Celine: Youthquake in Chateau de Vaux-Le-Vicomte
Youth’s brief and beautiful splendor was the theme of the latest collection and show by Hedi Slimane for Celine, staged in a chateau famed for the brief glory of its unlucky owner.
The show video of the Celine women winter 2021’s collection was shot at Vaux-le-Vicomte, the magnificent chateau east of Paris, whose gardens by André Le Nôtre are among the grandest in Europe. Following up on Slimane’s previous show video in February, Celine menswear shot in yet another historic location – the Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley.
Hedi entitled this women’s collection as Parade, taken from a short prose poem by Arthur Rimbaud, which ends with the immortal phrase: "j’ai seul la clef de cette parade sauvage” -- I alone have the key to this savage sideshow.
Elsewhere, Hedi quotes Baudelaire: “My youth was a dark thunderstorm; crossed here and there by bright suns.” Which kind of sums up the career of Slimane, an intensely talented designer who restlessly shuttles back and forth between fashion and photography; gilded youth and moody darkness.
Slimane clearly expects a stormy winter judging by the amount of protective clothing on display: duffle coats over riding boots; multiple blousons and puffers in ecru, check or camouflage; or sequined dresses topped by parkas.
Svelte singles appear in chunky cable sweaters with funnel necks accompanied by shiny cocoon skirts; other moody beauties marched in lots of oversized vests and cabans – most strikingly in shearling, sometimes made inside-out.
All told, a rather preppy moment, with weather-proof riding dusters and Chanel-style jackets worn with jeans. Even the ultimate uniform of the monied bourgeois – a herringbone jacket with suede elbow patches. Though for urban action Slimane did dream up some great military jackets, whose sleeves were finished with gold braid. Many looks topped by Celine logo beanies, in a video recorded on an evidently chilling afternoon, as the cast march by Le Nôtre’s giant basins, canals and patterned parterres.
Lensed with multiple drone shots of the magnificent country home, interspersed with black and white images of topiary; immense fountains and giant neo-classical statues.
“His look is the same as statues,” quoted Slimane from Paul Verlaine in his program notes, in a phrase one could have used about Hedi. The same Verlaine who famously shot the 18-year-old Rimbaud in Brussels, after they fell out of love.
Little of the poet lovers' hell-raising youth, however, was evident in this show video; even if it did have a certain sense of poetic symbolism. Particularly thanks to the latest great soundtrack in a Slimane show, courtesy of Regina Demina, the Russo-Ukrainian installation artist, dancer and actress who is also the most happening new singer in Paris.
Days before, the house had alerted editors to the upcoming display with a gift containing three golden double-'C' logo dice – bearing cryptic words like 'why,' 'maybe,' 'often,' 'obviously' or 'never.' Lined up, they could read 'Right now, yes, indeed.'
All told, while the video was composed with great professional skill; this felt like a designer playing far too well within his range. But at least, Hedi is still out there creating collections. Unlike Rimbaud, who essentially quit his calling as writer at the age of 21 and went off to Ethiopia to become a coffee trader and arms dealer.
Or Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s inspector of finances, who built Vaux-Le-Vicomte. When the king judged the estate to be too lavish and opulent to have been financed honestly, Fouquet was arrested the night of its opening ball in 1661 and spent the rest of his life in jail.
Hedi preferred a more elegiac ending for Celine’s visit to the chateau – a deer approaching a lithe freckled model, as fireworks suddenly burst over Vaux-Le-Vicomte.
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