Dior and I was a documentary film released earlier this year, but which followed the first two months of designer Raf Simons’ tenure as artistic director at the House of Dior in 2012. This was after the embarrassing dismissal of John Galliano for conduct unbecoming a couturier the previous year, and the fashion world was anxious to see if Simons could restore order to the prestigious house.
Simons was an interesting choice to head Dior. He is Belgian, and barely spoke French, at the time at least. He had been designer at Jil Sander, a company that was about as far in the other direction from the extravagant designs of Galliano as one could get. He had never worked in couture, and at the time he was hired there were only eight weeks before the next couture show.
Intertwined with the story of how Simons worked at Dior was the ghost of Christian Dior, the man. The film used quite a bit of archival material to show the heritage that Simons was expected to draw from in his work for the company. And the words of Christian Dior, drawn from his 1957 book, Christian Dior and I, added depth to the story. I especially liked the scenes that showed Simons and assistants studying old sketchbooks and materials from when Dior was actually headed by Christian Dior.
It is interesting how the book came into play in the film, and especially since Simons announced that he had tried to read the book but gave it up after fifteen pages. He found the approach that Christian Dior had used, in talking about himself and the firm Christian Dior as two separate entities, to be odd.
Some critics dismissed Dior and I as just a ninety minute commercial for Dior, and it does paint a very pretty picture. It also gives a very good look into the workings of a couture house. Most interesting is how Simons worked as creative director, as the modern designer really is more of a director than he is a hands-on designer. It became obvious very quickly that Simons was responsible for a lot more than just designing pretty dresses.
Much has been written lately about the extreme stresses put upon the creative directors of major design firms, and from watching Dior and I one does get a sample of how demanding the job is. The point is made more significant due to the recent resignation of Simons from Dior. Among the reasons he gave for leaving his position was that he needed more balance in his life. There really is more to life than work, evidently.
Dior and I is currently available on Netflix.