EXCLUSIVE: Dior conjures up a gingerbread Christmas fantasy at Harrods
LONDON — Dior is making history at Harrods with a major (and sometimes minor) festive takeover where Monsieur Dior, his family and his atelier come to life in the gingerbread world.
There’s no Santa’s Grotto at Harrods this year, but with Dior in town who needs a North Pole contingent anyway?
Dior has never collaborated on this scale with a department store, and this is Harrods’ biggest takeover of the brand to date.
Inside and outside the store, Dior replaced the usual reds and greens of the season with warm brownies, caramel, cinnamon and powdered white sugar.
The takeover includes 44 storefronts, the Knightsbridge storefront, a cafe and two pop-up shops.
The centerpiece is an immersive experience that traces the life of founder Christian Dior and the evolution of the fashion house. It contains animated tables made of large and small gingerbread, icing and colored sweets.
The 17m, or nearly 60ft, mega-star hangs above the Brompton Road entrance and forms part of a lavish 3D display inspired by sketches by Roman artist Pietro Ruffo for the Dior cruise 2023 collection.
Around the corner, on Hans Crescent, a small grove of gingerbread trees sprinkled with white sugar sits above the entrance to Harrods at door no. 5. Thursday evening will be the first time the entire facade will light up as both brands mark the opening with an in-store cocktail followed by dinner.
London-based tennis star and Dior ambassador Emma Raducanu is set to cut the ribbon.
“The Fabulous World of Dior” at Harrods, which runs from Thursday until January 3, is inspired by the brand’s new flagship 30 Avenue Montaigne which aims to highlight all aspects of the brand and then some.
It’s also in line with Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Pietro Beccari’s desire to evoke a sense of fantasy.
Dior certainly appeared at the right moment.
Britain, like many other countries, is facing economic difficulties, a cost of living crisis and possible fuel shortages this winter. London in particular is suffering from a drop in international tourism and has just seen the end of tax breaks for shoppers living outside the UK
Beccari said the Harrods takeover “comes at a time when people want to be distracted, when they want to have a moment of joy. At Dior, we can’t change the world, but we can do our job, and our job is to make people dream. Here, I believe we have fulfilled that task.”
When asked why Dior chose London for the takeover, Beccari said the British capital is one of the most beautiful cities for Christmas. Dior chose Harrods because of its long history with the retailer.
Founder Christian Dior opened a corner store in Harrods in 1953, and a few months later, chose it as the location for his spring 1954 collection.
Dior personally attended that fashion show in a certain “Dior room” in the store. He adored British culture and went on to name future styles including Dickens, Londres, Chelsea, Mayfair, Piccadilly and Cambridge.
Beccari said Dior was inspired by both the American department store’s Christmas windows and the ritual of taking children to see them.
“We wanted to enter this tradition and be a part of it. Mr. Dior had a very strong sense of family, and you will even see his mother at the exhibition. I think it’s nice to have that feeling of family at Christmas,” he added.
Dior is in London for other reasons as well. It has an expanded fan base here following the 2019 Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition.
Tickets for “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” sold out less than three weeks after opening and welcomed almost 600,000 visitors. The exhibition was extended from July to September 2019 and was one of the most successful in the history of the museum.
It was the biggest and most comprehensive British show at the House of Dior, a grand sweep of glitz, rippling wool, sculpted jackets and floral prints and motifs. The exhibition shed light on the designer’s fascination with Britain, its “lines” and defining look, and his international viewpoints and inspirations from history.
Beccari is clear that telling the story of a brand is taking the time to showcase its history and culture.
“As a brand today, sharing your set of values is almost a must,” said the CEO. “You don’t just sell products, you sell who you are. You are selling your history, your savoir faire, and you have to talk about it. It’s retail 2.0,” Beccari said.
This is one of the reasons why the Parisian flagship also has a cafe, a restaurant, a private apartment and a permanent exhibition space. Because of this, the Harrods installation has a strong cultural element and also serves lunch and treats inspired by Christian Dior’s history and love of food.
Beccari said he always kept in mind the founder’s idea that Dior should never be “too traditional or too literal. He believed that traditions must be tickled, pulled, stretched, to be relevant for today, and even to be ironic,” said Beccari.
The Dior team took this idea to heart, especially for the exhibition, which is like entering a fusion of puppet theater and a Pixar movie.
Dior worked with five creative companies on the show. It features recreations of 30 Avenue Montaigne when Christian Dior worked there, as well as the designer’s childhood home in Granville, on the Normandy coast, and La Colle Noir, the designer’s house near Grasse.
The buildings are filled with animated gingerbread figures of Dior, always with a small lily of the valley picked out in the white glaze on his jacket. She appears with her gingerbread mother by the sea in Normandy, or sits at her meticulously appointed desk and devises dress designs. His ideas appear in little bubbles above his head.
Behind the lighted windows of the Avenue Montaigne auction store, small shadows flicker here and there, showing all the activity inside. On one floor, seamstresses work on gingerbread sewing machines. In another part of the studio, mechanical bees deliver small buttons and carry pieces of measuring tape.
At one point, the gingerbread fairy appears, turning sugar into dresses and then back into sugar.
There are also digital effects, such as colored flowers falling over a tall cookie house depicting the brand’s historic scents. At the end of the show, digital fireworks and shooting stars burst over the sea in Normandy.
Cookie trees, roses and other flora populate the space. They’re not edible, but Dior has got that covered.
Real gingerbread in the form of the Bar jacket, Dior Book Tote and Lady Dior bag are sold at Le Café Dior, where guests can sit on chairs covered in Dior toile de Jouy and eat from wooden tables carved with toilet. designs.
The installation also features two pop-ups, one of which is a gift shop with walls, drawers and units made to look like frozen gingerbread. Meanwhile, conveyor belts feature Christmas cookies, pastries and Dior ready-to-wear, accessories, sweaters and homewares.
The second pop-up is a gingerbread house that represents Monsieur Dior’s atelier and offers a glimpse into how Lady Dior and other bags and accessories are made.
And beauty has its moment, with two additional spaces. One is dedicated to the fragrance collection La Collection Privée Christian Dior. The second focuses on make-up, treatments and additional Dior fragrances.
There are special collections to download, including a Kim Jones men’s capsule. One of the pieces is a double-breasted jacket in the shade of Harrods green.
In womenswear, Dior’s Jardin d’Hiver print spreads across silk scarves, shawls and a range of trunks. Pietro Ruffo’s Rêve d’Infini motif appears on the Dior Book Tote and silk twill scarves.
Other products on offer include the Miss Dior chair designed by Philippe Starck.
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