Roses bloom at the heart of famed French fashion house Christian Dior. The designer’s passion for the flower, which continues today in the hands of Dior’s current design teams, will be celebrated this year in a new exhibition called “Dior en Roses.” You’ll find this glorious rose-bedecked exhibit at the Musée Christian Dior in the French seaside town of Granville from June 5 to October 31.
Femininity, grace and elegance evoke the storied legacy left by Christian Dior (1905 -1957), one of the most famous couturiers of the 20th century. Dior’s love of flowers bloomed early at his mother Madeleine’s side where she tended a lush rose garden at Villa Les Rhumbs, the family home near Granville, a seaside town on the coast of Normandy, France. His beloved younger sister Catherine was a professional gardener who was also a member of the French Resistance during the war. Catherine received several medals of honour for her service including the Croix de Guerre, and was named a Chevalière of the Legion of Honour. (Dior’s first fragrance in 1947, Miss Dior - it remains a bestseller today - was created as a tribute to her.) The Dior family’s love of flowers found fertile ground at Christian Dior’s fashion house in Paris where it is now one of the most revered and successful brands in the world.
Backed by wealthy French industrialist Marcel Boussac, Christian Dior founded his fashion house in December 1946. His first Haute Couture collection, presented a few months later in February 1947, was called Corolle in appreciation of a flower’s form. (Together, all the petals of a flower are called the “corolla”.) Describing the new silhouette, the designer later said: “I designed femmes-fleurs, women flowers with soft shoulders, blossoming busts, waists as slender as llanas (stems) and skirts as wide as corollas.” The shape, and attitude, shocked the audience at Dior’s runway show in Paris where it was immediately dubbed “New Look” by Carmel Snow, the Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar. Not only was the silhouette ultra-feminine in reaction to wartime styles, the skirt alone demanded excess fabric that had been limited due to wartime conservation efforts. The conservative backlash to the New Look’s boned bodices, nipped-in waists and petticoats was swift but, like so many fashion trends, its novelty captured attention and the anger turned to an embrace as wartime shortages ended and women left factory jobs. Dior’s New Look revolutionized women’s fashion and put Paris back on the post-war map as the global centre of women’s fashion.
Dior’s fascination with flowers, and roses in particular, continued as he named dresses after roses (Rose France, Rose Pompon) and incorporated his flower-shaped silhouette, embroideries and rose hues into subsequent collections. The family home, Villa Les Rhumbs, was also, fittingly, pink. Dior's description of its “pastel pink roughcast walls” echoed the fragrant blooms in its rose garden.
Christian Dior died of a heart attack at just 52, yet his passion for roses was interpreted and carried on by successive Creative Directors at Dior including Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano and today, Maria Grazia Chiuri who is responsible for the women’s collections. RoseDior is the name of the latest fine jewellery collection by Victoire de Castellane, the Creative Director for Dior Joaillerie, since 1998. One outstanding pink gold necklace features a detachable diamond rose that can also be worn as a brooch. And fields of roses for Dior’s coveted fragrances are grown near the family home in Granville, and also in Grasse in the South of France.