Celine’s artistic, creative and image director Hedi Slimane has reset house aesthetics for his Spring 2021 collection. The 12-minute film, released on July 29 and dubbed “The Dancing Kid,” abruptly erases the 1970s haute gigolo style of Celine Homme. Slimane once noted in an interview that the radicalism of his extreme nostalgia is oblique. “It displaces the taste of the moment, the accepted ideas, the societal movements and the cultural symbols of a given era.”
It seems that train has left the station. The film for Spring 2021 is a toast to TikTok’s eboys and skate culture amidst lockdown. An overhead drone shot of desolate Circuit Paul Ricard race track in Marseille, France, zooms onto a single yellow helmet belonging to the film’s first model. Every successive look screams “modernity!” Kamikaze-colourful blousons and vests, their diagrams resembling 90s-era Trapper Keeper binders, clash with tiger prints on knits, blazers and ponchos. Slimane’s trademark skinny silhouette relaxes into pajama-style bottoms, loose denim and baggy – for him, at least – tailoring.
Fashion arrives in scintillating fabrications: sequined blazers and track pants, metallic polka dots on trousers and LED lights upon varsity jackets. Slimane underpins this collection of clothes with an articulated aura of the eboy: two-tone hair, painted nails, wallet chains repurposed as necklaces. Even the precise length of dangly earrings channels, as Slimane’s press notes read, “a candid portrait of a generation that took advantage of the confinement to assert itself creatively”. It takes verve to radically shift your own house remit – typically, classics reflecting Celine’s Parisian values – to celebrate updated youth codes.
Did these ideas result in purposeful, considerate fashion? That answer depends on optics. Slimane’s collections balance a tightrope walk negotiating evolution versus regression. To that end, Celine Homme Spring 2021 evolves successfully. It’s a pleasure to see niche bits from the designer’s back catalogue make appearances. Celine’s kilts reference the 2004 floor sweeper versions. Surprising, still, are the printed shorts on several boys’ bodies. Slimane has not shown one pair of shorts on his runways since 2002. A model in a grey pinstripe suit – with the grinch green ombre fade – flashes back to Morten who, in 2007, became the first black model on a Slimane catwalk. He also sported a similar blowout fade.
Evolution also gives way to revolution: this was the first time, in 23 years, Slimane has commissioned a person of colour to create the soundtrack for his fashion show. Tiago Garcia-Arenas – Canadian rapper, producer and dancer – made an extended version of his first hit single “They Call Me Tiago (Her Name Was Margo).” The sonic structure, made famous via TikTok, has roots in the hyphy movement from California’s Bay Area hip-hop scene. Hyphy’s repetitive pings and room-quaking bass lines afford Garcia-Arenas the creative roadmap to make history on the shoulders of Black artists Mac Dre, E-40, The Pack and Keak da Sneak…whether he, or his TikTok fanbase, knows it or not.
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“The Dancing Kid” borrows heavily from Slimane’s “Surf Sound” collection of four years ago. Back then, his context was 1960s California surf and motorcycle subculture with a pinch of New York’s legendary mid-90s Lower East Side skate scene. The new collection takes its inspiration from (mostly) young white men holed up in Los Angeles mansions collaborating on viral ideas for fame. They wear relatable clothing from tie-dyed hoodies to Champion sweats to Von Dutch caps. American mall-adjacent skate shops Zumiez and PacSun are their cheat codes. By elevating eboy culture as relevant fashion, isn’t Slimane playing to the default majority? In an interview, Slimane has discussed social media: “This obsession with exposing everything, commenting on everything, putting everything on the stage has become excessively ordinary.” How then, amidst fashion’s reckoning with racial impropriety, do overexposed basic rich, white, teenage boys represent Celine Homme’s best path forward?
Depending on your personal optics, Celine Homme Spring 2021 either panders or electrifies. The clothes elicit strong reactions, like relevant fashion should do. Plus, it looks like a money maker. Slimane successfully shoves Celine Homme from the past into the present. As always, youth codes provide the heartbeat that ignites his creativity. Yet, the uneasy thought remains that this time he may be sending populist messages that are best left unread.