Frederic Tcheng documents the arrival of Belgian designer Raf Simons to Parisian power fashion house, Dior, and the eight weeks he has to prepare his first ever haute couture show.
“People think I’m a minimalist. I’m not.” declares Raf Simons mid-way through Tcheng’s fashion documentary following Simons’ 2012 takeover at Dior after Galliano’s dismissal from the position. It’s a shocking statement considering the refined and pared-back designs he became so famous for as creative director of Jil Sander. Apparently, Simons is not at all what we expected.
Dior and I is full of surprising moments like this, from instances involving the premi’res (lead seamstresses) scoffing down Haribos to comfort themselves during stressful times in the ateliers, to Simons wearing the same navy round-neck sweater everyday and using an old Nokia brick phone to send picture messages.
Fashion’s human side is displayed in Raf’s intense emotional panic in the lead-up to his first ever haute couture show under the Dior title. The situation is not helped by the Belgian designer’s lack of knowledge of la belle langue, and the French seamstresses’ (appearing in all their best stubborn Parisian selves) unwillingness to speak in English to him. The movie produces a pleasant polyphony of voices, not only linguistically but also between the diversity of the individuals working towards the designs’ creation: from the men and women of the ateliers labouring over and loving the pieces they toil over relentlessly all day, night and weekend, to Simons’ fabulous right-hand man Pieter Mulier winning over every worker’s heart in the house, to punctuations of narration quoted from Christian Dior’s personal memoir.
The documentary has an art-house vibe as Simons and Dior’s lives seem to eerily mirror each other, Raf even mentioning that he had to stop reading the latter’s memoir as the similarities were “too weird”. This, coupled with the workers of the atelier claiming that the presence of Dior’s ghost is often felt at night time in the house, reveals multi-faceted and layered insights into the most fascinating behind-the-scenes moments of this legendary fashion brand.
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