Romanian dressmakers revel in Dior folk coat vogue

A woman working at the local museum shows a 100 years-old traditional outfit from the Bihor north-western region of Romania in Beius, Romania July 17, 2018. — AFP pic
A woman working at the local museum shows a 100 years-old traditional outfit from the Bihor north-western region of Romania in Beius, Romania July 17, 2018. — AFP pic

BEIUS, Aug 12 — They may feel aggrieved at not obtaining an official seal of approval, but traditional Romanian dressmakers are riding a wave of demand for their folk designs after a top fashion house inadvertently showcased their craft.

Clothes makers from the northwestern Bihor region were more than a little bemused when they got wind of a 2017 Dior collection.

Their jaws notably dropped when they saw an embroidered folk coat which looked strikingly similar to the “cojocel binsenesc” waistcoat their region has been producing for around a century.

A Romanian version of the garment, historically worn on important occasions, sells at home and abroad for around €500 (RM2,331) — almost a month’s salary in one of the European Union’s poorest countries.

The Dior coat did not go unnoticed among the wider population either, after a resident of the regional city of Beius spotted it in a Singapore shop and posted it on Facebook, sparking a strong response from users which was picked up by the media.

“That day, I posted my first comment on Facebook, thanking the Dior fashion house for appreciating this beautiful item,” Dorina Hanza, a 52-year-old embroiderer who cottoned on to the similarity, told AFP. 

La Blouse Roumaine, which promotes the Romanian blouse to encourage women to wear it, juxtaposed the different versions side by side on Twitter, adding #givecredit.


Please repost. This is #BihornotDior . A Romanian traditional sheepskin vest from Bihor copied in Dior's Pre Fall 2017 collection. No credit given, no mention about its origin as a cultural heritage of Romania, of Europe, of Humanity. . #MariaGraziaChiuri, please read article 7 and 8 from #UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and #givecredit to the beautiful people of #Bihor. . . CULTURAL DIVERSITY AND CREATIVITY Article 7 – Cultural heritage as the wellspring of creativity Creation draws on the roots of cultural tradition, but flourishes in contact with other cultures. For this reason, heritage in all its forms must be preserved, enhanced and handed on to future generations as a record of human experience and aspirations, so as to foster creativity in all its diversity and to inspire genuine dialogue among cultures. Article 8 – Cultural goods and services: commodities of a unique kind In the face of present-day economic and technological change, opening up vast prospects for creation and innovation, particular attention must be paid to the diversity of the supply of creative work, to due recognition of the rights of authors and artists and to the specificity of cultural goods and services which, as vectors of identity, values and meaning, must not be treated as mere commodities or consumer goods. . . . #bihornotdior #diorcouture #diorprefall #culture #heritage #romania #france #italy #copycat #humanrights #culturalrights #localcommunity #fashionfair #fashionrevolution #ethicaldesign . @unesco @bof @fashionlaw @dior

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Yet Dior, which did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment, may well have done the Bihor designers a favour.

Demand has soared since the social media posts pointing out the similarities between both versions of the heavily embroidered, multicolour, sheepskin sleeveless jacket with black fur edging.

“Since then, everybody wants one” from the traditional source, enthused Ana Florea, who runs a designers’ group in Beius, near the Hungarian border.

“This waistcoat is 100 per cent ours,” she insisted.

Hanza, while happy to see the Romanian version in the limelight, said she just wished Dior could have given a nod to their apparent inspiration.

“They could have said, ‘we borrowed this from the Romanian people’,” said Hanza, adding “the tradition might have been lost” had the current controversy not emerged.


Support this woman, Maria! Mirela Banda is one of the last Romanian artisans making that traditional vest from Dior's pre-fall 2017 collection. Your design is in fact her culture. . . Three of the fabulous outfits in this collection originate directly from Romanian culture and spirituality: a vest (cojoc binşenesc) from Bihor (in Northwestern Romania), another type of vest (bundiță) from Bucovina (in Northeastern Romania), as well as a coat from Bihor. We ask you to please correct this omission, and to #GIVECREDIT to the Romanian artisans who have, from generation to generation, created and passed on these authentic collective works of art. Through these creations they have communicated their identity, their story, and their vision of the world, for centuries.. . #BihornotDior #MariaGraziaChiuri #Romanianartisans #diorprefall #diorcouture #Dior #christiandior #respectculture #supportwomen #Romania #Bihor #Bucovina @dior #culture #humanrights #culture #unesco #traditionalknowledge #fashionrevolution

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‘Thanks Dior’

Diana Naprodean, 44, also sees an upside to the Dior garment.

“That proves it’s really pretty,” said the librarian, a hobbyist crocheter and embroiderer who has just produced her own first attempt at the traditional waistcoat.

“Thanks Dior. Thanks to you we have begun to love our traditional costume again,” said Diana Herdelo, 33, another from the Beius group who is weaving one of her own.

The waistcoat is made from local Bihor sheepskin after a tanning process of around three weeks. It is then tailored and decorated with local style embroidery and worn by both men and women, although the length and motifs differ.

With traditional regional costumes being worn by fewer and fewer people, demand for the clothes had almost died out until the controversy over the Dior jacket reignited interest.

One important detail on the Dior version did not escape the notice of Bihor residents though — the jacket worn by the fashion model was adorned with motifs — a phallic symbol — strictly worn only by men.

“Tradition doesn’t allow a woman to wear a man’s cojocel or the other way around,” Hanza said.

With interest piqued, Romania’s Beau Monde magazine and the McCann advertising agency have launched an ad campaign entitled Bihor Couture, along with a website where fans can order a jacket and other traditional items.

The site has already taken around 1,000 orders.

“Our goal is to help people in this region and showcase their work and their traditions which were in danger of dying out,” says Beau Monde’s former editor-in-chief Roxana Dobrita.

‘Culture is a living thing’

McCann’s creative director for Romania Catalin Dobre said he believes that “the fashion industry should do more to support traditions.

“Across the globe, the leading brands take their inspiration from different cultures without recognising it,” he told AFP in an email.

Horatiu Ilea, curator of the Romanian Peasant Museum, said he believes any accusations against Dior in this case are unjustified.

“Culture is a living thing. Ideas get bounced around, you can’t stop that,” he told AFP, adding that “cultural appropriation” has been going on since ancient times.

Rather than demand some form of redress, Ilea urged Romania “to benefit from this incident, by, for example, launching a campaign promoting traditional and artisanal work.” — AFP

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