Celine: Slimane overthrows the ancien régime
So, after over 300 shows on both sides of the Atlantic, all those who mattered in fashion finally sat down to see the most awaited show in the past half-decade. Hedi Slimane's debut for Celine.
A double debut, in effect, as Slimane also unveiled the first men's collection for the house of Celine, which was founded in Paris in 1945 by Céline Vipiana.
The show was staged in a truly massive matt black tent in Place Vauban, literally in the shadow of Napoleon's tomb. Hedi never did lack self-confidence. In attendance: Lady Gaga, Karl Lagerfeld, Catherine Deneuve, Virgil Abloh, practically the entire family of Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH, which owns Celine, and even Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie, something of an inspiration for this collection, several Anglo Saxons present suggested.
Let's recall that Slimane was replacing a highly acclaimed and successful designer, Englishwoman Phoebe Philo; and there was much speculation about how much he would respect her oeuvre – firmly targeted at lady gallery owners and artistically inclined businesswomen. In the end, Slimane pretty much ripped apart that tradition, cutting a good 20 years off the Celine customer.
His opening look did perhaps take off where his last Paris collection, a lone couture show for Saint Laurent, left off. A full-blown polka-dot cocktail with almost mushroom cloud shoulders.
But the mood had a far more European touch than his Californian-tinged previous era: a bold explosion of chiffon in the next top, over a mini skirt and boots. His length was very short, and his ankle boots very high. Just as he once established a whole studded ankle boot look that swept fashion, expect him to do the same thing with his new 2nd arrondissement cowboy boots with zips and buckles.
A whole series of dazzling cocktails in silver, lipstick red and burnished gold will look great on editorial pages and should walk out of Celine boutiques. Also appealing were semi-sheer corseted dresses ideal for a biker chick wedding. And in a clever French touch he finished nearly every model with decorative fascinators and hatinators made of mesh and beads, for posh rockers. His title for his debut show: Paris La Nuit.
In truth, the biggest fashion news was his menswear. There is a reason that Slimane was the first menswear designer to achieve rock-star status, back in his days at Dior Homme. He manages to combine killer tailoring with a genuinely new look. He did it again tonight, with a snug-hipped but faintly curving at the thigh pant that ended right at the ankle. It made every guy in the audience look at their own trousers and think "I´m out of date." Same for the great jacket he was wearing backstage, a six-button double-breasted number cut just so.
“A nocturnal journal of young Parisians,” was the typically lapidary comment on the show offered by Slimane, who posed for photos afterwards with Karl Lagerfeld.
“Did I like it? These are exactly the sort of clothes that I want to wear, so of course I did,” said Karl.
Add in perfectly judged Le Samouraï trench coats; 10-button mess jackets; faux leopard coats and some dandy redingotes, and all looked rather outstanding.
Done with tousled hair, retro glasses and winkle-picker shoes at times, the cast looked like Parisian rockers applying for a job in a New Wave band. Nothing wrong with that by the way.
Hedi's invite was a bound album of black and white images he shot in Paris. Fourteen photos including a light column, a disco ball, faded boiserie, a graffiti wall, trashy curtains and a bashed-up backstage. The locations were 14 of Hedi's old Parisian haunts: Balajo, Bus Palladium, Chez Castel, Chez Jeannette, Chez Moune, Folies Pigalle, La Cigale, Whisper Club, Le Crazy Horse, La Station, La Java, Le Rouge and Pile ou Face. Suggesting a yen for the dark glory of his youth; and the kind of clothes with which he built his reputation with after-midnight tuxes, skinny jeans and rocker blazers.
Slimane, to his credit, has always been open about the fact that he once wanted to be a journalist; and his ability to play and direct media attention is second to no designer. Though it was those early days discovering Paris after hours that eventually led him to a life in fashion.
The stakes were high this evening, since Celine currently has an annual turnover of some €1.2 billion. Admittedly relatively small fry compared to giant brands like Chanel, Gucci or Vuitton. But Arnault made it abundantly clear to LVMH shareholders that he wants to see Celine in that premiership luxury division, and has handed over all the creative reins of the house – women, men, accessories, perfume, you name it – to Hedi.
Slimane will almost certainly be damned by some for staying too close to his previous ideas at both YSL and Dior, and for jettisoning Philo's codes. But they will miss the point of this collection: the latest twist on the cool cerebral nocturnal Parisienne and gentlemanly rocker iconography that is Hedi's DNA.
To underline the overthrow of the ancien régime, Hedi had a drummer from La Garde Républicaine beat out a tattoo to announce the beginning of the show. The giant space, one should note, will be made into a showroom overnight and start wholesaling the collections to international buyers for the next three days.
As for the Napoleon of luxury Arnault, he walked about backstage with a beatific smile, practically chuckling. And one could not help but recall Bonaparte's often quoted remark that he liked his marshals to be lucky. Well, few are more blessed than Hedi.
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