In April 2012, Raf Simons was announced as the new creative director at Christian Dior, fashion experts all over the world were surprised that they’d chosen a minimalist Belgian designer who up to then had mostly been known for his menswear, and when his first couture collection debuted, the house of Dior was once again giving people something to talk about, as Simons sought to pay tribute to the man whose “New Look” revolutionized fashion in the twentieth century. What few people knew was the behind-the-scenes drama that had the introverted Simons become the hero at the center of a thriller which had him try to deliver a couture collection in two months, as opposed to the six most designers are given to work with.
In his provocative documentary Dior and I, director Frédéric Tcheng gives us access to this exclusive world in which art and commerce are at constant odds with each other. Tcheng has amassed an admirable nonfiction filmography comprised of some of the greatest fashion films in recent years, he co-produced and edited the Oscar short-listed Valentino: The Last Emperor and co-directed the delicious Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, but as he explained during our chat in New York City, he’s not interested in being “a fashion filmmaker”, but instead wants to tell compelling stories that transcend into the universal.
JOSE: Something that never becomes clear in the film is why he would agree to do the collection in eight weeks? Did you ask him about this?
FRÉDÉRIC TCHENG: (Laughs) I think the timing just happened to be that way, I’m not sure what was actually said at the meetings when they were negotiating his arrival, so I can’t speak for that. What I gather is that Dior wanted him to start with couture as a statement, not ready to wear, but couture, which happens only twice a year. Everyone was waiting for Dior to announce a new designer, and it took them almost a year to do it, so I don’t know what happened in those meeting rooms.
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