Hedi Slimane on the cover of the december issue of Vanity Fair France

TOP DOG: Hedi Slimane has landed the number-one spot in the 2018 edition of Vanity Fair France’s annual “50 Most Influential French People in the World” ranking.

The creative director for Celine succeeds businessman Xavier Niel, the founder of telecommunications company Free, who spearheaded the ranking in 2017.

Slimane beat out footballer Kylian MBappé, ranked number three, French President Emmanuel Macron at number five, Rimowa chief executive officer Alexandre Arnault at number 12, singer Chris (formely Christine and the Queens) at number 14 and Balenciaga ceo Cédric Charbit at number 21.

Slimane, who is featured on the cover of the magazine’s December issue, gave a six-page interview to the publication’s fashion editor Virginie Mouzat, conducted via e-mail, in which he discussed his arrival at Celine, the brand’s first perfume launch and the introduction of men’s wear.

“I’ve never felt kinship to a strict and dissociated definition of genders,” said the designer, who presented Celine’s first men’s wear silhouettes alongside women’s wear looks at his debut show for the brand on Sept. 28.

“I defended for over 20 years, faced with total incomprehension, what today we call ‘fluidity.’ It wasn’t a demand, but something natural, something that seemed obvious, without any provocation,” he said.

“Today, at Celine, I don’t always think it is useful to exaggerate, which doesn’t stop me from dressing my female models in men’s suits, something I have always done, as a pioneer, since the Dior Homme years,” Slimane added.

“It’s precisely about never imposing anything. It needs to stay playful: dressing like a girl or a boy; going from one to the other; preserving what fashion cruelly lacks nowadays, lightness, freedom to be who you want to be, on your own terms,” he noted.

Paris-born Slimane, 50, was named creative director of Dior Homme in 1996, where he stayed for 10 years. After a taking a break to focus on his photography work, the designer took his signature skinny silhouette to Saint Laurent, replacing Stefano Pilati as women’s ready-to-wear creative director in 2012.

In January 2018, Slimane took over creative direction at Celine, succeeding Phoebe Philo. His first collection for the brand sparked criticism from a number of fashion publications, who accused him of misogyny for putting his models in short skirts.

“It was harassment, pure and simple bullying,” said Slimane about the media reaction to his first Celine show. “(It was) a completely artificial debate, entirely fabricated. Not by the French press naturally, but exclusively by the Anglo-Saxon press, which has radically different values to ours.”

“We need to protect ourselves (…) from the organized conformity of single mind-set, without even talking about cyber harassment, which restrains our freedom. The social media utopia seems far behind us. It has become a freeway for all sorts of populisms and discriminations. Fashion, alas, cannot escape this today,” he lamented.

Slimane reiterated his previous opinion that such criticism was “homophobic.”

“I also felt — and I am not the only one — a homophobic aftertaste on the subject of a couturier (presumed to be misogynistic) who doesn’t understand anything about women,” said the designer. “It’s a nauseating claim that, unfortunately, is nothing new.”

“Can you decide to be sexy just for yourself? In my opinion, it’s a fundamental right for each of us. It doesn’t allow anything, no abusive behavior. On the contrary, it’s taking power,” he argued.

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