Intimacy infuses director Frédéric Tcheng’s Dior and I (2014). His second film at the helm situates itself in the centre of a veritable institution in the world of fashion: the haute couture house of Christian Dior. In the film, Dior is not only a name – it’s a living iconography. Dior and I unravels quite sumptuously, if not quietly, to reveal a brand that may be built on a reputation but thrives on the visions and dedication of the people who work within it. There are no mere cogs here; the wheel of Dior rolls through its quotidian activities under the firm guidance of its newest creative director, Raf Simons – the focus of the film – whose modern inclinations seek to push the Dior brand into fresh territory.
Tcheng’s film follows renowned Belgian minimalist Simons’ entry into the looming and lofty Dior fashion house as he embarks upon the epic task of creating an entire haute couture collection in eight weeks time. With a veritable army of craftsmen and women working with him (most of whom have been working at the fashion house for at least a decade or two), Simons must wade through a daily mountain’s worth of work if he is to make his mark in his new post. Dior is associated fantasy and femininity. Simons is associated with modernity and minimalism. This is a documentary the feels a cut above the rest when it comes to the medium’s most recent excursions into the world of high-fashion.
There are some wonderfully intercut excerpts from Dior’s own memoirs that offer intertextual play with Simons’ journey. The mirroring construction adds appreciable depth to the story. While viewers may have reference to the output and status of Dior, it’s a sincere pleasure to gain some insight into the man behind the name. Moreover, this is a documentary that acknowledges that stakes (emotional, professional and historical) of its subjects without whipping itself into a frenzy. There are in-depth and tender portraits of all hands on deck constructing garments that can only be dreamt up. There are no fights or terse exchanges, even as deadlines near. We are given a passionate proclamation of just how much work goes into an art form that is rarely exhibited outside of the upper echelons of society and fashion alike. Dior and I is, ultimately, as beautiful and solid as the people behind it. It’s a curiously sweet peek into haute couture. Much like the careful composition of the clothes or the idealised visions of the world somehow channelled into new mediums, this is a documentary that’s sumptuous, staid and, in the words of Simons, “sublime”.