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Is Hedi Slimane about to leave Celine?

Let's explain the many rumors that are chasing each other these days

Is Hedi Slimane about to leave Celine? Let's explain the many rumors that are chasing each other these days

Every piece of gossip always ends up in the square. And in fashion there are more rumors than corridors: if, for example, the rumor of Alessandro Michele leaving Valentino was already heard in September, there's one that initially seemed unfounded but has been gaining more and more resonance until today even BoF talked about it – a type of attention that leads us to presume that something, indeed, is happening. So here's what the gossip is: Hedi Slimane is reportedly about to leave Celine. The same source that broke the news earlier this month, Astrid Wendlandt of Miss Tweed, also speaks of a potential future creative direction at Chanel – but let's focus on what we know. Since Slimane took over the brand, completely revamping Phoebe Philo's aesthetic, Celine has become the third powerhouse in LVMH's portfolio with $2.5 billion in sales, surpassing even Fendi. From an external perspective, there's nothing strange; the brand has also recently launched a lipstick that immediately went viral. But then what are the issues?

What the Gossip Says About Hedi Slimane

@fitz.erin At the Celine show in LA tonight. What do we think of this #runwaywalk ?? #celinebyhedislimane original sound - Erin Fitzpatrick

Slimane is one of the most inscrutable figures in fashion, and relatively little is known about him. However, the most important thing is the level of control he demands over every aspect of the brands: to date, all the brand's campaigns and the styling of every single look have been signed by him, for example, but according to Miss Tweed, there's more to it. "It is estimated that Slimane is paid several tens of millions of euros by the brand each year," Wendlandt writes. "According to industry sources, he managed to negotiate royalties on the perfume line he launched in 2019 and on every piece of furniture he designed present in the brand's boutiques. Slimane also decides on the layout and design of all the brand's boutiques. 'He charges €50,000 for each photo he takes,' a person working with him said". But there's more: also on Miss Tweed, it is stated that, during the pandemic, before the sales boom, Slimane moved the entire design studio of the brand from Paris to his villa in Ramatuelle, near Saint Tropez, where he surrounded himself with a select council of advisers and collaborators without truly interacting with the entire team of the brand, including executives. It's clear that the relocation of the design studio, the well-known closure towards any Condè Nast publication like Vogue or GQ due to a disagreement with Anna Wintour, the decision to present through expensive videos that garner fewer views than actual fashion week shows, and the hefty fee he demands (in addition to the salary as creative director, there would be basic payments as a photographer and stylist for all campaigns as well as royalties on perfumes) making him one of the highest-paid designers in the world, have started to annoy the Arnaults.

Now that the brand has its own identity, and that growth is proceeding more slowly, given both the general consumption stagnation and the apparent frustration towards a poorly dynamic communication strategy, so to speak, the Arnaults wouldn't be too inclined to pour tens of millions of euros into Slimane who has prepared new ground to build on. Especially after the rival Kering managed to demonstrate that after breaking up with the designer, life can go on with the success of Saint Laurent. Now that Celine has gone from an intellectual niche brand to a producer of minimal and sublimated luxury; managing to turn jeans, pointed boots, and leather blousons into luxury bestsellers, launching now-famous perfumes, becoming in a few years one of the most beloved eyewear brands as well as a symbol of old money aesthetics even in the field of bags, it's likely that LVMH's top management wants to take control of the situation and see how far the brand's reach can be pushed by fully exploiting its communication, reopening diplomatic relations with Condè Nast, returning to the runway (the last live show was in January 2023), and basically getting the brand back on track with normality. Especially in times of low fashion literacy, and faced with a product whose design is so minimalist and essential, "it's unlikely that buyers of Celine's Triomphe bags and monogrammed canvas cardholders know who Slimane is, even if they appreciate the brand he has made his own," writes BoF.

Is There Life After Slimane?

As mentioned, the Arnaults' big bet is on the survival of the brand's codes after a possible departure of Slimane. In terms of product and taste, the designer's formula is easily reconstructible – but the absolute decisional centralization imposed by the creative director on the brand, which has also led him to add his own name after Celine's in the most recent videos, suggests that the mission could be more complicated than expected. Firstly because Slimane is one of those designers whose products are collectibles, almost a brand in themselves, whose career is certainly distinguished in eras and punctuated by collections better than others, but whose presence creates excitement behind a brand. The designer brings his aesthetic from one brand to another, supplanting everything that existed previously, and his fans buy his designs not the brand's designs - so his market niche will fundamentally shift with him. A Celine boot, just like in his time a Saint Laurent boot, was part of a broader and more authorial vocabulary that Slimane has been creating since his days at Dior Homme. Almost every brand has reimagined pointed Chelsea boots with slight Western inflections, but the cultural capital that Slimane brings with him makes all other boots look like alternative versions of his own. The same goes for Teddy Jackets and flared jeans, even for loden coats, plaid wool shirts, suits, and so on: Slimane, simply put, owns that style, he has put together that vocabulary – however simple the final products, it's Slimane's touch that makes them special. If one day he were to really go to Chanel, not only would he 100% launch a menswear line, but he would also make it sell by the force of Japanese jeans, boots, and suits.

Not to mention how the designer has anticipated or intercepted trends before many competitors: with The Dancing Kid, initially poorly received, he managed to capture the TikTok aesthetic better than anyone else; he was ahead of the trends of quiet luxury and Indie Sleaze of which he remains a reference; he anticipated the fashion of Barbour-style jackets and very long coats now taken up by other illustrious brands, that of bootcut jeans and mega-jeans with Cosmic Cruiser. Through his lens, Slimane has managed to make Celine a brand suitable for both movie stars, men in search of elegance, rappers, and streetwear lovers: from the tuxedo to the long mermaid dress, passing through the boot and the jeans, to the tracksuits and branded slippers, Celine remains itself. It's this kind of unified storytelling and vision that justify his very high fee – even though it's understandable why the brand's top management is quite happy to get rid of the many demands for control over the design and communication process. The risk is surmountable but, honestly, very high. Yet, knowing the designer, it's not unthinkable that he might give up a brand to which he has already given everything and prepare for the next project – currently shrouded in mystery, whether it's a new sabbatical year to spend in California, or whether it's the creative direction of Chanel, a topic that Miss Tweed talks about but we don't feel comfortable speculating on.