Inside Dior Parfums' Intimate Gala at Christian Dior's French Chateau
The extravagant event revealed a historic renovation of Christian Dior's stunning estate in the French countryside.
There's no shortage of historic villas, stunning estates or extravagant residences in the South of France, but only the Château de la Colle Noire can trace a lineage directly back to Christian Dior.
Dior had big, beautiful dreams for his summer estate, which he purchased in 1951, renovated and owned until his death in 1957. He wrote there (his autobiography Dior by Dior), played there (entertained artist-types like Marc Chagall) and created there (the flowers in his garden inspired his 1956 Diorissimo fragrance), but he passed away before the full Andre Svetchine-designed remodel, and his ultimate vision of it as a place he would retire, could be fully realized.
The property — a true countryside marvel featuring a castle, lush gardens and a 19th-century chapel — changed hands a handful of times over the decades since his death, and even once hosted rock band Oasis when they recorded the album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants in 1999. In 2013, it finally returned to the company fold when Christian Dior Parfums acquired it, embraced it and restored it to match the mind of Mr. Dior himself. (Though purchase price wasn't revealed, one French properties website listed the estate at 21 million euros, though in 2012, the New York Times reported a more modest cost of 10 million euros.)
Dior's beauty division celebrated the results in grand fashion on May 9 at an exclusive gala where longtime Dior muse Charlize Theron, LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, Bella Hadid roamed the historic grounds. And of course, Dior's head perfumer/creator François Demachy raised his glass as well, shaking hands and accepting congratulations for the launch of the estate's namesake fragrance, the recently-launched La Colle Noire.
CASTLE CHIC: Charlize Theron, in Dior, poses in front of Christian Dior's countryside estate. (Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com)
The chateau is located at the entrance to the medieval village Pays de Fayence, which is, conveniently enough, not far from Grasse, a French town celebrated since the 17th century as the world capital of perfume. Though the local perfume business is not what it once was at its peak, Dior is committed to turning things around in the area, recently setting up a lab in Grasse for Demachy and staff.
The property is also a 30-minute drive from Cannes where the frenetic film festival energy is just beginning to click into overdrive, but that's not at all what it felt like in and around La Colle Noire, a destination that now will be used for shoots, shows and special events. In recent years, it had been primarily used as a rental property by its previous owner, loaned out for weddings and special events.
According to insiders, there's no plan to turn it into a museum, though a tour revealed an intimate look at Dior's life in the country, complete with personal photographs and wall texts explaining highlights and his design perspectives. It would most certainly be a draw among fashion fiends and Dior aficionados, or anyone who enjoys peeking inside the home of a French icon to see his bedroom, bathroom and beautiful garden.
"It's very glamorous I have to say," said a Dior-clad star stylist Leslie Fremar, who accompanied client Theron to the event. "I am very grateful that they included me in this beautiful evening. It's very inspiring and very beautiful, and it's nice to enjoy the company, enjoy the food and enjoy the atmosphere."
Dior himself obviously enjoyed it, as well. In his autobiography, he wrote: "I think of this house now as my real home, the home to which, God willing, I shall one day retire, the home where perhaps I will one day forget Christian Dior, Couturier, and become the neglected private individual again."
Fremar added that she felt welcomed, a genuine compliment to the Dior staff and their work in restoring the grounds to their founder's grand plans. "It's not cold, which is a reflection of who someone is when you see where they live. Being here, I feel invited and warm; it has that aura about it."
Rising German star Emilia Schule agreed. "It's a great honor to walk through Mr. Dior's garden his rooms. I learned so much about him today," she explained.
DIOR BEAUTY: Bella Hadid, in Dior, attends Dior Parfums gala to celebrate the renovations of the estate and its new fragrance, La Colle Noire. (Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com)
Guests also learned what it was like to be served two different menus -- one for men and one for women. Just as guests were served a first course, Christian Dior Parfums chairman and CEO Claude Martinez offered remarks to the dinner guests, seated at one long table in the castle's backyard with a view of the pool and countryside behind them.
Martinez gushed that La Colle Noire is officially "back to its former glory," a true paradise. "We all felt his passion during renovation," he said. "La Colle Noire is once again beautiful and full of life."
Speaking of beauty and radiance, Martinez continued, "I would like to thank Charlize Theron. Your presence is always a gift. It makes this opening night even more magical for us."
And like magic, the Oscar winner, due at the Palais in a few days for the world premiere of her film The Last Face from director Sean Penn, left before final champagne and coffee service to catch a flight to Atlanta where she's needed for filming on Fast and Furious 8.
She was in attendance, though, when French singer Héloïse Letissier of Christine and the Queens apologized to guests because of her canceled performance, set to take place on a stage atop the pool constructed especially for the night's featured entertainment. The cause? Rain, which started falling just before dessert, marking the first weather casualty of a week peppered by precipitation on the forecast.
Fortunately, event planners needed no backup. Jaw-dropping fireworks closed the night, lighthing up the night sky as guests gathered around the pool clutching their smartphones which were kept dry by male model-looking staffers toting Dior umbrellas. (Similarly, last year on May 11, Dior closed its Raf Simons-designed 2016 Cruise Collection presentation at Pierre Cardin's Palais Bulles, or "Bubble Palace," with an extravagant and impressive fireworks display.)
Somewhere from up above on Monday evening, Monsieur Dior was no doubt looking down on the grounds around his La Colle Noir wiht a smile, knowing that his vision had not only been restored but enhanced and celebrated by the company bearing his name.
And it smells really great, too.
COUNTRY GIRL: French model and actress Aymeline Valade poses in front of Christian Dior's countryside estate. (Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com)