Going Behind The Scenes in The Documentary Dior And I.
By Sarah Jayne Alexander.
J’ADORE HAUTE COUTURE: This breathtaking documentary takes us behind the scenes during the manic 8-week run up to Creative Director- Raf Simons’ Debut runway 2012 collection and beyond.
Already being given the prestigious if not heavily burdened honour of being labelled as ‘The greatest movie about fashion” ‘Dior and I’ is not just a documentary. The feature length film featuring the likes of ‘Marion Cotillard’ and Vouge Editor ‘Anna Wintour’ as themselves, grants all who view it an unprecedented all-access insight into what goes on behind the scenes in one of the most famous fashion houses in the world-Christian Dior.
Of course, Mr Dior passed away over 30 years ago but his name and the legendary artistic creative team who are responsible for creating some of the most exquisite dresses ever made is most certainly alive and well via the newly appointed Artistic Director, Raf Simons. The documentary, directed by French director Frederic Tcheng, not only explores the inner workings of a high-end, pressure-fuelled, designer emporium and the personal bonds that exist between the creative designers, the long-serving seamstresses in the Atelier and the vision of Christian Dior that exist through their shared labour of love, but the creation of Belgian born designer – Raf Simons’ debut haute couture collection for the label in 2012.
You can watch the ‘Dior and I’ trailer here:
“Who is the “I,” in the title Dior & I? I strived to keep the answer open to many possibilities” – Frédéric Tcheng
Director Frédéric Tcheng (Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel and Valentino: The Last Emperor) has successfully and beautifully captured all of the beauty and drama of the design process as the collection comes together. From sketch to runway, it takes just eight weeks to design a whole collection, instead of the usual five to six months per season ‘Ooh la la la la! Raf Simons is one of only a few who have followed in the footsteps of the greats- Karl Lagerfeld, Carine Roitfeld and Valentino by inviting a film crew into the atelier to follow the unseen chaos that ensues whilst working towards a big collection. Not only that but this isn’t just any show, it is THE show. The breakout, the debut, the creation of his couture collection for the storied French fashion house which will forever be part of his fashion career and the legend he leaves behind. Dior et Moi which is how the film was originally marketed for the Tribeca Film Festival 2014 where it not only blew everyone watching away and received rave reviews with one critic announcing it as “the best fashion film I have ever seen” it boasts somewhat of a fashion film expert at its helm in the form of Frédéric Tcheng (Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel and Valentino: The Last Emperor)
Archived Footage From Christian Dior’s 1947-1957 Reign
Sixty -five years prior to Raf heading up the iconic brand in 1947, designer Christian Dior had only just exploded onto the fashion scene. Aged 44, with his “New Look” collection, a sensational homage to femininity after five years of wartime he instantly became a household name and “an arbiter of style” Yet, he was a very private man, who preferred the company of his friends to the noise of the social scene and was someone not many people really knew at all. In his 1956 memoirs, written one year before his sudden death from a heart attack, he addresses his public persona “this Siamese twin who precedes me everywhere since I’ve become Christian Dior. He and I have score to settle.”
Today, the world that Christian Dior created lives on in the famous ateliers (workrooms) where a hard-working group of dedicated seamstresses-some of whom have worked there for more than 40 years-hand-sew clothing in the great tradition of haute couture. Dior is one of the only houses out of the greats that still keep such ateliers inhouse: atelier tailleur (for suiting) and atelier flou (for dresses). As newly appointed Simons discovers when he first visits the light-filled rooms hidden away on the top floor of the historic building like secrets waiting to be told. The film also closely follows three other memners of the CD creative team- Florence Chehet and Monique Bailly, the anxious and quick- witted première for the atelier tailleur and Flou and Pieter Mulier, Simons’ right hand at Dior and long-time collaborator.
Although Christian Dior only sat on the throne of his empire for ten years, his impact on the fashion world was considerable and long-lasting. Alongside the documenting of fashion, relationships, creative talent and manic fashion, the film highlights subtle but vital experiences which Raf uses in his inspiration for his debut show. We are privy to the moments he explores Dior’s archives “I find it quite challenging to work with a legacy that is so gigantic and so Sublime,” says Simons as a model puts on the iconic Bar jacket from 1947. With a tight waist, large shoulders and emphasized hips, the silhouette was such a departure from the boxy wartime outfits that Harper’s Bazaar dubbed it the “New Look” and it instantly became THE style reference for the following decade. ‘Timeless’ is a better way of looking at it.
In one of the most personal moments, Raf Simons visits Christian Dior’s childhood home in Granville, Normandy. He reveals that he started reading Dior’s memoirs but couldn’t get through them because of the uncanny parallels between Dior’s experience and his own. “I had to stop. It was weird,” says Simons. “I thought I’d better not [continue reading], until the first show is done.” With an empathetic sensibility and a thoughtful patience, the film explores the challenges of finding one’s own voice while under enormous pressure-something we can all relate to at one point in our lives or another. This gives the documentary film not only an unheard of amount of access to areas and processes normally kept under lock and key, but presents us with a very real, heartfelt expose of human emotion, interaction, working relationships, friendships and the fear of putting all of it together for the world to judge.
The entire masterpiece is set against a backdrop taken from Jeff Koons’ ‘Giant Flower Puppy’ artwork, which relied on the hard work of fashions favourite florist-Mark Colle, over 50 florists and the most elaborate flower arrangement you will EVER see. Over 1 Million freshly cut flowers were used to decorate the walls of a Parisian Mansion-a sight that managed to blow Vogue Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour’s mind.
Director Frédéric Tcheng says “The house of Dior is a vast, intricate, storied world where managers, artists, and workers collaborate on a daily basis to create a vision and I consider the film to be an ensemble piece” He also added “Through immersing the viewer in the world of Dior and revealing the extraordinary effort required to produce a collection, I hoped the film would ultimately reveal a cross section of Parisian life, in the tradition of great French social realists like Renoir and Zola”
Flickering between the past and the present with grace, style and a trait Christian Dior demands-Elegance, Tcheng’s vision of creating something ever-lasting and capturing the fear and relief of filling such big shoes is for want of a better word-perfection.
Dior and I is released in selected UK cinemas on March 27th 2015. For more information visit www.diorandImovie.com