It’s time to lean in like we’re in a 1984 perfume ad, gaze at Celine’s eternally youthful clothes, and ask: what is Hedi’s secret?
At Celine, Hedi Slimane has made a habit of pulling off old-fashioned industry tricks that most designers simply don’t have in their arsenal anymore. Remember when he staged that 111-look runway show for Fall 2020 that went on for over 20 minutes, like Yves Saint Laurent used to do? (The typical contemporary fashion show has 40-60 looks, and lasts about 12 minutes.) His models are not celebrities but real industry types—you’ll never see him put some Instagram superstar in a show or campaign, nor does he chase the cycle of newsworthy celebutantes that every other fashion brand is after. His models are all extremely young and extremely thin, selling a very ’90s French fashion dream. And his clothes, even when they are party dresses or the perfect suit—and especially, oddly, when they have been conservative, bourgeois stuff—somehow seem to make people angry. It happened again when he did an about-face last year with his Dancing Kid collection, a totally insane offering of TikTok clothes. Suddenly, the hf twitter stans and even thirty-somethings were talking like little John Fairchild minions: how dare he?!
These are all the things that big fashion houses used to be built on, but now major designers rely on celebrities, influencers, and consultant-approved strategies, like content creation and ambitious if wacky creative projects, to expand their empires. And as fashion has increasingly become about everything but the clothes, these signs of old-school fashion credibility, or propriety, mostly disappeared. But for Slimane, it’s always about the clothes. It’s always about the fashion.
The fashion system still works for Slimane. Indeed, it’s a well-oiled machine. Ahead of his Fall 2021 fall collection, which debuted on Monday morning, it was easy enough to wonder, as many observers did, What’s this one going to look like?! Will it be bourgeois, or TikTok craziness? How do you keep evolving a look that’s someone else—teenagers, at that—invented? No other designer inspires this ire, or excitement.
Courtesy of Hedi Slimane
Teen Knight Poem, as the collection was called, was a little softer than spring’s Dancing Kid—the viral dancer’s goth cousin who dreams up some kind of supersad version of the Bussit Challenge staged to a chopped and screwed remix of The Cure’s “Lovesong.” The show was shot at Chambord—home to that famous staircase that wraps around itself like a double helix, but also the ’70s interlocking Celine logo that Slimane brought back when he started with the brand. The music was not New Romantic—it was, as the press release noted, “nouveau romantic,” and the score a spoken word poem read over a French military march. Teen models rode on horseback towards the chateau in big leather jackets and vests covered in studs, then tramped around the roof in pie crust collar shirts under hoodies and jean jackets and vests, with fluffy fur bags slung over their shoulders, checkered derbies on their feet, and, of course, the perfect trouser on their legs. My favorite silhouette was a juicy layering of slightly weather-inappropriate outerwear on the top, with skinny leather leggings, and huge! fur! boots! Slimane, who is intentional in every single way, had the models stuff their hands into the pockets of the second or even third interior layer, as he has for the past few collections; it gives you a great look at all the outerwear options you might have as a Celine customer come September.