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    Sifting through fashion archives, it’s evident that every iconic handbag has a rich history. From their creation to them becoming a part of popular culture, there are many aspects that contribute to them becoming It bags. One such bag that has stood the test of time is the Lady Dior. 

    Image:Courtesy Dior.com

    A cult classic, the exquisitely crafted, soft quilted leather bag with metallic D.I.O.R hardware charms has been an inextricable part of the wardrobes of many popular women, including Marion Cotillard, Dita Von Teese, and Miranda Kerr, and closer home Kangana Ranaut and Shilpa Shetty. It’s been epitomised in popular culture by being featured in series like ‘Sex And The City’ and ‘Gossip Girl. Ultra chic and with beautiful craftsmanship, the bag has survived an evolving market for almost 25 years and grown under six creative directors. 

    Its story dates back to 1995 when Diana, Princess of Wales, was invited to attend the Cezanne Art Exhibition in Paris. The then French First Lady, Bernadette Chirac gifted a petite black leather bag to Princess Diana. Post visit the exhibition, Diana carried the bag at several royal engagements, including during her visit to a children’s home in Birmingham. A few weeks later, she carried it to a state visit to Argentina and even to the 1996 Met Gala. The more it was seen, the more it was identified as the Princess’ chosen accessory

    Image: Courtesy Instagram
    Image: Courtesy Instagram

    In a short span of time, the bag acquired cult status world over, with knock-offs selling at inflated rates. In 1996, Dior affectionately named the bag ‘Lady Dior’, dedicated to Lady Diana.

    Dior’s CEO, Sidney Toledano, was instrumental in the creation of Lady Dior bag, initially called the ‘Chouchou’, which translates into the ‘best in the class or favourite’. Hired by Bernard Arnault, Toledano’s role was to spearhead the leather goods wing. He closely worked with the then Creative Director Gianfranco Ferré to design the bag. The initial prototype was made in microfibre featured the cannage quilting pattern that Ferré often used while designing ready-to-wear. 

    If one decodes the intricate construction of the bag, one realises how Ferré created in it a blend of immaculate Italian artistry and French technique. Each bag is made by several craftsmen and requires several man-hours to refine and finish it. It is made of several pieces of fine leather, which are later dyed and hand stitched by artisans. The cannage stitching details are inspired by Napoleon III rattan-style chairs. Instead of a logo, the bag features the D.I.O.R. charm letters with an oversized O, which are often galvanised for extra lustre. The round top handles provide portability.

    American artist Polly Apfelbaum reinterprets the Dior Lady bag with with colours and geometry.

    Over the years, the bag has been re-imagined in a variety of sizes, from artistic minis to large shoppers, and is available in different types of leather and with beaded, tweed, bamboo, faux turtle shell, sequinned, and embroidered detailing. Though the standard hues for the bag are black, grey, and nude, it is available in a whole array of striking colours as well.

    It is this material, colour, and craftsmanship range that makes Lady Dior an expensive splurge. Basic iterations range from US$3,000 (Rs 2 lakhs) to US$4,000 (Rs 3 lakhs). However that’s not where the price range stops. There are always more decadent versions available in the market; the Christian Dior 2017 John Giorno Lady Dior Medium Handbag went upto US$4500 (Rs 3.5 lakhs). As a part of Art Basel Miami, Dior collaborates with several artists from all over the globe and unveils a line of artistic Lady Dior bags with the starting price of US$5000 (Rs 4 lakhs), going up to US$14,000 (Rs 9 lakhs). These bags are retailed from specific Dior stores all over globe. 

    That’s not all. In 2011, ‘Lady Dior As Seen By’ exhibition debuted at Shanghai’s Museum of Contemporary Art and travelled to Beijing and Tokyo. Photographers such as Nan Goldin and Jean Baptiste Mondino, visual artist Loris Cecchini, furniture designer Maarten Baas, film director David Lynch, and even socialite Olympia Scarry have created works of art inspired by Lady Dior bag for these exhibits. In 2012, the exhibition opened in Milan’s Triennale de Milano design museum.

    Since 2016, Dior has been inviting artists to create their own versions for The Dior Lady Art Project. 2017 saw Maria Grazia Chiuri inviting an 11-member all-women artist team, including renowned names like Polly Apfelbaum, Burçak Bingöl, Lee Bul, Isabelle Cornaro, Olga De Amaral, and Haruka Kojin to create their versions of the cult classic bag. 

    Anupam Dabral
    Sr. Associate Editor
    It was while studying fashion journalism at London College of Fashion that Anupam developed a keen interest in the anthropological aspect of the discipline; for him, fashion only makes sense when seen in the context of its environment. He is always on the hunt for great stories, and in his spare time binge-watches films/shows starring Whoopi Goldberg, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.