Did Hedi Slimane Ruin Celine?
Céline, pinnacle of French ready-to-wear since its 1945 foundation, has long boasted a commitment to the needs of women, emphasizing sportswear in its original designs. From 2008 to 2018, Céline’s creative director was chic minimalist Phoebe Philo, who not only transformed the image of the brand but also its commercial viability, taking her success from Chloé with her in inspiring a new wave of women to wear their hair tucked into turtlenecks and always accessorize with Stan Smiths. From the start, Phoebe effortlessly epitomized the Céline woman with her collections; the Céline woman wasn’t definitionally limited by categories such as race or an impossibly thin body standard, she embodied versatility and diversity. Though always intentional and impeccably tailored, Philo’s collections featured black tweed (AW 2010) and bright silk (SS 2011) alike and the clothes fit the lifestyle of working women. The point was that women didn’t have to think about what they were wearing. Though clothing was an important and intrinsic means of expression, it wasn’t as if these women struggled with a construction of image. Not only did Philo stay true to the heart of Céline’s brand, she re-vamped it, popularizing furry slides, geometric jewelry and heels, and the slip dress. She made Céline bags ‘it’ bags. And to top it all off, she made Joan Didion a face of Céline, paving way for the inclusion of older women as faces of fashion. Well, to all our dismay, this revolutionary woman left the brand in 2018, but she left behind a commercially viable, extremely reputable brand. But is that what we are left with?
Hedi Slimane, 50, is the former creative director of Dior’s menswear line Dior Homme and Yves Saint Laurent. He was the man responsible for Yves Saint Laurent’s logo change to Saint Laurent Paris, and subsequently for dropping the accent in Celine’s name (revolutionary, I know). Though he undeniably has a vision, it remarkably doesn’t seem to align with any of the brands he’s worked for. Instead, he takes his newfound platform and alters it to align with this aforementioned vision. What vision is it? Well, it includes a lot of black skinny leg suits and an overwhelming amount of white, underweight models. He carried with him the aesthetic he formed at Dior Homme to YSL, expanding it to work for a female line. These collections featured (shocker) a lot of black skinny leg suits but now little black dresses, “rocker chic” androgeny (and therefore cheetah print), sheer black tights, and a healthy dose of nipples. Prior to this, YSL had played with prints, florals, colors, fringe, and various cultural inspirations. One must look no further than YSL’s final couture collection, SS 2002, and its 270+ looks to exemplify the brand’s previous diversity. Slimane’s time at YSL was filled with controversy, but the one non-controversial point was his financial success, doubling the house’s revenue. Along with this, though, Slimane moved the historically French house’s headquarters to Los Angeles, reintroduced couture, and completely changed the brand’s aesthetic.
What has he done at Celine? He began by continuing in his tradition of changing logos and disrupting long-standing traditions: he added a menswear line and dropped the houses accented “E.” And it was tiring. Celine isn’t the brand of cigarette-addicted, mascara-blurred, still-hungover party girls. Shockingly, though, his latest Celine collection takes the house back to its roots: with a mid-70s aura, it freshly balances Slimane’s harsh tendencies with prints, midi skirts, scarves, and ambiguity behind sunglasses. Despite the consistency in his casting, it’s essentially the Celine we wanted: the disinterested, effortlessly put-together, occasionally maximist French woman. So, did Hedi Slimane ruin Celine? If you asked me last fall, I would’ve pleaded for him to simply start his own brand, but this collection has afforded him an extra life. Let’s see what SS 2020 looks like.