Holding the spirit of the House within its leather, the Lady Dior bag is an icon that has served to inspire numerous artists. As part of the summer saga, retrace its history, from its meeting with a princess to its reinterpretations revealed through the exhibition Lady Dior As Seen By as it toured the world.
The Lady Dior, the couture house’s legendary handbag, saw the light of day in 1995. France’s then-First Lady, Bernadette Chirac, presented it to Diana, Princess of Wales who had come to inaugurate the Cézanne exhibition in Paris. From the moment on, she was never without her bag. Having fallen under the accessory’s charm, she went as far as to order every available model. Its name arose instinctively: from the princess known forever in continental Europe by the affectionate form of her maiden title, Lady Di, it became the Lady Dior! Worshipped by the world's media, photographs of Diana appeared constantly in the pages of magazines, with the famous bag on her arm. It didn't take any more than that for its "cannage" topstitching, paired with gold eyelets connecting the body to the rounded handles and charmlike letters – a nod to the couturier's passion for good-luck talismans – to become legendary. For over fifteen years, the Lady Dior has been appearing in leather, straw, exotic skins, and embroidered in sequins, making it unique.
Elegant and modern, this “object” is a source of inspiration for some of the greatest creative names of our era. Photographers, artists, video makers, and renowned directors have all reinvented the history of the marvel that is theLady Dior. If this accessory forms part of the House's cultural heritage, art in all its forms does too. This communion with artists gives life in a very natural manner to reinterpretations of the iconic Lady Dior bag by some of the most talented artists around, from David Lynch to John Cameron Mitchell, via Paolo Roversi, Nan Goldin, Tim Walker and Jean-Baptiste Mondino. As a way of bringing art and fashion ever closer, the house of Dior createdLady Dior As Seen By, a traveling exhibition.
Carte blanche was given to eighty artists to photograph, sculpt, remix or reinterpret the Lady Dior according to their sensibilities. Photography-wise, the bag appears lost in a stunning landscape (Alec Soth), as a couture parody on the arm of Iggy Pop (Mikael Jansson), in a cluster in the mist at the edge of a lake like a flock of wild geese (Rune Guneriussen), paired with a sublime corseted nude in the style of Man Ray (Ruven Afanador), or in the hands of a jolly worker in a salesroom (Martin Parr). The Japanese still life photographer Koichiro Doi reproduced it one hundred and fifteen times, from every angle, ending up with a positive/negative image to evoke the matte and shiny surface of its quilted leather. The artist Aiko Miyanaga was also drawn to its ideal dimensions, casting the bag in naphtalene, before embedding it all in a block of resin which will be the only element of the work to not disintegrate upon contact with the air. Another Japanese artist, Kengo Kito, recreated it in mirrored form. The Swiss Olympia Scarry sculpted it emerging from a block of marble. Examples of other interpretations come from: the Recycle Group collective which broke it up to transform the quilting into a separate entity, from Nicolas Milhé who placed a miniature reproduction of the leather-working atelier inside it, and from Maarten Bass who recreated it in rough metals. With brilliance and magic, this exhibition exposition reveals the diversity of expressive possibility of the house of Dior.
Summer Saga: Dior and Art, Crossed Paths – The Great Icons Reinterpreted, Episode 2
© Olympia Scarry, Lady Dior As Seen By exhibition