The Lady Dior bag was solidified as an icon in 1996 when Princess Diana brought it in on a trip to Paris. Designed with a signature cannage stitching motif in leather, it’s a chic, feminine accessory, ripe for an artistic reimagining. This winter, for the second year, Dior invited several contemporary artists to add their vision to the Lady Dior. Whitewaller checked in with Los Angeles–based David Wiseman about translating his bronze and porcelain work inspired by nature into a coveted contoured form.
WHITEWALLER: How would you describe your studio practice?
DAVID WISEMAN: My studio practice is rooted in active engagement with materials. Since I produce almost all of my work in the studio, I am able to respond in an immediate and intuitive way to the materiality of my medium, whether it’s bronze, porcelain, or something else. The studio is a hive of activity—pouring bronze, welding, casting porcelain, mold making, fabrication, et cetera. It’s also where I do most of my drawing. For me, it’s crucial that I actively participate in the fabrication of a work, and my studio is set up to allow this kind of direct participation in every aspect of the creative process.
WW: How did you first approach designing a Lady Dior bag?
DW: I first studied the essential qualities of the Lady Dior bag and then considered how I might draw a connection between its design and the installations that I have made for the Dior stores in New York, Shanghai, and Tokyo. I wanted to create a bag that was a true fusion of the beauty and legacy of Dior with my own visual language and ideas.
WW: Can you tell us about the medium Lady Dior bag, where you employed the traditional cannage stitching technique of the bag, but translated it into a floral motif?
DW: In some of my most recent work, I have taken patterns from around the world, patterns I invented, and branch and floral motifs, and collaged these all together to create complex compositions for bronze gates and screens, or porcelain and plaster walls and ceilings. When I was asked to explore concepts for the Lady Dior bag, I immediately knew I wanted to respond to the House’s iconic cannage pattern, as opposed to simply re-creating my own personal motifs. Each of the four panels of the bag started with my drawing the cannage as the anchor, then exploring how my motifs could then engage with that pattern. So leafing vines weave through it like branches through a trellis; abstracted Japanese wave patterns crash into it; chrysanthemum and peacock feathers subsume it.
The cannage is so beautifully rendered in the traditional quilting of the Lady Dior bag, I thought it would be fascinating to try to retain this technique, to see how some of the patterns that I use in my work could be realized in quilted leather. For me it was a way to honor the legacy of the bag, while bringing my sensibility to this new design.
WW: Can you tell us about designing the porcelain and brass charm and the unique detailing on the strap?
DW: Knowing the importance of the lily of the valley flower to Dior and my own love of its delicacy, shape, and fragrance, I immediately wanted to incorporate it into my bag design. The charm came directly from the porcelain lily of the valley ceiling installations I have made for Dior. Much of my work takes its inspiration from flora and the natural world. The metallic studs on the strap are casts of seedpods, which offer a somewhat masculine counterpoint to the lightness of the lily of the valley charm and the elegance of the dove gray leather.