Right to Re­ply

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Hedi Sli­mane has hit back at crit­ics of his de­but show for Ce­line, say­ing those who ac­cused him of misog­yny for show­ing women dressed in short skirts were con­ser­va­tive and pu­ri­tan­i­cal, and sug­gest­ing there was a ho­mo­pho­bic un­der­tone to the out­pour­ing of vit­riol on so­cial net­works.

Sli­mane’s de­signs for women and men have po­lar­ized crit­ics. In his pro­gram “5 Min­utes de Mode by Loïc Pri­gent” on France’s TMC chan­nel on Wed­nes­day night, jour­nal­ist Loïc Pri­gent fea­tured some of the re­ac­tions, in­clud­ing re­views com­par­ing Sli­mane’s ar­rival at the la­bel to the elec­tion of U.S. Pres­i­dent Trump.

He also made pub­lic Sli­mane’s first com­ments on the brouhaha, in the form of quotes from an e-mailed state­ment shown on-screen.

“It’s al­ways very jar­ring and I al­ways feel like peo­ple are talk­ing about some­one else. Be­sides, the spirit of the show was light and joy­ful, but light­ness and in­sou­ciance are be­ing called into ques­tion these days. I’ve al­ready been through this at Saint Lau­rent,” Sli­mane was quoted as say­ing.“You’re deal­ing with pol­i­tics, con­flicts of in­ter­est, cliques, a pre­dictable at­ti­tude, but also stag­ger­ing ex­ag­ger­a­tions of con­ser­vatism and pu­ri­tanism,” the de­signer added. “Vi­o­lence is a re­flec­tion of our time, the rab­bler­ous­ing spirit of so­cial net­works, de­spite the fact that they are a for­mi­da­ble com­mu­nity tool. There are no longer any lim­its, ha­tred is am­pli­fied and takes over.”

Sli­mane noted that An­glo-Saxon crit­ics ap­peared scan­dal­ized by his short evening dresses.

“Does this mean women are no longer free to wear miniskirts if they wish? The com­par­isons to Trump are op­por­tunis­tic, rather bold and fairly com­i­cal, just be­cause the young women in my show are lib­er­ated and care­free. They are free to dress as they see fit,” he said.

He noted that U.S. ob­servers were par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive to the fact that he suc­ceeded a fe­male de­signer, Phoebe Philo, who trans­formed the la­bel dur­ing her 10-year ten­ure with sleek and lux­u­ri­ous leather goods and mod­ernist cloth­ing.

“For some in Amer­ica, I also have the poor taste of be­ing a man who is suc­ceed­ing a woman. You could read into that a sub­text of la­tent ho­mo­pho­bia that is quite sur­pris­ing. Is a man draw­ing women’s col­lec­tions an is­sue?” Sli­mane ques­tioned.

“At the end of the day, all of this is un­ex­pected public­ity for this col­lec­tion. We didn’t ex­pect as much. Above all, it crys­tal­lizes a very French form of an­ti­con­formism and free­dom of tone at Ce­line,” he said.

Pri­gent said the com­ments rep­re­sented only an ex­tract from his e-mail in­ter­view with Sli­mane, adding that he would in­clude a more ex­ten­sive ver­sion in an up­com­ing episode of his longer “52 Min­utes de Mode” pro­gram fo­cus­ing on Paris Fash­ion Week.

LVMH Moët Hen­nessy Louis Vuit­ton, the lux­ury con­glom­er­ate that owns Ce­line along­side brands such as Louis Vuit­ton, Dior and Fendi, is con­fi­dent Sli­mane will de­liver huge sales gains.

LVMH chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Bernard Ar­nault has said he ex­pects the “global su­per­star” de­signer to her­ald a dou­bling or tripling of Ce­line’s turnover within five years. Asked by Pri­gent what he thought of the first col­lec­tion, France’s wealth­i­est man said: “I loved it!” — JOELLE DIDERICH

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