Inside Dior and the rise of mansplaining in style documentaries

An exclusive look behind the scenes of the Dior fashion house.

Dior SKYLINE


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Inside Dior and the rise of mansplaining in style documentaries” was written by Hannah Marriott, for theguardian.com on Thursday 9th February 2017 22.00 UTC

There is a new trend in fashion that is beginning to chafe, and it has nothing to do with the current vogue for Balenciaga stiletto-heeled tight-boots: it’s about mansplaining, which is on the rise in style documentaries.

Inside Dior – which airs on More4 on Thursday night – is a classic example of this irksome new genre. The show examines the installation of a new creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, at Dior, one of the biggest luxury brands in the world. Dior is kind of a big deal commercially, registering sales of $41.6bn (£33.1bn) in 2016, but the documentary-makers interview its staff using the tone of voice one might employ to ask a toddler whether they are enjoying their ice-cream.

Kind of a big deal … Maria Grazia Chiuri walks the runway during Paris Fashion Week 2017.
Kind of a big deal … Maria Grazia Chiuri walks the runway during Paris Fashion Week 2017. Photograph: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

“Were you finding it difficult to turn around?” an invisible interrogator asks a model, as she practises walking down the catwalk in block heels. His voice practically quivers in anticipation of the mirth about to be unleashed.

“What are you reading?” he asks another model, who is sitting in a corridor waiting for her fitting. “I’m sure you know it,” she says. “It’s Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’m reading it in Dutch.” The camera lingers, presumably giving the viewer time to process the stupendous occurrence that a young woman who works in the fashion industry could enjoy Nobel prize-winning magic realism.

Inside Dior comes hot on the heels of Absolutely Fashion, the BBC2 documentary that purported to expose life behind the scenes at British Vogue, but actually revealed very little. During a year of unprecedented access, the filmmaker spent a great deal of time asking patronising questions, eyerolling at Vogue staffers’ love of fashion and expressing astonishment when he learned that some were Oxbridge-educated.

He missed the scoop taking place under his nose – the Duchess of Cambridge’s first fashion photoshoot – and fluffed a split-second encounter with Kate Moss, which played out as follows:

Interviewer: “How many covers have you done for them?”

Moss: “Thirty-six.”

Interviewer: “That’s a record that’s unlikely to be broken, isn’t it?”

Moss: “I dunno.”

Interviewer: “What has Vogue done for your career?”

Moss: “Oh, they’re everything … I hate being interviewed.” *Exit stage right*

Inside Dior is more successful. There are fascinating shots of the rarely seen couture clients who keep lapdogs in Chanel-branded supermarket baskets, and the interviewer asks worthwhile, difficult questions about models and body image. Still, the condescension cannot be avoided. Its apex occurs during an interview with Peter Philips, creative and image director of Christian Dior makeup. “You have real skills,” the interviewer tells Philips during their exchange, as though throwing him a bone. Philips – arguably the most powerful and influential person working in the cosmetics industry – responds with a bemused laugh and says: “I hope so. Spread the word!”

Imagine this conversation taking place in any other – any male-dominated – industry. Imagine a pundit saying: “You have real skills” to José Mourinho during a post-match analysis, or a food critic chewing on Heston Blumental’s meat fruit and declaring: “You have real skills.” Just imagine.

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