Drug-Fueled Fantasies (Without the Drugs)
2011-11-16
If ever proof was needed that fate is perverse, consider this timing. At the very moment that John Galliano, the disgraced fashion designer, was heading to Arizona for rehab, Victoire de Castellane, his colleague at Dior, was opening an exhibition of new work at the Gagosian Gallery here. The work consists of jewels inspired by, among other things, cocaine and crack.

Ms. de Castellane is something of an insider’s secret at Dior. The ostentatiously gifted designer of the label’s high-end jewelry, she is a twice-married mother of four; a descendant of princes and bishops; the great-grandniece of the aristocratic, Proustian bon viveur Count Boni de Castellane; and a woman who says she has never taken a drink or a drug in her life. So chaste are Ms. de Castellane’s habits that, unlike what would seem to be most of her countrymen, she doesn’t even smoke.Yet there she was last week, seated in her office at Dior headquarters off the elegant Avenue Montaigne, the consoles around her jammed with Disney snow domes, the walls ornamented with three-dimensional butterflies, the worktable covered with gumball-size gems. She was discussing — in the abstract, of course — the connection between her latest creations and recreational drugs.The show carries the Baudelairean title “Fleurs d’Excès.” But, while it is ostensibly about excess, it is as much about mastery — of techniques seldom used in the creation of fine jewelry, of the borderline between opulence and gaudiness and of the elemental stuff used to create gems: diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, opal and jade.