Miss Dior Has You Covered
This week, Dior will inaugurate an exhibition in tribute to the brand’s original, groundbreaking perfume, Miss Dior, at the Grand Palais, in Paris. Launched by Christian Dior in 1947, Miss Dior was named for his beloved sister, Catherine, and its green chypre blend was a bold break from the powdery fragrances of the day—a gambit, like the New Look, that became an instant hit. For the Miss Dior exhibition, the house gave carte blanche to fifteen female designers from all horizons, whose challenge it was to reinterpret the spirit of the fragrance. In an exclusive preview, Style.com spoke with Ionna Vautrin, who took the iconic Dior silk glove and spun it into an architectural feat called Gloriette.
You’ve won two Wallpaper awards (in 2009 and 2011), as well as a prize from the City of Paris, for your creations. Is that why Dior reached out to you for this project?
I don’t think it was because of any one piece. I think it was probably more of a whole. My work is rather feminine and maternal, and I’m guessing that that is what brought me to their attention.
How did the collaboration come together?
It all took shape very simply. When I met with Dior, they presented to me the history of Miss Dior and its codes—the bow, the houndstooth, the dresses, et cetera. Gloves, of course, were a part of the story. I was intrigued by the idea of diverting that shape into a more decorative element that evokes an iconic fragrance.
How did you go about creating Gloriette?
That part wasn’t necessarily so simple! I finally came up with the idea of creating a kind of “micro-architecture” that was somewhere between couture and architecture. I found a very silky technical fabric and had it made into thousands of gloves. Gloriette speaks to a lot of the house codes at once: The layers of gloves that make up the roof create a kind of rosette, or flower; it also suggests a tutu or a dress or a fan, but at the same time, there’s also kind of an animal appeal—it could be feathers on a rare bird. In the end, Gloriette is a giant kiosk, a bit like the luxurious Follies Dior designed to present his perfumes, but in an XXL version.
What does it say about the perfume?
The roof picks up the Miss Dior color codes of black, white, and pink, of course. But what I find even more compelling is that it stimulates the imagination around the creation of perfume: It is something you pass through. You can linger or not, but it is something that you can use and spend time with. Where this fits in with my work is that you can look at it and see many things at once. Lots of different impressions come together whether you are looking at it from the inside—which is like standing under a crinoline—or viewing it from the outside. That said, I am a designer; I don’t consider myself an artist.
For you, what’s the difference between art and design?
The difference for me is that, as a designer, I am in the habit of creating things that should be useful and functional: A chair should be useful every day. I look at design as sitting at the intersection of what is practical and utilitarian—and technical in terms of production—but also sculptural, because an object should spark desire. I think there’s an earthy quality to design. I love telling a story, but I’m not looking to make a political statement. An object’s first purpose is to be functional.
How does design differ from fashion?
For me, fashion is a separate art. It’s a bit like sculpture. When you look at what Christian Dior was doing, it was very sculptural. Creating silhouettes demands know-how, good taste, precision, and sophistication. You have to have a keen sense of detail. It’s really a very special, specific profession. It really demands that you dedicate your life to it, and it’s reinvented constantly.
Did Miss Dior alter anything about how you see design?
This was a chance for me to have a project that was just a little bit zany. I think I am more known for designing small, domestic objects, and Miss Dior allowed me to explore new territory on a few levels. Because the show is designed to travel, it presented a specific set of challenges. Everything has to disassemble and reassemble easily, like Legos. It made me want to explore scenography and micro-architectures.
How familiar were you with Miss Dior before this project?
Obviously, I knew the bottle, because it’s an icon. Beyond that, funnily enough, years ago I got my start working in a design studio that only did perfume bottles! So I knew Miss Dior’s shape, fragrance, and a bit of its history. It’s amusing to have gone from a time in my life when I was designing perfume bottles—not for Dior, mind you—to finding myself on the flip side, telling a story about a perfume through a decorative piece. For me, Miss Dior is a classic, like any other emblematic object. It’s a reference. And there’s also the fact that, in its day, Miss Dior was renegade. It’s the radical side that I find the most touching.
The Esprit Dior, Miss Dior exhibition will be on show at the Grand Palais from November 13 to 25, 2013.