What could better welcome guests to 30 Avenue Montaigne than a whirlwind of bright leaves created by the British artist Paul Cocksedge? The piece, titled Bourrasque, perfectly embodies the new life that’s been pumped into the original headquarters of Christian Dior – expanded, reimagined and renovated by the American architect Peter Marino.
After monumental construction works, the site has been transformed into a true place to be and be seen, with a boutique, restaurant and pastry shop choreographed by French chef Jean Imbert, as well as gardens, fashion-week salons and even a deluxe suite in which VIP guests can make 30 Montaigne their own for a night. It’s a place where visitors can stroll around furniture from iconic designers – Joaquim Tenreiro, Hans Olsen, Gio Ponti, Ado Chale, Claude Lalanne and Gabriella Crespi to name a few – and works of art from contemporary artists.
Make no mistake: this place exudes haute couture like no other. Everywhere, Marino has dreamed up walls that play with textures – flowers that seem to bloom out of the plaster itself, floating white rectangles on wooden panelling, engraved and palladium-gilded mirrors, patchworks of feathers and leather. To learn more about every enchantingly artistic detail, we decided to speak to the man behind the masterpiece.
You have already worked on several Dior boutiques. Was fully revisiting the original location any different? First of all, the neoclassical façade is a powerful, unique element found nowhere else: not in Beverly Hills, not in New York, not in Tokyo. I wanted to remain faithful to the codes and tastes of Christian Dior himself by sprinkling in touches of things he liked. He had a predilection for the 18th century – you can see this from photos of his apartment – and so, in the footwear department, I created a little corner with panelling from this period, and I kept the original fireplace, as I did not want to paint over the history of the space.
Similarly, I played with toile de Jouy fabric in an almost abstract manner by using large, detached rectangles to cover doors, walls and ceilings. This reinterpretation of the Dior house codes might not fly elsewhere, but here in Paris it works like a charm!
What was the biggest challenge for this project? Bringing in the two winter gardens. As the façade is classed as a historic monument, it required approval from the authorities. I also wished to introduce natural light, and the gardens are part of this – they were crucial to the overall balance. When I redesigned the Barneys boutique in New York in 1986, I was the first architect to put display windows in the department store.
Why did you want to bring gardens into the boutique? Christian Dior is synonymous with the gardens at Granville: hortensias, roses! When he put flowers on his dresses in 1947, in a period fresh out of World War II, it was just as moving as it was marvellous. With the Belgian landscape architect Peter Wirtz, an old friend, I planned to switch out the plants in 30 Montaigne every month. This is a little nod to fashion, which is also being constantly renewed.
On a personal level, I too love gardens. On Saturday mornings, I take my motorbike and leave New York behind to come and work in the gardens at my home in the Hamptons. It’s my time to just switch off. Gardens are beautiful metaphors for life, as nothing ever stays static. In this way, they help us understand and adjust to the ups and downs of living.
For the first time, the venue has its own restaurant... When I designed the Christian Dior boutique in South Korea, it was the very first time that we included a tearoom [run by French pastry chef Pierre Hermé], and the initiative was very well received. We then did the same in Tokyo. At the time, the concept was brand new. It allows guests to take their time and have some space. I enjoy the idea of someone coming to spend a whole day at 30 Montaigne, sitting in the winter garden, calling their friends, writing a story and having a bite to eat, all without having to cross the street.
On top of this, I truly loved designing the restaurant and commissioning two magnificent works of art for it: a mirrored wall by Claudia Wieser, and the incredible collage by Guy Limone, with its ensemble of more than a thousand cut-outs from vintage photos of all the collections Dior worked on.
How did you choose the many varied pieces of art on display in the boutique? We opted for works that were reminiscent of gardens and flowers, the guiding theme of the space. These included a video creation by the American artist Jennifer Steinkamp, a ceramic piece from the Flemish sculptor Johan Creten, budding blooms immortalised in acrylic by Azuma Makoto, the Japanese floral artist, and more. Nature and blossoming flowers are a universal symbol of joy.
The dimensions of the walls also helped guide our choices. For example, in the menswear department, an Adam McEwen limousine painting is attached to the wall. All of my projects involve art, because it just brings more to life. I am an art aficionado, and I was painting before I became an architect. Last June, I even opened an art foundation in Southampton, New York.
In this project, you paid particular attention to the walls, playing with textures. Why? When I’m asked to define my style, I say that I’m a modern architect who believes in the wealth of colours, textures and everything that the human hand can create. It brings warmth to places; I’m no lover of plain old concrete. For the floating white painted rectangles, particularly on the wooden panelling in the women’s VIP salon, I was inspired by a Picasso piece from his Cubist phase– a violin on a backdrop of rectangles. He painted that in 1912, and yet, over a century later, it remains completely modern.
The boutique has its own suite for the first time. What atmosphere did you want to foster with this? I wanted to do what Christian Dior would have done were he still alive: create a space with 18th-century woodwork, beautiful finishings and art everywhere. Everything but minimalism!
There is also a bathroom covered entirely with onyx... My bathroom in New York is completely black, while my wife’s – four times the size – is entirely white. I know what women like! White onyx, with its rolling cloud patterns, comes across as joyful and totally glamorous. If there is anything that Christian Dior truly excelled at, it’s glamour: true glamour, the kind that leaves you starstruck. And that is what I wanted here.
Could it be said that 30 Montaigne is a celebration of both art and craftsmanship? I am so impressed by the immense culture of craftsmanship found in France. For this project, I worked with cabinetmakers, carpenters, painters – even the curtains were hand-painted and embroidered by artisans. I wanted this place to express the touch of human hands, and it does. 30 Montaigne is a celebration of joy! dior.com
Step inside the legacy of Dior...
Not just a place to shop, 30 Montaigne is also the destination to immerse yourself in the fashion house’s archive. New addition La Galerie Dior offers visitors a never-before-seen trip through the magical designs of creative directors past and present, including Yves Saint Laurent and Raf Simons. Conceived by Nathalie Crinière, the interior opens onto a staircase lined with some 1,872 pieces by the maison, arranged in a dizzying rainbow.
Upstairs, the passions of Dior himself are unveiled through surrealist art – he was a gallerist before entering the fashion world – and the ballroom, where dresses stand in front of animated landscapes alternating between cloudy skies and starry nights. Step through the designer‘s original office, along with the atelier, where the petites mains (seamstresses) can be seen busily crafting couture in real time, before rounding off the visit with a delicious treat at the Dior café. galeriedior.com