Not rated | Time: 1:30
For people already interested in fashion, the appeal of “Dior and I” will be obvious. But this documentary deserves to go beyond a small target audience.
Christian Dior — the man, not the name — has been dead since 1955, and yet somehow the company he created and ran for only a decade has remained an important force in fashion. A series of chief designers have maintained the Dior tradition, combining their own visions with Dior’s flowing, hyper-feminine aesthetic.
“Dior and I” is about the appointment of Flemish designer Raf Simons, previously known for men’s fashion, into the top creative position at Dior in 2012, eight weeks before the debut of Dior’s new line.
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The documentary offers a privileged behind-the-scenes look at the workings of a business. It’s also about the difficulties of the creative process, the running of an organization and the adjustments that must be made when a new boss is in town. For the top man, it’s a life of stress — of trying to keep the creative channels open, while facing deadlines and juggling various personalities. At the start of the film, Simons is 44 and looks 10 years younger. By the end of those eight weeks, he looks like he’s pushing 50.
For those not in the know, the sheer work involved in putting together a new collection is a revelation. Things have to be designed, and then the clothes have to be made. At Dior, the people who do the sewing get to choose the designs they want to work on. This is creative, technical work — with measurements down to the last millimeter. Then, once the clothing is sewn, models put it on, and then further adjustments are made to the design. This goes on and on until the morning of the premiere.
As bosses go, Simons is a nice guy, and his second in charge — the position that might normally go to a henchman — is the even-nicer Pieter Mulier, who radiates humor, goodwill and an even temper. Despite the ghastly pressure, Simons comes close to hitting the ceiling only once, when on the very day he needs to see his designs, the head of his atelier is in New York doing a fitting for a wealthy client. The problem is that this client orders $350,000 in clothing every year. It’s hard to say no to someone like that.
Simons describes fashion as a conversation between the present and the past, and in his Dior designs, he sets out to take Dior’s “gigantic and sublime” history and blend it with the modern era. Though we see Simons working throughout “Dior and I,” director Frederic Tcheng holds off on showing us most of the clothing until the premiere, so we see it for the first time along with Jennifer Lawrence, Harvey Weinstein and other A-list bigwigs. His work is beautiful.
Good thing it is. By the time of the premiere, Simons, an otherwise fairly contained person, is bursting into tears from terror. Imagine going through this every six months.
(At the Glenwood Arts and Tivoli.)
| Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle