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20 years on, Hedi Slimane returns to the Palais de Tokyo with Celine

Closing Paris Fashion Week Men’s, Hedi Slimane’s S/S 2023 menswear collection for Celine saw the designer return to the Palais de Tokyo, where he first showed 20 years ago with Dior Homme

Celine Homme S/S 2023 at the Palais de Toyko, Paris

The Palais de Tokyo, France’s largest gallery of contemporary art, was under construction when Hedi Slimane – then the creative director of Dior Homme – showed an A/W 2002 collection amid its unfinished hallways. Of those in attendance, including the late Karl Lagerfeld and Pierre Bergé, as well as LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, few could have predicted the institute’s impact on fashion – each season numerous shows take place in the venue, including Rick Owens’ famed spectacles on the vast forecourt – nor the enduring cultural significance of Slimane himself, whose singular vision has taken him, in the two decades since, from Dior to Saint Laurent, and now Celine, where he is creative director of the French house’s men’s and womenswear collections.

Celine Homme S/S 2023 campaign. Photography by Hedi Slimane

On the evening of Sunday 26 June 2022, marking both the 20th anniversary of the Palais de Tokyo and Slimane’s inaugural show at the venue, the designer returned to present his S/S 2023 Celine Homme collection in one of the museum’s wings that flank the central deco courtyard (the building itself was first opened in 1937 to house the National Museum of Modern Art at the Paris International Exhibition).

‘Hedi wanted to pay tribute to the institution and remember this moment in his menswear reform,’ read the brief accompanying notes, which also cited his fascination for the building’s ‘monumental’ art deco architecture. Outside the venue, Celine was written in lights, becoming ever-more vivid in the fading evening light; beyond the gates, a thousands-strong crowd of mostly teenagers waited for the high-profile attendees to arrive (the loudest screams were reserved for Lisa from South Korean girl group Blackpink, who has previously appeared in Slimane’s collection films).

Celine Homme S/S 2023

Such a scene – providing perhaps the most buzzed-about moment of the entirety of men’s fashion month – is a testament to Slimane’s cultural impact, much down to an unrelenting aesthetic vision that is defined by the fusion of the high-luxury of the Celine atelier and a rebellious, rock and roll sensibility. ‘At Celine, I come back to the classic perception of my job from when I started 20 years ago, without any nostalgia,’ Slimane told Le Figaro in a rare interview when starting at the house. ‘All I do is all I am… why should I give up on what defines me?’

Closing Paris Fashion Week Men’s S/S 2023, under an Alexander Calder-esque mobile designed by Slimane for the occasion, the designer presented a typically impactful collection that riffed on his house signatures while opening up new pathways of vision. The narrow tie on the collection’s opening look seemed to reference the Dior Homme A/W 2002 collection – he was perhaps the first contemporary proponent of the skinny tie, ubiquitous in the 2000s and an enduring accessory in the years since – while narrow leather trousers, pointed boots, requisite dark sunglasses and numerous iterations of the suit (pinstripe, gold embossed crocodile, sequined) recalled the designer’s hallmarks. Moments of couture-like flourish, from dramatic embellishment and intricate beadwork to swishing ankle-length skirts, demonstrated the undeniable power of the Celine atelier. Golden jewellery reflected the mobiles hanging above the space.

Celine Homme S/S 2023 campaign. Photography by Hedi Slimane

Elsewhere, befitting the spirit of the Palais de Tokyo – which Celine’s press notes called ‘a living place of today’s artists, and a platform for emerging talent’ – works by the late Swiss artist David Weiss and young Mexico-based artist Renata Petersen were translated across the collection (Slimane took the collection’s ‘Dysfunctional Bauhaus’ title from one of Petersen’s artworks, here printed on an oversized white T-shirt). Music came from New York-based band Gustaf, whom Slimane commissioned for the show, appearing live on the runway for the finale. ‘Anxious affirmations, existential dread, blind joy… both tense and loose, fluid yet uptight,’ said Celine of their sound, which rang out as Slimane took his final bow – ending a defiant return to the designer’s roots.

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