During this Cruise 2024 Fashion Show season, one of the big announcements was that Dior’s Creative Director, Maria Grazia would present Dior’s Cruise 2024 collection in Mexico City.
For further context, Cruise collections have gained major relevance in the post-pandemic world because fashion houses use different international destinations as their venue to present their work and as a source of inspiration for telling a story through clothing.
Now, the House of Dior has delivered some very memorable moments in these fashion shows. The House of Dior goes beyond choosing a visually interesting venue and putting together a fashion show. Last year, Dior’s Cruise fashion show took place at the Plaza de España in Seville, paying tribute to flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya. The show featured live music and presented 110 fashion looks that were a true collaboration between the French fashion house and Andalusian craftsmanship. Hats, handbags, and footwear were very carefully selected and styled with fashion that celebrated Dior’s exquisite tailoring while also paying tribute to “La Capitana,” the nickname flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya received, as a woman who represented the essence of flamenco with revolutionary movements and embracing her powerful femininity. The collection had 110 fashion looks inspired by Andalusian craftsmanship, history, and art while keeping the exquisite tailoring and elegance that Dior is recognizable for.
Dior & Mexico
This is not the first interaction between the French fashion house and Mexico. In 1947, Christian Dior himself created a look named Mexico for his very first collection. In the 1950s, Dior partnered with Mexico’s department store El Palacio de Hierro, to sell his luxury goods. Among Mexico’s elite, Maria Felix was a distinguished customer.
In recent years, fashion designer Maria Grazia has visited Mexico multiple times and expressed admiration for the history and the richness of the culture.
In 2018, Maria Grazia paid tribute to escaramuzas through the lenses of Dior’s sophistication. Escaramuzas are women who ride side-saddle wearing traditional attire that includes dresses, sombreros, and different matching accessories, including footwear and jewelry. It was also in 2018 when an Italian fashion house visited Mexico City to present a fashion show, which made Dior a little hesitant to present a collection in Mexico just yet.
A couple of years passed, and Maria Grazia revisited the idea of telling a full story about Mexico through a fashion collection. Watching Frida Kahlo’s paintings in London and then in Paris, she used the artists’ paintings as one of many sources of inspiration for this collection.
The Creative Director of Dior brings a unique point of view to the fashion house that maintains its legacy while keeping it current.
Grazia’s maternal grandfather died during World War II, so her grandmother had to raise five kids on her own. Grazia has five sisters, and while her dad was in the military, her mom was a dressmaker.
Very often, Grazia finds inspiration in her mother and grandmother, their courage, and their journey embracing their feminine power to move on.
As an artist, Grazia does her best to represent clothes that illustrate feminism. In 2020, she presented her collection with quotes such as: “The patriarchy kills love” and “We all are clitoridian women.”
Some of the international guests included actress Naomi Watts, Alicia Keys, and Rachel Zegler.
There were also several Mexican celebrities with international recognition, such as Karla Souza, Yalitza Aparicio, and Mabel Cadena, whose performance on Wakanda Forever blew critics away.
The show in Mexico City
A fashion show in 2023 considers not just the clothes but every detail around the presentation. There is a venue, lighting, music, guests, sequence, visuals, social media presence, invites, graphics, cameras, press, and many people coordinating every aspect of these fascinating events.
The venue that the House of Dior chose to present its Dior Cruise 2024 collection was the Colegio San Ildefonso. The school where Frida Kahlo went to school and met her partner Diego Rivera. Colegio San Ildefonso also carries a lot of history with its murals by remarkable artists from the 20th century, such as Jose Clemente Orozco and Louis Henri Jean Charlot. The venue represents some of the sources of inspiration for Maria Grazia, while it’s also a visually rich place to present the fashion collection in front of the international press.
There was a fascinating reference to Frida Kahlo’s paintings in a way that wasn’t literal or very obvious. Instead, there was an elegant reference to the masculinity in Kahlo’s work and personal life.
For Maria Grazia, these collections represent a textile research project where she dives into a wide spectrum of treatments, history, and respect to the history of clothing in a certain country, and culture.
There were also butterfly elements symbolizing metamorphosis and an important reference to Frida Kahlo’s work.
Pepenado is a technique that Mexico developed a few years after the Spanish conquest. For centuries, several communities have used pepenado to embellish, add colors, and symbols to the clothes. For Dior Cruise 2024, the fashion house developed a Dior bar jacket with pepenado panels.
Sna Jolobil artisans were in charge of developing a tunic and tote woven on a backstrap loom.
A local silversmith, Plata Villa, developed the jewelry for the fashion show.
The globalization of fashion companies has made it easier for fashion designers to travel around the world and find inspiration on the richness of cultures, colors, traditions and textures found in different parts of the world. However, for many years, fashion companies didn’t find inspiration per se in these cultures. Instead, they took ideas from indigenous communities and presented them as their own. More often than not, these communities don’t have access to lawyers or defenders who can protect their work and their designs.
But as the power of social media users has increased, and the awareness of protecting these communities is now a serious concern, fashion designers tend to be more careful with falling into cultural appropriation.
So at first glance, some users see cultural references on a runway, and the first impression might be that the fashion designers are stealing the ideas of this culture. And although fashion as art and politics have multiple interpretations, and we can agree to disagree on how we perceive this work, it’s important to consider the work that went behind preparing Dior’s Cruise 2024 fashion show in Mexico City.
Maria Grazia worked very closely with the Cultural Secretary in Mexico to regulate the whole collaboration over the development of this collection, ensuring ethical payments and making sure collaboration was effective among both parties.
The goal of creative collaborations is to blend two different voices and stories into something that is new and represents both worlds. The challenging component when collaborating with craftsmen, and indigenous communities, is that it can be hard to find a logo, a representative, or a person whose credit will be attributed to, as it happens with collaborations like Versace X Dua Lipa, Adidas X Gucci, or Louis Vuitton X Supreme.
Cultural appropriation is a very sensitive subject in today’s fashion. It can be very easy for established designers to get “inspired” by the craftsmanship of indigenous communities and plagiarize their work with the label of a fashion house on a runway with the international press.
So when Dior announced their Cruise 24 collection would be inspired in Mexico, there were several eyes looking at the moves of the fashion house. The fine line between inspiration and plagiarism is, for many, subject to interpretation.
The Political Closure
When fashion interacts with culture, it is almost inevitable to start talking about its politics. Through fashion, we get a glance at the culture’s gender roles, beliefs, and economics. These topics can be very sensitive, and they can cause different reactions depending on our background and our own beliefs.
For Dior’s finale, Maria Grazia collaborated with feminist Mexican artist Elina Chauvet, who is famously known for her work and installations with red shoes, which address violence and hate crimes against women.
Elina Chauvet’s creative vision was portrayed with 20 white dresses embroidered with red yarn. The embroideries carried a deep symbolism addressing femicide. The dresses were presented with the very powerful song “Canción Sin Miedo”, by Vivir Quintana.
Cantamos sin miedo, pedimos justicia
Gritamos por cada desaparecida
Que resuene fuerte, "¡Nos queremos vivas!"
¡Que caiga con fuerza el feminicida!
We sing fearlessly; we demand justice.
We shout for every woman who has disappeared.
Let it sound: “We want us alive!”
Let the femicide fall hard.
The reactions to this part of the show were very mixed. On the one hand, there is an important platform to address a very important issue, which got a lot of headlines and the attention of an audience who may not be consistent news viewers. On the other hand, some people believed it was insensitive to address a very sensitive subject on a fashion runway, especially if it comes from a fashion house foreign to the country and the firsthand experience on this issue.
Dior is staying in Mexico!
Fashion designer Maria Grazia is partnering with the Ministry of Culture in Mexico. Dior’s creative director will be returning to this country in November, as there will be a cultural center in Mexico City with conversations and awareness on craftsmanship.
Throughout the years, Maria Grazia has worked collaboratively with craftsmen and local artisans from Spain, India, Mexico, France, Greece, Italy, and so many more countries.
So this is a very significant moment in fashion history for Mexico. Because mass production and fast fashion being at the top of people’s minds for so long, we are slowly moving back to the celebration and recognition of rich textiles that carry history, celebrate culture, and are quite unique.