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NEW YORK — With its 57th Street flagship reopening this week, Christian Dior is making the ultimate statement for all things Français.
The 5,000-square-foot, two-story boutique, which was closed for five months during renovations, is returning with a complete makeover in the spirit of the iconic Dior boutique on Avenue Montaigne in Paris. The opening comes with the same amount of fanfare Dior had when it first introduced the Peter Marino-designed store concept at its landmark Paris store in 2007.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chief Bernard Arnault, Dior president and chief executive officer Sidney Toledano and designer John Galliano are in town for the celebrations; the house planned two dinners; Natalie Portman will light the store facade tonight, and a cocktail party to introduce the store is expected to draw Liv Tyler, Amy Adams, Chace Crawford and Dior model Karlie Kloss. The notables at the party and dinners, as well as shoppers who will be able to see the store on Saturday when it officially opens, will find an uncompromisingly French showcase for Dior’s entire assortment, including ready-to-wear, accessories such as handbags and shoes, a separate salon for fine jewelry and special VIP rooms.
On a walk-through of the store on Tuesday afternoon, architect Peter Marino said he took cues from the residential feel of a hotel particular in Paris, replete with a series of salons, from accessories to fine jewelry, rtw and a VIP room. There also are elaborate wall and ceiling moldings, mirrored or perforated leather walls, and details such as original 18th century daybeds, hand-painted velvet sofas and hand-finished curtains.
Throughout, artists created custom pieces for the store, from a coffee table by Guy de Rougemont to side chairs by Andre Dubreuil, a Claude Lalanne Ginkgo Leaf Bench and a cabinet by Hubert le Gall. “When you get a brand like Dior, it is so French, and so great, I wanted to push it,” Marino said.
“We wanted to get away from the department store sensibility of many stores,” he added. “Luxury brands are more exclusive.”
On the second floor, a French garden scene is the backdrop to the rtw salon, while a porcelain and plaster installation ceiling by David Wiseman adds a touch of lily of the valley — a Dior symbol — to the eveningwear room. The VIP salon, meanwhile, features Timothy Horn’s “Phaedra” wall sculpture in the shape of giant chandelier pearl earrings, while Philippe Bradshaw’s aluminum on chains installation offers a colorful backdrop to the shoe salon.
“The clothing is made by hand, so why not make the curtains by hand,” Marino said, referring to the level of detail at the store. “The customer feels it and appreciates it.”
The pièce de résistance could well be Yorame Mevorach’s video installation wall, which is positioned by the grand staircase and streams videos. The piece resembles a series of windows that almost seem real and, at any given moment, can transport viewers into the City of Light.
The French aura is deliberate, according to Toledano. He said the company decided to update all its stores when it unveiled the new concept at the Paris flagship on Avenue Montaigne at the time of the house’s 60th anniversary. The idea was to import a feeling that was “more elegant and more about the DNA of the Dior salon, creating a space for the clients with VIP rooms, and salons for rtw, eveningwear and accessories, including the fine jewelry,” Toledano said.
He stressed that luxury service is key to the new environment and admitted that this, and all the other elements, came a “little bit short” in the store’s previous incarnation.
“In the past we’d say, ‘Let’s adapt the format to New York,’ but I think we have to be what we really are,” Toledano said. “This is what Peter is expressing in this new concept. When Americans come to our store on Avenue Montaigne, they are very impressed and they tell us, ‘This is what we want in New York. We don’t want another New York-style store.’ Americans are really good in retail, and we are not going to do a ‘me-too.’ It’s more about the idea that people are coming to the Dior store in New York because they want to see the atmosphere of Dior. That is true anywhere in the world.”
The new store and all the activities surrounding its reopening is also a statement about Dior’s ongoing belief in the U.S. market.
“The U.S. business has been good,” Toledano said. “We don’t give numbers, but we have strong double-digit growth, and our full-priced business is doing extremely well. I believe in the American market, and I believe in the high end, because in cities like New York, you don’t just have the locals, but you also have the tourist business. This is still the country with the most billionaires in the world. There are people with big assets, and people who are successful. You will never tell someone successful not to buy luxury goods.”
And if the crisis put a dent in consumer confidence, that is all but forgotten, at least chez Dior. Toledano said that business is strong in all the luxury capitals, from Avenue Montaigne to the store on Bond Street in London, which the company just opened.
“During the crisis, we noticed that there was a low profile attitude, but this is over now,” Toledano said. “People are definitely coming back to the stores.”