The legendary French label’s Paris flagship recently underwent a glamorous transformation, including an adjacent museum showcasing the house that Christian built.
“Couturiers embody one of the last refuges of the marvelous. They are, in a way, masters of dreams.” – Christian Dior
Christian Dior first fell in love with the hôtel particulier that would later become his famed atelier at 30 Avenue Montaigne in 1946, less than a year before he would debut his “New Look” haute couture collection, a celebration of opulence and femininity that was both unexpected and revolutionary. The couturier crafted a dream that delighted women who had become accustomed to the austerity of the World War II era. Nearly 75 years later, that dream continues as the nucleus that attracts subsequent generations of new consumers.
By 1954, Christian Dior’s atelier had stretched beyond 30 Avenue Montaigne to occupy a total of five buildings for the 1,000 employees who worked across the label’s 28 workshops—from haute couture to hats, gloves, stockings, and perfumes. Now, one of those buildings, just around the corner on Rue François 1er, has been transformed into La Galerie Dior, a museum that opened in March to celebrate the complete breadth of this storied label, from Christian’s earliest years to the six designers who succeeded him as the house’s creative director.
Combined with the decidedly glamorous update of the 30 Avenue Montaigne flagship, the pairing of Dior’s now-lavish Paris boutique and its adjacent museum is quite simply a stunning one-two punch of heritage and high-end retail—there’s nothing else among luxury labels in the world quite like it.
Of course, a dedicated fashion museum is far from a new idea—Musee Yves Saint Laurent is located on Avenue Marceau, just 750 meters from La Galerie Dior. In Florence, Italy, fashion fans can visit museums showcasing the history and handicraft of Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci. But Dior’s entry seems to elevate the idea, both in its proximity to the house’s biggest and best flagship and in its overtly joyful approach to showcasing a bounty of archived pieces and the codes of the brand.
That celebration starts almost from the moment one enters La Galerie Dior, where an oversized portrait of the couturier leads to a gleaming white spiral staircase surrounded by glass cases that highlight hundreds of miniatures of Dior designs. Arranged in a spectacular color spectrum, the display instantly communicates this is a brand that doesn’t shy away from bold, brilliant hues.
A journey up the staircase is rewarded with an up-close look at one of the house’s genuine treasures: Dior’s Bar Suit from the 1947 “New Look” collection, without question the most iconic design in the house’s history. What follows is a comprehensive look at the brand’s haute history, extending back into Dior’s family prior to his discovery of 30 Avenue Montaigne, and venturing forward into the years during which the label was overseen by Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and finally creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, who currently helms the house.
It’s undeniable that the impetus for La Galerie Dior is the exhibition “Dior, Designer of Dreams.” Premiering at the Museé des Arts Decoratifs in Paris in 2017 before moving to installations in London, Qatar, and Brooklyn, the retrospective traces the groundbreaking history and legacy of the house of Dior. From the high-wattage positioning of the Bar Suit to the timeline of the house and its procession of A-list designers, the story of Dior has been told in a thrilling fashion in a variety of venues.
How does this permanent exhibition differ? “This is a fashion house with a past, present, and future,” explains Nathalie Crinière, who curated the Museé des Arts Decoratifs exhibition and oversaw the scenography of La Galerie Dior. Crinière notes that, unlike the traveling exhibition, the Rue François 1er space offers the ability to tell a comprehensive Dior narrative. “The beautiful thing about writing a story is seeing it evolve, just like life,” she adds.
The easy proximity of the museum and the newly designed 30 Avenue Montaigne flagship also blend exceedingly well for the brand. Fashion industry insiders recommend visiting La Galerie Dior before venturing into the flagship, a suggestion that’s equal parts sensible and seductive. After soaking up the brand’s incredibly rich history, venturing into the boutique to view the latest items available for purchase, many of which are sure to interpret the previously viewed revered codes, is almost too irresistible.
Architect Peter Marino understood this notion all too well while conceptualizing the latest iteration of 30 Avenue Montaigne. This is his third time refurbishing the flagship, Marino says, and the newest design is unquestionably the best yet. “We doubled the size, doubled the volume,” Marino explains, adding that details include parquet de Versailles floors and Louis XVI chandeliers.
With individually designed rooms for each Dior offering—from haute-couture salons and ready-to-wear selections to shoes, handbags, home décor, and more, as well as a new restaurant, bar, and outdoor courtyard—each space is designed to feel highly personalized, even as it is meant to relate seamlessly to its surroundings. Commissioned art pieces, meanwhile, include a towering rose sculpture by German artist Isa Genzken, a nod to Christian Dior’s favorite flower that’s prominently positioned at the boutique’s central staircase.
The result transcends traditional retail notions, an idea that suits this historic French label perfectly in this moment. “Luxury today is about emotion,” notes Dior CEO Pietro Beccari. “Here we have created a fantastic tool for clienteling and storytelling. We didn’t create a Dior boutique; we created a Dior universe.”
Photography by Kristen Pelou courtesy of DIOR