Life­line for folk coat

Ro­ma­nian dress­mak­ers revel in Dior folk coat vogue

New Straits Times - - LIFE & TIMES -

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 eu­ros (about RM2,400) — 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,” said Do­rina Hanza, a 52-year-old em­broi­derer who cot­toned on to the sim­i­lar­ity. 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.

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.


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.


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 said.

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 said, 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.”

Pic­ture credit: daniel Mi­hailescu/aFP

A wo­man wears a tra­di­tional out­fit from the Bi­hor north­west­ern re­gion of Ro­ma­nia.

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