Why Celine Just Isn’t the Same Since Hedi.

Why the fashion community is up in arms about Hedi Slimane at Céline? 

So we’ve been seeing it for his duration at Céline. Hedi Slimane seemingly tearing down the house of Philo and everything that she built.

And if you’re confused by that statement, let’s start with the basics.  Céline is a powerhouse fashion brand, that had a major resurgence with Phoebe Philo at the helm. It went from a brand that was maybe not as prestigious or sought after as the Louis Vuitton’s and Givenchy’s of the world.  Céline had a classic, modern style that was reminiscent of brands like Louis Vuitton and that hurt their branding. It wasn’t unique enough or special enough to be anyone’s first pick. It was casual, luxury but without a hook.

All of that changed with one bag and one designer. Phoebe Philo and her luggage bag. Not to be confused with actual luggage.  So really- Céline was just a line- until Phoebe Philo took it and created the Céline we know today. She is the backbone of all of their success and their current legacy. A remarkable and astonishing accomplishment. A true designer in every sense of the word- but a true artist in the bigger sense.

Phoebe Philo is the future of women. She created a style within Céline that hadn’t been recognized as something that women want.  It was boxy, it was quirky, it was unique. It was sexy in an unusual way.  It is not the LBD that was traditionally seen as the “appropriate” date night ensemble. It was new clothes for a new woman.

It was designed with simplicity and sophistication- a very difficult balance to achieve- as any designer will tell you. It was made for artistic appreciation but also the modern woman.  It was built with the powerful, take charge female who cares more about her identity than dressing for any lover or man. That’s a powerful change within society as it stands, but Phoebe gave women the aesthetic to own it. Even when they didn’t know it.

Her goals with Céline- after  a wildly popular run at bringing Chloe (the brand) back to life- was “I felt it was time for a more back-to-reality approach to fashion, clothes that are beautiful, strong, and have ideas, but with real-life driving them.”

She focused on clean lines, tonal colors, and shapes that were so artfully balanced they created beauty out of minimal elements.

She was the powerhouse behind Céline for a 5-year teneurship and she was able to boost sales by 60%.  Remarkably her last collection was hailed as one of her best and her choice to step down was met with shock and dismay… And avid lovers of Celine trying to collect any of her pieces that they could.  She even spurred social media devotion accounts like “old Céline” that is all about what fashion aficionados refer to as the only Céline pieces that matter.

She created the feminist empowerment in a subtle but devoted way.

 

So where did it go so wrong? Well, we have to now discuss Hedi Slimane to get to the root of the problem.

Hedi Slimane- a genius designer, in a different way- had a pinnacle rise in fashion as well. He was a menswear genius at Dior Homme, creating a fitted suit that really only worked on waif-like tall men. They were so well designed and looked so good on that type of guy that men (including Karl Lagerfeld) said they lost weight just to fit into these suits. It was a moment for menswear. It wasn’t something no one had seen before but it was done with such craft and artistry that the style and suit itself was a mark on his career that would lead him to become a commodity among the houses. In 2002 alone he increased Dior’s ready to wear and subsidiaries by 42%. No small feat.

He was a photographer who had an eye for fashion and his skills translated very well. This was important. His branding, his aesthetic, his marketing- they all sold an image. They made you want to be that man. And selling people the ability to be the person they see in that image- is powerful. After all, we all want to transform into our ideals.celine just isn't the same

He connected fashion to music and created the persona of a rock god with irresistible taste and style.

His next move was fluttered with discussions of his own label, and other pursuits for varying brands. He was a commodity and knew it. Instead, he ended up taking the creative director position at YSL.

But, as he was coined the poster boy for successful fashion innovation AND profits ( a unique and sought after combination)- he was able to influence and change much more than the ready to wear line at YSL. He rebranded. It was bold, it was new, and it hadn’t been done very successfully really ever. He changed YSL to “Saint Laurent”- dropping the beautiful but hard to pronounce Yves. Creatively I think it was rooted in modernizing YSL for the rocker aesthetic he hoped would be the image of Saint Laurent. YSL felt antiquated to his fashion sensibility and after all, he was the brand, so he wanted it to all be a reflection of his vision… Like any true artist wants to control their full vision.

But this change worked- it was like sparking a match twice. He was able to turn “Saint Laurent’ into the fastest growing luxury house for Kering (the parent company) and increase revenue by 38% in a little less than a year.

So ok- he did it. Everyone might have been a bit skeptical that he could once again take a brand and turn it into a poster board for his vision AND increase sales so drastically. But, he did it and everyone respected him for it.

And then- it all went downhill. He exited Saint Laurent and moved to be the creative director at Celine in place of Phoebe Philo. Their aesthetics could not be more different. Whereas, Slimane embraced the rocker, sexy, studded boot female- whose eyeliner and messy hair makes her the cool girl at the party… Philo’s women were sophistication. She was casually elegant and sexy in an empowering manner. Their versions of sexiness could not be more polar opposites.

I only assume that Céline- with Phoebe stepping down felt they needed another “powerhouse” commodity designer in their corner to keep their momentum going. And, it could have worked- had Slimane evolved…

But Hedi Slimane tried to light that match for the third time.  He decided, for no apparent reason, to remove the accent from the “e” in Celine. Literal HORROR! It seemed like a power flex- just proving to the fashion community he could change any of the house’s branding and still be called a fashion god.

 

 

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But- the world didn’t like this change. With the branding change at “Saint Laurent’ it at the very least felt purposeful and like one step within his bigger picture.

Whereas at Celine- it felt disrespectful and braggadocious.

So- he made what the fashion community felt was a mistake- but as with fashion lovers, it’s not all about the branding…. It’s about the designs.

Everyone- including myself- was excited to see how his personal taste would evolve the Philo woman. What would he be able to accomplish by taking her powerful simplicity and elegance and adding a bit of “roughness” to her. It really could have been magic.

But instead….

He gave us his personal taste of “Saint Laurent” at Céline. When I saw the runway show, I honestly thought it was of a prior year at Saint Laurent, so much of the styling and silhouettes were literally copies of his own work at Saint Laurent. He literally referenced himself, which I suppose is theoretically allowed, but filled with a lack of creativity and an ego mania interpretation.

 

 

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In last night’s @celine show , Hedi Slimane picks right back up where he left off at @ysl . TBH, did we expect anything else? Hedi is a branding virtuoso with a focused, but narrow repertoire of retro club kid looks. With the likes of Anthony Vaccarello and Alexandre Vauthier churning out more elevated mega-watt 80s-inspired collections in recent years, Slimane’s now look high-street by comparison. A few sharply tailored XXL shouldered looks stole the show, but most glaring was the fact that it took 30 exits to see a model of color. While he has a way of unearthing our hidden desires from time to time (all the financial reports from his tenure at Saint Laurent will attest to that), the white youth obsession is something we definitely won’t be buying into lol. LVMH is banking on the $limane dollars, but apparently not the creativity. We were hopeful and prepared to be surprised, but seeing the new season thumbnail on the Vogue Runway app stacked ahead of all of Phoebe’s glorious collections for Céline reminds us to always remain cynical. • #celine #hedislimane #lvmh #saintlaurent #ysl #anthonyvaccarello #yvessaintlaurent #phoebephilo #retro #glam #club #clubkid #vintage #80s #newwave #rocknroll #dejavu #sequins #ruffles #minidress #ootd #wiwt #pfw #parisfashionweek #dietprada

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It felt like he was phoning it in.  And- single-handedly destroying the legacy that Philo had created for every powerful and independent woman out there.

The Celine woman is not an LBD, studded boots gal. And if she is, there’s going to be more emphasis on the sophistication (through unique cuts, and styling) and less on the “trashy rock goddess”.

Don’t get me wrong- I love a good rock outfit- and I loved what Hedi did at Saint Laurent. Some of my favorite pieces are from his time there.

But- Phoebe Philo created a new woman.  She gave women what they had always wanted and never knew they needed.  That type of power was washed away at Slimane’s inability to grow.

So while I’m not going to support or discount the sales at Celine currently. Because there will always be fans of Slimane, and fans of Philo. And the parent company of Céline hopes to increase sales by 15% each year with Slimane- which may or may not happen.

The difference is- I was a fan of both. Until he took the legacy and turned it into his own personal journey for his vision.

He tore down the pillars that Céline was thriving on. 

And while we don’t what is to come from all this uproar and change- one this is for sure.  Old Céline- is art that we are all clamoring to collect and keep. Because there might just not be a moment like Phoebe’s Céline again.

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