Anticipating Hedi at Céline
When David Bowie sings to you “Hedi Slimane is the greatest designer alive…” you know you must be on to something. Hedi Slimane has definitely been on to something, revolutionising fashion, not once but twice in his career in Fashion; set to do it all again at Céline. With the announcement that he will be taking over creative direction of the house, as well as introducing a menswear line, the whole industry is in anticipation of what he does, and I as a massive Slimane stan, can’t wait for what’s to come.
Perhaps the biggest question is not what he does at the house, but what he’s allowed to do. Some may remember back to when he was appointed at Yves Saint Laurent, where he to the French traditionalists’ dismay rebuilt the brand from the ground up, most notably by dropping the “Yves” from the name and attempting to discontinue the monogram YSL. In essence this was a genius move, that even though it spurned loyal customers who believed they were buying into Yves’ heritage, prompting Colette to sell t-shirts printed with “Ain’t Laurent, without Yves”, created a radical, rebellious air around the brand, which very much appealed to their new customer. Will he, and will he get away with, doing the same thing again for Céline?
The new look was that of a rockstar, continuing the aesthetic he left at Dior Home years earlier, and let’s face it, everyone thinks rockstars are the coolest of the cool. Everyone wanted to be a Saint Laurent rockstar; rappers, businessmen, hairdressers and even footballers wanted to look like they fit into Hedi’s cast of flamboyant, perfectly disheveled characters. It became apparent that this attitude aligned itself tidily with the Le Smoking and Rive Gauche collections, by Yves Saint Laurent, but how it will fit in with the Celie heritage is not so clear. Céline of late under Phoebe Philo has been all about brightly coloured, light, chic daywear, with a dash of hobo chic thrown in. This look has been coveted by the vogue and Harper’s Bazaar reader as well as idolised by newer designers like Virgil Abloh, but it’s not really Hedi’s vibe at all. However, if we look back in the history of the brand, we see a familiar name heading the design of the house, Michael Kors. Kors is of course currently know for his hyper-commercial big-logo watches and handbags, loved by footballers’ wives and their idolisers, however back at the turn of the century his work at Céline was exciting and sexy; some collections you could even believe if someone lied to you and told you that Hedi himself had designed them. There is a rich archive from this era for Slimane to dig his teeth into and reinvigorate.
During his tenure at Saint Laurent, Hedi was obsessed with LA, basing his collections on the LA youth aesthetic, and even moving his design studio out to the West Coast city from Paris, rumoured to be much to the brand’s dismay, but because he brought the money in it was allowed. One could ask whether Hedi plans to do similarly for Céline, however, as I understand it, Hedi has grown tired of the USA, much as he grew tired of London in the 00’s, and is longing for his home, Paris. If Céline means that Hedi would be based in Paris for the majority of his time, I think everyone would be happy. Céline is a Parisian mainstay and I’m sure LVMH would much rather not spend the money involved in relocation, especially as Slimane most definitely has a long list of expenditures he has planned for them.
One controversial factor that has always followed Hedi is his use of skinny models only. The waif look was very much part of his aesthetic at Yves Saint Laurent the first time, Dior Home and Saint Laurent, and is his calling card in fashion. Ask any fashion industry insider to tell you about the skinny jean and I could bet that Slimane’s name would come up, and rightfully so, as he pioneered the look when muscle and curves were en vogue not jutting collar bones and hips you could slice bread with. It may be noted that even though in the day of Diet Prada calling out everyone in fashion, the conversation regarding the weight of models does not come up much any more, though I assure you the pressures on models to be skinny has not changed. The apparent skinniness has not really been on display in current day, and popular culture is way more interested in giant behinds on Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, and the male body shape has become as diverse as ranging from a short pre-pubescent gosha boy to an old homeless man walking for Vetements. I look forward to Slimane challenging this again and changing the look again, though I have a niggly feeling that the california lifestyle has got to him, and perhaps he will react to this with baggier styles and looser fitting clothes. This is simply speculation, but I really would not be surprised or disappointed if he does come out with a new proposition. Whether, he will still show these clothes on the skinniest models imaginable is yet up for question, but it will be interesting to see how the bodies we now have in place to question, complain and call out misplay in fashion will react, and what difference they will make. Diet Prada’s ability to pull down abusive photographers like Terry Richardson, worries me that Hedi won’t have an easy ride.
Even though we can only deliberate what Hedi Slimane will do in his new position as creative director of Céline, I can honestly say that I’m excited; not just for what he brings with the brand, but also the effect he will have on the industry and landscape of fashion as it is. It is undoubtable that his return to the industry will be yet again revolutionary, and I look forward to buying men’s Céline.
Words Iolo Lewis Edwards