The sky's the limit: how Skye Jones is lead­ing the charge of her gen­er­a­tion p.110 Old Cé­line meets new Ce­line

Af­ter a furore of di­vi­sive re­cep­tion, Hedi Sli­mane braved the crit­ics. Old Cé­line, meet new Ce­line

Emirates Woman - - Contents - WORDS: VANESSA FRIED­MAN

On a Fri­day night in Paris, as the moon rose over the gold dome of Napoleon’s tomb in Les In­valides and a gi­ant black box spe­cially con­structed in its back­yard loomed in the shad­ows, He di Slim a ne, the much-ad­mired, much-de­cried de­signer who left Yves Saint Lau­rent in 2016 and whose ghost had been haunt­ing fash­ion ever since, made his re­turn to the cat­walk.

He did it un­der the aus­pices of the house of Ce­line, and he did it with Ce­line-branded bev­er­age minia­tures and a (lit­eral) drum­roll, thanks to mem­bers of the Repub­li­can Guard. He did it with a spe­cially con­structed back­drop of his own de­sign made from trans­mut­ing sil­ver squares that looked like they had beamed in from planet Kryp­ton. He did it with 96 looks on con­cave, skinny boys and cranky, baby-faced girls.

And fash­ion, which had been on the edge of its seat, fell off. Déjà vu! It was dis­ori­ent­ing: what year was this? But at least some ques­tions had been an­swered.

For those who, upon hear­ing that Sli­mane had been named Lord Chief Over­seer( OK: artis­tic, cre­ative and image di­rec­tor) of Ce­line, feared that the days when this brand de­fined what it meant to be a smart, adult, self-suf­fi­cient, am­bi­tious and el­e­gantly neu­rotic woman were at an end – you were right.

For those who wor­ried that maybe, af­ter rein­vent­ing Dior Homme in his own Thin Dark Duke image, and Saint Lau­rent in the shape of dis­so­lute morn­ing-af­ter Los An­ge­les teenagers, per­haps Sli­mane did not have an­other brand vi­sion in him – you were right, too.

And for those who asked whether brand Sli­mane would take prece­dence over brand Ce­line – well, yes.

None of this was re­ally sur­pris­ing. Nor was the fact that the col­lec­tion was al­most en­tirely in black and white, plus a bit of gold and sil­ver, with a dash of green and red thrown in. Or that for girls, it mostly con­sisted of su­per short 1980s baby doll prom dresses with metal­lic poofs, mo­tor­cy­cle boleros and some very slick tai­lor­ing (oh – and one pair of baggy acid­washed jeans with a lit­tle fur).

Or that for boys, it was the tai­lor­ing again: nar­row pleated trousers hiked high on the waist and cropped in at the an­kle; ra­zor-sharp jack­ets, both dou­ble-and sin­gle-breasted, long and short; skinny ties.

Or that the dis­tin­guish­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic be­tween the two was mainly black trape­zoidal glasses for the boys and lit­tle haute flea-mar­ket fas­ci­na­tor veils for the girls. Plus some nicely bour­geois chain hand­bags. Sli­mane has done all this be­fore.

It was the essence of his YSL, which he rechris­tened Saint Lau­rent, just as he rechris­tened Cé­line as Ce­line, drop­ping the ac­cent. In both cases, Sli­mane was go­ing back to an ear­lier in­car­na­tion of the logo, be­cause – well, it was never en­tirely clear. Be­cause he could.

It sold very well for YSL. Ce­line’s own­ers are prob­a­bly as­sum­ing it will do the same for them. If they have to sac­ri­fice all that the brand used to stand for in the process, so be it. It’s fash­ion! Things change.

Ex­cept not Sli­mane. Gen­er­ally, when de­sign­ers hop from her­itage house to her­itage house they make some nod to that her­itage. Ce­line’s has been fuzzier than most, granted – it doesn’t have the same logo totems or de­sign iconog­ra­phy. And when Sli­mane’s pre­de­ces­sor, Phoebe Philo, ar­rived, she, too, swept away what had been be­fore. Re­mem­ber that? Didn’t think so. It wasn’t much, which was why she could. But she gave Ce­line an iden­tity that for women meant a great deal, be­cause it was clearly for them, not an image of them caught in a black and white photo of back al­leys and night­clubs and the dam­age done af­ter dusk.

And it does beg the ques­tion: Why not just give Sli­mane a brand un­der his own name? That’s ef­fec­tively what’s hap­pened here. Why not just call it what it is? Why hedge your bets with a pseu­do­nym?

For a while, it was pos­si­ble to hold out hope that Sli­mane might have lived up to all the hype around his rep­u­ta­tion. That in­stead of re­peat­ing him­self, he re­ally would have been able to evolve his sense of form into some­thing new, some­thing that spoke more gen­er­ously to those with mul­ti­di­men­sional lives. It’s rare for a de­signer to be able to change how peo­ple use dress to ex­press them­selves more than once in their ca­reer – Yves Saint Lau­rent (the man) did it, but he was an out­lier. It turns out Sli­mane isn’t. He had his mo­ment. It mat­tered. Now he’s just re­liv­ing it.

Will the rest of us want to, also? The whip­pet­like suit­ing, which will be avail­able equally for women as well as men (though the treat­ment does not ap­ply to dresses): yes. But the pouty, in­fan­til­is­ing rest of it? The lack of di­ver­sity of any kind? No, thank you.

Two years ago when Sli­mane de­parted fash­ion, the world was a dif­fer­ent place. Women were dif­fer­ent. Hell, they were dif­fer­ent a few days ago. They have moved on. But he has not.

And it meant that, de­spite an au­di­ence crammed with rock’s hip­ster elite, the lyrics that most came to mind were Mamma Mia! Here we go again.

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