A Note on Hedi Slimane’s Appointment to Celine from a Devoted Phoebe Philo Band Member
Tamu McPherson | Tuesday January 23rd 2018
I almost dropped my smashed egg, avocado toast on the floor when the news popped up in my Instagram feed.
I had this reaction for two reasons:
1. Phoebe Philo’s position at Celine had been filled, (and now I would have an idea of what I would possibly be wearing, or not wearing, beyond SS18)
2. Hedi Slimane, the genius and visionaire behind Dior Homme, and the man who completely shook up YSL, was returning to the fashion industry as the Celine’s Artistic, Creative and Image Director.
I guess that was the kind of reaction the LVMH group wanted when it chose to announce the appointment on a Sunday morning. Take the fashion world – or anyone who is passionate about style – by storm and break the internet and social media, and maybe have you choke on your toast at brunch. Fuel that buzz that will have everyone talking, and hopefully boost sales down the road when Mr. Slimane unveils his first collection for the house.
After the avalanche of Instagram and Twitter posts that ensued and a period of resuscitation and reflection, a moment of thoughtful commentary and reckoning followed. What does Mr. Slimane’s appointment mean for women, what does it mean in regards to the Brand DNA that Phoebe Philo (I wonder what she is thinking right now) has developed over the past 10 years, what does it mean for Celine’s core clients, what does it mean for inclusivity and diversity considering Mr. Slimane’s very specific opioid-chic, aesthetic?
The comments from All the Pretty Birds supporters started rolling with such inspiring sincerity and clarity.
• Alessandra Phillips (@alephill74) wrote: I’m kind of disappointed. While he is truly a great talent and did wonderful things at Saint Laurent, it seems like the industry is recycling a few individuals instead of looking for the next great talent from one of the big fashion schools. If Slimane grunges out Celine, where will women go to find amazing pieces who aren’t young women trying to look like rock stars. Where will sophisticated women of all ages go to find pieces that are fresh and yet don’t age?
• Susan (@tsuzikew) shared: And also – nothing against Hedi but I’m sad a man is taking over a label … I just feel like Céline has always been like a strong feminine/ist label about modernity and being beautiful in a way that is not about dressing for men. I really don’t love that a man will be designing it.
• I was just reminiscing this morning that even the Céline jewelry and leather goods had an ease and tactile quality and even usability quotient that are very organic and modern. Even before Phoebe – Stella was laying groundwork for this new feminist modern sensibility.
• I think it stung even more and seemed tone deaf that Hedi’s appointment was announced the day after the women’s marches.
• Like fashion can be so many men saying “I design for women’s bodies” and instead Phoebe was saying “I design for women’s souls and imaginations and LIVES.”
Amber Schiffer and Katerina Furrer exchanged comments emphasizing what the actual Celine woman wants:
• Amber Schiffer (@amber_schiffer) Why not a woman though?
• Katerina Furrer (@katerinafurrer) My thoughts exactly.
• Amber Schiffer (@amber_schiffer) The celine woman wants a woman designer. The fabric of the brand is female.
• Katerina Furrer (@katerinafurrer) It’s what inspired me. It was never just about the clothes, it was about being a self made modern woman.
I remember chatting with a friend a few months ago and musing about the fact that Phoebe Philo created clothes that allowed women be confident in their skin, to be sexy on their own terms. To me, a self-assured woman is the most attractive woman. She is free to exist untethered by anyone’s expectations but her own. That’s sexy, sensual and so exciting! Phoebe offered a freedom to women through her collections, and as Cathy Horyn writes in The Cut:
“Because Philo’s clothes were not just simply for women; they were also about women — their distractions, their routines, the way they stuff a bag under an arm or concoct an outfit out of a dress and trousers, their sideways longing for red-lipped glamour, their disdain for basics, their love of uniforms, their wisdom and maturity. It was all there, every season, expressed in the clothes.”
“At a time when women are increasingly not just finding their voice but using it, demanding parity and flexing their power, Céline consistently gave them something to wear — or at least to aspire to. Ms. Philo was interested not in what would attract the male gaze, but the female gaze (I can’t tell you how many shows I left with male colleagues who were shaking their heads and saying, “I just don’t get it,” while all the women in the audience were making fantasy shopping lists). And even more important: the grown-up female gaze. And in her clothes — deep pile, no-nonsense, swaddling, streamlined — many of them recognized themselves.”
Yes, Vanessa. That was me this weekend. With my twenty-four hour cold, my friend kindly invited me over for dinner, and to get me through the evening I threw on my trusty slouchy tuxedo-style wool Celine trousers and a sweater. I may have felt like roadkill, but I looked great and that gave me that little bit of energy that I needed to enjoy the lovely evening organized by my dear friend. And don’t get me started on the other pieces that I have been fortunate enough to collect. I wear them over and over again and experience the same thrilling feels with every wear. The prints are bold; the trousers voluminous; the fit of a jacket, some sometimes easy, sometimes not, but that never stopped me from rotating my green houndstooth blazer like a Sade record. I love the challenge that some pieces pose, that they aren’t basic or conventional, that they are playful and push you a little further every time in your exploration of personal style.
So what happens when a force like Slimane takes the reins at Celine? How does he interpret what Phoebe has done for women over the last eight plus years? Does he narrow it down, darken the palette, and deflate the shapes, stripping away the SPACE that Phoebe created for women and their FULL and dynamic lives? Does he chip away at the varied beauty of today’s modern woman? Does he remove the faces of Joan, Karly, Binx and Daria (who is now 34 BTW) and replace them with the vacant-eyed, scraped-off-sunset-boulevard teenage type that he cast on his Saint Laurent runways? Does he revamp the gorgeous look and feel of the pristinely curated decorative experience created by Phoebe and her team? I would have redone my entire home in the same style as the Celine boutique if I could. That multi-colored marble set the tone for decor these past few years. Will he listen to us, the women who tuned in to Phoebe’s Celine anthem and became a part of her band? Because that melody is what we need at the moment, to feel confident, free, and empowered in our journey towards equality.