Last week, Hedi Slimane has presented his autumn-winter 2022 collection for Celine, which he chose to stage in two historical monuments in Paris, the Hôtel de la Marine and the the Hôtel National des Invalide. Entitled “Dans Paris“, the show was filmed by Slimane, off the usual Paris Fashion Week schedule and starred Kaia Gerber. Looking at the first half of the collection, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Slimane opted to pare down any notion of extravagance – a tricky feat given the opulent settings. Strolling below the golden ceilings came jeans and everyday wardrobe staples like a cream roll-neck jumper, a jersey zip-up and an oversized grey hoodie so large it extended into a dress. As club sounds pulsated louder throughout the show (provided by NYC-based artist Hennessey), as did the clothes, seemingly coming alive with every beat. Suddenly, sharp heels, sparkly party dresses and gold embellishments weaved their way into the line-up of everyday wear. But, like the dark corners of any sexy, exclusive Parisian nightclub, these pieces weren’t thrust in faces, rather intermingled with the simpler pieces. As usual with Slimane’s Celine, it’s not about novelty, but refining the timeless (and quintessentially Parisian) wardrobe.
Celine chose to present its spring-summer 2022 collection on Nice’s historic Promenade Des Anglais, a site which was built in the 18th century by the English aristocracy who took up a second home for their winter residence. The collection, entitled “Baie des Anges“, nodded to this historic setting, and was presented via a catwalk film, directed by Hedi Slimane himself, and starring Celine girls (including Kaia Gerber). Love it or hate it, this was a 100% Hedi collection. But one thing I’ve gradually started to appreciate about his Celine line-ups is their absolute timeless-ness and versatility. If you’ve got a striped shirt, a vintage black blazer, a pair of perfectly-fitting jeans and a cap, you can recreate pretty much every Celine collection from the last two years. However, at the same time, Slimane’s recent collections are just so undemanding design-wise and uniform that you start to wonder if they even need fashion shows. The main spring-summer 2022 image that stucks in your mind is the following: to the endlessly cool soundtrack of Can’s 1972 deep cut Vitamin C, the as always super-skinny models walk along the riviera, in their sharply tailored jackets paired with bralettes, bodycon sequin skirts and platform trainers. Sequins are a recurring theme throughout the collection – not only do they adorn a khaki loungewear hoodie and tracksuit co-ord, but also a figure-hugging, cowl-neck dress with a matching clutch bag, and golden pussybow shirts with bouffant sleeves, worn with knee-length jersey shorts. Hedi Slimane is no longer interested in shocking fashion moments – rather, he prefers to focus on proper wardrobe classics and the “too cool to care” styling.
As Phoebe Philo is coming back to fashion, the Celine wound seems to heal. Which doesn’t mean I suddenly love Hedi Slimane‘s vision – but at least I can tolerate it. Still, his men’s spring-summer 2022 collection left me with some mixed feelings. This season, we’ve got an action-and-item packed Celine show recorded by drones somewhere on the Archipel des Embiez in the south of France. On a black runway set up with freestyle motocross ramps and jumps, teams of shirtless Honda-riding boys leapt and arced against the Mediterranean sky. The location is apparently not far from where Slimane lives outside St.Tropez, and this was Slimane on home territory in more ways than one: capturing his endless obsession with male teen energy, studding the collection with multiple art collabs, and wrapping it all up to the beat of a mesmeric looped soundtrack. The FMX bikers belong to a community that invented its renegade free-riding sport in the hills of California in the early ’90s – Slimane has been documenting them since 2011, when he came across them while he was living in L.A. This time, he commissioned and co-produced the music with Izzy Camina, intersecting the long, slouching march of a black-leather and silver-sparkled collection with souvenir slogan T-shirts and prints made by 14 of the emerging artists he collects and promotes. Since the pandemic hit, Slimane has shifted his Celine productions into the open air and into spectacular French locations. Wherever he lands, though, be it a Formula One racetrack, a chateau in the Loire valley, or this time, on a rocky coastline, there’s always the same, recognizable atmosphere, the romantic-erotic stamp Slimane puts on a world inhabited by young men. His meeting of motocross daredevilry and neo-rave frippery nailed the current summer of spring-summer 2021 teen spirit – a full-ranging breakdown of XXL elephant jeans, mirrored bug sunglasses, scaled-up bombers, tour jackets, and draped tuxes. Black capes flew over black leathers; sequins, crystals, and silver western boots glinted. Slimane targets Gen Z, and he confidently thinks he knows what they want. But I’m not sure if his take on youth is actually that relevant today. To me, it feels like an over-done costume. And Gen Z look forward to the unforced sense of authencity.
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.