Spoiler Alert: Hedi Slimane’s Celine Is Not Phoebe Philo’s Celine

Founded in 1945, Céline is synonymous with feminine seduction and glamour.  On January 21, 2018, LVMH announced the appointment of Hedi Slimane as Artistic, Creative and Image Director. This week, Celine showed Hedi’s newest Spring/Summer Ready-to-Wear 2019 collection. The immediate response? That the new collection was repetitive (“This is not Celine! This is Saint Laurent!”).

Hedi Slimane’s Celine is much different than Phoebe Philo‘s, and I’ve been seeing backlash in online communities (Facebook groups, Instagram, Twitter) about how they miss Phoebe Philo.

I know. Change is hard.

An instagram page @oldceline popped up a day after Hedi’s show in Paris to wax nostalgic about Philo’s Celine. Two novelty t-shirts dedicated to Bring Back Philo are selling for $59.95 to pay homage to Philo. Fashion blogger Alyssa Lenore got really heated about the Celine debate (she’s a big Philo fanatic) in several posts and on Instagram stories, which her 125k followers eagerly agreed with. The fashion community likes to get up in arms about changes at first. We’re only human.

Before I get too into this post, I’m gonna drop the é from here on out. Sorry, accent. It’s easier to type without it.

Phoebe Philo, Celine’s creative director from 2008-2018, created a new look for Celine that was classic, minimal designs and logo-free. Philo’s Celine was designed for the smart, modern woman for the female gaze. For women. It wasn’t for fashionistas or trendsetters, it was prêt-a-porter (ready-to-wear) clothes for real women. For confident women. Simple, beautiful, and effortless women. The silhouettes were functional, minimal, and timeless. A Philo woman could walk off the runway and into a coffee shop. Phoebe Philo had an uncanny ability to have women of all ages, sizes and body types see themselves in her designs; from her ready-to-wear clothes to her handbags (Nano Luggage tote, the Belt bag, the Box bag), her designs were timeless and comfortable enough to be worn at any time of day and for any occasion.

Hedi Slimane’s Celine woman, on the other hand, is more into dressing for a statement. It’s what’s expected of him. It’s a little more wild. Hedi’s work at Dior Homme, Saint Laurent and Celine look like his work, which is why LVMH hired him and for the buzz he’s known to create. Slimane’s woman is Parisian-party-cool-girl, like the blogger girl you see online or that you’d admire from afar at a party. Hedi designs for the girl you wish you could be, but don’t exactly identify with.

But that’s okay. That’s fashion.

Central to Hedi Slimane’s designs, which will be “identifiable and very different” to Philo’s, are the same as his vision for Saint Laurent: because this is HEDI SLIMANE’S creative direction.

But this blog isn’t really about clothes; it’s about accessories.

What I’m wondering is: what happens with a brand that has been designed for women by a woman for years… and how will this change translate to handbags and leather goods?

I’m of the mindset that handbags and accessories are gender neutral, but I’m already seeing backlash that criticizes Hedi’s handbags that have moved away from Philo’s minimalism and into Slimane’s maximalism (while incorporating the Celine “house codes”). Accessories are essential to fashion houses now; and Hedi’s will be young and edgy.

Accessories currently (prior to Hedi Slimane) make up an estimated 65 per cent of the Céline’s revenues. According to LVMH’s financial reports,in 2017, Celine showed successful sales in leather goods, thanks to the excellent performance of the Belt bag, Clasp and Big Bag lines. Small leather items, jewelry, and eyewear also saw strong growth, so it’ll be interesting to see how Celine’s sales change in 2018 with Hedi Slimane at the helm.  Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH group, announced in January that he hopes Slimane will double or triple Celine’s revenue in the next five years. Hedi Slimane grew sales at Saint Laurent by 150%.

My sources say that several of Philo’s iconic Celine bags will be discontinued and the logos changed on all bags. It’s an interesting sales strategy: change the bags that customers know and love so customers who haven’t purchased Celine yet will buy now.

In stores, a Celine Sales Associate confirmed the the Luggage tote, Box bag, and Belt bag will stay, but there will be changes like new colors, hardware, and leather finishes; the new Celine logo, sans accent on the é, will be more prominent on bags. Celine will still carry the Box bag but the minimalist style as we know it will soon be history; There’s waitlists several weeks long for the current Box Bag (kind of like how it was when the Celine Luggage Tote came out). According to a Celine Sales Associate, Celine will be discontinuing the Belt bag current style and replacing it (we aren’t sure what will change).

These rumors are incredible for sales. It gets people thinking that the bags are scarce and they need to get one now. The resale market is already clamoring with people looking to buy Celine with the e over the accent before it’s retired forever.

Slimane is attempting to mesh his vision with Celine’s past to create Celine’s future: the new logo takes its cue from the original version of the logo that existed in the 1960s, and common design features on bags use old double C logos and motifs from archival designs (much like how Moynat did to recreate the direction of their handbag line). There are photos of several runway handbag designs below this passage.

This exact thing happened with Balenciaga a few years back after Demna Gvasalia was hired as Creative Director. After the Balenciaga Motorcycle’s (originally designed by Nicolas Ghesquière) successful sales for nearly a decade, Balenciaga opted to slow down on the creation of the Motorcycle style, design new bags, and revamp their logo to a more modern sans-serif look. The hype went on for a few months while people were trying to get the “old logo” before all the old bags were discontinued. Balenciaga kept some of the classic Motorcycle line, but instead had Demna Gvasalia design new accessories. When the first new Balenciaga designs came out, many fashion bloggers and the media were pissed…. and then people forgot. Today, you can still buy the iconic Balenciaga City bags, but you’re also able to buy the new designs that Gvasalia has designed, which are pretty cool too.

I think the same thing will happen with Celine: the classic, successful bags like the Luggage tote, Belt bag, and Box bag will be available as Iconic collections, but there will be more designs available from Hedi’s Slimane’s collection. Only time will tell though.

“We don’t enter a fashion house to imitate our predecessor, much less to take over the essence of their work, their codes and elements of language,” Slimane comments of filling Phoebe Philo’s shoes. “The goal is not to go the opposite way of their work either. It would be a misinterpretation. Respect means preserving the integrity of each individual, recognising the things that belong to another person with honesty and discernment. It also means starting a new chapter. We arrive then with our own stories, our own culture, a personal semantic that is different from the ones of houses in which we create. We have to be ourselves, without any stance, against all odds.”


New Celine Handbags

Celine 16 Bag

The boxy, black leather top-handle handbag features discreet gold hardware and the new accent-less Celine logo. It’s named after the location of the brand’s headquarters and atelier, in a 17th-century mansion on 16 Rue Vivienne in Paris. The bag will come in three sizes and a range of colors.

Celine C Bag

The shape + chain reminds me of flap bags from Dior and Chanel, but the square quilting, dubbed the “tablet pattern,” is somewhat interesting. The tablet pattern was frequently used on the Celine bags of the 1980s. The Monogram “C” bag is inspired by a 1970s historical Celine closure.  The “triomphe” chain strap,which they say is inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, is from a vintage Celine belt.

I don’t love the chain strap + C clasp + tablet pattern together, but separately with a more minimal design might be more appealing to handbag collectors.

Although, we’re currently in a logo-mania handbag  phase, so who knows. Maybe we neeeeeed another logo clasp.

The newer collections will be more androgynous and unisex, and it looks like some of the bags will be statement pieces. We won’t know which bags will actually go into stores until November, so stay tuned.

I’m hoping Phoebe Philo will find a new home that appreciates her. Maybe her own house? Maybe Chanel? Wouldn’t Philo at Chanel be incredible? 

Becca Risa Luna

Seattle-based fashion writer and personal essayist. Likes designer handbags, glaring openness, and subtle vulgarity.

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