Slimane’s choice: what is happening at Celine?

A great fashion shake-up might be coming. According to the industry sources, Hedi Slimane is about to depart from Celine after six-year tenure. Could it be true? And if yes, what’s next for the star designer?

First, it was Business of Fashion that broke the news that Hedi Slimane might not stay at Celine due to “thorny contract negotiation with the owner LVMH”. Later, WWD fueled the flame with a feature about possible Slimane’s successors, stating that Polo Ralph Lauren designer Michael Rider is “the frontrunner to take over” the helms of the iconic house, where he used to work for ten years under Phoebe Philo. But what is really happening? 

Hedi Slimane has a proven track of making impossible possible. When he launched Dior Homme with his rock aesthtique, every man, including fellow designer Karl Lagerfeld, who famously lost 20 kilos to fit into Slimane’s silhouettes, desired to be dressed in his skinny jeans and slim suits. After seven years at Dior, Slimane left to focus on his own photo projects only to return five years later to fashion as creative and image director at Saint Laurent (dropping off notoriously the “Yves” part from the name). There, he created for the first time both womenswear and menswear. His collections produced a similar effect: everybody wanted to look grunge and chic like Slimane’s girls and boys. And brought to parent group Kering billions of profit. But after four years Hedi Slimane withdrew from the fashion game, and went back where he belonged: photography. And then, when Phoebe Philo exited Céline, the iconic designer triumfully came back as her successor. Rebaptising Céline into Celine, Hedi turned the house upside down, launched menswear and fragrances, and made rock chic from Paris fashionable again. Because, yes, he can! 

If at first Celine aficionados might have been skeptical about unexpected Slimane’s nomination (fashionistas will always remember the endless heated debates between Philophills and Slimaniacs after the news of Hedi’s nomination broke the Internet), the numbers recently published by LVMH prove that Hedi Slimane was indeed the right choice for the brand. Now Celine is the thirdest largest fashion label in the group with around €2.5 billion in revenue, coming after the luxury giants Dior and Louis Vuitton. And with such numbers, it’s no surprise, that Slimane, who is not only a smart designer, but also a punk at heart who knows how to take risks (you know, go big, or go home!), will want more power at the brand. As it’s not only about the money (after all, it’s LVMH, the company of the richest man on the planet, according to Forbes), but the balance of power and rewriting the rules of the game. Who will have the control over everything? Creative direction, music, media and influencers mix? Can Slimane become even more picky with the media and his communication strategy choices? The designer is known to keep a low profile, decline interview demands and clash with the biggest titles that don’t give him the right exposure - both Vogue and Numéro are banned from his shows, including all international editions. And taking into account that Hedi is just about to launch the long-awaited Celine beauté line in 2025, announced during the latest pre-taped show (right, the models in the video were wearing the Celine rouge on their lips, marching in iconic Parisian locations like la Salle Pleyel, le Musée Bourdelle or le Musée des Arts Décoratifs), it’s also the perfect timing to get as much from the employer as possible. Or leave for better opportunities. 

Where can Hedi Slimane go next? Chanel would be a nice option, as Slimane always desired to get back to couture (he did just one couture collection for Saint Laurent before stepping down). He is also the designer of choice of the current artistic director Virginie Viard’s predecessor Karl Lagerfeld. Additionally, if Hedi comes to Chanel, he will definitely launch the long-awaited menswear, which could be a nice opportunity for growth for the iconic French house. But knowing Slimane, and that he never follows the “industry guidelines” and tends to play the system for his own benefits and stakeholders’ profits, he might just take another break from fashion. After all, he doesn’t need fashion to be complete, he has other passions: music and photography. Ultimately, it’s the fashion industry that needs him most.

Text: Lidia Ageeva