Mickalene Thomas created the stage design that served as the backdrop for Dior’s latest haute couture show, which debuted in Paris this week.
The luxury house’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, had been the one to ask the New York–based artist to take on the project, which was revealed on Tuesday. It was part of an ongoing effort by Chiuri to bring on established women artists as runway collaborators. Chiuri has previously worked with artists like Judy Chicago, Anna Paparatti, and Eva Jospin, even enlisting the historical work of the Surrealist painter Leonor Fini in one show.
In pre-show notes, Chiuri described the set for this latest show, which was held at the Musée Rodin, as a “creative dialogue” between her and Thomas. The designer’s newest wares—neutral-toned, form-fitting ensembles—draw on early 20th-century clothes worn by female entertainers.
Mounted on the walls surrounding the museum’s runway floor were collaged black and white images of 13 Black female performers, Josephine Baker, Diahann Carroll, Marpessa Dawn, Lena Horne, and Nina Simone being among them. Their images, which were overlaid with pink and yellow forms, featured embroidered details produced by the Mumbai-based artisan group Chanakya ateliers and the Chanakya School of Craft.
“To see these monumental figures, take up such space in a setting that celebrates their elegance and talent,” Thomas told ARTnews, is a “moving moment.”
Thomas is known for her renderings of Black femmes, who are often the main subjects in her large-scale paintings. Archival imagery and Thomas’s own personal circle serve as the artist’s references.
The collaboration marks the second time Chiuri has tapped Thomas to collaborate on the production for a Dior project. In 2020, Thomas designed a version of Dior’s signature 1947 bar jacket for a showcase in Morocco.