by Jerry ElengicalJun 01, 2022
1 Chair. 17 Reimaginations.
For Salone del Mobile.Milano 2021, Dior Maison invited 17 creatives from world over including designers, architects, and artists to breathe a new life into their iconic emblem, and one of their oldest objects, the Dior Medallion Chair, later appearing as a visual for perfume bottles and advertisements. The house’s guest designers offer their artistic and cultural sensibilities from South Korea to France and Japan, including influential industry favourites such as India Mahdavi, Ma Yansong and Pierre Yovanovitch.
A symbol of Louis XVI style, the original chair design with its classic, essential oval back surmounted by a fontanges bow was intended to seat guests at Christian Dior’s fashion shows, in a “sober, simple and above all classic and Parisian” décor as recounted in his memoirs. “Feminine and sensual, it punctuated, in black and gold, or pink and grey, the bottles and coffrets of the house’s legendary first perfumes (from Diorama to Diorissimo) as well as in-store décor, starting with “Colfichets” – the first Dior boutique, inaugurated by the founding couturier in 1947, where Medallion chairs were elegantly clad in cannage and toile de jouy,” shares the French luxury fashion house.
Their most weighty presence at the Milan Design Week yet, Dior Maison briefed their designers to "reconceive this object of desire with boundless creativity” and modern technological methods. Here are the results that were on show at the Supersalone that took place from September 5 – 10 at Fiera Milano, Rho in Italy.
Chinese architect and founder of MAD Architects transports the original design into the future and as it travels back to the present, is caught in motion. Cast in monochrome 3D printed polyurethane in black and white, Meteor merges “nature and structure to generate an emotional connection", the innovative, sci-fi and spiritual approach emblematic of his architectural work. This work seems 'ahead of its time' as it philosophically explores time and space, and embodies a symbiosis between historical tradition (the very essence of the act of sitting) and the future.
Called Monsieur and Madame Dior, these sculptural steel chairs are created as a loving couple, a masculine-feminine diptych linked by their style and allure. The French interior architect describes his transformation of the Dior chair as a "rebellious and contemporary" piece. “The duo revisits the signature Dior oblique canvas designed by Marc Bohan in 1967, in original shades and with exceptional embroidery created especially by the prestigious Vermont atelier. An artistic gesture that pays homage to the immutable essence of an icon of elegance,” observes the Fashion house.
Inspired by his own tswana heritage and the diversity of African cultures, Tshikare highlights beliefs and myths about the cosmos and divinity in his reiteration of the Dior Medallion chair dressed in vegan tanned leather, augmented with constellations in relief, using a debossing effect. Punctuations in the form of bantu ancestral pictograms that convey messages such as "we", "soul" and "immortal" are adorned with black and white beads on the product design. The translations of these in English are delicately engraved on the wooden base. “Conceived as a powerful philosophy of peace, this creation pays ode to the coexistence of the being and the spirit,” shares Dior.
Baron’s ensemble is an ode to art and the joie de vivre Dior loved. This version radiates modernity and sits poised at the intersection of culture, history and a convivial philosophy. Consisting of a haphazardly arranged group of chairs, the reimagining emerges as an outdoor and indoor version as a swing and double rocking chair. The iconoclastic French designer make the chairs into functional sculptures that "celebrate, more than ever, delicious moments of complicity, happiness and authentic encounters, seemingly suspended in time," shares the house of Dior.
Linde Freya Tangelder (Destroyers Builders)
“Beauty can be found in the daily, in the unfinished, in the randomness of life,” says Tangelder, describing her vision of the world and her version of the Medallion chair. Combining art, design, sculpture and architecture, the Dutch artist uses the process of deconstruction to create, her portfolio elevating everyday objects into new, exciting realms. The Medallion chair in grey, Christian Dior’s dearest colour which he described as practical and elegant, revisits Tangelder’s in irregular, handcrafted aluminium. The new chair has three legs, its inclined dossier referencing the original’s iconic oval in the rawest way possible.
Inspired by architecture, Dior runway shows and looks by various artistic directors, Yeon in all his projects repurposes and beautifies waste materials to give them a new lease of life. The Korean artist does the same in his two reimagined versions of the chair, both raw, striking and colourful. One is created out of pipes subtly deformed by sand casting and the other is made from aluminium sheets with diagonal striations reminiscent of the Dior oblique motif. To further his creativity, he even wore a pair of Dior sneakers throughout his inventive process.
Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci of DIMORESTUDIO sought to retain the timelessness of the Dior Medallion chair and its French spirit in their deconstruction of the original, breaking it into pieces and congregating it as a fresh, single-seat. Holding the pieces together are precious bronze and brass clips, with stuccoes in gold leaf and various elements for decoration, reconstituted by hand. The piece is a testament to the studio’s panache of operating at the crossroads of art, fashion, cinema and travel, mixing styles, periods, materials and colours to form unique objects like this one.
In Mahdavi’s celebrated oeuvre, “colours are flamboyant, materials are sensual, and lines are often curved” as is evident in her reinterpretation that is reupholstered and decorated with wool crocheted vivid hues, as a bright contrast to the signature grey of the original. The French architect and designer of Iranian-Egyptian origin brings femininity, intensity and an organic flavour to the furniture design, a tribe of five, setting them in a contemporary, multicultural dialogue. “Through this subtle clash of “polychrome and polyglot” – two adjectives she likes to use to define her work… (she) offers this emblem of classicism an unprecedented blend,” says Dior Maison.
Khaled El Mays
A series of three reimagined Medallion chairs, that captures the classic essence of a chair as a historic object from Lebanon born Khaled El Mays contribution to the lot, handwoven and heartwarming. The artist is perpetually inspired by his dual cultures, Eastern and Western, his work focusing on employing local craftsmanship and responsibly-sourced materials which finds its way to his unique pieces for Dior. Relying on a process of deconstruction, each piece stands for a stage in the process, “from reinterpretation (respecting original proportions), to reinvention (modifying use and value), to total deconstruction,” states the press note.
Oki Sato completely reduces the chair to a dreamlike shell of pure silhouettes and soft emotion, highlighted by an interplay of abstraction and transparency. Called Chaise Medaillon 3.0, the chair’s back, seat and legs are now a single piece, carved from a thin sheet of tempered glass and curved in a semi-circle, as its own room, seemingly suspended in time. Shades of white, grey and pale pink (the founding couturier’s favourite colour) have been retained from the original version, along with the emblematic oval that is hollowed out in the back to become a piece of contemporary elegance.
Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka, obsessed with intangible elements of emotions, energies, sounds and smells created his version of the chair "to transcend human senses". Inspired by his cultural heritage and nature, his objects, like this one, are positioned between abstraction and reality. Yoshioka transforms light into a material for the Medallion, a process that has become his signature. Exposing a play of transparency and relief like an optical illusion, his chair is a symbol of retro-futurism, almost existing as an imaginary object, that blurs the boundaries of time and space, as “an invitation to dream beyond borders and appearances”.
Joy de Rohan Chabot
Rohan’s projects can be described as fairy tale flora that mirrors her fascination with nature and the decorative arts that are deeply rooted in her childhood dreams. The French artist, painter and sculptor brings her dreamlike signature to the Medallion Chair, birthing it as a “plant-like”, poetic object. Delicate, handmade foliage blossoms inside the chair’s outline to form a backrest and a seat, evocative of the original design with its oval shape and grey hue, a luxurious tribute to Christian Dior’s lifelong passion for flowers.
French artist Pierre Charpin is driven by a quest for newness, simplicity, refinement and unexpected pairings, reinventing geometric figures as a new language in his works. His Medallion is conceived as a symbolic piece, occupying space like the lines of a clean, black graphic drawing, “echoing a haute couture silhouette sketched by Monsieur Dior himself". The mere black and thick outline encompasses four legs and the emblematic elliptical back, with a mirror-topped seat as a contrast to the steel structure, inviting one, in his own words, to “(look) at oneself before being looked at”.
Drawing inspiration from the confrontation between objects with opposing characteristics, the Korean artist’s playful version of the Dior chair challenges the imagination. Describing it as “simple, unique and fun", the chair is made by moulding different balloons, symbols of fragility and instability, from epoxy resin to reinvent the structure, seat and back. His version of the Medallion is joyful and surprising, merging sobriety and elegance with technical prowess.
Carbonell’s organic works are narrative in nature, formed as an escape from everyday life, to interact, marvel, discover, and understand. The Spanish designer seeks to question our existential condition, our relationship to history and the nature of objects via his work, playing with materials, textures, and forms, in a limbo between reality and abstraction. He coalesces all of that into his version of the chair where the oval back is augmented to reach a pixel effect, along with its legs, which form an illusion of plurality.
A student of Ron Arad, Gamper combines and questions form and function, style and structure in all his furniture designs. In 2017, he made news with his impressive project 100 chairs in 100 days: for one hundred days, he designed one hundred models from found and reclaimed elements, to produce solo hybrid creations underscored with poetry and humour. His version of the Dior chair is essentially a rework of the aforementioned project, simplifying the Medallion’s lines while preserving its allure, a modern stage where colours and fabrics flirt with grace.
French designer Guisset works at the intersection of art and interior architecture, scenography and design, in a quest for eclecticism and meaning. She finds inspiration in everything, from the drape of an antique sculpture, a colour, even a mathematical equation. Her reinterpretation therefore is free and light, inspired by the original’s dimensions and intended theatrical role. A folding chair with a milled wooden structure, her chair is composed of two symmetrical ovals, “like a delicate bivalve shell”, an object that caters to comfort, sensual sobriety and a nomadic spirit, both functional and free-spirited.
Click here to read all about STIR at Supersalone, a STIR series on the best of exhibits, moods, studios, events and folks to look out for at Milan Design Week 2021.