The windows of Harrods on Brompton Road were not as they once were. Adorned with perfume bottles, miniature sights and attractions of London and some of the most in-demand couture by Raf Simons, the Christian Dior take-over of Harrods was definitely one of the more stylish building seizures that London has seen. A giant Ferris wheel, multiple handbags, Red-letter boxes and the busbies of Buckingham Palace, aligned with bottles of Miss Dior perfume, stood merely as a clue to the delights that awaited you on the 4th floor of the world famous department store.
A giant Parisian house greets you at the exhibition entrance, in true Dior style, with tiny windows and faux-wrought iron balconies. Some windows were frosted glass with silhouettes of women in the New Look pieces posing through and others were clear, hosting a series of different rooms with tiny white furniture stacked around life-size bottles of J’adore and Miss Dior fragrance. Monsiure Dior was a man of taste, and classical taste at that. Yet there is something inherently modern about almost everything that resides in the glass cases and sea of perfume bottles here; a lack of time passing in his designs. This comes as no surprise, considering the ‘modern’ and feminine nature of Dior’s New Look collection in 1947. Dior wanted women to feel feminine and celebrate that fact, a notion that Harrods shares in it’s luxurious tastes and uniting the two in celebration. A love of fashion aside, the Harrods celebration of the diversity and joy of his designs proves what he sought to establish at the end of the Second Word War, at a time of political strain and economic stress; femininity should never be compromised.
The beating heart of the exhibition was the exhibit of possibly one of the most revered products of Dior to date. The memorable J’adore campaign with Charlize Theron, featuring the two dresses worn by her in the J’adore adverts, displayed among a sea of J’adore bottles. Behind, on two screens, the newly produced advert plays with Charlize strolling through a Dior show, among the likes of Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe. The dresses themselves are mesmerizing in their beauty, impressive attention to detail in particular on the embroidery of the dress, with gold, silver, blush and pink beads and sequins covering the bodice and scattered across the skirt and split hem, complete with necklaces running down the chest. Surrounding the dresses were bottles of J’adore against a mirrored background to echo the timeless nature of the perfume, reiterating the universal attribute of Dior’s elegance.
Small tributes to the phystical craft of a Dior gown were made here and there. A row of rough-cuts and sample gowns in basic white cotton stood along the next wall. Covered in some of Monsieur Dior’s original dress sketches before he launched his label were evening gowns, dress-coats and day-dresses with chunky belts and diagonal lapels stood in their original glory. Sample dresses, although they serve a purpose in designing a gown, demonstrated the art of couture from a very basic level as the pieces were void of embellishment, allowing the tailoring, folds, layers and craftsmanship to stand out, for full appreciation. In contrast, a collection of miniature, doll-sized Dior pieces, featuring evening gowns, coats, dresses, suits and party dresses, in bold, block colours of red, black, white. All were classical pieces that highlighted the elegant nature of the House’ designs, lit up by spotlight and placed on different pedestals.
Naturally, Harrods wanted to reflect on Dior’s relationship with Britain with tributes to Princess Margaret & Lady Diana. Letters and appointments between the two showed their appreciation for design, style and one another and a board of photographs showed the two at various occasions and events in glamorous Dior attire. Most importantly were a pair of slender ruby shoes made for the Princess by Monsieur Dior himself, an early example of his timeless craftsmanship.
Onto the latest campaign, a single room featured the pointillist organza gown for the latest fragrance, Miss Dior. Brought to life by Natalie Portman, a strapless white dress, hand-embroidered with thousands of pink, blue, purple and peach organza buds embodied the new angle of the Miss Dior fragrance, sweeter and more intense than it’s predecessor. The gown is suspended in a glass case in the centre of the room with a short film of a balcony, a changing scene of fresh roses to a snowy mountain scene. Playing in a neighbouring a room were more Miss Dior adverts and films projected on to a giant boutique chair, reciting the inspiration for the new fragrance.
The last area of the exhibition was a personal favourite; a collection of various interpretations of the classic ‘Lady Dior’ handbag. One section was dedicated to the late Princess Diana of Wales and how she had longed for the perfect handbag, thus inspiring Dior to make her one. Various alterations of the bag and it’s style were displayed in glass cabinets, which included one made of a metal wired frame with a highlighter as part of the structure and another made entirely of melted plastic. All retained the classic box shape and Dior keychain to keep with the heritage of the iconic bag. Finishing the tribute was the fabulous fashion films, feautring Marion Colliard. Running through Shanghai, Singing in London, Dancing in Paris and modelling in Los Angeles and New York, the variety of environments embodied the different sides of the Dior woman, with the ‘Lady Dior’ blending into the different location through a textural change, large embellishments and a variation of colours.
A bite to eat at the Dior restaurant made the perfect end to the exhibition; small pastries and coffee completed the classic French feel of Dior. Complete with a small pop up store, the Dior exhibition demonstrated the quality and high recognition that the couturier deserves whilst demonstrating an important relationship between British figures and how they inspired him through iconic Dior pieces.
Rosie Feenstra & Jessie Roseblade