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Christian Dior Cruise 2017
Christian Dior Cruise 2017Photography Lucie Rox

Dior goes best of British in Blenheim Palace show

For its Cruise 2016 collection, the house combines the codes of its founder with those of the English country set

It’s been well over half a year since Raf Simons announced his departure from Dior, and as the search for a new creative director goes on, you’d think the house would be laying low in the absence of a definitive design direction. Instead, they took over a historic English stately home, took over a thousand guests aboard a specially chartered ‘Diorient Express’ train and literally made it rain, in quintessential Brit-kitsch and Dior-isms.

This was an epic Anglophilia love-in from a house, that was always going to take place – with or without a starry creative director – as Dior opens up its revamped Peter Marino-designed flagship store on New Bond Street and asserts its historic ties with England by bringing us back to Blenheim Palace for the third time. Just as this famous baroque Oxford pile hosted Christian Dior and his couture collection in 1954 as well as Yves Saint Laurent for Dior in 1958. In fact, a few examples from the 1958 show were on display in the entrance hall of Blenheim just to reiterate the Blenheim link.    

It’s a smart strategy to dress up this stop gap period with Insta-memories such as Lady Dior beermats and pint glasses, silver service English pud aboard a Dior Express train and Dior-branded tarot card readings (from last night’s afterparty at Lulu’s). There are few fashion houses that have as much DNA, history and brand signifiers in their arsenal as Dior does, and they’re going to deploy these weapons to capture the hearts (and purse strings) of their wealthy clientele. Even the typically English weather that loomed above us could be branded as Dior grey.

“It was certainly a timely articulation of ‘Englishness’, just as people up and down the country are contemplating Britain’s place and interaction with the world at large, as the EU referendum beckons closer”

The overall message was that the house is big enough to stand on its own and that its history is rich enough to keep doling out that elusive dream factor. In one of Dior’s recent Instagram photos, Monsieur Dior himself is depicted as a ghostly figure in the couture atelier. The founder looms large and even as rumours swirled about that an announcement of a new creative director at Dior would be imminent, you also thought about a house, carrying on just as they are, with a strong inconviction of its brand values. 

Not that there’s a lack of creative direction. The current design team, led by Lucie Meier and Serge Ruffieux went on a journey from Paris to Blenheim, and stopped off at various ports of call of English countrylife to pick up foxhunt prints on jacquard knitwear, English tweeds, pre-war tea dresses with puffed up sleeves and the all important Bar jacket, draped at the hips. So far so very posh. What the press notes called “English eccentricity” translated into flamboyant well-travelled prints, layered up ensembles and a spirited clashing of the lady and the rebel. There were also touches of irreverence in the resurrected Dior logo print of the noughties, gold ridged stomping boots and flailing printed scarves left to hang free. It was certainly a timely articulation of “Englishness”, just as people up and down the country are contemplating Britain’s place and interaction with the world at large, as the EU referendum beckons closer.

It was a more explorative and dynamic offering from Meier and Ruffieux and as they stepped out to take their bow in this grand setting, it was less of a sheepish wave and more of an assertive exit. Whatever happens next, Dior’s English cruise jaunt will live on in a bankable collection and all that extra branded paraphernalia that we’ve come to expect from these travelling extravaganzas, where experience seemingly counts for more than clothes.