September 25, 2019 | News | No Comments
It’s no secret that Christian Dior was enchanted by gardens. They informed everything from the silhouette of his iconic New Look in 1947 – the shape of an inverted flower – to the pattern depicting flora and fauna that adorned the walls of his original store at 30 Avenue Montaigne in Paris.
For her spring/summer 2020 collection, Dior artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri drew inspiration from the heritage of the French fashion house and the garden, but not in the way that you might expect. Instead of thinking in terms of ornament and decoration, she instead looked to Christian’s younger sister, Catherine – a member of the French Resistance who was interned in a German concentration camp during the second world war, and later became a gardener.
Many a gardener – from Catherine Dior to Vita Sackville-West, to name just two – are known to have been fond of a hat, and in keeping with tradition they play a central, albeit suitably utilitarian role for Dior this season. “Gardeners need hats to protect them from the sun,” explains British milliner Stephen Jones, who created a bucket-style design for the collection. “The [hats for Dior this season are] made using grasses from Switzerland, Italy, the Philippines and France, so it’s like the United Nations in a straw hat.”
Ahead of Dior’s spring/summer 2020 show, Chiuri sat down with to talk botanical theories and research – plus her collaboration with an urban planning collective – which all inspired this season.
Why did you choose Catherine Dior as your muse this season?
Maria Grazia Chiuri [MGC]: Straight after the war, Catherine worked as a gardener and sold flowers in the market at Les Halles in Paris before moving to the south of France, where she lived with her father. When Christian bought Château de la Colle Noire near Grasse [widely considered the perfume capital of the world] his sister Catherine came here to plant fragrant flower beds of roses, jasmine and lavender. To have been such an active member of the Resistance and to then work in the garden, establishing her own business – this was not common at the time. Everyone knows the perfume Miss Dior, but not everyone knows the woman who inspired it. I decided to use this show to celebrate Catherine because I really believe that she was a truly modern woman.
You are renowned for using fashion to make a statement. How does that present itself in the spring/summer 2020 collection?
MGC: The message in this collection is the idea of taking care of everyone, of the world we live in, just as Catherine Dior and other women in history took care of their gardens. All modern ideas of feminism talk about humans and nature and bringing these two worlds closer together again.
You’ve worked a lot with dancers, from Sharon Eyal who performed at your spring/summer 2019 show to the costumes you designed for Sébastien Bertaud’s ballet, Nuit Blanche, at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in March. Has this influenced the collection in any way?
MGC: Sébastien and I collaborated on another ballet this summer called which was presented at the Origen Festival in Switzerland. The work was based on Monte Verità [the hill of truth] a very special place overlooking Lake Maggiore, close to the Italian border. At the beginning of the 20th century, a community of artists and thinkers [psychoanalyst Carl Jung, dancer Isadora Duncan, painter Paul Klee and novelist Hermann Hesse, to name a few] came here to create new work, but also be more in contact with nature.
In the past, fashion was about expressing yourself to other people. At the moment, I think it’s more about how it can make you feel better and more confident within yourself. That’s why I like to work with dancers because they know how to express themselves through their bodies and understand how clothes can maximise this.
How did all these ideas around nature and gardens inform the show set?
MGC: The idea was not just to think about the garden as inspiration for a pretty prints for clothes; that’s not appropriate for the times we are living in. I know the history of the house of Dior very well, so it was about creating a dialogue with the present. Right now, we are all too aware of the importance of sustainability, and the state of the planet.
Last year, I visited the Manifesta art biennale in Sicily and I came across the work of the Paris-based Coloco – a collective of landscapers, gardeners and artists that bring nature back to communities. For the set this season, we created an arboretum. After the show all of the potted trees go to Coloco to help with the creation of urban groves in central Paris and other projects. A garden is something you make for the future, it literally brings oxygen into our lives. Creativity should be responsible – the environment is something that affects everyone.
And did this more holistic idea of gardens feed into the design of the spring/summer 2020 collection?
MGC: For the prints and embroideries in the collection, as well as the jewellery, I decided to reference natural species like thistles and dandelions. The colours draw inspiration from theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater and paintings depicting auras – colours representing different emotions – which the artists of Monte Verità were obsessed with. Paris’s National Museum of Natural History, which houses one of the world’s largest and oldest herbariums, was also an important resource.
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Most of the bags and shoes are made with an embroidered canvas technique we developed, and the shoes are flat, based on an espadrille or gardening-boot style. For me, functionality is essential to my job, as a designer I see it as my responsibility to make clothes that are beautiful, but also comfortable.