Dior and I

A real window into fashion, beyond the parade of beautiful dresses.
Sarah Ward
Published on March 29, 2015


It's the kind of thing nightmares are made of. You arrive on day one of your dream job, but everyone is watching — including ever-present cameras.

It's also the type of situation good documentaries can be born of, taking the fly-on-the-wall technique to its extreme. Trailing a fresh-faced new arrival in the hope that fireworks follow could be a waste of time, or it could result in something special.

Both scenarios met Raf Simons when he commenced his latest post as artistic director for the House of Christian Dior in April 2012. His appointment was huge news in fashion circles, with the Belgian designer better known for his minimalistic ready-to-wear lines for his own label. Taking over the creative reigns of one of the biggest clothing houses in the industry, he had just two months to put together his first-ever haute couture collection.

Observing in the atelier, director Frédéric Tcheng captures the chaos of Simons' trial-by-fire — though the dramas are few and the designs are many. From the moment he meets his new colleagues, to his reaction at the star-studded unveiling of eight weeks' worth of hard work, Dior and I charts his journey with an insider's perspective.

It's that peek behind the high-pressure scenes that lifts the documentary, looking further than you might expect. Simons is focused on the massive mission at hand and reluctant to share much about his vision or processes, though he's not the only important figure to consider. The many others toiling away night and day, some mainstays in the workroom for decades, are just as crucial — and are treated accordingly. That's not just Tcheng's approach in trying to make a more interesting movie, but reflective of the status quo at Dior, where collaboration is essential.

Also influential is that other figure, the legendary Christian Dior himself. The man who started the brand is worked into the film through snippets of his diary read aloud, his presence felt elsewhere in every shot bearing the label's name — and there's plenty — and discussion about its operating philosophy. Despite the title, however, what the documentary offers is an insight into the way those carrying on his legacy handle that task. Here, it's the I that has it.

Tcheng is no stranger to the world of fancy frocks, celebrities and catwalks, having worked on Valentino: The Last Emperor and co-directed Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, with his affection for the industry evident. It would've just been something to catch a crisply shot glimpse of the hallowed halls responsible for some of the greatest looks of the last 70 years, especially for the already converted — but in his hands, Dior and I delivers more than that. With clear eyes, it shows the mania behind the magic and the team behind the icon. That, folks, really is fashion, beyond the parade of beautiful dresses.


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