It’s been more than a year since Dior artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri opened her spring 2018 show with a Breton-stripe top that posed the question, “Why have there been no great women artists?” That moment set the tone for Chiuri’s tenure at the house, as she has gone on to produce collections inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe and Niki de Saint Phalle. For the latest iteration of Dior’s Lady Art Project—a venture that taps creatives to transform the cannage-stitched top-handle made famous by Princess Diana— Chiuri handpicked 11 female artists to reimagine the classic handbag. Among them: American artist Mickalene Thomas, who looked to her “Tête de Femme” series, focusing on the personal style of women in her own life, for inspiration.
“What would they be excited to carry?” asked Thomas, who took elements from her two favorite pieces in that series and arranged them collage-style, using patent leather, silk, sequins, and Swarovski crystals to mimic the textures of her original oil, acrylic, and silkscreen.
Painter and sculptor Polly Apfelbaum created a metal compass rose charm in reference to Dior’s childhood summers by the ocean at Granville and an abstract rose print inspired by the floral paintings of Italian futurist Giacomo Balla.
Meanwhile, Colombian artist Olga de Amaral gilded petal-like strips of canvas for a shimmering, waterfall effect. “Women in the arts are still fighting for recognition on many levels,” Thomas has said. “I’m hoping…there won’t be a need to have the conversation about [gender]. We’re just artists, right? Hopefully, that will be the conversation.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of ELLE.