Dior and I – Review

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The world of high fashion is examined in this fascinating feature-length documentary that covers the insanity that surrounds the creation of a collection at one of the elite fashion houses of Paris.

In 2012, Christian Dior appointed up-and-coming Belgian designer Raf Simons to join their team and deliver a collection combining the luxury of the brand with the minimalism of Simons. The task would usually take several months, but the new artistic director is given less than eight weeks to put on his first show for Dior. Events are further complicated by the fact that he doesn’t speak French, so most of his messages are translated by his right-hand Pieter Mulier. Ambitious Simons has to get his ideas across to a well-established team, who aren’t used to working to his methods. In the ateliers (workrooms), two departments are under pressure to complete the outfits in time. Whereas the more laid-back atmosphere of the dresses department is full of laughter, the highly-stressed suits team are headed up by Monique Baily, a woman who anxiously avoids any confrontation.

Dior only helmed his house for 10 years, but in that time he established it as a name to be reckoned with in the fashion world. His presence is inescapable, and the film uses his own words as a running narration over the course of the 90 minute runtime. It’s a timely and welcome input, with both men (Simons and Dior), facing challenges that they bring upon themselves.

In the case of the new man, it’s a desire to update well known designs in the legendary “New Look” style. The film’s ticking clock device serves it well, with the tension matching that of most thrillers we see. The show itself is another headache to contend with, as thousands of freshly cut flowers have to arrive just on time to make it all work. The workhouses themselves have to deliver too, although their last minute nature grates Simons, and in one scene we see him show his annoyance at having his plans disrupted by the need to please valuable clients in other countries.

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To get a better feeling of the history he needs to showcase, Simons visits the childhood home of Dior in Normandy, a different world from the pressures of the French capital and the fashion industry in general.

The film is a fascinating slice of faux-reality. Of course elements are played up for dramatic effect, but in this industry it actually makes it all feel more authentic. Simons commands the screen, even if later we see him crumble under the scrutiny of the media. The three year gap from filming to seeing the film on screen helps us relax, thinking that it will “all be ok”, even if others on screen don’t inspire any confidence in us.

You need not have any particular interest in the fashion world, either, for this film to have an impact. The human story translates to almost any working situation. The characters in the workrooms vary greatly in terms of likability, and “the suits” upstairs seem to be more interested in rubbing shoulders on the front row with celebrities than in their business.

Of course the two are connected, the collection itself has a plethora of high-profile names in attendance. It’s a world we see in gossip mags and front page exposes, but rarely from this side of the catwalk.

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About Cassam Looch

Cassam Looch has been watching films ever since his first trip to the cinema to catch Care Bears: The Movie and writing about them after a traumatic incident involving Moonwalker. If he's not hassling celebrities on the red carpet, he'll usually be found in the darkened screening rooms of Soho.

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