The Art of Dress: Valentino’s stunning collaboration with Canadian artist Christi Belcourt for Resort 2016

“Water Song” by Christi Belcourt, September 2014

Since 1993, Canadian artist Christi Belcourt has been creating visually arresting paintings representative of the floral beadwork of the Métis and First Nation women of Canada. Belcourt herself is of Métis heritage.

Beaded moccasins by Métis artisan Lisa Shepherd.

Beaded moccasins by Métis artisan Lisa Shepherd.

The intricate beaded works of her people are feats of exquisite artistry, representing the highest levels of craftsmanship. It is an art form cultivated over hundreds of years and is a source of immense cultural pride. Through her work Belcourt has attempted to “transfer the ‘beadwork’ to canvas, and in so doing, add commentary and expression within the work beyond the purely aesthetic. The plants within my paintings have become metaphors to parallel humanity.”[ii] In Belcourt’s “beadwork,”achieved by a series of small dots, sceneries of flowers and wildlife converge into colorful, magnetic feats of the imagination.

One such artwork “Water Song,” caught the attention of fashion powerhouse Valentino who approached Belcourt to incorporate the painting into their Resort 2016 collection. Belcourt accepted the proposition because it was a collaborative effort between herself and Valentino, not yet another example of blind cultural appropriation by the fashion industry, a controversial issue for years. Belcourt believes Valentino set a precedent that needs to be mirrored by the rest of the industry. Fashion designers “need to begin to work with indigenous artists and designers to have respectful representation in ways that the indigenous artists and designers feel is appropriate,” she recently told BuzzFeed, “It’s not up to non-Indigenous people to decide what is appropriate and what isn’t.”[iii]

The result of the collaboration is, yet again, another stunning collection by Valentino. See the complete collection here. 

[i] Lauren Strapagiel, “These Gorgeous Dresses are Based on a Métis Artist’s Work,”

[ii] “Artist Statement on Floral Work,”

[iii] Lauren Strapagiel, “These Gorgeous Dresses are Based on a Métis Artist’s Work,”

Fashion History Now: Rihanna for Dior

dior-rihanna-exclusive-do-not-reuse-8-vogue-18may15-pr-b_646x430The high profile relationship between Rihanna and fashion is nothing new, but her most recent collaboration with the storied House of Dior is particularly unique: the twenty-seven year old pop star is the first black woman to front one of the world’s–and history’s–most coveted fashion brands. This is equally exceptional and unacceptable, considering it took the house 68 years to change its archaic image of beauty.

Christian Dior

Christian Dior “Cherie” dinner dress, 1947, via met

The house was founded under the singular vision of Christian Dior, whose debut collection in 1947 re-charted the direction of post-war fashion with dramatically structured silhouettes based on unnatural distortions of the body.The voluminous skirts, padded hips and nipped in waists harkened back to fashion of the 19th century with an overall aesthetic that was romantic, albeit entirely unnatural. After years of war-induced austerity in dress, millions of women flocked to Dior’s vision of femininity. His designs copied at every price point, Dior’s legacy as one of the greatest couturiers of all time was officially cemented–although his reign would be all too brief. After Dior’s untimely death in 1957, only ten years after his debut, his namesake house has continued under a lineage of famous designers, including Yves Saint Laurent (1957-1960) and John Galliano (1997-2011) and is currently under the creative direction of Raf Simons. Galliano famously brought a dramatic and theatrical flair to Dior, constantly re-imagining the Dior woman within a fairy-tale revery, not exactly relatable or even wearable, but incredibly beautiful. It was not until Simons took the helm in 2012, that a modernist energy was injected into the brand, or as Simons once said “a nostalgia for the future.” It is at the hands of Simons that the soon-to-be seventy year old house has found a place in the twenty-first century, with the vision of a new Dior woman at the helm. The full video and images from Dior’s “Secret Garden” campaign starring Rihanna and shot by Steven Klein are featured below.


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