Victoire de Castellane, the cerebral artistic director of Dior Joaillerie, has taken a new approach to high jewelry this season. The collection’s name, ArchiDior, plays on French shorthand for “architecture,” as well as a familiar term for “extreme.” So what does that tell us about the house’s latest jewels, a selection of which debut exclusively here? For starters, de Castellane turned away from the flora that so often informs her wares, and instead focused on the structural details found in Dior’s pristine garments of past and present. In the run-up to couture week, the designer took a moment to talk with Style.com about her childlike approach to design, rings that boast a thousand stones, and what sets this high-wattage collection apart from its predecessors.
What were the inspirations behind this new collection?
I started with a theme, Dior couture, and above all the idea of construction in fabric, which I adapted to gold. For Dior, I usually work with nature-inspired themes like roses, flowers, and so on. But this time I wanted to look at the work Dior did in his collections. Most of all, I had read that [when Dior was young] he wanted to be an architect. In some of his collections, he was really building constructions that were translated as cuts, pleats, geometry, and asymmetrical shapes. I thought it would be interesting to take those ideas and work them in metal, which is nothing at all like fabric.
Did you start with one iconic piece, or was it more abstract?
It was the lines: the Bar jacket was an inspiration, but so were the Ailée, Milieu du Siècle and Corolle lines, and such dresses as the Songe (haute couture, Spring/Summer 1947) and the Junon (Haute Couture Autumn/Winter 1949), among others.
How did you translate those garments and shapes into jewelry?
I like to injecting an idea and then working around it. There’s a point of departure, but it’s light, and it builds from there. ‘Literal’ is not my style; imagination takes over, and when you see the final piece you forget about [the inspiration] because every single one of them looks different depending on the angle from which you view it. For the Junon earrings, I set diamonds in black gold because I wanted to capture just the festive spirit of the dress, which is covered with paillettes. When it came to the Bar jacket, I designed a bracelet that’s cinched with an emerald and diamond baguettes on the ‘belt’ part. I reversed that same scheme for the ring, using a diamond and emerald baguettes. I incorporated the idea of the Miss Dior dress from Raf Simon’s first haute couture collection, which was covered in multicolored sequins like an Impressionist painting. So I took all the colors on that dress and adapted them to this bracelet. It’s a mix of modern couture colors and the Bar suit by Mr. Dior. At the same time, I wanted to give it my personal touch and slightly different volumes.
How do you reconcile architecture with movement?
Every dress moves in a certain way, but that aspect is just a detail in the final piece. The rest is asymmetrical, as if each piece were actually many jewels in one. Each face is always different.
Whimsy is one of your hallmarks. How does that come through in ArchiDior?
There’s a childlike feeling to the collection because I always work in a very spontaneous way. The technique is controlled, but I always forget my real age—when I’m working I feel like I’m five! There’s always joy. I can never work with something that bores me.
What did you want to express with this collection?
I wanted to show how I work with figurative abstraction. I felt like I was exploring something that I had never done at Dior before, which was the mastery of curves, working outside of vegetal themes, and mixing unusual colors. Everyone does “couture” jewelry. It’s quite classic to depict animals and flowers. With ArchiDior, I wanted to create something new that had never been done this way. That’s why I thought it was really interesting to start with Dior dresses. And it was a real challenge. Some of our craftsmen with forty years of experience behind them found certain pieces so complex and spectacular that it took a year and a half to complete them. That’s what happened with the Ailée bracelet. And lots of rings have a thousand stones in them. There are so many incredible stories behind these pieces.
What’s the balance between the influence of Mr. Dior, that of Raf Simons, and your own vision?
It’s hard to say—all three are there, but it’s complicated. The foundations are Mr. Dior, there are Raf’s colors because he has a very special palette, there’s my taste, there’s what’s happening in couture now… it’s impossible to quantify. Ultimately, I think that’s something people will judge for themselves.
With an impressive CV that includes stints working backstage at fashion shows for the likes of Alexander McQueen and Hermès when she was just 14, as well as a degree in fashion design from London’s Central Saint Martins, Cher Coulter is a rare breed of fashion stylist. The deeply passionate Coulter has cultivated a portfolio of scene-stealing looks and a uniquely cool aesthetic among her coterie of clients that includes such A-listers as Nicole Richie, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Elizabeth Olsen. Coulter took a break from her busy schedule to talk to Style.com about what happens if she disagrees with a client, the stylist who continues to inspire her, and whose wardrobe she’d like to steal.
Why did you start styling?
For me, I think it goes hand in hand with design. When I first moved [to L.A.], I actually came out here with clothing designs of things I had been selling in London, and I just fell into styling. But after I graduated from Saint Martins, I did both. It’s all fashion, and the more qualified in the more areas you can be, the better.
When did you feel as though you’d made it?
I don’t know if you ever do. But I remember when I first went on a press tour with Orlando [Bloom] for Pirates of the Caribbean and thinking, Oh, God, this is a really big deal, being in the same room as people like Johnny Depp. I also won a Hollywood Stylist Award a couple of years ago, and I felt like that was good to get recognized. But sometimes I think, Oh, my God, have I lost it? Am I losing it? That’s the thing with fashion, it’s very up and down. You’ve got to maintain credibility. You’ve got to keep fashionable, haven’t you?
How do you balance what the client wants and what you want for the client?
You’ve always got to do what the client wants ultimately. I think as long as you feel as though you’ve had some sort of creative input, there’s compromise all along the way. Even if you’re doing an editorial, there’s compromise—you’ve got to use advertisers, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that. Unless you have your own blog, it’s never 100 percent you.
Do you ever disagree with the client on a look?
I’m pretty obvious when I don’t like something. Sometimes there are too many choices, and I’ll be like, “Look and see these pictures and sleep on it and wake up in the morning and see what your gut reaction is. What leapt out more to you in the night? What dress does your mind keep going to?” That’s a really good test. But there have been a couple of times when people have worn things that weren’t my first choice. But ultimately, I’ve pulled all the clothes. Normally, what can sometimes happen is that I just want it to be even more fashion, and at the end of the day, sometimes the person wearing it is like, “Well, you aren’t the one who has to walk out there and be up for criticism.” That’s why I never push someone into doing something they don’t want to do, because it will backfire…and then they’ll just hate me.
Do you prefer editorial work or red carpet?
I think variety is the spice of life, and ultimately you need to do a little bit of everything. I like to do an ad job as well when there are parameters where they might say to you, “We just want white swimsuits.” And then what you do is focus in on white swimsuits and you have to find the best swimsuits. I like research. But then I also like working with a brand like J Brand. I worked on their Pre-Fall collection. I like going in there and getting into the designer’s head and aesthetic and then looking at the real subtleties in that collection and styling it. I like that as much as working with a celebrity on the red carpet.
What do you think is the most underrated part of your job?
How much work goes into the prep. I don’t think anybody ever gets that. I can spend two days solid on Style.com looking for gowns. Of course, I’ll start with the designers that I like the most and I’ll put those all into files. And then I send those to each PR and they’ll say, “I don’t have this, this, and this.” So then I’ll say, “Well, what do you have?” It’s such a back-and-forth with each designer. And what’s really important to me is to make sure there’s representation from the client’s favorite designers. So maybe I can’t get the Stella dress, but I got you these Stella pieces instead. They need to know that I’ve approached everybody.
When clients have brand partnerships or act as ambassadors, does that make the job easier or more challenging?
It’s better. And I am part of getting to that place. I encourage someone to go to [the designer's] show, I encourage them to go to any event they do. I think that’s all very important. Designers become close with celebrities, and I think ultimately you can get pushed out as a stylist because they forge friendships and stuff. But you’re also the person who has the objective view and can be a third eye.
Are there any stylists who inspire you?
So many stylists are great. I think Camilla Nickerson is the one. Her attention to detail is amazing. She’s worked hard, she gets to work with the best photographers, she gets the best clothes, but she’ll always put them together with really good flavor. I like how her work isn’t just straightforward pretty. There’s always something out there about it, and the details are spot-on. I think she’s brilliant.
If you could swap style or wardrobes with one client, who would it be?
Rosie [Huntington-Whiteley]. I’d swap wardrobes with her because she has the most insane wardrobe. She has the most amazing vintage, the most amazing Isabel Marant. She has every girl’s dream wardrobe.
Tonight marks the official cocktail to honor the winner of the first-ever Edgard Hamon award for costume jewelry. As reported in March, Jing “Century” Xie is taking home the €15,000 prize. In the hours before the event, the 30-year-old Shanghai-born designer sat down to talk accessories, passion, and what can happen when you drop everything to follow a dream.
It’s been quite a ride this season: In three months you’ve gone from freelancing to winning a major jewelry prize to designing women’s footwear for a fast-fashion giant. How does it all feel?
It feels like a long way from where I started! My first job at 21 was helping choose colors and materials for car interiors at Peugeot and Citroën in Paris. After a year I went back to Shanghai and cofounded a company and did graphic design for five years. But something was missing, and I love an adventure. So in 2008 I gave it all up and went to Studio Berçot, and then attended the Institut Français de la Mode.
How did your family react?
My father asked, “How many fashion designers really become famous?” and advised me to stick with a “decent” job. But I’ve always loved fashion and I wanted to be in Paris. I gave up everything in Shanghai and came here with just enough money to get through Studio Berçot. I had no idea what I would do after that.
When did your track become clear?
By my second year, I was really into jewelry and bags, using coated gold paper to work on pleats and make prototypes. That’s when I knew it wouldn’t be clothes, but shoes, bags, and jewelry. I worked on projects like a bag for Paco Rabanne, Dior sunglasses, and shoes for Erdem. As a sideline I did calligraphy for brands like Julien David and Yazbukey.
How do you define your style?
I like things that are rigid, abstract, and contemporary. Actually, my style is quite androgynous. The Edgard Hamon jury laughed [when I walked in] because they were expecting an English guy, not a Chinese girl. For a second there, I thought I had dressed funny!
What was the inspiration for your winning entry?
Richard Rogers’ Lloyd’s building in London. People associate him more with the Pompidou Center, but Lloyd’s has a similar idea about tubes. Everything exists to be functional. So my idea is to interchange all the shapes for different pieces, whether it’s a necklace or a ring. There’s no crystal or anything fancy, there’s just the geometry and the combinations. What holds it all together is a screw, which frankly is the ugliest part, but I don’t hide it. It’s the identity of the collection, and to me that’s very honest. I want to make jewelry that makes women feel stronger. It’s not necessarily very feminine, though, so I know perfectly well it won’t be for everyone.
Were you inspired by other jewelry designers?
I made it a point not to look at anything else. But Elie Top is my favorite jewelry designer—I like everything he does. The proportion of Lanvin jewelry is always big and solid. No matter what you’re wearing, it makes you strong.
Where do you look for design inspiration in general?
Ultimately, I am just a workaholic: I can be at a restaurant and thinking about a bag and something will strike me about the line of a chopstick and the suppleness of noodles. Later, people ask about inspirations—I have to backtrack to find an answer because it was really just something in my mind that came together because of what I ate for dinner one night!
What happens next?
I’ll invest in production. But I love shoes and I want to draw them every day, so right now I am keeping my career and my jewelry separate. I’ve recently moved to the south of Spain, so I’m still adjusting. Someday I will return to Paris, but right now I can walk to the beach in three minutes, which isn’t bad!
Century Xie’s prizewinning eight-piece jewelry collection will be sold at Le Bon Marché starting in September. Prices range from about $240 for a ring to about $1,370 for a large necklace.
Anthony Vaccarello doesn’t fear the nipple. Or any other body part, for that matter. The 31-year-old Italian-Belgian designer has earned a bold reputation for his vampy, va-va-voom aesthetic and daring—sometimes shocking—cutouts. His career has been on the rise following his 2011 ANDAM win, but everyone really started paying attention to the hot young talent after his friend Anja Rubik walked the 2012 Met Gala red carpet in a dangerously high-slit white gown that showcased her lanky gams and right hip. Surely that mega moment helped catch the eye of Donatella Versace, who’s tapped Vaccarello for what may very well be the most perfect Versus collaboration yet. And as if the Versace team-up, which will debut in New York later this year, weren’t enough, Vaccarello has today released his debut Inez & Vinoodh-lensed advertising campaign. Starring Rubik, the sharp ads debut exclusively here. Last week, Vaccarello rang us from Paris to discuss the Fall ’14 campaign, Versus Versace, and why Instagram’s nipple-phobia is utterly absurd.
Congratulations on your first campaign! Can you tell me about the concept behind the imagery?
The concept came from the Fall collection, which was inspired by Tony Viramontes. We wanted a raw image and to do something very dynamic that looked like a sketch. It was a dream for me that Inez & Vinoodh shot it. I never thought I would be able to work with them. I was talking to Anja [Rubik], and she said, “Why don’t you ask Inez & Vinoodh?” She pushed me to try, and they said yes. For me, they are the best because they understand simplicity. The campaign is very sharp but very soft at the same time. We chose red text because I wanted it to look like a gallery poster. And because we had red in the collection.
Why was now the right time to do your first campaign? It’s a big step.
I wanted to control the image of what I’m doing. There were a lot of editorials and stuff like that, but I thought it was important for me to put out the image in my mind that corresponds with the collection—the right image for the collection.
Anja has been somewhat of a poster girl for your brand since its early days. How did you two meet?
We met five years ago through a friend. We started talking straightaway, and she’s really supported me from the beginning. I’m always amazed by the things she does for me. For instance, she introduced me to Inez.
Earlier, you spoke about controlling your image, and arguably the most memorable Anthony Vaccarello image is from the 2012 Met Gala, when Anja wore your hip-baring white gown. What has that moment done for your career?
You know, when I was creating that dress on the mannequin, I didn’t expect all the buzz. But when Anja wore it with her legs and her attitude, it was completely different from what I expected. For me, it was just a simple white dress with a simple slit. It was virginal in a way, and I made it so Anja would feel comfortable. But after that moment, people became aware of what I was doing.
There’s a very fine line between sexy and vulgar. How do you make sure not to cross it?
I think it is a thin line. But a lot of it has to do with the person wearing the clothes. As a designer, you need to know the customer’s limits as far as what they can wear. Even if they love something, it might not be right for their body. Some things can look very chic on one girl and very trashy on another. So really, it’s all about the attitude that a woman gives the dress.
Do you think it’s possible to show too much? Rihanna was basically naked at the CFDAs, and Anja got kicked off Instagram for posting Style.com’s homepage image of her wearing your sheer Fall 2014 top without a bra.
That whole thing with Instagram is ridiculous. On Instagram, you see so many trashy things that are not censored. But if you can see a nipple it’s not allowed? I don’t think that sends a good message about femininity. And especially when you have boobs like Anja, you cannot hide them! I think celebrities like Rihanna or Miley Cyrus are just having fun. And I think that’s fine. Hiding the body and [the recent trend] of putting a woman’s body into all these boxy clothes cancels out the sexuality of women. That’s not a good thing. I like that Rihanna and Miley just do what they want.
You’re half-Belgian, half-Italian, and were born in Brussels. Historically, Belgian designers are quite restrained. So I’m curious, where does all this sexiness come from?
Maybe it comes from my Italian side. I’m never very controlled with my cuts. I think because of my Italian side, I’m more sensual and focus on the body and femininity.
You’ve recently dressed Anja, of course, as well as Gisele Bündchen and a handful of other stars for the red carpet. Is there anyone else you’d like to see in your gowns?
Not really. For me to dress a celebrity, I have to know her. I really need to have a contact, and to know how she feels about clothes. So far, I’ve dressed girls that I really want to work with. I’ve been lucky.
Do you think starlets need to take more risks on the red carpet? If so, who?
Yeah, I think that celebrities are afraid of doing something new and risky. I get very bored seeing them in that cliché prom look or those princess dresses. Maybe it’s a fantasy for women to be princesses. But I think [stars] need to be more risky. I probably shouldn’t say who, but there are a lot. And it’s not necessarily American celebrities. We have actresses in France who should take more risks. Bad taste is everywhere!
Versace recently tapped you to be its next Versus collaborator. How did Versace approach you?
I met Donatella last year. She wanted to meet me because she thought we had similar sensibilities when it comes to femininity. Straightaway, we started to talk like we’ve known each other forever. For me, meeting her was like meeting Madonna in the nineties. She is so cool, so gentle, and so open-minded.
You and Donatella definitely have parallel aesthetics. Is Versace a brand you’ve admired throughout your career?
Versace has inspired me since I was a kid. For me, the ultimate designers have always been Azzedine Alaïa, Helmut Lang, and Gianni Versace. I used to watch Gianni Versace on television. I was always obsessed with the house, its history, all the major photographers and models they worked with. So this collaboration is a dream come true. I know it’s cliché to say that, but I’m so happy with them. And I hope that people will like what I do. There are a lot of expectations, and I’m nervous that people won’t understand it. But it’s good to be stressed like this.
Can you give us any hints about what we can expect from the Versus collection?
It’s a secret! I can only tell you that it’s based on what was iconic for me when I was a kid.
In June 1989, the Pixies took the stage at Glastonbury Festival. Tomorrow, they’ll do it again, and it seems only fitting. The first time the Massachusetts foursome turned up at Worthy Farm, it was on the heels of Doolittle, a record that cemented them as one of the most indisputably zeitgeist-shaking bands of their generation. Then in April, after two decades of will-they-or-won’t-they murmurings, the Pixies (less founding member Kim Deal) released Indie Cindy, their first full-length album of new material since 1991′s Trompe Le Monde.
On the eve of their Glastonbury reprise twenty-five years later, Style.com sat down with front man and prolific solo artist Black Francis to talk about the highs and lows of the festival circuit, his current playlist, and why the Pixies never break the tension.
What is doing the festival circuit like for you guys? Is it fun or is it draining?
I think other people enjoy the festival circuit more than I do. It isn’t that I’m not appreciative of the audience or of the gig or of the fee that I’m paid at the end of the night. I’m appreciative of all that. But I’m just not a big believer in the festival the way that other people seem to be, and have been ever since I played my first festival twenty-eight years ago or whatever. People, especially over in Europe, they’ve been going to the same field every summer for however many decades. It’s this whole kind of ritualistic tribal thing that they do and they love it. But in terms of the rock music, I would say that I guess as it has evolved over the years, it’s gotten very commercialized or whatever. There are a lot of sponsors involved. There’s a lot of advertising. There are a lot of stages. There are a lot of bands. It’s this whole kind of like…faux-ethos vibe that is like, Oh, yes, the festival is the ultimate expression of human gathering. That kind of a mentality has taken over in a way. I think everybody likes the idea that there are a lot of bands there and there are a lot of people there and there’s a lot of stuff going on. But I just think it’s too much.
We’re coming from the Northeast, and basically we’re all fairly shy. Standing up in front of a bunch of people, especially nowadays, because people are conditioned to want to hear the call-and-response. HEY – OH – HEY – OH. They’re conditioned to people to say, “What’s up, motherfucker?!” They want to hear that. One thing I enjoy the most about festivals is there’s this kind of awkward tension when we’re onstage because—I would say 40 to 50 percent of the audience are just kind of waiting, wondering when we’re going to kick the big beach ball off into the crowd. And they don’t know what to do until we break that tension, and we never break the tension. We just go along and play our songs. I think everyone’s kind of happy when we say good night and we take our bow. We wave. We’re not fake. We take in the applause and say, “We love you, too.” So I think everyone knows in the end, Oh! They were in a good mood! I just can’t understand the modern-rock mentality. It’s like, has anyone ever listened to a fucking goddamn Lou Reed record? What the fuck have they been listening to and watching? “They seem like they were catty, in a bad mood tonight. They didn’t say anything to the audience!” Like, what the fuck planet are you on? Have you listened to any cool rock band ever? Have you ever heard of Miles fucking Davis? What the fuck? Anyway. It’s just feeling a little too Spring Break for me. I’m very happy to be there, but I just don’t know that I’m exactly on the wavelength. Sometimes you just gotta go, “Hey, I accepted the tour, I accepted the gig. I don’t need to understand it. I just need to walk out onto the stage at whatever time and day I’m supposed to be there, be who I am, and entertain the nice people.” I never have a bad attitude about it.
So Indie Cindy. Was it always a given that if you were going to record something new that Gil [Norton, who produced the band's previous three albums] would produce it?
It probably was a given on some level between Joey [Santiago] and myself because he was kind of the guy that we knew, and he’d been trying so hard to work his way back into our situation. What he didn’t understand was that our situation as a band was dysfunctional enough that really what producer we were going to work with was the least of our concerns—we were just trying to get the four people in the same room together in agreement to jam or rehearse or have new songs or whatever. We tried to do that, and it was a total failure. It was at that point that we decided that in fact we could press forward, but the only way we could press forward was if we had Gil involved because Gil is a very positive guy. He’s not a yes man at all—he has his own agenda. And I say this with lots of love and affection, but he’s basically really sweet and really nice and he’s trying to manipulate you the whole time into doing what he wants you to do. Sometimes it’s a little bit of a battle working with him because he has such strong, passionate feelings about the way that he thinks things should be. But at the same time, he’s very diplomatic, professional, the glass is always half-full, it’s never half-empty. He doesn’t lose his cool. It’s nice because basically he’s a swell guy to hang out with. I think we always wanted to work with him, ultimately. When the difficulties the band was experiencing proved to be too much even on our own in the rehearsal room, we got him involved and we got it done. We lost Kim Deal in the process, but that was sort of to be expected. Which is fine. We totally accept her for who she is and we don’t really have a problem with her. She just couldn’t stick it out.
When I heard the new EPs, I think the first thing that came to mind was that they were noticeably shinier than stuff you’d done in the past—more poppy. Was that a concerted effort, whether by Gil or by you guys?
That’s basically the kind of producer that he is. We don’t have a problem with it. Our tendencies tend to be less shiny, but because we tend to be a little bit “scruffy” or whatever, which is why people like us, I think, and I think it’s valid to be scruffy, but it’s also valid to be scruffy and have someone force you to put on a tie and a jacket. Gil is the kind of producer who says, “No, you’re not going to go to dinner looking like that. You’re going to put on a jacket and you’re going to comb your hair and you’re going to shave and you’re going to brush your teeth and you’re going to look nice and you’re not going to embarrass me.” We sort of accept that. His way is valid also. That’s what some people I think don’t understand about the Pixies. They think that scruff is our real, most natural state or whatever, which I think is kind of true. But there’s nothing invalid about subjecting your natural state to someone else’s natural state—that’s what a producer does.
Whether it’s your painting or The Good Inn [Francis' lately published graphic novel] or the new record, how and where do ideas really percolate for you?
I might work on ideas in my downtime and I’m not really aware of it, but really, I am only aware of working on things when I have some kind of deadline. I have to have a reason, you know what I mean? I don’t know if it’s because I’m sort of blue collar in a way…I can’t just be like, “Oh, I’m feeling inspired! I think I’ll do something artistic!” At least with music. Painting and drawing, I would say I don’t really have any deadlines usually associated with doing visual arts. I find visual arts like painting and drawing to be very kind of blue collar in a way. It’s like, “Screw your fucking ideas. When are you going to get your pencil out and actually just do some shit?” You just kind of have to do it, and it’s the doing that really makes it, for me personally. It’s not about, Ooh, I have all these ideas and I have to step outside of myself. I have this vision. I have this voice inside me that must be heard. It’s like, no, I can sit around and eat bonbons and drink beer like anybody else and suddenly forget about any of this intellectual stimulus. You have to go, “All right, enough bonbons. I have to actually do something. What am I going to do?” It’s the work of it that really gets me going more than anything.
It wouldn’t be an interview if I didn’t ask you what you were listening to right now.
I usually have Erik Satie playing. [laughs] I mean, like, twenty-four hours a day when I’m on tour. I just have it playing in my room even if I’m not here, just so when I come back into the room it’s still playing. I occasionally change it up and put some Tom Waits or some Nick Drake, but mostly it’s Erik Satie. He’s sort of been my constant companion for the past six months or so.