Now Reading: How Hedi Slimane Stripped Céline of Its Accent and Its Feminist Philosophy


How Hedi Slimane Stripped Céline of Its Accent and Its Feminist Philosophy

November 2, 20188 min read

Those following the news of the fashion world have probably already heard about the immense success that the brand Céline has had in the past ten years. The brand’s former Creative Director Phoebe Philo brought a new touch into the brand’s aesthetic and idea, providing Céline with popularity amongst modern women. However, this period of wonder could not last forever and once Hedi Slimane took the wheel, the brand’s success has suffered a great decline. It can be only speculated what exactly caused this: perhaps, the controversial removal of the famous é from the brand’s name or a metaphorical creation of a completely new brand, with a different name, different aesthetic, different philosophy. 

Céline, 1970s, Image Credit: CR Fashion Book

In 1945, Céline Vipiana and her husband Richard created a made-to-measure luxury children’s shoe brand, opening their first boutique in Paris. Fifteen years later, the positioning of the brand was changed, which now focused on ready-to-wear clothing for women. The brand was especially known for incorporating sportswear into their designs, with their leather goods becoming some of their most popular products. Céline’s success grew. The brand changed several creative directors during the 2000’s, one of them being Michael Kors. There is no doubt that every single one of them injected something new into the brand, but the most iconic period of the brand was just about to come. 

In 2008, Phoebe Philo took charge of the brand. She can be considered the person who brought Céline into the hearts of modern-day women: her new creative touch re-defined the brand’s style as being even more luxurious and comfortable. In the male-dominated world of fashion design, Philo managed to create clothing that had the ultimate appeal to women. By producing clothes that stripped them of the expectation to be sexually attractive, Philo essentially contributed to Céline becoming known as a feminist brand. Although there was not a single feminist statement on the tops or an especially politics-dedicated fashion show, Philo created a new era of clothing that catered to the likes of women who enjoyed being comfortable and stylish at the same time. 


Phoebe Philo’s Céline, AW 13/14, Image Credits: Yoyokulala

Philo’s extremely fruitful and successful decade at Céline came to an end and with it, a new creative director was appointed — Hedi Slimane. Previously working at Saint Laurent, he is known as a designer who produces super skinny clothes that would be more attractive to rock ’n’ roll lovers, than the free women who enjoyed Céline. However, the numbers spoke for themselves – he managed to push Saint Laurent revenue past the $1 billion mark. Therefore, there is no wonder Slimane was appointed to Céline, regardless of his complete incompatibility with the brand’s philosophy. As he debuted with the new Celine, stripped of the accent and devoid of everything that it was in Philo’s era, Slimane became the epicentre of thousands of articles on the internet. Perhaps, this was just not the attention he was expecting. 

Hedi Slimane’s Celine, SS 19, Image Credits: Jeffy Bruce

In just a matter of the first few seconds of the show, it was certain that the comfortable and pastel-coloured Céline was completely banished from Slimane’s new brand. Dominated by mostly white and extremely skinny models, the show consisted of pieces that looked somewhat familiar: it produced a complete flashback of Slimane’s shows at Saint Laurent. Tiny black dresses, skinny pants, an abundance of 80s shoulders and leather. Slimane was repeating history, but just in a completely different brand. While it is wrong to say that Slimane is a bad designer: after all, during his time at Saint Laurent, he ‘roughly tripled’ the brand’s revenue. However, having completely shifted Celine into a different direction from that of Philo, it is unclear whether, for Céline, his appointment was the right decision. 

For now, the future of Celine lies uncertain, as the internet rages over Slimane’s erasure of Philo’s legacy. It has been announced that the brand will be expanded into a menswear section — something quite out-of-place in a previously female-centred brand. Meanwhile, prices for Philo’s Céline have shot up almost by one-third as loyal fans mourn over the demise of the é and the brand that Céline once was. The loss of the loved designer from Céline urged fans to turn heartbreak into profit, increasing the demand for goods once designed by Philo. Although there is no doubt that Slimane’s collection will bring immense sums of money into the brand, fans of Céline will have to wait until Philo returns, now in a different brand. Perhaps, this shift of target audience will bring Slimane’s Celine back into the good light of the press.

For many, Philo was something more than just a designer — she inspired new generations of independent women, who enjoyed style and comfort. Her work transformed Céline into a world-renowned brand that set off minimalistic but luxurious fashion trends. Even after her departure, fans loyally pay tribute to her pieces, increasing demand and prices. It is, however, wrong to call Slimane a bad designer: perhaps, his appointment at Céline was not done at the correct moment. While some say that Céline has completely been lost within the sequinned and sleek pieces of Slimane, there is still a sense of hope left that something may erase the fatal mistake he has made.

Featured Image via Arc Street Journal

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Aly Balakareva

Born in 2003, in Sochi, Russia, I have always had a passion for storytelling. For the past ten years, I've been living in and exploring Cyprus. Currently, I write and edit for Affinity Magazine Arts + Culture section, and in my free time, enjoy watching films and listening to music.