In case you missed it, Dior debuted its Cruise 2020 collection on Monday night. The brand flew to Marrakech in a logo-plastered plane, attracting guests including Lupita Nyong'o, Shailene Woodley, and Jessica Alba for a major destination event involving a celebratory dinner, a traditional music performance, the show itself, and a surprise finale appearance by Diana Ross. Needless to say, the world was watching as the major French house brought its wares—and over-the-top production—to the Moroccan city.
This widespread attention naturally meant Dior was going to have to tread carefully as it presented an Africa-inspired collection amidst ongoing debates surrounding how to execute cultural exchange. And while it took a conversation with model Adesuwa Aighewi (who was walking the show) to finalize a strategy for presentation and promotion, the looks that paraded outside El Badi Palace that evening ultimately celebrated the wide range of creativity within the African diaspora. Rather than develop a cross-cultural vision entirely on her own or take ideas from local designers without proper credit, creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri instead used the opportunity to work with several brands, artisans, and designers, bringing their contributions to a majorly visible fashion sphere.
Western audiences will be familiar with a couple of the names, as black female creatives from the UK and America respectively contributed their visions to iconic Dior pieces: 2016 LVMH Prize winner Grace Wales Bonner and painter Mickalene Thomas each reimagined of the classic Bar jacket. A few months earlier, Thomas had also presented her iteration of the Lady Dior bag. But just as integral to the collection were contributions from African brands that the world may not know as well, but should. Ivory Coast atelier Uniwax helped to bring 15 of the French house's classic prints to African cotton and silk jacquards, and Pathé Ouédraogo, the designer also known as Pathé'O who previously dressed Nelson Mandela, worked with the wax-proficient studio to design a print for a single shirt that would make waves. Additionally, Chiuri spent time at Moroccan markets to build a vision out of authentic clothing motifs.
It's impossible to purely represent a culture without coming directly from said culture, so Chiuri's approach shows a way to appreciate Africa (and other cultures in general) in a way that instead prioritizes finding "Common Ground" (the show's title). While the show occurred in Morocco, its content brought the voices of several creatives across the diaspora together with a major French brand in a moment of cultural exchange. To further highlight the lesser-known collaborators behind Cruise 2020, Dior has released rare photos of Chiuri working with Pathé'O and Uniwax as well as chatting with a Moroccan market vendor to select the right fabric. Hopefully, these collaborations and the accompanying recognition will lead to more attention and success for non-Western creatives across the industry at large. Because ultimately, this collection achieved the vision it did because of the diasporic voices who contributed their ideas to this major stage.
See photos of Pathé'O, Uniwax, and Moroccan market vendors collaborating with Chiuri below.