Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Frederic Tcheng.
With a few notable exceptions, most documentaries about the world of fashion and leading figures in the fashion industry are fairly dull affairs and of limited interest to a general audience. And so it is with this latest documentary Dior And I.
We have had documentaries that have looked beneath the public persona of famous fashion identities like Anna Wintour, the legendary editor of fashion Bible Vogue, and designers like Valentino and Karl Lagerfield, etc. But whereas they are largely recogniseable names, Belgian designer Raf Simon is hardly a household name. But in 2012 the designer best known for his line of menswear, was appointed the creative director for the iconic house of Christian Dior. Simon was new to the world of haute couture, in which dresses are created from the ground up and hand stitched with delicate precision.
He was given just eight weeks to create his first haute couture collection, when typically such a collection would take up to six months. There was a huge weight of expectation placed on his shoulders, especially given the legacy and reputation of Dior, who established his fashion house in Paris in the post WWII years. Dior was an intensely private man, and even though he died in 1957, his shadow looms large over the fashion house. Some reflective snippets from his autobiography give some further insights into the massive pressures on Simon. While outwardly he seems calm obviously he is trying to cope with the enormous pressure to succeed.
Director Frederic Tcheng has been granted an unprecedented level of access as he follows Simon as he sets about creating his debut couture collection. Tcheng was a producer and cameraman on the documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor, and he also directed the documentary about noted fashion photographer Diana Vreeland, so he obviously knows this world well.
Simon wants to incorporate distinctive colours and elements from the art works of Gerhardt Richter and Sterling Ruby into his fabric print dresses, which initially causes some consternation amongst Dior’s long time staff. Simon is at first a little wary of the camera and seems reluctant to engage with Tcheng’s observational style of filmmaking, and so we get precious few insights into the man. But he slowly begins to relax and seems more involved with the filmmakers as the process continues.
But we get to learn far more about his valued right hand man Pieter Mulier, who has been with Simon for over a decade. He is a warmer presence who engages and charms the staff of the house of Dior as they begin the process of creating the fabulous dresses. We also get to meet many of the seamstresses, one of whom has been at Dior for over 40 years. They toil away seven days a week to complete the dresses.
But despite the tight deadline facing Simon and the dressmakers, we get little sense of suspense or tension. And in this fly on the wall-like peek behind the scenes of high end fashion we also do not get any sense of the egos or temper tantrums that seem to be part and parcel of this world.
The film culminates in the successful and triumphant fashion parade as the models strut a catwalk decorated with a million orchids and colourful flowers. It was certainly a splashy and memorable debut for Simon. And there are glimpses of celebrities like Sharon Stone, Anna Wintour herself, and Oscar winners Marion Cotillard and Jennifer Lawrence as well.
But unfortunately Dior And I is another of those rather dull fashion documentaries that will mainly be of interest to fashionistas.