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It's rare that a fashion house offers a truly intimate portrait of behind-the-scenes. There's an unspoken understanding in the industry that photos, video shorts, and other media billed as such are carefully controlled by the brand. But in the new documentary Dior and I, the fashion house and its creative director Raf Simons granted Frédéric Tcheng absolute access to Simons' debut — a time that spans from April to June 2012. After Dior tapped him to replace John Galliano, Simons had just eight weeks instead of the usual five months to complete his first haute couture collection ever. Drama implied.
Tcheng, a fashion documentary vet with his name on Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011) and Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008), revealed at last night's Tribeca Film Festival premier that even he was surprised by the access his crew was given. The invite to film the storied fashion house during such a pivotal moment was granted on a trial basis. Simons luckily warmed to the camera despite his reputation as a low-profile designer. "After the first week, I had my cameras packed to fly back to New York, and Simons said, 'What are you doing? We're going to the archives today.' And so I stayed and we were able to make a movie," Tcheng laughed.
Perhaps the most thrilling part for real fashion fanatics will be the peek into the white-coat clad workers' process and personalities, from stitches and fittings to fear and stress, and, ultimately, success. That coupled with the revealing look at Simons' own creative style (he doesn't sketch but designs mood boards) completes the film's in-depth look at the making of a haute couture collection.
In yet another layer of shockingly undramatic behavior from a major designer, Tcheng explained that Simons requested no changes upon viewing the film. There was, however, one scene that the designer admitted to almost rejecting: When a client's demand took one of his two premieres, or rather the head seamstresses of the atelier, to New York, thereby interrupting a fitting for the collection. Simons' was told that Dior "can't say no to clients." He responded sharply, "Well, you also can't say no to me." Ultimately, Simons told Tcheng, "'That is what happened. You can't hide that it happened.'"