Paris Fashion Week highlights: Hedi Slimane’s Celine debut, Balenciaga and Valentino

Slimane causes a little controversy at Celine, Demna Gvasalia shows his sleek creations at Balenciaga, Pierpaolo Piccioli takes Valentino back to its roots. Escapism was a recurring theme at Paris Fashion Week

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2018, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 10:25am

The main event this Paris Fashion Week was without any doubt the return of Hedi Slimane, formerly of Dior Homme and Saint Laurent, who unveiled his first collection for LVMH-owned brand Celine.

When British designer Phoebe Philo took the helm of Céline a decade ago, the brand rapidly built a loyal following among grown-up women, who fell hard for the clean lines, fuss-free accessories and no-nonsense aesthetic of the French brand.

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Slimane’s total revamp of the house was in line with the work that made him famous at Dior Homme and Saint Laurent: ultra skinny suits for men (under him, the label will also be producing menswear), and short dresses and tailored separates for girls who love nothing more than partying till the wee hours.

Slimane’s decision not to cater to the devotees of Celine – he also removed the accent from the brand’s name – raised some hackles in the fashion community and beyond. However, controversy aside, there are plenty of brands out there offering alternatives to replace the hole left in women’s closets.

Kwaidan Editions, founded by a Celine alumnus, Hung La, who also worked at Balenciaga, and his partner, Lea Dickely, who learned the ropes of the trade at Alexander McQueen and Rick Owens, is a good up-and-coming contender.

La and Dickely know how to cut a mean pair of pants while their workwear-inspired jackets and separates are more utilitarian takes on the sleek tailoring that women have been embracing for a few years now.

Add to that high-quality knitwear made in the same Italian factories used by brands such as Alexander McQueen and Azzedine Alaia and you have a new luxury women’s label offering the kind of pieces that Celine aficionados are going to miss.

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Let’s also not forget that throughout the years Slimane’s followers, both men and women, have been as loyal to him as the so-called “Philophiles” have been to Philo so it’s likely that the new Celine will do well at retail, regardless of what fashion insiders say.

As for the other collections that caught our eye during the shows, Balenciaga was certainly a welcome highlight this season – kudos to street wear trend instigator Demna Gvasalia for changing direction and delivering a series of sleek killer looks with couture flourishes reminiscent of the late Cristobal Balenciaga himself.

Valentino is another brand that in recent seasons had fallen prey to the logo obsession and athletic vibe that is still rampant. For this show, designer Pierpaolo Piccioli, however, went back to the roots of the house, even revisiting its original V logo, which is much more elegant than the recent VLTN iteration. Feathers, pleated dresses, capes, giant straw hats, luscious tropical prints and solemn monochrome gowns: this was a collection of grand gestures, which is what Valentino excels at.

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Escapism was the undercurrent at many of the shows, whether through dance, celebrated by Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior; obscure theatrics, which took centre stage at Gucci; the exotic and futuristic vision of Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière, whose work looks like nobody else’s; or just a plain sunny day on the beach, which Chanel and Thom Browne recreated in their sets and younger brands Jacquemus and Altuzarra conjured up in their Riviera-ready line-ups.

It’s no surprise then that the key accessory for spring/summer 2019 is a beach-bound straw bag or hat.

They were everywhere, from the giant holdall at Jacquemus to the feather-embellished handbags at Loewe and more straw totes, vinyl mini bags and straw hats at Chanel, Valentino and Altuzarra.