Céline to Celine. This mere change to this French ready-to-wear and luxury brand’s logo is the talk of the moment. With the removal of an accent, not only has the creative director changed, but so has the message of the fashion house as a whole.
The previous creative director for Céline was Phoebe Philo, who was there for 10 years. Under Philo, Céline became a staple for handbags, shoes, sunglasses and jewelry, as well as clothes. Philo’s designs were ahead of our time, predicting what people would want six months before they even knew it. Céline put out wide leg trousers when everyone was wearing skinny pants, along with furry slides, midi length skirts, and slip dresses. Philo created an new kind of chic — a minimalist chic. She redefined what luxury looked like by creating modern classics for an intelligent and sophisticated woman. She was able to combine functionality with elegance, an elusive goal for many designers. There was an empowering air to Céline because Philo created a Céline women who knows what shapes and pieces fit her, rather than dressing to the fashion trends of the moment.
Hedi Slimane, while a talented designer in his own right, is the complete opposite of Philo. Prior to his appointment as Celine’s new artistic, creative, and image director, Slimane was once a renowned designer for both Dior Homme and Yves Saint Laurent, where he not only revolutionized menswear fashion, but also created a lasting legacy surrounding his name. During an era when men’s fashion revolved around loose-fitting, ultra-masculine silhouettes, Slimane -- taking inspiration from London’s indie subculture scene -- championed a sort of androgyny through his popularization of slim suit tailoring and skinny jeans. Through his designs, Slimane sought to overturn the stereotypical definition of what is considered masculine, and coveted a new era were men could embrace their body without fear of judgement. After leaving Dior Homme in 2007, Slimane continued his revolutionary vision at Yves Saint Laurent where he famously dropped the “Yves” from the long-standing brand name, and replaced artist Adolphe Cassandre’s 1961 logo with a less romantic, more modern helvetica typeface. Slimane infused Saint Laurent’s originally more traditional aesthetic with hints of “rock n roll” and gender fluid designs, sending both male and female models in slim-tailored jackets and wide-cut pant legs down the runway simultaneously.
After a two year hiatus from the fashion world, Slimane was named Phoebe Philo’s successor at Celine, and vowed to double the brand’s sales within 5 years. One of the first changes he made to the fashion label was again changing the logo to reflect his own vision. By dropping the traditional accented “E”, and altering the spacing of the letters, Slimane claims to be enabling a more modern and simplified typography that prioritizes balance and pays homage to the 1960’s version of Celine’s logo. In addition to altering Celine’s logo, Slimane is in the process of launching a menswear line, along with establishing a couture house and creating a new fragrance. Slimane also hopes to lead Celine one step further into the technology dominated era by implementing a redesigned e-commerce platform in order to better target the younger generation of consumers. This was announced through Celine’s official instagram account, where all posts from the Phoebe Philo era were erased. According to Slimane, his aim was not to “enter a fashion house to imitate one’s predecessor, much less to take over the essence of their work, their codes and elements of language.”
Both Slimane and Philo have a modernist vision, cool emotional tones, and pay attention to logo and font. They also both have art gallery taste and photography, which is probably why Slimane was chosen to take her place. However, they do differ when it comes to women’s clothing. Philo began a revolution with Céline by rejecting the flirtatious traditions of Parisian charm and injected her own chic twist on what the working woman would want to wear. With Philo being a pioneer for the rebirth of the feminine gaze, many questioned what Slimane would do with Celine, and whether he would continue with this approach. Slimane however, is mainly known for his menswear, and his womenswear shows for Saint Laurent were known for their micro-mini party dresses paired with stilettos, which truly epitomizes the typical male gaze. These two approaches to womens’ fashion are in clear opposition, with conflicting messages.
Celine’s first collection under Slimane was showcased during Paris Fashion week on September 28th. The show was entitled Celine 01 and took place at Hôtel des Invalides. The invitations for this SS19 show were a selection of Parisian nightlife destinations, historical clubs, cafes, and music venues patronized by Slimane, foreshadowing inspiration for his collection. Two real drummer boys from the Garde Republicaine dressed in ceremonial uniforms were the soundtrack for the show, and the interior featured kaleidoscopic mirrors.
Slimane’s collection signaled a whole new direction for this French fashion house. Gone were the elegant trousers, silk blouses, and unstructured trench coat of the Philo days, and in their place was a concoction of sequins, micro dresses, skinny jeans, and leather skirts almost identical to his time at Saint Laurent. All the women were also wearing the “Bibi” hat, which was inspired by his years spent at clubs like The Palace and The Bains Douche. Hedi is not here to imitate the work of his predecessor, nor does he seek to continue the legacy of Celine as a brand featuring designs for empowered women. This collection was designed for the after-hours. This has many people questioning what the future holds for the fashion industry. Philo created a fashion house that was for working women who could look effortlessly chic and be comfortable simultaneously. This is the main reason as to why this collection is receiving a lot of backlash. Hedi has completely changed the message that Celine once stood for and the designs that once catered to a certain kind of woman. It’s all too shocking because many believe that a man cannot design for women the way a woman, like Philo could. Houses like Celine, that once stood for independent women who wore functional clothes that made them feel beautiful, need to continue to do that, especially during these times. From the looks of Hedi’s first collection, Celine has changed and there’s no intention of going back.