Dior went back to nature in its Paris fashion week show Tuesday with Greta Thunberg plaits and a garden-inspired collection that seemed to spring straight from the earth.

With climate change biting at the heels of the fashion industry, and the London shows hit by environmental protests, designer Maria Grazia Chiuri said she wanted to create clothes that “were not just about image but action”.

To do that she embraced the wild, with hemp gardening jackets and a series of stunning diaphanous dresses embroidered with wildflowers.

These were not the dainty pink roses of Dior yore but sinuous survivors, thistles and other prickly customers flowering on stony ground.

Most of her models also wore their hair in plaits not dissimilar to those of the teenage Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who made headlines recently for her impassioned speech about climate change at the United Nations.

Three of the most striking looks bore the ghostly prints of real wildflowers, gathered and applied by an artist who has mastered the natural technique.

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The Italian designer also pushed the couture boundaries by using hemp and raffia in eye-catching and unusual ways, with a layered raffia ballgown and flower-embroidered raffia waistcoats.

All was set in what Chiuri called an “inclusive garden” of 160 trees, their roots wrapped in hemp, which will all be replanted in urban gardens being designed around the French capital by environmental architects, Coloco.

Chiuri told AFP that her inspiration had come from Christian Dior’s sister Catherine, a French Resistance hero who became the first female flower wholesaler in Paris — and who farmed her own roses in the Luberon in the south of France.

Resistance hero

Her couturier brother’s first perfume, Miss Dior, was named after her, and Chiuri felt her legacy had been a little forgotten.

Catherine ran a Resistance intelligence gathering network from Dior’s Paris apartment during the German Nazi Occupation of France.

When she was arrested, she refused to betray her comrades despite being tortured by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp.

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Chiuri said she was struck by a phrase of her own brother’s after the war, “Fortunately there are the flowers” — which she took as a sign of hope after the dark days of World War II.

“Flowers and humans need to live together if humanity is to survive,” she told AFP.

“The important issue for everybody, not just in fashion, is to be more responsible about what we do,” she said.

“These are not classic decorative flowers, but artistic ones. It is not just about image but action… the important issue for everybody, not just fashion, is to be more responsible about what we do,” she added.

With Dior these days making almost as many headlines with its hats, Chiuri topped all her looks with a spray of straw hats by the British millinery guru Stephen Jones.

Jones told AFP that his “eyes lit up” when he came across a recently discovered gardening hat that Catherine gave her brother, and drew many of his designs from it.

(Sustainability in fashion: A to Z)

  fg/pld/boc – AFP