Christian Dior presented their Cruise 2020 collection at the 16th-century El Badi Palace in Marrakech, one of Morocco's most historical landmarks. With a theme titled "Common Ground", the show was a dialogue with the cultures born in and journeyed to the continent, a celebration of African craftsmanship passed down through generations, and a collaboration between the fashion house and local artisan collectives.
"Culture teaches us to live together,
teaches us that we’re not alone in the world,
that other people have different traditions and ways
of living that are just as valid as our own."
- Tahar Ben Jelloun
Quoting from Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, Dior's creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri views the show as a creative cultural exchange through working directly with African designers, artists, and artisans. “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 Women's Wear Daily.
The two-day event enlisted brilliant talents with roots throughout Africa and beyond. African-American artist Mickalene Thomas and British-Jamaican designer Grace Wales Bonner reinterpreted Dior's Bar jacket and New Look skirt with embroidery, raffia and crochet. Burkina Faso's famous stylist Pathé'O, who used to make shirts with traditional fabrics for Nelson Mandela and many other African leaders, paid homage to the late Nobel Peace Price laureate with a shirt bearing his image.
Sumano, an organization dedicated to preserving the crafts of female weavers and potters in Morocco, provided hand-painted tableware and artisanal textiles, including more than 300 handcrafted seat cushions and the opening look of the show - an opera coat with fringe and geometric patterns painted in henna at the hem. "Three cooperatives and more than 60 Berber weavers from the Anti-Atlas region in Morocco worked on the commission for the Dior Cruise 2020," says Sumano in one of their Instagram posts. "These textiles are weavings painted with natural dyestuff like henna and other tinctorial plants. ... Weavers either directly draw patterns on the fabric with henna paste or dye the textiles using minimalist pleats techniques. .. Their motifs have an evidently magical and talismanic meaning."
At the heart of the collection was a series of Dior's iconic motifs reimagined in African Wax, a hand-crafted cotton fabric with intriguing patterns and rich storytelling traditions. Wax batik originated in Indonesia. It was later brought to the Netherlands by Dutch merchants, and finally landed in West Africa in the late 19 century. Today, the manufacturer for Dior Cruise 2020, Ivory Coast-based Uniwax, is one of the last factories that are still producing wax textiles using artisanal techniques. It is also the only company whose wax is 100% made in Africa.
Photos: Christian Dior
“When you speak about craftsmanship, you see craftsmanship traveling around the world. ... If there are no brands that have a huge platform and huge visibility to promote certain products, the risk is that they will be lost, but I think it’s our responsibility. That’s part of what it means to be a couture brand: to maintain this kind of tradition,” Chiuri said.
It is heart-warming to see a historical fashion house pushing the frontier to establish an inclusive and genuine conversation between cultures, during the course of which a wide audience have come to appreciate the beauty and value in the work of artisans, as well as the meaning of preserving and protecting traditional forms of craft making.
If you're fascinated by the handmade textiles from Africa, head over to explore our artisanal textile collections crafted by Moroccan weavers.