NEW YORK — The new Dior store on Fifth Avenue and the southeast corner of 59th Street is only temporary — it will operate for about two years — yet the impression befits one of the world’s leading luxury brands.
The two-level, 6,480-square-foot space is inspired by Dior’s Champs-Élysées flagship in Paris, capturing several of the same elements and motifs, most noticeably a high Cannage-patterned wood dome, rising about 20 feet high, right in the center as shoppers enter off Fifth Avenue. Cannage is an emblem of the House of Dior, evoking the Napoleon III-style canework chairs on which Christian Dior liked to seat guests at his shows. The pattern style is also evident on the Fifth Avenue store’s Versailles parquet oak and polished concrete flooring, on the windows, and with the lighting on the exterior of the building rigged with a lightbox.
“A temporary store can be a temporary store, or it can be an occasion. I believe in the fact that you need to exploit every chance you are given, or every chance you create for yourself, to represent a part of the brand or to further build the equity of the brand,” said Pietro Beccari, chairman and chief executive officer of Christian Dior Couture, in an interview at his office on Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Dior is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Along with the Cannage dome, the Fifth Avenue store replicates the ABCDior personalization service for monogramming and detailing with charms for a customized look and the machinery to turn around an order in a day. Both, said Beccari, “are very important topics for us that are very visible and very well represented there.”
The Fifth Avenue store opened Monday. It temporarily substitutes for the Dior store on 57th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues, where a renovation and expansion will soon be underway, though a section of the first floor will stay open for business during the project.
On 57th Street, “We will more than double the size, and probably we’ll add one floor to it,” Beccari said. The store there will expand into the neighboring Fendi boutique, following the Italian brand’s move to the Fuller building.
But for now, it’s clear Beccari is pleased with the provisional store on Fifth Avenue, and its location right next to Apple and its pedestrian plaza. The Dior space previously housed a temporary Cartier store.
“The square is very beautiful, so we are very happy to have this location for the next two years,” Beccari said. “It’s going to be replacing the business, but especially, we will use it to give maybe a new facet of Dior for New Yorkers, which they do not yet know.” On 57th Street, “We don’t have such a space for accessories such as fashion jewelry, hats, bracelets, sunglasses and belts, and I think in this store, you will see more of that,” the CEO said.
WWD toured Dior’s Fifth Avenue store, along with a bevy of visual, store design and public relations personnel.
The store feels compartmentalized, rather than being wide open, thereby providing a sense of discovery and intimacy walking through, yet there’s a degree of spaciousness achieved by the high ceilings with cove lighting, and the prevailing shades of off-white, beige and light blue. Custom-upholstered sofas and armchairs lend a residential feel.
There’s a sense of curation, rather than extensive merchandise. Women’s categories are on the left as one enters, with separate category areas beginning with leather goods, then footwear, followed by ready-to-wear and fine jewelry and timepieces. Dior Maison is displayed in the personalization area, and exotics are displayed on the lower level, where there are also two VIP salons with fitting rooms. There are also four fitting rooms on the first floor.
Men’s on the right side of the store follows the same progression of categories as shoppers walk through, though there are no timepieces or jewelry in that area.
Metal display shelves projecting from the walls are as high as 9 feet and set against decorative plaster walls. There is also backlit paneling, and 10-foot high sneaker walls, one in the men’s and another on the women’s side.
Tall sliding doors provide privacy in fine jewelry to the rear of the main floor, and downstairs, in the VIP salons where there is artwork by Kim Bartelt. The stairwells are adorned with an artisanal plaster paneled wall.
Officials said the space will be animated with new launches and pop-ups, including exclusive editions, capsules and other surprises, including exclusive Rose Des Vents fine jewelry for the opening, and for the grand opening, which will be in September, there will be special high jewelry.
The men’s and women’s windows draw inspiration from the sets of Dior’s winter show, with the women’s window created in partnership with French artist Eva Jospin.
Dior’s Manhattan projects mirror the strategy in Paris, where the luxury brand opened a flamboyant temporary store on the Champs-Élysées while its Avenue Montaigne flagship undergoes renovations. But more significantly, the New York stores are part of a vast retail expansion program in the U.S., encompassing the recent opening of stores in the Westfield Valley Fair mall in Santa Clara, Calif., and at the Scottsdale Fashion Square center in Scottsdale, Ariz., as well as the upcoming renovation of stores in Las Vegas and Miami’s Design District. In addition, the brand will open a second store in Houston at the Houston Galleria and a boutique at the Fashion Valley mall in San Diego, Calif., both in the third quarter this year, and another in Orlando, Fla., in the fourth quarter.
“Of course, the United States is a very important market for us. We are doing very well in the U.S.,” said Beccari, while declining to provide any figures.
Dior pre-launched its fall 2021 collection at the Monday opening of the Fifth Avenue store, while some other Dior boutiques in the U.S. will launch the collection on Thursday. The global launch is set for July 29. While a cocktail is planned, the brand expects to host a larger celebration to coincide with the opening of the “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum on Sept. 10.
“That’s going to be a major event for Dior, and I hope for the city as well,” Beccari said. The first major New York show dedicated to Dior since the 1996 retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it will highlight the historic links between the house and the U.S.
Christian Dior established a presence in New York the year after founding his fashion house in 1947 and was embraced by the U.S. press from the start. It was Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Carmel Snow, who famously dubbed his first designs “the New Look.”
A few months later, Neiman Marcus gave Dior its “Oscar” Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion, prompting the designer to embark on a trip through the U.S. that led to the opening of the Dior New York branch on Fifth Avenue in 1948.
“He loved the U.S. and he loved the public in the U.S., and it’s really something that is still in the air,” Beccari said.
“He was so modern in his way of approaching his time. It’s incredible what he was able to do in only 10 years. Not only did he invent the New Look, but he launched a perfume together with the New Look, going abroad immediately. He was an entrepreneur, a courageous man and a dreamer,” the CEO added, noting that this spirit inspired the internal company motto “Dream in Dior” introduced in 2018.
The French fashion house has remained a sponsor of the annual Guggenheim Gala, even though it was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s event is scheduled for Nov. 17.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be physical or not, but I hope so,” Beccari said. “We are partners in good times and bad times. This year, we hope that we’ll be able to celebrate this partnership in physical presence. And if not, it will be for the next year.”