Christian Dior’s secret sisterly garden chic
She was a unique sister, a gardener, a femme of great elegance and even a member of the Resistance, and on Tuesday in Paris, Catherine Dior registered another achievement – inspiration for a sumptuous spring collection for the fashion house that her big brother Christian founded.
The key leitmotif throughout was the garden, an element that runs through the whole Dior narrative. Monsieur Dior taught himself the Latin names of reams of flowers and drew them as a young boy. Together with his kid sister they helped create a special garden for his family at Granville on the Normandy coast. When the family lost much of their fortune in the Great Crash, they were forced to sell their villa and downsized to a farmhouse at Callian, in Provence, where she created a unique rose garden. Catherine was the original Miss Dior, lending her name to a magnificent 1949 dress made of hundreds of puckered fabric flowers; and eventually to one of the maison’s most famous scents. Later, Christian acquired the Château de la Colle Noire nearby to invent yet another a second garden.
Staged at France’s greatest racetrack, the set paid homage to the garden, but with a sustainable twist. Chiuri linked up with urbanists Coloco, who she discovered at the Planetary Garden in the Manifesta 12 art event in Palermo. Coloco developed a mysterious grove of 164 trees – all left in their planting sacks. No sooner had the 1,200 guests exited post-show than workers began moving the mini forest, to be planted around greater Paris. One stand of trees from this ephemeral forest was taken to the GoodPlanet Foundation of Yann Arthus-Bertrand.
Like Monsieur, Maria Grazia likes a garden with an English influence – like refined houndstooth dresses, flared below the waist, and worn with striped cricket style blazers.
Beautiful knit bodices and corsets embroidered in raffia and raw silk with delicate embroidery. All worn under board strip jackets in savage silk and raffia jacquard. Or a series of mini double-breasted jackets and short pleated skirts - flattering combos and ideal for the self-assured clients that now throng in their thousands to Dior.
Yet these girls were no wilting violets, attired in tough chic garden mesh boots; funky multiple-strand colorful stone necklaces; or Game of Thrones knuckle rings. Nearly all the looks worn by the large cast were topped by lattice hats of raffia; or anchored in chunky see-through mesh leather boots, commercial cool at its best.
For evening, the Italian designer wowed with marvelously flowing chiffon dresses embroidered with patterns that Maria Grazia had discovered during her research at the L’herbier de Paris, seen in bold scientific illustrations of plants, twigs, roots and branches woven into semi-sheer mesh frocks and gowns of couture quality.
Even the espadrilles were embroidered, many featuring the cannage pattern. And a new Lady Dior bag came in embroidered cannage; plus the house offered natty new mini check logo totes – surely the most successful high fashion bag of the past few seasons.
As is often the case with Chiuri, the inspirations ranged across European culture: Vita Sackville West at Sissinghurst to 18th century German botanists to Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter. Amid the entanglement of ideas, the show did sag a little midway, and felt a tad repetitive, especially all the mesh. Nonetheless, this was a truly assured fashion statement – by a creator and a house that seems to know exactly all the right moves.
“It’s the elegance of Christian Dior and the attitude of Catherine,” explained Maria Grazia, who with this show subtly moved Christian Dior from the Femme-Fleur to the Jardinière, or lady gardener. Gardens were certainly a key way to helping them both recover from the tragedy of the World War Two. Catherine courageously joined the Resistance against Nazism, for which she was taken to a concentration camp. Remarkably, she survived, and at the war’s end Christian met his emaciated sister at a Paris railway station off a train of survivors. Helping to nurse her back to health. She became one of the first women in France to create her own flower business. And went on live until 2008, outliving her older brother by half a century.
“I think Monsieur could have been proud (of this show). Catherine was super inspiring to him. He called his femme Miss Dior, and in his style she was such a reference. He was also obsessed with tarot, in part because he was so worried about his sister. She must have been a very brave woman. She never married but had her own business. Not so common when we speak about the '50s,” argued Maria Grazia.
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