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Dior Takes the ‘Lady’ Out of the Lady Bag

By Ruth La Ferla

 
 

When the house of Dior invited Jack Pierson to place his stamp on a handbag, the notion fairly rocked him. In collaborating with the storied French label, he would become, as he saw it, part of an archive that included Richard Avedon, Christian Bérard and other artists who once lent their signature. Better yet, the commission would take him to France, reigniting a long cherished fantasy.

“My teenage dream,” Pierson said, “was to be an artist in Paris.”

When he offered his ideas, “there wasn’t a lot of no,” he said. He had misgivings just the same.

His plea to Dior: “'Don’t let me do some nerdy thing that isn’t chic,'” Pierson recalled.

No chance of that. For all his practiced self-effacement, Pierson is a star. He is also among the latest celebrity artists to team up with a luxury label, such partnerships affirming art’s rising stature as fashion’s most compelling new muse.

 

More than a rock star or cinema diva, an artist’s imprint on a luxury item provides a glossy platform on which to extend his or her brand, a gambit that can translate into widened recognition and galloping sales. As the dealer and curator Jeffrey Deitch has pointed out, “Artist products are just one of the avenues available to the artist who wants to get his message to the public.”

The strategy dates back to the 1930s at least, when Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau placed their Surrealist imprint on fashions by Elsa Schiaparelli. It was successfully revived in the early 2000s when Louis Vuitton introduced handbags embellished with the works of Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince.

Dior, which last year invited a group of American and British artists to customise its Lady Dior bag, embarked this year on a multicultural voyage, enlisting collaborators from cities including New York, Seoul and Beijing. The bags will arrive in Dior stores on Thursday.

For his bags, Hong Hao, a satirically inclined Chinese multimedia artist, imagined a fantastical map of the world, its landmasses recoloured in a vibrant ocean blue, its sea bright green.

Jamilla Okubo, a recent graduate of the Parsons School of Design, tapped her Kenyan heritage, intermingling African beadwork and European crystals.

 

Namsa Leuba, a Swiss-Ghanaian artist and photographer, incorporated bits of fur into her creations. “Mink was important to me,” she said. “In Africa, animal skins and fur are used during traditional rituals and ceremonies.”

But for Pierson, who grew up near Plymouth, Massachusetts, it is Paris that remains most alluring. His drawing, he said, came out of spending months riding a bike around and soaking up everything from shop windows to museums. “I felt I was absorbing all of that in graphic line and motion,” he said. “At the same time I was capturing what I as an Okie American might consider Parisian.”
ey patterns, doodles and swirls, did more than distill the essence of the French capital. “It gave me a way of getting out to the public another thing I do,” Pierson said.

A calculated departure, it allowed him to venture beyond the deliberately overexposed snapshot-like images and word pieces for which he is known and into more abstract, and modish, terrain.

“I wanted to try to make something that didn’t have to be accepted as fashion because it’s art,” he said. “I wanted it to be accepted as fashion because it’s chic.”

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