Dior is marking the arrival in stores of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s first ready-to-wear collection with a global retail push combining freestanding pop-ups, partnerships with key retailers and special in-store merchandising.
Sidney Toledano, president and chief executive officer of Christian Dior Couture, and Chiuri, its artistic director of women’s wear, detailed the multipronged initiative in exclusive interviews with WWD, while retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and Colette in Paris lifted the lid on their plans for the launch.
The project includes several collaborations, the largest of which is a charity partnership with Dior brand ambassador Rihanna’s the Clara Lionel Foundation. The nonprofit will receive a percentage of proceeds from each T-shirt bearing the slogan “We Should All Be Feminists” sold in Dior boutiques and on dior.com until May 15.
British artist Tracey Emin has created an exclusive work of art for Dior’s Paris pop-up store, while New York-based artist, film producer and stylist Maripol will shoot Polaroids of customers at in-store events.
The Paris-based fashion house, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary, has plans for 15 temporary locations worldwide.
Dior on Saturday inaugurated the first pop-up store in Los Angeles on North Rodeo Drive, a stone’s throw from its existing women’s and men’s boutiques. This was followed on Monday by a temporary space at 44 Avenue Montaigne, a short walk from its Paris headquarters and flagship.
Over the next few weeks the company is planning initiatives with Saks, Colette, The Webster in Miami, Maxfield in Los Angeles, Antonia in Milan, The Corner in Berlin, Isetan in Tokyo, Hankyu in Osaka, Shinsegae in Seoul, the IFC mall in Shanghai, the SKP mall in Beijing, the ION mall in Singapore and Level Shoes in Dubai.
The Saks collaboration will include a takeover of all 16 windows for two weeks and an exclusive black version of the “We Should All Be Feminists” message T-shirt. The store will also host a cocktail event in honor of Chiuri and Toledano.
The executive said the spring collection has been rolled out since Feb. 9 in Dior’s own stores in New York, London and Milan to coincide with those cities’ respective fashion weeks, and initial response has been positive.
“Demand for the collection was very strong before it even hit shelves,” Toledano said. “It’s beyond what we were expecting. We are always optimistic, but we are in reordering mode already, and we haven’t even gone full-scale.”
There are waiting lists for the T-shirt, whose slogan refers to an essay and TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It is hitting stores weeks after the global women’s marches prompted by the election of President Trump, and has been worn by Dior ambassadors including Rihanna, Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Portman.
Other items are also trending, Toledano said. “We have already reordered Maria Grazia’s new version of the Bar jacket, because demand is stronger than we anticipated. That’s good news. I’ve also been meeting with our factories about reordering knitwear, including the sweater with the star motif, and the eveningwear is off to a very strong start in London,” he revealed.
The launch in Dior’s own boutiques is supported by dedicated window displays and visual merchandising. Toledano said the rollout would be amplified thanks to the pop-ups, retail partnerships, spring advertising campaign shot by Brigitte Lacombe and social media initiatives, all revolving around the slogans featured in the October runway show: “Dio(R)evolution,” “J’adior” and “We Should All Be Feminists.”
He noted that Chiuri was closely involved with every aspect. “She is extremely hands-on and it’s frankly a joy, because it allows us to be very reactive and agile,” Toledano said. “The global story is working because the message is right and the products match the message. The whole thing is coherent.”
Chiuri said the pop-up concept was based on the codes of Dior’s couture salon on Avenue Montaigne, reinterpreted for today’s customer. They include a wooden floor with a cabochon pattern, inspired by the maison’s entrance hall at 30 Avenue Montaigne, and gray walls with concrete molding.
“I think it’s fundamental to maintain strong heritage codes. You have to do it in a contemporary way, but they have to be powerful, because that’s what makes the difference,” Chiuri said. “You want to give, in a simple way, the same atmosphere that you enjoy if you’re a couture client and you come to the Avenue Montaigne location.”
Some sections are filled with green plants, in a nod to founder Christian Dior, a passionate gardener. But mainly, the minimalist spaces are designed to direct attention to the product, with video screens and display cases used to broadcast key campaign visuals and messages.
For instance, the Los Angeles pop-up — in the same building that last year hosted an exhibition of limited-edition Lady Dior handbags created by seven artists — features a glass tower displaying the “Dio(R)evolution” logo above a two-story-high black-and-white photo of twins Ruth and May Bell, who appear in the brand’s spring ads. Street-facing display cases contain single handbags or shoes set off by bold slogans.
Meanwhile, the décor at the Dior pop-up in Paris includes framed photographs by Brigitte Niedermair, one of an all-female roster of contributors to the upcoming issue of Dior’s quarterly magazine, which comes out on March 3.
The publication also features photo spreads by Nan Goldin, Sarah Moon, Maripol and Bettina Rheims, who shot Laetitia Casta for its cover story, in addition to profiles of interior designer India Mahdavi, Italian fencer Beatrice Vio, and interviews with U.S. singer Banks, activist Bianca Jagger, Adichie and Emin.
The feminist artist’s exclusive creation for Dior is one of her signature neons with the phrase “Should Love Last” written in yellow. “We are really proud that Tracey Emin agreed to do a piece of art for this pop-up, because in some way I think she symbolizes women who speak about women,” said Chiuri.
“My best neons are there to give people ideas and make people think things through,” Emin said in a statement. “‘Should Love Last.’ First of all it sounds negative. But actually, for me, it’s very positive, because my answer would be, ‘Yes, it should. It should last. Forever.’ So you don’t need a question mark at the end of that.”
Meanwhile, Chiuri lauded Rihanna’s philanthropic work through the foundation named after her grandparents. “We are so proud to support the Rihanna project,” she said. “If you want to change the culture around the world, there is no other way but to invest in education.”
Chiuri, the first female designer in the history of the house, said she hoped to perpetuate the tradition of talking directly to customers initiated by Dior himself, who traveled extensively after founding his house to find out what women want.
“Mr. Dior was very close to women. He wanted to understand women’s lifestyles, and we’re speaking about 1955. He was really incredibly clever, so I think in some way as the designer of the Dior brand, I have to have the same attitude,” she said.
“What I really want is a closer relationship with our clients, with our audience.
“I think what is different, probably, about a woman designer is that I want to have a relationship with other women. I want to know how they feel, I want to understand how I can support them.
“These pop-ups and events are a way to be in contact with all of the women. It’s a service, in a way,” she explained.
She will get an opportunity to mingle at the Saks cocktail event on March 16, which will be followed by a dinner at downtown Manhattan’s Indochine.
To coincide with the T-shirt exclusive and the takeover of its windows, which starts on March 14, Saks will launch the collection simultaneously on Saks.com. It recently unveiled its renovated third-floor Dior boutique at the flagship, and also plans a dedicated pop-up at the new Brookfield Place store.
Selling Dior on Saks.com for the first time is part of the retailer’s 360-degree approach to launching the collection. “Saks has a longstanding relationship with Dior, and we — and our customers — are excited about this new era for the brand,” said Marc Metrick, president of Saks. “Maria has a clear point of view, which resonates with our clients.
“This is a fully integrated, 360-degree partnership to launch Dior’s spring 2017 collection,” he added. “We’re bringing the brand exclusively to saks.com, we put the ‘We Should all be Feminists’ T-shirt on the cover of our spring fashion book, we’re creating a pop-up in our Downtown women’s store, and more. Ultimately, we’re crafting an experience for our customers that is unique and quintessentially Saks.”
The new Dior shop, which bowed last week, has been a part of Saks’ redevelopment plan for the flagship for some time. “The timing could not have been better,” said Tracy Margolies, Saks’ chief merchant.
The executive added that Saks has always had a robust business across all categories, including handbags, accessories, rtw and men’s. “We believe we’ll get even more business with the newness,” she said. “When a fashion house makes a change in creative directors, we definitely see interest. We’re eagerly anticipating the collection. [Chiuri] did a great job of capturing the essence of Dior and it has a certain edge to it.”
Seven Saks stores that carry Dior, including the Beverly Hills flagship, will feature enhanced Dior visual presentations. A model on the cover of Saks’ spring magalogue is wearing a white version of the Dior message T-shirt.
Saks’ Dior launch is indicative of the fact that “Saks is transforming,” Margolies said. “We’re talking about what we’re doing differently. This is a major experience we’re giving our clients. We want to continue to think about ways to wow them.”
Chiuri taking on the creative reins at Dior — yet another example of fashion’s game of musical chairs — wasn’t lost on The Webster’s founder Laure Hériard-Dubreuil. “It’s a little bit challenging for our clients to follow what’s going on in the fashion world,” she said. “For clients, it takes time to really understand and adapt and embrace the new direction.”
Opening pop-ups in key specialty stores is “a smart move,” Hériard-Dubreuil said, adding that the Webster is set to launch Dior on March 20, with a cocktail party to follow on March 23.
“You can see the full world of Dior and the full collection. It allows us to have some special pieces, such as very delicate embroidered dresses at high price points that aren’t so easy for an independent store to carry because of the big investment,” she noted.
The Webster sells a range of Dior rtw, shoes and jewelry — handbags are offered on a special project basis. “We’ll do more volume with a bigger assortment,” Hériard-Dubreuil said. “But it’s not only the volume — it’s having the full looks and full assortment.”
The Webster’s pop-up shop will provide Dior with a canvas without losing its own identity. “The beauty of the Webster is that it’s very residential,” she said. “Keeping the vibe and energy and the whole look is good for our clients.”
Maxfield on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles will launch Dior’s spring collection on April 3 in a 2,000-square-foot house designed by architect Jean Prouvé. Maxfield founder Tommy Perse bought the house in France and had it transported via ship to the West Coast.
“We’ll exhibit couture houses such as Dior in the Prouvé house and use it as a window for our customers,” said Peter Utz, chief branding officer of Maxfield. “We’ve been representing Dior since the beginning, when Maxfield launched. It’s exciting for Dior and the repositioning is a big opportunity to educate customers about the brand and let them feel the fabrics and enjoy the whole environment.”
Maxfield won’t carry handbags. In addition to the Prouvé space, a corner window of the main Maxfield store will be dedicated to Dior.
The retailer’s new nontransactional web site, bowing on March 15, will highlight Dior along with several other designers. “It will be a very dynamic and interactive web site with a conceptual focus,” said Utz, noting that Dior’s youthful direction will suit Maxfield shoppers. Chiuri’s debut is already generating “extreme interest now that a big part of the customer base is getting younger.”
Sarah Andelman, creative director and purchasing manager at Colette, said she was excited about the meeting of street style and couture in the collection. From March 2, its windows will feature white neon signs spelling out “J’adior” and “We Should All Be Feminists” alongside a navy logo canvas travel trunk containing the T-shirt. A second trunk on the first floor will display handbags.
“There won’t be any bags or shoes in the window. We are really putting the focus on this T-shirt, which incidentally has inspired a lot of other designers. I think it was daring of Maria Grazia to show a plain T-shirt printed with a universal message like that. It reminds me of the Dior [Fusion] sneaker. It’s a product that sits between haute couture and street, which fits well with our positioning,” she said.
Andelman expects to receive several dozen of the T-shirts, which will be priced at 550 euros, or $580. She will also offer earrings retailing for 230 euros, or $245, and embroidered tulle skirts costing 11,500 euros, or $12,175.
“We are putting them on mannequins. You will have the T-shirt, and underneath these tulle skirts embroidered with charms, which are really couture pieces. I adore the contrast between this basic streetwear item and these exceptional skirts,” she said.