Celine Fall/Winter 2019

by Long Nguyen

Change is essential to fashion.  In last season’s debut for Celine, Hedi Slimane brought his trademark signatures of the late night rockers looks worn by the young Parisians on their night outings, the kind of clothes that he had carefully and selectively fine tuned in his short stay at Saint Laurent where he not only turn a great fortune for the brand but more importantly he firmly established the ‘Slimane aesthetics’ that became so ingrained not just in fashion but in the wider cultural arena. But on a late Friday evening inside a vast tent at Place Vauban just behind the golden dome of the Hôtel des Invalides, Hedi Slimane turned the page on his greatest hits of the past, just like he did at the men’s show in January where the soft styles of British youths took the limelight, to bring forth a new aesthetics for the Celine women that was simply just understated chic.  And that was actually radical and a brand new beginning both in terms of aesthetics and business.

Hedi Slimane ushered in a new era at Celine in his own manner: an rectangular glass box with a sort of conceptual living room was moved forward and lowered to the ground level allowing the model who had stood still like she was readied to move out into the world wearing a loose black wool jacket, a white blouse, a belted multi pleats loose knee length short pants, a print silk scarf and black leather thigh high boots to step onto the runway to open the show. An original score by Caen band Embrasse Moi’s ‘Les écrans allumées’ that played throughout the entire show. This opening look set the tempo for the rest of the show where the aesthetics of the clothes diverged entirely from Slimane’s show last September when he captured both attention and criticism for showing the styles he left off at Saint Laurent in 2016.  Now the clothes followed a change in popular taste with the diminishing prominence of street wear at the forefront of luxury fashion in the last five years with a return to tailoring and clothes devoid of logos and statements. This shift in the last year or less is significant as popular desire and taste continue to evolve causing designers to sense and foresee these hints of changes before they become more widespread.

Just as he had done in the past at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Homme, then Dior Homme and Saint Laurent, Slimane firmly establish an overarching aesthetics and surrounded this aura with incredible clothes that became cult hits at retail.  I remembered seeing his first show for YSL men on a January 1997 morning a day after the official calendar had ended in a small meeting room at the Maison de la Chimie and was taken in by how he had honed in a specific and crystal clear vision on dress and taste that was very different from prevailing trends at the time.  For the Celine the brand founded in 1945 by Céline Vipiana to provide clothes and accessories to a new group of rising upper middle class French women following the war thus cultivating the image of a fashion provider to the French bourgeoisie. Owned by LVMH since 1996, Celine underwent several transformations under various designers but the brand is known principally under the ten year reign of the designer Phoebe Philo who made the products high and trendy fashion.

A storm of debate raged at Slimane’s debut with many opined that the designer did little to move forward from his own signature trademarks.  But like watching a long series on Netflix, each new episode began with a quick reprise of the past to remind the audience of where and how and what had transpired. It was like Slimane wanted to own his territory again before moving on to the current episode.  Here in this fall show is the suggestion of an entire wardrobe for women from the grey pantsuit with beige turtleneck, cashmere cape with washed jeans, khaki trench with long plaid skirt and white blouse, long shearling bomber with plaid short pants, gold sequins cardigan with blue bow blouse and plaid pants, silk print dress with black coat, or black wool long dress – clothes that yearned less for attention grabbing than channeling a non-challant attitude.  Many of the looks were paired with small handbags carried on the models’ shoulders in a way to kind of hide them behind the girls’ arms tucked into the pants or coat pockets.

Photos courtesy of Celine