dior celebrates a wartime hero
The house's spring/summer 20 collection paid homage to Catherine Dior, sister of Mr Dior and a fascinating resistance fighter who was deported to Ravensbruck concentration camp during WWII.
The creative genesis for this season's Dior show did not come from the work of Mr Dior himself. Neither did it draw from the work of a visual artist, as creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri previously has. This time she looked towards Mr Dior’s sister, Catherine.
Catherine Dior was born in 1917, was in the resistance during the Second World War and was deported to Ravensbruck concentration camp. After the war she returned and took up a career as a gardener. Her profession, as as much as her ferocious spirit and bravery, informed Dior’s spring/summer 20 offering.
It was an expansive collection that used the wider, conceptual idea of the garden as a starting point to talk about creativity, the environment, feminism, community, history and our heritage. “We all see the garden from the point of view of Mr Dior,” Maria Grazia said, before the show, “This is always seen as something very decorative. But I wanted to move away from that, towards something simpler, I wanted to use the garden as a way of finding something hopeful in the future, like Catherine after the war.”
The first element of the collection to be defined was the show space: an expansive forest of trees, left in situ. It was a work created by artistic and activist gardening collective Coloco, who Maria Grazia discovered at Manifesta 12 in Palermo last year. “They create community projects around the world where they plant trees -- I wanted to do something that felt active, that was an action -- so we have created this show space that will then be recycled, these 164 trees going around the world to be planted. We wanted to do something less ‘Dior’, less decorative, more activist, something more in line with our current reality.”
So models weaved in and out and through this forest of trees from across Europe, their hair in Greta-esque pigtails. The clothes ran an expansive gamut across 90 looks, from the very chic to the practical to the glamorous. The opening looks paired sky blue shirts with straw skirts and dresses, as if to underscore this collection’s connection to the earth. There were florals, but they were not so obvious, more wild meadows than roses constrained by ornate splendour. The shoes were practical, made for traipsing through the undergrowth. One section took inspiration from the hippy movement, another felt very nouvelle vague, another looked to Mr Dior’s 40s looks that referenced his sister, another to his obsession with Japan.
For Maria Grazia it was all about “reflection” -- the garden as a space of individuality and creativity, “passion and patience,” as she put it. “I like to express my creativity, my desires, but there’s all these contradictions, we want to impact less but we’re a luxury brand? How do we do this? We need to create something timeless, but I think also, as creators, it is important to raise questions, because I don’t have all the answers.”