The upheaval of the runway calendar would seem to suit Hedi Slimane. The glamour and theatre of his tightly focused runway shows, known for their near martial discipline in look and organization (no cameras, please!) only just contain the obsessive collector’s impulse: to be left alone alone with their art. “Have a look by all means” they seem to say, “But don’t touch that. Actually, you know…maybe we shouldn’t…”
His men’s clothes, brilliant snapshots of Western pop subcultures, are products of a similar privacy, recursive variations of the antiquarian’s most cherished possessions. Critics and consumers split over this intimacy: on the one hand devoted followers with enough pride in “getting it” to buy clothes that don’t look good on most of them. On the other, observers possessing greater familiarity with the references on which the collections are based, who encounter the single-mindedness of Slimane’s work with some embarrassment, like opening the door to the room that wasn’t the bathroom and finding the secret pursuits of an acquaintance. All rather his thing, isn’t it?
Of his early poetry Auden wrote: “…my sacred world was autistic, that is to say, I had no wish to share it with others nor could I have done so.” The genius of Slimane is his combination of this uncompromising ethos—or its very packaging—with sales.
The imposed film debuts of 2021 collections are a logical format for the controlled and personal inspirations of Slimane’s work, and indeed, his last two collections have deepened, if possible, the viewer’s immersion in Slimane’s clothes as period pieces. Traditional runway perspective has been replaced, in these films focused on youth, with oblique camera angles and fleeting images of the models, suggesting the greedy adolescent desire for both visibility and anonymity.
“Teen Knight Poem,” Slimane’s winter 2021 collection for Celine, follows spring’s “The Dancing Kid,” also digital, and the two together mark a shift, in contrast to Slimane’s first three men’s collections for the label, to more youthful and casual designs. Spring was goodbye for now to the streetwise artist boy-men of Slimane’s physical runways, whose fitted, pointy hips we viewed frontally, as a besotted fan might gaze at their indie rocker idol. Oh, that ahem, belt! Instead we have a digital presentation with drone footage, the methods and looks signaling Slimane’s reckoning with the new app idols. Less formal, improvised, unabashedly revealing and yet profoundly, sexily, inexperienced.
It is something of a surprise given his long relationship with fashion and film that Slimane’s winter collection is unwilling to leave the catwalk behind; in this case, the dramatic catwalk of the sixteenth-century gothic Château de Chambord. The setting, between the pointed arches of the Chateau is typically striking, and a tantalizing context for one of Slimane’s deep archival dives. Would he joust head-on with the present standard-bearer for fashion gothic, Sarah Burton’s McQueen, whose structured tailoring, historical fabrics, and crusading leather delights in sinister formality?
Not quite. Uncharacteristically, the clothes and styling were something of a mash-up, perhaps because the term “teen,” if it meant anything at all in the sixteenth-century, probably didn’t mean what it does today. Rather than teenagers from the Middle Ages, we are presented with what a jock in an American high school of the last 30 years might call a “Goth.” In this case, a Curehead. Blown out and coloured hair, lots of eyeshadow, maximalist jewelery, and layers of boyfriend outerwear covering androgynous shirts and knitwear. The result is a show which, instead of offering a single focused look, gives us either several or a preposterously specific one, of a 1980s adolescent on holiday visiting a castle, waiting to get back to the hotel.
Slimane diehards will grieve at the sloppiness that results from the unlikely combination of contemporary streetwear culture and the two types of Gothic on display here. Military references are confused: desirable chainmail influenced pants, jackets and jewelry; but what’s with the camouflage? Logos, as they tend to do, sit uneasily in the collection. We have both Gothic script t-shirts and Slimane’s all-caps sans serif “CELINE” logo. Slim, caped ecclesiastical figures in all black will titillate the Hedi old-guard as much as the hoodied, logoed, denim jacket and sneakers model will plunge them into despair.
The inconsistencies matter because at his best Slimane is the master of encyclopaedic lateness. His interpretations of period clothing for Celine, from fit to fabric to deliciously weird looking models, sell the idea that another time and place would have suited us better than this one. He offered a wardrobe for adolescent longing. This show, however, gives us a great deal of what a typical and unadventurous teen has always uncomfortably worn. Instead of a remedy or conduit for teenage angst, contemporary teen culture is livestreamed for us. Rather than a creative fan sharing an antique labour of love, Slimane has simply opened his phone camera.
There are here fewer of the explosive Hedi moments, when the consumer sees their proper selves in the runway model and, by extension, must have every piece of a look. The Winter 21 model—in cape, hoodie, logo beanie, and jeans, is much more an a´ la carte proposition.
gyun gyun’s take:
A confused story means fewer hits. But as ever, Slimane doesn’t hit singles. These are the home runs:
BUY: the opening look, in toto.
Chainmail pieces!: metallic trousers; long jackets esp. metallic lapelled coat ; the (thin) jewelry
Frilled shirts +/- fitted knitwear
All the leather footwear–an excellent and attractive departure from slim/angular shapes of H.S.’s Celine.