Image Credit: CELINE
When LVMH appoints a new creative or artistic director to one of their brands, they expect to see a significant increase in sales. However, Hedi Slimane’s appointment at CELINE has not had the trajectory they expected.
Following Slimane’s appointment in 2018, many fans were eager to witness his next creative venture. Slimane had racked up quite a reputation from his ventures at Dior Hommes and Saint Laurent. The designer’s fans, calling themselves “Slimaniacs”, fell in love with his outlook on youth merged with vintage references. So, the expectations for Slimane were high.
His transition to CELINE proved rockier than expected. Phoebe Philo’s decade of work at CELINE had secured a cult following who were not yet ready to see her leave. Philo created clothing for empowered women, who considered themselves elegant and put together. Slimane’s divisive SS19 debut collection showcased a thin and young cast of models, walking down the runway in baby doll dresses and an array of fascinator hats. It also marked the brand’s menswear debut.
Slimane essentially focused on a younger generation with his clothes, appealing to the youth that grew up during Philo’s time, and were now old enough to become a part of CELINE’s clientele. Philo fans were not ready. This show felt like a violation to the devoted followers of CELINE. The press was also polarized, criticizing its timing. For Slimane to feature skinny and bare women during the height of the #MeToo movement and the growing need for diversity in the fashion industry suggested he might be out of touch.
Although the #OldCeline was trending amongst some devoted followers of the fashion house, Slimane was making slight progress – at least financially. By the end of 2019, he had created a “neo-bourgeois” aesthetic, to match the mature wardrobe of the brand’s clientele while still giving it a fresh twist. It felt as though Philo fans may have been coming round to his CELINE. However, this was short-lived. By early 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic hit and lockdown greatly affected sales.
Although the beginning of 2020 was not so giving to CELINE, by April, things began to turn around. Following the end of the first lockdown in China, customers went on a huge shopping spree, referred to as ‘revenge-spending’. This proved a major component for CELINE as they saw a sharp rise in sales. This success was further amplified by celebrity endorsement, like Lisa from the K-Pop group Blackpink becoming a brand ambassador, and the brand’s significant presence on WeChat. An LVMH representative reported that this growth in sales was a “good improvement” for CELINE.
Youth culture and nightlife has always been a strong influence in Hedi Slimane’s work. However, some have criticised his work at CELINE, claiming he has missed the mark and instead produced an outdated version of what today’s youth represent. In a radical attempt to regain his spot in the fashion industry, Slimane has turned to TikTok, our generation’s most used app. CELINE partnered with TikTok influencers who had become known for their ‘E-boy’ style. Users Noen Eubanks, Chase Hudon (LilHuddy) and Anthony Reeves (Luvanthony) all wore unreleased pieces from CELINE’s SS21 collection. The ‘For You’ page on TikTok became CELINE’s own virtual catwalk.
Rumours about LVMH’s disappointment over sales have been in constant circulation since Slimane’s appointment. No official targets have been published but BOF reports that financial analysts estimate a target revenue of 2 to 3 billion euros in sales within Slimane’s first five years at the brand. Although there are no official figures to show whether Slimane is on track to achieve this target, it is possible that he has found a rich seam in his new client base – we’re certainly here for it. By tapping into TikTok fans and K-Pop stans, this radical change for CELINE may finally help increase their sales, especially when Slimane’s loud designs will be on everyone’s mind following a post-pandemic sweatpants hangover.