Guests including Natalia Vodianova, Gemma Arterton, Liberty Ross, Amber Le Bon, Daisy Lowe, David Gandy (eye candy alert), Delphine and Antoine Arnault and, of course, moi and le tout Grazia, promenaded around London’s biggest department store last night to attend the glittering launch of Dior at Harrods which opens to the rest of the world tomorrow. The carpet was Dior dove grey – nothing as gauche as red will do for this esteemed French fashion house – and it was quite a spectacle. In the windows, the Dior shoe of the season rode by on the roof of a little Routemaster bus. Mannequins peeped out of traditional London phone boxes (only in that signature, chic pale grey again) and the famous Harrods teddy bear had been given a Parisian makeover coming as it did in fluffy white with Dior silk ribbon round its neck and stamp on one cuddly foot.
Inside, a miniature façade of the house’s huge Avenue Montaigne store has been erected complete with tiny furniture and the clothing, accessories and scent this status name is known and loved for. It was in the salons of this typically Parisian town house, remember, that the iconic New Look collection, with its slender shoulders and waists and full flower-like skirts, was originally unveiled whipping up a storm of controversy by Christian Dior himself in 1947. Fabric rationing was still in place and women the world over were duly wowed by such a flagrant display of excess. The New Look or “corolle” line went on to become one of the most influential silhouettes of all time and remains an integral part of the Dior heritage to this day.
Elsewhere on floor four, the full-size historic designs themselves are present and correct in glass cabinets. Dior’s own stand alongside more by his successor, a young Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre (all three were Dior creative directors in their time) and current Dior designer superstar, Raf Simons. Feel free to marvel at the workmanship of a delectable strapless gown covered in tiny silk flowers in fondant hues from the debut collection of this relative newcomer. Each one - and there are thousands of them - was painstakingly sewn on by hand by the petites mains who staff the Dior ateliers.
Dior’s love affair with all things British – and with Harrods too, neatly enough – stretches back to the late 1940s also. Dior fashion shows were once staged here – and at Blenheim Palace. Princess Margaret met and wore Christian Dior. The Queen sported Dior pumps, at that point created by Roger Vivier, for many a state occasion. Back to the future and, in a Harrods Dior pop-up store, visitors might now like to snap up a Dior bag in tartan or military khaki green, invest in an exclusive Dior lipstick (it’s called Duchess which is posh), a Dior snowstorm or simply indulge in lobster sandwiches and a Dior cupcake at the Dior café. All are exclusive to Harrods - and delicious in every way.
The centrepiece of the show, meanwhile, is debatably the best thing of all. They’ve been hard at work on Avenue Montaigne these past few months creating Dior-clad dolls – in the manner of the Theatre de la Mode – especially for this occasion. Some fashion history: the Theatre de la Mode was an exhibition of mannequins, roughly one third human size, that toured the world between 1945 and 1946, showcasing models of some of haute couture’s most revered names to raise money for war survivors and promote the French fashion industry while so doing. In this instance, Dior’s iconic designs alone feature and, my, they are a sight for sore eyes.
Dior at Harrods, 16 March to 14 April