I have recently done something which may prove to be detrimental to my academic career: I joined Netflix. The temptation of hundreds and thousands of movies and TV shows, plus of course the one month free trial, was far too much for me to avoid. So last night, at three in the morning, I watched one of the movies that were suggested to me by the site: Dior and I.

Dior and I is a documentary covering the creative process behind Raf Simmons’ debut collection, the A/W 2012 Couture Collection, as well as his journey in becoming the new creative director for Dior. Prior to working for Dior, Simmons was considered a minimalist, designing for the minimalist brand Jil Sander. And so an enormous part of the movie covers the way in which these two very different aesthetics converged: Dior’s elegant, almost over-the-top style versus Simmons’ minimalistic one. What made this documentary so interesting is the way in which we see this very modern, ready-to-wear designer work in a traditional, couture-bound environment. At one point, Simmons orders for a white tailored jacket to be spray-painted black, something that is unfamiliar for couture houses to do. If one wants another colour of something, one makes it; spray-painting is out of the question. But Simmons dares to take risks like these. The mixing of these two very different visions runs parallel to Raf Simmons taking Dior to modernity, but without forgetting its roots. For example, in one scene, he was taking the silhouette of the New Look woman, but emphasised with his team the fact that he wanted the models of the show to be comfortable, because he “hate this feeling of a guy supporting her down a staircase.” He takes the iconic silhouette of Dior and modernises it by making it into a top, and pairing it with a simple pair of black pants. The print Simmons uses was once that the printers have never done. Even in the cinematography of the film, this journey was emphasised. Images of Christian Dior was projected onto the patterns of the new collection, old film footage was interspersed with modern ones.

It was also fascinating to see how a fashion house as big as Dior functions. Being an avid watcher of Project Runway, I am familiar with how one designer works; alone. From designing the concept to buying and choosing the fabrics to executing the final piece, they are pretty much a one-person show. But if the house is as big as the Dior house, it’s a whole different system, and there is almost two very clear distinctive parts of the house: the business side and the artistic side. This was highlighted at one scene when a key member of the staff was sent to New York to sell a dress, which greatly irked Simmons. But to explain the situation, one the heads of the brand says, “If we don’t sell, we cannot do such collections.” The film also gives the viewer a true sense of just how big Dior is as both a brand and a business, when Simmons suggest in a meeting to put Dior on the cover of a very popular French magazine. For a normal person (like me) this thought was so absurd that I thought he was joking, but he was completely and utterly serious. The fact that this little exchange was imprinted in my memory is very telling. 

In Dior, there is the designer itself, the premiéres, the seamstresses, the president of the brand, the marketers, the sales people, among everyone else, all working together to create one final collection. But at the same time, the movie greatly emphasises the fact that all of these different sections of the house are working together, and that almost everyone had a say in the clothes that they were making. The premiéres voice their opinions and Simmons listens, and the premiéres allow the seamstresses to choose which piece they want to work with.

Cinematically, the film was beautiful. The classic French film stamp of a narrator (speaking, of course, en français), but in a true-to-life documentary, was incredibly compelling to watch. It was also reflective of how Simmons was working towards being one with the Dior brand. It was established in the beginning that Christian Dior was the narrator, but as the movie progresses, this becomes unclear. At some points, the narrator was speaking of hardships in finding materials and executing more difficult designs for the present collection, as if he were Simmons himself. This was further reinforced when, at one point, Simmons talks about reading Dior’s autobiography, and had to stop as he was haunted by how he was seeing too much of himself in Christian Dior.

The film made me adore fashion, and with it, French culture, even more. I studied French for six year in secondary school and was thoroughly in love with it, and it’s sad that now, I don’t get to speak or write the language anymore in the same degree. But this film made me want to go to Paris for Erasmus in third year. It is also very refreshing to see the amount of work being done behind-the-scenes of a fashion collection. Overall, the film was a delight to watch, and I would highly recommend it to any fashionista.


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