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Dior Cruise 2018Photography Emanuele D’Angelo

Dior takes inspiration from wild women for Cruise show

Artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri continues to evolve the Dior woman – Susie Lau reports

Los Angeles as a location for a cruise show is at first glance, an obvious one. After all, it’s the home Hollywood and it’s all too easy for celebrities to schlep to a show in their own backyard. Then we looked at the location on the invitation. Calabasas, which mostly drew a blank even amongst West Coast-based American editors until someone chirped “It’s where the Kardashians live!”

As we snaked our way through the Malibu Hills up towards a seemingly remote verdant landscape of gold and green (transferring from car to ATV to ride up a dirt track in the process), it was clear this was about as far removed from celebrity razz-ma-tazz as it could get. No Kardashian mansion in sight. This was Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, a truly rural locale complete with park rangers warning guests about the risk of encountering rattlesnakes in amongst the rushes. On the horizon loomed two hot air balloons, emblazoned with Dior Sauvage, and later the paintings of the Lascaux caves magically appearing, as if out of thin air.

These prehistoric markings formed the starting point for Maria Grazia Chiuri, who was keen to mine a different side to the stereotypical vision of Los Angeles. “I wanted to explore a different side to the city that was more connected to the open space and nature. It’s too easy to think of Hollywood and red carpet,” said Chiuri. “You have to find a dialogue between the heritage of the past and the different lifestyle of women today.” Monsieur Dior, of course, was no stranger to the lure of Hollywood, but it was the “earthly paradise” of rural California, which interested Chiuri. In 1951, Dior appropriated the strokes of the Lascaux cave for a print, which was reproduced here in shades of ochre and terracotta. Those ancient depictions of deer and horses guided Chiuri to an instinctive connection with the power of nature that informed this collection.

“You have to find a dialogue between the heritage of the past and the different lifestyle of women today.” – Maria Grazia Chiuri

As the sun set, the dubbed out afrobeat track performed by LA-based duo Peaking Lights and their friends, accompanied these wild women as if in a shamanic ritual. Chiuri looked to the wild woman archetype, as written about by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run With the Wolves. Women such as the artist Georgia O’Keeffe, wearing stark black and white next to a cow’s skull in New Mexico. Her spirit turned up in the show wearing hand-painted leather hats by Stephen Jones. Or creator of the Motherpeace tarot cards Nicki Noble, who lends her divination artwork as motifs in the collection, embroidered on delicate tulle dresses. Or even Rihanna, who donned a fur coat straight off the runway and led the charge of celebrities present at the show.    

In practice, the collection was really about all the sartorial tropes that lend themselves to California’s extreme landscape, traversing desert, mountain, land and sea. Pioneer-era Western vibes, prairie prettiness and Esalen-appropriate new age bohemia come together in a melting pot of Californication dressing, which has exported well, far and beyond the Golden state.

There might well be raised eyebrows at the decision to pair Dior with the word “sauvage”, especially in light of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s previous brush with cultural appropriation at Valentino with that “African” SS16 collection. But in this instance, “sauvage” is an emotional response to the way Los Angeles and its outlying areas can suddenly go from a giant Walmart to the rolling ancient grassland hills in the space of a five-minute drive. It’s also easy to see how these clothes can also transport themselves from the unspoilt golden-hued hills of Calabasas hills to anywhere in the world. Mysticism may have been the driving force but it’s undoubtedly a canny collection, designed to be taken apart, mixed and matched up in different ways, and made to adapt to different lifestyles. “If you think about the past, women have had fashion imposed on them, mostly by men. Now a new generation want to express themselves in their own way. You can give them a point of view but it cannot be imposed.”