It’s 5:15 p.m. in London and Philippe Starck is schooling me on square roots over Zoom. “You make a sign like this,” he says, gesturing from his office chair. “You put a number beneath and you divide, divide, divide until there is nothing left to divide because you’ve reached the prime number, le chiffre premier. This is my way of working. I try to go to the bone, to the minimum of the thing.”
Over the course of his prolific career, the French design star has applied that reductive approach (he describes it as “precise and cruel”) to domestic mainstays ranging from tables to toilets. Staunch minimalism, he argues, ensures timelessness. His latest subject: Dior’s Medallion chair, the Louis XVI–style seats that Christian Dior lined up for fashion shows at his famous 30 Avenue Montaigne headquarters and sprinkled about his homes in Paris and outside Milly-la-Forêt (AD, December 2004). Starck’s reinvention, titled Miss Dior, marks the latest in the brand’s present-day revivals, commissioned from the likes of Pierre Charpin, Atang Tshikare, and AD100 Hall of Famer India Mahdavi.
With its subtly tapered legs and oval back–the couturier liked to upholster it in toile de Jouy–the Dior Medallion is, to Starck, the Platonic ideal of a chair, living in what he refers to as “the collective subconsciousness of Occident.” Similar seats graced his grandmother’s home, where he recalls spending days as a child sequestered beneath their slipcovers. “It was a small house for me,” he says. “I lived in the icon.”
Starck has revisited the Louis XVI silhouette before in his now famous Louis Ghost chair, made for Kartell using see-through plastic. But for Dior, he insists, “this is the ultimate—we cannot have less.” By reducing the original Medallion (which Dior once described as “sober, simple, and above all classic and Parisian”) to a skeletal form so thin that only one metal-injection atelier would agree to the job, Starck has created what he dubs “an icon of an icon of an icon.” His aluminum version can be gussied up in three finishes—black chromium, pink copper, or gold—and ordered matte or polished. Each got its moment in the spotlight during the brand’s cinematic presentation at Palazzo Citterio, unveiled during Milan’s Salone del Mobile design week in June. The stackable chairs, their backs stamped with a Dior logo, come with arms, without, or, perhaps most poetically, with a single rest, meant to nudge the sitter into an elegant leaning pose à la Marlene Dietrich, whose portrait inspired the idea. “Don’t forget, we are in Christian Dior,” says Starck with a laugh. “We are in haute couture.” dior.com