Slimane back in black as king of Paris fashion week

Superstar designer Hedi Slimane declared that black is back Friday as he returned to the Paris catwalk after a two-year absence to revolutionise Celine.

Slimane back in black as king of Paris fashion week
French fashion designer Hedi Slimane acknowledges the audience at the end of the Celine Spring-Summer 2019 Ready-to-Wear collection fashion show in Paris on Friday. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / A
With his two biggest fans, Lady Gaga and Karl Lagerfeld, sitting next to each other in the front row, Slimane drew a pitch-black portrait of his hometown which he called “Paris The Night”. 
He turned the Invalides — where Napoleon rests in his tomb — into a giant shadowy nightclub, sending out 68 of his 72 models in looks hewn from a new deep midnight black he has been working on for the last nine months. 
The “Sultan of skinny” stayed true to his very personal style, with skinny ties, slinky black suits and leather jackets for both men and women. And the bulk of his models wore the black shades through which he sees the world.
The message was clear. The much-admired minimalist vibe of his British predecessor Phoebe Philo at Celine was history. This was Slimane's vision.
While some of her fans cried foul on social media, the Wall Street Journal's critic Christina Binkley said Slimane has the Midas touch.
“When Slimane launched his thing at Saint Laurent, people hated on it,” she said. “He just launched his thing at Celine — no less stark a brand reset — and there will be broad applause aside from a few careful critics. The difference — they know the revenues are about to gush.”
Yet there were subtle new twists on Slimane's eternal motifs. The man who is credited with inventing both the skinny and oversized looks that have dominated fashion over the last decade lengthened his men's suits and refined the mini-dresses he showed previously at Saint Laurent. 
Flashes of white and silver cut through the dark with black and white striped shirts and coats, studs and sparingly deployed sequins.
'Hardcore Hedi'
Here and there a blazing two-tone leopard print raincoat or a gold or red lame dress lifted the uber cool gloom.    Critics hailed it as Slimane at his most uncompromising and hardcore.
“For those expecting the new Celine to look like Saint Laurent, you were not wrong,” tweeted Tyler McCall, of the Fashionista website, referring to the label that Slimane walked away from two years ago.
Influential blogger Julie Zerbo added, “Hedi does Hedi (at Dior) does Hedi (at Saint Laurent) does Hedi (at Celine)….”
“Looks like black is the new black after all,” was the verdict of style magazine Dazed.
Earlier the painfully private Slimane, 50, who confessed that has been plagued by tinnitus over the last year, said that he would remain true to himself.
“I stand firm for my principles. Why should I give up on what defines me? Becoming someone else on the pretext that what I did in the past has been digested or imitated” was nonsense, he told the French daily Le Figaro.
He had also hinted that he was plotting a revolution at Celine, which luxury goods giant LVMH had given him carte blanche to remake in his image.
Journey into the night
That made him the most powerful designer in fashion after Lagerfeld at Chanel, who once famously shed 41 kilos (90 pounds) to squeeze into Slimane's skinny jeans.
Slimane is adding a men's line at Celine and has already dropped the accent from the brand's logo.
“You don't shake things up by avoiding making waves,” he said. “When there is no debate it's blind conformity.”
The show was much less androgynous than many had expected with Slimane going for a far more feminine look for his women, many sporting veiled fascinators.
“I love Paris by night. I grew up between the smoke of Le Palace and the white tiles of Les Bains-Douches (nightclubs),” the reclusive designer had said before the show in a rare interview.
“It's a pity that the city is eager to close down interesting places like those now and turn its back on Parisian nights. The lights still remain, though. The magic of the neons in the cafes, the sparkling Parisian youth,” said the designer, who has lived in Los Angeles since 2008.
Yet Slimane respected the neighbours with his journey to the end of the night by keeping the noise down. With military drummers beating out a gentle march throughout the show, there was no danger he would wake Napoleon under his dome.
By AFP's Fiachra Gibbons


Paris exhibition celebrates 100 years of French Vogue

A new exhibition in Paris will tell the story of 100 years of French Vogue - from the post-war 'New Look' of Christian Dior through the sexual liberation of the 1960s to the dangling-cigarette waifs of the 2000s.

French Vogue celebrates 100 years
French Vogue celebrates 100 years. Photo: Thomas Olva/AFP

But as well as celebrating the magazine’s storied history, the exhibit comes at a time of turbulence for the publication.

Just last month, it was confirmed that its editor of 10 years, Emmanuelle Alt, was out and wouldn’t be replaced.

She was not alone.

Looking to cut costs, owner Conde Nast International has axed editors across Europe over the past year, and put international Vogue editions under the direct control of global editorial director, Anna Wintour, in New York.

New York-based Anna Wintour now has overall control of French Vogue. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Like much of the media industry, Vogue is struggling with tumbling sales and ad revenue in the digital era.

But the latest twist is also part of the endless push and pull between New York and Paris going back to its early days.

“The whole history of French Vogue is one of back-and-forth with Conde Nast in New York – growing more independent for a while, then being reined back in,” said Sylvie Lecallier, curator of the new exhibition, “Vogue Paris 1920-2020″, which opened this weekend after a year’s delay due to the pandemic.

The Paris edition was often the loftier, more bohemian sibling to its more hard-nosed New York version.

But it was also the hotbed in which much of 20th century style and womenhood came to be defined.

“Paris was the place to hunt out talent and content and bring it to New York,” said Lecallier.

The exhibition charts the evolution from art deco drawings of the 1920s through the erotic image-making of photographers like Helmut Newton in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its last peak was under editor Carine Roitfeld in the 2000s, who brought back a provocative Gallic identity by ridding the newsroom of foreign staff and becoming a fashion icon in her own right.

Her successor, Alt, was a quieter presence, though she still oversaw key moments including its first transgender cover star, Brazilian Valentina Sampaio, in 2017.

But internet culture has created “a perfect storm” for Vogue, says media expert Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis.

“The first 80 years of Vogue’s life, it had the market to itself, it was the bible for fashion,” McCabe told AFP.

“But online today, there are so many other ways to get your information. Influencers, Instagram, YouTube — everyone’s a threat.”

In a world where new fashion trends can blow up around the world in seconds, it has become much harder for a monthly magazine to set the pace.

“It’s not that they can’t survive for another 100 years — but they will be differently sized,” McCabe said.

Vogue has tried to branch out into different areas, including events.

“I used to work for a magazine, and today I work for a brand,” Alt said on the eve of French Vogue’s 1,000th issue in 2019.

But the big money was always in print, and Vogue Paris sales are dropping steadily from 98,345 in 2017 to 81,962 to 2020, according to data site ACPM.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the new top job in Paris, redefined as “head of editorial content”, went to Eugenie Trochu, who was key to building the magazine’s online presence.

She declared herself “thrilled to be part of Vogue’s international transformation”.

For the curator of the exhibition, it is ironic timing.

“We had no idea it would end like this when we started work on the exhibition,” said Lecallier.

“Who knows where it will go from here.”

The exhibition Vogue Paris 1920-2020 is at the Palais Galliera in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. The gallery is open 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays. Tickets for the exhibition are €14 (€12 for concessions and under 18s go free) and must be reserved online in advance.