On Location Special Report
Dior and Qatar Duty Free take the traveller on a journey of discovery
There are some 5,903 kilometres between the medieval town of Grasse in the Alpes-Maritimes department on the French Riviera and the gleaming modernity of Doha in the Arabian gulf. The French town, all narrow winding streets and stairways, replete with 16th century ramparts and picturesque squares, is the perfume capital of the world, generating two-thirds of total French fragrance production and underpinning a vast global industry. Doha, the capital city of the Arabian Gulf country of Qatar, is an eclectic mix of ancient and contemporary, brimming with grand-scale commercial development, yet deeply respectful of its culture. “A city oozing confidence and style… as much at ease with its modern shopping malls as it is with its heritage and traditional souqs”, as Lonely Planet put it.
This month those two disparate worlds converged in thrilling fashion at Doha’s Hamad International Airport. Martin Moodie reports from Qatar on an ambitious four-way collaboration between Parfums Christian Dior, Qatar Airways, Qatar Duty Free and Hamad International Airport that brought the rich heritage of fragrance creation to an extraordinary 21st century retail ampitheatre.
It takes something special to rival the impact of the giant Lamp Bear at Hamad International Airport (so named because the 23ft yellow teddy bear sculpture by Swiss artist Urs Fischer sits inside a lamp). But that’s what Parfums Christian Dior, Qatar Duty Free and the airport company have managed to achieve with the world-exclusive launch of a Dior Les Parfums Podium at Hamad International Airport (HIA), immediately adjacent to Fischer’s work.
The podium, featuring dual giant heart-shaped rose-covered entrances, is designed as a tribute to fragrance creation. It invites customers into an immersive and multi-sensorial experience, where they are introduced to Dior places of “inspiration, creation & expertise”.
Dior Les Parfums takes passengers on a journey of discovery to experience the virtual gardens of Grasse, the French Riviera town north of Cannes that is the epicenter of the perfume industry. The highlight of the project is a central installation that features a 360° screen, encompassing visitors with fragrant aromas as they enter a closed room and are transported via digital footage to the south of France.
Dior in-house Perfumer and Creator François Demachy (left) and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive His Excellency Akbar Al Baker open the spectacular podium in time-honoured fashion.
The podium is a homage to Dior’s perfume heritage and creativity, which explained a guest of honour appearance by the maison’s legendary in-house Perfumer and Creator François Demachy. Consumers can discover the full fragrance catalogue from Dior, including Sauvage, Miss Dior, J’adore and the house’s latest 2018 fragrance creation, Joy by Dior. The podium is equipped with wrapping stations, and consultation opportunities with beauty advisors. Passengers are also able to discover other fragrances from the Maison Christian Dior Collection, including the new Rose Kabuki fragrance.
The scale, world-first status, and truly collaborative partnership not just between brand, retailer and airport but also airline mark this out as one of the most noteworthy travel retail beauty campaigns of recent times. Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker told The Moodie Davitt Report (see full interview page 20) that the “new, innovative and immersive” experience underlines the common values between the two organisations.
“Today marks an important milestone as we come together to celebrate a world-exclusive partnership with Dior Parfums,” he added in a statement. “At Qatar Airways Group, we take our role in ensuring that the journey is the best part of our passengers’ travel experience very seriously, delivering excellence both on the ground and in the skies.”
For Dior Travel Retail Senior Vice President Olivier Dubos, the project represents a pioneering and grand-scale initiative. “It’s the first time for us to do such a huge installation that features the Dior art of parfumerie, and to allow all the travellers through the airport to discover Grasse, the cradle of Dior fragrances, and all the work that goes behind the creation process of Dior fragrances whether it is Joy, J’adore, Miss Dior or Sauvage.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, Dior in-house Perfumer and Creator François Demachy and Dior Travel Retail Senior Vice President Olivier Dubos discuss the unique collaboration.
“The fact that Mr. Francois Demachy came especially to Qatar Airport for the grand opening is also a sign of very strong commitment from Dior, not only to Qatar Airport but to Qatar Airways Group, which has always been very, very close to Dior and really pushes us to develop more experiences for their travellers. It’s also an amazing opportunity to create this emotional bond with the travellers. Inside this beautiful installation, you have this 360° immersive experience – the first time in the world that this has been built in an airport.
“Inside this fantastic structure you can smell and hear Grasse, La Colle Noire, the House of Mr. Christian Dior, but also you see François Demachy in the Les Fontaines Parfumées, which is his laboratory in Grasse. So it’s a great show and a great journey to Grasse, to the south of France, to the roots of Christian Dior. This is all the more important nowadays where travellers are looking for something genuine, for authenticity, for brands that are very true to their heritage, and to what they are. Here we are able to express it in a simple way, but in a very genuine and open, honest manner.”
In a long and fascinating career as a perfumer – the past 13 at Dior – François Demachy has been responsible for many thrilling creations. And there was no hiding his excitement – and sense of wonder – at the scene being played out in the vast ampitheatre that is Hamad International. “This airport is amazing,” he told The Moodie Davitt Report. “And look at this scene [the podium]. It’s around 20 meters long. It's incredible and I am very proud to see my perfume among all the other things in such a big ultra-modern airport.”
There’s history here, not just in the fragrance heritage but in the relationship between Dior and Qatar Duty Free. This is the fourth incarnation of Dior Les Parfums in partnership with the Qatar Airways-controlled travel retailer. Earlier partnerships included a 2015 campaign, which featured 6,000 roses, and a breathtaking 180sq m wall of flowers in 2016. Earlier this year, Qatar Duty Free launched the Maison Christian Dior boutique located in the airport’s main retail atrium, not far from the current podium. Unlike so many so-called Trinity partnerships, the airport and retailer both contributed heavily (for example in complimentary digital space), not just the brand.
The sustained spirit of cooperation prompted Qatar Duty Free Vice President Operations Thabet Musleh to observe: “Parfums Christian Dior and Qatar Duty Free have a connection unlike any other in the travel retail industry.”
This time-lapse video, courtesy of Qatar Duty Free, shows the Dior Les Parfums Podium taking shape from initial construction to the spectacular finished article.
Hamad International Airport Chief Operations Officer Engr. Badr Al Meer built on that message, adding, “Hamad International Airport offers retail choices that not only cater to each passenger and their preferences, but also lend personal and memorable experiences. Qatar Duty Free’s partnership with Dior Parfums does exactly that, offering a retail experience that is exclusive and special to HIA travellers.” [Look out for a major interview with the Hamad International Airport Chief Operations Officer, coming soon.]
Dior Les Parfums Podium is a very physical manifestation of François Demachy’s artisanal genius. But there were plenty of digital elements to the campaign. During the grand opening, the terminal’s twin giant digital screens flashed out multiple Dior brand images, reinforcing the impact of the installation. Several prominent influencers were invited to the opening, helping to reach an estimated audience of over 20 million via social media coverage.
In this campaign, too, the industry Trinity became a Quarternity as passengers checking in on Doha-bound Qatar Airways flights at all the airline’s China outstations before the grand opening received a printed invitation (in Mandarin) to “explore the extraordinary and unique Dior perfume family flash [pop-up] shop”.
The scale and impact of the campaign marks it out as one of Dior’s most memorable projects, says Dubos. “Sometimes people have lost the spirit and the joy of travelling. This is bringing back the joy and the imagination, the magic of being in an airport,” he says. One suspects that even the Lamp Bear, for once not taking all the attention in the vast airport terminal, might silently approve.
“This is bringing back the joy and the imagination, the magic of being in an airport.” – Olivier Dubos, Senior Vice President - Travel Retail at Parfums Christian Dior talks about a unique collaboration.
“Qatar Duty Free’s partnership with Dior Parfums offers a retail experience that is exclusive and special to Hamad International Airport travellers,” says the airport’s Chief Operations Officer Engr. Badr Al Meer.
A proud moment for Qatar Duty Free Vice President Operations Thabet Musleh (left) and Hamad International Airport Chief Operations Officer Engr. Badr Al Meer.
This dramatic image shows Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive His Excellency Akbar Al Baker (right) and Dior Travel Retail Senior Vice President Olivier Dubos taking a virtual journey of discovery to experience the gardens of Grasse, the epicentre of the perfume industry. The immersive installation features a 360° screen, encompassing visitors with fragrant aromas and transporting them to Parfums Christian Dior’s spiritual and creative heartland.
Influencers and bloggers were out in force to create extraordinary social media traction.
Former fashion editor turned filmmaker, Kuwaiti Yalda Golsharifi is one of the Middle East’s most powerful influencers.
Pictured centre (from left to right) are Dior Travel Retail Senior Vice President Olivier Dubos; Dior in-house Perfumer and Creator François Demachy; Qatar Duty Free Vice President Operations Thabet Musleh; Dior Middle East Travel Retail Director Frank Dagher Hayeck; and The Moodie Davitt Report Chairman Martin Moodie.
Qatar Duty Free Vice President Operations Thabet Musleh worked tirelessly on the complex project. Here he discusses its importance with a local film crew.
Giant digital screens on either side of the installation flash out reinforcing brand messages. Notably, and as part of its Trinity contribution, the airport did not charge Dior for the additional advertising exposure (terminal advertising is run in-house by Hamad International).
These shots taken from an escalator underline the impressive scale of the installation.
The Moodie Davitt e-Zine | Issue 253 | 3 December 2018