If fine art can help further elevate the allure of luxury fashion, then Dior seems to be taking that concept to new heights. Recently, the French fashion house debuted not one but a slew of fresh versions of its famed Lady Dior handbag, designed by 10 cutting-edge contemporary artists. (Now available in select Dior boutiques, the purses will receive a wider rollout on December 15 and will be available online in January.) The results of this effort are as rich as they are varied: Bharti Kher’s vision blazes clearly on two purses that appear to have been branded by embroidered fireworks. Gisela Colón’s iridescent interpretation shines as brightly as that of Olga Titus, whose bedazzled bags are a tour de force when it comes to embellishment.
The biggest name of the lot is arguably Judy Chicago, the pioneering feminist artist who has in recent years collaborated with Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri to great effect. “After almost 60 years of making art, I am motivated by the same things that have always driven me: my burning desire to [create] and to make a contribution to art history, and also, my belief that art can educate, inspire, and empower viewers,” Chicago tells AD in an interview conducted via email. “I have brought these same goals to my collaborations with Maria Grazia Chiuri and Dior, and I hope that we have demonstrated that art can have a place beyond decoration in the fashion world.”
Indeed, it appears that Chicago—and her counterparts—have certainly succeeded in that regard. Not only are her three designs a master class in strong historic female leaders (Queen Victoria and Christina, Queen of Sweden, are depicted), but Chicago is also deeply pleased with how such efforts have allowed her to reach a greater segment of the general public. Indeed, she firmly believes in fashion’s power as a positive form of female expression. Clearly, that’s a message Chicago takes to heart: At one point, she notes that she can “hardly wait” to wear her Dior gold tuxedo to the opening of her first retrospective, which is slated to debut at the de Young Museum in San Francisco during the second half of 2021.
When asked whether she has any one memory that stands out from her recent years working with Dior, Chicago thinks back to her first visit to their Paris headquarters. “At that time, we met Olivier Bialobos, the head of global communications for Dior,” she says. “There were a lot of people at that meeting and I was trying to understand what everyone did. When I asked him, he replied: ‘I make dreams come true.’ Before too long, I came to realize that his support was vital in the realization of my dream of the ‘female divine’ installation, which involved a goddess figure for the [spring-summer 2020] show…In fact, this figure—which I had imagined as 60 feet long—became 225 feet. Of course, this meant when Olivier asked me to design a Lady Dior bag, I couldn’t say no, even when one bag morphed into three.”
All this isn’t to say that Chicago is the only artist whose Dior purse merits extra attention. When asked how he would react to seeing someone on the street with one of his monochromatic and deeply architectural Dior bags, artist Joël Andrianomearisoa says, “I would be so proud and happy.” Reflecting further, he adds of the larger of his two designs: “I think it’s interesting because it’s like a sculpture. It could go on a table, a pedestal, or a window [sill]…. I like the ambiguity of the object. It could be part of [a room’s] decoration.”
But clearly, for Andrianomearisoa, it’s the interior of his designs that resonate most strongly. “The embroidery inside [reads] ‘Take me to the end of all loves,’” he explains, alluding to the fact that, of course, the bags themselves can be taken anywhere by their owners. He concludes by saying, “I hope people living with the bags can share this emotion with someone else.”