For Celine menswear, Hedi Slimane makes a powerful case for refinement over reinvention
At the beginning of Celine’s spring/summer 2020 menswear show, a cube trimmed with red velvet curtains was lit up in the darkness, like something from the cutting room floor of a David Lynch film. Slowly, it began to move up the central runway and as the curtain raised, the plucked bass and breathy gasps of Hedi Slimane’s latest musical discovery boomed out, courtesy of a brilliant soundtrack from NYC-based art rock band Bodega. Then, the first look was revealed: a deliciously glitzy three-piece grey suit with the pinstripes articulated in crystals. With its punky soundtrack, razor-sharp tailoring and bold theatrics, this was Slimane at the height of his powers.
Slimane is infamous for sticking to his guns: trends might be blowing in one direction, but the French-Tunisian designer will march resolutely in the other direction. But what can sometimes get forgotten is that far from the misconception of Slimane as an iconoclast – the California-obsessed renegade storming the most adored French fashion houses and radically reshaping them in his own image – he always approaches the brand he’s designing for with sensitivity to its history. Take the brouhaha surrounding his rebrand of Saint Laurent, which involved dropping the designer’s first name for ready-to-wear: this being, in fact, a nod to Yves’ own democratisation of fashion with the debut of his ‘rive gauche’ line in 1966. So too does his work at Celine pay tribute to the label’s original heyday, which happened decades before the brilliant British designer Phoebe Philo revamped it into one of the fashion world’s most cultishly beloved brands.
The collection was ’70s to the core, and if you want to see where Slimane is evolving his vision for the brand’s menswear – something he only introduced earlier this year, after all – the devil is in the details. Gone were the drainpipe trousers that made Slimane’s name back at Dior Homme in the early ’00s and have served as a staple of his designs ever since: here, the trouser silhouette was impeccably cut, tight down to the knee, then loosening into something sitting between a bootcut and a flare. Waistlines were raised, ties were pulled up, and the tailoring hit that sweet spot of laid-back precision of which Slimane is a master. Also rewarding closer scrutiny were the slogans spelled across t-shirts and accessories, reading “Yesterday was better”, “I am still waiting on my Hollywood ending” and “There is no irony here”. It was a welcome dose of the surreal, and a reminder that behind the curtain, Slimane has a sense of humour too.
But aside from his reliably well-made staples and witty slogans, Slimane was also clearly feeling a little romantic: there were the crystals and sequins which adorned blazer lapels, and the single earrings the looks were styled with, but perhaps the most surprising detail came by way of the corsages of single red roses splashed across suit jackets. Slimane has made it clear that he intends to evolve his vision for Celine, even if it’s at his own pace. It’s just that at a time when most fashion brands embrace social media-friendly bombast, he makes sure you have to look a little more closely to find it.