#SuzyPFW: Planting the Future at Dior-1
©Stephane Cardinale / Corbis

Christian Dior’s remarkably courageous, indeed exceptionally brave, sister was the subject of the show that effectively opened Paris Fashion Week.

Held in a tent transformed into a garden with a forest of trees – to be sent later to woodland near Paris – the show was a tribute to Catherine Dior, who was arrested in Paris by the German Army in 1944 for supporting the Polish Resistance. Tracked down and marched away by the Gestapo, she was incarcerated in Ravensbrück. she finally returned, Dior nurtured his starved and shattered sister, re-introducing her to the sweet flowers of the South of France, where she worked in Grasse, growing plants, while he cherished his nearby house and garden, La Colle Noire. little has been said about Catherine, who only died in 2008, especially by her brother’s famous fashion company. Perhaps the story seemed too painful to release, especially in the sensitive period of blame and shame immediately after the war. Now Justine Picardie, outgoing Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar UK, is working on a book about this brave woman.

By using Dior’s sister as her inspiration, Maria Grazia Chiuri hit a nerve. I would have liked to see a backdrop of those sweet flowers of the Midi area that comforted Catherine, rather than the menacing forest in the show.

But Maria Grazia knows that with all the current Amazon fires and deforestation, even the ugliest tree has become precious. “This is a way to think of the future in a positive light and to give hope to future generations,” Maria Grazia explained.

And she hit the spot by including in her focus this unknown side of Dior. Apart from one letter about Catherine in the French edition of the recent Dior museum show, ‘Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams’, this powerful woman has remained in the shadows of history.

“The idea for the show was to pay homage to her as a woman gardener; the entire look had to create that kind of attitude,” said the designer, who works with her daughter Rachele Regini and an army of young women in the Dior studios. by the ‘Planetary Garden’ at the Manifesta 12 art and culture biennale in Palermo in 2017, Maria Grazia was impressed that its creators “spoke about the coexistence between different trees that come from different parts of the world” and that the garden would be taken care of by Palermo’s current residents for the future. “The garden is an important heritage of Dior and that Planetary Garden helped us move this in to the future, to make something less decorative and more of an action, “the designer explained.” Grazia has an exceptional skill at turning her often complex concepts into a buck. No wonder she is a heroic figure to the Arnault family, who have learned that she has the Midas sales touch. It is easy to imagine next season’s wide-and-thin checked blazers, perhaps lying low on the shoulders, with well-cut shorts or semi transparent chiffon skirts, flying out of Dior’s doors.

#SuzyPFW: Planting the Future at Dior-2

The workmanship was dense but subtle in effect; for example, dresses woven with dandelions (the French give those meadow flowers the more vulgar name of ‘pis-en-lit’ or ‘pee in the bed’). Those flowers rose to menacing sizes on the sweetest dresses, using different techniques of compressing, patterning and creating flower specimens. Similar shapes were also woven in silken raffia.

The effect, as so often with Maria Grazia’s big shows, was of silhouettes staying much the same with the originality mostly in the materials. Or, to put it more crudely, the inventiveness seemed a bit thin, while the wearable and sellable items were big and fat. “To create something not only seasonal but also timeless, and also fashionable and novel… It’s really difficult to have a good balance between these elements,” Maria said.

And yet… Team Dior does a splendid job with the accessories, using everything from straw sandals to the gardening hats of Stephen Jones. So just as roots grow into flowers, Maria Grazia’s blooms can be expected to appeal to customers.

#SuzyPFW: Planting the Future at Dior-3
©Dominique Charriau / Getty

We, in the audience, have become so used to crazy Instagram-able images to stuff into our phones, that it takes time to calm down and remember that fashion used to be designed for a known audience: the clients. Most especially by Christian Dior himself, who named the famous Miss Dior fragrance after his sister. He would surely be pleased to see Catherine come out of the shadows and into the light.