I recently watched Dior and I, a documentary about the first haute couture collection Raf Simons made as head of Dior in 2012. (Simons recently stepped down and a successor has not yet been appointed.) It was a fascinating peek into a world of exacting standards and fabulous excess. For example, Simons had custom fabric woven that was inspired by one of his favorite artists, Sterling Ruby. For his first show, he had the walls of a Parisian villa covered in thousands upon thousands of flowers. It must have smelled divine!
I learned about the work of la première (lah prem-e-air), short for la première main qualifiée, or “first qualified hand.” This skilled worker interprets the designer’s sketches and turns them into garments. He or she runs the atelier so that every garment is perfect, whether on the runway or for a client. Dior has a première for both dresses and tailored garments. In the film, Simons had a bit of a fit when the dresses première went to New York during a critical point in the collection in order to help a client who was not pleased with the fit of her garments. The fact that this client spent €350,000 a year on Dior couture did not cool Simons’ ire at being made to wait for a day to see the dresses. €350,000 a year! Every year!
Even though I don’t think that Simons’ designs were in the league of Christian Dior’s, I did admire his drive, vision, and the deep and sincere emotion that went into this collection. If you like fashion, you’ll enjoy this film.