February 16, 2024

Justine Picardie in conversation with James Alexander-Sinclair

© Richard Phibbs

© James Alexander-Sinclair

© Helen Baly

© Marianne Majerus

We were delighted to recently welcome the celebrated author Justine Picardie for a special evening event in support of Horatio’s Garden.

Justine Picardie is the author of six books, including the international bestseller, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life (HarperCollins), now published in a major new edition that coincides with the current exhibition Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto at the V&A. Justine also wrote Miss Dior: A story of Courage and Couture (Faber), exploring the relationship between the visionary fashion designer Christian Dior and his younger sister Catherine, a heroine of the French Resistance. This wartime story has inspired the role of Catherine Dior played by Maisie Williams in Apple TV’s new ten-part series The New Look, released earlier this week on Wednesday 14 February 2024.

Justine is a contributing editor to Harper’s Bazaar, having previously been its editor-in-chief. She was formerly an investigative journalist for the Sunday Times, editor of the Observer Magazine, and features director of Vogue.

Justine was in conversation with James Alexander-Sinclair, one of the UK’s foremost garden designers who brought Horatio’s Garden Scotland to life. He is also an award-winning writer, broadcaster, Vice President of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and RHS judge. Together, they discussed the ways in which Coco Chanel and Christian Dior were shaped by the landscapes of their childhoods and youth, and the gardens they created as designers, whilst they also explored the phenomenal story of Catherine Dior and how she found solace in growing roses after her traumatic experiences during the Second World War.

Justine enthralled her audience not only with tales from the extraordinary lives of Coco Chanel and Catherine Dior, but also with moving moments remembered from her own life. Despite being separated by generations, the three share an affinity with gardens and gardening, all finding hope in turn in the promise of the soil.

Demonstrating the outstanding depth of Justine’s research, the ruminative discussion revealed the immense adversity both Catherine Dior and Coco Chanel overcame to become the women we know them to be today. Despite the darkness that occupied much of their lives, both drew strength from the plants and flowers they most admired. Roses and lavender feature prominently in the lives, collections, and gardens of both Catherine Dior and her elder brother Christian Dior, whilst the famously scentless camellia further inspired Coco Chanel.

As Justine and James’ conversation concluded, the two artfully entwined their own love of gardening with their admiration for all that Horatio’s Garden does to nurture the wellbeing of people after spinal injury in beautiful, vibrant sanctuaries within the heart of NHS spinal injury centres. Evoking a response from their enraptured audience, many guests were evidently touched by the story of the charity and the work that it does to support people rebuilding their lives in the wake of a devastating, life-changing injury.

Posting to Instagram following the event, Justine shared: “Greetings from the train, where I’m on my way home to Norfolk after doing a talk with James Alexander-Sinclair in aid of the inspiring charity Horatio’s Garden – which creates beautifully planted gardens within hospitals, designed to provide healing outdoor spaces especially for patients with spinal injuries. These pictures show the award-winning Horatio’s Garden at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show – which I was fortunate to visit on a sunlit day in May.”

At the close of her caption, she writes: “Whenever I am gardening at home, I am always comforted by the knowledge that I am planting, hopefully, for the future, as well as in tender memory of the past: lavender and sweetpeas for my beloved sister Ruth, who still delighted in their scent until the day of her death, too young, of cancer. And roses, too, in tribute to the courageous Catherine Dior, who endured the darkest of times, sustained by her yearning to see the sun rise again over her garden…”

We are so grateful to Justine for generously sharing the remarkable stories of Catherine Dior, Christian Dior, and Coco Chanel in support of Horatio’s Garden. It was a true pleasure to listen to Justine and James in conversation and to be joined by all our wonderful guests.

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