For about three weeks in the middle of last year, the entrance to Shanghai’s Museum of Contemporary Art was awash in a pretty, painterly pink hue. On the first floor inside, guests were greeted by the likes of Urs Fischer’s modelling clay remake of Rodin’s The Kiss; a mesmerising, pro-women video art piece by the Egyptian-Lebanese photographer Lara Baladi; as well as dozens of couture outfits, perfume bottles and other memorabilia from the storied archives of Dior.
Exhibitions tracing the relationship between fashion, art, history and culture have become commonplace. Those doing the same for a beauty product (what’s more, one of the most famous designer fragrances in the world)? Far fewer. Yet Miss Dior: Love N’ Roses marked the fourth time one had been held to celebrate the artistic significance of the first perfume created by Dior, following editions in Paris, Beijing and Tokyo since 2013.
One could argue that heritage alone warrants such presentations – Miss Dior was introduced in 1947, alongside the French maison’s historical debut haute couture show in which Christian Dior unveiled his New Look silhouette that would redefine feminine dressing for good. But as with every new formulation of the scent itself, the exhibitions are as radical as they are heartwarmingly retrospective and help cast a conceptual lens on Miss Dior as a perfume that’s meant simply to – in the words of Monsieur Dior – “smell of love”.
Cue the latest iteration of Miss Dior dubbed Rose N’ Roses, which hits shelves this month and blends four varieties of roses – Grasse, Damascus, Bulgarian and Turkish – then accents it with spicy, sprightly notes of mandarin, bergamot and geranium essence. The resulting scent – a powerful, sensual floral with a pleasing kick – is meant to conjure up the uplifting rush of being greeted by a field of dew-covered roses.
As Francois Demachy, its creator and Dior’s perfumer since 2006, puts it: “I often question how sustainable a fragrance like Miss Dior is? I try to address this by always working within the chypre family (what the original perfume is based on). Yet as every version is an interpretation of love, I vary it depending on mood and the times. I don’t think there is one single fragrance that represents love.”