• Girl in Style

You Got To Burn To Shine - (Dior) Lady Art

She wore a powder-pink-petticoat dress that tied at her waist with a big lilac ribbon. ‘She’s so pretty’, he thought to himself, quickly diverting his eyes before his girlfriend could make a fuss. They would all turn to look at her when she left; she wouldn’t see them gaping. But as she sat down to the table where her place-card was set, not one person returned her ‘hello’.

She was no ordinary girl. An imagination left unexpressed through Art and a nature so overtly kind she would feel other’s pain before her own meant she was used to feeling left out sometimes.

Looking around her table, she noticed that most of the other girls here to celebrate their mutual friend’s birthday were busy taking pictures of themselves. As one of them caught her eye, she smiled - but it was only for a moment; before the rest of the girls could clock this betrayal.

There was a clear divide. And the less she reacted found the others agitated at why she wouldn’t leave or at the very least, sit less straight. In fact, she sipped her champagne and sat through lunch with irritatingly confident decorum. To make matters worse, they were all dying to know where her dress was from.

Finally, finally, they had their chance. “Nice to meet you,” she smiled easily at each of them as she got up to leave (after the speeches); gracefully picking up her handbag from where it had been situated. They took their good, gaping look at her; the metallic shine of her handbag unmissable as it swayed beside her sashaying towards the door - there was writing on it:

“You Got To Burn To Shine”, it read.

It is true that for many artists, there is the feeling of being on the outside looking in. Christian Dior, who’s creative life began selling artworks by the likes of Pablo Picasso (amongst others) in his own gallery before, as they say, the rest was history, may have understood this idealism.

For it is an idealism. True though there may be the conception that it always feels slightly unhinged to be on the outside; few artists would truly wish to have it differently. That space outside where the flowers grow is subsequently, where Art is born.

And the house of Dior, given its creator’s affiliation with Art, has always held this dear.

But I must be honest in that I was not expecting something great when I received the invitation for the party celebrating Dior Lady Art in London. Don’t get me wrong fellows, you know how consistently this maison and I have worked together over the years; Dior’s collections have featured extensively in my work. It is just that word: collaboration.

A word dirtied in recent years (mostly grâce à social media; because brands only collaborate with high-follower ‘influencers’ rather than seeking out real artists).

I have always had great expectations; and am mostly disappointed. Rarely does something come close to matching, or exceeding my exceptions. However, Dior’s Lady Art is indeed Art.

Let me explain. That iconic bag we all know (the Lady Dior) for its classicism and allusion to Dior’s history has been reimagined by British and American artists (of all ages and backgrounds) invited to do so.

And perhaps the reason the result is so successful is that the maison was sensitive enough (here comes the true affiliation with Art) to give these Artists a carte blanche.

Because there is nothing more stifling or annoying than when your commissioner is standing over your shoulder offering direction.

So let’s talk about the Artists and their work. And it’s difficult to know where to begin because I’m a fan of favouritism but was particularly struck by all of them in some way.

Betty Mariani, a young artist, will appeal to those who already love the blend of fashion and Art. Her bag is made with a colour-splatter technique which is pressed against a female face.

David Wiseman’s interpertation is breathtakingly beautiful. This artist finds his inspiration in the natural world. His medium sized bag incorporates the classic Dior grey and quilting that is seemingly familiar yet incorporates a floral motif. But his larger creation is quite simply, a work of art (I know, not the most original description). It’s completely transparent and gold; outlining gorgeous nature-inspired motifs.

Lee Bul, who’s installation in the form of something I can only liken to a chandelier cowering over us in Dior’s New Bond Street shop as we entered the party was beautifully striking. Her bag incorporates dozens of tiny plexiglas mirrors that are slanted in contrasting positions; the bag itself looks like a shattered mirror.

Friedrich Kunath; a man after my own heart, draws inspiration from song lyrics. His bag shows a couple kissing with handles that look like rainbows.

Hong Hao’s interpretation of Lady Dior was contrasting between his medium and small-sized bags. The former has on it a reimagined map of the world (I love maps). And the latter, a colourful pop-arty aesthetic.

Namsa Leuba is a Swiss-Guinean artist; and her bag was one of the first I noticed. Perhaps it has something to do with my sensitivity towards African art given my last cover shoot but her exploration of her heritage is evident in the medium and small bags; the former of which, with its vibrant colours and details, incidentally, took over 300 hours to make.

Jamilla Okubo is one of the youngest artist to have participated and her three bags harmonise a thematic marriage of Kenya and Paris. One in particular of the small bags which mix Kenyan-style beadwork with Parisian-inspired crystals and incorporate blue, white and red as its colours, I fell in love with.

Spencer Sweeney’s work, I believe, perfectly imagines this project. On the small bags, one can see the brush strokes and feel the raised pigments. But I adored the larger bag which really did look like paint on a bag; and I loved the eyes.

Jack Pierson - (for those who know me I wouldn’t be surprised if you were to choose his work in getting me a special birthday present this year - not a hint at all) his smaller bag particularly was a favourite of mine: based on drawings he completed in Paris, it is made with gold and silver thread and sits so chic-ly in its classicism.

John Giorno (feautured in my illustration) is best known (aside from his affiliation with the likes of Andy Warhol) for his streetwise poetry. And none more proud, in my view than that which my character wears above for in its meaning, it is profound, ‘You Got To Burn To Shine’.

It gives one hope in our world of creation and industry that is fashion that the word 'collaboration' can still mean something as pure and fantastical as the joining of great artistic minds.


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