Friday, 29 April 2011

Dior's New Maison De Parfums At Selfridges + FiFi USA Public Vote

For several personal reasons, I've got huge affection for Dior. Ever since I was about 7 years old, many of the firm's perfumes have become synonymous with significant people and moments in my life, which is why I desperately wanted its new Maison De Parfums at Selfridges in London to be an all-out triumph. But having visited it twice, I'm sorry to say that it doesn't quite come up to scratch.

I'm not an expert in shop design, but from what I can see, the main problem is that the new space is just too box-like. The nearby Chanel concession (with which the Dior immediately invites comparison) manages to break up its enclosure and turn it into three distinct areas: there's the 'bar stool' arrangement for Les Exclusifs, the more intimate table and chairs for consultations (partially surrounded by an elegant use of a curved wall) and the more familiar 'till on a counter' set up for ordinary transactions. But the Dior is just a basic, uninspiring series of straight edges... albeit very shiny ones.

Yes, it has a whole section composed of a massive LCD screen playing images which, apparently, are meant to make us think of the inspiration behind the fragrances, but frankly, the idea's rather gimmicky and its execution is a touch too tacky. There's also an alcove in which customers can smell a wide range of individual perfume notes, but the atmosphere it creates is clumsy rather than cosy, probably because the arrangement of its seats does nothing to help the shopper block out the rest of the department store. And finally, there's no sign of the all-important, high-impact visual hook with which to grab a casual passer by. Chanel's counter is awash with eye-catching iconography: the double-C logo, the classic No. 5 bottle, a shelf containing vials of raw materials, a large photo of Jacques Polge, and so on. Dior's is highly polished and neatly ordered, but it needs much sharper punctuation.

Having said all that, there is one aspect of the new set up which deserves high praise: the staff. With unobtrusive efficiency, they answered all my queries and provided first-rate information about their products, whilst managing to convey just the right amount of personal enthusiasm for perfume. I must particularly thank Kayleigh for being exceptionally helpful, patient and good-humoured.

Employees can influence the Powers That Be, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the SAs' clear commitment to providing excellent customer service will lead them to encourage Management to improve the Maison and help it become the memorable, must-see perfume location that it really ought to be. At the moment, it feels like a superficially glitzy concession stand at a clinical airport duty free, which simply isn't good enough for the house that's given us Diorissimo, Poison, J'Adore L'Absolu, Dior Homme and now, Leather Oud.

[The Maison De Parfums at Selfridges, London, stocks all the 'mainstream' Dior perfumes, as well as the new Collection Privée (currently available only in three cities in the world). It offers a wide range of complimentary, no-obligation-to-purchase perfume consultation services.]


And speaking of people influencing the Powers That Be, voting is now open in the public categories of the USA's 2011 FiFi Awards, so please click on this link and get involved.



  1. I'm wondering now what the benchmark is? 68 avenue des Champs Elysées, Paris? Or 767 Fifth Ave. New York? Can I ask why you've had an affection for Dior?

    I actually sat next to a lady on the tram yesterday coming home form work - she was wearing a Dior work badge and you could smell every perfume from her! I sometimes like that about these Sales Assistants :)

  2. Liam, the benchmark is actually a good, perfume-geeky question. I'd say it can't be Guerlain's Paris HQ, because that's a large, single-brand boutique, whereas Dior's Maison is basically a concessions counter.

    I don't know what the benchmark is, to be honest, apart from the aforementioned Chanel stand. These 'exclusive' perfume halls are a new breed; perhaps we need a few more to pop before we can draw conclusions about standards.

    As for my affection for Dior... perhaps I'll write about it in a future blog post...

  3. Ah I understand now what you mean, it isn't a single Dior counter as such but a collection. I think I had in my had that Chanel's happened to be beside it, not inside it too!

    I've never seen what this looks like either, or, maybe I have and didn't notice. In any case your thoughts on the staff are probably, in my opinion, the most important part. I also get the impression you might be stressing the "just the right amount" of the staffs' personal enthusiasm for perfume. Sometimes it can be overly lauded and sometimes fake. Or worse, just uninterested.

  4. Liam, yes, there's definitely a fine balance when it comes to SAs telling you how much they adore their own favourite scents!


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