Shortly after Christian Dior founded his namesake fashion house in 1946, he began to think about how he would seat the guests who attended his fashion shows at the atelier on Paris’s Avenue Montaigne. (Of course, this was decades before backless benches packed with editors and influencers became the norm.) Dior approached his decision as a conscious, permanent design choice, writing in his memoirs that he wanted attendees to sit down in something that felt “somber, simple and above all classic and Parisian.”
He settled on what would eventually become known as The Medallion Chair, a sleek, simplified take on a classic Louis XVI dining chair with an oval back and seat. Over the years, the chair would appear in various forms in Dior boutiques, as a design motif on perfume bottles and coffrets, and as a place to sit and contemplate in the atelier.
For a special exhibition at this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan, the house of Dior invited 17 artists, architects and designers from around the world to interpret the iconic shape as they wished. The architect India Mahdavi presented five versions, each upholstered in a rainbow of plush embroidery, for an effect she described as “a cohesive tribe despite their individuality.” Milan-based design firm Dimore Studio took an art historical route, deconstructing an antique chair and reassembling it, using bronze grafts to recreate missing parts. Ma Yansong, the founder of MAD architects, created a glossy, futurism-inspired seat that appears to be melting into a strong wind.
Shown scattered across elevated, rounded platforms in a dimly lit space, the display of the chairs gave off the impression of an elegant gathering recently abandoned—almost as if one of Mr. Dior’s early shows had just concluded, the guests just out of sight, wandering down the boulevard with visions of couture in their heads.
Nacho Carbonell with his design.
Photograph by Nick Van Tiem.
A chair by Atang Tshikare.
Photograph by Ayesha Kazim.
Ma Yansong’s Futurism-Inspired take.
Photograph by Ken Ngan.
Reconstructed versions of original Louis VXI chairs by Dimore Studio.
Photograph by Valentin Hennequin.