Raf Simons

Raf Simons. Courtesy of CIM Productions.

Raf Simons's first couture show for Christian Dior, in 2012 was a hit. But, as the documentary Dior and I (in theaters April 17) reveals, the designer’s march to that triumphant bow was fraught and uncertain. When the filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng began poking his cameras around Dior’s Paris atelier, Simons had just been hired and was under staggering pressure. In close-ups, you can almost see the designer’s hair going gray with each hurdle. His French is halting; his process is alien to the workroom staff; the technique he wants to use to re-create the artist Sterling Ruby’s prints on fabric is known to less than a handful of people in France. Most dramatic is the old struggle between a house’s deference to its master and its commitment to its customers. “We can’t say no to clients,” Catherine Rivière, Dior’s head of couture operations, tells Simons at one point. He replies, “Well, you also can’t say no to me.”