Dior sparks appropriation backlash in China for skirt that resembles ancient wraparound garment

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  • Fashion label Dior was accused by Chinese state media of cultural appropriation for allegedly basing the design of its recently launched skirt on the Chinese horse-face skirt, a wraparound garment originating from the 10th century Song dynasty.
  • Called the “ma mian qun,” the skirt features pleated fabric on both sides and became popularly worn by women during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
  • “The so-called Dior silhouette is very similar to the Chinese horse-face skirt. When many details are the same, why is it shamelessly called a ‘new design’ and ‘hallmark Dior silhouette’?” an opinion piece from state-run outlet People’s Daily read.
  • A description on Dior’s Hong Kong site described the clothing item as a “flared skirt” with “pleated style” as “a hallmark Dior silhouette, the mid-length skirt is updated with a new elegant and modern variation.”
  • Currently priced at HK$30,000 (approximately $3,820) at the brand’s physical stores in Hong Kong, the Dior skirt has since been marked as “sold out” on the Hong Kong site and taken off the mainland China site.

A Chinese state-run media platform has accused French luxury label Dior of cultural appropriation for allegedly basing the design of its recently launched skirt on a piece of ancient Chinese clothing. 

According to the People’s Daily, the mid-length skirt Dior branded as its “hallmark silhouette” has a striking similarity to the Chinese horse-face skirt, a wraparound garment originating from the 10th century Song dynasty.

Called the “ma mian qun,” the skirt features pleated fabric on both sides and became popularly worn by women during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

The name was based on the defensive structures around city walls and not from the animal, although the skirt can be worn for actual horse riding. 

“The so-called Dior silhouette is very similar to the Chinese horse-face skirt. When many details are the same, why is it shamelessly called a ‘new design’ and ‘hallmark Dior silhouette’?” an opinion piece from the portal read.

A description on Dior’s Hong Kong site described the clothing item as a “flared skirt” with “pleated style” as “a hallmark Dior silhouette, the mid-length skirt … updated with a new elegant and modern variation.”

However, Dior’s explanation that the design was inspired by school uniforms was not enough to appease Chinese critics.

On Weibo, a post promoting the piece was captioned with the hashtag “cultural appropriation,” 

highlighting Dior’s lack of acknowledgment of the cultural elements within the design.

The backlash was huge among hanfu enthusiasts, a subculture group in China who wear garments inspired by the traditional clothing worn during the Han dynasty. 

“Dior should respond to the concerns of [Chinese] netizens as soon as possible,” the article noted. “This would show that an internationally renowned company [such as Dior] is responsible for its own corporate culture and pays tribute to world history and cultural heritage.” 

Experts have also spoken up against the design, with one history blogger writing on Weibo: “I hope copyright lawyers and experts from cultural preservation units will jointly evaluate this matter and pay attention to its foulness. This is not just plagiarism.”

The Dior skirt, which was shown on the runway in Seoul back in April, is currently priced at HK$30,000 (approximately $3,820) at the brand’s physical stores in Hong Kong. The item has since been marked as “sold out” on the Hong Kong site and taken off the mainland China site. 

The horse-face skirt had earlier been featured by fashion house Chanel, which included the design in its 2010 Paris-Shanghai collection and cited its Chinese inspiration.

Dior also stirred controversy in China in November 2021 when the label displayed a photo by renowned Chinese photographer Chen Man showing a model with small eyes and dark skin dressed in traditional Chinese clothing while holding a Dior bag. 

 

Featured Image via Dior (left), Baidu (right)

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