DIOR’S UNIVERSE ON RODEO

Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones

BEVERLY HILLS — “Think globally, act locally.”
This is no green earth edict coming from Christian Dior president Sidney Toledano, but the mission of the company’s newest flagship, which bowed here Friday morning without fanfare.
“We don’t want the same store everywhere. The basic codes are the same with colors or certain materials. But the mood is adapted to Los Angeles, and in this case it is the most modern version for the company: a very young, energetic, optimistic image. Very optimistic,” said Toledano of Dior’s 7,700-square-foot Peter Marino-designed temple, the December sunlight radiating through the 25-foot glass and polished stainless steel facade.
“It’s airy, it’s open, It’s not totally predictable. It’s very California,” added Dior managing director Michael Burke, who flew in from Paris with Toledano on his way to Korea.
At 309 Rodeo Drive, this latest entry is a brief stroll north of Dior’s former address, which shuttered Thursday night to make way for the newer, grander digs. Two stores, Hammacher Schlemmer and Louis Vuitton, formerly occupied the site, which underwent considerable renovations in the last year. It is flanked by the relatively smaller Ermenegildo Zegna and Celine boutiques and across the street from Van Cleef & Arpels and Dolce & Gabbana.
“It takes more creative energy and more work to do each [store] a little different,” Toledano noted. “But we’re thinking long-term for the brand.”
Long-term in these parts means further cultivating the cult of Dior among Angelenos — including Hollywood. While the company opened 10 points of distribution in 2001 in the U.S., this one is a statement for Dior, underscored Toledano — not in the least due to such amenities as a VIP room complete with nearby elevator that can be secretly accessed from a private back parking lot, and a dressing room whose size rivals that of a New York City hotel room.
Unlike its former location down the street or even the smaller San Francisco boutique, which opened on Union Square this summer, the new Rodeo Drive flagship contains the Dior universe for women.
One pair of large glass-front doors leads into an 800-square-foot fine jewelry boutique, the company’s fourth after the two in Paris (including the Place Vendome store that opened last month) and one in New York.
Another set of doors opens onto a spectacular foyer and several open galleries filled with accessories, hosiery, cosmetics, footwear, lingerie and related categories throughout the 5,400-square-foot first level. With the locals in mind, Toledano referred to the multiple displays of sunglasses and noted swimwear will be offered year-round.
A polished nickel handrail sculpted like an endless tree branch curves up to the 2,300-square-foot mezzanine, where visitors find ready-to-wear and the VIP salon (other Dior stores use their eveningwear or fur salons to service special clients in private).
“We’ve developed so many products and categories that we didn’t have room to showcase them all in our old [Beverly Hills] location,” said Marla Sabo, president and chief operating officer at Christian Dior Inc., the LVMH-owned fashion house’s North American division.
What’s more, she added, the open layout and mix of categories in several displays provides consumers with options to individualize. “We’re not about imposing a look. We’re allowing people to create and we believe that is very important to the Los Angeles population, which is so diverse.”
Nor was it overlooked that this renowned stretch of luxury retailers also attracts some 12 million tourists annually, according to the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, or that the surrounding hamlet in this corner of the city rings up some $1.8 billion in retail sales.
Many of the design details and environmental philosophies present in Dior’s new and renovated stores appear here. A single adapted Louis XVI chair near a futuristic plasma video screen is a reminder of the company’s heritage, as are the rectangular swatches of light gray rugs patterned in houndstooth, giraffe spots and zebra stripes.
Gradations of Dior gray color the texturized plaster walls, bleached and pearlescent woods and the satin and silk furnishings, focusing the eye on the range of product.
“It’s oxygen and energy,” enthused Toledano, adding it’s the culmination of what Dior has “succeeded in doing in the last three years: we lost more than 20 years. Our customers now are younger. This is thanks to the genius of John [Galliano].”
The cosmetics corner is defined by 16-foot walls of Pictet — pounded glass drenched in a silver coating that gives the effect of rippling water. It’s an element Marino used sparingly in New York, but appears fitting in L.A.’s glam culture, said Sabo, adding it took 10 men to lift one panel. Marino’s smoky V-groove mirrors — with their trippy optical effect — are also generously used here.
Despite the scale, the otherwise cool neutral palette and brushed and polished nickel fixtures, the environment manages a warmth. The space is ideal, said Sabo, for lunches and other “community activities.”
Those activities start today with a three-day trunk show featuring the first American preview of the spring-summer Couture. Sabo expects sales “to be very strong” based on consumer response to the store since Friday. “We had a very good weekend, business-wise,” she said, adding sales were across all categories.
But it’s the pending arrival of Galliano that already has the city buzzing. Word is that he could hit town, especially around Oscar time in March. Asked to confirm if it’s possible the designer would visit in the first half of next year, Toledano would only grin and nod his head.

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