"We're in aesthetics heaven."
My sister so rightfully repeated in practically every corner of the House of Dior.
Aside from the noises we hear or people we meet, we're most influenced by the places we visit. We're also so easily convinced by the idea that Asia is a huge market because of its population; that's somewhat true in that the demand is Asia is always high but the question in 2016 is where does this population choose to spend their cash. Reality is that sales at stores in Hong Kong are dropping as fast as the prices. Consumers have been under pressure to compare prices online and in Europe, where luxury goods are less expensive. That's nothing new.
And then there's Seoul - more specifically Cheongdam-dong in the Gangnam-gu district where the whole neighbourhood is covered by walls of towering fashion houses. The white façade of the House of Dior produly calls itself the largest boutique in the world. The 6-floor flagship is young - opening its doors in June last year and is heavily inspired by 30 Avenue Montaigne flagship in Paris. French architect Christian de Portzamparc oversaw the construction of the House of Dior by transforming the two sketches below to the clean, curved framework. The sculptural shape rooted back to when Portzamparc observed the petites mains at work in the couture atelier of 30 Avenue Montaigne where the manipulation of fabrics and technical volumes were combined to create designs. He linked these ideas to watercolour painting, where movement was the pinnacle of inspiration.
The House of Dior can be said to be divided into two parts - the metallic, rectangular box of strict geometry that relates to the woven 'cannage' design as in the Lady Dior bags, and main white building which more feminine side with drapes to create a grand entrance. To me, the exterior even signifies the lily of the valley - the favourite flower of Mr. Christian Dior himself.
In spite of its location being literally half way around the world from the heart of Dior's ateliers, I crave the need to understand the story of Dior. The process of purchasing products, at any given department store, is far from appealing to me (though if time presses, it will do).
Don't get me wrong. Clothes are still clothes and the product is still there.
The point is, the shopping experience matters to me. And even if I were to walk into a store without a particular intention to buy, I still have an urge to have a larger perspective on the brand itself. A recent visit to the newly opened boutique at Times Square in Hong Kong has actually left me walking out the store in awe. Quite frankly, my company and I weren't exactly dressed to impress. We weren't dripping in the latest Autumn collection, nor did we look like we were going to buy.
We were in jeans.
Oh God Forbid.
Yet a kind sales associate picked up our interest and carried out what he should have done. In short, he followed us around the boutique, and expertly introduced us to anything that captured our attention. Something so easy to be said and done, yet so difficult to execute without appearing pushy or awkward. But that kind of service is not really a thing in the Far East, where so often consumers are buying the products for the products' sake.
That's not wrong either. Do what you want if you have the money to pay.
The core concern to these major retailers are when consumers become bored with the idea of shopping locally, especially when global websites are offering prices and convenience at a much better rate. That's a huge danger in itself as it destroys the core of the brand, though others will agree that's the future. But romantic story lovers, like myself, will be the first to leave when the narrative doesn't translate.
So give me your biggest, baddest, illest store and you can find me there in conversation with the bartender at the Dior Homme bar.
To be continued... #tbc