Recently, French luxury powerhouse Dior revealed their 2020 cruise collection in a mega-production to a star-studded audience. The 2020 cruise collection, titled Common Ground, despite it’s attempt to come off as cultural appreciation rather than cultural appropriation did not tick all the boxes required and no sooner has it been revealed did it come under fire and criticism by many African designers, editors and industry insiders. All pointing out to Dior and the non-African journalists who were already giving Dior a cookie that this, as the kids say, was not it.
The ongoing well-deserved ire and criticism Dior is facing is one we think many people do not quite understand and to illustrate all the ways Dior failed to accurately hit the nail on the, we are taking it upon ourselves to highlight all the reasons it is getting the reaction it is.
Like BellaNaija Style‘s Editor-At-Large Isoken Ogiemwonyi pointed out, one of the first things wrong about all of this is how upon second glance all one can see is the tokenism of it all especially in how the star-studded audience lacked any notable African talent with the exception of Lupita Nyong’o and how despite all the political correctness Dior seems to simply be a part of a crowd of people scrambling for Africa.
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When @dior decides to "celebrate" African fashion craftsmanship what do they do? . 1. They call a "French" (alas colonial heritage) "expert of African textiles" (because Africans don't know their heritage by the way). . 2. And together they decide to use the "wax print," one of the most visible symbols of Western colonialism in Africa, adopted by Europeans from Asia and imposed on subjugated African regions from the 19th century onwards (which by the way heavily appropriated authentic traditional hand-woven textile patterns and exposed them to extinction). . 3. And they join forces with @uniwaxciv a non-African owned company belonging to VliscoGroup (headquartered in the Netherlands & one of the chief benefactors of Europe's colonial predatory market policies in Africa) with a factory in Ivory Coast which continues to mine this colonial heritage to date. . 4. And then they get their "French expert" to be the spokesperson of millions of African women about their own fashion & cultural heritage (as has been the Western norm for centuries), through interviews with the world's media, even as Dior continues its elementary mistakes including referring to Africa as a country. . 5. And finally they get respected foreign journalists and writers who are not versed in Africa's fashion & textile heritage & historical symbolism to spin stories laced with praises of these mediocre efforts & thrust this well-oiled false narrative at an even less-informed public. . Well, this generation of Africans won't stand by & swallow the continuous distortion & misrepresentation of our heritage anymore. The so-called "African Wax Print" is NOT African nor is it representative of our fashion & textile “craftsmanship” heritage, but part of Europe's colonial left-overs in Africa which our new generation of African designers & creatives are continuously shunning.There are 1.2 billion Africans who are neither in tune with, aware of nor grateful for this "African homage" effort. . We wonder if Dior in their fascination with Africa's "craftsmanship" forgot to actually speak to "Africans" who are the only people that truly know & own their heritage & narrative? . CONTINUED IN COMMENTS #DiorCruise
These however aren’t just the problems with the Dior 2020 cruise as Luxury Connect Africa, an African luxury business resource ad platform which has particularly vocal on this issue, noted the absurdity of using wax print which is one of the most visible symbols of colonialism to represent African fashion. This in particular leaves you wondering – was Dior aware of this history and choose to go on ahead regardless or were they ignorant of this history?
The criticism of this went on to varying media platforms like Pulse NG where their lifestyle editor Ntianu Obiora pointed out how interesting it is that Dior made a collection to ‘appreciate’ the African culture yet commissioned a non-African company – Uniwax– to create fabric for the collection and a non-African woman – Anne Grosfilley – to consult for the show while centering the narrative that they were working with African artisans in an attempt to be politically correct and get a pass. Maybe if they had a consulted an African native they would have understood the absurdity with using wax print to represent African fashion?
However, to write African people out of the very narrative they created is erasure and a form of racism. If Dior wants to reference our culture, they should have consulted us. Instead, they chose to work with people whose very existence is threatens our own fashion and textiles eco-system.
Ntianu Obiora, Lifestyle Editor at Pulse NG said on the Dior’s 2020 Cruise debacle.
Despite the reasons given by Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Churi to Adesuwa Aighewi, it is obvious that this attempt by Dior did not go down well with the Africans meant to be represented and one has to ask – when will international fashion brands get it right?