TOKYO — Christian Dior is making major moves here, making its presence known in the same city where it will stage its pre-fall runway show Dec. 11.
The French house has taken over a four-level retail space on Ginza’s main drag to stage the latest incarnation of its sprawling retrospective, Esprit Dior, which opens to the public Thursday and runs through Jan. 4. Meanwhile, it just unveiled a revamp of its Omotesando flagship, debuting a new silver-themed concept by Peter Marino.
Dior’s last big event here was in early 2012 when the brand unveiled a face-lift for its Ginza store — a move that predated the start of current creative director Raf Simons’ tenure.
“We said we have to see how we’re going to introduce Raf to this market,” Dior chief executive officer Sidney Toledano said. “After [May’s cruise show in Brooklyn] we could have done [pre-fall] in another country. We thought Japan, with the long history we have with Japan, the sense of tradition and modernity, was the right place to do it. So Raf was very excited about this idea.”
Although he declined to disclose numbers, Toledano said the Japanese market is continuing to perform well even after April’s sales tax increase, and this is part of a positive trend for the brand across the globe. Christian Dior Couture saw sales for the first quarter ended Sept. 30 rise 13 percent to 417 million euros, or $524.9 million at current exchange, and Toledano said that momentum is continuing.
“In all markets, the trend is excellent,” he said.
The Esprit Dior exhibition, which made its debut last year in Shanghai, has been expanded to include more recent campaign photos from Patrick Demarchelier. The exhibition’s opening coincides with the launch of Demarchelier’s second Dior tome, “Dior New Couture.”
The exhibition features vintage gowns from the Fifties and Sixties, displayed with more contemporary looks in thematic groupings to highlight their aesthetic similarities. For example, one trio included a pink and blue embroidered organza and tulle dress from 2012 fall couture, Simons’ first collection for the house; a hand-painted silk organza dress from John Galliano’s 2010 fall couture collection and a blue floral-print taffeta gown from “around 1960.”
Other exhibition highlights include a collection of images and sketches showing Dior’s connections to Japan, vintage perfume bottles and interactive touch screens highlighting various high points in the brand’s history. The lower level features a table of workers cutting and sewing garments and decorating perfume bottles. These artisans will be present for the duration of the exhibition.
Demarchelier said he was impressed to see the display of the couture pieces.
“It’s very interesting to see each amazing designer’s work for Dior. Not to compare them to each other, but all together they meld well with Dior. All of the clothes are very modern. There’s no time….A couture dress today can be worn in 20 years,” he said.
This is only the third trip to Japan for the famed photographer. He came with designer Kenzo Takada 40 years ago, and he shot Christy Turlington for Italian Vogue on his second trip here about 25 years ago. Demarchelier said he had not had much time to look around yet, but managed to swing dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro and snapped some photos of chef Jiro Ono — of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” fame. “Beautiful guy…85 years old. Amazing. He loves what he’s doing,” he said.
The Omotesando store, which maintained its distinctive glass facade by Sanaa architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, features a “modernized concept” of Dior’s flagship on Avenue Montaigne in Paris. The interiors feature a range of grays and silvers in varying textures. Marino, who did not make the trip to Tokyo, said Simons’ approach to fashion inspired him.
“The Omotesando renovation reflects the crisp architectural light brilliance of Raf Simons’ approach to Dior. Edgy new materials, diaphanous walls and ceilings, creative, individualistic furnishings add to the new ambience. Experimental use of new types of glass, lacquer and resin push the brand well into the future,” he said.
Dior commissioned several contemporary artists to design works for the store. These pieces include a Johnny Swing-designed bench made out of quarters on the store’s second floor.
Elsewhere in the region, Dior is gearing up to open a major statement store in Seoul by the middle of next year. French architect Christian de Portzamparc will design the exterior while Marino will craft the interiors, which will also consist of a new retail concept.
“I’m just back from Seoul,” Toledano said. “We were having meetings with Christian.”