There are a lot of ways to create a fashion spectacle in the age of Instagram: Pick a visually exciting location. Hire a major musical talent. Bring in some high-wattage celebrities. Collaborate with other creative people. Reference glamorous moments in the past. Last night in Morocco, Dior did every single one.
The Paris-based brand brought its cruise collection to Marrakech for a two-day event that culminated in a show staged in the ruins of a 16th-century palace. (More than one showgoer compared it to a Game of Thrones set.) Floating candles and bonfires lit the way for models in 113 looks, with local musicians providing a soundtrack for an audience of clients, editors, influencers, and celebrities like Lupita N’yongo and Shailene Woodley.
Why Marrakech? Well, there’s the Yves Saint Laurent connection. Saint Laurent, the brand’s second designer (he succeeded Monsieur Dior after his death in the late ’50s) famously made his home there. But Dior artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri wasn’t just interested in a nod to the archives. Instead, she used the opportunity of an African show to think about how a major Parisian house might engage with artists and artisans from outside of France.
Knowing that she wanted to work with African wax-print textiles, Grazia Chiuri consulted anthropologist Anne Grosfilley, who led her to the Uniwax textile factory and studio in Ivory Coast. Dior will work with the factory to produce many of the looks as special-edition prints using iconic Dior motifs, such as toiles and tarot cards.
There were other collaborations, too. Pathé’O, one of Africa’s most prominent designers, created a shirt for the show paying tribute to Nelson Mandela. Headpieces were created by Afro-Caribbean designer Martine Henry and Nigerian milliner Daniella Osemadewa, who worked with Dior’s milliner Stephen Jones. And British-Jamaican designer Grace Wales Bonner worked with American artist Mickalene Thomas to reinterpret the house’s classic New Look bar jacket and shirt: Bonner added raffia trim to the jacket and shirt, while Thomas applied beads and patchwork inspired by her paintings and photographs to the jacket.
After the show, a rare Moroccan downpour failed to kill the mood. (Actually, it might have enhanced it.) Guests were served fresh coconut, couscous, and endless Champagne just before the grand finale: Diana Ross. Performing in a mirror-balled gown and a Dior wedges, she sang “Ain’t No Mountain,” “Love Hangover,” “Upside Down,” and “I Will Survive,” among other classics. Vogue U.K. editor-in-chief Edward Enninful and makeup artist Daniel Martin found their way onto the stage, and as the night came to an end, everyone from the editors to the clients sang along.