When Dior looked to fill a vacancy in 2012, few expected Raf Simons to be tapped for the creative director role. Even fewer expected Simons to have the sheer panache to pull off a couture collection for the French house famed for its opulent, feminine designs.
But Simons was hired, and he accomplished the latter with aplomb, in a mere two months.
Dior and I provides an unrivalled account of Simons’ inauguration as Dior creative director, stretching from when he is first introduced as John Galliano’s successor in 2012 to his widely-acclaimed first haute couture collection.
For those unfamiliar, couture collections are entirely made by the hands of fashion houses’ ateliers. They are the ones who convert designers’ ideas from concept to reality, and are toiled over for months. Couture collections may be incredibly difficult to make, but houses like Dior are rewarded for their efforts with lucrative orders for pieces from the collection from their rich clientele.
With Simons coming in as a former industrial designer, and minimalist fashion devotee at Jil Sander, the job looked to be a tough one from the start with Simons only afforded two months to complete the collection.
The documentary’s title may give some the idea that the film is some sort of vanity project on the part of Simons, but it was only with reluctance that the notoriously private Belgian native allowed cameras to roll behind closed doors. Simons is decidedly uncomfortable in front of the camera at times, with the pressure of maintaining Dior’s legacy while designing something he has never done before simmering over occasionally. The film is as much about the eccentric workers who ply their trade in the ateliers as it is about Simons. For all the cerebral scenes discussing Simons’ influences for the collection as he walks through art galleries and coastal villas, there is an insightful one to match that focuses on one of the workers’ relationship with the house. Some have been at Dior for over 40 years, while others have only been employed for a few, but they all get Simons’ unwavering respect.
The latter portion of the film is full of nervous energy as the atelier crew rushes to have things ready by the show, while Simons arranges for what was a grimy Parisian flat to resemble Versailles when flowers are in bloom. If you pay any attention to fashion you will know that the collection received rave reviews upon its debut.
Don’t watch it to arrive at a known result, watch to marvel at what humble origins sartorial opulence often arises from and to observe Simons and the atelier in their natural habitat.