Among the fashion designer “heavies,” Hedi Slimane—photographer, filmmaker, music obsessive—would seem the least likely, in this era of digital-only shows, to display a clinginess to the rubric of the runway. His men’s collections are some of the least fashion-referential going, his modern business miracle the translation of a connoisseur’s recursive, selfish passions into equally indefatigable sales. The early, pre-pandemic Celine shows involved the lowering onto conventional runways of spheres and boxes, containers of Slimane’s comprehensive worlds, the venue largely incidental. A suburban bedroom wall is, after all, the site of the most vivid and enduring dreams. And yet his pandemic shows have revealed a preference for circuits: at the Circuit Paul Ricard; the athletics track at the Parc des Princes; and in the newest film, of the men’s spring ‘22 collection, a motocross ramp circuit cum runway perched on the coast of southern France.
The English language website offers a tripartite name for the film, “Cosmic Cruiser/Riding a New Age/Restless Dreams of a Cosmic Teen.” Ambitious claims. American viewers will indeed recognize further evidence of Slimane’s intuitive understanding of youth culture. Several major American cities in recent years have been regularly overrun, without warning, by hordes of young men and boys on motocross and quad bikes, a series of lawless but mostly (though not always) harmless (save for eardrums) expressions of youthful enthusiasm. For the urban doomsdayers, these youth represent an alarming new urban dystopian futurity.
Check your parochialism! Given the film’s specific credit to fmx and motocross riders “FMX4EVER” and “Team Honda SR,” we would instead appear to have here classic Slimane. A chance encounter with a subculture, an image of youth, glimpsed in transit, a picture of that reluctant conjunction at the bloom of male youth: of awkward clothing and the unselfconscious preference to cast it off. So it is that we have shirtless motocross riders and a collection inspired by riding leathers.
Slimane’s single-mindedness, at length, can pall. One yearns for a touch of irony, of selfconscious play. Slimane’s ideal subjects, even when self-styled, are unconscious of their viewership; a runway audience, after all, is not made up of their teen peers. And in a rare misfire, this show is ripe not for humour, but for send-up. What is a more familiar graveyard for unintentionally camp dystopias than motorbike futurism? See the Mad Max series, or Waterworld. Smoky two-stroke motocross bikes, unchanged for nearly a century, as a bellwether of our future? The up-to-datedness of the rider’s helmets and glasses (translated for the show into desirable sunglasses, not incidentally) seems to eliminate the small chink of selfconscious play in this storyline. A miss.
To the clothes. Slimane’s summer collections have always been weighted for an unseasonably cool Scandinavia. Wool tailoring, leather. Even so, this season, preoccupied as it is with the motorcycle motif, appears to depict a radically alternative future, in which temperatures are due not to rise, but cool, and drastically so.
Quick buyer’s guide: if you are in need of leather—conventional jacket with a runway embellishment, an oversized sleeveless jacket, trousers—any of these pieces will do. They have Slimane’s nerdy accuracy on design, a variety difficult to find in leather clothing anywhere else and the (admittedly dubious) patina of rarity/collectibility that comes with Slimane’s runway pieces. A buyer will not find themselves with a dad’s leather jacket.
Here lies part of the secret of Slimane’s success. For a show which is ostensibly about an image of adolescence, with complete looks of teenage rebellion, each piece, considered alone, is crafted from costly, adult fabrics. Viewed on a rack in-store, they look, in leather, in grandpa wool, much more grown up. When tried on, (we, ahem, exclude fitted trousers here) they produce that aha! Lust effect that might appear unimaginable from viewing the shows which are, quite rightly, so many concept kitchens for mature buyers.
Wool suiting, well represented in the summer ‘21 collection, has been largely replaced by the glut of leather but also by the most interesting series of pieces in the show, which, like French porcelain (think Hermes/Puiforcat) makes use of a circuit/line tracery print, put to beautiful effect in lighter, billowy pieces. Much more inclined to vintage-stylized text logos and palm trees, these are a welcome detour for Slimane. This tracery is also present in a stud application on a denim jacket. The one to buy.
Trousers are baggy, the denim too “Jnco” for us but in the cotton/linen print (see above) and in an interesting selection of soft leisure pants, impressive. With correct (which is to say, lousy) application of logos, these sweatpants will sell in the United States.
What suiting there is is cut in an approachable style, not nearly as baggy as the denim but neither is it at the Slimane extreme of rail-thighed rocker slim. We didn’t get on with SS21, which seemed, with the launch of ‘80s basketball sneakers and other informal looks, a decline toward logo streetwear and, we feared, a lack of interest by Slimane. This collection, by contrast, is exciting for Celine collectors. We own versions of everything on sale here (save the capes and the bucket hat visor thingy), but these clever variations on traditional Slimane don’t make us want the new stuff any less. When Slimane’s collections appear preposterously unsuited to the seasons they purport to outfit, we know he is in form. Just let him do his thing.
Must Haves: All of the look at 10:19; stud denim jacket in tracery (and anything else in the print); leather and silk capes
Dislikes: We loathe hoodies and loathe logos. There are lots of logo hoodies here.