PFW: Celine, a deja vu of Slimane past

London - The collective goodwill and hopeful anticipation the entire fashion industry held for Hedi Slimane’s new dawn at Celine was quashed from the very first look.

Outraged editors, loyal Philophiles and any one with an opinion - cue all of Instagram - collectively panned Slimane’s Celine debut, which at best was a deja vu of the designer’s collections for Saint Laurent, circa 2014-2016.

They babydoll hemlines, the trashy-cum-luxe after hours garb and the ultra thin, mostly white models on the runway felt outdated and out of touch with the current zeitgeist.

Known as a brand where women could go not for red carpet or overtly sexualised fashion created by men (for women), Celine, or rather Céline, was the go-to label for professional women seeking beautifully made clothes without artifice or extravagance.

A collection designed by women

Customers sought out Philo’s intelligent take on tailoring, sumptuous knitwear and clothes with a practicality that many men designing for women seem unable to grasp. A collection designed by a woman for women, the collective outcry against Slimane’s debut is perhaps not justifiably directed at his aesthetic, which however one judges it, Slimane’s silhouette has been near constant since his tenure at Dior, but rather at missing what Philo brought to the fashion table.

At the core of Slimane’s appointment lies the LVMH strategy to turn Celine into a multi billion euro brand. In order to embark and sustain such an ambitious growth trajectory, sales have to be made. This is where the leathergoods, bags, accessories and shoes come in. Babydoll hemlines were never going to be the moneymaker for the house that would be Celine.

A clash with sentiment and expectation

While the #metoo movement has become a metaphor for women’s empowerment and an easy and canny reference point for ‘haters’, no length of hemline should be dictatorial in what is suitable or empowering for women to wear. It is not that Slimane’s hemlines are anti #metoo, but rather that they clash with sentiment and even more with expectation.

Not surprisingly, the industry’s outcry has been harsh and loud. The fashion critics were equally vocal this time around: The New York Times called it Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again! Tim Blanks, for the Business of Fashion, called placing Slimane at Celine “something of an own goal for LVMH,” and that his fashion “looked like a gust of toxic masculinity.” Author Lou Stoppard on her Instagram was even less flattering: “A big f*ck you to women who just wanted something non-demeaning to wear.”

Whichever way Celine is Hedi-ing, the decisive success will be how the brand works at retail. Slimane has always been a master of merchandising, and whatever one thought of his runway collections at Saint Laurent, in-store there was something for everyone. The question is, who wants to shop at Celine?

Photo credit: Celine SS19,