Christian Dior’s haute couture atelier is revived in authentic style
It was love at first sight. From the moment Christian Dior first walked by the townhouse on 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris, 1946, he knew it was the perfect showroom for his haute couture collections. At the time, the concept of a couture house where people could, quite literally, walk in from the street was revolutionary. There were 22 collections in total during his ten years at the head of the house, from 1947 until his death in 1957.
Christian commissioned Victor Grandpierre to fit out the space according to his aspirations for the fashion house – to be “decorated but not decorative.” Their friendship and collaboration would span decades. “Our tastes were perfectly in tune thanks to a shared search for our childhood paradises,” Christian once said. The walls in grey were reminiscent of the dramatic landscape of his childhood in Normandy. To pay tribute to the aesthetic of the 18th century he admired so much, white mouldings and oak floors were installed “like Versailles.” The Napoleon III chandelier, fireplaces, mirrors and bracket lamps were authentic to the “petit hôtel particulier” (Parisian townhouse) that was built in 1865, under Napoleon III, by Count Waleski, the illegitimate son of the emperor Napoleon I.
However, over the years, the famous salon fell into disrepair and lost its lustre. To pay homage to Christian and his work, Bernard Arnault, president of LVMH, and Sidney Toledano, CEO and president of Christian Dior, commissioned its restoration by architect Peter Marino, reviving the spirit of the designer within his most intimate space. There are two salons: A larger room furnished as a living room and a second that is used as a dining room. The period furniture is essentially Louis XV and Louis XVI, mixed with bespoke contemporary pieces made by Peter Marino, Claude Lalanne, André Dubreuil and Philippe Hiquily.
The Dining Room
Christian Dior’s revived salon is currently used on an exclusive basis by Sidney to receive VIPs and close friends of the house, and Christian’s legacy is kept alive throughout the space. “It was important for it to look and feel authentic,” says Philippe le Moult, a spokesperson for Dior. “We feel Monsieur Dior could still receive his guests here for an exquisite dinner; the logs in the fireplace are ready to be lit; at any time, one expects a waiter to offer you a glass of Dom Perignon.”
The Living Room
Christian’s personal effects are spread throughout the apartment. A desk and armchair that were previously stored in the studio above the salon now take centre stage in the main room, below a magnificent 18th-century Venetian mirror. On top of the desk are photos of Christian’s nearest and dearest: A young Christian in Granville; his beloved mother Madeleine; his close friend Jean Cocteau; his muse Mitzah Bricard; Princess Margaret in a white Dior ball gown on her 21st birthday. A collection of paintings by Christian Bérard reminds visitors of Christian’s former life as a gallerist.
Seven years after he first moved into Number 30, Christian occupied five floors, had twenty-eight workshops and employed over a thousand people. The “modest townhouse” of 1946 had been transformed into a vast labyrinth of buildings on the corner of Avenue Montaigne and Rue François 1er including living quarters, an infirmary, a relaxation room for the models, a cafeteria and a glass bridge overlooking the courtyard. As the brand has grown and evolved over the years, the address continues to symbolise the soul of the fashion label, inspiring individuals such as François Demachy, Dior’s perfumer, who created the scent “Gris Montaigne” in homage to the historic boutique, and Raf Simons, the former artistic director of the women’s collections who welcomed guests to his autumn/winter 2013/14 haute couture fashion show in an area decorated in the image of the salon. - Nausheen Noor