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Hedi Slimane hits back at Celine critics in first comments on furor

Hedi Slimane hits back at Celine critics in first comments on furor
Hedi Slimane (Giovanni Giannoni / WWD)

Hedi Slimane has hit back at critics of his debut show for Celine, saying those who accused him of misogyny for showing women dressed in short skirts were conservative and puritanical, and suggesting there was a homophobic undertone to the outpouring of vitriol on social networks.

Slimane’s designs for women and men have polarized critics. In his program “5 Minutes de Mode by Loïc Prigent” on France’s TMC channel on Wednesday night, journalist Loïc Prigent featured some of the reactions, including reviews comparing Slimane’s arrival at the label to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.

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He also made public Slimane’s first comments on the brouhaha, in the form of quotes from an e-mailed statement shown on screen.

“It’s always very jarring and I always feel like people are talking about someone else. Besides, the spirit of the show was light and joyful, but lightness and insouciance are being called into question these days. I’ve already been through this at Saint Laurent,” Slimane was quoted as saying.

“You’re dealing with politics, conflicts of interest, cliques, a predictable attitude, but also staggering exaggerations of conservatism and puritanism,” the designer added. “Violence is a reflection of our time – the rabble-rousing spirit of social networks, despite the fact that they are a formidable community tool. There are no longer any limits, hatred is amplified and takes over.”

Slimane noted that Anglo-Saxon critics appeared scandalized by his short evening dresses.

“Does this mean women are no longer free to wear miniskirts if they wish? The comparisons to Trump are opportunistic, rather bold and fairly comical, just because the young women in my show are liberated and carefree. They are free to dress as they see fit,” he said.

He noted that U.S. observers were particularly sensitive to the fact that he succeeded a female designer, Phoebe Philo, who transformed the label during her 10-year tenure with sleek and luxurious leather goods and modernist clothing.

“For some in America, I also have the poor taste of being a man who is succeeding a woman. You could read into that a subtext of latent homophobia that is quite surprising. Is a man drawing women’s collections an issue?” Slimane questioned.

“At the end of the day, all of this is unexpected publicity for this collection. We didn’t expect as much. Above all, it crystallizes a very French form of anti-conformism and freedom of tone at Celine,” he said.

Prigent said the comments represented only an extract from his e-mail interview with Slimane, adding that he would include a more extensive version in an upcoming episode of his longer “52 Minutes de Mode” program focusing on Paris Fashion Week.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the luxury conglomerate which owns Celine alongside brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Fendi, is confident Slimane will deliver huge sales gains.

LVMH chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault has said he expects the “global superstar” designer to herald a doubling or tripling of Celine’s turnover within five years. Asked by Prigent what he thought of the first collection, France’s wealthiest man said: “I loved it!”

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