#SuzyPFW: Celine’s War Of The Youth Market
It was a fashion face off. Seated on one side of the runway at Hedi Slimane’s debut Celine show were the oldies: that’s Karl Lagerfeld with his silver beard, eternally blonde beauty Catherine Deneuve and even blonder Lady Gaga.
What! Surely that performance star is the queen of all millennials? Except that the group of consumers who were hot only a few years ago have been displaced by Gen Z – those born in the mid-1990s – now 25 per cent of the American market, and even more in Asia.
They are cool young women like model Grace Hartzel, whom Hedi had spotted at age 15 and who co-wrote lyrics for the soundtrack of the show with La Femme in LA. She was later chilling out backstage with Hedi’s posse of supporters – which felt like a California music industry gathering.
The Paris runway collection was made for them, with its super-skinny tailoring and sparkling pouf skirts – everything but the latter as gender-neutral as you could find. Nothing sloppy or sporty. Not even sneakers. (So millennial. So over.)
The show was both a shock – and a show of strength from Hedi, who made a clear decision to carry on exactly where his tenor at Saint Laurent had left off two and a half years ago. The clothes were slender and sharp with silhouettes defined by the designer’s favourite slim-line trousers and jackets with collar and tie (for men: the bow; on women: the skinny traditional necktie).
There was plenty to wear to work, if skirts had been doubled in length. Mainly on men, there was precision in a black and white spotted shirt with striped tie; or double buttoned blazer with horizontal striped shirt.
Could the men’s collection be worn across the genders – everything seen on male models will be sold as unisex – for women who would normally choose a tiny sparkling mini dress only for after-work hours?
Well, the show was labled as a ‘Celine La Nuit’ – a night-time collection. But the Celine company, owned by LVMH, was clearly casting off the brand’s decade-long era under designer Phoebe Philo.
As well as the reaction of mourning women, feeling deprived of their go-to wardrobe, there were buyers concerned about how to serve their customers.
“So I have just lost my Celine clients – I will have to find something else for them,” said a senior store executive who asked not to be named. “And I already have Saint Laurent – do I need to double it?”
She was referring to the Saint Laurent collections by designer Anthony Vaccarello, who was appointed in 2016 and focuses on after-dark clothes with a sexy vibe. In her mind, the two giant luxury providers LVMH and Kering are going in a head-to-head battle.
Backstage, in a gathering of the few, where Karl came to congratulate Hedi, Sidney Toledano, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of LVMH Fashion Group, talked frankly about his company’s policy for Celine, which, he said, did not previously, for all its high rank within the fashion world, have a large customer base or any focus on menswear.
“We will be growing the market for clothes and accessories as well with a lot more clothes for women and men because there was nothing for men apart from ties. And now women will be able to wear Celine after five in the afternoon!”
For sure there will be more on offer than the stylish mix of pieces worn by Grace and her clan whooping it up backstage. But the entire dynamic of Celine has changed and with it, high-end shopping. And between the big brand groups, it is clearly a fashion war.
In the era of #MeToo, it seems sad that a woman-friendly line should change so dramatically. But there is always room for another brand to put females first.