After his monumental success in Paris, couturier Christian Dior invested the last of his days from 1951 to 1957 in Le Château de La Colle Noire. Li Ying Lim recounts her magical experience when the historic château reopened for one night only. It’s 5.30pm and we are driving out from Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic in Cannes on the account of an exclusive invitation to the mansion of venerated couture connoisseur Christian Dior. Almost an hour’s drive from the hubbub of Cannes is a grove of untainted lakes and lush valleys, with a narrow, winding road that cuts through the mountainous ways of the Maritime Alps to reach Pays de Fayence, where Dior’s mansion, the Château de La Colle Noire presides, stretched out in a maze of tall pine and cypress trees. Dusk is setting in ever so slowly across the Provençal landscape of Montauroux, summer is unfurling, and temperatures are getting warmer.
A dream-like journey to the top of a peaceful hill, the car starts on a climb that goes through ribbons of trees flanking both sides of the road. Finally, we reach our destination, our arrival marked by a tall, handsome gateway and ivy espaliers that scour down elegantly at the front of the house. Our high-heeled feet tread the pebbled grounds, and the tinkling melody of a fountain, presided over by a nymph—designed by the couturier himself, as we would later on discover—envelop us like the past never left this site.
While Dior’s designs were met with incredible international success—his New Look silhouette revolutionised the way women dressed post-World War II—Dior was also fond of escaping the endless chase that is fashion. Le Château de La Colle Noire was purchased in 1951, after which he swiftly undertook a two-year restoration process of the mansion and the 19th-century Saint Anne Chapel next door. Dior wrote in 1956: “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.”
He continues, “I am in the process of finishing the decoration of my house in Provence, at Montauroux, near Callian. I cannot describe this new house fully, since it is still
The restored Grand Salon
Christian Dior’s 1956 office on the ground floor, decorated in the Empire style with a Louis XVI desk, 19th-century paintings, and a Charles X barometer
Dior on the upper terrace of his historic haven