Fashion, with its air of magic and enchantment, has long fashioned fairy godmothers of its own — Coco Chanel and Miuccia Prada in particular come to mind. But Christian Dior, equally iconic and unforgettable, stands one of fashion’s greatest fairy godfathers.
In 2014, the Tribeca Film Festival released Frederic Tcheng’s (“Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel”) documentary “Dior and I” to illustrate the continuation of Christian Dior’s legacy through the eyes of new creative director Raf Simons. The film is mostly in French but utilizes English subtitling.
The opening presents the tall, intimate and quintessentially French character of Christian Dior, followed by the less abstract, charming and shy figure of Raf Simons. Simons and his team face the priceless privilege and daunting pressure of carrying out Dior’s particular brand of craft, to create a breathtaking collection in mere weeks.
Faced with every imaginable obstacle in the business, the team faces crippling challenges but triumphs by the skin of their teeth. The show goes underway and achieves overwhelming success, especially in harkening back to days of classic haute couture.
Tcheng gives his viewers an exclusive look into the mechanics of bringing such art to life, only hinted at in the layers of tulle and hand stitching floating down the runway. Each of the team members has their own snippet of the film, a chance to comment on their own role in the process while running around to finish the day’s work.
But the chaos, stress, and scramble of putting together the modern collection are juxtaposed by shadowy intervals of Dior’s history. Women dressed in vintage Dior framed in black and white cinematography swirl to Christian Dior’s soft, alluring voice.
The film does two things admirably. Primarily, almost akin to the feeling of desperate hope inspired by an inspirational sports movie, the audience is breathlessly rooting for Simon, and his team to win the metaphorical trophy of high fashion approval. While they pray to the spirit of Christian Dior, the audience is praying for the flustered seamstresses and the nearly faint Simons.
Secondly, the film resurrects the word “sublime.” Every stroke of genius, fortunate moment or execution of another piece is marked by someone’s proclamation of “sublime!”(in a perfect French accent, of course) making us wonder why anyone ever stopped saying that word.
The film reminds us why we find ourselves so fascinated by fashion. “Dior and I” bestows a glimpse into the raw vision that is molded by blood, sweat and tears in order to make true couture. And more than any sports team, the house of Dior’s teamwork behind the scenes was unparalleled and awe-inspiring. Much like the work it displays, the film is sublime in its portraiture and reminds us why Dior will continue to mark the pages of Vogue for years to come.