Mayfair’s Curzon cinema played host to the London premiere of “Dior and I,” Monday night, a film by Frédéric Tcheng that charts Raf Simons’ emotionally charged first two months as artistic director of Dior.
But as much as the film focuses on the experience of Simons and his longtime studio director Pieter Mulier as they adjust to working at the house, it also throws the spotlight on Dior’s atelier and the artisans who work there, in particular its “‘premieres’ Florence Chehet and Monique Bailly. “The intention was to [put] the human element back into fashion, which is a very image-driven culture,” said Tcheng, whose documentary credits include “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel.”
“When you go to the atelier and you spend time there…you realize that people have such a strong attachment [to the collection]. They say that it’s their baby. It’s something that’s very personal,” he said, noting that “usually, [the artisans] are not credited — usually the media homes in on the designer.” The film follows Simons as he shapes his first couture collection around his very modern take on Dior’s house codes, and how in turn the atelier becomes accustomed to his new vision.
“What I was interested in was the encounter between Raf and the atelier, the tradition and the future collapsing and colliding,” Tcheng said. The filmmaker noted that while Simons was initially resistant to the idea of the project, he ended up being surprised by its “level of emotion,” Tcheng said. “He sent me a beautiful text…many moments he doesn’t remember me being there…so he was taken back to that period very strongly.” But despite Simons being moved by the film, Mulier, who also took part in the Q&A, noted that the designer isn’t about to step up his media persona. “[Simons] saw the movie and he said it was the first and it was the last,” Mulier said. “It’s a document that shows a very personal side of him, so I don’t think a second [film] would be as authentic as this one. So he’s not a changed man at all. He still believes he’s not part of the fashion system as we know it, and I think he is still not.”