Dior is facing accusations of cultural appropriation after Chinese social media users — and protesters outside one of the label’s Paris stores — claimed that a $3,800 skirt was inspired by a centuries-old traditional garment.
The controversy began earlier this month, with Chinese netizens and state media outlets accusing the brand of failing to acknowledge the alleged inspiration behind its design. A recent editorial in the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily, said that Dior had “shamelessly” misrepresented the skirt as an original creation, describing social media outrage as “completely understandable.”
A product shot from Dior’s website, where the item is no longer available for sale. Credit: From Dior
Indignation then spilled onto the streets of Paris last Saturday when a small group of demonstrators gathered outside one of the brand’s boutiques on Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Images and videos shared online show protesters holding signs, written in a mixture of French and English, with messages including “Dior, stop cultural appropriation” and “This is a traditional Chinese dress.”
Dior did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
An example of a traditional silk horse face skirt from the late Qing dynasty. Credit: Sepia Times/Universal Images Group Editorial/Getty Images
Horse face skirts date back to the Song dynasty, which began more than 1,000 years ago, though they were popularized among women during the later Ming and Qing dynasties. The design features pleated sides and openings at both the front and back, making the garments well-suited for horse-riding.
The skirts are often worn by members of China’s growing “Hanfu” subculture, along with other outfits resembling the clothing traditionally worn by ethnic-majority Han Chinese before the Qing dynasty.
According to Global Times, which spoke to several of the protesters, future demonstrations are currently being planned by overseas Chinese students in London and New York City.
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Dior withdrew the photo from a Shanghai exhibition and posted a message to social media expressing respect for “the sentiments of the Chinese people.”