First of all, a little back story.
For those that don’t know, Hedi Slimane – pronounced ‘e’di sli’man (thank you, wikipedia) – has quite the controversial history within the fashion industry and judging by his debut collection at Celine as Phoebe Philo’s successor (as seen at Paris Fashion Week last Friday) that’s not something that’s likely to change anytime soon.
He shot to fame during his reign at Dior Homme where he was creative director during the early 2000s. Under his creative control, the brand saw the emergence of Slimane’s now famous (although increasingly notorious) slim silhouettes as well as the launch of Dior Homme’s first fragrance, Higher. It’s worth noting that at this point in his career, Slimane had built a reputation as a creative with “unyielding control.”
His next move? An appointment as Yves Saint Lauren creative director in 2012. This time around, his relationship with the fashion public and insiders began to falter. His first move upon arrival was to drop the ‘Yves’ from the label’s name, changing the logo and the type face of the brand too. His next move – moving the design studio to LA as opposed to Paris where the original headquarters were based. Then came the marbled and mirrored makeover for the stores. While fashion critics raised an eyebrow and unforgiving pen to paper, the sales reality told a different story and saw Slimane’s Saint Laurent double in their annual sales revenue to €707 million in 2014 as opposed to the €353 million in 2011, just prior to his appointment.
Which brings us to his current role – creative director of Celine – taking over from Phoebe Philo who left the brand in December 2017 and has controversy from the second his new position was announced.
Phoebe Philo’s Céline was applauded for her minimalist chic aesthetic, for the ‘uniform’ her designs provided for a multitude of women and not just those who held roles within the fashion industry and that filled the runway and the wardrobe’s of many with chic solution clothing that women could wear with confidence.
Hedi Slimane’s Celine (minus the accent on the ‘e’) obliterated all of that, taking with it every last bit of Philo’s legacy leaving ‘Philophiles’ unsurprisingly outraged with a runway full of emaciated rocker-glam, “boy” like tailoring and the kind of mini ballerina-esque dresses reserved for the wardrobes of 17 year old girls.
In Slimane’s defence, he was hired by Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH (the luxury conglomerate that owns Celine) with clear expectations that he would double the revenue for the brand (as he did with Saint Laurent), expand the offering to include perfume (as he did with Dior Homme) menswear and couture. Arnault was also clear about the fact that he specifically wanted a different kind of client this time around, going down the millennial route and even using words such as “rocker chic” and “cool kids”, according to reports.
Unsurprisingly, Slimane’s first move at Celine saw a change in logo, taking Céline to that without the accent – Celine. His reasoning this time around?
“The accent on the ‘e’ has been removed to enable a simplified and more balanced proportion, evoking the Celine collections of the 1960s where the accent wasn’t used often. The spacing between the letters has been balanced out and the letters have been brought closer together” as explained in a post on the brand’s Instagram. Our first clue to history repeating itself.
Where (one of the many) issues lies however, is while this may be a new look for Celine, it’s not for Slimane. He played the same cards – undernourished silhouettes, whip-thin tailoring, crotch-skimming cocktail dresses, cropped tuxedos, bold shouldered blazers, sequin encrusted dresses – that he’s played time and time again, at both Dior Homme and Saint Laurent. The perceived lack of originality combined with the mourning of Philo’s departure from the brand, has led to accusations of Slimane existing as a one trick pony within the industry.
With such a dedicated and determined aesthetic, it raises the question – why didn’t LVMH give Slimane his own label? So far it seems that regardless of the brand, his clothes remain the same and given the current nature of the industry, pattern suggests Slimane will likely stick around for a few years before leaving to bring the same aesthetic and “reform project” to yet another label. (Cue nightmares of a world where we’re all dressed as Hedi Slimane dolls.)
While Slimane’s followers (previously dubbed the Hedi cult) are undoubtedly overjoyed by the new collection, it leaves a significant proportion of Celine customers – those who subscribed to the sophisticated, subtle and artful clothes of Philo’s reign – completely uncatered for and forced to look elsewhere.
Yet again, we’ll have to wait and see what the fate of the latest player in the fashion industry’s creative director switcheroo, really means for the future of Celine.