Currently Viewing: Dior and I

Photo copyright Dogwolf

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.

9 Comments

Filed under Currently Viewing, Designers

9 responses to “Currently Viewing: Dior and I

  1. Thanks for this. I have loved Dior for decades, and will read this book, or at least put it on my “to read” list!

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  2. I really loved this film because of its depiction of the workrooms and the actual business of couture. Perhaps my favorite scene was when he asked to have a hand made dress quickly remade in black, much to the dismay of the workers. Their solution–paint it black!

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    • Precisely! I was enthralled with the atelier scenes, the stories behind a very international team of highly skilled creatives. That they would (for the most part) select the work they would toile was surprising.
      As a person who uses a lot of spray paint for things not originally intended, I cracked up at that part. Brilliance!

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    • My husband initially thought they were spraying a finished garment — the toile (i.e., white “muslin” prototype) looked that good! I was stunned that the entire collection was still in pieces on the worktables days before the runway show. We watched the film last night and both enjoyed it. More fun than watching sausage — or legislation — being made.

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  3. I loved that documentary. I ordered the dvd to rewatch it again. The behind the scenes in the ateliers are so interesting.
    As a Belgian it was also hilarious to hear Raf Simons talk English since it sounded so familiar.

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  4. I always enjoy reading your reviews and recommendations and look forward to watching this on Netflix. 🙂

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  5. Christina

    I found the documentary interesting from several perspectives. The pressures must be enormous for the ateliers and there was an obvious sense of good staff and management relations. The atmosphere in the workshops was rather special – loyalty, commitment, superb skills and humour – all essential to a successful business.

    There was a telling moment when on the day of the first toile showing the head atelier manager had been delayed returning from New York. She had been to a client who needed If I recall an alteration. Simons was unhappy that this took precedence over his position as head designer. I think this reflects on the change between the relationship of couture and customer. Back in Christian Dior’s time the status of a Paris fashion house was paramount. Customers it seemed had a bit more reverence for the house. Today, the business is so business profit driven and the customer appears to have considerably more influence and power.

    I found Raf Simons as someone who expressed genuine empathy and you could see that he was not only striving for balance in his personal life but also in the workplace. It isn’t often you find that quiet, thoughtful approach in the fashion business.

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