Arriving at Celine Spring Summer 2020 felt akin to arriving at a rock concert. It did not feel like a fashion show, with its piles of fans and untoward, very un-fashion-like shoving. Teens as young as 15 lent into rickety, makeshift bannisters. Guests queued on the other side, hundreds of editors, bloggers and buyers snaking before the great hall of the Hôtel des Invalides in the 7th. Beneath its gilt dome, the tomb of Napoléon the First. Above, strobes strafed the night sky, the top of the Eiffel Tower twinkled to the left. Every attendee went through security, burly men in suits waving x-ray devices up and down, down and up. The bomb squad was there, perhaps indicative of the magnitude of talent that was due to arrive – and arrive it did.
Scenes of hysteria hit an unprecedented level when K-Pop star Lisa from Blackpink pulled up. Blinding flashes, an entourage of 50+, said teens in tears; it was a state of pandemonium – and the show had not yet begun. The most mind-boggling, unabating flashing continued as she made her way inside – madness, in every sense. Across the runway, France’s former First Lady, Carla Bruni, and the country’s forever First Lady, Catherine Denevue, sat with poise and panache, chatting quietly to Vogue Paris Editor-in-Chief, Emmanuelle Alt. Hundreds of people poured into the space, pottering aimlessly. A thick French accent blared over the speaker urging everyone to take their seats (essentially a lost cause in fashion land), but as the electro beats intensified, the crowd hushed, just.
An abstract structure began to unfold and unfurl like a giant transformer, flashing and whirring. I felt as if I was at a Daft Punk concert, the prologue to a DJ set at a music festival, the music humdrum but building, slowly. As the music hit peak crescendo, a girl appeared, or rather, the silhouette of a girl. Red hot, the stage turned a brilliant cerise, the soundtrack went bang – and there she was, hands in pocket, Hedi Slimane’s new Celine woman.
As a fleet of denim-clad, turban-tied models stormed down Slimane’s stage – one he himself imagined – it was clear Spring Summer 2020 heralded a Celine of old. But this ‘old’ recalled a time before any recent Celine-ophile would be aware of; it ushered in the Celine of the ’70s, a kind of nonchalant Parisian bohemia not typically connoted with the brand. As girls walked in jeans, button-down shirts, belts, boots and aviators, for the new generation, this Celine felt very new, very casual – and not very Celine at all.
But for those abreast of the brand’s history, it was in fact the House’s ’70s bourgeois codes (and seemingly that of Saint Laurent) which Slimane tapped for Spring 2020, exhuming the archival Celine tropes for one night at the Invalides. There were quaint prairie midi dresses, fur gilets, pussy-bow blouses, paisley, slouchy boots, off-the-shoulder floral dresses, shearling coats, fedoras, but above all else – jeans. Bootleg and slightly flared, Slimane had shockingly replaced his signature skinny leg for a kick-flare, endorsing the denim jean as his must-have item of the forthcoming Summer. But perhaps the pinnacle came towards the end, the ritzy lurex and sequinned lamé reinstating a sense of luxury for a House so steeped in it.
Whether or not this new Celine customer will embark on a trip back the seventies, time will only tell. As for now, Slimane certainly has a knack of making a scene, and a remarkable one at that.