Celine: New wave, new order in Place de la Concorde
Hedi Slimane climaxed the Paris menswear season with a powerful collection for Celine that opened up a new chapter in the designer’s cultural references – in this case, contemporary London.
Throughout his career, Slimane has referenced his self-imposed cultural exiles. First at Dior Homme, where his long sojourns in Berlin informed the techno touches and expressionist silhouette. And, subsequently at Saint Laurent, where his residence in Los Angeles led to a whole West Coast posh hippie revival. His latest move: an immersion in the British capital, whose influences rippled through this whole collection.
“I first went to London in May, when I realized I how much I was missing out on the creative scene there. I’d been aware of things, but that really opened my eyes and I started photographing. And, in the end, I went back for a couple of months,” revealed Slimane in his backstage.
Superficially, Slimane riffed on the whole new wave movement of the late Seventies, but very much on his on terms. Just like how he reinterpreted California counter culture style at YSL into a new global rocker attitude; so tonight he rejigged new wave with bigger A-line volumes, an updated silhouette and dazzling metallic finishes.
There was a predictable internet outpouring post-show crying that Slimane can only do Slimane. Those of us who actually lived through the new wave and no wave eras, who attended CBGB and the Mudd Club in their heyday, will know this is arid nonsense.
From the truncated, wide and turned-up pants and studded biker jackets with novel articulated elbows to the streaky animal print coats; couture-like saddle-stitched biker jackets and marvelously piped dressing gown for a dissolute dandy, everything was put through the mill by Hedi. Coming out with a contemporary twist – and the commercial polish that Slimane always manages to impart to his collections, whatever house he is designing for.
Even the legendary two-tone donkey jacket – worn by a model who looked about nine years old – was given a new twist with different proportions to the leather shoulders. His latest book-invitation featured not photographs but graphic two-tone black and white patterns.
Plus, no designer knows how to use light and dark more than Hedi: building a black box on the east side of Place de la Concorde, surrounded by concrete impact barriers done in black. One side had a massive window, so the background to the models was the entire illuminated Champs Elysées. The show began with a fantastic light sculpture – a giant ball of fluorescent lights – floating along the runway and then ended with an impassioned sax solo by James Chance. Recalling the halcyon days of my youth when I saw this no wave legend with his jazz band the Contortions in Danceteria.
“I wanted to capture what’s happening today in music, and how it is changing. That’s why I asked James Chance to come and play,” said the notably relaxed Slimane. Unlike Chance, who was famed for violently confronting audience members at the end of his concerts. And, was still smoldering as he quit the runway this evening.
"Do not go gentle into that dark night, old age should burn and rave at close of day," poet Dylan Thomas once famously wrote. No chance of that happening to either Hedi, or James.
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