Celine: Haut hippie bobo in St Germain
A key test of a designer is influence – and few have had so much influence this century as Hedi Slimane, currently the creative director of the house of Celine.
One writes currently, because Hedi has a habit of changing houses, and not infrequently. When we first met him a quarter-century ago he took a brief bow for Yves Saint Laurent, after that house had dismissed Bernard Sanz. Little did all the souls in the audience realize that day – inside an odd government space at the back of the French Assembly – that this was the first step in a long run of huge successes.
After cutting a swathe at YSL, Dior Hommes and, again, Saint Laurent (where he jettisoned the Yves) Slimane has ended up at Celine. For whom he presented his third women’s collection at the back of Napoleon’s Tomb on Friday night, when one felt the first gusts of northern winds chilling the French capital.
En route, Slimane became the first menswear designer to be treated like a rock star. A special amalgam with the cutting skills of Armani, the rock credibility of Versace and the chutzpah and authority of Karl Lagerfeld.
That said, his tenure at Celine has been his most contested. Hedi’s debut was bitterly criticized by the ancien régime at the brand, spoiled gallerinas who swooned over his predecessor Phoebe Philo.
However, he silenced his doubters with a rather brilliant second show in February, sending out looks for a posh hippie St Germain gal who referenced the past but lived in the present. Without question, Celine was the most influential show of Fall 2019. All over the runways this past four weeks one has witnessed reverberations of his ladylike blouses with bows, dressy culottes, and posh blazer with trashy jeans combos.
This Friday in Paris, Hedi retraced his steps. This 2020 collection was very much a continuation of his St Germain chic show of February. And will again be influential from San Francisco to St Petersburg – in terms of length, shape, palette and attitude.
"It was really a continuation of what I began doing in the spring. Another take on a certain idea of St Germain," explained Slimane post show.
The clothes referenced a moment in the late 60s when the well-coiffed bourgeoisie realized that hippie culture could be chic. In France they have a much used term: "haut bobos" – meaning haute bourgeois bohemian – though this Celine collection was rather more haute bourgeois hippie. From the great ruffled patchwork denim skirts worn with peasant girl blouses, to the silk headscarves and knee high boots with hefty heels.
Throughout the iconography of Californian singers – Afghan waistcoats, semi-sheer lace dresses, faded denim flared trousers, suede rancher jackets or wide brimmed hats were on display. Though again, always injected with plenty of cosmopolitan good taste. Gallic Grace Slick.
Also impressive were the new logo-print silk frocks, a brilliant series of culottes – which Hedi has single-handedly revived as a wardrobe staple – and some sensational gilded dresses. Plus, he had a few hit bags, especially the fringed suede saddle shaped looks.
Slimane took a blink-of-an-eye bow before his own striking art installation of metal gantries and lights, which had begun the show as a dense city nightscape and morphed into a techy modernist arch out of which a French rock goddess appeared.
The applause was polite but hardly overpowering. For while the collection will be influential, very commercial and certainly flattering, it did not break that much new ground. Unlike the great set design. In a word, this all felt like a uniquely talented designer playing well within his own game.
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