Dior has a rich history in the art world. In 1928, twenty years prior to Christian Dior’s couturier career, he famously ran an art gallery with his close friend, Jacques Bonjean. The gallery featured many contemporary avant garde artists who are now heralded as the masters of 20th century art. With the help of Andre Breton, the gallery famously put on a surrealist exhibition that showed work by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Juan Miro, and many more (now household) names. Since then, Dior’s fashion house has participated in many collaborations, continuously blurring the line between the disciplines of art and fashion. Dior’s former creative director, Raf Simons, was especially key in maintaing this relationship. Simons’ Dior AW12 show featured Sterling Ruby’s painting printed onto fabric; his AW13 collection famously used Andy Warhol’s early sketches as a print.
In 2011, Dior premiered “Lady Dior As Seen By”, an exhibition featuring re-interpretations of the signature Lady Dior bag by a host of mixed-media artists. Now, Dior Lady Art gives artists total artistic control over the Lady Dior bag. Lady Dior Art doesn’t blur the line between artist and fashion designer; it does away with it completely.
Dior Lady Art 2 features a much broader and more representative cast of artists than the first edition. The 10 chosen artists represent a broad range of cultures, backgrounds, and levels of fame. Here are four of our favourite collaborators, and their intriguing Lady Dior designs.
Hao is best known for his unusual practice of organising scanned objects according to their form and colour. The result is an assemblage of items gratifying in their everyday familiarity, yet foreign in their grouping. Hailing from Beijing, Hao has built his career on these beautiful arrangements, questioning everyday routines and the human desire for collection. There’s a sense of relief to be found looking at Hao’s work; his work exposes the beauty behind even the most compulsive of hoarding behaviours.
Hao’s designs for Dior Lady Art 2 showcase his penchant for organisation and collection. The compilation of mismatched beads and buttons almost appears to be a 3D print. The effect is trashy and tacky in the best possible way.
At only 24 years old and fresh out of Parsons School of Design in New York, Jamilla Okubo is definitely Dior’s wildcard. Okubo is Kenyan-American, and draws inspiration from Kenyan textiles and African-American history, from her own diasporic perspective. Working mostly with textiles, pattern design, painting, and collage, she was a perfect choice for Dior. Okubu’s designs mix the traditional leather quilting techniques of Dior bags and Kenyan bead work (using Parisian crystal beads) to transform the bag into a diasporic item in its own right; an object caught between Paris and Kenya. Okubo reinvention of Dior’s bag brims with colour and culture. We’re calling it now: Okubo is one to watch.
Lee Bul is a mixed media artist born and living in Seoul. Her works explore a range of ideas and philosophies, from examining the patriarchal ideologies that permeate our society, to philosophies about futuristic utopias with a focus on technology. For Bul, our preoccupation with technology has a post-human element, in which we ultimately desire to transcend mortal flesh. Her later works play with the dichotomy between the organic and the mechanical. Bul came to prominence with the “Cyborg” series, a sequence of cyborg sculptures featuring both human and mechanic elements. Although the materials she uses and the concepts underpinning her work vary wildly from piece-to-piece, what unites them is a keen sense of structure, whether that structure is the human body, or a whole city, or both.
For Dior Lady Art, Bul created a bag made up of dozens of differently shaped and angled plexi mirrors, creating the impression that the bag itself has shattered. It took over 60 attempts to perfect the structure, but Bul’s finished bag is a triumph. It redefines the core elements of what the Lady Dior signifies: femininity, softness, plushness and luxury. Here, Bul creates a futuristic, almost mechanical, take on the bag, while somehow still evoking a certain sleekness and luxury.
Namsa Leuba is a Swiss-Guinean artist whose practice questions the representation and imagination of African identities. Leuba uses photography, performance art, fashion, and documentary film footage to explore ideas of culture, diaspora and heritage. Her keen interest in ceremonies and rituals culminate in a theatrical approach, exaggerated through the incorporation of props, overt gestures and bold, vivid backdrops which play into the exploration of fact vs fiction, and the sacred and profane.
Leuba’s main bag created for Dior took over 300 hours to complete, and is the result of the very fine stitching of mink, pearls and fine fabric like a puzzle. Her smaller bag was traditionally weaved, and uses a colour palette that seemingly references abstract expressionism. Her bags are beautiful, gestural and bold.
Too see more of the bags and learn more about the artists, please visit Dior’s website.