Longtime Celine Fans, Brace Yourself for the First Hedi Slimane Collection
Rick Owens had a burning pyre on his runway. Models walked on water at Saint Laurent. Mugler had bike shorts and Cardi B, Maison Margiela showed guys in gowns, and Dries Van Noten offered one of the prettiest color statements of the season. But do you think anyone at Paris Fashion Week had anything on their minds besides Hedi Slimane and his debut for Celine?
This has been a solid season overall, with the Paris collections leading the charge, possibly benefiting from an incredible spell of beautiful weather in the French capital that has helped offset the typical cases of the over-its that strike editors right about now. This is Day 24 of the spring collections as I type at a hotel bar, waiting for a martini to raise a little toast to Mr. Slimane. He deserves one. It’s been more than two years since the designer, who so famously put men in skinny pants and ladies in vampy mini-dresses at Saint Laurent, turned his back on the fashion world, returning his focus to photography and his life in Los Angeles. That’s about as far from the clichés of Paris chic as you can get. At Saint Laurent, and Dior before that, he did things his way: skinny, black, sleek, sequined, sexy, rocker, young, younger, youngest. As much as some critics found it a broken record, his cool factor was money in the bank for Saint Laurent.
So. When Slimane was selected as the new designer of Celine, replacing the well-regarded though also-frustratingly-elusive Phoebe Philo, the fashion flock went absolutely bananas. Philo created clothing for smart, cultured, critical women. Her clothes slouched in ways that seemed the opposite of effortless. You had to be in-the-know to know just how beautiful they really were. They were not for attracting men, but perhaps for buffering them, an automatic filter for discarding drooling slobs and duty-free shoppers. They were for women to be taken seriously. Can we ever really say that about Slimane’s work at Saint Laurent?
In short, it is safe to say there will be very little overlap between Philo’s customers and those of Slimane. The big question leading up to his first Celine collection on Friday night was whether or not he would dramatically change the aesthetic, or offer something new that somehow connected his style to the heritage of Celine. But, as he rightly noted in an interview with Le Figaro this week, Celine hardly has much of a recognizable heritage to begin with, as it started as a children’s shoe boutique in the post-war years of France before venturing into ready-to-wear in the 1960s. Before Philo, there were many other versions of Celine: Michael Kors designed Celine for years. So did Roberto Menichetti, and who can forget Ivana Omazic? Don’t everyone raise your hand at once.
So Slimane was certainly entitled to take his own approach, and that he did. Of course, he removed the accent from the name Celine, for architectural reasons, he quasi-explained. (It used to be Céline.) And he picked up right where he left off at Saint Laurent, with a base of skinny suits — black, black, black, and short dresses. The show space, an enormous black block erected in the front lawn of Les Invalides (this modern structure looked strikingly like the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Paramus), was much like the technical marvels he created for Saint Laurent, with a grand mirrored backdrop that opened like a crystal flower, with mirrored pillars revolving until a runway was bared.
Slimane’s designs are, by now, quite familiar, but still, you cannot argue against their appeal. Even the booties were eerily similar with their criss-cross straps, with a little more slouch in them, perhaps, but still, don’t you want them? I don’t blame you. Les smokings were on fire, as always. The minis couldn’t have been shorter had they been designed by a gynecologist. Black ruled the day, and the night, but there were a couple of options in red and gold, too.
And, to be fair, Slimane did offer some thematic elements to this collection, much in the way that Saint Laurent, his obvious touchstone, did. There was a very light hint of a comics motif. That is, in beading, there were scenes of ka-pow graphics, and a few jackets cut with sharp and pointy Dick Tracy shoulders.
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So this is Slimane’s Celine, which is to say, the accent is now on Slimane. The name on the label doesn’t really matter so much. In this era of constant designer burnout, and conglomerates expecting vast overnight sales increases from their buzzy new hires, Slimane seems to be the only one who has figured this system out. So, as my drink arrives, here’s to you, Hedi.