Fashion threads carefully in the age of cultural appropriation. In the case of Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri found herself being creatively pulled towards African cultures. The Dior Cruise 2020 collection was a product of that, and the verdict was clear at the runway show earlier this year: Chiuri checked the boxes of an homage collection done with full respect and adoration for community.
The designs were heavily inspired by Morocco, a dream destination that’s been the muse for artists, poets, and anyone these days with a travel bucket list. Having Dior’s runway show here was a wink in memory of the of the House and Christian Dior’s first successor, Yves Saint Laurent, a native of Oran who was fascinated by Morocco.
Show said, seen and done, there’s more to unveil behind layers of silk and tarot motifs. The original source of the collection traces back to its use of wax print fabric. Chiuri worked with the Uniwax factory and studio in Ivory Coast, one of the last remaining factories producing wax fabrics through mechanised artisanal techniques. The essence of this art protects African creative and cultural heritage.
There’s an incredible back story to wax fabrics. A highly complex print, the fabric is a result of some twenty steps. The women of Togo in West Africa were the pioneers of commercialising the fabric, giving names to different motifs that led to creating a language that spread with the wide distribution of these fabrics. Hence, wax fabric is today a melting pot of the diverse African culture.
Working with Uniwax allowed Chiuri to create a fabric completely unique to the House by integrating Dior codes into the wax. Turning to the archives, we see Chiuri pull from looks like Marc Bohan’s Jungle silhouette, or a printed scarf with an African lion.
Chiuri also turned to the expertise of African fashion designer Pathé Ouédraogo – aka Pathé’O. His work of emblematic shirts in bright colours and bold prints have become so symbolic of African identity, which birthed a kinship between Pathé’O’s brand the late president Nelson Mandela. It’s a lovely tribute that Pathé’O paid tribute to Mandela with an exclusive shirt design for Dior’s Cruise 2020 colection.
Chiuri also collaborated with designer Grace Wales Bonner and artist Mickalene Thomas, talented individuals with the common ground of having their work rooted in African identity and culture.
When it came to bringing the show’s scenography to life, Chiuri worked with Sumano, an association that aims to revive the traditional women’s crafts of Moroccan tribes. Sumano produced decor for the show like pottery and fabrics, seen in painted ceramic plates and cushions, as well as a coat woven and hand-painted.