Dior and I – ReviewNovember 18, 2015
Firstly, Dior and I (2014) is a film strictly for fashion aficionados – honestly, if you have no interest in the inner workings of a venerable French couture house, don’t even attempt it.
However, if you love fashion, please watch it. But be warned, it’s not a glamorous film. You have to wait until, hmm, 20 minutes before the end of the film to see the banks of flowers, the stunning gowns, and the gorgeous models. Until then, you’re not even sure if it’s all worthwhile, if you’re even on the side of the constantly scowling Belgian designer Raf Simons, come to do his first collection in 2012 as head of womenswear design at Christian Dior.
Christian Dior Reinvented
You see, previous to this Simons was a designer heavily affiliated with minimalism, menswear, and ready to wear. In fact, he had never done a couture show before. Can he pull off a re-invention of the quintessentially feminine Christian Dior, a designer universally known as the man who slotted women sartorially freed by the second world war right back into corsets, back in the Fifties?
Simons swears he can, but this time with a sense of liberation – trousers with wasp waisted jackets, ball gowns with pockets, that sort of thing. Which is funny because, you know, women were wearing trousers with perfectly practical pockets before Dior came to put them back in skirts.
Throughout the film Simons seems unlikeable, a grim faced observer who glares at the lovely original Dior gowns, brought up from the archive and seems unwilling to handle them. He snaps at his staff, seeming outraged that they must also work on other tasks, such as fitting the clients who are spending the vast amounts of money required to keep the business going. In some ways, his anxiety over missed deadlines is understandable, since the poor guy has only eight weeks from his first day at work until the catwalk show. Normally the time-frame is four to six months.
Simons is an entirely hands off, intellectual designer. Self taught with no fashion training, he neither draws nor models on the stand, but conceptualises and has a team of designers to translate his ideas into sketches, which his incredibly talented team of pattern cutters make into finished designs.
Christian Dior, back as a ghost
A clumsy attempt is made to insert “Dior” from “Dior and I” into the narrative – a ghostly voice-over reads from Christian Dior’s autobiography and attempts to mirror the original couturier’s experiences with Raf Simons’. Simons is seen giving his staff a bollocking – Ghostly Dior explains how he lies awake at night, worrying he has upset his petit mains, who are precious to him.
Somehow, you don’t imagine Simons loosing sleep over his seamstress’s feelings, who are seen working the weekend as the designer heads for home in Antwerp. The two men are really not alike. Christian Dior had years of couture experience, while this is Simon’s first go at it. And Simons is analytical over his work, while you feel that Dior had a real affinity for the female form. And he sketched beautifully, while as we have seen, Simons does not.
Raf Simons – human after all?
It is a relief to see Simons finally crack a smile when he gets his own way and the fabric he was told was not possible is produced for him. And you warm to him as well when he finally shows his humanity when discussing his final catwalk bow – “I will faint if I have to walk through all the rooms!” he declares, and you feel he means it. His visibly blanches at the idea of a photoshoot with the models for Paris Match, before declaring he will only do it if it is a cover image (“Not possible” explains the PR man, deflatingly).
A ravishing final collection
But finally, the only thing that proves Raf Simons in the audience’s eyes is the quality of the final collection. It is ravishing, truly translating the spirit and line of Dior for the modern woman. And in the end, Simons is so keen to take his bow he runs up early, and has to wait for six more models to file past him before he goes up, tears in his eyes. Ahhh. All’s well that ends well.
Original Christian Dior sketch
Raf Simons is not enjoying himself.
Raf Simons looks gloomy.
The dress looks gorgeous. Raf Simons looks gloomy.
A reinterpretation of a classic Dior jacket.
The final catwalk show.