The superstar French designer, famed for his love of black, was dubbed the “Trump of fashion” after trashing the legacy of his much-loved feminist predecessor at Celine, Phoebe Philo, in his first women’s show for the brand in October.
But in his second show Friday the reclusive trendsetter threw out the “crotch-skimming cocktail dresses” for wafer-thin vamps that had so infuriated the critics the first time round.
Rather than the too-cool-for-school night owls of his “Paris at night” debut, Slimane went all bourgeois as he tried to double track back towards Celine’s more romantic roots.
His new cool gang are a glammy 1980s horsey set, with pleated riding skirts in earthy browns, greens and taupes worn with long shiny boots.
“Hedi Slimane’s Celine woman just got ladylike,” Dazed magazine tweeted dryly.
But the really big takeaway was the comeback of the culotte, with a whole cavalry charge of them galloping down the catwalk.
Surprising as that was, no one had predicted the return of silky pussy bow blouses worn under sensible coats and cardigans.
The man they once called the “Sultan of skinny” — and for whom Karl Lagerfeld lost 42 kilograms (92 lbs) to squeeze into his black jeans — even got a few frilly blouses in too. All that was lacking was the pearls.
There was a kind of prim suppressed school-marmy sexiness about the whole enterprise with long Victorian print dresses.
But here and there the ultra respectable look was undercut with a glittering gold blouson jacket, leather trousers or some other touch of decadent Slimane urban glam.
– ‘Joke’s on who?’ –
This embrace of romantic, comfortable country glamour, of the type that Hermes and others do rather well, left critics scratching their heads, with the New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman asking, “(The) joke’s on who?”
But for the fact that every model wore black sunglasses, it hardly looked like a Slimane show.
It also seemed strangely at odds with Slimane’s first media campaign for the house, which he released this week, featuring 17-year-old British model Hannah Motler.
Shot by Slimane itself, it was full of the dark rock ‘n’ roll glamour he is famous for.
Friedman, however, had no doubt that the oxblood shearling-edged thigh-high boots that Slimane teamed with jeans and camel coats and capes in the show were a winner.
“Betcha Celine is going to sell a lot of these boots,” she tweeted.
While there was some slight nods to the Philo’s legion of grieving followers — who have made her past Celine collections collector’s items — Slimane leapfrogged over her minimalism to go deep into the brand’s archives in search of inspiration.
His slash and burn attitude to the brand — getting rid of the French accent on its logo, calling his first show “Celine 01” as if the 70 years before his arrival at the label had not existed, and erasing Philo’s clothes from the label’s Instagram account, irritated many.
His first collection took an unprecedented kicking from English-speaking critics in particular, with social media spats between his defenders — the Slimaniacs — and Philo supporters, the Philophiles.
Slimane — who has a record of turning labels into cash cows — has form in ruffling feathers. He dropped the Yves from Saint Laurent when he took over at the iconic house in 2012.
While Slimane may have been weaning himself off black, many others in Paris were embracing it. The Belgian designer Olivier Theyskens played with its dark romanticism in his impressive show which riffed on the sc-fi film “Bladerunner”, which is set in 2019.
In a genius touch, his models walked to its soundtrack played backwards.
Few designers have explored the possibility of black more than the Japanese veteran Yohji Yamamoto.
His show built slowly to a poetic crescendo of bravura deconstructed tailoring with black blanket dresses edged with white stitching, and postmodern takes on the black dresses which might be seen in a Manet painting.
In a final dramatic twist, one of five models he wrapped completely in black like ancient widows dramatically uncovered her head to reveal a buttoned 19th-century shirt dress of the kind frontier women wore on their conquest of the Wild West.
What it meant only the smiling master knows, but it certainly got fashionistas thinking.