France may be known the world over as the most chic nation, but surely a little comfort can be taken in that some of the country's most famous designers have looked to Britain for inspiration over the years. Take, for example, Christian Dior – not only one of the most famous of the Parisian couturiers, but a name that has a huge amount of cachet over 50 years after the death of the man who bore it. Dior himself was something of an Anglophile – a charming fact celebrated in a newly opened exhibition at the venerable department store Harrods.
“I love English traditions,” said the couturier who changed fashion forever with his designs. “English politeness, English architecture, I even love English cooking!”
Revelling in luxury, Dior has taken over the whole of the fourth floor of the Knightsbridge store to celebrate this long-standing British connection. The exhibition showcases the craftsmanship and beauty of the couture the house is famous for, but also the fragrances that have been a part of the brand's offering since 1947, a year after the firm was founded. That first fragrance – Miss Dior, named for the designer's sister Catherine, who had served in the French Resistance during the Second World War – is perhaps the brand's most famous and through it Dior communicated his Anglophilia. The name of the fragrance is just one of Dior's British touches – the bottle is engraved with a houndstooth check – something of an emblem for the house. “I adore the English,” Dior wrote in his autobiography. “Dressed not only in the tweeds which suit them so well, but also in those flowing dresses, in subtle colours....”
The bow on the packaging of Miss Dior is symbolic too – representing the enduring link between couture and fragrance, fashion designer and perfumer, a symbiotic relationship that remains of huge importance in the pronounced disparity of today's fashion landscape. “I feel that I am just as much a perfumer as I am a fashion designer,” Dior said. And it is undoubtedly true that sales of perfume and cosmetics have long supported the creative freedoms exercised on the catwalks – such as those of the current creative director Raf Simons which have been so well received.
Sales of Christian Dior Couture increased 19 per cent to €971m (£831m) in the nine months that ended on 31 January, it was reported in Women's Wear Daily earlier this month.
“Dior is one of our most successful global luxury brands,” Marigay McKee, chief merchant at Harrods, said. “This collaboration is something that both Dior and Harrods have been keen to bring to fruition.”
Indeed, the relationship between Dior and Harrods stretches back 60 years – the two first connected in 1953 when he inaugurated the Harrods Fashion Theatre and the department store became one of the first to sell the Christian Dior London line. “This is an important moment,” Sidney Toledano, chief executive of Christian Dior Couture, said at the launch last week. “Not only as Dior and Harrods share the same customer, but as we share the same concept of luxury.”
To celebrate the occasion, as well as the exhibition, Dior has taken over the department store's famous windows to showcase miniature versions of its couture creations as well as British symbols, such as telephone boxes and the London Eye.
“Dior at Harrods is a meeting of two worlds,” Claude Martinez, chief executive of Parfums Christian Dior, said. “Where British charm brings the perfect finishing touch to Dior's fragrances and make-up. These emblematic installations play tribute to Christian Dior's love of all things English and offers the ultimate Dior experience.”
Dior at Harrods, until 14 April, 87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1, 020-7730 1234