It’s still 32 degrees at 7.30pm, as the sun sets over Marrakech’s El Badi Palace, the dusty pink walls around its sunken interior gardens turn-ing rose gold before my eyes. At a guess, 30 men are wading through the 90-metre-long rectangular reflecting pool that bisects the main court, lighting seven massive braziers surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of floating candles. Karlie Kloss ambles past wearing a long black dress from Dior’s prefall 2019 collection and swinging a Lady Dior bag, followed by Jessica Alba, in a sheer toile de Jouy-printed tulle jumpsuit and skirt, with her husband, Cash Warren. Across the water, photographers jostle to shoot Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and actor-activist Shailene Woodley, on a break from filming Big Little Lies.
It’s the kind of extravaganza one has come to expect from a resort fashion show (tonight’s post-presentation entertainment turns out to be Diana Ross, natch), but when we take our seats to view the Christian Dior cruise 2020 collection, there’s a hint that we’re about to experience something more: a printout bearing a quote from the book Racism Explained to My Daughter by Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun. “Culture teaches us to live together, teaches us that we’re not alone in the world, that other people have different traditions and ways of living that are just as valid as our own.”
Dior’s ties to Morocco go way back, most notably to when Yves Saint Laurent headed up design and created a cream wool coat for a 1960 collection he called ‘Marrakech’ after the city that remained an obssession of his. As expected, there are several homages to that coat and its exquisite shawl collar this evening. However, this collection is about so much more. It’s about starting a new conversation. But we’ll get to that …
The lights dim and a hypnotic soundtrack kicks in courtesy of traditional Jajouka musicians. Opening the show is a long cream fringed opera coat with henna-painted geometric patterns around the hem. It looks tapestrylike and was, in fact, woven by artisans from Sumano, a collective of Moroccan female weavers and potters. Then come the next eight looks: African wax print fabrics reworked utilising couture techniques and designed to conform to Dior silhouettes and incorporate renowned Dior prints.
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