“Some have alcohol in them,” says Monique, one of the seamstresses of the Dior atelier about her candy at the height of the stress levels in making the deadline for Raf Simons’ first show as creative director for the brand. The high intensity of the company taking on a new and relatively unseasoned creative director in 2012 is what makes Frédéric Tcheng’s (who previously worked on Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel) latest documentary, Dior and I, so rife with drama.
It is perhaps his novice status that makes him rather naïve when it comes to envisioning what can be achieved by the seamstresses and designers of the esteemed fashion house. And yet, without this sort of arrogance paired with naïveté, it’s possible that the grandeur and spectacle of his debut haute couture show for Dior in the fall of 2012 might never have happened. While it’s evident that the fashion world is based largely on stepping on quite a few toes, Simons’ attempt at gelling with his new staff at the atelier–many of whom have been working there over forty years–is especially uncomfortable to watch, at times. Like when a showing for ten dresses is supposed to happen, but one of the premières has to go to New York at the last minute to give a valuable client a personal fitting, thus leaving the time allotted to the design of the runway collection in peril.
And yet, this sort of uncomfortableness is soothed by the mythological narration of Dior (obviously a stylized interpretation of what he might say) as he comes to terms with his successor’s unlikely style–one that ends up aligning quite nicely with the classicism of the brand, while bringing the touch of modernity it’s been craving. As the deadline to the show draws nearer, the emotions and the stakes run higher as Simons works to stage the event with one million flowers.
All the while, the latent comparisons to Dior bubble to the surface, with many in the atelier expressing that his ghost continues to oversee everything that goes on with the brand. Indeed, there is no greater pressure faced by a creative director than to sustain the legacy of the original brainchild behind a brand. But, so far, it would appear Simons is managing just fine. With appearances by Anna Wintour (she’s a required presence in all fashion documentaries), Grace Coddington, Harvey Weinstein, Donatella Versace, Diane Von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Jennifer Lawrence, Marion Cotillard and Sharon Stone, it’s clear that the House of Dior isn’t in danger of losing any interest.