I have been a fan of Dior for many years. So when the movie, “Dior and I” was released, I was thirsting for yet another revealing look into the house of Dior. As an ardent Dior follower, I’ve been largely influenced by various museum showcase exhibits where vintage Dior, designed by Christian Dior himself, have been on display in all their glory.
The man behind the design of the “New Look,” deemed so by then Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Carmel Snow, continues to create mythical magic 58 years after his passing. The so-called “New Look” refers to Dior’s unique silhouettes featuring fresh lengths, volumes, tiny waists, and sexy busts. Dior’s premiere collection startled both American and European fashion followers because it visually represented the end of rationing and restriction.
“Dior and I” provides its own “New Look” into the venerable couture house. Now under the helm of fashion cult favorite Raf Simons [formerly of Jil Sander], the documentary sews together an eight-week period during which his premiere couture collection was designed and produced.
Ordinarily, this process benefits from having several months to pull it together. But, the process was compressed by the date of his hire as Creative Director, and the dates of the Paris fashion shows. There was no time to lose. Talk about the ultimate fashion reality drama! A fashion outsider might consider this as a gimmicky storyline, manufactured just to make a film. But, it’s hardly the case. Dior is one of the most successful – and profitable – couture houses in Paris. It’s a very serious business.
Behind-the-scenes action at a couture house is exciting and intriguing on a regular day. But to see how Simons and his right hand design partner, Pieter Mulier, work with the premier women who run the dress and suiting ateliers is compelling. In addition to seamlessly transitioning into his role and responsibilities, Simons also must weave Christian Dior’s spirited and honored design concepts into something of his own making that is modern and money-making.
Not that it’s mentioned in the film, but Simons also has some patching up [okay, I’ll stop with the sewing puns after this!] to do of the house’s reputation. Simons’ hiring happened because Dior’s previous top designer was dismissed for an anti-Semitic outburst a year earlier.
I love that the movie drew parallels between Dior and Simons. It demonstrates how both prefer the company of few very close friends, don’t prefer the limelight, and both don’t want their fame to define who they really are.
It also shows the dedication of many of the veteran seamstresses and craftsmen. Some are introduced to the audience for having worked at the house for more than 40 years. They, and many others with fewer years of service, are deeply connected and committed to the items they are creating. They all want to keep Dior’s legacy alive. As a viewer, I deeply appreciated seeing this.
The ladies and gentlemen of the atelier are the real heroes of the house. Everyone you lay eyes on in the movie works on the project that they feel most drawn to, which results in beautiful and thoughtful work. They way the clothes are engineered to be super light and yet have body is one example that leaves me breathless.
Simons as a man is elusive. We aren’t privy to anything about his private life or who he is away from the atelier. Still, for a man to weep openly at the conclusion of his premiere fashion show, knowing that he is being filmed and that he’d very much rather not be, it’s a very telling about his interest in producing beauty in a realm that most would say is a fairy tale.
I’m thrilled that quite soon, one of my fortunate clients will be married in a Dior dress of my choosing. And yet, regardless of your taste in clothes, or how you value the frippery of haute couture, one thing is for sure: seeing this movie further confirms my interest in showing very high quality clothes to everyone. I love the design process. I love the making process. Simons would be nowhere without his gifted atelier workers. And they need his vision. This is the genesis for all quality clothing in the 21st Century. I hope we can all commit to keeping it alive as consumers, wearers, and collectors.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps successful Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs and executives discover their personal brands and design their personal styles. Get Joseph’s free report that helps you know “7 Ways to Transform Your Personal Style”.