When we accuse someone of being “out of touch,” we’re saying they’re not with the times. This was a common criticism of Hedi Slimane’s first collection for Celine, which I would have omitted from this review out of respect for brevity and resentment for redundancy had it not been for an interaction I just overheard between a salesperson and his colleague while I was in a store in New York at the same time that Vogue Runway was streaming Celine’s show in Paris. The salesperson expressed that if you want Celine, what you really mean is that you want Saint Laurent, so what you can do is just “go to the YSL outlet,” and bring it to back to the Celine store “in exchange for cash money.” This may have been true following the first collection, but Slimane has subsequently proven in fairly finite terms that his Celine is not his Saint Laurent.
His Celine, in fact, is so distinctly Celine (sin accent, to be sure) that it doesn’t waver. The jeans —narrow and high rise with a slight flair down the leg and a long enough length that extra denim melts into the ground as if to create faint puddles—are the same as they were at his recent men’s show. The saturated, blue wash is the same as it was last season and the one before. They might as well be Levi’s. The virgin wool jackets are rich but simple. The shirts are silk, the sweaters are shrunken. It is all so ordinary and yet, the clothes disarm the hell out of us.
Why? Because Hedi Slimane is not out of touch. As we talk about the streamlining of fashion as a political response to consumerism and the way the desired outcome of a show is perhaps no longer to make you want to shop but instead get you excited to simply get dressed–as we celebrate Miuccia Prada for shepherding essentialism and consistently hear designers express their newfangled approaches, harkening “back to basics,” Hedi Slimane serves up the most crystallized version of a reflection of the times.
His collections are a showcase of ideas for how to wear clothes you already have or can easily acquire in a more affordable form. At this point in fashion, we are not ready for, or in need of a radical new idea. We simply want for creative ways to reinterpret the stuff we’ve amassed. Let us look to what we already have, and with his help, see something different.
But what does it mean if you can be a Celine girl without owning any Celine? Better yet, what does it mean to be a designer who sells a vision you don’t actually have to buy? Is it a clever and pressure-free approach that provokes a reverse psychology effect? I’m not really sure, and I feel kind of far—for the first time in a long time I’m not in Paris, and therefore party to the whiff of energy that circumvents his shows–but ultimately, for all the ruckus Philo-fans caused following Slimane’s appointment, it appears the brand continues to be a mirror for how women want to feel.
Images via Getty Images and Vogue Runway.