In Milan this season, the catwalks were awash in jungle imagery, with hovering fronds and glowering vines seemingly everywhere. Today at Christian Dior, which for many marks the beginning of Paris Fashion Week, the jungle became a forest—or perhaps an arbor—but of a strictly transitory stripe.
For her Spring 2020 showing for the house, Maria Grazia Chiuri worked with the Paris-based environmental design collective Coloco, whose work regarding green spaces and urban regeneration she finds inspiring when thinking about sustainability. The “show trees” will soon be planted in projects around the city. And they are not solely European trees, Chiuri was quick to point out, as healthy gardens are, by design, heterogeneous. And so in the center of the Dior runway lay the central analogy for the show: Respect for diversity and nature will set us free.
Add to this Chiuri’s other key source of inspiration for the season—Catherine Dior, sister of Christian—and the analogy gains weight and depth. Catherine, the “Miss” of Miss Dior, was a resistance fighter and concentration camp prisoner who emerged from the rubble of World War II to become an acclaimed gardener and botanist. She literally grew her way out of the postwar gloom with roses and wildflowers galore. Seventy years later we are on the verge of environmental disaster, and (horribly) internment camps abound: Ethically, historically, metaphorically, Dior-ifically, Grazia and Dior are on point.
And the clothes? Lovely, utterly lovely . . . gentle and shrewd and worthy of investment. The silhouettes were a hit parade of Chiuri classics: Jackets were boxy, pants slouched from a dropped crotch, dresses (high necklines, long sleeves, winsome transparency) grazed the ankles with a smidgen of volume gathered in the back. And the foot was resolutely grounded: by a perforated hiking boot, a logoed espadrille, an earthy flat. There was a cool men’s shirt in forget-me-not blue to layer under nifty tailoring. There was a small passage of looks in stone gray cotton that provided the chicest nod to utility on the runway in some time (the short boilersuit was adorable). There were bleached denim ombré pieces that consign all the many attempts at acid wash elsewhere to (’80s) shame.
And then there were endless dresses—printed, appliquéd, embroidered, crystal-ed, filigreed—in which lace, raffia, jacquard, silk, and tulle were layered and interwoven to create thoroughly wonderful, artisanal items. The sustainability piece that Chiuri offers at Dior is precious handwork married to real design in ready-to-wear. These are buy-now-wear-forever dresses; they should take root in one’s closet and grow in emotional value over time.