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Dior's Maria Grazia Chiuri on L.A. inspiration, the importance of getting back to nature and why 'we should all be feminists'

In the run-up to presenting Dior’s 2018 cruise collection in Calabasas — it was her first for the French fashion house — creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri sat down with The Times to talk about some of the collection’s inspirations, her favorite L.A. places to visit and politics on the fashion runway. Below are some excerpts from that conversation.


Which came first: the venue choice or the collection?

The company proposed [holding] the show in Los Angeles, so I started thinking about L.A. and what it means to me.

What does Los Angeles mean to you?

L.A. is Hollywood, is glamour — that’s evident. At the same time, there’s more value to L.A. than just Hollywood. There’s this element of natural, open space. I think today it’s more important than ever to talk about nature, and I also think it’s good for women to think about it. You need to be in contact with the elements of nature that you forget living your normal life in the city.

Graphics in Dior's 2018 cruise collection were inspired by the Lascaux cave paintings.
Graphics in Dior's 2018 cruise collection were inspired by the Lascaux cave paintings. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

How are natural elements referenced in the collection?

In the archives, I found a reference I thought would be nice to link with the L.A. show. In 1951, Mr. Dior did a collection that was inspired by the Lascaux cave paintings, and I used some graphics, some prints from that.

Speaking of Mr. Dior, didn’t he visit L.A. occasionally?

He took many trips to California — Los Angeles and San Francisco — and was very impressed. He said it was like a paradise for Europeans and Americans. He called it a super-Riviera.

How often do you come to Los Angeles?

Very often. I was here in February because I like to go to the [Rose Bowl Flea Market] in Pasadena for vintage. It’s a very inspiring place. You can find many things to reference. That was a work trip, but I also like to come here on holiday with my husband and my family.

Where do you like to go for fun?

I very much love the Huntington [Botanical] Gardens. It’s amazing, and the desert garden is very beautiful. I also really like the Getty Museum; the garden there is super-beautiful.

Both of those places put nature front and center, right?

Yes. I think you feel better when you are in more contact with nature. … It’s good for women to be closer to the natural elements. What I want to say with this collection is that women have to be free to dress themselves like they really want. I think that in the past, very often, women let others define them.

When did that change?

I think that with this new generation, women want to define themselves. They want to mix elements together [to create] their personal style.

If you have a point of view, you are political. Everything is politics.

— Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri

How does that change your role as creative director?

I think my job is to build a wardrobe that has a point of view but leave it up to the women to choose the pieces and to mix. In the past, the idea was to impose a point of view. Now I think it is to propose a point of view. It’s a dialogue. So I design a collection that is very bold — in your face — but in a way that the elements can be mixed. The jacket goes with the pants but can also go with a dress or with denim. I think women are seeing fashion as more playful, more personal. And I think that has made a difference.

Has your 10 months at Dior gone by fast or slow?

I feel like the time has gone by very fast, but in general, life is fast.

Were you surprised that your “We should all be feminists” T-shirt from spring/summer ’17 touched off so much political messaging on the runway?

Yes, I was surprised because I did the T-shirts because [feminism] is something that is very important to me and I never imagined that other people felt so strongly about the issue. I never imagined it was such a global thing.

At left, a model wears a  "We should all be feminists" T-shirt on the Dior runway in September 2016. At right, the Prabal Gurung runway finale at New York Fashion Week in February 2017, one of the many shows that used the runway for political messaging.
At left, a model wears a "We should all be feminists" T-shirt on the Dior runway in September 2016. At right, the Prabal Gurung runway finale at New York Fashion Week in February 2017, one of the many shows that used the runway for political messaging. (Francois Guillot / AFP/Getty Images (left), Alba Vigaray / EPA (right)

Is there a place on the fashion runway for politics?

If you have a point of view, you are political. Everything is politics.

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adam.tschorn@latimes.com

For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me at @ARTschorn.

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