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. 


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[i] Lauren Strapagiel, “These Gorgeous Dresses are Based on a Métis Artist’s Work,” http://www.buzzfeed.com/laurenstrapagiel/a-metis-artist-collaborated-with-valentino-on-these-gorgeous?bffbstyle&utm_term=4ldqphh#.knkwEDzM3G.

[ii] “Artist Statement on Floral Work,” http://www.christibelcourt.com.

[iii] Lauren Strapagiel, “These Gorgeous Dresses are Based on a Métis Artist’s Work,” http://www.buzzfeed.com/laurenstrapagiel/a-metis-artist-collaborated-with-valentino-on-these-gorgeous?bffbstyle&utm_term=4ldqphh#.knkwEDzM3G.

Re-Visiting the Art of Chen Man: I-D Magazine, Pre-Spring 2012

i-D-Magazine-Covers-Chen-Man-6-600x799Fashion photographer Chen Man’s high-impact portraiture stands as a vivid symbol of 21st century China. A country once synonymous with austerity—and severity—during the Cultural Revolution has done a dramatic remapping of its place within the artistic milieu over the years, emerging as a world player in sophistication and taste. Man’s photography has been instrumental in defining exactly what that means, blending her country’s rich cultural heritage with contemporary life, constantly juxtaposing the two to create her own unique aesthetic, but one that remains distinctively Chinese. “Europeans watch Farewell My Concubine and come to China with all these romantic expectations,” Man told I-D magazine in 2014, “but when they arrive they’re met with skateboarders, break dancers, fashion photographers and a hip hop scene. I want to package this together and not only show it to China but show it to the world.”[i]idcover08

For the 2012 cover I-D Magazine‘s Whatever the Weather issueMan honored the “breadth of beauty in China today”[ii] with not one, but twelve different covers. Each cover is remarkably different—but equally stunning—in its depiction of China’s diverse cultural landscape (comprised of some 50 plus ethnic minority groups!). Only a handful of the models Man used were professionals, the rest she selected from the Tibetan High School. Each model poses with only one eye open, I-D Magazine’s signature, and yet for Man, the pose is particularly apt: one eye looking to the present, the future even, and yet one eye closed firmly on the past. After all, a country is nothing without its history—and China’s is incredibly vast. But Chen Man is most definitely a defining element of its future. idcover1210i-D-Magazine-Covers-Chen-Man-5-600x799i-D-Magazine-Covers-Chen-Man-4i-D-Magazine-Covers-Chen-Man-2-600x799i-D-Magazine-Covers-Chen-Man-3i-D-Magazine-Covers-Chen-Man-1i-D-Magazine-Covers-Chen-Man-8-600x799idcover13idcover09
[i] Quote featured in “Chen Man, the Chinese Princess of Fashion Photography,” I-D Magazine, January 30, 2014. https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/chen-man.

[ii] Ibid.