The scene before Hedi Slimane’s first men’s wear show for Celine was uncharacteristically sedate.
As Mozart tunes wafted over the speakers, luxury boss Bernard Arnault greeted members of his family, while guests gazed out a giant panoramic window at a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower, the Luxor Obelisk on the Place de la Concorde, and the Arc de Triomphe.
Courtney Love arrived early and quietly chatted in a corner, not a hair out of place on her blow-dried bob. For those accustomed to groping their way around Slimane’s pitch-black tents and stumbling over beer-swilling rock stars in the front row, it was borderline disconcerting.
The sense of a shift was confirmed with the first look out of the gate: The king of the skinny pant unveiled a new suit shape with pleated, baggy high-water pants. He didn’t labor the point, though, working them into an array of looks that made up a glossary of men’s wear classics.
If his debut coed collection was all about Parisian chic, this first dedicated men’s outing was an ode to London, where Slimane has been spending time lately.
The looks seemed to channel icons of British style. There was the Bryan Ferry: a Prince of Wales jacket worn with black trousers and a camel coat. The Carl Barât: a striped sweater with a leather jacket and drainpipe jeans. The Paul Weller: a gray suit topped with a tweedy coat.
Mods, rockers and teddy boys tumbled out, as a khaki parka rubbed shoulders with a yellow-and-black tiger print coat. Next came a varsity jacket, a duffle coat, a leather trench, a Nehru jacket, a cashmere coat, a biker jacket, a sheepskin jacket and a checked wool robe coat trimmed with twisted cord piping.
For evening, Slimane brought out couture-grade pieces such as a snowy three-quarter-length coat shot through with silver thread, and another one that was fully beaded in an abstract leopard pattern.
With this show, he drew a line under his Los Angeles years — now closely associated with the aesthetic he developed at Saint Laurent from 2012 to 2016 — and harked back to his days at Dior Homme, when he published “London Birth of a Cult,” the definitive photographic account of the mid-Aughts U.K. rock scene.
Since then, the designer has lost none of his obsession for extreme thinness, deathly pallor and unflattering haircuts, and found a plentiful supply of all three in the new crop of British musicians that walked in the show — members of bands like Drug Store Romeos, Lady Bird and Ugly.
Slimane also maintained his tradition of commissioning a track for the show — this time a song called “Philosopher’s Calling” by Vancouver multimedia collective Crack Cloud — but he capped it with an unexpected live performance by saxophonist James Chance, a key figure in the late Seventies post-punk scene in New York.
The polished display made for a fitting end to a men’s season that has seen designers swing away from streetwear. It also signaled that Slimane is ready to start a new chapter at Celine: one that doesn’t renege his youthful passions, but cracks open the door for a fresh point of view.