On the exclusive shopping street of avenue Montaigne, in the basement of the legendary Plaza Athénée palace-hotel, is a secluded haven like no other. Through the lobby, past the scintillating crystal chandeliers past the Patrick Jouin-designed, 3-Michelin-star Alain Ducasse restaurant, and down the carpeted stairs, is a well polished silver sign in that instantly recognisable font that reads 'Dior Institut', and that's when I knew I had arrived at one of the most exclusive spots on the planet.
History of the Dior Institut
"Before a spa, the space was actually the hotel bar where Mr Dior would often be seen with his models," explained Ludivine, my designated Dior beauty expert. In fact, Mr Dior and the Plaza Athénée go back to 1946, when the couture designer created the prestigious maison Dior and opened his first boutique and atelier on the same street as the hotel, at number 30 avenue Montaigne. Mr Dior's aim was to set up here to be close to his favourite Parisian hotel but also in order to attract its affluent clientele.
After a long-standing love affair, it was in 2008 that the maison Dior and Plaza Athénée finally came together to create the first Dior Institut; a lavish retreat of thick pearly cream carpets, soft greys and dashes of deep fuchsia, with an elegant indoor fountain. Equipped with a small state-of-the-art gym and a newly added manicure and pedicure suite complete with a deluxe bespoke armchair, the spa has a total of five double massage suites. For something extra special though, the VIP suite is even more spacious and has a wave of twinkling stars above.
The Dior Prestige treatment
Ludivine tucked me into real (heated) beds with soft Dior-embroidered high thread-count cotton sheets. A spritz of J'adore was my olfactory choice and 'desert' my selected music style before embarking on the two-hour Exceptional Dior Prestige journey. And what a journey it was.
The treatment's main ingredient is the rare Grandville Rose, which has an appeasing, restoring and regenerative effect – it felt like I was floating through a garden during the first hours of a summer's day. In fact the rose is key in Dior treatments and reflects Mr Dior's love of gardens and in particular the rose, his favourite flower.
To start, Ludivine cleaned and exfoliated my skin and applied a facemask imbibed with prestige lotion. A draining back massage, designed to help aid digestion and improve circulation was followed by the grand 30-minute shiatsu face and scalp massage. Somewhere after that, in my overly mellow state, there was a remodelling appeasing facemask, followed by the application of a serum, face and eye cream, a mask of powdered flowers and lotion coup de fraîcheur, which helped me to regain (some) of my senses.
Throughout the treatment until the very end, Ludivine massaged constantly, surprising me with yet more pampering. My shoulders were put back in place realigning my spine and thus further echoing the importance Mr Dior placed, as a designer but also as an architect, on posture. The olfactory sphere of this treatment, which is one of two from the luxurious Prestige range, put me in a hypnotic state that rocked me between meadows and gardens before sending me into a deep, rejuvenating sleep. Ludivine's hands worked away while I reached a dream-like state that has now placed the bar very high indeed for other spas to come.