The launch of a new jewelry collection inspired by the cannage weave on Christian Dior’s couture chairs offers an ideal occasion to glance back at the history of the motif and its various interpretations.
Everything began with weaving. For a haute couture house, what could be more fitting? But this weave is special. In addition to the two warp and weft threads that become the fabric women wear come two more crossed threads on the diagonal to complete the motif. These threads are cane, which is to say strands of rattan. The cannage weave was the literal basis of some of the Second Empire’s finest moments in décor: it was used for chair seats. The story might have stopped there. To turn such a classic furniture motif into a symbol required the hand of Christian Dior. When the couturier was deliberating the décor for his haute couture salons, he called on decorator Victor Grandpierre. Together, they came up with a neutral, refined setting that would put the focus on the clothes themselves. And so it was that they chose gilded concert chairs with woven cane seats, Napoleon III-style chairs that have never left the house since.
In 1953, Christian Dior began to experiment with these rattan motifs. No doubt they reminded him of the geometry in the Prince of Wales check, as he was fond of borrowing men’s fabrics for women’s fashions. So he reinterpreted cannage for the packaging of his perfume, L’Eau Fraîche , thus accentuating the masculine/feminine aspect of this cologne – a fragrance he wore throughout his life.
In 1995, the piece known ever since as the Lady Dior arrived in boutiques. It was a precious, ultra-chic and ladylike handbag, and Princess Diana adopted it instantly. Was the Princess of Wales taken with its proportions, its sturdy handles, the quality of its leathers and its workmanship, its rock’n’Dior charms – or was it the association that Christian Dior had made with the Prince of Wales check, rendered here in the handbag’s topstitched leather? No doubt it was a little of all the above. What is certain is that the cannage motif had something to do with it. From that moment on, the motif became inseparable from the house’s image. In 1997, architect Peter Marino reproduced it in light stone flooring in the rotunda of the Avenue Montaigne boutique. He repeated the feat on the façade of the Dior building in Ginza, in Tokyo; many other locations followed.
Naturally, this motif was picked up as a mark of recognition on Dior lipstick, and it continues to evolve from one collection to the next, from makeup palettes to pop camouflage pieces created by the artist Anselm Reyle for Dior.
The cannage motif is the very spirit of the house, a common thread that runs from creation to creation. In memory of Monsieur Dior.