At Hedi Slimane’s Latest Celine Show, True Couture Work Reigns Supreme

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Celine Autumn/Winter 2020 AW20 FW20 Hedi Slimane
Celine Autumn/Winter 2020Courtesy of Celine

Celine by Hedi Slimane Autumn/Winter 2020 – arguably the designer’s most unisex collection yet – possessed a sense of dangerous, early 70s cinematic frisson, writes Dean Mayo Davies

“It’s impressive, no?” Those were our driver’s words on arrival at the Celine venue, Place Vauban, in front of the Les Invalides dome. Once more, Hedi Slimane’s black modernist box interplayed with the iconic architecture. It is powerful to hear a local declare that, proudly, he wished he could attend.

Since the modernist box started appearing, Slimane has quickly taken the essence of historic Celine and transformed it into a contemporary vocabulary, simultaneously authentic to the house and unequivocally his. To lift John Peel’s quote about Mark E Smith’s The Fall: “Always different, always the same.” If we’re talking sustainability, as most are, it is in the pursuit of meaningful style. Eternal, defiant and bulletproof. Look to Chanel, where Karl Lagerfeld wrote codes for over 30 years. Clothes you become yourself in, without expiration.

Under a giant, kinetic light installation of the house’s Triomphe emblem, an insignia inspired by the Arc de Triomphe, models walked out in velvet, leathers and silk blouses – always a silk blouse, both the girls and boys. The embroideries, all done by hand, screamed envy from far across the room – the liquid shimmer of true couture work reigns supreme, and after you’ve experienced it, truly, there is nothing other. Cloaked in Reptile, the house’s extreme, after-dark scent, the boys carried small handbags over their shoulder, full of dangerous, early 70s cinematic frisson. Especially as LA via Paris musician Sofia Bolt poured her heart out on the soundtrack, Get Out of My Head: “Last night I had a dream about you / How many fuckin’ dreams must I have about you / I moved across an ocean to get away from you / Yet you’re still here, very clear and as good as new.”

The shoes, the foundation of how one carries oneself, were played fluently too: towering Mary Jane platforms (hers), and classic boots (his) scaling new heights.

Arguably the designer’s most unisex collection yet – if you want it, it is yours, just like the great rock couples’ wardrobes – Autumn/Winter 2020 marked a new chapter in sharing. The standalone men’s show this season was suspended, underscoring the point.

But, even in a show so all-out dressed to kill, there is always something more to discover. Like the César Compression Project, a collaboration with the renowned French sculptor (who received a posthumous 2018 retrospective at the Pompidou). César was known for his crushed forms, most notably cars put through a hydraulic scrapyard machine, his proud physical objects shaped by force, with all the visual memory of it. In 1971, César began collecting sentimental jewellery from friends and family, compressing it and hanging on a cord or chain as totemic forms of strength and reassurance. Working with the César foundation, Slimane has realised a limited edition of 200 pieces in silver and vermeil. The use of a retractable hook allows them to be both pendant and standalone sculptures.

The crystals that were photographed by Slimane as part of the invite point to Les Cristaux Celine, a range of jewellery built around each stone, selected for their symbolism and beauty: rock crystal, amethyst, smoky quartz, tiger’s eye, star mica, pyrite, hematite, shungite and barite.

And then there’s the return of the Celine Sulky: the historic horse and cart emblem dating back to 1966, and Richard Vipiana’s love of horse racing (the husband of Celine). Like Triomphe, it will appear on accessories. Another reason to look twice.