Friday, 17 April 2015

Dior Then and Now

Raf Simons impressed by how Dior's archival pieces are still so modern
I am mesmerized by designer Raf Simons' eyes. They are so clear and bright -- an intelligent person who has the smarts and optimism to get through life.

In Dior and I, director Frederic Tcheng follows Simons from the first day he meets the team of couturiers at Christian Dior, the people behind the dazzling haute couture pieces, to eight weeks later when he presents his first collection.

Simons is understandably anxious -- no one has only two months to put a collection together -- and on top of that transition from doing ready-to-wear to haute couture. There are language and cultural barriers, but the atelier is used to creative directors coming and going, and they take it all in stride.

Simons' fresh floral take on Dior's feminine silhouettes
Some have been there for decades, and they have magical skills to turn fabric into gorgeous suits, dresses, tops and skirts, the tailoring perfect. Even down to the last minute they are carefully hand-sewing things -- a group of them overnight if need be.

They love what they do and are there to serve not only the creative director of the moment, but also honour the spirit of Monsieur Dior. They love the idea of working for the fashion house, the history, but also the grandeur associated with the name.

With time quickly ticking away, Simons decides to pay homage to Monsieur Dior by taking the founder's classic pieces and style and reinterpreting them with innovative fabrics and modern touches.

It turns out the Belgian's style is very similar to Dior's -- as Tcheng cleverly picks out passages from Dior's memoirs and has them read out as voice overs, reminiscing about presenting his first collection at the age of 41, the frustrations, the tears, anxiety and excitement.

Simons uses Sterling Ruby's paintings to make his pieces
We see Simons with flashes of brilliance -- taking artist Sterling Ruby's paintings and making fabrics out of them, and deciding that the space where the fashion show will be held will have walls completely covered in flowers, an inspiration from Jeff Koon's floral Puppy, but also from Dior's childhood home as well.

In the end it comes together and the audience is mesmerized by the sumptuous designs that are feminine and sexy, silhouettes that are reminiscent of Monsieur Dior and yet have a modern touch.

They are not just Simons' ideas, but of the entire atelier -- it was them who translated the sketches into three-dimensional designs that take exceptional talent and experience to pull off. Interestingly the atelier are impressed by the accuracy of Simon's team's sketches, down to the millimetre, though haute couture is a work in progress, as they literally work on a model to figure out exactly what they want to do.

As a result Dior and I gives the general public insight into what it takes to put a collection together, as well as have greater appreciation for haute couture. They cost tens of thousands of US dollars to make, and so they are a form of art.

But throughout it all, it's Simons' eyes that show his emotions -- he is honest and scared, elated and frustrated.

Some criticisms of the documentary are that there was no context, that Simons was coming to Dior after John Galliano was fired in 2011 for making drunken racist slurs in a bar.

However, one could argue that kind of context could detract from Simons' story, and focusing it on him and Monsieur Dior is already a good contrast and interesting story to tell.

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