Dior’s New Handbags Are Serious Art

But You Can Only Get Them In Miami

Cancel your appointments. Put your holiday list on hold. Tell the babysitter you’ll need him to stay late. Very late. And hop the next jet to Miami. Yep, we know, Art Basel closed on December 8th–but we have one word for you: Dior. Allow us to explain.

The Dior boutique in Miami’s Design District is the only place in the world where you can get your hands on the 11 handbags designed by female artists selected by Dior’s artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri and produced by artisans from the storied French design house. And each bag is a unique take on the iconic “Lady Dior” handbag introduced in 1995 and made famous by Princess Diana.

Sure, we know, designers have been collabing with artists since Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali made that magnificent lobster dress for Wallis Simpson in 1935. More recently, there was Longchamp x Tracy Emin, Alexander McQueen x Damien Hirst, and Stella McCartney x Ed Ruscha, not to mention the recent, posthumous Keith Haring x Coach and Calvin Klein x Andy Warhol Foundation.

But what we love about Chiuri et aliae’s Dior Lady collection is that they are (like art itself) part of a dialogue of ideas between an individual and society. A little history here: Chiuri made history in 2016 when she became the first female art director to lead France’s most hallowed design house. But rather than tiptoe around like a guest, Chiuri embraced her position at the helm as an opportunity to reinvent femininity itself. Her stance is not unlike Monsieur Dior’s. He took the world by storm and defined 1950s fashion with his wasp-waisted, full-hipped “New Look” which characterized the affluent optimism of a post-WWII society. Chiuri’s modern Dior Woman is affluent and opinionated, but also independent and practical. She prefers a slim pant and sleek suit to a voluminous tulle cocktail dress, not that she is averse to formal attire now and again.

Chiuri understands that more than ever, fashion is about ideas. No one buys a $5,000 handbag because it’s the most durable on the market. You buy a $5,000 handbag because the design house represents your ideals. Chiuri has been very clear about her design philosophy. “Dior has to be about female empowerment,” she told Vogue last year. And she is not just giving lip service. For the Spring/Summer 2018 collection, Chiuri sent Breton-striped t-shirts down the runway stamped with the line “Why have there been no great women artists?” Which is a good damned question. It is also the title of a brilliant essay by art historian Linda Nochlin which is as relevant now as when it was written in 1971.

This is the third time Dior has invited artists to reinterpret “Lady Dior” at Art Basel, and this year, Chiuri insisted on working with eleven unique female artists from all over the world. It is by far the most significant collection. Each bag is a glorious, wearable work of art, and it’s all part of Chiuri’s mission to redefine femininity, while recognizing the Dior heritage.  Chapeau, Madame!

By the way, if Miami doesn’t fit into your schedule this month, don’t despair. The collection will be rolling out at Dior boutiques around the world in January. And if a $5,000 handbag doesn’t fit into your schedule either, take a moment to check out the bags–and the artists–online. Indeed, I believe that was Chiuri’s master plan in the first place.

View the slideshow to explore the artist & their designs:

Polly Apfelbaum is a painter and sculptor from New York City known for her colorful fabric floor pieces that she refers to as “fallen paintings.”

Burçak Bingöl is a contemporary artist from Turkey whose multimedia work explores cultural symbols and identity

Lee Bul is a sculptor and installation artist from South Korea.

Isabelle Cornaro is a painter, sculptor and installation artist who lives in France and Switzerland.

Olga De Amaral is an abstract artist from Colombia known for her large-scale mixed-media works that incorporate gold/silver leaf and textural fibers.

Haruka Kojin is an installation artist from Hiroshoma, Japan.

Li Shurui is a Chinese artist known for her abstract light paintings.

Janaina Tschäpe, a German-Brazilian artist known for her paintings, videos, photography and cut-out mixed-media hybrids

Morgane Tschiember is a French sculptor and installation artist.

Mickalene Thomas is an African-American painter and mixed-media artist.

Pae White is an installation artist from California.

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