As with every fashion house appointment, on January 22, much of the industry found itself split when news broke that Hedi Slimane would take the reins at Céline. After more than a decade at the French label, its fearless leader Phoebe Philo quietly stepped down, and, in typical Philo form, without word on what she'd do next. Now, a man who's known for a fantasy type of heroin chic and backstage rebel aesthetic, who bans journalists who aren't quiet about their distaste for his collections (and barely speaks to them, anyway), whose runways are notoriously white, has been tasked with continuing the legacy of a woman who designed for real life.
Though his first collection for Céline is set to debut in September, predictions of what lies ahead are steadily rolling in, setting the tone for what's sure to be the most talked about show of the season. But for someone who's heralded as one of the industry's most controversial creators, will his return to the industry be as successful as his stints at brands like Dior Homme and Saint Laurent? While he works to get his head (back) in the game, his intentions, as announced by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, are loud and clear.
Upon his arrival, Slimane will assume the role of artistic, creative, and image director of Céline. While his contributions to womenswear will surely be the target of most of the industry's curiosity, given the Céline woman we've come to know and aspire to, Slimane will also introduce menswear, couture, and a fragrance, in addition to revamping advertising campaigns and stores. It's a type of crash landing we've seen him pull off in the past, given his complete and total remodel of Saint Laurent that resulted in high sales for the brand, but it's also a feat very few who've set out to do the same have achieved. His quest for newness surely won't fail him now.
The biggest question, though, is: Is this really the right move? Especially for a designer who's reclusive ways have made him more of an industry shadow than an industry star? Sure, Slimane's glam rock collections for Saint Laurent have earned him enough clout to be recruited for his next great venture. But at a time when the map to a more empowering and realistic approach to fashion is being redrawn, what place will the working women Philo strived so hard to cater to have in Slimane's vision? We can't yet be sure, which feels more uneasy than it does hopeful. But, as goes with these sorts of things, optimism is key — and a maturing of Slimane's obsession with "young" and "cool" could be a part of the plan.
For now, Slimane's studio for Céline is based in Los Angeles, where his Saint Laurent quarters sat in a bubble of West coast trends. Additionally, a prototype studio and atelier remains in Paris, and Philo's studio in London has closed. And Slimane's already brought several of his ex-Saint Laurent staffers over. As we wait for Slimane's takeover to commence, we're looking back at his signatures during his time at Saint Laurent that could very well show up in his collections for Céline. See: nudity, grunge, asymmetry, a (mostly) black color palette, leather, and more. Whether that's a good or bad thing, especially for a brand that practically defined contemporary minimalism, well, we'll find out very soon.