Chinese student protesters are claiming that the Christian Dior fashion house has ripped off a classic skirt design from China that dates back to the Ming dynasty.

Dozens of Chinese students took the streets of Paris on Saturday, demonstrating in front of the Christian Dior store on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, and threatening to stage similar events in New York and London, according to social media posts and livestream footage of the protest on Weibo and Wechat.

The posts garnered some 500,000 views, but the protest in Paris was shut down by the local police within 10 minutes, according to a Women’s Wear Daily report.

At issue is a $3,800 black pleated skirt from Dior’s fall collection that the fashion house says was inspired by school uniforms, but which Chinese protestors claim rips off a traditional design in China called the Mamian or Horse Face Skirt that was popular during the Ming dynasty, which lasted from 1368 to 1644.

A key difference between Dior’s skirt and the Mamian skirt is that the Chinese version is floor-length while Dior’s is knee-length. Nevertheless, protesters demanded that Dior stop selling the skirt at its Paris store, holding up signs saying “Dior, stop cultural appropriation” and “This is a traditional Chinese dress.”

A side-by-side comparison between the two skirts styles.
Chinese protesters claim there are too many similarities between these two skirts.

“The so-called Dior silhouette is very similar to the Chinese horse-face skirt. When many details are the same, why is it shamelessly called a ‘new design’ and ‘hallmark Dior silhouette’?” according to an editorial in People’s Daily, a Chinese government run publication.

The wraparound skirt has pleated fabric on either side and four slits down the sides, which was used for horseback riding centuries ago.

The Christian Dior Hong Kong web site describes the “flared skirt” with “pleated style” as “a hallmark Dior silhouette, the mid-length skirt … updated with a new elegant and modern variation,” according to the South China Morning Post.

The fashion house did not immediately respond for comment.

Dior crossed Chinese fashionistas last year as well when it was accused to co-opting photos from a renowned, controversial Chinese fashion photographer, Chen Man. At an art exhibit in Shanghai, Dior featured one of the photographer’s works that had been criticized for perpetuating Western stereotypes of Asian faces. 

Earlier this month, Dior sparked a controversy in Rome when it accused rival design house Valentino for blocking foot traffic to the Dior boutique in Rome where Valentino held a fashion show.

Dior demanded about $100,000 for its lost sales but later withdrew the demand.

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