Dior Sparks Online Criticism for Traditional Chinese Dressing Design

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SHANGHAI — Dior has drawn controversy on the Chinese internet for a midlength skirt that online spectators claimed resembled a traditional Chinese garment from the Ming dynasty. 

Chinese online users criticized the French luxury house for not acknowledging its possible Chinese origin. The hashtag “Dior plagiarism” made Weibo’s hot search list on Saturday and received 13.7 million clicks on the Chinese social media platform.

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However, when the skirt was previewed by WWD in December and shown on the runway in Seoul in April, the same time it became available in stores, artistic director for women’s Maria Grazia Chiuri’s show notes said the collection aimed to pay tribute to Catherine, Christian Dior’s sister, and was inspired by uniforms, specifically school uniforms. “Maria Grazia Chiuri became interested in school outfits and, above all, in the way students dust off, revamp and update the tropes of these garments, personalizing them with distinctive details, verging on punk overtones, before venturing through urban landscapes in search of spaces of freedom,” the show notes read.

The $3,800 black pleated skirt stirred controversy among China’s Hanfu enthusiasts, a popular subculture group who enjoy traditional Chinese clothing worn by people from the Han dynasty. They alleged the black wool and mohair wraparound skirt closely resembled a Ma Mian Skirt, or Horse Face Skirt, which was popular in the Ming dynasty.

The skirt is marked as “sold out” on the Hong Kong site and cannot be found on Dior’s mainland China website.

Dior did not respond immediately to a request for comment. 

Some Chinese online users thought Dior’s product descriptor was not misleading, saying the A-line skirt does hark back to the brand’s New Look silhouette.

But despite Dior’s explanation that the inspiration was school uniforms — which have included pleated skirts for decades — Chinese netizens contended the one-piece skirt has the same construction as the Ma Mian skirt, which has front-and-back openings and side pleatings, initially designed to make horseback riding easier for women. The only difference is the length. An orthodox Ma Mian skirt is floor-length, while the Dior version sits below the knee. 

State media People’s Daily Online’s Op-ed section responded with a post by requesting Dior to comment on the subject.

“Without revealing trade secrets, Dior should be as frank as possible about the skirt design process,” the post read. “Industry insiders and copyright experts have joined the discussion. This can be a chance to figure out the boundary between plagiarism, design reference, and paying tribute to something.”

This is not the first time Dior has been caught up in controversy in China. In November 2021, Chinese netizens accused the brand of featuring photos from renowned Chinese fashion photographer Chen Man in an art exhibition in Shanghai. The show featured one of Chen’s earlier works shot in 2012. The image captured a young Chinese woman dressed in traditional Chinese garments holding a Lady Dior bag. Chen was accused of perpetuating Western stereotypes of Asian faces, such as the slanted eye.

State-owned media Global Times also criticized Chen for her “Young Pioneer” series shot in the same period for “edging on Child pornography and insulting Young Pioneers,” the youth branch of the Chinese Communist Party.

Chen issued a formal apology a week later, saying her “early artistic views were not yet fully formed,” causing earlier works to “lack thinking.” Dior removed the photograph from the exhibition and said the brand “takes online sentiment very seriously” and “respects the Chinese people.”

 

FOR MORE, SEE:

Putting China’s Traditional Hanfu on the World Stage

Dior Retracts Compensation Demands Made to Valentino, Sources Say

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