Hedi Slimane wouldn’t be himself if he wasn’t obsessed with youth – even for a moment. But there was something unexpectedly intriguing about his Celine vision of lockdown-era teenagers, who are totally fed up with the real world and induldge in fancy, Disney-like daydreaming. Definitely, the collection’s video was a highlight. The audienceless show was set amongst the breathtaking gardens of the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, some 55 kilometers outside Paris. The always-sad Hedi girls walked casually past the exquisite formal fountains and pools landscaped centuries ago by André Le Nôtre. It’s landed as a sequel to the last Celine menswear show, in which Slimane’s young chevaliers roamed the battlements of the Château Chambord in the Loire valley. Clothes-wise, this collection was rather usual Slimane offering. Traditionally, the uniform Parisian wardrobe is paced out and remixed in that on-point manner that has made French girl-style the envy of the world. It’s that knack of pairing something posh that might have belonged to your mom or dad with something casual. Throwing on a tweed hacking jacket or trench coat with exactly the right cut of bashed-up old jeans is also always a good idea. The new additions included nods to princess wardrobe: a heavily embellished ball-skirt worn with a heavy leather biker jacket, for instance. There was a line in Slimane’s show notes which alluded to a “utopian parade and melancholic daydream of youth interrupted.” It ran after quotes from Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, and Arthur Rimbaud – France’s decadent, libertine poets eternally famed for exalting the excess and pain of misspent youth. In a time when parties, clubs, festivals, and events have been banned for so long, the show ended with a shift to a fairy-tale scenario. A girl in a glittering, hand-beaded crinoline stood looking toward the chateau with fireworks exploding in the sky. There was a deer by her side, a tear on her cheek. There’ll be nowhere for the princess to wear that couture-ish crinoline yet – definitely not in locked-down Europe. Let her dream, at least.
While Raf Simons understands the youth and reflects its dreams and fantasies in the best way, Hedi Slimane‘s – another designer who’s obsessed with all things young – execution of this theme at Celine feels shallow and tone-deaf. Somehow, at Saint Laurent it worked well, but here, with every season, it just gets worse. Spring-summer 2021 collection, filmed in the Stade Louis II, a sport venue in Monaco, is an example of remarkably lazy design with over-exaggerated confidence. “With this collection Hedi wants to show, through the youth and optimism, the hope in this uncertain time”, said the brand’s press note. Sorry, but I found no optimism in a bunch of crop-tops with logo bands and un-inspiring denim pants (at worst, grey sweat-pants). This was an ode to the ‘basic girl’, and definitely not about the actual youth of today that’s vocal about voting, takes part in Black Lives Matter and women’s rights protests across the world or is socially engaged. The vague-ness of this line-up escalates with each look. She’s “always the Parisian, but with a new energy – she listens to rap/hip-hop music”. Oh, wow, sounds like an Emily in Paris. Princess Nokia’s “I Like Him” looped hypnotically as the models strode the circuit, which is the only thing I liked about this collection. But their Celine-logo baseball caps (I can’t stand that merchanside-driven part the most) and ‘so whatever’ styling was utterly depressing. The problem is that Slimane doesn’t evolve aesthetically, and his ‘youthfulness’ feels exhausted and irrelevant. It’s no longer an attitude, but a mad-priced costume.
My reaction to Hedi Slimane‘s Celine follows the sinusoidal pattern of emotions I had about his work at Saint Laurent. First, I felt aversion. Then, for a moment, I was amused. In the end, I lost interest. Quite dangerously I’m entering the third phase. Consistence and assertiveness is key for a brand to succeed, yes. But Slimane’s stubborness – same venue, same models (now he even has the same faces he had back at YSL), pretty much the same music, and, what’s worst, same clothes, is quite the art of fashion procrastination. Yes, yes, I know the closing gowns are couture and they took hundreds of hours to embroider. And I’m aware that the 1970s nostalgia is a common, widespread thing for the last (and probably next) couple of seasons. Slimane doesn’t push the envelope, because it’s the aesthetic he loves and repeats over and over again. But he doesn’t even bother to rework it. It’s great that you can buy a pair of denim pants at Celine, or a corduroy mini-skirt, or a retro-lookig dress. But do we need a fashion show for this sort of clothes with more than 100 looks?
Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.
Hedi Slimane‘s Saint Laurent.
Hate it or love it, but Hedi Slimane’s time at Saint Laurent was one of the most influential moments in fashion this decade. The designer not only completely rebranded the brand (from the name – no more Yves – to the worldwide store appearances), introduced new “brand ambassadors” (Courtney Love, Beck, Kim Gordon, Joni Mitchell AND Marilyn Manson, all photographed by the designer for ad campaigns) and infamously called out the critics just for being honest (the Cathy Horyn beef!), but also polarised the fashion industry into two camps: Hedi fanatics, who go crazy for his Celine today, and Hedi sceptics. The designer implemented a youthful, rock & roll and very L.A. mood to the label, sending down baby-doll dresses, vintage-looking floral frocks, super-mini skirts and heavy boots with the attitude of the most rebellious girl in town. One of the most memorable collections he “designed” for the house? Definitely the autumn-winter 2013 show. It was inspired with the lifestyle of Venice Beach, California, and nodded to Yves’ The Scandal Collection from 1971, which was called “notorious” and “disgusting” by its guests (but in the end became iconic). As Tim Blanks pointed out about this Slimane collection, “almost nothing looked new”. Sloppy cardigans, plaid shirts and sparkly dresses accessorized with strings of pearls and black bows. While grunge was long dead, Slimane brought it back to life, and what’s the most ironic – the entire collection was sold out, even though the price tags were far, far from the thrift store originals. Of course Marc Jacobs’ final Perry Ellis collection was first, but Slimane appeared to be in the right place and right time with this line-up. I’m still on fence with Slimane’s era at YSL, but one thing’s sure: it was much more disruptive (and naughty) than Anthony Vaccarello’s work today for tha maison.
Last season, Hedi Slimane‘s Celine was about the Parisian, bourgeois woman. For spring-summer 2020, it’s about her daughter, who wears nothing else but denim, dreams of Woodstock and eventually takes part in street protests. But still, she’s bourgeois, no matter how she tries to rebel. Slimane doesn’t overstrain himself. His collection is again a 1:1 version of Celine’s 1970s archives, with a bit more of slouchiness and the presence of Yves Saint Laurent turbans (and, oops, it seems that Anthony Vaccarello pulled them off as well at Saint Laurent – the two brands are dangerously the same this season). While fashion drowns in nostalgia, there are designers who interpret the past in a fresh way – take Marc Jacobs or Paco Rabanne‘s Julien Dossena for SS20. In case of Hedi, noting how masterful he is in rebranding and shaking things up in the most of frustrating ways, it’s laziness. And confidence that anything will sell. Well. It will. Those denim culottes, fur coats and peasant dresses are destined to sell well, because they are easy, undemanding and chic. And, comparing to Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent, not so revealing. One more thing. Here’s to the Philophiles: there are parallers between Phoebe Philo’s Céline and Hedi Slimane’s Celine. Actually, Philo was really good at the bourgeois style, even though nobody noticed that at the time. Her swan song collection is the best example. But while Phoebe’s take on Parisian bourgeois aesthetic was modern, comfortable, unobvious and less strict, Hedi is literal. And there’s nothing noble about doing things in a literal way.