Uproar at Dior using wax print

The French fashion house Christian Dior has sparked debate after it released its new range which uses wax print made in Ivory Coast.

For the past week commentators have been debating whether Dior has crossed the line from cultural appreciation into cultural appropriation.

This debate about whether international fashion houses exploit African culture may feel familiar.

The BBC’s Mayeni Jones reported in 2017 that blankets from Lesotho had found themselves at the centre of controversy after Louis Vuitton used the blankets in a menswear range.

An organisation promoting African luxury businesses is clear that on this occasion it sees Dior as crossing the line.

Africa Luxury Connect says thousands of people got in touch after it called out Dior.

In particular it flagged up one comment from indigo dyer Aboubakar Fofana. The Frenchman of Malian heritage said that he can "never agree with the use of wax print to symbolise African-ness". 

And that's where the debate, on this occasion, gets more complicated. 

That's because the wax print company that Dior worked with, Uniwax, is part of the fabric company Vlisco – which is from Holland. Vlisco had been designing and making wax print in Holland and then selling it in West Africa for more than 100 years.

But this is all something that Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri confirmed she was well-aware of in an interview with Vogue

“Wax started in Europe and moved through Asia, then back to Africa. We want to move our heritage in a contemporary way and give it a different attitude, and this material does that.”