The world of haute-couture rejoiced this week at the launch of Christian Dior’s ‘Cruise’ 2020 collection in Morocco’s most vibrant and sprawling city, Marrakech. The collection marked a pivotal change for the label, featuring a new multicultural vision led by creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri.
The event, hosted outside the usual fashion week calendar, took place in the Arabic city’s 16th century El Badi Palace. Setting the scene for a night to remember, the stunning outdoor runway was surrounded by lush gardens and pools adorned with hundreds of floating tealights. Celebrities like Lupita Nyong'o and Jessica Alba, along with influencers and worldwide press made the trip to the lavish setting to experience Chiuri’s latest vision.
Why does the collection mark such a radical shift for Dior?
The Cruise 2020 collection is based on a new vision to incorporate the prestige of local African craftsmanship into high fashion design. Models donned flowing maroon gowns and beaded dresses with patterned prints and bandanas as they glided down the catwalk surrounded by guests on Moroccan cushions.
The wax fabrics featured were made in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, as Chiuri was inspired by African textiles after reading a book about the history of wax fabric in the continent. These wax fabrics were the focal point of the collection, celebrating the creative input and local artisan skill of the manufacturers in Abidjan. Accompanied by anthropologist Anne Grosfilley, Dior’s creative director commissioned the complex manufacturing of the cloth while visiting the Ivory Coast, telling press before the show:
“Dior is a global brand. As we move into the future, we need to represent many different points of view, not just mine. You’re really speaking about the human touch here, like in couture.”
Is the collection cultural appropriation?
Dior’s new global outlook has certainly been met with criticism along the lines of cultural appropriation, especially as the designs were worn by non-African models. On Instagram, the luxury label shared videos of local artisans making the fabrics, but some questioned the notion of a French label profiting from the craft of another, previously colonial, culture.
However valid the criticism, we approve of any brand promoting transparency in the sourcing and manufacturing of their materials. Moreover, Anne Grosfilley maintains, “This collection is not about an idea of an ‘African look’. It’s a celebration of African savoir-faire, and it will be a part of a real African economy.”
Maria Grazia Chiuri hopes the collection will both strengthen and endorse the tradition of wax fabric in West Africa as it is being threatened by a digitised modern version.
Words: Maeve Campbell