Dior chooses Philippe Starck to revisit the Medallion chair

PARIS Just as a fashion designer might spend a lifetime creating the perfect little black dress, Philippe Starck is obsessed with making the perfect chair.

With his new collaboration with Dior, which will be presented at the Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan, he thinks he’s done just that. Starck, who is behind such iconic designs as the transparent Louis Ghost, was commissioned to add his touch to another medallion chair: the Louis XVI-style model that has been a Dior symbol since the house was founded in 1947.

The designer, who describes his ethos as a constant strive for minimalist perfection, stripped the classic chair down to its bones and chose to make it in aluminum to emphasize the lightness and purity of its silhouette.

“I can tell you that right now, nothing can be ‘less’ than this chair, and that requires a great deal of work. You have to literally reduce it. You have to know the technology,” he told WWD in a Zoom interview.

“I worked to create a totally timeless, definitive design, an icon, so that it never goes out of style,” he added. “We are right at the skeleton of the object. That’s why there are very biomorphic shapes in this chair. Semantically, stylistically, we have reached the minimum”.

Philippe Starck's sketch for the Miss Dior chair.

Philippe Starck’s sketch for the Miss Dior chair.
Courtesy of Dior

The chair will be the centerpiece of the “Dior by Starck” exhibition, which will take place from June 7 to 12 at the Palazzo Citterio in Milan, which can be visited with prior reservation online. Starck has commissioned sound artist Stephan Crasneanscki to create a soundtrack for the show, inspired by the imagined life of Miss Dior.

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The individual presentation reflects Starck’s stature in the world of design. For last year’s Salone del Mobile, Dior commissioned more than a dozen participants, including Pierre Yovanovitch, India Mahdavi and Oki Sato of Japanese design firm Nendo, to review the medallion chair.

Working with decorator Victor Grandpierre, founder Christian Dior introduced the streamlined neoclassical style that came to define the Dior universe. The oval back chair was a feature of his couture salon as well as his shop décor, beginning with the brand’s first boutique on Avenue Montaigne.

Starck said the design had entered the collective memory, making the collaboration feel natural.

Dubbed Miss Dior, her version presented a logistical challenge. Only one injector, located in Italy, was able to create a mold to produce the chair, which is less than a centimeter thick in places. It comes in three models, with one, two or no armrests, priced from €1,500 to €5,000.

“I chose a tough material that is built to last. It is made of recyclable aluminum which is very special, quite expensive and solid as a rock. There is no reason for this chair to ever break, and that is already an extraordinary guarantee when you buy it. You know it’s something that can be passed on,” Starck explained.

The designer, who has always promoted democratic products like his 1989 curved toothbrush for Fluocaril, said the project would have been impossible without a luxury partner like Dior willing to invest heavily in the production process.

“I’ve always pushed to keep costs down so everyone can have access to quality design,” he said. “Given the choice, obviously I would always prefer that. But there are other people who can afford it. Why deny them?

Miss Dior chair by Philippe Starck in polished aluminum.

Miss Dior chair by Philippe Starck in polished aluminum.
Courtesy of Dior

The Miss Dior chair exudes luxury, with galvanized metallic finishes including rose copper, black chrome and gold, available in satin or polished versions. By contrast, Louis Ghost polycarbonate, produced by Kartell, retails for less than €350, although Starck defends his use of the plastic.

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“I don’t change with the wind,” he said. “I will always defend my use of plastic, because I did it for environmental reasons, that is, when I make a plastic chair, I don’t cut down any trees or kill any animals.”

Starck points out that the polycarbonate used in the Louis Ghost chair is made from renewable raw materials. “I have spent a lot of time working with manufacturers and today there are bio-based plastics. I have been waiting for this moment for 20 years,” he noted.

The designer, who resides in Portugal, is also thinking of more meaningful ways to reduce our environmental footprint. He is working on a state-of-the-art complex for the Orbit space training company that is designed to leave no trace.

“We are building a city, but reinventing all the parameters. I want it to be the first reversible town, that is to say that it can disappear in three months and that it has the smallest footprint possible, ”he explained. “As well as training people for space, which is the future of the world, I’m also potentially creating the cities of the future.”

Next up is space itself: commercial space station Axiom Space has commissioned Starck to create crew quarters within its privately developed modules, to be attached to the International Space Station. Expect nest-like interiors dotted with hundreds of color-changing LED lights.

As challenging as it sounds, he believes that nothing is harder to design than a chair, and Miss Dior will be hard to beat. “Like many couturiers, I have always been on the lookout for the little black dress,” he said. “As for the chairs, now there is this one.”

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