Dior and I: Observations

The film shows Raf Simons joining Christian Dior as creative director and building up to his first women's couture show. He'd come from men's ready-to-wear at Jill Sander.

Like many I have my BS detector on when it comes to fashion. Zoolander and Brüno hilight the hubris and hype we so often sense. We read about rich fashion mavens' factories burning down, killing workers who'd been there in slave-like conditions. Fashion's reality can be far from the beauty they claim to honor. Dior fired their flambouyant creative director Galliano for making drunken anti-semetic slurs.

Raf wears reserved clothes. Shows restraint. I found him almost shockingly humble and quiet—much like many of the best designers I've had the pleasure of working with. Raf doesn't sketch but assembles immpeccably researched mood boards. His team sketches and Raf has insightful, decisive comments. Raf learned Dior's history inside out, pouring over the founder's collections, sketches and swatches. (That's primary ethnographic research folks!) He visits art museums, reads critical texts on contemporary art and has built great taste. The guy has genuine chops.

Raf found this painting by Sterling Ruby interesting. Back in the office he looked at all of Ruby's work and read several reviews. Later we see Raf's team using large-format prints on paper, holding them up against models to give him an impression of how they might sit. As a finished dress is revealed Raf keeps saying (without irony) "Sublime." 

Raf found this painting by Sterling Ruby interesting. Back in the office he looked at all of Ruby's work and read several reviews. Later we see Raf's team using large-format prints on paper, holding them up against models to give him an impression of how they might sit. As a finished dress is revealed Raf keeps saying (without irony) "Sublime." 

What I was most attracted to was the seemingly mundane details of how Raf manages his creative process. Physical mood boards are built. Physical sketches passed around and discussed.

  It's a beautiful drawing. Notice also that it's on their letterhead and stamped with what may be some kind of tracking information. I see what appears to be someone's sign off as well, much like a printer's proof. 

 

It's a beautiful drawing. Notice also that it's on their letterhead and stamped with what may be some kind of tracking information. I see what appears to be someone's sign off as well, much like a printer's proof. 

Though these approaches can be copied, Raf's amazing outcomes are there because of many other factors. His skilled atelier, proven track record, intellectual rigor, support network and so on. These things inform his intuition. The culture of the organization is perhaps the hardest thing of all to replicate. Many places inhibit their own success. (Witness the Uber redesign. The CEO hired great designers, then proceeds to micromanage them, designing everything himself. When lawyers say "the person who represents themself in court has a fool for a client," they're correct. The same is true in design.)

Does the X mean it's good or rejected? I'm not a fan of this yellow tie dye by the way. The other dress is starting to go somewhere though. 

Does the X mean it's good or rejected? I'm not a fan of this yellow tie dye by the way. The other dress is starting to go somewhere though. 

(Warning: Raf's results are not going to be replicated by unqualified people superficially copying the easiest method they see. Some clients for example might type a word into google image search, print out whatever comes up, stick it on a board and assume that represents some kind of creative process. It doesn't. There is no informed intuition in that.)

It's a pleasure to find affirmation for this kind of creative process from someone at the top of their game in another field. I've enjoyed using moodboards to help guide clients. Conversation and contemplation are key parts of any healthy relationship. It's affirming to know that Raf and I align on that.