what’s going on today, from the way the world is evolving — which is how, in your opinion?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Very badly. Man’s evolving technologically, perhaps, but the world isn’t evolving. The way we are today is strange, and it bothers me. I’m anxious and feel terrorized. Of course the world has always been dreadful. I’m not saying that it was better before. But we shouldn’t be the way we are. The unbelievable violence of us all!
OLIVIER ZAHM — Was your first experience of pscyhological violence with your father?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — More with the absence of my father. The absence of a father is a very violent thing, because a girl needs her father’s eyes to construct herself. Otherwise, she looks for her father in every man she meets. If you didn’t grow up with a father you’re always going to have unsatisfying relationships, because other men aren’t supposed to do the work your father didn’t do.
OLIVIER ZAHM — What was the problem with your father?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Let me explain. My father spent 50 years of his life in nightclubs! He came back home every day at nine o’clock in the morning. My father and mother had no business being together, but my mother was crazy about my father. He fell in love with her but his lifestyle didn’t suit a bourgeois woman who didn’t work. My father was a night person. He lived with his friends. He went to Castel, Régine’s, the Eléphant Blanc, and the Calavados. He brought the musicians home for after-parties — first to our home and then, after he and my mom divorced, to his home. I saw my mother as a victim, one whom I later wanted to avenge. I must have absorbed my mother’s depression. She asked for the divorce but was devastated when my father left. She couldn’t build what she really wanted, a family. My father led an extremely glamorous life. He was seductive, likeable, and very funny. He was generous and free and loved to party. He usually didn’t have a dime — when he did have money, he spent it all. He wasn’t comforting. He was excessive, but very nice and charming. I’m his only daughter and I think he would have loved to have had a son. I always felt that.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Was your mother always present?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — She was overprotective. I totally merged with her. My mother was the first love of my life. But to my mind she would betray me when she slept with another man, such as my stepfather. I thought I was going to be able to give my mother that physical love myself. I thought the love I gave her would satisfy her, that it would be enough for her. But it didn’t, and it wasn’t.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Was that a good thing? There are women who sacrifice their love lives for their children.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, and it’s very destructive. In my case, I told myself I’d never again rely on adults, because they were so monstrous and heartless. I was about five years old when my mother remarried. I understood very quickly that because of my stepfather’s magic tool — a tool I didn’t have — that he was going to separate me from my mother. I understood that I would never have that toy that boys have, and therefore I would need to find something that I could use as a phallic substitute.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Can big jewelry, as well as high heels, be phallic?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes. They’re not just worn to please a man.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So you experienced a second male betrayal with the appearance of your stepfather.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Absolutely. Men represented danger to me. I couldn’t hold them in my heart. But I understood very quickly that girls have advantages over men and that that’s how I could get my revenge. And I think I have a side that’s pretty mascu-line, one that allows me enough perspective to play the sexy girl in my own way!
OLIVIER ZAHM — Did you think that wearing sexy women’s accessories and clothes would allow you to change tack?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, exactly. I’d be able to penetrate men with those weapons.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Did fashion and glamour help you to construct your own identity?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, and they became like a new family, one in which anything was possible, one with enormous freedom. I remember when Gilles Dufour took me to the Palace, when I was 14, we would first go to the flea markets, buy a few things to make a look out of nothing. We didn’t buy labels as there really weren’t any at the time. We made our own look. There were different cliques at the Palace: the Pauline Lafont clique, the Musulmans Fumants clique, the Farida clique with Vincent Darré and Christian Louboutin, and the Fifi Chachnil clique with Edwige. They were extremely creative cliques. Each group had its own look and was there to outdo the others creatively. Even if people were totally high, you felt they’d made the effort to dress up, which was extremely energizing. I always loved to observe people, so it was a real pleasure. I could spend hours watching people. That’s what inspires me, and it’s a true pleasure.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You never went to fashion school, just to the school of life.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes. It was about freedom: finding a look, finding your look, finding an eccentricity that makes other people notice you and go, “Wow!”
OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you were a young Lolita and all the guys were probably trying to pick you up.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, it was crazy. I was very young. Even when I was 12, I was physically like I am now, already a woman. I had latex dresses, which I bought in London at Kensington Market. I had absolutely unbelievable things. It was so funny — they cost nothing. I was in a parochial school in Lübeck and at night I would go out. I had to wear a uniform to school but I wore six-inch silver heels with it. I must have been in ninth grade. People thought I was crazy or eccentric. But I thought, too bad if people don’t understand how cool it is. I passed my baccalaureate exam just because I wanted it out of the way. I didn’t go further with my studies. I hung out for a year and went out every night, having fun, making up looks, meeting people, laughing, and dancing.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Nightlife and the fashion world can be wild. But it’s not always glamorous, and it can be dangerous when you’re so young.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, I remember when Bulle Ogier’s daughter, Pascale, over-dosed in the bathroom of the Palace.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You could have disappeared, or started using drugs.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I didn’t do drugs, didn’t smoke, and didn’t drink. I could have become a junkie but I didn’t. I never wanted to destroy myself. Anyway, I always found girls who took drugs pathetic. I didn’t think it was glamorous. My aim was control. If you lose control of yourself, you’ll be abandoned because you’re no longer the one making decisions. I just loved to dance. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t like the taste of liquor. I think it’s better to take drugs when you’re old. So, I passed my baccalaureate exam, and at the age of 19 I was working
OLIVIER ZAHM — Which is what happens. Girls get off track, sometimes rather violently.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Absolutely. I tried getting high and I found it absolutely incredible. But my problem is that when I love something, I love it all the way. So I said to myself, “Now what? You get high and then what?” I always preferred to go home early and have the guy looking for me, wondering, “Where is she?” — than to have him find me at the club at six in the morning and think, “She’s still here.” I needed to create desire and mystery, even if it meant forcing myself to go home. I had to disappear in order to create absence, because I was always obsessed with being desired. I get tired of things really quickly. I always needed to
desire and be desired. It’s always been a driving force.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You weren’t a victim. You were inspired.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I hated the idea of being a victim. My mother was a victim. I never wanted to be one.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Did you work on jewelry right from the start?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, because Karl Lagerfeld knew that I liked jewelry. My father’s mother had costume jewelry that she wore every day, changing it to suit her outfit, which she changed about three times a day. Sylvia was a woman from another era, a society woman. She wasn’t like a grand-mother; she was more like a Hollywood grande dame. She was very good friends with Barbara Hutton, the extremely rich and extremely unhappy woman who’d married Cary Grant. Hutton wore emerald tiaras during the day — very eccentric. She had an extraordinary palace in Tangiers that my father visited when he was little. I went there too, and it was an eccentric world, a combination of writers, Hollywood stars like Cary Grant, and designers like Christian Dior. Hutton also had a house in Mexico, a kind of Japanese palace. They were the jet set of their time. It wasn’t like what you see today on television, on “Zone Interdite” — that’s not the real jet set.
OLIVIER ZAHM — It was connected to the idea of a certain generosity.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Absolutely. People hosted.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Being invited to events today feels like being bought, because they’re all corporate-sponsored.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Everything’s sponsored, and that’s frightening. There’s a motive, whereas in former days things were spontaneous; there wasn’t a motive. There was a different kind of snobbery. People were invited for their physical qualities, not just for their bank accounts.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Tell me more about your grandmother.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — She always fascinated me. She sparkled like a bejeweled fakir in a comic strip. She wore a huge red stone that was very colorful and magical.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Was it a bit devilish?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — No, it was just spellbinding with its sparkle, its glamour, and its weight. My grandmother wore lipstick and make-up and red nail polish on her feet and hands. She was too much, and it was fascinating.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Did she like you?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, but she especially liked men. She was the mistress-type, not the mother-type. She led an incredible life.She had four husbands, was widowed at 20, and remarried to a Talleyrand at 21. She led an adventurer’s life in a wealthy world. Above all, she was a fighter, not a victim. She made her choices and completely controlled her life.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Let’s get back to your jewelry. As I said, I think of you as an artist in the sense that the things you do with jewelry you could just as easily do with other kinds of materials and things.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I like objects that you can wear. I like the idea of an object that isn’t just an investment. I hate people who see jewelry and stones simply as investments. I have fun creating things people can wear.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Have you ever felt like moving into the fine arts? All these designers dreaming of becoming artists — weren’t you ever tempted?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — No. What does it mean to say you’re an artist? Either you are one or you aren’t. You can’t become an artist. You’re born an artist. You can’t say, “Hmm, I’m going to become an artist.” I didn’t want to be bothered. I only wanted to do what I liked to do. It just so happened that I did things and people said, “Oh, that’s art.” But I never said, “I make art.”
OLIVIER ZAHM — In a very focused, crystallized way, making jewelry has allowed you to express these unconscious mechanisms you’ve talked about. It all seemed natural and right for you.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, because it’s something that isn’t going to wear away as time goes by. Ever since I was very little, I’ve thought of precious stones as extraordinary, naturally made objects that represent a person’s dreams and desires. They’re already valuable things people fantasize about. I always wanted to own stones and to create with them.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you start with a stone? Or do you start with a world, a story?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I start with a story, a world, and never with the stone. I tell a story — of carnivorous flowers, for example. I love the idea of them coming out of nowhere, from some desert island. I like the idea that by wearing flowers women have protection. Those flowers can sting, bite, or even eat women. But they also protect. I’d like a piece of jewelry to take on a life; therefore, for the flower to continue growing, like ivy around your arm. I realized this when I saw the flower-women jewelry René Lalique made. He had a great love for women. You felt that when he designed a piece of jewelry, he wanted it to be something that would come alive on a woman’s body. I loved thinking that at night the snake piece would start moving, that all of a sudden it would wrap itself around your ankle.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Are women actually like carnivorous flowers for you?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Maybe. I’ve never really thought about it that way. But, yes, I do find women unsettling, and deadly interesting.
OLIVIER ZAHM — There’s an obscure side to your jewelry, as well.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — It has a kind of mischievousness. It’s not just naïve.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So, for you, jewelry starts with a story, and you like to use plant and animal forms.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes. Of all things, I think flowers are most like women. Maybe it’s because they wear skirts that are light and that move. A flower is something very feminine, very sensual. It’s also a traditional symbol in jewelry, which I like to approach in a phantasmagorical way.
OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s amazing that you let yourself go into the fable, tale, or story side of things — into a milieu that has remained traditional and decorative in relation to jewelry.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — But I never gave a damn about all that. That isn’t my world. When I came into the fashion world, I didn’t want to be a jewelry designer. I wasn’t interested in making decorative jewelry. I needed more. I’m still not satisfied with it. It’s not enough for me.
OLIVIER ZAHM — In that sense, you have a rock and roll side. In the rock world jewelry is a talisman. It expresses a conflict or a rejection. It has that dimension that you talk about, of expressing something vital. It’s amazing that Karl Lagerfeld discovered your passion for jewelry, because at the time he wasn’t wearing jewelry.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — No, he wore only an old ring with a lapis lazuli stone.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Where do you find your stories and tales?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — In everything I experience — rebellion, love, sexuality, pleasure, violence, protection, psychoanalysis, and fantasies. It can start with something I see in a nightclub. A couple, a sad girl. A boy who’s in love and is depressed can inspire me. I like the idea of eternal love — unfortunately it doesn’t exist, so I created it in my Fiancée du Vampirecollection. I started with the small diamond cross of a young girl. A vampire falls in love with her, but because he can’t approach her, he offers her jewelry with skulls to make her understand that she’s mortal. So she takes off her cross and she puts on the skulls. Now she’s no longer protected and he bites her. I made a small necklace with two drops of blood to represent this — she’s bitten, she belongs to him, she loses her mortality, she becomes eternal, she’s possessed. I think I was 18 when I saw the version of Dracula with Frank Langella playing the role, which is the kitschiest movie in the world. The moment when Dracula enters through the window with his blow-dried hair and that frightening kind of blouse with the fancy collar, and the girl is rolling around ecstatically on the bed, and they make love against a backdrop of flames — that was the most sexual thing I’d ever seen. It was so erotic that it inspired me to create theFiancée du Vampire line. I always loved vampires’ fiancées in movies. They were always girls with extremely voluptuous breasts running around in demi-cup nightgowns. Nice girls, despoiled in about two seconds by some guy opening up his cape. The idea of suddenly being bitten and then completely belonging to someone forever — that fascinated me. I was always someone who valued control, but who found the idea of suddenly belonging to someone absolutely erotic and fascinating. The idea of sexual surrender is still something extraordinary.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Maybe it’s because you’re so in control of yourself, that you find surrendering to have such an erotic charge. But what I find fascinating in your jewelry is that, if we look at it carefully, we see that the pieces are contradictions, that they’re oxymoronic — they’re protective but they have a deadly side. They’re purely feminine but they have a violent facet.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — They’re bulky, they can disturb, and they can provoke, so there is violence in their provocation of form and volume.
OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s interesting that the vampire’s fiancée is both totally in love — she surrenders her entire being to desire — and is sacrificed.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, she is sacrificed, but don’t forget that at some point she becomes a vampire herself and must begin hunting people for their blood.
OLIVIER ZAHM — And as a result she escapes reality and its order. Would you like all the women who wear your jewelry to escape this order, this reality, as well as to access their femininity?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I’d like my jewelry to give women a power that enables them to cast a spell on men, to seduce them, to kill them in the act of love.
OLIVIER ZAHM — To defeat men?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, I love that! That way he comes to kiss her feet. She has jewelry all around her ankles and he becomes her slave. I adore dramatizing love and sex. I find performances extremely beautiful. There’s mystery in them.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you think the women who buy your jewelry feel this way?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I think so. A lot of women buy jewelry without asking men about it. That’s a sign of spontaneous desire. And I think those women can sense that a woman who loves women is making this jewelry. They unconsciously feel every-thing we’ve talked about.
OLIVIER ZAHM — What do you like most about women?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Their bodies. I like hips. I like the ins and the outs of women’s bodies, just as like I like the ins and the outs of my jewelry. I’m crazy about black and white, hot and cold, contrast. When I see a girl’s body that goes in and out, I imagine a piece of jewelry or an outfit doing that. I want it to be especially feminine. I want it to draw attention to a woman’s body.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Does your sensual relationship to femininity, to women, make you happy?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes. It all has to give me real pleasure. When I work I’m like a seven-year-old playing a game. Time doesn’t exist.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you let your assistants know the whole story behind each piece?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — No. I start with violent things. When I work with my team on something, they don’t know that very compli-cated things led to its conception. I love the idea that some men don’t know all the fanta-sies that are innate in a piece of jewelry. I find men naïve about it all and that touches me.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So you don’t reveal everything about a given piece, even to your assistants?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I reveal the tip of the iceberg. The rest remains hidden.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you associate words with your pieces?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, the pieces are like characters that I give names to. The words have to immediately evoke a world and provoke something. I once made a ring called “Alors, heureuse?” — So, are you happy? I pictured a guy spending the night with a girl, giving her a ring, and it all meaning, alors, heureuse? People never knew that I named the ring and I like the idea that people don’t know.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Tell me more about the skull piece you were talking about.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — It’s a Japanese skull from the 19th century. I’ve been making skulls since I started at Dior in 1998. For me, there’s nothing sexier than a skull sitting between a woman’s breasts. I like using a skull as a romantic memento mori. I never liked the Harley-Davidson biker or the hardcore kind of skull. A skull has to be a precious piece of jewelry — something romantic, with a poetic charge.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Have you always had skulls in your collections?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes. Now a lot of people are doing skulls, which makes me laugh because they didn’t develop it at all like they should have. I symbolize it with little stories, whereas other people salvage it. Just putting a skull on a t-shirt isn’t enough. It’s a theme that you have to develop poetically and elegantly.
OLIVIER ZAHM — I like this opal. It’s so psychedelic!
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I know. Look at its fire! It’s alive! That’s why I love opals. They’re like Monet’s water lilies — they have every color, as if there’s a genie inside. This is an amethyst. I had fun putting fluorescent lacquer around it, because I like jewelry that looks like it’s made of plastic — the kind of jewelry a little girl would want.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you like to mix the precious and the everyday?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes. I like plastic jewelry, like the kind you get from a bubblegum dispenser.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You create a world that is at once very sophisticated and very childlike. It’s a natural regression — you turn into a little girl again, little Victoire back in her room.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — With my play-dough and crayons. When I was little I used my grandparent’s pliers to break two pieces of jewelry that my mother had given me. I think it must have been an unconscious way of telling her I didn’t want what she’d given me. I remade them into small earrings. I threw the gold out!
OLIVIER ZAHM — One gets the feeling your jewelry is going to start moving. If you stare at it long enough, you start to think you’re seeing little heartbeats.
I also really like the fact that your pieces are so decorative, just as objects on a table.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, I think that’s true. You know, for the entire Belladone collection I created small stands that pieces could be displayed on. That way, if people didn’t want to wear a piece, they could simply look at it.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Because the pieces really are beautiful. It’s a whole other aspect of jewelry’s life.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, jewelry at rest, waiting to be worn.
OLIVIER ZAHM — When you see jewelry lying around in someone’s bathroom, for example, you feel the affection, that it’s either loved or forgotten.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, sometimes jewelry can be forgotten for a long time and then brought back into use. Some jewelry will never be seen again — it’ll be left behind, abandoned. But it never dies. Even 400 years from now it will still be there.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you become especially attached to certain pieces?
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — I didn’t used to become attached to pieces. I would tire of them. For some of the jewelry I made when I was 14 I used religious medallions, which I found to be totally anti-sexual. Nothing about them turned me on. I melted them down at a clockmaker’s shop and the owner made me a huge ring out of them. My parents didn’t like that too much. But they gave in really quickly — they knew they wouldn’t be able to keep me under control. For a long time I didn’t have enough money to make new jewelry, so I would melt down what I had and turn it into something else. It was something that was constantly evolving.
OLIVIER ZAHM — I find that the object side of your jewelry leads a life of its own.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — Yes, it doesn’t only exist when it’s being worn.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Men might even buy and wear your jewelry.
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE — It’s funny that you should say that, because it’s now happening. Men arebuying my jewelry. I love it — I picture the man imagining the kind of woman the jewelry would suit, fantasizing about her. I love the idea that my jewelry engenders love, desire, a craving…
[Table of contents]
Shirin NeshatRead the article
Daphne GuinnessRead the article
Terry ReidRead the article
Fantastic Mr. FoxRead the article
Aurel SchmidtRead the article
Jack WallsRead the article
Rene RicardRead the article
Brendan FowlerRead the article
A-Ron Judah BondaroffRead the article
BEST of the SEASONRead the article
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Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp
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by Olivier Zahm
by Sabine Heller
by Massimo Torrigiani
Nate Lowman and Clarissa Dalrymple
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Victoire de Castellane
by Olivier Zahm
by Katja Rahwles
by Bruce Labruce
by Malerie Marder
by Stefano Pilati
Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquiere Pre-Collection
by Hanna Liden
by Marlene Marino
Rodarte by Rodarte
by David Sherry
by Ryan McGinley
by Karl Lagerfeld
by Stefano Pilati
Paul SevignyRead the article
by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin
by Mario Sorrenti
by Paola Kudacki
by Raymond J. Dumas
Psychomagic Alejandro Jodorowsky
by Olivier Zahm
Origins of the Tarot of Marseille
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Helmut Newton’s Dentist
by Olivier Zahm
Terry Richardson’s Life Story
by Olivier Zahm
The Wilderness of the North
by Dash Snow
by Olivier Zahm and Camille Bidault-Waddington