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Dior gets dusty and delicate, wild and woolly in the canyons of Calabasas

Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri presented her first cruise collection for the house Thursday night on a remote Calabasas hilltop that had been transformed into a dusty luxury outpost complete with an adobe-colored step-and-repeat backdrop for celebrity guests, Instagram-worthy hot air balloons in a field and the title of the collection, Dior Sauvage, silhouetted on a nearby hillside like the French luxury label’s version of the Hollywood sign.

We’re not sure if the off-in-the-distance reference to Los Angeles’ most famous piece of hillside signage was intentional. But like the venue choice itself, the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve, which in our case required a 30-mile drive from downtown L.A. followed by a harrowing drive up a winding, one-lane road and a final four-wheeler ride to the site, the Dior sign seemed to acknowledge Hollywood but as a part of the greater Southern California mosaic. Which was exactly what Grazia Chiuri was aiming to do.

Letters displaying the name of the collection, Dior Sauvage, stand on a Calabasas hillside, one of many signs to mark the occasion, Dior's cruise collection presentation.
Letters displaying the name of the collection, Dior Sauvage, stand on a Calabasas hillside, one of many signs to mark the occasion, Dior's cruise collection presentation. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

“L.A. is Hollywood, is glamour, that’s evident,” she said in an interview at the Chateau Marmont two days before the show. “At the same time, there’s more value to L.A. than just Hollywood; there’s this element of natural, open space … so I decided to mix this element into the collection.”

Photo Gallery: Runway looks and celebrity cameos from Dior's Calabasas bash »

Grazia Chiuri also told us she’d taken inspiration from the famous cave paintings of Lascaux and explained that the house’s namesake designer had done the same thing, using some of the primitive imagery in a 1951 collection.

Riffs on those images — leaping antlered animals, dancing female forms and handprints — emerged as one of the collections most striking visual through-lines, knit into chunky shawl-collar sweaters and skirts, painted across pleated skirts and emblazoned around the crowns of wide-brimmed hats that finished off each look and evoked a distinct Georgia O’Keeffe vibe. O’Keeffe, according to the show notes, was among Grazia Chiuri’s inspirations too, along with the writings of feminist shamanic author Vicki Noble.

The Dior 2018 cruise collection was heavy on the Southwestern vibe with lots of belted coats, western fringe and a recurring woven-blanket stripe.
The Dior 2018 cruise collection was heavy on the Southwestern vibe with lots of belted coats, western fringe and a recurring woven-blanket stripe. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The tarot elements present in the designer’s first two collections for the house were preset as well, intricately beaded appliqué hearts and stars mixed in with embroidered and printed imagery of shamans with horned headpieces and female figures.

At first blush, the chunky belted sweaters, long skirts and flat-topped hats felt like little more than a luxury-brand riff on the Southwestern silhouette more familiar to the streets of Santa Fe, N.M., than the cruise collection runway. Grounded in a palette of black and dusty ochre, the collection served up plenty of prairie skirts, western-style fringe and a striped, woven-blanket pattern that appeared on several pieces (as well as the straps of some handbags).

The collection was full of fringe and embroidery.
The collection was full of fringe and embroidery. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

But as the models walked by, kicking up clouds of dust that caught the light of the setting sun, a certain softness became evident. Tulle skirts teemed with embroidered flora and fauna, fringed bodices and skirt hems swayed with metallic fringe, and delicate feather-covered dresses shimmered and bounced with each step.

Many of the looks combined the heavy/soft vibe — for example, a skirt embroidered with a woman and wild animal graphic worn with a black leather motorcycle jacket — or a white lace dress worn under a chunk intarsia knit sweater.

Although all of the pieces bearing the Lascaux-inspired imagery caught the eye, the most memorable were the full skirts, sleeveless dresses and blazers that rendered the drawings of oxen, deer and horses in a silk jacquard that had a dusty golden cast to it.

After the show, guests who made the trek, including Charlize Theron, Anjelica Huston, Brie Larson, Kiernan Shipka, Jennifer Tilly, Freida Pinto, Laura Dern and Rihanna, were treated to a surprise musical performance by Solange.

After that, the Calabasas congregants piled into the ATVs four and five at a time to descend from the hilltop, each one taking a little bit of the wild and woolly, delicate and dusty Dior cruise collection back to civilization with them.

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The runway finale of the Dior 2018 cruise collection show, which took place in Calabasas, Californina, on May 11, 2017.

adam.tschorn@latimes.com

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

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