Dior imagines the next stage of retail

Friday, 7 p.m., at 30 avenue Montaigne: It’s the evening for French clients in the newly renovated house that Christian Dior had built. Since the company dismantled the scaffolding that concealed the neoclassical facade for two and a half years and washed the windows well, it has organized tours and cocktail parties for journalists and VIP clients from different countries. I stopped by on Tuesday, at the start of Paris Fashion Week, was there for two hours, and now I was back for more. Even the French, used to big changes, even if they don’t necessarily like them, seemed dazzled.

I had come to see Pietro Beccari, who, as Chairman and CEO of Dior, had initiated the only complete makeover in the brand’s 76-year history. Many people probably know 30 avenue Montaigne as Dior’s flagship boutique, but it actually encompasses all the design studios, haute couture salons, workshops where ready-to-wear samples, hats and bespoke clothing, and executive offices. , eight stories in total spanning six buildings that appear as a single monolith. There have been several major pinches and folds – in 1997, 2007 – but nothing remotely on this scale.

Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that Dior has given its competitors in the luxury trade a major headache.

The new Dior boutique.
Illustration: Kristen Pelou

In addition to the remastering of the store — with more natural light, more space and a winter garden on the ground floor designed by the main architect of the project, Peter Marino, and the Belgian landscape designer Peter Wirtz —, the 30 avenue Montaigne now has three dining venues, a museum and an overnight guest suite. Not only can you shop at Dior, but you can spend the night there. The price per night, depending on the season, will be between €30,000 and €35,000, or $32,900 to $38,500.

“You’ll basically have the keys to Dior,” Beccari told me when we met in Christian Dior’s private salon in the building’s couture wing. Suite guests – there’s accommodation for two, plus, possibly, a child – will be looked after by a staff of six to eight. Beccari explained: “You can enter the museum in a bathrobe. You can go down to the shop and buy a diamond at two in the morning, if you’re particularly happy with the situation. The executive chuckled lightly. “If you like shopping, it’s amazing. You can visit the haute couture workshops in the middle of the night to see where everything is produced if you wish. You can live an olfactory experience with our perfume expert. You can book a cooking class with our chef, Jean Imbert. You can host a dinner there” – he pointed to the adjacent private dining room – “or you can have lunch in the secret garden. Close to the sewing salons, and once planted with air conditioners, this is one of the building’s three gardens.

The museum.
Photo: Kristen Pelou

“You can do whatever you want,” Beccari said. “Dior is yours for one night.”

The suite, which has a fireplace and exotic stones in the bathroom, will first be offered to VIP clients and then open to the public by reservation. It will be managed by Cheval Blanc, the new hotel which, like Dior, is controlled by LVMH. As Marino said, “Dior doesn’t have people to make the beds.”

I had met Marino during my first visit to the building. He was in the sewing room, chatting with colleagues, and as we stood there, a woman in her twenties was modeling a dress for her jeans-clad husband, who was lounging on a couch. She was obviously thinking of ordering the beige-pink dress, by Maria Grazia Chiuri, which was semi-transparent. Everyone was looking at her.

Later, when I spoke to Marino on the phone – he was back in New York at the time – I noticed that the woman was “the future”.

Marin booed. ” She’s there gift.”

Photo: Kristen Pelou

He is right. If the scope of Dior’s renovation reflects anything, it’s the huge range of customers from all parts of the world and what they’ve come to expect from luxury brands for a decade. And what they expect in terms of service and ambiance is very different from previous generations of wealthy socialites and princesses.

“It started with the growth of 300 million Chinese who suddenly had money in their pockets,” Marino said. “The rise of great wealth in China has created a very different demand.” They are definitely a factor. I spent 30 years walking in and out of Dior couture salons – first when Gianfranco Ferre was the couturier, then John Galliano and later Raf Simons – and the decor hardly changed. To be honest, it was fuddy-duddy. But the same was true at Saint Laurent and, to a lesser extent, at Chanel. Tailoring customers came to these houses for the privilege of being dressed in the best-made garments in the world. It was a kind of club. And the members didn’t care, at least the customers I knew, that the dressing rooms were a cut above Bloomingdale’s even though they were dropping tens of thousands of dollars (and often more) on one garment.

The museum.
Photo: Kristen Pelou

Well, new customers want, as Marino admitted, light and air. And given that virtually every luxury company brings in their best clients for runway shows or sends their fitters and jewelers to them, Dior’s drastic overhaul makes sense.

It’s worthy for another reason. For years, everyone has complained about the sorry state of brick-and-mortar retail, how the internet has sucked the air – and the fun – out of stores. So-called “concept stores,” like Colette in Paris, were supposed to be an answer, but most have come and gone. What they lacked was not just capital, although capital obviously matters when the gasping competitors are LVMH and Kering, the owner of Gucci and Balenciaga. Imagination is just as important. Call it a holistic understanding of what moves and excites the rich and the wannabe. It was also missing.

The museum.
Photo: Kristen Pelou

As Marino and Beccari told me, Dior would not have been able to undertake such an ambitious plan – which involved closing its most successful store for three years – if it had not experienced a huge success over the past decade. As inviting as the new public spaces are, especially the boutique’s art-filled rotunda entrance and the glass-enclosed garden that connects the café-patisserie and restaurant, the most impressive feature of the entire project, in my opinion, is the Gallery, as the 21,500 square foot museum wing is called.

Fashion houses have long integrated their archives into their current storytelling, either indirectly through collections or off-site exhibitions. But so far no one has attempted to forge a stronger link between the archive – arguably a home’s greatest asset – and the pleasures of the boutique and salon. Even for buyers connoisseurs of the history of Christian Dior, the 13 themed rooms of the Gallery — designed with spirit and sensitivity by Nathalie Crinière and able to alternately accommodate 130 garments from the archives, as well as documents and films — the l he experience is extraordinary, immersive. One of the hidden corners of 30 Montaigne that Crinière and archivists recovered is the original cabin — the room where models dressed (and made up themselves) for shows when they were still detained in the house. It’s tiny, but it tells you how much the fashion world has changed. Indeed, the world.

The shop.
Photo: Kristen Pelou

“I believe the museum will have a huge discovery effect,” Beccari said, noting that he asked Marino to create a “secret passage” between the couture salon and the Gallery “to show special clients something that not everyone can see”. This kind of privilege no doubt counts for some big spenders, but for €13 anyone can buy a ticket to the Gallery and then pop into the shop.

“So it really becomes a new situation,” Beccari said. “And you can enjoy that storytelling by being physically in the presence of that museum. I think it’s new.

The museum.
Photo: Kristen Pelou

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