As a fashion and beauty house, Christian Dior is all about French chic. As a store, the UK’s Harrods is all about luxury. So can the twain meet? Yes, indeed, at the Dior at Harrods extravaganza, running now through April 14. It is the ultimate match made in beauty and fashion heaven that reaches an entente cordiale between the two countries, all in Central London.
Go back in time to Paris of 1947. M. Dior launches a fashion collection that came to be known as the New Look. It may be hard to imagine its impact given the London or Paris of today with their cheap, fast fashion, but for women in France, who had been deprived of new clothes for nearly ten years, it was a fresh breath of freedom, sophistication, and luxury. At the same time, the abundance of material used in New Look dresses led to women who wore them being attacked by furious Parisians. Just as the New Look was celebrated, it was also criticized for using up reams of luxury material during a time of severe rationing. Dior divided Parisians between necessity—and the desire for escapism and luxury.
But the New Look wasn’t all about frocks, many of which are on display at Harrods. M. Dior considered himself equally a perfumer as much as a designer. And whist presenting his collection, M. Dior created the Miss Dior fragrance, which was sprayed for his presentation, a practice now almost standard for fashion collections. But like many things he created, it was, for then, a first.
Miss Dior was not only extravagant and created an atmosphere in the room of excitement, it had a resounding impact on the world of perfume. Moving far away from the powdery, fussy, and heavy scents that had previously been popular, M. Dior employed the very first green chypre note in perfume. And, he used traditionally masculine undertones, with a mossy base, and hints of citrus and garden flowers to reflect post-war hope. It was pretty sexy too.
The clothes may have almost led to the second French revolution but the perfume, Miss Dior, became an instant classic. Some of the original flacons are displayed at Harrods. In a nod to our cell-phone culture, a traditionally shaped London telephone booth gives way to a walk-in sensory experience of Miss Dior.
However it is J’Adore that is given, well, the most adoration in this exhibition. With an apparent sly wink at the rainy London weather – very apropos given the conditions outside Harrods, despite the season officially changing to Spring – perfume infused water trickles down an display of over a hundred of the iconic bottles lit around one of the House of Dior’s couture masterpieces.
Moving forward to the present day, the exhibition is the sight and smell of the new House of Dior perfume, Gris Montaigne, which is inspired by the classic grey of the Paris store—and certainly not the outside gloomy London sky. Blending bergamot, patchouli, jasmine, and, of course, moss, which underpins all Dior scents, it is a most contemporary perfume. And what better launch pad than this event?
Limited edition compacts created exclusively for the exhibition play up the influence that London had on the House of Dior. Celebrating the famous hotel—frequented by many of his British clients from Princess Margaret and Elizabeth Taylor to Princess Diana—the Claridges 48 pink and grey eye shadow duo recalls the day in 1948 that Miss Dior was presented at the hotel to London. Also, and exclusive to this event, My Lady radiance palette was created using the inspiration of the Lady Dior bag commissioned as a gift for—who else? —Lady Diana in the 90s.
Until mid-April, Harrods will have a plethora of Dior beauty events such as translating catwalk fashions into nail art, including the classic hound’s-tooth check, or creating makeup looks inspired by backstage action that is featured on an iPad. At Be the Muse events, exhibition goers can find the best fragrance that suits them and then be sketched by an official Dior artist. It’s all going on at Harrods.
If that’s not enough, make a booking—you need to book—for the pop-up Dior Café adjacent to the exhibition where food is inspired by M. Dior’s palate. Did you know he wrote a recipe book? Nope, us neither but we are glad he did—black truffle omelet will change how you look on a simple egg-dish forever.
This is a once in a lifetime event, and given our hard times, brings light, fun and glamour to a world in need of some cheer. It’s free, it’s fun—and it’s fascinating. It is ultimately: Monsieur Dior.