For the second time, LVMH opened the doors of its Houses to the public for free. On the Internet, the visits were very quickly booked once again. If not booked, one had to queue up for 3 or 4 hours. What was to be expected inside?
120 000 visitors… this is what LVMH was proudly announcing in the wake of these Journées Particulières. An impressive figure when one learns that only 42 places were concerned, their doors stayed open two days, it was the second edition only and the event did not benefit from the same media covering as in the first year!
What could one actually look forward to?
One of the Houses to open its doors to the public was the Dior House, in Avenue Montaigne. A symbolic place, even though it is not most representative of the luxury goods conception of the Group.
From the outside, the ballet is skillfully orchestrated. A reception area is arranged on the sidewalk with hosts and security men. The visits are limited, only a small group is allowed to come in every 10 minutes. The welcome is highly courteous. A guide leads the group upstairs.
The visitors are met by a man, who is not introduced but who, with eloquence, tells the story of the place: Monsieur Dior bought this mansion because of its location, almost in front of the Plazza Athénée Hotel. He mentions the Montaigne grey to be seen on the walls, and the stairs where the first “défilés” (fashion shows) took place.
He explains the origin of New Look, the famous name. The guide soon leads the group to some rooms with small displays of each workshop exhibiting the masterpieces of their production and the characteristic tools of the craft.
A craftsman, especially assigned from the given factory, works as if he was not being watched. Meanwhile, another person explains in details the different steps necessary to the items production.
The workshops first exhibit men’s suits, their different pieces ready on a rack for Dior’s know-how to be expounded.
Then come the shoes, made by a craftsman from Florence. The bags, illustrated through Lady Dior’s production, are also made in Florence. In the Italian factory, the craftsmen work in accordance with traditions; for years, they have passed their know-how on to the young.
In the following rooms, the workshops are dedicated to ladies’ suits – with the examples of the Bar suit (designed for the women who were having a drink at the Plazza bar), the Flou and embroidery workshops.
The Baby workshop is quite a surprise as it shows some of the steps to make christening robes, lace and it points out Grace Kelly’s support.
Next, a highly skilled worker shows her great meticulousness in assembling a watch. The watches are designed in Paris but they are produced in Switzerland. Mini-feathers or diamonds: the meticulousness verges on the extraordinary. The visitors can share in the legend of the very limited editions.
The next two workshops deal with jewelry. A camera is actually shooting the precise movements of the craftsman and projecting them onto a large screen on the wall.
The visitors are then guided into a room dedicated to perfume. The room is covered with mirrors and displays.
In each display, there stands the particular flask – often in Baccarat crystal – of a Dior perfume.
The last two workshops are dedicated to bows, and to flask and perfume presentation boxes. Such very meticulous events are today conducted near to Orléans.
Back to the stairs, visitors walk next to a fairy-like display of J’adore flasks.
To each visitor leaving the Mansion, the hostesses offer a Dior shopping bag containing a book: Dior – Les Journées Particulières, a book of photographs of the iconic items from each of the House field, of craftsmen’s gestures, and enlivened by some quotes by Monsieur Dior.
A second book is given, including the Journées Particulières program for each House, journey diaries (Florence, la Champagne…), and, of course, a focus on their know-how in general, with interviews of iconic craftsmen of each factory.
Eventually, the half hour visit leaves something like a sweet trace, like a caress for the eye. Even though the workshops are mere displays, they plunge the visitors into a still unexposed universe. Far from glitter, these craftsmen’s universe is hushed. It requires patience and concentration. The highlighted jobs are demanding and meticulous.
In a depressed France, in crisis, such an event is out of tune. Cannot French people afford the Houses products anymore!? These open day events happen to return the traditions, history, know-how, in brief, all that makes the legacy of these factories and companies Group, to the Nation. For a few moments, for some dreams and, why not, for some new vocations.
Photos : SB