Gen Z Targeted By Celine As Hedi Slimane Follows Up Skate Culture Men’s Show With Women’s Summer 2021 Collection

Look out, Gen Z, Celine’s Hedi Slimane is watching you. The temperamental designer unveiled his Summer 2021 women’s collection, which took the dress codes of the 7-22-year-old consumer group and whipped it up into expensive duds usually found in the back of moms closet and buy-by-the pound vintage stores. The brass at LVMH, possibly skeptic of the aesthetic, are undoubtedly pleased with the direction the collection and customer are heading for the 75-year-old French luxury mark. While thus far, Gen X tops annual fashion spending at an average of $2,300, Gen Z is an eager market with over $140 billion to spend, and brands are racing to catch them.

Thanks to the changes in fashion presentations due to the Coronavirus safety measures, Slimane chose to show both his men’s and women’s collection via video and “off-calendar,” or not in the regulated show dates of Paris fashion week. In July, the men’s collection hinted at what was to come as Slimane threw out the on-repeat 1970s Bourgeoise aesthetic. According to industry gossip, that direction came from the higher-ups after his first Celine collection debut in 2018 looked a bit too much like the aesthetic he was pushing at Saint Laurent, down to exact silhouettes.

LVMH may appreciate creativity and a designer vision, but their real goal is to push the product. The success that rival Kering-owned brand Gucci has been having, especially among Gen Z, must be particularly irksome. Whether this new direction aimed at the younger generation was a corporate directive or the result of Slimane’s time in quarantine remains to be seen.

The men’s collection, Dancing Kid, featured a specially mixed version of Tik Tok star and Canadian rapper Tiagz’ song “They call me Tiago,” which played as male models walked the loop on an empty Circuit du Castellet racetrack. The band of models referenced skate and grunge culture but also ironically due to the phonetic sound of the singer’s name, sequin tiger prints, and mullets was a clear nod to the Netflix show Tiger King that was trending during the height of the lockdowns.

According to show notes, his women took to a stadium in Monaco with a retractable ceiling, unrelated to the collection’s vision, where they walked to Princess Nokia’s sexually explicit song “I Like Him” in designer versions of teenage staples. Also, entitled Dancing Kid, this collection took the trickle-up theory of design to the nth degree. These girls like to mix it up. They might have raided their mothers and grandmothers closets but tossed out any rules associated with those clothes originally. 

Hence, sneakers worn with sequin dresses and zip hoodies, tailored jackets, cropped or long bore big shoulders, were paired with grey fleece or denim shorts and the occasional fuzzy slippers. There were ample supplies of quilted and boxy tweed jackets, not unlike another famous French label; Nineties Fila-inspired nylon tracksuit jackets and Versace-esque chain-link pattern satin bombers too. The jackets paired with midriff-baring tops and a new high-waist Mom jean with an awkward ankle length appearing that the wearer has grown too tall for the pants. Casual luxury basics, paired with designer investment pieces, gave it a Parisian-edge.

A ballsy move was the Calvin Klein underwear-inspired bra tops – that now reads ‘CELINE’ on the white elastic band – were shown throughout in racerback and triangle cup styles that made the American lifestyle brand famous. These are wildly popular again amongst the Gen Z set.

Accessories are low hanging fruit for any luxury brand’s profits. This collection offered bucket hats, baseball caps, sneakers, Aigle-inspired rain galoshes, lace-up Doc Marten and Timberland style boots, and cool Cat Eye sunglasses in a smaller lens shape that is also trending for this bunch. 

But interestingly, the disconnect here was the brand’s most successful accessory, the handbag. The collection offered updated styles of the ‘Sulky’ bearing the brand’s original hardware design, Vachetta leather bucket bags, quilted chain shoulder bags, logo totes and a novelty basket bag that hangs tight under the shoulder. These beauties spoke more to the millennial or Gen X customers in terms of design and prices. Generally, those groups can afford the bags that start around $1,000 and head upwards of $4,500 for an exotic skin style.

Robert Burke, chairman, and CEO of Robert Burke and Associates, a consulting firm specializing in retail and fashion, thinks the collection displays a more reflective side, perhaps due to the pandemic’s slowdown, and spells retail gold. “Hedi has this sixth sense that he understands the importance of having key or recognizable items on offer,” Burke said of the collection he called wildly eclectic.

Noting that the collection spoke to the younger generation’s styling leanings, he didn’t feel it stopped there. “The good thing is you can see the young consumer clamoring to buy it but also the moms seeing pieces for themselves too,” he said. He referred to essential items such as tailored jackets, biker motos, drop-waist dresses, other comfortable pieces and of course, those bags.

If the goal was to attract Gen Z, either Slimane’s intuition or big data was spot-on. “In the last six months since the pandemic, we are seeing a young consumer extremely focused on the luxury house,” said Burke. “They would rather have one luxury piece versus fifteen average pieces, and they have been lining up at luxury stores globally to get their hands on that one coveted item.”

Despite his many contributions to fashion, Slimane often gets a bad rap by the industry, especially press. His menswear debut introduced the “skinny” slim men’s suit attire first at Yves Saint Laurent for the ‘After the Black Tie’ collection and then at Dior Homme where his star began to ascend. His diverse background in photography, styling, and art direction contribute to his work’s repertoire, which also associated him with rock stars and actors like David Bowie and Brad Pitt and dressed female stars like Madonna and Nicole Kidman in his famous silhouette.

In 2012 his household name status took off when he took the reins of Yves Saint Laurent, which he would rebrand as Saint Laurent and eschewed a Paris atelier for Los Angeles where his rock n roll slash grunge aesthetic hit full throttle. (He has collaborated with musicians and bands such as Beck, Phoenix, These New Puritans, and Readymade FC, among others, on custom-made music for his shows).

However controversial, Hedi’s name always induces excitement as in the “What will he do next?” thought process. As long as that translates into sales, LVMH is ok with whatever he delivers next.

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