I knew I would enjoy Frederic Tcheng’s Dior & I documentary, but I wasn’t prepared to walk away feeling emotionally gutted—and in love. The film captures designer Raf Simons’ first season at the house in 2012, when he was thrust into designing a couture collection for the first time, in under eight weeks (a feat by most standards).
What first struck me about the film was how quiet it was—a descriptor not usually given to the fashion industry or its players. Despite the fact that the subject matter (namely, couture) is worth millions of dollars, nothing about the film feels showy or overblown. What comes across, instead, is the pure artistry involved in designing these collections and that speaks entirely for itself. Next, I was taken by how utterly humble Raf Simons is—once again, not the most common adjective in the fashion realm. It’s clear that the man is incredibly invested in his work, and not for publicity or acclaim. No, he simply wants to make beautiful things that will empower rather than hinder women. There isn't a sense of Raf Simons as “brand” here—no affectation or narcissism in sight. In fact, he didn’t even want the film to be done (but more on that later)!
As someone who has often questioned the relevance and need for couture in today’s world, I came away with a newfound appreciation for and belief in it. There are people whose lives revolve around it (entire ateliers which go largely unseen) and designers who put every last drop of their creativity into the collections, as evinced by the film. It’s a real art, and if we’re not signaling the death of other mediums, why should we be giving this one the boot?
Be sure to catch Dior & I when it opens in theaters on April 10. Scroll down to discover all the crucial points from the film and premiere, and to shop our favorite Dior pieces!
It girls love Dior.
The film’s US premiere took place last night at New York City’s famous Paris Theater. Despite pouring rain, it brought out plenty of stylish ladies including Chanel Iman, Hannah Bronfman, Bella Hadid, Arizona Muse, Mia Moretti and Harley Viera-Newton, who DJ'd the after-party at The Metropolitan Club.
Raf Simons hates publicity.
He repeatedly becomes agitated when publicity involving him is discussed, noting that he especially hates being filmed by anyone he doesn’t really know. He also finds the idea of walking down a long runway at the end of a show nauseating.
And he was not originally on board with this film.
“Raf Simons took a lot of convincing,” Frederic Tcheng told me at the film’s premiere. However, “after a one week trial period, we developed a really human connection,” which made Simons more comfortable going forward.
Christian Dior and Raf Simons have a lot in common.
Part of the film involves voiceovers from Christian Dior’s autobiography and it gets eerie fast. Everything he describes, down to the last nuance, seems to apply to what’s going on for Raf right before our eyes. Simons seemed to pick up on this too, noting that he had to stop reading the autobiography due to the similarities weirding him out.
But Raf Simons does not think he’s as talented as Christian Dior.
On a long car ride through the countryside, he tells the filmmaker as much, noting that it would be “so pretentious” to think that way.
He’s also never seen himself as a minimalist and the association bothers him.
On the same car ride he explains that, though Jil Sander was a minimalist house, he himself is not a minimalist designer. His hope is that the first Dior show will prove that and, well, hindsight confirms that it did.
It takes an army to churn out couture.
The film gets up close and personal with the many hands of the atelier and it’s refreshing to see these people finally getting their due. Two women, known as the premières, essentially run the show, working very closely with Simons and doling out jobs to the rest of the company.
Those beautiful printed dresses almost didn’t happen.
Taken directly from the work of Raf’s good friend, the artist Sterling Ruby, the colorful prints were so complicated to produce that everyone, except Simons, believed them to be impossible. Luckily, the designer’s intuition paid off in the end.
Couture wouldn’t exist today if ateliers didn’t also take on personal clients.
There’s some drama in the film when the premières are forced to take time off from the collection to work with their individual couture clients. Dior’s vice president explains that this is a sacrifice they must make, as the clients’ enormous fees support the collection's production.
Raf Simons and right-hand man Pieter Muller are dreamy.
I kid you not—you will walk away with two enormous crushes. Muller, who has assisted Simons for over 10 years, is the charmer of the duo, cracking jokes and working most intimately with the atelier. But Simons, with his quiet mystery and innumerable moments of design genius, is equally swoon-worthy. Who cares if they’re not into chicks? I’m in LOVE.
Anna Wintour is a total sweetheart.
Or at least that’s how she comes off in the film when she visits Simons right before the final runway show begins. With her daughter Bee Shaffer in tow, she reassures a nervous Simons, telling him how beautiful the floral set is and joking that he “must not have had any budget problems.”
That floral set put serious fear in the eyes of Dior executives.
Speaking of budget problems, when Raf decides he’d like to reinterpret Jeff Koons’ flower puppy by encasing the walls of the runway venue is fresh flowers, it’s mildly hilarious to watch the blood drain from the faces of Dior’s executives. You can practically see the dollar signs churning feverishly in their brains.
Raf Simons is a feminist.
While designing, he remarks numerous times on the need to make things easier for women—easier to move in and, thus, easier to live. But the best moment comes when he’s working on a pair of heels that he believes are too high. “They need to be comfortable, I hate the idea of a woman needing a man’s support to walk down the stairs. I hate it!” he says. Remember that crush I mentioned? Yeah.