Luxury brands are no strangers to controversy. Case in point: just recently, Dolce & Gabbana has been accused of racism after a tone-deaf campaign ad and Stefano Gabbana has been proven a bigot through a series of screencapped private conversations. This time around, Dior is being criticized for cultural appropriation. The French fashion brand took inspiration from a treasured Mexican tradition, released a campaign that featured no Mexican models, and shot the said campaign at a venue that is not even remotely Mexico.
For the sake of providing background, Dior paid homage to escaramuza through a Cruise collection that was inaugurated on May of this year. Escaramuza is an event that is part of Mexico’s national sport, the rodeo-like charrería, that featured women exclusively. Maria Grazia Chiuri, creative designer of the fashion house, was inspired by Mexican equestrians who were unabashed in their femininity while competing, not minding wearing traditional, oft colorful dresses and accessories that others may not find convenient when in such an event. The show, which took place in France’s Chantilly, even showcased highly-skilled Mexican riders trotting in Dior. No problem, right?
Here’s where it went wrong, though: months after the show, Dior released a campaign ad for the collection with an ambassador who has no roots in Mexico. Jennifer Lawrence took the lead in the ad, looking pensive while roaming around on a ranch. Of the collection, Lawrence says, “One of the main inspirations for this collection is the traditional women riders of Mexico. So I’m really excited that this collection is looking at and celebrating these women’s heritage through such a modern lens.” The interview clips also revealed a detail that’s hard to ignore but something that one cannot automatically pick up from watching the video alone: it was shot in California.
Comedian Phoebe Robinson was among those who drew attention to the Dior campaign when she posted the video on her Instagram account. She took issue with the campaign supposedly celebrating the tradition with a modern lens, especially since it was done so with a non-Mexican, white woman when Dior could have gone for an actress with a Mexican background. Does ‘modern’ remove ethnicity from the equation? The video solely featured Lawrence, with no Mexican models around. What’s more, the maison could have also chosen to shoot in the country if they wanted to, instead of doing so in California.
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Lol. Wut?! Sooooooooo, #Dior & #JenniferLawrence wanna celebrate traditional Mexican women riders thru a “modern lens”…by having a rich white woman named Jennifer be the face of this campaign? And like they couldn’t think of a better landscape to shoot than in California?! Hmm, I dunno, maybe…like…shoot…in…Mexico…with…a…Mexican…actress like Salma Hayek, Karla Souza, Jessica Alba, Selena Gomez, Eva Longoria, or many others. But I guess they were all unavailable, so you had to go with Jennifer Lawrence. ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????. The audacity to call this shit modern because it’s worn by a white woman is ignorant and gross, but unfortunately, not surprising. Please comment below with Mexican designers I should support and give my dolls to, heauxes, because this boo boo ass Ricky’s Halloween store Mexican cosplay is not the jam.
There were many decisions that could be changed to make the campaign more culturally sensitive, so it was not unusual for many to have the same sentiments as Robinson. Netizens thought that the actress who has been working with the maison for six years now may have been an obvious choice for other campaigns, but not for one that heavily borrows from another culture. Lawrence is quite adept in horse riding, having taken it up since she was young, but that is besides the point.
The materials have since been removed on Dior’s accounts, although the label claims that it is not because of the controversy the campaign generated. There have also been reports of the brand feeling that the reaction was unjustified. As a defense, a Dior spokesperson said that they worked with Mexican women photographers in the promotion of its Cruise 2019 collection. The pictures taken by the lenswomen have taken the place of those featuring Lawrence, but are those enough?
Image credits: Devin Doyle for Vogue, Elizabeth Pantaleo for NOWFASHION, Dior