The master of sexy sparse retail spots rolls out his newest concept in N.Y.C. this week.
There are two successive milestones when a new creative director takes over a fashion house. The first is when the (often) overhauled clothes, shoes, accessories and more, are ushered into to world via some splashy runway show that gets the press, potential customers, and buyers fired up about the way forward. Hedi Slimanechecked that off his to-do list at Celine back in October, when he debuted his first collection for the French brand via a co-ed runway show during Paris Fashion Week (and more recently followed it up with a men's-only collection last month). The second landmark is when a new retail concept gets rolled out. It may not be as headline-making as a runway show but is as clear an indicator as any fit debuted during fashion week of where the brand is aesthetically headed. And today, we now know what Hedi Slimane's vision for Celine shoppers will be: a minimalist-meets-brutalist shop that has more in common with a top-notch art gallery than a traditional big-name high-end flagship.
That's not to say Slimane hasn't tricked-out every corner of the store, opening this week in New York City and rolling out worldwide at select Celine doors in the coming year. The exacting multi hyphenate creative director had a heavy hand in the creation of the space, from the concept and feel of the retail store down to the furniture inside of it that Slimane designed himself featuring "sculptural typologies" that relate to the architecture (which I believe is aesthete speak for "looks really fucking good with everything else"). The foundation of the new scheme is stone, and lots of it. Basaltina, a charcoal-y Roman lava stone, is used throughout for the flooring. Veiny granite can be found on the walls and as shelving and travertine and marble are peppered throughout. The remaining square feet that doesn't look like the world's most expensive quarry is outfitted with light reclaimed oak, stainless steel, concrete and more surfaces that, even though natural and rich, are given a slickness that's signature Slimane. It's all been undoubtedly deeply considered—from the under-lit display platforms to the camel leather bench cushions to the site-specific works of James Balmforth, Jose Davila, and more dotted around the space,—but crucially, is all in service of flaunting the designs for both men and women that will populate the racks and shelves throughout (something that required more space than the standard-sized Celine outpost).
Now the elephant in the room of any Slimane-at-Celine conversation is how what he's doing now compares to what he's done before. And in this case, it's easy to draw parallels between the new space and the marble-and-steel-heavy shops he proposed for Saint Laurent. Both are sleek and pragmatic and luxe in a refreshingly modern way, the same way Slimane's first Celine designs are as direct and unfussy as any of the greatest hits in his decades-long career. Slimane's aesthetic ghosts have a habit of haunting the brands he leaves behind (see: S.L.P., Dior up until this season), which says as much about his all-in creative legacy and its long-term appeal as it draws attention to how few other designers possess the same abilities. One of Slimane's greatest talents is wrapping commercialism in the coolest packaging on planet Earth; this new store design is the evolution of Slimane's dream for retail nirvana, not a rehash of it. And now that he and his vision are employed at Celine, it will be interesting to see if and how those other brands evolve too.
Celine is located at 650 Madison Avenue in New York City.