The designer has produced two bags for the international fashion label's Lady Art Project.
Athi Patra Ruga is an Umtata-born South African visual artist who explores sexuality, HIV/AIDS, queerness and African culture in fashion, performance and contemporary art. Recently, he joined fellow designers Rina Banerjee, Maria Nepomuceno, Mickalene Thomas, Jia Lee and Eduardo Terrazas in designing bags for the fourth installment of Dior's Lady Art Project which sees designers from all over the world re-imagining the fashion label's iconic Lady Dior bag. This year's group made use of techniques including embroidery, patchwork, quilting and printing, which experts have suggested may symbolize the resurgence of textile art in couture.
In an interview with WWD, Ruga said that, "Once you talk about the subject of textile art, we have to speak about the fact that it is highly gendered. Once one speaks of it reaching a tipping point, we are speaking about, and actually probably also indicting, the arts and creative industries for having quite a sexist view of craftsmanship." The designer went on to add that, "The art world has to also have the same energy in redressing how this art form that has always been viewed as this women's work, and not art, is now interesting. Is that linked to a wave of women's liberation, or is it linked to the market? For me, those are the two ways to look at that tipping point."
One of the bags that Ruga has designed is a 3-D self portrait that is made up of pearls which are framed by crystals, fabric and metal flowers, all of which are then embroidered onto a black background. The second design features a quilted scallop motif (reportedly inspired by Christian Dior's famous Junon gown) against exquisite blue lambskin leather.
Ruga took to Instagram to share the news of the collaboration and joked at how he'd been able to keep it a secret for an entire year. The bags will be made available in 27 Dior boutiques worldwide as of January 2020 and will range from USD 4000 to USD 14 000.