It sounds ridiculous but Dior and I is the type of documentary I would watch while curled into the corner of my couch, sipping on a warm cup of tea and having a box of tissues in arms reach. The emotions run high and the beauty and pain are too closely intwined that I've bravely acknowledged three scenes where I experienced a world-wind of feelings. Mastermind Raf Simons is carrying the pressure of the past, present and the future and it's overwhelming - even just for the viewer.
Dior and I is a feature-length documentary that takes the audience behind the scenes, revealing the inner workings of the design house. From the creative processes of its artistic director, Raf Simons to the tireless seamstresses of the atelier, the film explores the personal bonds that form between the collaborators, their work and the legacy of Christian Dior.
In 2012, The French fashion house announced Raf Simons as the new artistic director where he would debut his first collection in only eight stressful weeks, opposed to the usual five or six months.
Director Frédéric Tcheng said something quite chilling, "As I continued to read Dior's memoirs, I realised that the past also mirrored the present - and vice-versa. Everything that was happening in front of my lens matched, almost to the last detail of character or emotion, [which was] what Christian Dior had described in long chapters about the making of a collection. Here I recognised this seamstress; there I recognised that tense situation. It is certainly a testament to the power of traditions. History repeats itself."
There is a scene in the documentary where Simons visits the home Mr. Dior grew up in and while he sits in the courtyard 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 though I'd better not [continue reading], until the first show is done."
The film progresses gracefully taking us from the past to the present while being narrated at times by a voice over of Christian Dior and then being shifted to the 'current' where Raf continues to take us through his journey.
As uncomfortable as it sounds I almost wanted to catch a glimpse of the ghostly presence of Christian Dior as the camera took us through the workroom after dark. It was the unknown fascination of his heritage that comes to haunt the house at night. The ateliers and security guards all have an opinion of the mysterious experiences that come to life late in the evening at the empty headquarters.
The world Christian Dior created continues to live on in the ateliers (workrooms), where a hard-working group of dedicated seamstresses still hand-sew clothing in the great tradition of haute couture. Dior is one of the last houses that still keep such ateliers in-house; atelier taileur (for suiting) and atelier flour (for dresses). As Raf Simons discovered when he first visited the light-filled room, tucked away on the top floor of the historic building many seamstresses have worked there for more than 40 years.
The film closely follows Florence Chehet, the dynamic and upbeat premiere for the atelier flou, and Monique Bailly, the anxious and quick-witted premiere for the atelier taileur. "For me, they are the most important people in the house," says Pieter Mulier, Raf Simons' right hand at Dior and longtime collaborator. "Because they have everything in their hands."
Raf Simons will continue to inspire many as his path has lead him to fill the shoes of one of fashion's greats and he has succeeded by changing the course of history with great respect and integrity.
"I find it quite challenging to work with a legacy that is so gigantic and so sublime."
"It's fun but it's heavy," says Simons.
With awe I congratulate the production team who went on an emotional rollercoaster with Raf Simmons and the couture house to create one of the most raw and beautiful documentary's yet to be seen by many. It's moments like this where us mere fashion mortals are able to have an insight into the world that our entire dreams are built on.
Best said by the films Director, Frédéric Tcheng, "Who is the 'I', in the title Dior and I? I strived to keep the answer open to many possibilities."
In cinemas March 26.