Ever since Hedi Slimane was announced as creative director of the French fashion house earlier this year, speculation over what his vision of post-Phoebe Celine would look like reached fever pitch.
First he dropped the accent and slightly changed the font, then he deleted all of the posts from the brand’s Instagram – erasing any trace of Phoebe’s identity from the house’s page.
And on Friday night, the most talked about show of fashion week opened. And as expected, polarising reviews came flooding in. In terms of clothing, of course Phoebe’s art-house fluid tailoring was nowhere to be seen. Waif-like models drifted down the catwalk in Slimane’s signature New Wave punk silhouette of razor sharp tailoring, angular shoulders and cropped asymmetric 80s puffball dresses and babydoll dresses. But the repetition was only a miniscule part of the problem.
The real underlying issue was the distinct lack of diversity in the casting. This of course shouldn’t come as a surprise –when Slimane was at the helm of Saint Laurent he used a similar if not identical casting structure. However, considering the not-so-quiet conversation around inclusivity in 2018, presenting a show with only nine out of 96 models being POC, it’s nothing short of a dire throwback to the fashion stats we’re all trying so hard to progress from.
Innumerable industry stalwarts took to social media to air out their disdain towards the show. ShowStudio and GQ editor Lou Stoppard tweeted: “By my count 87 of the 96 models were white. And it took 30 exits before an Asian model appeared and a fun 34 exits before a black model appeared. Innovative! A veritable hive of modernity and youth-focused design. *screams into pillow*”.
While a quote was lifted from Business of Fashion’s Tim Blanks’ full review of the show, on the platform’s Instagram: ”The same old skinny black suits and skinny ties, the same old hiked-high-as-you-care dresses, the same old tiny bombers and bikers and Mod and Factory and New Wave and No Wave… it was frustrating because LVMH, Celine’s parent, has clearly thrown a tsunami of money against this launch. But what we saw suggested that Slimane’s instincts for the moment had dulled. His influence shaped high street concerns like the Kooples and Zadig & Voltaire, not to mention Saint Laurent subsequent to his departure. And all his rock-a-biddy boys and girls were clustered hopefully in the audience on Friday night. Everyone’s fervent hope was that LVMH’s deep pockets would help him surf that past to a glittering future. Sadly, not on this evidence. In fact, the counter-intuitive ploy of placing Slimane at Celine turned into something of an own goal for LVMH. A brand that was once thoroughly identified with a peerless instinct for what women want in fashion all of a sudden looked like a gust of toxic masculinity”.