Maria Grazia Chiuri has always had her heart set on establishing creative exchanges with African cultures. With this collection, she sought to dialogue with the real and imagined landscape of Morocco, at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Europe and Africa, as a dream destination for artists, poets, writers and eternal adventurers.
Showing the 2020 Cruise collection in Marrakesh represents a way of being guided by the memory of the House and Christian Dior’s first successor, Yves Saint Laurent, a native of Oran who was fascinated by Morocco. This show also illustrates the concept of a meeting of ideas, a “common ground” like the one feminist philosopher Naomi Zack describes, in which, despite all differences, exchanges among women can materialize through reflection and action.
This 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. The incredible story of this fabric unfolds like a family tree, a journey that winds its way from Europe and Asia, extending into Africa. Wax print fabric celebrates and federates diversity; it is the fabric of a cultural melting pot.
Maria Grazia Chiuri collaborated with the Uniwax factory and studio (in Ivory Coast) to reinterpret Dior codes by integrating them into the weave of the fabric for a special edition. Revisited in Wax, new toiles de Jouy come to life, recasting various landscapes or reinventing tarot motifs. The Bar suit, like all the other pieces, exalts the power of fashion as an inclusive, transnational language.
The Dior archives attest to this fascination, in Marc Bohan’s Jungle silhouette or a scarf printed with an African lion that gave life to a savannah bestiary. Landscapes that inspired authors such as Albert Camus, Paul Bowles, Alberto Moravia and Bernardo Bertolucci unfurl across warp prints, jacquards and fils coupés. At the crossroads of culture and emotion, Maria Grazia Chiuri underscores the power of Nature, an evocation punctuated with ecru silk, silk gauze, and shantung that, in shades of sand, indigo or burned red ocher, enhance coats and suits, pleated skirts and trousers.
Through its cultural dialogues, the Cruise collection offers a condensation of diverse realities and temporalities. Fashion itself is a unique fabric inspired by countless places and times that gives rise to a new vision. Through this magical act, Maria Grazia Chiuri projects a collective memory, a common territory that is open to every kind of possibility.
Maria Grazia Chiuri imagined this collection like a map whose topography is filled with sentiments revealed through traditions, places, cultures and savoir-faire, recalling how techniques, gestures and images belong to a collective heritage. This cartography is enriched and animated by various creative collaborations that nourish Maria Grazia Chiuri’s project and enhance Dior’s codes like a multilingual artistic dialogue.
The collaboration with Uniwax was indispensable for bringing to life fabrics infused with the creative imprint of both Dior and Africa. Founded in Abidjan, Uniwax is one of the last remaining factories producing Wax fabrics through mechanized artisanal techniques. Uniwax protects African creativity and cultural heritage. Today, it is one of the rare companies to support and produce African fashions. In keeping with tradition, the edging of fabrics produced for Dior bear the inscription of their origin: Édition Spéciale Christian Dior – Uniwax.
Pathé Ouédraogo – aka Pathé’O – is one of Africa’s leading designers. Through his work, he supports fashion that is entirely Made in Africa. His pride in his roots, combined with Nelson Mandela’s wish to embody a strong and progressive African identity, gave rise to a kinship between his brand and the late president of South Africa. His emblematic shirts in bright colors and bold prints have become symbolic of the African continent and its cultural diversity. For this collection, Maria Grazia Chiuri invited the designer to create a special shirt. Through this exclusive piece, Pathé’O pays tribute to Nelson Mandela.
Maria Grazia Chiuri also wished to collaborate with Grace Wales Bonner and Mickalene Thomas, to reinterpret through their combined creative vision an icon of the New Look, the Bar jacket and a skirt. Stephen Jones, Dior’s milliner, also dreamed up an array of headpieces.
The British-Jamaican designer Grace Wales Bonner was born in London and graduated from Central Saint Martins. In 2016, she won the LVMH Prize. Her work explores questions of personal identity through the construction of tailoring and riffs on masculine and feminine codes. African cultures are often explored in her designs: her graduate collection was entitled Afrique. In 2019, she curated the exhibition Grace Wales Bonner: A Time For New Dreams at the Serpentine Gallery in London, a show that examined ritual, mysticism and magic across the Black Atlantic.
Mickalene Thomas, the African-American artist, pays tribute through her work to pluralistic femininity and diversity, drawing inspiration primarily from her mother, who was a model in the 1970s. Mickalene Thomas refers to the great European masters, such as Ingres and Manet, and creates colorful collages that question social norms and preconceived definitions of female beauty. Mickalene Thomas also collaborated with the House of Dior on the 2018 edition of Dior Lady Art.
Like an ode to travel, the Wax headbands and bandanas designed by Dior’s milliner Stephen Jones in collaboration with the headwear designer Martine Henry topped silhouettes in the 2020 Cruise collection. Their multitude of colors and motifs intermingled with creations by Maria Grazia Chiuri.
The researcher and anthropologist Anne Grosfilley (a specialist in African textiles and fashions) is the world authority on Wax fabrics. In her book African Wax Print Textiles, she refutes simplistic interpretations. Her book presents fabrics like a family tree: her research reveals the multiple origins and constant evolution of Wax, the result of a long history between Europe, Asia and Africa. Above all, Wax fabric represents a cultural melting pot.
Wax is a highly complex print, the result of a painstaking process that combines symbols, technicality and creativity. Around twenty transformative steps are required to achieve the final result. Wax is a true means of communication. The women of Togo were the first to draw on their commercial instincts by choosing to give names to different motifs, creating a language that spread with the distribution of the fabrics and which speaks to different cultures. The complexity of their messages creates a unique mix of ancient symbols and nods to contemporary history: alphabetic characters, stylized florals and animals mix with illustrations of modern-day objects such as cars, fans, light bulbs or phones.
With this collection, Maria Grazia Chiuri wanted to show her commitment to highlighting a textile manufacturer based in Africa, Uniwax, which perpetuates while continually renewing the extraordinary savoir-faire that makes Wax an extremely precious, totally unique and culturally rich fabric.
For the scenography, Maria Grazia Chiuri collaborated with Sumano, an association that aims to revive the traditional women’s crafts of Moroccan tribes, notably painting on pottery, the art of weaving and vegetal dyeing. Its goal is to preserve and promote ancestral practices by creating more visibility around these original pieces. The name Sumano is a tribute to the first names of three women artisans (SUzanne, MAnuela and NOuky), the grandmothers of the association’s founders.
Sumano is a laboratory for creative exchanges where tradition meets contemporary techniques, a source of new savoir-faire. Clay is seen as an expressive and creative medium, opening up infinite possibilities. For the show’s decor, Sumano produced both pottery and fabrics. This collaboration is composed of painted ceramic plates and cushions, as well as a coat that has been woven and painted by hand.