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dior’s appropriation resort collection is a plagiarized mess

May 13, 2019
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It is astounding that every time the conversation around cultural appropriation arises, the accumulated noise (to which I contribute, no doubt) sounds more and more lost. For instance, Dior just launched their Dior Resort 2020 collection, reports  face2faceafrica, boasting designs featuring wax print synonymous with Chitenge/Kitenge worn by women on the African continent. You can now rock “Dior” if you visit any market on the African continent and throughout the Diaspora. Call your mothers and grandmothers African folks and tell them their cupboards just reached high fashion.


Dior Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri says that wax print was the inspiration (not the place it comes from just the fabric type) and speaks about how the print — present in many East, West and Central African countries — is a sort of common ground that unites those countries and that common ground can be found in the fusion of cultures through this line. Huh. The only problem with that logic is that the only common ground France (The West) has with Africa is appropriation… and extortion, enslavement, etc. Dior hired Anne Grosfilley, a white anthropologist and renowned specialist in Wax, to explain the origins of a fabric that has journeyed from Asia to Africa.

Colorful African garments called kanga and kitenge traditionally worn by women in East Africa, sold on a local market in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania.

According to an article released by Dior, “the collection is a world map connecting images and ambiances that, on this side of the Mediterranean, have shaped our visual culture. Its original inspiration – and veritable emblem – is Wax print fabric. The anthropologist Anne Grosfilley explores its complex origins and evolution. It is also a celebration of the luxury and value of the African wax print.” So much irony in such a short paragraph. Dior sits at the pinnacle of fashion while poaching fashion trends from African designers that do not have a fraction of the French fashion house’s resources. How convenient of them to separate the art from the art-maker.

One can argue that this is exposure for these industries because it is, but, much like any payment made in exposure, it doesn’t show up in the bank. When do African designers get to charge $3,000 for a dress identical to the ones wafting down the Dior runway? That’s the other part of this mess: Dior is not doing anything new stylistically that it can confidently argue that these designs are “fusion” instead of bold-faced appropriation. Why does it have to take a French fashion house celebrating what Black people have already done for it to even be considered as luxury?

In response to the controversy, Dior released a video where they enlisted a Nigerian model Adesuwa to speak to Chiuri and Grosfilley on their trip to Cote d’Ivoire — you know white people get super inspired by their holidays to foreign places. The video didn’t have any footage of them speaking to or engaging with artisans that make the print or their connection to and history with the art form because they’re only good for inspiration, I guess. Africa will always be “undiscovered territory” because countries like France will never truly value its autonomy or input.

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