WWD had a very in-depth article about Maria Grazia Chiurri’s process in developing this collection — scroll past the somewhat hokey lede and obligatory celeb coverage, and you’ll get a lot of details, though I can highlight some of them for you. Mostly, it’s a conversation about cultural appropriation vs. exchange, and actually, I’m going to jump to a British Vogue quote first:
“In this moment, there’s a lot of focus on cultural appropriation, but I think we have to explain how craftsmanship travels around the world; why it’s often so difficult to find the ‘real’ reference,” she said, referring to the pan-African Wax print fabrics that characterised the collection. “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.”
That particular bite is intriguing to me because I see her point very clearly, but also can’t decide if she’s being insensitive in attempting to argue that stuff we think of as African doesn’t really belong to them– like is she taking away from African artisans and culture somehow, even if she’s correct — or if she’s simply giving voice to the often circular origins of ideas, and how they can intertwine, and how that can affect when something is appropriation and when it’s homage and influence. She obviously seemed committed to doing this collection in this place, and if I’m reading between all these lines, it seems like she put a lot of thought into whether she’d get roasted for it (she has not been, that I’ve seen, so that suggests she did it well). Which is ideal. If I had to choose between this approach and the one Victoria’s Secret would take, I mean, Chiurri wins every time. An informed perspective is always the way to go. I say that as someone who is not always tremendously informed and often wishes she were.
Vogue added this quote from a French anthropologist who collaborated on the project:
“It’s different to what has been done before because usually designers like the idea of what ‘looks African’ while they don’t provide work and do something which is really African. Maria Grazia’s point of view was to promote one-hundred percent African-made textile but not to make ‘an African style’. This collection can be worn by anyone because it’s about the connection between all the continents in the world.”
WWD has a lot of details on the artisans she worked with; I’ve condensed a little, but here you go:
“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 WWD in a preview. “I think that if you move to another country to stage a show, you have to reflect about your codes, but also have a conversation with the whole continent,” she added.
In an unprecedented move for the house, she tapped a host of creatives to contribute looks to the show, among them London-based designer Grace Wales Bonner; American artist Mickalene Thomas; Pathé Ouédraogo, the Burkina Faso-born designer better known as Pathé’O, and local artisans. […] The designer made sure local women artisans were involved in almost every aspect of the three-day event. The set featured cushions covered with artisanal fabrics made by Sumano, an organization dedicated to preserving the know-how of female weavers and potters in Morocco. The Sumano artisans also designed the opening look, a cream-colored opera coat with henna-painted geometric motifs at the hem, and made the hand-painted plates that graced the tables at the welcome dinner. Central to the collection were the wax patterns designed by Uniwax, an Ivory Coast-based factory that is one of the last to produce the traditional fabric using artisanal techniques.
U.S. Vogue lauded it as a vision of “global feminism accessed through fashion.” I’d be very curious to hear Fug Nation’s take on the clothes and the process. Some of my favorite conversations we’ve had are about stuff like this; you all bring such intelligence and breadth of perspectives. Believe it or not, I did lightly edit the slideshow above, which would otherwise have topped 110 photos. If you want the FULL shebang, it’s on Vogue.com via that link in this paragraph.
I’ve decided to leave the slides blank because there are so many of them — it’s easier to just flip through without worrying about if I wrote a caption; you can use your arrow keys on your keyboard to do that even faster — but there are some truly stunning items in here, and I assume Jennifer Lawrence will be wearing some of them for the Dark Phoenix stuff.