BA History of Art and Design student, Sarahlouise Newman, attended the public unveiling of the 2019 Claridge’s Christmas tree, and provides a short history of the festive project.
Since 2009 Claridge’s Hotel based in the wealthy district of Mayfair has been showcasing a designer Christmas tree. The concept was to bring tourists and fashion fans into the well-known hotel which is a favorite of the royal family. It started in 2009 with John Galliano for Dior; Galliano had been in residence at the hotel and came up with the idea of a tree for the Art Deco hallway. His take on the traditional Christmas tree was a magical-realism idea with a nod to the Brothers Grimm. According to Claridge’s, Galliano ‘evoked a frozen twist on tradition with a tropical tree completed with snow leopard, dragonflies and parrots, echoing Claridge’s Art Deco surroundings’.
Galliano secured a second year in 2010 with an under-the-sea themed tree, more whimsical in design. The following year Galliano was replaced by Alber Elbaz for Lavin who turned Galliano’s whimsical concept in for something far more playful and childlike, topped with a small figurine of himself.
In 2012 Kally Ellis (founder of British floristry designers, McQueens) changed the concept of the tree yet again, naming her creation ‘Forest Murmurs’, giving it a more of a naturalistic, contemporary twist. Claridge’s stated, ‘The Christmas tree featured magnolia branches and lichen moss, studded with crystal and emerald jewel eggs in white, gold and silver.’ This has been rumored to be a memorial tree for fashion designer Alexander McQueen who passed away in 2010 and was also a fan of Claridge’s.
In stark contrast to Ellis’s tree, Dolce and Gabbana took the helm next. With signature Italian flair, theirs was a seven metre high tree with a nostalgic nod to tradition. Claridge’s stated that the tree was adorned with more than 450 hand-blown Italian festive glass baubles and a bespoke ‘luminaire’ framework, with the base of the tree featuring 30 hand-crafted Sicilian marionettes known as Pupi.
The 2015 concept was a modern piece by Christopher Bailey for Burberry. Claridge’s explained that the tree ‘featured over 100 umbrellas, each finished in bespoke gold and silver metallic fabric, and thousands of motion-sensor lights, programmed to sparkle and glitter as guests walked by the tree.’ The concept exemplified the breadth of the brief, showcasing something both futuristic and surreal with its hint of Duchamp. It was, in fact, not even a tree at all.
2017’s tree turned the concept of a Christmas tree on its head, literally. A personal favourite of mine, the Karl Lagerfeld tree was a sixteen foot inverted tree reminiscent of a silver stalactite, topped with silver gilded roots and a multi-faceted, mirrored star. Underneath, Icelandic sheepskin rugs were positioned to suggest a recent snowfall.
This year’s Diane von Furstenberg installation, titled ‘The Tree of Love’ will be in the Art Deco hallway until 1 January 2020.
Sarahlouise would like to thank Orla Hickley, Operations Manager at Claridge’s, for providing information about the tree and permission to use the images.