Dior's Lisbon Debut: A New Chapter of Luxury on the Iconic Avenida da Liberdade

Jason Papp
March 25, 2024

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LISBON - Renowned for its opulent luxury hotels, prestigious theatres, Michelin-starred restaurants, and an array of world-class designer boutiques, Avenida da Liberdade has been a symbol of elegance and sophistication since its construction between 1879 and 1886.

And, spanning 1,100 meters in length and 90 meters in width, Portugal's counterpart to the iconic Parisian boulevards, whose name translates to "Liberty Avenue" is beautifully adorned with tree-lined sidewalks and traditional handlaid calçada pavements. Originally planned to extend through Eduardo VII Park, this expansion was ultimately abandoned in the 1960s.

Avenida da Liberdade boasts notable establishments such as the Valverde, Brown’s, and the eco-certified PortoBay hotels among its many luxurious offerings. These celebrated properties contribute to the avenue's reputation as a harbour for discerning travellers and luxury consumers alike.

The avenue also serves up one of the densest European collections of international luxury brands. Think Cartier, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Burberry and Gucci.

If you were in charge of a luxury brand’s GTM/retail strategy, where would you be opening your first retail space in Portugal? According to Vogue, “Liberdade is the most sought-after address for big-name fashion labels when looking to set up their Portuguese flagships.” Although things have changed a lot in Lisbon since Chadner Navarro penned this piece for Vogue in 2017, any luxury brand entering Portugal simply must be found on the avenue. 

As our home is one street from Avenida, we've been watching Dior create their first boutique in Lisbon at No. 85 Avenida da Liberdade. The building was the residence of the Keil family until the 1950s and then sold to an insurance company. But now, restored by EastBanc, the 19th-century building is home to Christian Dior — the Maison founded by the French couturier in 1946.

So, the late Princess Diana’s go-to bags now officially grace Lisbon’s designer avenue. And, as Dior opened its doors, they invited us in to see what kind of statement they’re making in Portugal. 

Perhaps a standout detail is Dior’s belief in bricks-and-mortar retail. Dior’s debut in Portugal consists of a 1000+ square metre space tastefully apportioning the French luxury brand’s collection across three floors.  

Photography by Jason Papp

The expected clean lines, clean palette and usual fresh brand codes are present. But when we were invited in for a tour, what was most refreshing was that our attention wasn’t first drawn to the immaculate walls and Versailles parquet wallpaper, nor was the topic of conversation tipped on the location the leather of their D-Racer boot is sourced from. 

Our guide, from Milan and the boutique’s manager’s tour began by proudly showcasing the unique installation on display that could be enjoyed across the three floors. It wasn’t for sale, it wasn’t by a famed French artist but by a local Portuguese artist renowned for her large-scale installations. 

Joana Vasconcelos’ partnership with Dior began in 2020. That year, Vasconcelos designed a Lady Dior Art bag. It was a project where the brand allowed an artist to reimagine this iconic piece. Earlier this year, Vasconcelos created a reverse installation in the form of a Valkyrie for the Autumn/Winter show by Grazia Chiuri. The Valkyrie Miss Dior, now exhibited in Brazil, measures over 24 meters in length and is made from a ton of fabric.

Vasconcelos later designed smaller versions of this Valkyrie for display in Dior boutiques. And it seems right that the Lisbon piece is the first to be permanently displayed in a store, a fitting ode to the artist who calls the city of Lisbon her home. 

Whether or not the guide and boutique manager were briefed to focus on the installation or not isn’t the point, it didn’t feel rehearsed or forced. And if you know the Portuguese, they are inherently proud of their own. What really stood out was their desire to ensure we shot the installation from the best angle. 

“Head up to the third floor, it’s a wonderful vantage point to see Joana’s masterpiece in full glory,” the boutique manager encouraged. 

Art Installation by Joana Vasconcelos - Photography by Jason Papp of THE GOODS

And once they were satisfied with the shots, we talked about Dior’s collection chosen to be displayed. To no surprise, a nod to Dior’s foundations takes the stage on entering. The iconic Bar jacket, accessories, and jewellery are peppered throughout the ground floor. 

The flower murals, again by Joana Vasconcelos, warmly welcome Dior’s high jewellery collection by Creative Director Victoire de Castellane, who draws inspiration from iconic symbols of the brand, like flowers.

Photography by Jason Papp of THE GOODS

Dior’s themed celebration of botany is highlighted through the boutique by the prominent Butterfly Around the World pattern. You can see the white and pastel pink motif, designed by Pietro Ruffo on a stunning 90 square, 100 silk twill scarf here. This motif has been a key focus of Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director of women's fashion, especially in the latest cruise collection on show. This collection draws inspiration from the themes of freedom and independence associated with Frida Kahlo. Chiuri joined Dior from Valentino in 2016. 

The experience on the first floor, the women’s universe, is comparable to watching a legendary band live. It’s like Wild Horses meets Hackney Diamonds all in one night; All the classics with a hint of new creations. In like manner, a tasteful balance of the two are together for the designer brand on floor two. Yes, you’re treated to Dior’s iconic pieces, the classic J’adior, and a platform for the new Wind boots to shine with Dior’s oblique pattern to, well, boot. 

A new version of the Bar jacket, the flared or pleated New Look style are also on show. And journey further into the festival of colour and you’re treated to a garden patio overlooking Praça da Alegria (meaning happiness). A spot to stay and reflect in the gentle breeze, away from the bustle of the city’s centre.

Photography by Jason Papp of THE GOODS

The top floor felt most peaceful. As with every other level, canopies meet your arrival, but it felt like I was visiting a secret loft I didn’t want to leave. Either that or it was simply the menswear floor, maybe the latter. But here we see Kim Jones, creative director for men’s fashion feature. It's London-inspired classic tailoring meets urban fashion training your eye to Dior’s new B57 sneakers. If Dior ever collaborates with Air Jordan, the B57s may be their starting point. You’ll see them play a key role in their Spring/Summer 2024 collection. 

Photography by Jason Papp of THE GOODS

Why is it the right time for Dior to open a boutique in Lisbon, Portugal? 

Dior's decision to establish a boutique in Lisbon encapsulates a strategic vision that aligns perfectly with the evolving dynamics of the global luxury market. Dior's move into Portugal is not just an expansion but a shrewd move in market entry. Although the brand already enjoyed a few lines displayed on the Avenue’s ‘fashion clinic’, their research obviously showed this was the time to invest in the country to the tune of a 1000+ square metre property. 

Although the European Commission reported in November 2023 that “Portugal’s economy slowed down from 1.5% (q-o-q) in 2023-Q1 to 0.1% in 2023-Q2 after a strong start of the year.” They said, “On the side of domestic demand, both private consumption and investment contracted in 2023-Q2, reflecting the increase in interest rates and weak consumer and business sentiments.” But regardless of this, Portugal has 31,000 new millionaires. Of course, you don’t need to be a millionaire to be a Dior devout, but you get the point. 

Photography by Jason Papp of THE GOODS

Other brand leaders can draw two critical lessons from this: first, the importance of timing, aligning a brand's entry with economic upswings, embedding local revered talent and culture into the mix to maximise impact; and second, the value of location, choosing cities that not only reflect the brand's ethos but also promise a diverse and international clientele. 

Dior's foray into Lisbon, therefore, is more than a new store opening—it's a case study of capturing a brand's essence in a new market while adapting to its unique cultural and economic landscape.

Jason Papp
Founder & Editor-in-chief