The creative director has opened up about his new direction for the brand and offered a first look at his second Celine handbag.
Philophiles awaiting the unveiling of Celine’s new dawn under Hedi Slimane at Paris Fashion Week on September 28 have received quite the shock. Slimane, who rarely gives interviews, granted Le Figaro a rare tête-à-tête on the subject of the most-talked-about job in fashion and what his vision for the now-accentless brand looks like.
“We don’t enter a fashion house to imitate our predecessor, much less to take over the essence of their work, their codes and elements of language,” Slimane comments of filling Phoebe Philo’s shoes. “The goal is not to go the opposite way of their work either. It would be a misinterpretation. Respect means preserving the integrity of each individual, recognizing the things that belong to another person with honesty and discernment. It also means starting a new chapter. We arrive then with our own stories, our own culture, a personal semantic that is different from the ones of houses in which we create. We have to be ourselves, without any stance, against all odds.”
When Slimane took the role, he set about reorganizing the structure of the company to become “fluid” by his standards. “It was necessary to reinforce the ateliers and to add a tailoring workshop designed to create the men’s collections, and women’s, by extension,” he reveals. “I’ve always been really sensitive regarding this high-quality notion, this savoir-faire that is related to the house. In this context, the idea of playing with the bourgeoisie codes is rather interesting. Moreover, at Celine, the weight of the past is not as heavy as it is at Dior or Saint Laurent. We can break free of it more easily. Celine is a vision of Paris, a way of being worn… I don’t want to lock it up in something.”
Central to his “identifiable and very different” codes to Philo are youth and the colour black. Of the former, he says, “It’s been at the heart of everything I’ve done so far, be it in photography or fashion. It rules over my catwalks, house after house.” Of the latter, he reveals that his design team has gone through hundreds of samples to perfect exclusive fabrications for Celine. “Black requires a very special attention,” he shares.
It’s a meticulous process and unique fusion of dark, rock’n’roll glamour that he has honed since learning tailoring from his mother as a child. “I found my style more than 20 years ago,” he notes. “Unless it’s the other way around. It passes through a line, a stroke, an appearance, a silhouette that I’ve obsessively pursued ever since then, and that defines who I am. It belongs to me, and in return, I am compelled to it. Consistency, long-term accuracy, this is what is meaningful to me. I am committed to the integrity of this route. It will perpetuate at Celine. It’s a lifelong story. The idea is not to derogate from my style, from what made me.”
Slimane also pays tribute to the industry heavyweights who have influenced him. “I also defend a French fashion mindset, that is almost official, linked to my youth, to what I was taught, to the people I have met, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, when I first started, in my years at Dior.” But he goes on to acknowledge the modern-day individuals who have become central to his business. With regards to Lady Gaga, who first toted his 16 handbag and caused a social media frenzy, he simply says, “I gave her this bag in private because she’s a longtime friend of mine.” His second handbag, the monogram C model, inspired by a 1970s Celine closure and 1980s quilted Celine bag format, was quietly teased out on Instagram, in comparison.
His measured disposition is compromised only as the interview draws to a close and he discloses his life motto: “Holding up. No matter the goal, the postures, the opinions, the noise, the agendas, the key to all this is magic and delight.” That quiet promise of “magic” come September 28 is enough to propel Celine fans into a whole new frenzy.
This article first appeared on Vogue.co.uk