With a pressure-inducing work period of only eight weeks, Raf Simons, creative director for the French fashion house Dior, must create his first collection amid various constraints in Frederic Tcheng’s new documentary, “Dior and I.”
The film, set to be released in Gainesville on May 8, taps into a more human side of the fashion industry that can be appreciated by even those who believe “haute couture” is just the sound of someone sneezing.
“Dior and I” follows Simons and his skilled team of seamstresses and employees as they attempt to live up to the long-lasting legacy of Christian Dior, the founder of the company whose enigmatic voice is presented through artful sequences with voice-over passages from past journal entries.
In trying to positively represent the Dior name, the team has to balance efficiency with limitations, and the tiniest mishaps can derail any progress — even an elevator getting stuck and an employee leaving the office to assist a client prevent numerous dresses from being shown and fit on a certain day.
The budget, time and design complications take an emotional toll on the team, adding to the tense tone of the documentary. Simons becomes stressed and angry in many scenes, as he is worried certain designs will not be produced in time, if at all. One anxiety-ridden seamstress often has to step away, struggling to remain calm.
Yet the emotions add a rare human element to the film. From the negative turmoil stems endearing relationships and bonds between the employees, whether they worked at the company for only a few weeks or for more than 30 years.
They develop a determination to persist through the difficulties, and their individual quirks make for a refreshing take on the people working behind the scenes in the industry.
Getting a peek into the elusive luxury company is a rare privilege, but Tcheng manages to present Dior as an inviting company rather than one that has a stereotypically harsh atmosphere like in mainstream fashion films. His directorial choices create a well-timed and visually pleasing film about the nuances in the inner workings of the business.
Even the least fashionably inclined will be touched by its humanity and find themselves rooting for Simons and his crew.
[A version of this story ran on page 10 on 4/16/2015]