Hedi Slimane: an interview with the creative director of Celine
“It’s purely intuitive, I think,” Hedi Slimane replies when we ask him what attracts him in a piece of music. “Simply I instantly recognize the sound that perfectly reflects the character I want to represent in a fashion show, and that can give the right rhythm to a particular allure, to the way models walk ”.
If you know Celine’s artistic, creative and image director at least a little, you will already know about his thin silhouettes, of her ability to raise an uproar for minimal typographical changes (he removed ‘Yves’ from the branding of Saint Laurent’s ready-to-wear, eliminated the emphasis on the ‘e’ from Céline’s logo to make it look like the original design of the 60s), and of course, his fantasies in salsa rock.
Music is a fundamental part of Slimane’s aesthetic, his collections are a sort of homage to the musicians he admires: stage clothes on a soundtrack of distorted guitars and hoarse voices. “If I don’t have the right music, I can’t create the styling of the show, which can be frustrating,” says the designer and photographer. “There music and models define the styling, its credibility and authenticity. What you hear and what you see are part of one thing, of one world. “
“In a way, it’s as if I represented the sound, like in a movie or music video,” he continues. “Sometimes it’s very difficult, and maybe I find the right soundtrack just a week before, and the whole show changes accordingly.”
For all the various stages of Slimane’s career, music has been a constant element: from when he was young and frequented Le Palace or Les Bains Douches, true institutions of Parisian nightlife, to the years in which he was creative director of Dior Homme (from 2000 to 2007), when he wore legends such as David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. In 2005, Slimane published a book of his photos taken by Pete Doherty and other musicians from the British scene entitled London: Birth of a Cult. And when he was creative director of Saint Laurent (from 2012 to 2016), he launched Music Project , an adv featuring music icons such as Joni Mitchell, Marilyn Manson and Courtney Love, all photographed by Slimane himself.
© Photography Kate Kornberg
Then in 2018 he landed by Celine, and here Slimane has chosen to highlight French underground music. For her first fashion show for the maison, she collaborated with Marlon Magnée Sacha Got de La Femme for a 20-minute composition on which the model Grace Hartzel sings. Then, for the autumn winter 2020, Slimane only two weeks before the fashion show discarded the soundtrack he had already chosen, preferring instead the single that launched Amélie Rousseaux, better known with the artistic name of Sofia Boltafter a member of his team had been to an informal concert by the singer in Los Angeles, his adopted city.
Bolt, who has none other than Iggy Pop and whose single among his fans All She Wants it will come out on April 21, he says he had never known or worked with anyone so “serious and meticulous” like Slimane. “While working on the piece, I felt frustrated many times in the series, ‘Who cares if we care if there is a minimum of reverberation on the guitar after 15 minutes?’ He felt things I didn’t hear. But of course, when I saw the parade, it all made sense. It was really crazy, nobody knew who I was, but I was there, sitting in the second row, in front of Carla Bruni, Isabelle Huppert and Jane Birkin, who kept the pace moving her head, and I laughed and cried, a total trip ” .
Christopher Willatt (Oracle Sisters)
© Photography Hedi Slimane / CELINE
For the Paris-based band Oracle Sisters, whose song I’m You has been used for a Celine digital campaign, working with Slimane has brought a variety of opportunities. When the designer first saw the group perform in a Paris venue, Le Pop-Up du Label, singer and guitarist Lewis Lazar confesses that he was initially “a little skeptical”, thinking it was the classic case of “a brand that uses a band to seem relevant”.
“And instead they were incredibly generous and consistent, they used our songs, they invited us to events, they lent us clothes … Thanks to them we have an article coming out on W Magazine with photographer Tim Walker ”, explains Lazar. “It is very cool in today’s world, since there is no real structure that helps grow musicians, that brands support emerging artists and so genuinely“.
Nathan Roche, the Marseille-based frontman of the Villejuif Underground group, among the protagonists of the photographic series Portrait of a Performer taken by Slimane for Celine’s ongoing campaign, she agrees: “In the music industry it is very rare to have opportunities like the one I had, that we had,” he says. “There is this stupid prejudice about musicians who ‘sell out’. We are a small band, Hedi Slimane does not benefit us. As far as I know, he asked us why he is a music geek, is obsessed with music, just like us. And the world needs more people like him. “
So why discovering and supporting emerging musicians is an essential part of Slimane’s work? “This is the most important thing for me,” he says to Vogue Slimane. “Use my position to promote, give visibility to alternative music and artists. It’s what I’ve been doing for nearly twenty years.
“Today mainstream culture, supported by social algorithms that puts numbers first, does not give no opportunity for alternative music. And unfortunately the press makes no effort to highlight little-known musicians. And if I can do it thanks to fashion and photography, I am happy to commit myself and to help as much as possible “.