Cinemas throughout the world have started to show one of the most anticipated fashion films in a while, and certainly this year. Dior and I, which already showing in Europe, opens in New York on Friday.
Debuting last year at the Tribeca Film Festival, Dior and I, directed by Frédéric Tcheng (Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, 2011), follows the story of the house’s current creative director Raf Simons embarking on his inaugural collection for Christian Dior.
A little history: After multiple seasons headed by Bill Gayten, post the swift and highly coveted departure of infamous creative director John Galliano, Raf Simons entered the picture. This documentary shows how Simons, former creative director of Jil Sander (and frequently known for his minimalism, modernity, and edited beauty), undertook the creation and execution of his first haute couture collection for Dior, presented in Paris during the fall/winter 2012 Couture season.
I remember vividly extreme hype and expectation that surrounded this particular show, and the constant speculation as to which direction Raf Simons would take the house of Christian Dior. Although now, Raf is fully established at the house, with his new, edgy and modern take on the Dior woman, and her experimentations with plastic, perspex, leather, lace and many materials in between, his first collection for the house was more subdued, but equally as crafted and beautiful as his predecessors.
At the time the film was shot, the house of Dior was in a very turbulent scenario. Having announced Raf the creative director in early 2012, there was still an air of mystery around the designer. Keeping his public profile and persona low during his tenure at Jil Sander, the publicly less known designer was regularly queried as a big enough character to take on such a public power house — and its standing across fashion and popular culture — where former creative director John Galliano had firmly placed it. The worry and issues Simons faced when starting at Dior are all documented in this tentative film.
Tcheng’s ability to create frantic, romantic and prominent scenes in a matter of minutes makes Dior and I a must watch for anyone interested in fashion, and even those who are not, as it brings to light the craftsmanship, beauty and level of detail and research that is poured into a Haute Couture collection. From the initial talks about blowing an enormous Sterling Ruby painting onto a dress, which has many complications, to Raf’s mind-blowing idea to cover every surface in the set with flowers, each room covered with a different species, inspired by the Jeff Koons’s “Flower Puppy” (how Raf says “puppy” is adorable), and the wait for the approval from Bernard Arnault and Sidney Toledano.
5 MOMENTS NOT TO MISS:
The beautiful connection between Raf Simons’ right hand man, Pieter Mulier, Premiere d’atelier flou, and Florence Chehet. A friendship formed quickly and organically, which is lovely to watch blossom with the collection.
The Heated Moment
You’ll know it when it happens. A growing tension between two key players at Dior during a fitting leads to a surprising and unexpected power play in the Atelier.
As much as Galliano was into the grandeur and performance of fashion, Raf Simons’ aesthetic is radically different. This is made very apparent when designing the shoes for the collection. Raf explains how he hated the idea of a woman being helped down the stairs by a man, but proceeds to put a 12 inch heel on a pair of pumps.
Being able to glimpse at pieces from the incredible Dior archive in movement is worth every second of screen time.
Multiple moments throughout the film shows the true love and affection everyone had for the house of Dior and the passion and investment the Atelier have in Raf’s vision. The best moment comes when a seamstresses, a long serving member of the Dior Atelier, says how they are always working for Mr. Dior, no matter who the creative director is.
Above are five illustrations from Raf Simons’ debut collection for Dior. The modern take on the iconic Bar Jacket silhouette and full skirt were remixed and dresses came in bright solid colours including baby pinks, seville red, and canary yellow. A large pannier style skirt embroidered with crystals and royal blue feathers teamed with a simple sheer black knit top, and remakes of classic Dior ballgowns, cropped and shown with tailored black cigarette pants gave old ideas a new lease of life and reimagined use. This is also said for a fuchsia pink silk chiffon, corseted column dress, subsequently split to the waist and paired again with black cigarette pants. The finale dressed featured a split of embroidery, with a classic Dior archive embroidery on the back, and a reworked new version on the front, a literal but effective take on showing the history of the house as well as moving forward.
This collection was an enormous first step for Simons and a great starting block to mark his territory on a house in turmoil. Dior and I is an astonishing and rare insight into a designers first steps, proving again he is most certainly one to follow.