Like the rest of the world, as I soon found out, I was sorely disappointed. Although none of us had expected a recreation of Phoebe Philo’s languid, easy going shapes and pervasive takes on uncommon trends (Birkenstocks, anyone?), Slimane’s collection was anything but. A recreation of his tenure at Saint Laurent, many compared. Revealing clothes for skinny teenagers, not working women with an array of body shapes, others complained. Suffice to say it wasn’t a good morning.
So when March 2, 2019 rolled around, truthfully I didn’t particularly expect much. Another mini dress worn by a skinny white model? I wasn’t interested. But the resulting show was far from it — as me and many other Philo fans learnt in the coming hours. In fact, the two put side by side couldn’t have been more different.
By now, fans of the brand will be well across Slimane’s second coming; which read as an ode to the French label’s roots, a mix of ‘70s-style cardigans, tweed skirts and tailored jackets, all held together by the subtle thread of the bourgeois. Reviewers have noted the references to a pre-Philo, pre-Michael Kors Celine which harnessed the understated prowess of the Parisian elite, who wanted good quality clothes without all the fuss. Not unlike the brand’s current fans, who thrive off the cult-like duality of a Celine product — only those who know really know.
So when Slimane walked models down the runway in elevated staples — cashmere jumpers, knee-high leather boots, simple denims — and not in party dresses made for raving, there was a collective sigh of relief.
Not long after, I stumbled upon a hashtag: #NewCeline. Just like #OldCéline before it, #NewCeline is telling that the times are a shifting. Instead of Philo’s coffee coats and textured throw-like sweaters, we’ve gotten something else: Slimane’s version of what rich girl dressing looks like today. A little bit of a throwback, a little bit of a reworking (which is exactly what the designer is famed for) and a little bit chic. Exactly what a new designer should bring to a heritage house.
The end result was a fresh take on the Celine woman, one who can cite her Foucault from her Frost and her Kubrick from her Kelly, and who knows, even if know one else does, that her outfit marks her as a new type of French girl — one that ultimately, unashamedly, pulls from the past, even if it doesn't have the same drape of a button or shape of a pant that we used to. Instead, it's a little tighter, a little posher, a little bit more modern. Because, without drowning in a cliché, looking back can sometimes be the best way forward.