There are two big, main reasons why Fashion Week is so important. The first one follows the mechanism of showing a new collection, which is where we get the chance to see what the future trends will be, get inspired, get new ideas, and this is the part that most people easily understand, they like and get excited about. The second one relates to the stylistic identity and storytelling of the brand that shows the collection, and this is precisely what makes each brand different and interesting. Moreover, Fashion as a whole is a mirror of what is currently happening in our society and this is something that can’t be taken for granted by any influential Fashion House. We have recently just witnessed the debut of Celine’s new creative director Hedi Slimane and since then, it has been hard to accept that the brand is no longer representing what it stood for: women’s empowerment ̶ and that is without a doubt one big dark stain left in this fashion week season that we can all only hope it washes away.
We are currently living in the era where the importance of being a woman is being reinstated. Our society is struggling to become intolerant to sexist behaviors that have caused many situations of inequality and unsafety for women since the beginning of time. As a result, this situation has become extraordinarily political and as such, fashion has become a source for the women of our time to represent it. For the ones who are not so familiarized with the brand Celine, the image and identity of this French Fashion House was well-established and accentuated towards this women’s political statement. Céline, as it used to be before it was changed, was previously under Phoebe Philo’s influence. I call it influence because before Philo, Céline was not even considered an iconic brand and so the role of the designer was inevitably to restore its image from scratch. And so, after five years, Phoebe made it pretty clear that Céline was all about making a woman feel strong and confident. She was never a fan of women being sexualized through clothes and so her mission was to make clothes that would make them feel good about themselves. Céline was about women being able to wear anything as long as they wore what they chose for themselves, and that was power. Today, the new Celine has given us a feeling as if that power had been taken for granted in the recent collection. The clothes that were sent down the runway not only looked exactly like Hedi’s work at Saint Laurent but it mainly did not equate with the real Celine’s perception of women.
Talking about what was exactly sent down the runway, it gets to the point where it is pointless to even review each individual look because they all essentially represented the same. The collection was all black and dull with some very short dresses in the scene. But what was even more baffling to notice was the absence of diversity in the casting of the models as well as how unhealthy they all looked. It is certain that Hedi Slimane was of course entitled to take his own approach at the brand. It was enough and acceptable that he decided to remove the accent from the name Celine (for architectural reasons, he “explained”) and it was obvious that a change for the brand was coming, but none of us were expecting to see the essence of the brand fade in such a way that it would become so unsettling. Hedi’s approach though, was very clear, in the sense that the segment he now intends to target is evident: young, “cool”, “party” women… but not even the clothes were cool and instead it all felt dated and sad. The show was completely emotional filled with rage and frustration that such a recognized designer could be so incredulous to not create something for the type of woman that Celine dresses and stands up for. What is even scarier about this situation is that Hedi Slimane’s interpretation of women is an eye-opener into everything that is wrong in the fashion industry.
So, is there a reason why the image of the brand was ignored? It’s intriguing to think that LVMH and Celine’s corporates would ignore this issue, especially in times where it’s so hard to differentiate yourself as a fashion brand when everything is evolving so fast. Truth is, when it comes to brand identity in the fashion industry, there is never one person or single group to blame. You could blame Hedi Slimane’s personality, and we all know the character that his designs have always had, but is that all? We don’t know it, but perhaps Hedi was set as the new creative director of Celine for a more “corporate” reason.
Considering that Celine belongs to the LVMH conglomerate it is easy to speculate that it all came down to identifying market potential because that’s what fashion conglomerates tend to be doing now. One big example for this is the case of Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton (and even he respected the heritage and image of the brand a little bit more). Celine in reality, was the only brand in the portfolio that could be repositioned as Saint Laurent to compete with Kering, so in that case it would make sense that the group is aiming at creating a more profitable market by targeting a sector (in this case, young “party”, very skinny women). The big problem with this decision though is that profitable strategies are being taken at the expense of already established design aesthetics.
We can all come up with different and valid reasons on why LVMH took this unexpected turn for the Celine House. Perhaps the real reason lies in the hands of a corporate strategy and that is valid… in theory. But the reality is that although fashion is a business (and I say this all the time), it is yet a particular one and possibly one of the most sensitive industries in the world. Today in this business there two crucial things that you can’t ignore:
- You cannot take away the stylistic identity of a brand just because you want to earn more profit.
- When it comes to specifically womenswear in this era where we’re still fighting for equality, you cannot take the essence of the woman a brand represents for granted.