Saudi artist Manal Aldowayan is the first Arab to craft a Dior Lady bag. Through three designs, she reveals her journey.
“My father’s generation came back from the west and was dressing western, awkwardly,” starts Saudi contemporary artist Manal Aldowayan from her atelier in Dubai. “Now, in Saudi Arabia, people are beyond embracing their identity. It’s a reclaiming of identity. They are no longer ‘wondering’ and that’s what these bags are about.” Aldowayan is the first Arab commissioned by Dior to take part in its Dior Lady Art bags, an annual project launched six years ago that sees the Lady reinvented by contemporary artists from around the world. The artist – whose trampoline works made international headlines and which have been permanently acquired by Al Ula, and who has 16 commissions ongoing – says, “I had never collaborated with fashion before and it is a machine.”
The result is three bags – Landscapes of the Mind, The Boys, and the Desert Rose minaudière – that speak to her journey as a Saudi artist. Landscapes of the Mind is a bag in printed gold calfskin leather with embroidered black feathers and jewelry in silver finish metal. It features oil barrels as seen from her home. “The whole climate and fossil fuel conversation exists, and I acknowledge it, but this oil, this black gold, has transformed my country. It’s brought longevity to lives. I am the result of this economy of black gold and the life that is bursting out of it is something I must recognize, even though I understand it is important that we address the impact that fossil fuels has on the climate.” Two doves sit on one of the barrels and also fashion the keychain.
“This is an ode to my art education,” Aldowayan offers. “Had it not been so terrible I don’t think I would have been inspired to make all this work in my life. When I was in public school in Saudi Arabia, I wasn’t allowed to draw anything that had life. If you drew an animal or your parents, you had to strike the neck out because you are not allowed to imitate God and his creation. I was questioning, was I being bad? This is an ode to that.”
On the other side of the bag, it reads, “I live and die for the moment,” a nod to Saudi’s youthful population. “The moment is about decisions you make today,” explains Aldowayan. “Experience everything in the moment and when you look back, you will see a positive path. It reflects my current solo show, called The Eternal Return of the Same. I’ve always thought about these things.”
The Dior Lady Art limited edition in collaboration with Manal Aldowayan launches this December
Originally published in the November 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia