Hedi Slimane’s Celine video for fall feels so like taking an immersive course in the offhand art of French dressing that it makes you want to hit replay again and again. Every item of the Parisian wardrobe is paced out and remixed in that on-point manner that has made French girl-style the envy of the world. Never overdone, but perfectly self-aware, with that good-bad hair that looks as if it might have been washed a couple of days ago.
It’s that knack of pairing something posh that might have belonged to your mom or dad—a Chanel-ish jacket, an oversize herringbone coat—with something casual. Of throwing on a tweed hacking jacket or trench coat with exactly the right cut of bashed-up old jeans. Of knowing that a naval jacket and a black tuxedo are always cool. All this has been passed down through French generations since at least Jane Birkin’s heyday; what makes the difference is Slimane’s exacting eye for timely proportions. The way he’ll toss in Gen Z relevance by inserting asymmetric crop tops here and there into looks that actually women of any generation could easily wear.
The fact that the show was set amongst the breathtaking gardens of the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, some 55 kilometers outside Paris, only adds to Slimane’s conjuring of haute French identity—Celine’s modern girls walking casually past the exquisite formal fountains and pools landscaped centuries ago by André Le Nôtre. It’s landed as a sequel to the last Celine menswear show, in which Slimane’s young chevaliers roamed the battlements of the Château Chambord in the Loire valley. Having the keys to the castles of France is surely a brand power play, but here’s a thought: Has Hedi Slimane turned unexpectedly romantic, wistful even, during the pandemic?
There was a line in his show notes, typographically smooshed together, which alluded to a “utopian parade and melancholic daydream of youth interrupted.” It ran after quotes from Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, and Arthur Rimbaud—France’s decadent, libertine poets eternally famed for exalting the excess and pain of misspent youth. In a time when parties, clubs, festivals, and events have been banned for so long, the show ended with a shift to a fairy-tale scenario. A girl in a glittering, hand-beaded crinoline stood looking toward the chateau with fireworks exploding in the sky. There was a deer by her side, a tear on her cheek. There’ll be nowhere for the princess to wear that crinoline yet—definitely not in locked-down France right now. But Slimane and Celine are clearly dreaming of that day.