The received wisdom in menswear always used to be that changes in style were only accepted in minute increments, over decades: a nipped-flare suit in the ’70s (Yves Saint Laurent); a broad shoulder in the ’80s (Armani); a dropped waist in the ’90s (Alexander McQueen); a super-skinny suit in the 2000s (Hedi Slimane). But on the cusp of the 2020s, an entire new culture of clothes for men has exploded as a diverse and very young generation across the globe has become unprecedentedly engaged in expanding the possibilities of their identities through fashion. As Hedi Slimane made his comeback in his first stand-alone menswear show for Celine tonight, it was as if he joined a choir of voices which are competing for new-boy attention. The LVMH menswear shows this week attest to that: Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, Kim Jones at Dior, Jonathan Anderson at Loewe, Kris Van Assche at Berluti (as well as the rest of the vast spectrum of shows we’ve accounted for in Paris and London).
As a rock star of menswear—who made a second mass impact by triggering young men and women to buy during his reinvention of Saint Laurent between 2012 and 2016—Hedi Slimane reentered the boy-specific arena with all the conviction of the awesome marketeer of music-cult heritage styles the industry recognizes him to be. Hedi is Hedi, whatever the name of the brand he’s playing for: He’s trained his audience to expect nothing less.
The question of how he’d shift the needle again began with his opening statement: a black double-breasted suit, white shirt, black skinny tie, and mean New Wave shades. This is a moment when formal tailoring is in play again for the first time in a generation—and those incremental changes of detail still count. Slimane’s bid—by repetition—was to train the eye on specifics. High-waist pleats, cropped-leg length, laced-up flat boots, or the more familiar super-skinny leather/jean thing he’s always done. Then, a vast smorgasbord of layered jackets and coats, iterating a range of ’80s vibes: hints of a boy’s view of dad’s Armani-gray officewear, granddad’s country tweeds, and classic throwback rock-idol leather jackets and leopard-spot drape coats. Slimane can dazzle, no doubt about it. In the glamour stakes on red carpets, the sequined coats and jackets will threaten to outshine any competition.
But as for the real boys—the populist knack that Slimane has that will likely set off an avalanche of copies? The real thing this Celine debut spotlit was the accessories: the sunglasses, the ranges of black leather shoes (hello! No trainers here). And last but not least: the comeback of skinny ties. No Gen Zer has ever worn one of those. It just might prove to be the one affordable item to lasso kids into Celine stores for a look around, ahead of all the others.