​The House of Dior


The renowned fashion designer Christian Dior dreamed of creating the perfect retreat in the French countryside; decades later, his dream has been restored to reality.

CBS News

France is where you'll find the House of Dior ... and we don't mean the late Christian Dior's fashion business -- we mean his actual HOUSE. Seth Doane takes us on a tour:

There was plenty to catch one's eye as a seemingly endless line of Mercedes deposited fashionistas, models, and an Oscar-winner.

But even actress Charlize Theron agreed the real star of this night was the house.

Actress Charlize Theron. CBS News

"I'm living in a bit of a magical fantasy world right now," she laughed.

Why? "Well, just walking through here, you can't help but try to image things that happen in rooms, and my imagination just goes crazy."

Just like legendary designer Christian Dior's imagination did when he created this opulent retreat in the French countryside.

"I've had, like, the biggest smile on my face since I've gotten here because it feels like it's filled with joy," said Theron.

Theron -- the "face" of Dior perfume for more than a decade -- lent her star-power earlier this month to the grand re-opening of Dior's Chateau de la Colle Noire, nestled in the Provence region of southern France, in the town of Montauroux.

An undated photo of fashion designer Christian Dior. CBS News

"He created this place for his own happiness," said Dior historian Frederic Bourdelier.

"Even all of these decades later, Dior still looms large here," said Doane.

"Yes, yes," Bourdelier said. "We are really proud of our founding father."

Dior bought the chateau in 1951, and started work on it. But then died unexpectedly just about six years later.

The house fell into other hands until three years ago when the company bought it back, and started restoring it to the way it was.

The detail-obsessed Dior had sketched out an entryway floor just like he might've sketched a dress -- skills he demonstrated for Edward R. Morrow on CBS' "Person to Person" back in 1955.

Morrow: "Now, just what is it that you're sketching there, Mr. Dior?"
Dior: "I am sketching a suit for this spring ... a big collar, and also neckline. You see?"
Morrow: "Do you always sketch as quickly as that?"
Dior: "Yes, I have to do it."

By using old plans and photographs, and buying back original furnishings at auction, the house is now part-museum, part-tribute -- and a way for the company to reconnect with its roots.

An interior view of the Chateau de la Colle Noire. CBS News

Dior was not always surrounded by such grandeur. A 1940 letter on his desk reveals just how far he had come after moving with his family to the nearby town of Callian with few prospects.

"He's jobless, and six years later he would create this company," said Doane.

"Yes," Bourdelier said, "and seven years after, he's the king of fashion."

Dior founded his fashion-forward company in 1946, injecting glamour back into women's clothing in the wake of World War II.

"Just after war, he anticipated the desire of people to come back to the Golden Age of couture," said Bourdelier.

Dior dreamed up many of his designs at the chateau, gazing out the window at the fields and gardens that inspired his creativity.

It wasn't just the house, but the fields and gardens around it that drew him to this place. He had rose bushes planted. "Because this castle was a farm, too," said Armelle Janody.

Roses planted on the estate of Christian Dior. CBS News

Today, Janody tends to these roses which only bloom in May. They're hand-picked and used to make the company's high-end perfume, just as they were when Dior lived here.

These gardens are not far from the town of Grasse -- the so-called perfume capital of the world.

"Perfumers used to say it's a 'spicy' rose," said Janody. "There are a lot of different fragrances in it."

At 89, Lucienne Rostanio can barely see, but told us smelling the "May rose" took her back to when she picked flowers for Dior himself in the mid-1950s.

"He wasn't like those city guys," she recalled. "He bought this property and made it so beautiful. Everybody in the village just adored him."

Doane asked Theron what Dior's impact on the fashion world is today.

"I don't think it's a name that you can utter anywhere in the world without people knowing what you're talking about," she replied. "There is an essence that's still surviving through all these years."

At that glamorous grand opening, a dinner table had been set for 180 -- all at one table.

A gala dinner celebrating the grand re-opening of the House of Dior. CBS News

The fragrance of flowers filled the air, and the House of Dior came alive once again.

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