The Celine show by Hedi Slimane was a manifestation of the disregard some men still have for women. It’s an attitude that has no time and place in the world we live in today, and the fact that LVMH financed and gave this man the platform to create and show a collection like this is testament to the fact that a lot more work has to be done for the feminine – in fashion and in everything else.
Forget that this collection showed right after the Blasey Ford-Kavanaugh hearing. Forget that this was the season brands really took diversity to heart and cast and created accordingly. Forget that the Celine we knew and loved was a woman’s creation for women. Forget it all, because that’s what Hedi Slimane has blithely chosen to do.
There are many words that simmer to the surface when I see the collection. Disrespectful, infantilizing, demeaning, insulting, obsequious, irrelevant, obstinate, stupid. But what it all boils down to is an expression of a man who has chosen, irredeemably stubbornly, to impose himself and his toxic masculinity upon a woman’s world.
If one had to psychoanalyse Slimane’s aesthetic, it would be about a terrified phobia of age and the physicality of the human body. His aesthetic, at Dior Homme and Saint Laurent and now evidently at Celine, is to subjugate the person into skinny and skimpy clothes that cling to a psyche of exclusion and eternal youth. There is a Peter Pan kind of terror about growing up – about refusing to acknowledge, accept, or understand the complexities of a person who has to navigate the world and the times that we live in. His is an aesthetic that insists on a bubble of self satisfaction and narcissism.
His work at Celine will forever draw comparisons to Phoebe Philo’s simply because of how powerful and singularly important her’s was. What Philo did at Celine was nothing new in the abstract – Donna Karan, Jil Sander, Diane Von Furstenberg, Jeanne Lanvin, and even tenuously Gabrielle Chanel, have done it before. That is, to create for women to live in, excel, and grab their lives by the proverbial balls. Philo is the modern equivalent of that strength of the relentless and unapologetic feminine vision and urgency that resists even the strongest systemic subjugations. The Celine woman used to be a powerful ideal, who wore fashion and style as a complement and enhancement of her personal strength. Now, Slimane wants his little baby doll dresses to define a woman by the limits of what she might do in these stupid clothes. Dance at a gig or rave. Show up for the pleasure of men, put a lot of thigh out to draw looks. It’s unacceptable.
The fault lies in many places, least of all in the industry at large. Yes, it is industry of course, profits must be made. But for LVMH to so blindly ignore the mismatch and the titanic ego of this designer is to equally ignore and disregard the women it is selling to. Corporations have power, but so do the people who give them their money. And it’s obscene that the luxury behemoth has chosen to utterly disrespect the clients and customers of Philo’s Céline to chase the profits that Slimane previously brought to Saint Laurent and the Kering Group.
I enjoy Anthony Vaccarello’s work more than Slimane’s because while the designer is committed to celebrating sex and skin, his work is less exploitative than the latter’s. Slimane seems to get off of making irrelevant and absurd clothing that makes no sense for a woman today in her multifaceted life. She has to work. She has to command respect. She has to combat the little barbs of patriarchy. It doesn’t help for her to be so boldly proposed clothing that negates those challenges and demands she fit into the sheath of a bimbo whose primary concerns and obsessions are with rock and roll and hedonistic vapidity.
The common argument for this is that Slimane is simply doing Slimane. I don’t care for that. I’m saying, equally simply, that Slimane is reductive and stupid. What he has done is to figuratively shit on a legacy of feminism and legacy that a woman built, while expecting us all to laugh along as the shit drips and rolls down our heads. And what’s Kafkaesque and increasingly absurdist about it is that so many of us are going to be doing that just because Celine will sign contracts for advertising. LVMH is promising menswear, fragrances and haute couture in the near future. Which means bigger advertising contracts. And so the media laughs along, happy to be so utterly debased so long as it gets paid. It’s what it did before to legitimize Vetements and Off-White. The former has already proven itself a limited well of copied ideas from Martin Margiela – a witless joke that now rings hollow. Let us see how much longer the latter can ride off of repackaging other people’s work in quotation marks.
I won’t talk about the clothes at Celine because a cursory glance at the show will tell you that there was nothing new or even remotely worthwhile considering. The women’s were a rehash of his nonsense at Saint Laurent; and his men’s a retrograde experience of early 2000s Dior Homme. Is Slimane completely and utterly incapable of hewing to a brief and a brand? Is his ego so large? Céline is one of the most important contemporary markers and benchmarks of intelligent design, power, influence and relevance. For him to disregard it so blithely was to display his utter belligerence against the strength Céline gave women.
I am angry. Extremely angry and hurt. Because this stuff matters. It’s not just about clothes. It’s about the richest family in France and the biggest luxury conglomerate in the world putting their money and power behind a man who is intent on undoing progress and dragging us back into trite and frankly unacceptable bullshit. It’s about a media landscape that will lap this nonsense up and sell it to their readers and viewers so they can make a buck and stay alive. It’s about how endemic this kind of sycophantic disease is to an industry built around big money. Fashion isn’t just fun and clothes, it’s the very thing we put on our backs and walk our whole lives in. Most of us won’t be living in four or five figure clothing in the everyday, but this is the stuff that’s supposed to lead the conversation and push us into the future. It’s unacceptable that someone should be put in such a powerful position where all he wants is regression and comfortable misogyny.
If this sounds scarily alike the situation of American politics, let it be a reminder that fashion is a creative industry that reacts, responds to, and reflects the world around us. We don’t live in a bubble, and it pisses me off to no end that LVMH wants to blow this bubble up to a billion euros. It’s all hot air inside, and I desperately wish we would turn our eyes and backs to this, because to give it money and the time of day is to give it legitimacy and power. The media is inherently guilty for fueling this idiocy, as it was to give Donald Trump the airtime, attention, and platform he needed to absurdly come to the power he is at today.
I’ll finish by stating simply that Hedi Slimane’s Celine is unnecessary. He is free to do what he wants, but we should be freer from big money forcing us to pretend it has any importance or value. Céline used to be a house of feminine empowerment and strength. It drew women because it respected and gilded them, gave them something to aspire to that celebrated their smarts and strengths. Today – as has been shown – Celine is just a glittery, sequined, soulless and hollow shell to house greed, avarice, misogyny and narcissism. It’s not what we want and most certainly not what we need. It needs to go.