Pleated culottes. Silk blouses. Blazers. Printed scarves. Tasteful gold necklaces. Sober clothes for crazy times.
Instead of crotch-short, sparkly cocktail dresses worn by women with a morning-after flush, he has given folks bourgeois rectitude hiding behind aviator sunglasses. They are the kind of clothes that are fashion only because some person of note — some leader of the cool pack — says they are, when really they are simply the components of a classic style that has been around since forever — or at least since the 1970s — and probably always will be. Somewhere out in horse country Virginia, at a cottage in Connecticut or at a historic society meeting in Grosse Pointe, Mich., a 65-year-old woman is catching a glimpse of these runway pictures and chuckling: “Oh, so now my wardrobe is in fashion.”
Is this what women want from Slimane? Is this his make-good after a spring collection that vaporized the minimalist sophistication that Celine had become known for, under its former creative director Phoebe Philo? Each potential Celine customer surely has a different answer. Some may want their clothes to make them look as powerful on the outside as they feel on the inside. Others may want their clothes to help them live out some fantasy of debauchery. Still other women may look to their clothes to bring them the fashion equivalent of a sugar rush. A lot of them may ask only that their clothes be comfortable, utilitarian and relevant.
The only question a designer can really answer: What does he or she want to give women?
\What is Slimane’s proposition? Has he come to delight women or to help them up? It would seem that he has simply come to dress them.
On Friday night, in a darkened box tent with the dome of Les Invalides in the background, a glass rectangle descended from the rafters and onto the wide runway. A single dark-haired model stood inside wearing a blazer, pleated culottes, a big floppy scarf tied off to the side, a structured handbag and aviator sunglasses. She proceeded down the runway with purpose, as if she’d just stepped out of one of those glass elevators in some big city office tower that, back in the 1970s, seemed so boldly modern.
She was followed by model after model, each wearing some variation of that look: pleated plaid skirt with navy blazer, pleated culottes with blazer, plaid culottes with solid jacket, plaid skirt with sweater, black leather culottes, fur jacket, gray flannel culottes. There were intermittent breaks provided by a pair of jeans with over-the-knee boots or a printed dress with long sleeves and a high collar, and then it was back to culottes and blazers and sweaters.
Your eyes begin to stray from the clothes to the audience to see rows of slightly glazed expressions. Yes, okay. We get it. Bourgeois good taste. Conservative. What is that scent coming form the runway? A whiff of Pendleton? Notes of Barbour? The models in flannel and denim and tweed marched down to face the photographers to what sounded like the same eight bars of music on a perpetual loop. And then! Lo, on the runway: fun. A pair of gold sparkly culottes and a matching jacket! By 9 p.m., the show was over. The models paraded out in unison for one last walkabout; Slimane took his bows, and that was that.
These were clothes that were ageless — in the era in which they could survive and the range of women who could wear them and not feel as though they’d raided a junior high coat closet. Will this be the tone of Celine as the brand moves forward under Slimane’s direction, this kind of no-nonsense dressing?
Slimane gave his audience classics for fall. These clothes weren’t born and nurtured in these times, but they can thrive in them. The only question is whether Slimane will let them.
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