Consumers took to social media in droves over the weekend to express everything from enthusiasm to puzzlement and rage over Hedi Slimane’s debut collection for Celine.
Retailers, familiar with the Frenchman’s singular design vision, were largely positive in their assessments — with some exceptions and caveats.
Indeed, some major stores declined to comment for fear of reprisals, while others reserved full judgment until they see what’s in the showroom. Here’s what they had to say about Friday’s show, one of the most anticipated of Paris Fashion Week and the spring 2019 season:
Tomomi Asako, women’s buyer United Arrows: “To be honest, I did not see any difference between the Hedi Slimane era at Saint Laurent and the Celine collection. Hedi has his own style and design and they are to be respected. I was looking forward to seeing how his designs would play out in a traditional house like Celine. To me, his new collection read more Hedi Slimane than Celine.
“In Japan, there are many fans and customers who loved Phoebe Philo’s vision of Celine and they might be disappointed. It will be interesting to see how the world reacts to this and what Celine’s next step will be.”
Andrew Keith, president, Lane Crawford: “Hedi has a very focused creative vision, which appeals to the legions of fans and customers that have followed him at Dior Homme and Saint Laurent. His direction for Celine is consistent and our loyal Hedi customers will be happy to see him back.
“We’ve had an amazing business with Céline across Greater China since Phoebe’s first collection. She has been an inspiration not only for female customers, she has also led the way for other female designers to embrace their power and design for the modern women they are. That’s something that’s not going away, even though Phoebe may have for the time being — and we’re excited about discovering new creatives to welcome to our portfolio who resonate with our customers who are strong, independent and empowered and want fashions that reflects that.”
Mario Grauso, president, Holt Renfrew: “Holt is extremely excited to continue growing a very important business for us under the new creative leadership of Hedi Slimane. We also look forward to the addition of men’s. I know the fashion press is going crazy with opinions on this first collection from Hedi, but we are very happy to see the Hedi DNA added to the heritage of an amazing French brand. Hedi does Hedi like no other and we will support his vision in all of our stores.”
Alix Morabito, fashion director des Galeries Lafayette: “He was chosen to take the brand into a new era. Yes, Hedi’s style is certainly there and not surprisingly so. There is certainly commercial potential to start with men’s as a whole, but also for bags and women’s shoes. I can imagine that the LVMH group will know how to meet the objectives that have been set. The world is big, the level of culture and interest quite varied and it is likely that Celine [the one without an accent] will find a new clientele.
“One wonders though where is the Phoebe Philo line? Where can we find that Celine woman [the one with the accent] in today’s luxury universe?”
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus: “I think the collection is going to ultimately be very successful at retail. Was I surprised that Hedi did not go far from his codes? No. Was I hoping that he might have reached a little further from we’ve seen from him before? Yes. But as a show and as a presentation, customers are already responding and asking when it’s going to be in store because they’re really excited about it. They’re already texting me, e-mailing me and direct messaging me on Instagram. It’s been very favorable.
“It’s also the first collection, so I’m sure he will continue on his trajectory of his point of view. It would be nice to see if it takes on a personality that is not as similar as where he’s just come from.”
Jeffrey Kalinsky, founder of Jeffrey New York, and designer fashion director of Nordstrom: “I think that nothing makes me happier in the world than that I can see Celine by Hedi Slimane. I am so excited. I loved the show. I think he’s one of the most talented people of my lifetime of being a buyer in this industry, and I think it’s going to be an enormous success. I just can’t wait to get to the showroom, I can’t wait to get the product in the store, and I can’t wait to put it on the backs of my customers. I believe in him.”
Sebastian Manes, buying and merchandising director at Selfridges: “In my experience, when designers move from one house to another, they do relatively similar things. So when it was announced that Hedi was going to Celine, I was pretty much expecting what he delivered on Friday. I think it will be commercial. The bags are probably an enormous opportunity, probably the shoes as well for Celine. For the ready-to-wear, we need to see the showroom because the show was so dark.
“For the men’s, I think we probably need to wait and see with what the customer interest will be because it’s going head-to-head with Saint Laurent.”
Riccardo Tortato, fashion director, e-commerce and men’s fashion director, Tsum: “We are happy about bags that we saw so far and we have good request for that. Regarding the rest, I really want to see the full offer in the showroom.”