Hedi Slimane’s debut at Celine is definitely the spiciest fashion drama we have had in a hot minute. Unfortunately, this riveting discourse has come at the expense of the brand’s destruction, as well as the reversal of developments exceeding the exclusive circle of the high fashion elite. I can’t really explain why I, along with every other fashion enthusiast, felt so much anticipation building up to Slimane’s spring 2019 runway show. Deep down, we all knew what to expect, so why did we respond with such outrage when he presented the tackiest collection known to woman on Friday, Sept. 28?
I initially felt shock and apprehension upon learning in January that fashion conglomerate LVMH appointed Slimane as Celine’s new creative director. The French photographer and designer is regarded by many in the industry as somewhat of a genius for revamping Dior Homme and more than doubling Saint Laurent’s sales during his tenure at each house. But despite his expert marketing and tailoring skills, Slimane’s heroin chic, coolly disheveled aesthetic seemed to sharply contradict Celine’s conservative and mature air —and it still does.
The sense of impending doom didn’t really sink in until I tapped on Celine’s Instagram profile one day in August. The feed had been wiped clean, as if former creative director Phoebe Philo’s legacy never existed. Slimane’s first post announced his decision to change the brand’s logo, dropping the accent from the first “e” and bolding the font, which prompted dozens of followers to voice their disapproval in the comments. Sadly, this was only one change with many more to come.
Alongside an ad campaign featuring predominantly white, prepubescent-looking models, Slimane released a new handbag, the “16.” I could dedicate an entire column to the monstrosity that is this bag, but instead I’ll just say it looks like the inbred cousin of the Hermès “Kelly” and leave it at that. While Philo intentionally designed with an older customer in mind, her products never looked this dowdy. And the coupling of such a vintage bag silhouette and the youthful ad campaign is just weird.
When I saw the actual collection, my first thought was “is this Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent? But, like, way worse?” I was not the only one who noticed the likeness to Saint Laurent —Diet Prada made an Instagram post exhibiting many of the similarities between the brands’ designs. Copying is obviously wrong, but if you’re going to do it, at least make sure your version is better.
Not only are Slimane’s designs unoriginal and derivative, but they don’t even look high quality. A few of the ‘80s-inspired pieces appeared sad and deflated, as if someone had already worn them out clubbing and then slept in them, probably in some grimy Parisian alley. Slimane mentioned that the men’s suits (and why does a notoriously feminine brand need a men’s line?) can be tailored to fit women. But why would any woman — or any man, for that matter — want to look like this? Also, the concept of a bolero jacket is archaic in itself. I would say these short coverings severely dated the minidresses they topped, but most of the dresses looked like something straight out of “Gossip Girl.”
Some of the party frocks were actually kind of okay, but why would consumers go to Celine for a flashy dress when they can purchase one from Saint Laurent, Balmain, Vetements, Miu Miu, or Versace. And something tells me Celine’s traditional client isn’t in the market for a skirt that’ll expose, well, everything if she happens to bend over. Altogether, the entire collection looks like it came straight from 2010 and honestly, was 2010 a good time for anyone? In an interview with Le Figaro, Slimane said, “I found my style more than 20 years ago… It passes through a silhouette that I have been obsessively pursuing since then and that defines who I am. Consistency, rigour, accuracy — this is what is meaningful to me.” Who knew he would stick to that statement so rigidly?
While the clothes are undoubtedly trashy and the aesthetic frozen in time, I think what has most women and “Philophiles” so angry is Slimane’s complete erasure of the brand’s values regarding womanhood. Philo was definitely not perfect —she similarly refused to cast models of color in most of her runway shows and ad campaigns. But at least her clothes were good. And by good, I mean they were modest, elegant and practical, allowing women to see themselves and be seen for their intelligence and power. If women have any power under Slimane’s Celine, it lies solely in their sex appeal, which already applies to most modern fashion brands. Celine was one of the few brands designed for women by a woman and it was doing well commercially. When Philo left, LVMH clearly sought out a designer best fit to boost sales and nothing else.
Slimane’s intense sexualization of the new Celine girl is even more infuriating given the timing of his show. I have seen multiple publications compare his debut to Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault hearing, which occurred the previous day. Those who still have faith in Slimane argue that those comparisons are dramatic and that Slimane has just begun. We simply need to wait and see the brilliant upcoming endeavors he undoubtedly has planned. But if this collection was any indication of where his creative head is at, I don’t think anyone has the time. Plus, I’m quite positive women as a group have been told on more than one occasion throughout our history to just “wait it out” and “quit being so dramatic.” If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we have a pressing obligation to be insistent when it comes to dismantling the patriarchy’s nonsense and fashion is a great indicator of when power and equality are shifting away from us.
Edited by Siena DeBolt | firstname.lastname@example.org