The ‘Lady Dior’ handbag – a miniature style in Dior’s signature cannage quilting, designed to be held in the hand – remains one of the house’s most memorable accessories, largely due to its patronage by Princess Diana who was first gifted the design in 1995 by then-French First Lady Bernadette Chirac. In various iterations and colours, she wore the Lady Dior numerous times in the years that followed, including to attend the Met Gala in 1996. It has been synonymous with French savoir-faire and elegance ever since – ‘a timeless icon, perpetually reinvented’, as the house describes.
Its latest reinvention lies in the hands of 11 international artists – hailing from Egypt to the United States, Qatar to China – who have each put their distinct stamp on the style as part of the seventh edition of Dior Lady Art. Inaugurated in 2016, the ongoing project has seen numerous art-world luminaries reinterpret the style with vivid prints, textural details, or intricate embroideries, from Marc Quinn and Mickalene Thomas to Judy Chicago and John Giorno. The resulting designs are part collector’s item, part sculptural object, though remain intended for Lady Dior’s original use – to be carried as a handbag.
Dior Lady Art: 11 artists reimagine the Lady Dior handbag
This year’s participants include Ghada Amer (Egypt), Brian Calvin (United States), Sara Cwynar (Canada), Alex Gardner (United States), Shara Hughes (United States), Dorothy Iannone (United States), Minjung Kim (South Korea), Zhenya Machneva (Russia), Bouthayna Al Muftah (Qatar), Françoise Pétrovitch (France) and Wang Yuyang (China). ‘A meeting between Dior and the cultures of the world,’ say Dior of this latest chapter, with each artist given ‘carte blanche’ to transform the original design as they wish. ‘A tribute to singularity and savoir-faire... a celebration of jouy and freedom.’
As such, each of the 11 designs offers a distinct riff on the original Lady Dior bag – from Hughes’ ‘miniature cabinet of curiosities’ (the cannage is adorned with various images gathered from the internet, reimagined in prints and embroidery) to Gardner’s transposition of one of his paintings onto the bag, made three-dimensional with the use of figurative stitching across the quilted exterior. Others utilise the savoir-faire of the Dior atelier to create various effects across the designs – delicate muslin flowers, hand-embroidered chiffon evocative of pages of a manuscript, or patchworks of stones and sequins – which often draw inspiration from the artists’ previous works. Inside the bag, Dior promises ‘poetic surprises’.
The various designs will launch globally this month (January 2023) in selected stores and online, following teasers during the ‘Art ‘N Dior’ exhibition at Shanghai’s West Bund Art & Design in November 2022 and a pre-launch event in Miami during Art Basel Miami Beach. The global launch is accompanied by a special podcast series ‘Dior Talks: Dior Lady Art’ hosted by Paris-based journalist Katya Foreman, in which the artists discuss their wider body of work and ’the game of metamorphosis’ of redesigning the Lady Dior.
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Jack Moss is the Fashion Features Editor at Wallpaper*. Having previously held roles at 10, 10 Men and AnOther magazines, he joined the team in 2022. His work has a particular focus on the moments where fashion and style intersect with other creative disciplines – among them art and design – as well as championing a new generation of international talent and profiling the industry’s leading figures and brands.
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