One of the most existentialist questions in fashion: How many times can a signature handbag truly serve as a blank canvas for creativity?

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

One of the most existentialist questions in fashion: How many times can a signature handbag truly serve as a blank canvas for creativity? With the annual Dior Lady Art project that invites artists of various disciplines to reimagine the Lady Dior tote, the answer, it seems, is infinitely. Imran Jalal singles out some highlights from the fourth instalment that’s on show (and up for purchase) exclusively at the brand’s Ngee Ann City boutique.

RAQIB SHAW The London-based Indian painter is a proponent of Eastern-meets-Western art and draws from an eclectic range of influences spanning the Renaissance and Baroque periods to Hindu mythology. Like a latter-day Hieronymus Bosch, his epic masterpieces feature opulent and highly detailed scenes of fantastical worlds that are often inlaid with rhinestones and metallic enamel – all while reverberating with twisted undertones. Fans might see hints of his 2017 wallpaper, After A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in his two creations for Dior Lady Art: Both feature a verdant sprawl of magnolia tree branches worked in relief, all set against a romantic starry night.


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WANG GUANGLE Part of the vanguard behind China’s rising abstract art movement, Wang is often compared to the late Mark Rothko for his hypnotising, electric-hued acrylic paintings featuring carefully controlled chromatic transitions. Forming the premise of the two Dior bags he created for Dior Lady Art: his Coffin Paint series (2014) that’s inspired by the custom of 60-year-olds purchasing their own caskets, then painting a layer of lacquer over them to symbolise longevity in Wang’s native province of Fujian. The fashion twist? Each sinuous strip is made from leather while the sides of the bag are in clear PVC.


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RINA BANERJEE This New York-based multi-disciplinary artist is best known for her imposing yet strangely alluring installations and sculptures made from a veritable cornucopia of materials ranging from taxidermic alligators to Chinese altar lamps. Her practice draws on her memories of growing up in Kolkata, then being transplanted as an immigrant in cities like London and the Big Apple. It also explores how themes such as post-colonial diasporas, mythology and religion collide. What she’s dreamt up for Dior Lady Art reflects her multifaceted-made-pretty approach with the likes of moonstones, seashells and hand-painted feathers used to express her abstract interpretation of universal peace and a respect for nature.

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ATHI-PATRA RUGA The exuberant oeuvre of this South African artist is shaped by his preoccupations with post-apartheid life, utopia and queer culture, and spans mediums that include costume design, performance and photography.  The Lady Dior totes he worked on showcase not only this colourful point of view, but also the expertise of Dior’s ateliers. The M-sized version, which comes in black, features the artist’s self-portrait created through elaborate embroidery and a beadwork of pearls, crystals, fabric and metal flowers. The S-sized version pays homage to Monsieur Dior with its cerulean hue (he loved the vibrant blue) and patchwork of different coloured pearls and gold thread embroidery – a reference to the ruffles and sequins of a 1949 couture gown known as the Junon.


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MICKALENE THOMAS The contemporary African-American portraitist is best known for distilling her ideas surrounding black history and pop culture into powerful, pop art-tinged paintings. Lately, she’s also developed a rapport with Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, who invited her to be a part of Dior Lady Art last year as well as redesign the brand’s iconic Bar jacket for Resort 2020. For her sophomore Dior Lady Art outing,  Thomas drew on French Impressionism and invoked Claude Monet’s dreamy garden landscapes on a pink M-sized Lady Dior. It even comes with a bag charm inspired by Monet’s water lily motifs, and a patchwork of embroidered lizard skin and shimmering beads to represent the reflection of flowers in the pond.