DIOR CRuISE 2020, PRESeNTED AT ThE EL BaDI PALAcE IN MARrAKEsH, MArKS ITS VaLUE NoT ONLY In THE REfINED AEStHETIC OUTcOME BUT ALsO IN ThE StRONG CULtURAL MESSaGE AnD THE UsE OF AFRiCAN Wax FABrIC
Curated by: Annarosa Laureti and Fiammetta Cesana
Today’s Western society, consistently evolving amongst many discoveries and innovations in scientific, medical and technological fields, seems to be quietly going back in time as regards those humanitarian and political ones. New nationalist movements, born from the ruins of the darkest years in the human history, fuel fears and insecurities that each of us – willing or unwilling – harbors in himself. Admittedly, the different, the stranger, the exotic, has always been a source of terror and fear, with the guilt of just being something mysterious and unknown, or at least outlined by those few stereotyped references taken as plain truth.
The fashion world, in contrast, has made the concepts of inclusion, respect for minorities and other people’s traditions, actual mantra of the latest collections. Although the risk of making these delicate issues frivolous is always around the corner and superficial statements can turn to be very harmful, many designers are able to rise awareness and sensitize their audience by provoking, amazing, and sending powerful messages through their creations.
Maria Grazia Chiuri is the perfect example of this behavior. At the head of the Dior Maison since 2016, she created a real platform for all social matters she is more attached to, first and foremost that of women’s rights.
At the El Badi Palace in Marrakesh – not only a city inextricably linked to the history of the Maison Dior as well as to the life of Yves Saint Laurent, first successor of the great master couturier, but also the first ever African Capital of Culture 2020 – Chiuri with her new Cruise collection opens a careful reflection on the theme, most relevant than ever, of the melting-pot between different cultures. The choice of Morocco is therefore not random at all: the country has always been a source of inspiration for artists and intellectuals, being both a crossroads and a land of conjunction between the two shores of the Mediterranean sea.
But what more than anything emphasizes the importance of the exchange between various ethnicities is surely the recovery of the African Wax fabric. This is a particular textile brightly colored and printed by machine using wax resins and dyes. With its unusual features and prints, which, although mostly referring to the African aesthetics, it conceals a much more complex history and cultural contaminations.
The history of Wax fabric
Wax fabric was born in the middle of the colonial era as a modern version of batik – a traditional Indonesian fabric – and it started to be produced in Europe, initially in Helmond, Holland, by the forward-thinking entrepreneur Pieter Fentener van Vlissingen. So it was sold in Africa after the failure in the Asiatic Holland’s colonies: the competitor and handmade Asian ancestor, the batik textile, in fact, was judge most valuable because of that particular wax fabric’s ‘crackle’ effect from dye bleed given by the new mechanical technique and considered a truly glitch.
Looking at the fabric many would associate it to a pure African style, instead, by straddling three continents, the wax is the emblem of that typical fashion ability to unite different cultures as well as an example of how a common assumption may turn out to be wrong.
Dior Cruise 2020 Collection
Guided by the African anthropologist and textile expert Anne Grossfilley in her research on the incredible possibilities of using this luxury melting-pot fabric, Chiuri has therefore started a real collaboration with Uniwax, a leading company in the field still tied to those principles of craftsmanship as well as 100% Made in Africa production.
The final result is a collection made up of unique pieces that describes Dior signature codes in the very particular and specific wax language. The legendary New Look by Christian Dior is renewed with Afro-Caribbean crochet and embroidery techniques, thanks to the possibility offered by the creative director herself and emerging designers – such as The British-Jamaican designer Grace Wales Bonner and the African-American artist Mickalene Thomas – to reinterpret the iconic trio made up of the Bar jacket, a skirt and a hat. Pathé’O, one of African leading designers, has instead created an exclusive shirt for Dior that pays tribute to another incredible example of integration and struggle for minority rights, Nelson Mandela.
Linked to a perception of fashion as a political and social medium, rather than simply an artistic one, Maria Grazia Chiuri has once again described the personal vision of a world in which blend and diversity become real peculiarities and strengths. Although fashion still remains a sparkling world, partly faraway from that of real life, sometimes it’s necessary to abandon those common prejudices that keep us trapped. The only one solution is to re-establish a critical look, that increasingly seems to be lost within contemporary public, in order to better understand social discourses that even fashion is eager to pursue. So the next time you will wear your favorite design dress, don’t take it for granted but ask your self where it comes from, how its texture is born and manufactured, and how many world travels and cultural contaminations made its realization eventually possible…