"A passion for flowers inherited from my mother meant that I was at my happiest among plants and flower-beds. My predilection influenced even my reading and, apart from those few books which made their mark on my whole childhood, my chief delight was to learn by heart the names and descriptions of flowers in the coloured catalogues of the firm of Vilmorin and Andrieu."
"In December 1946, as a result of the war and uniforms, women still looked and dressed like Amazons. But I designed clothes for flower-like women, with rounded shoulders, full feminine busts, and hand-span waists above enormous spreading skirts."
"The new collection is like the arrival of spring in the studio. During the off season, it is as white, empty, and gloomy as a laboratory; now the pieces of material are like young shoots which ripen into a thousand flowery patterns."
Christian Dior, taken from Dior by Dior: The Autobiography of Christian Dior
Photographs of Christian Dior's childhood home and rose gardens from Dior Mag
When I attended the Christian Dior couture show back in January, Raf Simon's second haute couture collection for the house since his appointment, I couldn't quite contemplate the notion of a blooming flower. The scene in the Tuileries Garden was frozen and still. Even the photo frenzy, or the so-called "circus" outside of the Dior show venue was muted as snow was steadily falling down, blanketing Paris in white. With London's late spring coming now fully in bloom (I've verified this by taking a walk around well-manicured Highbury, which is my closest indication of whether spring has sprung...), I can dig up these pictures from frozen January and look at Simons' collection, straight-forwardly and directly inspired by Monsieur Dior's love of gardening and flora, with a newly-blossomed appreciation.
Total disclosure, this was in fact my first ever Christian Dior haute couture show experience. I'm trying to hold back the gushing sentiment, because it's not exactly a helpful context to have me going "!!!I LOVEEEEE EVERYTHING!!!" with no extensive experience of going to haute couture shows but it's also hard to be all po-faced and measured in opinion, when I was in fact tingling before, during and after the show. Simons explained it all with one word though - garden. It captures everything that this collection was about - growth in the context of the natural plant world, growth in terms of Simons' himself "growing" into his new role as a haute couture designer at the helm of an incredible atelier, reflections of the symbolic season of spring, which is attached to new beginnings, a process that comes full circle and then of course, references to Monsieur Dior's "flower" silhouettes and his own personal love for the nurturing and tending of a garden. Hence, why this post begins with some quotes from Dior's autobiography, a tome that Simons also read. There's almost a deliberatlye naive and literal approach to the simplistic symbolism and metaphors in this haute couture - something that anybody can get their head around. It's certainly in stark contrast to Simon's latest ready to wear collection, which was a harder nut to crack concept-wise - a reaction on Simons' part perhaps as he now begins to properly get his teeth into the maison.
Actually, let's skip all talk of metaphor and concept shall we? It's literally as simple as me getting a whiff of blooming stocks and then thinking that any piece from this bountiful collection would be the absolute perfect accompanying garment. Dream on, you say - but that I suppose is the tide of change that Simons has bought about at Dior. His mode of haute couture feels tangible. The silk organza pansy petals on a bustier or spider-like splays of bead embroidery don't feel like they should be locked away behind glass or confined on models. That's down to the silhouettes, that whilst sweeping and voluminous in some instances (and honestly - I can't really go down the dreamer path with haute couture when there AREN'T super dramatic and sweeping moments) are controlled and staccato in the majority of the collection. The final look of an off-white silk jacket, with the sleeves rolled up, paired with an embroidered gown trailing the floor, with pockets for the hands, is an emphatic summation of marrying an up-in-the-clouds dream with something closer back down on Earth. What I was particularly entranced by was Simons' judgement of colour, something akin to this memorable passage of text from Liza Dalby's The Tale of Murasaki. Pale, pastel, jewel, bright, muted and black - all shades are present but are married up beautifully, especially in the layered double-skirted dresses and cropped separate tops and also in the ballooning strapless gowns, laden and lavish with embroidery. Just merely looking at the clusters of buds, petals, stems and leaves, made up of bead, sequin and minute pieces of silk formations, expertly embroidered by the Maison Vermont (Dior, like Chanel, has also been investing in savoir-faire with their acquisition of this Parisian embroidery workshop), is enough to make your eyeballs pop out. And that's without seeing any of this up close.
We say fashion is now seasonless. We say the way fashion is shown is out of sync with the actual climate. That may be the case but that's not to take anything away from the very notion of spring itself and looking back on this collection only makes me want to indulge in my own floral habits, even more so. I am one of those weirdos that goes all misty-eyed when I see my first daffodil or a crocus poking up in the ground. Cherry blossoms falling against a backdrop of blue sky will always make my heart swell. I always take longer routes when walking through London just so that I can look at idyllic posho houses with lilac hydrangeas running up the walls. These are just a few of my flower fancies. Those with far deeper pockets that I have, can do one better and go forth and embrace spring in their attire, with this Dior haute couture collection by Simons.