Dior & I - Film review

Dior and I: Meeting point, not a compromise

Originally published in Reminiscences (FR)

Admission to the elusive and elitist world of fashion was once scarce, but, in the last decade the industry has been opening up. In an attempt to gain exposure in an increasingly overcrowded global luxury market, fashion houses are now eager to share their stories about the past and the present with the particular emphasis on flaunting their craft. Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Versace, Fendi and Sonia Rykiel are just few to have unlocked their archive cupboards and atelier doors to documentary filmmakers for glimpses behind-the-scenes. The latest addition to this is French filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng’s documentary entitled Dior and I that brings the viewer inside the storied world of Christian Dior.

This feature length film follows the making of Dior’s new artistic director Raf Simons’ first haute couture collection for spring 2012. From his initial introduction to the atelier staff to the show finale, the documentary captures a stressful eight-week period – a record time when it comes to labour intensive couture - during which the collection is put together. Creative tension marks the narrative. Competing priorities are revealed between clients’ orders and the show dresses, and lengthy couture sewing processes and a deeply ingrained sense of tradition are just few of the new constraints Simons has to work with. In turn, the house of Dior is adjusting from an era of design abundance, historicism [over use of historical references] and fuss [overworked] to this Belgian born designer’s streamlined idea of femininity, keen to challenge the limits of production with his single-minded vision. The result is not a compromise. 

Following the turmoil exist of Dior’s previous artistic director John Galliano, it was no wonder that the brand was eager to mark this moment about a new beginning. Yet, the ghosts of the house are ever-present. Preoccupying the minds of the atelier staff and Raf Simons, Mr Christian Dior appears through archival footage and juxtaposing narration taken from his memoirs, however, the more recent past remains the elephant in the room. For fashion enthusiasts, this documentary provides an informative insight to a pivotal moment in the history of Dior, whereas those not familiar with the quirks, egos and anxieties of the industry might be left puzzled with what the fuss is all about. However, by privileging [focusing] the creative process over the stereotyped surface gloss that often covers fashion, the director has achieved a documentary that tells a story about anxious anticipation resulting in a meeting point that celebrates centuries old artisanal skills and dedication, in combination with passionate, sometimes even emotional, strive towards the sublime.