The Dior-Saks extravaganza has arrived on Fifth Avenue.
Saks and the French brand have created Dior’s Carousel of Dreams at Saks, marking the first time the retailer has collaborated exclusively with a luxury fashion house for its annual holiday initiative. The extensive takeover, the biggest in Saks’ history, took 100 artisans, 10 months in planning and involved designing and manufacturing objects in Italy for the Saks building and flying them to New York to install.
The 360-degree campaign launched Monday with an exclusive World of Dior digital pop-up on Saks.com and the unveiling of the holiday windows and the 10-story-tall theatrical light show at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship in New York. The windows and digital pop-up will stay up through Jan. 5.
The installation is punctuated with Dior codes such as the star, the clover and the signs of the zodiac, evoking founding couturier Christian Dior’s legacy, his superstitious nature, and his lucky charms. It draws inspiration from the Dior cruise 2024 collection.
By day, the facade stands as a sculptural work of art, with detailed watercolor effects and three-dimensional metallic elements applied by artisans from around the world. By night, the facade is illuminated by a light show experience inspired by the beauty of creation, nature and the magical moments of winter. The light show features nearly 300,000 LED lights and a medley of songs. For the 14th consecutive year, Saks’ holiday windows and light show are being presented by Mastercard.
“This celebration is around Christmas, the unveiling of the Christmas windows around Rockefeller Center, making a big gift to the city, and to the New York citizens. It’s for Saks, it’s for New York and it’s for the U.S. We hope it will have a reach that is beyond the city and have some recognition for all of our clients across the U.S.,” said Charles Delapalme, managing director of Christian Dior Couture.
The unveiling event Monday night — which closed down Fifth Avenue outside the flagship — highlighted introductions by Marc Metrick, chief executive officer of Saks, and Delphine Arnault, chairwoman and CEO of Dior. It featured a special appearance by Academy Award-winning actress and Dior ambassador Jennifer Lawrence and a performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company in the middle of Fifth Avenue, with dancers dressed in costumes designed by creative director of Dior womenswear Maria Grazia Chiuri with headpieces by Stephen Jones and makeup by Dior Makeup.
Christian Dior and Martha Graham have shared a kindred spirit around the arts for decades. In 1947, Christian Dior helped to design the costumes for Graham’s Modern Ballet Troupe. In 2019 Dior pulled inspiration from Martha Graham’s style for the spring show.
During the holiday season, more than 10 million people from around the world visit Fifth Avenue, according to the Fifth Avenue Association.
A key component of the partnership is the World of Dior pop-up on Saks.com. It marks the first time that all categories of Dior merchandise are available online anywhere other than on Dior.com. The Dior pop-up features an assortment of Dior collections, including women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, shoes, leather goods, accessories, Dior Maison, Baby Dior and La Collection Privée Christian Dior.
Discussing how the partnership came together, Delapalme told WWD, “I’ve known Marc Metrick for many years, and I came to him about a year ago, and said that, ‘you’re always asking me for creative things,’ and I said, ‘I think I have one for you.’”
Delapalme said he asked him for a Christmas takeover and Metrick said, “That’s impossible, we’ve never done that. We’ve never given it over to one brand.” Metrick had seen what was done at Harrods last Christmas with their Dior takeover, and the brand suggested they do a different takeover. “It will be the same level of ambition, crazy scale, but the design is going to be a new design just for you, and it won’t be a copy of what we did for Harrods,” Delapalme told Metrick.
Dior chose Saks because it knew that the unveiling of the Christmas windows is something very important for New York City, Delapalme said. “We wanted to make history and do something that was never done before,” he said, joking that Metrick told him that the process has been so complicated and so exhausting that he’d never do it again.
“Every year we challenge ourselves to do something different, to do something exciting, to bring innovation to the city and to everyone who’s visiting,” said Metrick in a separate interview. “We look at the light show and the windows as our gift to New York City. Rockefeller Center has their tree, we have what this is. Last year we did something fantastic and the year before we did something fantastic, so the team keeps raising the bar.”
Metrick said he was intrigued when Dior approached the company and said the brand would like to do something with Saks for the holidays and with the building and the light show. “Our initial reaction was, ‘Wow, we’ve never done anything with a luxury partner like this. How do we make it truly immersive? How do we maintain what this is?’ It’s really about the spirit of the holidays. And who’s it better to do it with than Dior, which is an iconic, luxury fashion brand? It made all the sense in the world. It’s innovative, it’s fully immersive, it’s 360 degrees between digital, in-store, on store, and they happen to know how to do very significant moments like this at scale. They’re the perfect match for us,” he said.
But one has to wonder, how do other luxury brands feel when the store is dedicated to Dior during the crucial holiday selling period?
“I think they understand. This is a massive commitment to make this very special and unique. Brands understand it, and this is the way of our business,” said Metrick.
Metrick sees a lot of benefits to this collaboration.
“It furthers Saks’ positioning as the destination in New York City,” the CEO said. “This year in particular it will demonstrate Saks’ position as a leading luxury retailer in New York City, which is very important to us. It also works as an acquisition tool. People need to feel welcomed and people need to feel a reason to come and experience Saks. We service the entire continuum of luxury consumers, and this gives consumers a feeling of, ‘I want to go there,’ and if it doesn’t drive business today, it drives consideration and awareness of the brand that will pay off dividends long-term.”
Asked how Dior benefits from the partnership, Delapalme was equally enthusiastic.
“It’s not that we’re replicating a formula that we’ve done before. You’ve seen the facade on the Fifth Avenue store. It’s something that has required 100 artisans from five different countries, overnight, every weekend since April. Basically we want our clients to be amazed, to say, ‘Wow, it’s fantastic. It’s surprising, it’s great. We’ve never seen a Christmas celebration with that level of creativity and scale.’ And we want to surprise people, and we want to do things we’ve never done before,” said Delapalme.
First and foremost, Delapalme believes it’s important to create emotions with their clients. “I hope when people see this facade and all the windows that we have below, they’re going to say ‘it’s so beautiful and amazing’ and they’ve never seen that level of refinement,” he said.
According to Metrick, they started the planning for this in February, and this particular holiday initiative was much more complicated than prior ones. “Because of what we’re doing, this required much more cross functional, so many different artisans from all around the world participated and is working with one of our most important partners, which for all the right reasons, is going to make sure that everything is perfect.
“For the last six months, we’ve had weekly status meetings that I’ve attended. You can’t imagine the amount of people on these calls. Organized, like nothing was frantic,” said Metrick. “The collaboration between Saks, Dior and the third parties to pull this off was unbelievable. People in Paris, people in Italy, people in London, people in New York, people in our offices. There were onsite visits constantly.”
What’s particularly exciting to Metrick is the fact that Saks.com will be carrying the full range of Dior products on its website. “Because it is Dior, we were able to carry a full Dior array on Saks.com. This is the first time ever that that level of product is available on any other site, besides Dior. When you think about the integration and the full immersion of the Dior brand into the Saks ecosystem… Remember we’re a luxury pure play. This is really, for me, to be able to demonstrate that we have the relationships and through our partnership with the SFA stores can executive a partnership like this is very impactful. That’s something that’s different and has not been seen before,” said Metrick.
Asked what he anticipates will be bestsellers, Metrick believes holiday sales are about self-purchasing and gift-giving. “Over the holidays, people are going to be traveling, and they’re going to want to have luxury to wear when they’re traveling,” he said. “We’re also hearing that a high percentage of the consumers will be celebrating and going to parties and not necessarily as formal in the past, but we’re going to see a much more elevated casual, fun type of wardrobe. Luxury is going to be where it’s at for that customer,” he said.
As for his prediction for holiday, Metrick said, “We’re taking a measured approach. In all my years, and I’ve been doing this for 25 years, when times are great and things are booming, holiday sort of acts differently and acts like holiday. When things are tough and more challenging, holidays are still very good. Remember, 50 percent of our business over the holidays is self-purchase.”
To be sure, Metrick is a firm believer that all the brands in the store will benefit from the additional eyeballs on the flagship. He pointed out that historically the Saks facade has been about the light show at night, but the Dior star on the building was built and designed to stand on its own during the day.
“Now you walk by and there’s this beautiful piece of art on the store, and the theme of windows is Paris in New York and the winter, and I think it will bring a lot of eyeballs and drive a lot of inspiration. Rising tides are going to lift all boats,” he said.
After such an extensive and exhaustive undertaking, Metrick said he isn’t opposed to doing a takeover with a single brand again. “The goal is to be very different and innovative. If we can find different ways to do things like this, we’ll do it. We just have to make sure we don’t become repetitive,” he said.
Dior is extremely committed to the U.S. market and Delapalme said it’s one of the brand’s most important ones.
“They [Americans] love Dior as a brand because they have a great sense of fashion, and Dior is a very fashion brand and very high-end brand as well.” He said both Chiuri and Kim Jones, Dior’s men’s artistic director, are loved by Americans. “Both of them do fashion that is very high quality but is also very friendly to wear on a daily basis. They don’t do fashion for museums, they do fashion that is pleasing women and is pleasing men. Their style is very friendly with what American customers are looking for.”
He said Christmas is always a very important season to Dior, and it is launching its cruise collection at Saks, which was originally shown in Mexico City in May and is inspired by Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist. “On the occasion of this collaboration with Saks, we’re having special products that are only available at Saks across all categories,” he said.
This year, Saks’ holiday windows tell a story of Monsieur Dior’s dream journey from Paris to Saks’ hometown of New York City, featuring scenes and iconic landmarks from both cities, along with elements inspired by the Dior’s Carousel of Dreams at Saks theme. Parisian landmarks featured in the windows include the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Jardins du Luxembourg and Dior’s historical flagship at 30 Avenue Montaigne.
Once Mr. Dior arrives in New York, window projections and animations show him zipping along the Hudson River in a boat shaped like a Dior shoe and gliding across the famous Rockefeller Ice Rink in a sled shaped like a Miss Dior perfume bottle. The Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Saks Fifth Avenue New York flagship are among the New York icons that make an appearance in the windows. One display features intricate miniature trunks showcasing special moments in Dior’s history, including the luxury house’s 1972 fashion show at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and the Christian Dior exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1996. The final window scenes depict oversized Dior lipsticks rushing to Times Square for New Year’s Eve and Mr. Dior’s capping off his trip by ringing in the New Year.
The windows are adorned with snow globes, microworlds, carousels and cuckoo clocks. The clock on the exterior of the store features the zodiac and a celestial theme with the sun, moon, stars and butterflies, which is a key influence for both Christian Dior and Chiuri. Pietro Ruffo collaborated with Chiuri for the creation of the butterfly motif patterns seen across the cruise 2024 collection, and on the facade and design elements. All of the categories are featured in the windows.
In addition to the facade and all 24 windows (five of which are beauty) will be specially designed Dior spaces inside the store in handbags, ready-to-wear and men’s redecorated around a specific theme. In beauty, there is a carousel around the perfumes and all the beauty products. In women’s ready-to-wear on the third floor, the team built a structure, added a new carpet and covered the walls with beautiful gold butterflies.
On the main floor of the store is a carousel installation displaying one-of-a-kind Christian Dior haute couture dresses created in the atelier that are choreographed to spin around. The dresses feature silhouettes drawn by Christian Dior from 1949 to 1955 bearing names such as New York, Amérique and Fifth Avenue.
“When Marc was asking me, ‘Are you sure you can pull this off, it seems enormous, we’ve never done this, are you convinced you can make it work?’” Delaplame told Metrick that last December, Dior did a show in front of the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, so he was sure they could do a facade in New York. “It proved to be a bit more complicated than I expected. We had to pull a team from Italy, from France, from the U.K. The magnitude of this installation is huge, and I hope people will see the importance of the work and the creativity on Monday.”
According to Delapalme, Dior has a dedicated department specialized in these undertakings. “We’re happy that the project is finished because it was a big one,” he said.
Asked about current Dior business in the U.S., Delapalme said, “Business is fine. We’re growing, we’re happy with that. It’s certainly not as strong as it has been in the last four years. But our objectives will continue to serve us well. We are doing some important openings. The U.S. is a market that’s very important for us. We invest a lot in this market. You take a takeover of this magnitude, and say, ‘maybe you should be a bit cautious or manage your costs and investments,’ yes for sure, but we’re so excited about that. We want to bring this forward and bring something crazy to the citizens of New York and to the U.S. market.”
Dior and Saks have had a close relationship, dating back to the mid-20th century. In 1947, the year Carmel Snow, editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar gave the “New Look” its name, Christian Dior went on a market research trip across the U.S. In 1950, the buyers at Saks attended several presentations of the spring 1950 couture collection, and in September of that year was the first mention in the press of a Dior look sold at Saks. In 1972, Saks opened a Dior boutique that included looks from the Miss Dior line, the Dior Boutique line and some designs from the couture collection. A collection of 60 designs sold exclusively at Saks. In 2013, Dior took over the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue during New York Fashion Week celebrating the brand’s fall 2013 collection, and in 2017, Dior and Saks celebrated the inaugural spring 2017 collection with a Dior dedication of 16 Saks Fifth Avenue windows.
Another important aspect of the collaboration are the exclusive products that will be offered. Dior classics include the Dior Saddle Bag ($4,000), Dior strap ($1,300), Dior Book Tote bags ($3,500), and the Walk ‘n’ Dior sneakers ($1, 090) that have been recreated in a revisited toile de Jouy print covered with butterflies, emblems of the Dior cruise 2024 collection and a key visual element of Dior’s Carousel of Dreams at Saks. There is also the Dior J’Adior bracelet set ($420).
Among men’s merchandise is the recently revealed Dior Icons capsule by Kim Jones, including tailoring, sportswear, knitwear and denim, available exclusively for pre-order on Saks.com. In addition, a new Dior Maison collection that echoes the inspirations of the Dior cruise 2024 collection is featured, including a candle ($900), tray ($550) and decorative pillow ($1,100), gifts that are only available at Saks.
Upstairs on the beauty floors, there’s a specially designed Dior Parfums pop-up — with all the Dior codes such as the cuckoo clock, the stars and the botanical theme — featuring Dior makeup, fragrance and skin care holiday offers and services only available at Saks Fifth Avenue New York through Dec. 10. Key areas are the beauty concierge desk, two photo walls highlighting signature Dior perfumes, escalator table animations and Dior holiday gifting atelier featuring La Collection Privée. The takeover also includes Saks-exclusive limited- and special-edition products, beauty services and client events. Peter Philips, creative and image director of Dior Makeup, has created four holiday makeup looks, available exclusively at Saks’ New York flagship.
Among the beauty exclusives are a La Collection Privée D-Air Diffuser ($2,900), Dior Prestige x Neri & Hu ($2,900), Rouge Premier ($580), Dior x Othoniel J’Adore L’or ($15.000), Baby Dior Beauty ($115 to $230), and La Collection Privée 2023 Advent Calendar ($4,200).
Saks and Dior have added an extra dimension to their holiday partnership with an augmented reality (AR) social media experience. Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook users can launch an interactive AR filter to transform their content with design elements from Dior’s Carousel of Dreams at Saks, available now through Jan. 5.
Last November, Dior partnered with Harrods in London, unveiling their largest-scale collaboration, a gingerbread world and immersive experience that traced the history of Christian Dior, his family and career. According to industry sources, “The Fabulous World of Dior” takeover at Harrods generated more than 25 million pounds in sales, and transformed Dior into the number-one bestselling brand at Harrods, as reported by WWD. The store declined to confirm any figures, but said Dior was a “top performer” throughout the 2022 festive season.