One of the most iconic symbols of influential French fashion brand Dior is the medallion chair. Characteristic of Louis XVI style, it has been used since 1947 by Dior to seat guests at their runway shows. It has since featured on the fashion brand’s advertisements and perfume bottles, becoming a true emblem of women’s fashion. The medallion – or en médaillon, as they say in France – is elegant and neoclassical. It features a rounded back and carved legs, typically tapering at the end. According to his memoirs, Mr. Christian Dior chose the medallion chair thanks to its “sober, simple, and above all classic and Parisian style.” It fits with the boutique brand entirely, matching its elegance, timeless design, and femininity.
At Milan Design Week 2021, Dior commissioned seventeen artists to take a modern spin of the classic medallion chair. Calling on designers from across the globe, each reimagination casts a new breath of life into the fashion house’s iconic emblem. Each is unique in artistic and cultural adaptations and brings the timeless furniture piece into the present day. Here is a look at some of our favorite sightings at the Medallion Chair Exhibit by Dior at Milan Design Week 2021 that we had the pleasure of attending.
Blurring the Lines Between Time & Space
At the exhibit by Dior at Milan Design Week 2021, a standout piece was that of Chinese architect Ma Yansong. Founder of MAD Architects, his work focuses on creating visionary ideas for the future to solve the challenges of today. For his reinvention of the medallion chair, Yansong’s interest in the future is apparent. From the front, the chairs keep their traditional medallion style. They feature an oval back, elegant decorative legs, and no obnoxious colors or patterns. However, from the side and back, we see a different story entirely. Using 3D printing methods, Yansong has explored the idea of time and space. The monochrome chairs look as if they are in motion, caught between two-time points – now and the future.
He is not the only designer to work along this futuristic theme. Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka plays with transparency to create a neo-futuristic take on the classic medallion chair. This approach is characteristic of most of his other projects, in which he works with glass and natural crystals. The result of his signature style is abstract, out-of-this-world furniture pieces with a definite futuristic finish. Yoshioka’s medallion chair has the same striking effect. It blurs the boundaries of time and space, sparking questions surrounding our reality.
Medallion Chair Echoing Dior Himself
Taking a step away from thought-provoking futuristic reinventions is the medallion chair designed by Pierre Charpin. At the exhibit by Dior at Milan Design Week 2021, his work stands out not for its boldness, but its simplicity. This is Charpin’s signature style. He works in refining shapes and objects to create new languages and lines within each of his pieces. His medallion chair does just that. It features a clean black line with no embellishments, appearing as a graphic drawing taken straight from a sketchbook. The chair echoes a silhouette drawing of Dior himself. Contrasting the thick steel frame, Charpin added a mirrored seat. This invites the user to look at their reflection before taking a pew, adding personality to the refined piece.
Playing with Metal Materials & Textures
Jinyeong Yeon’s reinvention of the medallion chair by Dior for Milan Design Week 2021 uses waste metals. The Korean designer’s works are from repurposed materials, giving a new lease of life to forgotten objects. By doing so, he redefines beauty and waste. For the medallion chair exhibit, Yeon created two chairs from raw, repurposed metals. The first is crafted from old pipes bent into an intriguing spiral design. For the second, he used patterned aluminum sheets for the chair’s entirety. Both are colorful and eye-catching, a far cry from what people consider “waste” to be.
Spanish designer Nacho Carbonell also uses metal in his take of the medallion chair. Carbonell is best famous for his unique approach to sculpture that draws on texture and natural materials. By doing so, many of his works are abstract, otherworldly, and magical. Each piece is made into a living organism that comes alive before your eyes. Carbonell has played with these ideas when designing his chair for the exhibit by Dior at Milan Design Week 2021. He sculpted small oval plates from metal which make up the back and seat of the chair. This gives the illusion of plurality and projects the piece toward you.
African-Inspired Chair Links to the Immortal World
African designer Atang Tshikare uses cultural influences and personal heritage in his reiteration of Dior’s medallion chair. The piece is mainly in black vegan leather and tells its story through debossing. The oval back and seat are stamped with images and constellations reflecting myths about divinity and the immortal world. On the legs of the chair, black and white beads depict ancestral symbols from the Bantu tribe. Tshikare’s intelligent use of beadwork further ties to his culture, a craft paramount to indigenous African heritage. Beneath, there is an engraving of the English translation of each pictorial. It is another of our favorites in the exhibition by Dior at Milan Design Week 2021.
Although these pieces stood out the most to us, many other designers and studios collaborated with Dior for the project. This includes Pierre Yovanovitch, Sam Baron, Linde Freya Tangelder, DIMORESTUDIO, India Mahdavi, Khaled El Mays, Nendo, Joy de Rohan Chabot, Seungjin Yang, Martino Gamper, and Constance Guisset.