I remember watching The September Issue, a documentary on Anna Wintour, Vogue and their journey to come up with the publication’s thickest magazine to date. It was personal and intimate, out of this world and mind blowing, it was my first documentary about the fashion world. Everyone knows I’m not the most fashionable person, but the whole concept of it: haute couture, high stakes, big decisions, earth shattering achievements, allures me. For Dior and I, I got to see how a fashion house moves, breathes and creates something new while still maintaining tradition but being modern and relevant.
The film follows Raf Simons, the House of Dior’s newest Creative Director as he winds his way around one of France’s veritable and timeless fashion houses. Coming from a Ready-to-Wear background, Simons must learn how to navigate the world of haute couture while maintaining tradition and style synonymous to Christian Dior’s vision. From an outsider’s perspective, the company is in itself baffling, filled with layers upon layers of tradition. Ateliers and premiers must work hand in hand with the creative director to create something totally new, a debut of the director himself. The problem therein is the tradition of Dior, known for changing the look of women, there really isn’t a lot of room to change and be avant-garde.
Therein lies the whole purpose of the film, to look past the bastion of tradition and reinvent or at the very least innovate from multiple sources. For Raf Simons it is the work of Sterling Ruby, spray painting a piece of fabric or printing out his work on bolts of fabric to create a dress. Now when I think of the word “dress” I am suddenly drawn into the steely and judgmental eyes of Raf Simons as he works on his masterpiece because for him it isn’t just a dress but a work of art created from a pile of fabric. With his steely and judgmental eyes, he sees lines and contours that nobody else sees. For him it is a canvas to paint his Mona Lisa, with deft brush strokes and a discerning eye he finds flaws and ways to perfect his work. It also helps that he has a strong right hand man, Pieter, who knows what he wants without saying it. Their relationship is symbiotic, sort of like Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington, one needn’t say anything they already know off the bat.
At the end of his journey, all of Simons efforts pays off, an astounding show and his dress maintain the standards of Dior but reflect his own signature. Sort of how Dior reinvented women’s looks in another time. The film is frenetic and the tension is palpable from start to finish. For someone who’s idea of fashion is an ordinary pair of jeans, collared shirt and New Balance sneakers, Dior and I made me appreciate fashion designers and those who work hard to create timeless pieces even more. Theirs is a life that isn’t glorified or bastardized by Project Runway, but one of passion rivaling Swiss watch artisans.