Last week, luxury brand Dior was embroiled in a controversy in China over the design of a skirt, which some accused of being a direct rip off of the design of a traditional Chinese garment from centuries ago.
The item in question is a $3,800 black pleated skirt from Dior’s Fall 2022 collection that the fashion house claims was a “new design” and has a “hallmark Dior silhouette”. However, Chinese netizens alleged that the Dior skirt copies a traditional design in China called the Mamian or ‘Horse Face Skirt’ that was popular during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) – though a big difference is the Dior skirt is knee-length while the Chinese version is floor-length.
The Mamian skirt first originated around the earlier Song Dynasty. The skirt has pleated fabric on either side and four slits down the sides, and was used for horseback riding centuries ago. According to the website NewHanfu, the skirt is named this way because of its resemblance to an ancient fortress, which has stairs on either side (i.e. the pleats), while the slits in the front and back are like doors on the sides of the fortress known as mamian (馬面), through which horses would pass.
Meanwhile, netizens accused Dior of cultural appropriation and demanded that the luxury brand, which is owned by LVMH, stop selling the skirt. Outside of Dior’s store in Paris, protestors were seen holding up signs saying “Dior, stop cultural appropriation” and “This is a traditional Chinese dress”.
The People’s Daily quickly weighed in on the matter. “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’?” the state-run newspaper wrote in an editorial.
Netizens, too, were outraged. “We need to understand our traditional culture so we can protect it. We can’t let other countries rip off our culture. One day our grandchildren wouldn’t be able to recognise our tradition!” one thundered.
“It looks just like a modified version of the Mamian skirt. Plus, Chinese vendors have been selling skirts like this for a long time. There’s nothing original about Dior’s design,” another wrote.
Dior has not responded to the controversy but has blocked comments about it on its recent posts on weibo though the fashion brand has quietly removed the skirt from its Chinese website (it is still available in other parts of the world).
Still, it is not the first time the luxury brand has offended netizens. Last November, Dior caused a cyber-storm when an exhibition in Shanghai featured a photo of an Asian woman wearing a traditional dress and holding the brand’s iconic Lady Dior handbag. The photo featured a young freckled woman with heavy makeup looking at the camera with what netizens called “spooky eyes” and a “sinister smile”.
“Their behaviour has indicated their intention of uglifying Chinese women and distorting Chinese culture,” said the state-run China Women’s News.
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