“I was left feeling deflated, disgusted and angry. And I wasn’t the only one.”
Paris Fashion Week is still well underway, with big fashion hitters like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen and Miu Miu yet to unveil their new season collection. However, it may be hard for them to knock the Celine (that’s right Celine without the ’é’, it’s an entirely new world order) show – which took place on Friday 28 September – from the front row conversation.
Why? Because no fashion show, during my time in the industry, has been more talked about, evoked more opinions and provoked such rage (and, indeed, a shopping frenzy) as Hedi Slimane’s inaugural collection for the brand.
To understand why, though, some context. For the past 10 years, Phoebe Philo has been the professional woman’s taste-maker and embodied the female gaze in fashion. She not only designed clothes that women desperately want to wear (think elegant and relaxed tailoring, unadorned luxurious knitwear, buttery soft silk blouses), but she also created a sphere for women to be the best version of themselves without having to compromise their sexuality.
Phoebe’s Céline was the only brand I ever wanted to buy into, even if I could only afford the occasional pair of Céline skates here and there. It allowed the wearer to feel modern, attractive, strong, confident, bold, stylish and sophisticated. Best of all, it allowed you to feel grown up, even if you were still drinking vodka cranberries with your friends.
It was, in short, everything that the fashion world had promised to be: a place to be a woman. So, when Phoebe announced her departure from the house, and Slimane revealed as the new guard, it evoked a pretty huge response from fans. And not a good one.
You might not know Hedi by name but you will know him by his aesthetic: he is, after all, the reason why we all bought skinny jeans (and wore them with tasseled ankle boots). The reason why all 18-yer-old boys wanted to wear a skinny tie to match their skinny suits to your leaver’s ball He is also the man who transformed Saint Laurent from a £400 million company to a £1 billion company by tapping into the millennial’s desire to look like rock ‘n’ roll band groupie – after, of course, scandalously dropping the Yves from Yves Saint Laurent.
This is clearly a strain of his narcissism he likes inflicting on others. Because, just as soon as he took over Céline, he removed the é acute from the brand name. The result? A lot of pissed off Céline vigilantes running around Paris and London armed with marker pens, restoring their brand to it’s entirety.
Perhaps I was naïve to think that Hedi would respect the rules that Phoebe had put in place for Celine (Céline, actually: I remain true to the predecessor). However, what came down the PFW catwalk last Friday was so far removed from my beloved é acute that my heart (and the heart of every other discerning woman with good taste) was shattered.
Painfully thin androgynous women and men marched down the catwalk to the familiar Hedi Slimane drum. Crotch-skimming sequin puff-ball and cut out (rib baring) black mini dresses replaced elegant silk slip dresses. Sharp-shouldered tuxedo jackets were the new relaxed trench coat. And almost every look was paired – boringly, in my opinion – with black buckled-up boots: indeed, there was nary a refined shoe silhouette in sight. This wasn’t Celine, or Céline, or whatever you want to call it: this was Saint Laurent. And why do we need more Saint Laurent when Saint Laurent is already doing Saint Laurent?
As if that weren’t bad enough, the almost entirely Caucasian catwalk (87 of the 96 models were white, and it took a whopping 34 looks before Hedi sent a black model down the runway) felt antiquated, out of touch and, quite frankly, distasteful. It has been two years since Hedi hung up his tux at Saint Laurent, and his Celine collection felt like it was stuck there: it did not consider any of the leaps, bounds and ceilings women have smashed in the interim.
Having eagerly anticipated the collection, to see how a man was going to interpret something so brilliantly done by a woman, I was left feeling deflated, disgusted and angry. I wasn’t the only one. The fashion world is furious. Furious that Hedi has ruined our Mecca, furious that he dared be so insolent with his casting and furious that he didn’t put a modern woman first. In fact, I would say he entirely ignored her.
It just takes one look at the subsequent queues outside the Avenue Montaigne boutique, and the increasing sales on Vestiaire Collective of Céline’s previous designs, and we have proof that it is Phoebe and her aspirational clothes that we want.
What we do not want, however, is the narcissism of a man. With that in mind, I have a message for Hedi: the year is 2018. Get the f**k on board.