Philippe Starck reinterprets the Louis XVI medallion armchair by Dior in Milan
Philippe Starck is the latest designer to put his stamp on Dior’s Louis XVI medallion chair, creating 24 interpretations for the French brand’s presentation at Milan Design Week 2022.
The Louis XVI medallion chair dates from the end of the 18th century and has been associated with Dior since 1947, when the decorator Victor Grandpierre selected it for Monsieur Dior’s fashion shows at 30 avenue Montaigne. A version of the chair, covered in blue and white toile de Jouy, is now part of the Dior Maison collection.
While Dior commissioned 17 international designers and artists to reinterpret the Medallion chair for its Milan show last year, this year’s presentation focuses on Starck alone – a reflection of the designer’s singular stature and fame.
“While some people had been looking for the perfect little black dress for years, I dreamed of the perfect little chair,” Starck recalls. He was attracted by the Louis XVI chair for “its ergonomics, its ecology, its symbolism and its culture, it is a real exercise in style, extremely complex and precise”.
Starck has taken the Medallion chair back to basics: its version is typically clean and graceful, with a touch of glamor and whimsy. As he explains, “I have always sought to reach the center of my subject, to find its soul, its spirit and finally, the elegance of the minimum. My interest was to get to the heart of the matter, to find the backbone of this Medallion chair.
Instead of the traditional wooden frame and fabric upholstery, Starck’s Medallion chairs – all titled “Miss Dior” – are injection molded in aluminum then left natural or finished in pale pink copper, black chrome or gold.
Starck says of this palette of materials: “The choice of aluminum was obvious: it is a noble material, the fruit of human intelligence: recyclable and very light. During this time, he was drawn to pale pink copper for its softness, black chrome as an embrace of technology, and gold for its sacred connotations.
Some chairs are smooth and shiny, others have been given a satin finish. A few have twin armrests, some don’t, the more idiosyncratic have just one.
“Miss Dior’s elegant appearance belies meticulous research and development. To produce the chairs, Dior and Starck used an injection molding specialist in Brescia, Lombardy, who developed a unique process and sourced the highest purity aluminum. The liquid aluminum is poured into a concrete tank then injected into a precise mould. The pieces are then polished to remove any imperfections, before being dipped in an electrolytic bath or vacuum sprayed to achieve the desired finish.
Between now and June 12, 24 “Miss Dior” chairs are showcased in an immersive experience on the lower level of Palazzo Citterio, an imposing 18th-century building in the heart of Milan. In the cavernous, windowless space, each “Miss Dior” chair rests on an illuminated cylindrical plinth beneath its own spotlight, which serves to highlight the various materials and finishes.
As viewers enter the installation, they are invited to observe the chairs from the periphery as the lighting alternates, revealing Starck’s creations one by one; once all the chairs are shown, viewers are free to wander around the room to admire the finer details.
The sense of theater is heightened by a custom piano composition by Soundwalk Collective (Stephan Crasneanscki and Simone Merli), based on a work by turn-of-the-century French composer Erik Satie.
‘[Soundwalk Collective] composed something extremely moving”, commented Starck. “We worked for nearly six months to exalt the very idea of Miss Dior. I hope visitors find the installation as breathtaking as I do.
This is the designer’s first collaboration with Dior. He reflects, ‘When Olivier Bialobos [chief communication and image officer of One Dior and director of Dior Maison] proposed to collaborate, it was like the open door of a temple. I felt like I was closing a circle.
Dior further ceded the façade and windows of its flagship Via Montenapoleone store to Starck, arranging more than 100 “Miss Dior” chairs in a concentric pattern, dramatically lit from behind. And for those who can’t get enough of “Miss Dior”, the chairs are also available in a selection of boutiques from the end of 2022. §