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Christian Dior’s sister was a WWII hero — and famous scent’s inspiration

Stacy Johnson

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Christian Dior’s sister was a WWII hero — and famous scent’s inspiration



In 1947, Paris was still struggling after World War II, and the city was starved for beauty. And a 41-year-old designer named Christian Dior provided it, with his first fashion collection. 

As Dior’s elegant models strolled through his salon in extravagantly voluminous skirts and impossibly wasp-waisted jackets, they left a heady scent of rose and jasmine in their wake. 

That scent was the designer’s debut perfume, Miss Dior — named after his little sister, Catherine, sitting in the audience that day. Yet the real-life Miss Dior was no fashionista. A discreet, independent woman, she was happier mucking about in her garden in casual pants and button-downs than attending fashion shows in glamorous gowns. 

But a new book, “Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), out Nov. 9, reveals that the mysterious Catherine had quite a sensational life of her own. A member of the Resistance during World War II, Catherine was arrested by the Nazis, tortured and shipped off to various concentration camps before her liberation by Soviet soldiers. When she finally made it back to Paris — nearly a year after her capture — the 27-year-old was so emaciated that her brother didn’t even recognize her. 

Catherine Dior preferred life in the garden to fashion shows.

Even more remarkable: Catherine ended up rebuilding her life. She moved in with her married lover, started a cut-flower business and cultivated blooms for her brother’s perfumes until she died in 2008, at the age of 90. The Croix de Guerre she received for her bravery during the war praised her “great valour and admirable spirit.” 

“She didn’t want to be pitied,” one of her friends told author Justine Picardie. “She was the captain of her own soul.” 

Ginette Marie Catherine Dior was born in 1917, the youngest of five children of a prosperous Normandy family. Yet by the time Catherine was a teen, their father Maurice, a fertilizer manufacturer who had made some bad real-estate investments, had fallen on hard times. A few months after the death of her mother from sepsis, an 18-year-old Catherine moved with Maurice and her former governess, Marthe, to a rundown farmhouse in a remote region of Provence until her older brother, Christian — who had started selling fashion illustrations — sent for her to come live with him in his Paris apartment. 

Catherine was 12 years younger than Christian, but the two were kindred spirits. Christian used his connections to get his little sister a job selling gloves at a fashionable store, and in their free time Catherine served as a model for his first sewing projects. 

Christian Dior was 12 years older than his sister, but they were kindred spirits.AFP via Getty Images

“My brother loved designing costumes,” Catherine later told Dior biographer Marie-France Pochna, about these early years in Paris. “I remember a Neptune costume he made for me, with a raffia skirt covered with shells, and another skirt painted with a Scottish motif.” 

After the war broke out, Catherine went back to her father’s place in Provence, which at the time was safer than Paris, and she made a meager living selling vegetables she grew in their garden in nearby Cannes. That’s where, in 1941, she met Hervé des Charbonneries while shopping for a radio so she could listen to banned broadcasts from the exiled General de Galle on the BBC. 

It was love at first sight, or as the French called it, “un coup de foudre,” a stroke of lightning. 

Hervé was a member of the F2 Resistance Network, one of the largest resistance groups in Europe, and he soon enlisted Catherine to join their cause. 

She biked up and down the coast of Southern France gathering and delivering intelligence on the movements of German troops to other F2 agents. She drew maps with details of German infrastructure and landmines and typed up reports to send to British operatives. Though Hervé was married with three children, the two began an affair: Catherine even worked with his mother and his wife, Lucie, in the Resistance. (According to Picardie, after Hervé met Catherine, “his separation from Lucie was ‘en bonne entente,’ in other words: cordial,” though the Catholic couple never officially divorced.) 

Hervé des Charbonneries became Catherine’s lover — and he enlisted her in the Resistance.

In 1944, Catherine moved back to Paris and continued her Resistance activities there. She stayed with her brother and hid her friends in his attic — making Dior’s fashionable acquaintances nervous. The musician Henri Sauguet “was perturbed” to see Catherine and other members of the Resistance going in and out of Dior’s apartment, Picardie writes. “He subsequently admitted in his memoir that he was beset with anxiety as to how he might explain this to the Gestapo, if they were ever to question him.” 

In Paris, Catherine helped provide intelligence for the planned Allied invasion of France, or D-Day. But then, on the afternoon of July 6, 1944, a group of four men approached her on the street, took her bicycle and handbag and drove her blindfolded to Rue de la Pompe, where French police working with the Nazis interrogated her, punched her, kicked her and slapped her. When she wouldn’t talk, they undressed her, bound her hands, and repeatedly plunged her into icy water. At one point she came close to drowning. 

“I lied to them as much as I could,” Catherine later told war crimes investigators. 

The authorities eventually shipped her off to the notorious women’s concentration camp Ravensbruck — just 10 days before the liberation of Paris. 

From left: Hervé, Catherine, Christian and Marthe after Catherine was freed from a concentration camp in 1945.

Catherine was later transferred to three labor camps, where prisoners worked 12-plus-hour shifts dipping shell cases into trays of acid or putting together parts of aircraft engines. (Catherine and her compatriots would deliberately make mistakes so the machinery would break down.) As the Allies got close, the prisoners were sent on a grueling death march — and anyone who fell behind or tried to escape was beaten or shot. Catherine walked in bloodied wooden shoes for a week before Soviet troops liberated her in Dresden on April 21. 

Catherine’s family and friends had not heard a word about her since August of 1944, and many thought she had probably died, particularly after reports of the camps began appearing in early 1945. 

Catherine inspired the “Miss Dior” dress from her brother’s spring/summer 1949 collection.Lillian Bassman for Harper’s Bazaar

“We thought she would never come back,” recalled Hervé’s son. “The family heard nothing from her for nine months.” 

Catherine Dior finally arrived in Paris that May, along with hundreds of other French women freed from the camps, but when Dior went to meet her at the train station, he walked right by her. His 27-year-old sister looked like an emaciated old woman. 

Eventually Dior found his sister and took her to his apartment, “where he had lovingly prepared a celebratory dinner for her, but she was too sick to eat it.” 

She did not stay in Paris long, and by the summer she was back in Provence, recovering with the help of Marthe and Hervé, who rushed to Maurice Dior’s farmhouse as soon as he heard of her arrival. 

He later told his son that Catherine was “unrecognizable” when he first saw her, and wept when speaking of their reunion. Yet, by July, Catherine wrote in a letter that she was “benefiting from the sun and the calm of this beautiful region” where she and Hervé spent their time gardening and talking politics. 

The two never married or had children — the torture she endured during the war left her barren, according to her godson — but he never left her side again. 

Catherine Dior (with lover Hervé des Charbonneries) ran a cut flower business in Paris after she survived Nazi labor camps.

Hervé and Catherine harvest flowers at Les Naÿssès.

The couple in the garden and rose meadows of Les Naÿssès.

Catherine rarely spoke about her time in Germany and the horrors she endured there. (Her godson told Picardie that Catherine revealed one thing about Ravensbruck: “that she would never fall to the ground to pick up a piece of food that an SS guard had thrown there. She said that if you did that, then your life was over.”) She suffered from insomnia, nightmares, memory loss, anxiety, depression and PTSD. “She could not bear to hear German voices, and even the sight of cars bearing German number plates on the roads in France would make her angry and upset,” Picardie writes. 

Still, Catherine did not let her war experience break her. In the fall of 1945, she got a license to sell cut flowers at the Paris markets, hawking blooms that she and Hervé grew back in Provence. In 1946, as he was getting ready to launch his own fashion label, Dior began developing a perfume that “smelled of love.” He and a friend were discussing a name for it when Catherine walked into the room: “That’s it: Miss Dior!” his friend exclaimed. It was perfect: a perfume that smelled of love dedicated to the person he loved most in the world. 

Catherine went on to inspire several more of her brother’s creations.

Catherine went on to inspire several more of her brother’s creations, including the iconic “Miss Dior” gown, a strapless dress embroidered with more than 1,000 silk flowers. When Dior died of a heart attack in 1957, at the age of 52, Catherine gave up her cut flower business in Paris and moved permanently to the country with Hervé, where the two of them spent the rest of their lives cultivating roses and jasmines for Miss Dior perfume. 

Hervé died in 1989, but Catherine continued to work in her garden every day until her own passing. 

Near the end of her life, a young veteran who saw her speak at a memorial for members of the Resistance approached her and asked for advice. 

“Aime la vie,” she told him: Love life.

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Save on beauty and more with Saks Fifth Avenue Cyber Monday 2021 deals

Stacy Johnson

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Save on beauty and more with Saks Fifth Avenue Cyber Monday 2021 deals



NY Post may receive revenue from affiliate and advertising partnerships for sharing this content and/or when you make a purchase.

Our bellies are full, the turkey is gone and Thanksgiving is over. But that doesn’t mean the deals are done. In fact, Cyber Monday reigns as one of the largest 24-hour shopping days of the year, and we are ready to join in on the fun.

Top brands like Therabody, YETI, Lululemon and more are dropping major deals, but our favorite Cyber Monday retailer to shop is none other than Saks Fifth Avenue.

This Cyber Monday, Saks Fifth Avenue is offering a very exclusive spend and get promotion. Get $50 off for every $200 you spend with code CYBER21SF. But act fast, as this deal is only valid on Nov. 29.

If that’s not enough and you need a little extra incentive, then look no further, as Saks Fifth Avenue beauty is also 15% off for Cyber Monday with code CBTY21SF. 

And we know how quickly deals come and go on this hectic shopping day, so we listed our top picks below. Happy saving!

Best Saks Fifth Avenue Cyber Monday Deals For Women

Briogeo Detox & Repair 2-Piece Hair Care Set, $54 (originally $60)

This two-piece set features hair essentials made to restore and maintain the long-term health of your scalp and hair. A cult favorite for a reason, this Briogeo kit includes a Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo and a Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask. It’s the ideal sampler.

IRO Heldens Plaid Shacket, $495

Shackets are all the rage, and this one is made of a luxurious wool blend. Further details include a relaxed silhouette, long sleeves, drops shoulders, snap button pockets and front chest pockets.

Slip Disco Fever Holiday Love Me I’m Delicate 2-Piece Set, $89

Celebrity hairstylists, beauty experts, dermatologists and more all rely on the secret weapon of a silk pillowcase. Why? Because they minimize hair frizz, are gentle on the skin and provide a cool night’s sleep. Better yet, Slipsilk specifically has been developed and perfected for over ten years to provide the best, softest and most durable silk pillowcase on the market. 

Theory Belted Turtleneck Sweater Dress, $475

This cream-colored sweater dress is made of rib knit and is paired with a boucle skirt. Buyers can also look forward to a cozy turtleneck perfect for cool weather, short sleeves, a side zipper closure, a belt loop and an included belt. 

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Noël Scented Candle Trio, $115

Maison Francis Kurkdjian brings three limited-edition fragrance candles made in France. Scents include Mon Beau Sapin, Pain d’épices and Pomme d’amour. So sit back, relax and enjoy the peace of a candle-lit room. 

Elie Tahari Cashmere Half-Zip Sweater, $445

With a warm cashmere half-zip sweater, you’ll never want to take it off — especially this one, as it features a convertible collar, long sleeves, a ribbed knit finish and an oversized silhouette. 

Faux Fur Pom-Pom Metallic Beanie, $52.50 (originally $75)

Adorned with an adorable pom-pom, this faux fur beanie is exclusively sold at Saks Fifth Avenue. Pair with some knee-high boots for an elevated look or some classic leggings for a warm night out.

Puma Mayze Classic Sneakers, $90

Stylish and comfortable, the Mayze classic sneaker will make you the best dressed in the room. Details include a stacked sole, contrasting rubber tooling, leather lining and a rubber sole. We suggest pairing the sneakers with some denim and a warm puffer jacket. 

Free People Jackie Plaid Mini Dress, $168

How adorable is this flowy dress? I’m in love! It’s cut in a soft, woven fabric and features peasant styling and smocked details. I would sang it quick if I were you, as Free People deals are known to go fast.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Blush, $32

If you’re all about a low-maintenance beauty routine, then this is the product for you.

The Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Blush is made of a lightweight formula that creates a color-from-within look. It also diffuses and blurs the appearance of pores and imperfections. Simply glide on some color and use the dual end of the product to blend it out.

Best Saks Fifth Avenue Cyber Monday Deals For Men

Gucci Guilty Black 2-Piece Eau De Toilette Set, $143

Made in Spain, this deliciously scented cologne duo is a must-have. Pair the two together to bring about a feeling of passion and unpredictability. Wear them separately to create irresistibility. You can’t go wrong with these explosive Gucci scents.

Hom Ramatuelle 2-Piece Long Sleepwear Set, $90

Get cozy with this two-piece pajama set from the Ramatuelle Collection. Features include a button-up top, drawstring pants, 100% cotton material, long sleeves, a camp collar, a chest patch pocket and side pant pockets.

Puma x Rhuigi Track Jacket, $78 (originally $130)

Track jackets are in, and this Puma x Rhuigi style elevates the look to make it effortlessly trendy. With side vents, a high neck, long sleeves and a zip front, you’ll look sophisticated yet be comfortable all day long.

Jack Black The Triple Play 3-Piece Skincare Set, $49

Jack Black’s best-selling men’s products are here, and you can get them all in one single holiday bundle. The set includes a Face Buff, Double-Duty Face Moisturizer and an All-Over Wash.

New Balance Winterized Anorak Jacket, $135

Great for the fall weather and the approaching winter season, this nylon puffer jacket features a mock neck, a quarter-zip closure, side zip pockets and long sleeves. Choose from two various colors to find your perfect match. 

Theory Stanton Crewneck Sweater, $281.25 (originally $375)

Made from an alpaca blend, this oat crewneck is sure to keep you warm. Pair it with straight jeans and a classic dress shoe for a luxurious feel or dress it down with some sneakers

Viktor&Rolf Spicebomb 2-Piece Cologne Set, $120

This addictive men’s cologne brings the allure of power and confidence. The set includes a 3 oz Eau de Toilette spray and a Eae de Toilette travel spray while encompassing notes of bright bergamot and pink pepper.

Stone Island Leather Mid-Top Sneakers, $528

Everyone needs a good pair of white sneakers, and these are it. Made of leather, they are crisp and clean. They also feature a round toe, lace-up vamp, leather textile lining and a rubber sole. And if you’re looking for a bit of extra height, it’s your lucky day, as there is a 1-inch platform.

Theory Burton Crewneck Sweater, $258.75 (originally $345)

Choose from three various colors and easily style this wool and cashmere crewneck. Featuring a striped pattern, ribbed cuffs, long sleeves and a pullover style, it’s a must-have.

Kiehl’s Since 1851 Men’s Grooming On-The-Go 3-Piece Set, $40

The perfect skincare routine for men is found within this Kiehl’s box. Products include a face wash, moisturizer and body scrub soap. Each product includes doses of vitamin C perfect for boosting radiance and smoothing skin texture.

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Inside fashion designer Virgil Abloh’s private life with wife Shannon

Stacy Johnson

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Inside fashion designer Virgil Abloh’s private life with wife Shannon



For many in the fashion world Virgil Abhol, 41, was a maverick, a fashion outsider who shot to fame for his headlining-making catwalks. Dubbed the “Karl Lagerfeld for millennials” he climbed from relative obscurity to the top of his game. He was down with the coolest kids, hanging out with best friend Kanye West, “crashing” fashion weeks, disrupting the industry and founding one of the world’s hippest streetwear brands, Off-White — a label which became as famous for its designer hoodies and t-shirts as its huge social media following. In 2018 he became the first African-American artistic director for French fashion house Louis Vuitton menswear. 

The shock news of the 41-year-old’s death from cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare, aggressive form of cancer, sent reverberations around the fashion world last night. “We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh,” his wife of 12 years, Shannon Abloh, said in a statement on the designer’s Instagram page. “He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments.” He is also survived by his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh and his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh.

Virgil Abloh appears at the end of his Spring/Summer 2019 collection for Off-White during Mens’ Fashion Week in Paris. That same year he was diagnosed with the cancer that killed him at 41.REUTERS

Shannon Abloh (above) met her husband at school and lived in Chicago while he worked in Paris.Christopher Peterson/SplashNews

As news spread around the world, tributes came from far and wide, with A-lister friends including Pharrell Williams, Victoria Beckham and Kanye paying their respects. But if his fashion career was star-packed, his home life was the complete opposite. Born in Rockport near Chicago, Abloh was the son of Ghanaian immigrant parents. His father worked at a paint company and mother, Eunice, as a seamstress. She taught Abloh how to use a sewing machine, and at a young age he began designing T-shirts. 

Designer Virgil Abloh, Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid and Karlie Kloss during the finale of the Off-White show as part of Paris Fashion Week.Getty Images

He met his childhood sweetheart Shannon (née Sundberg) when they were both still at school. Later the pair moved to Wisconsin where Shannon studied management and marketing at Edgewood College and Abhol began a civil engineering degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison before studying for a Master’s of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Abloh and Kanye West (middle, with estranged wife Kim Kardashian) were frequent artistic collaborators.Best Image/BACKGRID

Virgil rarely spoke about his wife in interviews, but there was never a doubt how strong their bond was. According to reports, after a 10-year courtship, Abloh decided to pop the question but realized he would have to be creative in taking her by surprise. He asked if she could drive with him to the airport for a work trip like she normally did and while they were swapping over driver’s seats, he caught her completely off guard and got down on one knee. “I was completely surprised – I couldn’t believe it!” Shannon said at the time.

Shannon Abloh often sat front row at her husband’s shows.Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com

The pair married in 2009 at the Chicago Four Seasons, the same year as Abloh decided architecture wasn’t for him after all and found a job interning at fashion label, Fendi. It was a big family wedding, with Abloh reportedly leaving most of the arrangements to the bride, while still playing a “supportive role.” The bride wore ivory-hued Amsale and violet-blue shoes, the bridegroom, a tux and white tie, and the pair sat at different guest tables for each course to make sure they chatted to all their family and friends. During the ceremony the pair read out emotional special promises to each other. “The funny part is that we wrote them separately — and didn’t share them with each other — but they were very similar!” Shannon told bridal magazine, Inside Weddings, at the time. 

Virgil Abloh and his wife Shannon chat backstage after the Off-White Menswear Fall/Winter 2019-2020 show.Getty Images

Recalling her husband’s wedding speech, she said: “His words were so heartfelt and sincere. He had everyone laughing, crying, and then smiling… it’s the one moment I was dying to see on our wedding video.” Virgil humbly added that one of the best parts of the wedding was the people who helped make it happen: “The stress and strain never outweighed their good-natured hearts. More than anything, this was what created the most special evening of our lives, and we are so thankful.”

Flowers are seen outside the Off-White flagship store in London.Getty Images

Throughout Virgil’s meteoric rise, Shannon, 41, largely kept out of the limelight. She was, however, a staunch supporter of her husband’s career, attending shows and red carpet events, later with their two young children, son, Grey and daughter, Lowe in tow. While her career went down a different, more conventional, path — she first worked as a media planner for Yahoo and then later as a program manager for Monster — she continued to be a regular front row fixture at all his shows.

Abloh standing between his sister, Edwina (left), and Shannon at the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2019 show.Getty Images

The family based themselves mainly in Chicago, with Abloh shuttling back and forth, clocking up formidable air miles. If fitting family life in with manning the helm at Vuitton menswear was a balancing act, he never showed it. His private life was by and large a closed book. “I don’t want to be a celebrity designer,” he once said. “I want to keep my personal life out of it.” He was famous for his formidable work ethic — it is said he never sat still, refused to have an office and did all his work on the go by iPhone. But despite this, his million-mile-an-hour lifestyle seemed to take a toll. Under doctor’s orders, the designer announced in 2019 he was taking three months off from traveling and public appearances. “I’m shifting gears,” he said at the time. 

Shannon Abloh poses with her children Grey and Lowe, who are both under five years old, at the Off-White Menswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 show.Corbis/Getty Images

Shannon’s post on her husband’s Instagram page describes him as a “fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend.”

The unwaveringly loyal support of his wife and family was no doubt key to his success. “Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered,” the tribute said. “Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design. He often said, ‘Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,’ believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.” 

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Get 40% off with Cyber Monday deals on North Face jackets and more

Stacy Johnson

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Get 40% off with Cyber Monday deals on North Face jackets and more



NY Post may be compensated and/or receive an affiliate commission if you buy through our links.

Cyber Monday is all about the unbelievably-low deals you can’t find any other time of the year, and the sales are sweet!

Right now, you can land exclusive YETI promotions, can’t-beat home deals, fashion must-haves and so much more.

But there is one sale going on right now you have to see to believe: The North Face Cyber Monday 2021 event.

This Cyber Monday, The North Face is offering 40% off select styles while supplies last. And yes, that includes slashed prices on their famous jackets.

To help you jump on these Cyber Monday deals before it’s too late, we rounded up the best North Face deals we could find below.

Happy shopping!

Looking for an ultra-warm jacket that will keep you cozy all winter long? If you answered yes, then this is the jacket for you. It features a customizable silhouette with a cinch-able drawcord at the waist, 550-fill down, rounded hems and zippered hand pockets.

Who doesn’t love a reversible jacket? So score this two-in-one jacket that features both a cozy and quilted material, a draft flap and zippered pockets. Choose from three great colors.

If you’re all about keeping warm while not feeling like a huge snowman, you’ll love the Women’s Explore Farther Jacket. It is made with a beautiful chevron quilted pattern, features round hems, hand pockets and 150g of synthetic insulation — without compromising your mobility.

Talk about a steal! You can bag this Tower Peak Parka for $120 off the original ticket price while having a thigh-length jacket that features internal cuffs and fur lining.

This Aconcagua Vest pairs perfectly over a long-sleeve shirt and protects against harsh winds. We also guarantee it will provide the perfect warmth-to-weight ratio while flattering your figure.

Men, did you just see the above and wish there was only one for you, too? It’s your lucky day because there is one! Choose from four color options, but act fast, as these are selling out quickly.

If you want to rock the North Face brand but don’t want something so heavy or warm, then this is your best bet. The hoodie is the ideal addition to your athleisure wardrobe and features raglan sleeves with thumb holes.

Guys, we have one for you, too. It’s versatile, made with recycled shell fabric and is great for the city and the trail alike.

Fuzzy, silky and warm is what makes the Osito Jacket what it is. Featuring an oversized collar, stretch cuffs and lightweight warmth, it’s what everyone dreams of in a zip-up. Choose from six various colors.

With a beautiful structure and detailing, the Gordon Lyons Full Zip is a heavyweight jacket that features knit fleece and insulates to the max. Plus, you can easily dress it up or down with the right shoes.

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