Dior Cruise 2020 Review: It’s all about the 3 Cs – cultural ‘appreciation’, collaborations and celebration of inclusivity

by Anjori Grover Vasesi

01-May-2019  |  10 mins read

Dior unveiled its latest Cruise 2020 collection at the magnificent El Badi Palace in Marrakech on Monday night, amidst the remains of ancient dynasties posing as the perfect set backdrop.

Pioneering the era of inclusive fashion, the show saw Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri collaborating with a host of guest designers from the African continent to pay homage to the prized craftsmanship the region has to offer.

One would ask, what is so different about this particular collection, given the fact that numerous fashion houses have, in the past, undertaken such efforts wherein they quote reference to specific craft clusters around the world.

To which, we would say… the difference is just that – between ‘referencing’ and ‘celebrating’.

The European fashion house unapologetically boasted the long standing tradition and intricacies involved in the African craft by indulging in a creative exchange with the talent present in the region.

“With this collection, I tried to speak about this world through collaborations because honestly I really believe, especially in craftsmanship, that there is a common ground,” Chiuri told WWD, adding, “I think that if you move to another country to stage a show, you have to reflect about your codes, but also have a conversation with the whole continent.”

The main material used in the collection was wax-printed cotton, designed by the Uniwax factory situated in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan, which is among the last to produce the traditional fabric using artisanal techniques. A subsidiary of Dutch company Vlisco, Uniwax, is the only company producing wax that is 100 per cent made in Africa.

The heavy cotton wax fabric, with its signature irregularities, was used for everything from tailored bar jackets to masculine oversized shirts to floor-grazing pleated skirts.

In order to inject the fashion house’s signature character into the collection, Dior’s iconic decorative Toile de Jouy patterns and tarot motifs were fused with tropical plants and flora and an African jungle safari… majestic lions; giant fluttering butterflies; swaying cranes, splendid orangutans feature among giant banana leaves, palm trees and tropical hardwoods in a palette dominated by earthy tones and indigo shades that evoke nomadic desert tribal influences.

“Inviting people means working together on a project,” Chiuri added. “It means building something together.”  – Maria Grazia Chiuri

 

Chiuri invited a host of creatives born in the African continent to contribute their looks to the show, including London-based designer Grace Wales Bonner; American artist Mickalene Thomas; Burkina Faso-born designer Pathé Ouédraogo, better known as Pathé’O, amongst local artisans.

A variety of techniques ranging from multi-colored patchwork shearling coats, camouflaged fil coupé rain ponchos, henna-painted geometric motifs, wax patterns designs, murrine glass beads interspersed with raffia motifs on sheer embroidered dresses, amongst many others graced the ramp for a culturally rich collection which celebrates globalization and inclusivity in its true form.

Chiuri also collaborated with Sumano – an association dedicated to maintaining the savoir-faire of the Anti-Atlas region’s female weavers and potters – on a coat for the collection: an exclusive piece hand-woven and hand-painted by artisans who pass down this tradition from mother to daughter. Sumano also collaborated for Henna-dyed cushions covered with artisanal fabrics that featured on set.

Setting professional competition aside, Dior additionally highlighted the work of Yves Saint Laurent, who joined Dior in 1955, rose to become Monsieur’s direct assistant, and was then famously named his successor after Dior’s sudden death.

As the head of Christian Dior in 1960, Yves Saint Laurent designed a coat named for the Moroccan glamour spot. Marrakech is simply in the DNA of the house. Saint Laurent went on to design six collections for Dior, ten pieces from which were on display at a welcoming dinner inside the Bahia Palace.

 If there are no brands that have a huge platform and huge visibilityto promote certain products, the risk is that they will be lost, but Ithink it’s our responsibility. That’s part of what it means to be acouture brand: to maintain this kind of tradition”

– Maria Grazia Chiuri

The world around us is changing. Consumers are demanding transparency, inclusivity and due credit where it is deserved. Women championing other women, collaborations that bring different ideologies or even worlds together – there is a need for a radical change to meet these, and Dior’s latest show set a precedent for just that.

“Discussions are critical to understand and move towards a positive future where there are less barriers and encourage an Africa where the artisans are properly treated and valued as they are in the West. Also this has shown us the need for infrastructure in other parts of Africa to allow for a stream of foreign business because then we would be able to control the narrative.”  

– Adesuwa Aighewi

 

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The house made sure that the focus was the preservation and celebration of fashion techniques that are slowly being lost instead of its collection alone; Dior ensured that due recognition is given to local artisanal talent as well as designers collaborating on the project; Dior made sure that a conversation is initiated on the topic of inclusivity and globalization.

And that, is a lesson on how to do fashion right in 2019.

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