Hedi Slimane Just Pulled a Bait and Switch at Celine


he problem with maintaining such strong conviction around a fashion show is that it only takes a season to prove yourself wrong. Sometimes it takes even less time. Once the looks from the first season of Celine-sin-accent began permeating the pages of editorial fashion spreads, I knew I’d have to call it: I’m a hypocrite! These clothes are rich. Not for everyone. Still distinctly Saint Laurent, but they are good.

Maybe calling them Saint Laurent isn’t right either — what they were, really, is old Slimane. Because following last night’s second public womenswear debut for the new Celine, it would appear that the rock-and-roll party girl of yore is dead. Now she is bourgeois. Parisian. Headed to the countryside to visit her horses. Yes, plural, and she does not own a single mini skirt. Not even one! Instead, she wears pleated mid-length skirts and horsebit belts; tucks sweaters into her whiskered jeans; likes tall wedge boots and has several silk scarves to wrap around neck should she get cold while in the foyer of her Deauville home.

Sarah Mower at Vogue made a great point about the way Philophiles (myself among them) shouted, “old Celine!” in response to last September’s unveiling and how Slimane responded, this season, by presenting even older Celine. “Old old Celine,” as Mower put it, traveling back to the relative beginning of the ready-to-wear fashion brand. Pre-roomy pants. Pre-runway show. The time warp was fresh enough to satisfy one’s hankering for newness — creating enough eagerness that you might want to, and probably could, recreate a look at home, but familiar to the extent that what Slimane offered, truly, were ubiquitous concepts tweaked.

Celine Fall/Winter ’19

Definitely tweaked. The collection still had his name written all over it, you could see that in the floppy hats, the striped sweaters with clear sequins woven through them, and the collarless, tinsel or remarkably tailored jackets. To be clear, I absolutely loved this collection — it had all the things I want from a wardrobe: sturdy basics that are distinctly styled to make me feel not like I am jeans-and-a-sweater but jeans! And! A! Sweater. It might make me a hypocrite given the uproar that I contributed to stirring last September, which makes me wonder whether all of this has been deliberate.

Was this collection designed in advance of even last season’s viewing? What would have happened had he launched with it? In deliberately giving the public exactly what they thought they would get from him then — that is, Saint Laurent, or old Slimane — was he simply training the public gaze away from what came before him? Was it nothing more than a palate cleanser so stark, you couldn’t so much as taste a hint of what was in your mouth before? Clever little devil!

What did you think?

Runway photos via Vogue Runway.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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