By  on September 18, 2007

PARIS — Christian Dior wants to take luxe to a new level on the retail floor.

The fashion house on Monday unveiled a dazzling bespoke makeover of its landmark flagship here, complete with silk carpets handwoven in Tibet that resemble pools of molten silver, fitting rooms wallpapered in embossed metallic leather and enough artworks and custom furnishings to rival a royal apartment.

"The objective was really to make it even more luxurious," Dior president Sidney Toledano said during a walk-through of the 13,000-square-foot flagship. "The customer is looking for ever-more sophisticated products in ready-to-wear and accessories. The whole mix is going up."

Dior expects its new "haute" decor to bump up sales of its most productive unit in the world, which market sources estimate generates annual revenues of more than $60 million.

On Monday night, Sharon Stone, Elton John, Juliette Binoche and Monica Bellucci were among the stars who stepped onto the gleaming marble floors — etched in Dior's signature caning pattern — for a gala evening to fete the new boutique and cap off the fashion house's 60th anniversary celebrations.

"I just bought two bags — purple and black," said Elton John, explaining his color choice by adding, "I just saw Prince — purple and black."

"Brutal," said Sharon Stone. She was describing her towering shoes from the July couture runway, not the store. As for that, she described it, "Beautiful, great, so tasteful."

With couture-quality silk rendered into rococo swirls as a backdrop to handbags retailing from 5,000 euros, or $6,800, and up, and a curtained VIP shoe salon showcasing fantasy styles from John Galliano's couture catwalk, the store shows off high-quality craftsmanship at every turn. Indeed, architect Peter Marino, responsible for the flagship's latest makeover and the previous one a decade ago, employed 56 shades of gray throughout the boutique, including a hand-painted fresco of clouds on the ceiling in shades reminiscent of a Gerhard Richter landscape. "I wanted Dior to just own gray," he joked (even the gray and soggy weather for the opening party cooperated).

But the store is hardly grim, and Marino added myriad fantasy touches, from giant blown-glass script on the walls by New York artist Rob Wynne imploring "Look Good" or "J'adore" to whimsical goat-legged stools in the fitting rooms."We find so many of the stores today are so dry and so business," Marino said. "We wanted the customer to be transported."

The journey starts from the moment shoppers enter the boutique's giant oval-shaped atrium, its 23-foot ceilings doubled by a border of mirrors that reflect a ring of plasma screens set in French windows. These broadcast a video montage by Israeli artist Oyorama. Above a 360-degree showcase of handbags and small leather goods, fantastic images unfurl: a pair of giant scissors cuts open a designer's sketch pad to reveal a blooming garden, across which models in Dior couture creations glide.

Works by artists are a new element in the Avenue Montaigne flagship, including an oval-shaped settee composed of giant silver ginkgo leaves by Claude Lalanne and a hulking, sculptural cast-aluminum table by Ado Chale.

That the custom-made pieces are all "the real McCoy" is no coincidence, Marino said.

"I think the customer knows the difference because this is what they put in their homes," he said. "It adds culture."

The architect said he sought a "residential" feel for the store, interspersed with nods to Dior's brand heritage, including the late founding designer's passion for gardens: here a misty, backlit view of André Le Nôtre's grand, formal style in front of racks of rtw; there sepia-tone leaves behind displays of sunglasses.

Certain historical architectural elements were maintained, including the beauty and fragrance salon with its crackled-mirror, jewel-box ambience, and the Louis XVI moldings and medallion armchairs favored by Dior himself. A gift department, selling everything from tableware to scented candles, is unique to the location.

Dior annexed some storage and office space to give more floor space to fast-growing categories, including leather goods, footwear and watches, some of which sell for 25,000 euros, or $34,700, or more.

Toledano cited strong sales of its new Samurai bags for fall and sustained momentum for the iconic Lady Dior, now rendered in exotic skins. Rtw was also given more room to breathe in three expansive salons, each with a different atmosphere. They include one with anthracite lacquer walls and another with couches set face-to-face in front of a fireplace, upon whose mantle rests a Bernard Buffet portrait of Christian Dior himself."In this store, we're doubling sales of ready-to-wear versus a year ago," Toledano said. "The fall-winter collection is doing excellent and we achieved that in spite of the renovations."

The store remained open throughout five months of works, and temporary walls and fixtures were installed to mask the luxurious new decor behind. It opens its doors to the public Thursday after two days of by-invitation shopping for its best customers.

The Dior boutique is believed to be one of the most frequented on Avenue Montaigne, a tony shopping street that boasts such nameplates as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Harry Winston, Akris and Dolce & Gabbana. Roberto Cavalli and Blumarine are among the most recent arrivals, with Ralph Lauren coming soon.

Toledano said Marino's ultraluxe design concept would remain unique to the historic address, where a then-unknown Christian Dior revolutionized the postwar fashion world with his extravagant, fan-skirted New Look. "This is the founder's house. It had to be really special," Toledano said.

However, the boutique's art-studded, bespoke character is "in line with what we want to do in the future," he noted.

Powered by the theatrical designs of Galliano, Dior has rapidly expanded its retail network, which today numbers 220 locations. A third Beijing location will open its doors week, to be followed by a slate of new locations in the Middle East, among them stores in Dubai, Jeddah, Riyadh, Bahrain and Qatar.

The three rooms devoted to men's wear, with a minimalist decor by former Dior Homme designer Hedi Slimane, were not part of the renovation. Dior also operates boutiques on Avenue Montaigne for fine jewelry and Baby Dior children's wear.

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