There are incredible and improbable lives that, for many reasons, remain stuck in the pages of history.
One of these is undoubtedly that of Catherine Dior, sister and muse of the couturier Christian – the 1947 fragrance Miss Dior is dedicated to her – founder of the homonymous maison that relaunched French fashion at an international level after World War II.
An extraordinary life told in the new biography Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture di Justine Picardie.
Ginetta Dior, this is Catherine’s real name, was born in Granville, Normandy in August 1917. The youngest of Maurice and Madeleine’s five children, she lived an early part of her childhood in what was a wealthy family – Maurice Dior was an industrialist in the fertilizer field. After the Great Depression of ’29 and the subsequent financial crisis that brought the Diors to their knees, she left the family home in 1935 and moved to a farm in Provence.
Soon after, he decides to leave this situation to go to Paris to his brother Christian, where the two make ends meet as they can. At the beginning of World War II, the Dior brothers return to Provence where they support themselves by growing and selling green beans and peas.
The sliding door that completely changes Catherine’s life is the meeting with Hervé des Charbonneries, a member of the French Resistance against the Nazis who had occupied France. The two fall in love immediately, although Hervé was married and had three children.
In 1941 she began her militancy in the Resistance and her life in the underground, under the code name Caro. In 1944 she is arrested and tortured by the Gestapo and thrown into prison.
Her brother Christian tries an intercession to free her through the Swedish diplomat Raoul Nordling, but it is a hole in the water.
In response, the Nazis transfer Catherine initially to the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp and then to Torgau, Abteroda and in 1945 to Markkleeberg, from which she manages to escape thanks to Allied intervention.
Catherine’s life in the post-war period is serene, far from the fashion spotlight that instead began to illuminate the life of her brother. She returns to live again in the south of France and begins to sell flowers at the Paris market together with the love of her life and with whom she shared the most difficult pages of her existence, Hervé des Charbonneries.
After the death of her brother Christian she has always preserved the enormous legacy he left to the world of fashion and beyond, and from 1999 she was honorary president of the Musée Christian Dior in Granville until her death in 2008, at the age of 90.