Earlier this year, LVMH announced to everyone’s surprised that Hedi Slimane would be the one to replace Phoebe Philo at Céline after her 10-year venture with the brand. Knowing Slimane’s reputation, good for sales (during his time at Saint Laurent the numbers tripled from 2012 to 2016) but frightening when it comes to a brand’s identity, fashion critics were equally divided on LVMH’s decision. However, what was exciting was they also announced Slimane would be adding a menswear line, couture, and even fragrance. Quite an expansion, but the direction that perhaps Céline needed to take. The day of the announcement, CEO and chairman of LVMH, Bernard Arnault stated that he was both excited to doing business with Slimane again, and he also believed that it was the only designer that could drive enough sales and revenues to the Maison.More than six months later, Slimane, former art director of Dior Homme and then creative director of YSL did what he does best; Céline’s Instagram account was utterly wiped out of Philo’s era. That to us was expected but at the same time a red flag, since he did exactly the same thing with Yves Saint Laurent’s website at the time and we all know how this story ends… More than a month ago he dropped the accent on the e from Céline’s logo just like he dropped Yves from Saint Laurent. Both times the explanation to the change was the same, Slimane was inspired by the brands’ logos in the 1960’s. Again we’re internally screaming: red flag, Mayday!!! But what do we know, Arnault specifically said that in his eyes “Hedi Slimane was the most talented designer of our times and that everything he touches turns to gold.” Because numbers don’t lie, the only thing all fashion enthusiasts had to do was wait for the big reveal, making Celine’s Spring/Summer 2019 show the most anticipated one of the season!Finally came the big day, everyone was on pins and needles until surprise surprise, from the set alone, the heavy metal, the music and the very first look that walked down the runway, it was farewell, goodbye, R.I.P Celine. The opening look, an oversized polka dot dress was synonymous to us about to witness yet again a Slimane’s ego-trip! It really felt like we were looking at the wrong show. Céline as we all knew it was gone, and it was welcome back Slimane’s 80’s kids, his forever inspiration of youngsters being enfants terribles, coming out of clubs from Parisian Night-Outs. From mostly an all-white cast wearing all black, leather jackets and suits, boots, veil headbands, unflattering ruffles, tutus, and glitters, broad and oversized shoulders, it was indeed being in every Céline woman’s nightmare. The collection also looked extremely familiar… oh right, that’s because it is, Slimane literally went back to his Saint Laurent’s archives and redesigned some of the pieces in the same color, same fabric for another brand. Of course in a matter of one night, the brand identity was completely destroyed. Now we all know, Slimane, as an artist loves to shock, but unfortunately, we didn’t expect anything less from him, and that’s just shameful.For someone making a comeback in the industry, we can’t believe that two years later, one’s aesthetic and views of fashion could have stayed so narrow. Slimane is officially a one trick pony! And to that critic he responded in an interview with Le Figaro: “That one doesn’t enter a fashion house to copy the designer that was before you.” And although we strongly agree with that statement we also feel like being a great designer means understanding a brand’s identity, modernizing its view while keeping in mind who the customer is. Instead, the Celine’s SS 19 collection, felt more like Slimane’s wanting to give a message to his former employer Kering, while also trying to prove to himself and everyone else that he’s “the best”…at doing disco clothes. And because of that, he turned the image of a minimalist, modern woman into an attention seeker and rebellious girl, and throwing out the door Céline’s existing consumer.
Now without being bias, we do know that in fact, Slimane is a talented designer. The girl he usually makes clothes for is also a girl that puts on clothes for the day. What does she look like? Phoebe Philo, Céline’s woman also goes out at night, what does she wear? That, in our opinion, would have been the right angle for Slimane to explore because both women exist. LVMH at the time of his appointment specifically wanted Céline to become Hermès direct competitor. Can that happen now with what Slimane brought to the table… which was nothing new? Just because his radical strategy worked before at his time in Saint Laurent doesn’t mean it will work now.
Last night Céline might have gained Slimane’s fan based but entirely lost their loyal customers. The working woman that wants to be comfortable but feel good while being fashionable is still out there, and overnight she might have become The Row or Victoria Beckham’s client instead. We sense that this could be another round of musical chair in less than 2 seasons or wait …maybe another lawsuit for Slimane, hopefully not!
By Anne-Isabelle Saint-Pierre