Fashion & Cultural Appropriation: Anya Taylor-Joy's 'Dune' Premier Look Sparks Controversy

A vintage Dior moment gone very wrong...

Published On Feb 20, 2024 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024


British-American actress and fashion's darling Anya Taylor-Joy found herself in hot water this week. Appearing at the Dune 2 premier on February 15, the talent powerhouse drew criticism for her Dior ensemble, which many said resembled the traditional Muslim Burka and Hijab. Labelling it ‘Orientalism’, a term coined by academic Edward Said, refers to the racialised portrayal or imitation of elements from the Eastern world by Western artists. This theory highlights the tendency to fetishise Eastern cultures as "exotic" and "mysterious" by those outside these communities. 

With Anya's gown's silhouette and veil being ACTUAL inspirations lying elsewhere, we wonder if she deserves the hate? I mean how can we forget Gucci marketing an accessory initially named an "Indy Turban" and later labeled an "Indy Full Head Wrap." Priced at USD 790, the turban, inspired by Sikh heritage and considered sacred by the Sikh community, was featured in the autumn/winter 2018 show, modeled by non-Sikh Caucasian individuals. Now that's blatant cultural appropriation. But did Anya actually do wrong?

The gown pays homage to an original creation titled Hyménée by Marc Bohan for the spring 1961 couture collection at Dior, featuring a plunging gown underneath and an accompanying sheer hood. The original design inspiration has Roman and Greek roots, but its resurgence on the carpet almost 60 years later, while intended to be a vintage moment, got lost in translation given the current political climate and film's (and source work's) themes of a “white saviour” leading charge. Dune fans, of both books and movies, have long held that stolen Islamic motifs and strong misogynistic undertones of the story is its biggest downfall. Even if the alleged white saviour doesn't get a happy ending (spoiler alert!).

Fashion's murky past with appropriating design elements from other cultures to benefit and profit from is well known. Especially with legacy brands. Take Doir itself; the fashion house Introduced in May as part of Dior's Fall 2022 collection, a mid-length pleated skirt, priced at $3,800, and gained widespread attention when Chinese netzines observed its pattern and folds resembling the Chinese horse-face pleated skirt, known as mamianqun. This traditional Hanfu style was commonly worn by women during the Ming Dynasty. Or that in the latter part of 2016, Marc Jacobs' NYFW presentation showcased white models, like Gigi Hadid wearing dreads. Even fashion's IT girls aren't immune to this. Just look at Kendall Jenners' MANY controversies with appropriating African America or Latin American cultures, and you will know how deep the dirt has settled. 

So how do we chart a path where fashion and the rest of the world can exist in harmony? It's an easy fix: Hire more people of colour! Only one brown person in Anya's team would have been able to flag that her ensemble held string resemblances to the Burka. Which in today's political climate is insensitive when Muslim women are fighting oppression and the elements associated with it. 

Photo: /InstagramAnyatayloejoy