Live on stage at LA’s iconic Wiltern Theatre, last week’s FW23 Celine show saw Hedi Slimane usher in the Age of Indieness. The collection’s title referred to the incendiary indie scene of the early 00s, a movement Slimane was at the heart of, documenting the bands, designing their silhouettes, and translating their lexicon and energy onto his Dior Homme runway. Twenty years on, the designer revisited this moment at a time of revival and re-appreciation of the indie scene’s indelible influence.
Alongside the collection – all narrow shoulders and drainpipe legs, sequin dresses and woollen overcoats – came an incredibly rare interview with Slimane, conducted by Lizzy Goodman, author of Meet Me in the Bathroom, a seminal documentation of New York City’s music scene during the early 00s. Here, the two took a unique deepdive through Slimane’s beginnings, his obsession with music, performance and design, and also why this season was the right time to rediscover the incendiary joy of the indie scene.
Below, we spotlight some of the interview’s key quotes, providing a vital insight into Slimane’s visionary craft.
Hedi on Paris in the 90s and the music scene emerging at the time…
“Besides growing up around music, I can recall the late ‘90s when I started designing at Yves Saint Laurent and taking photographs. This was during a period of time in Paris when musicians such as Air, Daft Punk, and Phoenix were emerging. There was an energy and a sound and a spirit – a style we were sharing. It was a generational and catalytic moment for French Art in general. Everything was possible, and it was quite exhilarating. We were all experimenting with the idea and meaning of Paris, and we were all connected, an elective community.
Besides belonging to that scene, I was also drawn to what was happening in East Berlin at the time. This was 2000. I was an art resident at the Kunst-Werke, exploring and documenting Berlin’s underground and art scene, day and night. Everything seemed to happen at the same time. The early millennium felt truly like a new beginning for artists and musicians, as well as defining the contours of a new digital age.”
On the impact 9/11 had on culture and music…
“September 2001 changed everything – the dynamic, our belief that all was possible. From that moment of mourning and despair, I lost faith in a certain digital utopia which was at the heart of the creative energy and sound in Europe at the time. I went back to analog in both photography and design, and to DIY, and developed a style around it. This is when London, next to New York, started to become part of the picture.”
GALLERY'Birth of a Cult' Pete Doherty, photography by Hedi Slimane
On stage costumes as a formative part of his design language…
“Stage costumes were a big part of my design work from the beginning. Musicians were constantly reaching out for their upcoming tours. Photography, and rock photography in particular, was something I always did in the background.
Stagewear was my introduction to men’s fashion, through album covers. My first record, besides fairy tales, was David Live in Philadelphia 1974. I probably contemplated that cover and listened to that record a million times.
The proportions, glamour and androgynous exuberance of the clothes had a strong influence on me. Beside Bowie album covers, and the Elvis 68 double leather number (’68 Comeback Special), the Ossie Clark bodysuits for Jagger were also expanding the contours of what men’s fashion could be. I would never have had any particular attraction to fashion itself if it was not for stagewear. For me it was always about music, and fashion was serving the music, enhancing the music.
I presume the musicians I knew early on, or that I met in my early days designing, and even through today, had an understanding that I was coming from music, from that perspective of the stage. They probably simply recognized themselves in my design and approached me for that reason. It was always exciting to see my clothes ending up on stage where they participated to the performance.”
Carl Barat at La Boule Noire, 2003, photography by Hedi Slimane
On his friendship with David Bowie…
“I’m not quite sure when Bowie approached me. I met him later on, in New York, and strangely enough, I don’t really recall the first time we met. I assume it was for his 2002 tour. David wanted to go back to sharp and classic tailoring, in the vein of the Thin White Duke. I first designed him a tux jacket with a cropped tail, in the cut of a little marquis jacket, Louis XV style. Later on, that jacket was in my show at Dior. He also wanted a three-piece silk suit. He was insisting on a vibrant blue skinny tie. I was trying to convince him that was the wrong call, that he should wear all black instead and to focus on the sharpness of the proportions. Needless to say, he won. I did surrender. I was so fond of him. We became close after this first tour, going around with him and the crew, taking photographs for my “Stage” book.
David was very affectionate and would often take me to concerts when I was in New York (Blur, Interpol among others) or to rehearsal before a new tour. We didn’t really talk about his past. He was not really eager to look back. It was a wonderful thing to be together. It felt I had foreseen as a child we would have a beautiful friendship. I was devastated when David died.
Egyptian Hip Hop, photography by Hedi Slimane, 2010
Ronnie Joice / Littl’ans, photography by Hedi Slimane, 2006
On his friendship with Mick Jagger…
“Mick came to Dior early on, before Bowie. Something like early 2001. He wanted a few color versions of a fringe coat I had made, as well as skinny satin pants and shirts. emerald green, and purple. It was interesting to think technically and cut the clothes differently. Mick needed to move a lot on stage and we therefore had to adapt them for him specifically. Fittings with him were extremely amusing. Mick would always try his dance routine in front of the atelier mirror to see if the clothes responded well.”
On the emergence of London’s Indie scene and its influence on his work…
“Around 2002 I started to spend most of my time in London. I was going to gigs all the time and saw the whole London scene emerging. The energy of it, the profusion of exciting bands, the sense of community defined a golden age for indie music in the UK. The bands and their fans were extremely joyful, warm, and free spirited…
I did not meet Carl and Pete together. They were already going through typical Libertines crises – Pete would not show up at concerts and Carl would have to play alone. Eventually they broke up. I’m not quite sure but I possibly met Pete after an early Babyshambles gig at the Electric Ballroom. I don’t recall with Carl, probably in Paris. I’m really fond of both of them, so talented and poetic. Up the Bracket and The Libertines are classic records, and sound incredible twenty years later. Naturally, we can say the same thing about the immaculate and historical Strokes albums, Is This It and Room on Fire. The scene in London was so strong and in constant evolution. Franz Ferdinand was blowing up. Around the Libertines, came along a few alternative bands like The Others, Littl’ans, or The Paddingtons. Bands came as waves – Bloc Party, The Rakes, Razorlight, one after the other. Later on These New Puritans, The Horrors, Klaxons, and Arctic Monkeys took the lead. I would often go to concerts with my friends Alex Needham, who was then editor at the NME, and Marian Paterson, the sharp photo editor of the magazine. It was also a great period for NME…
The impact on my work was really strong. I was documenting London bands and fans extensively. I started a book on Doherty and dressed a lot of those musicians along the way. I had designed and launched skinny jeans early on at Dior, and somehow that look, my silhouette was already adopted by this generation. While taking pictures, I would also cast for my shows, so the fashion shows at the time were the London scene itself taking over the runway. The clothes were dedicated to those musicians. I would simply think about what they would want to wear on stage. It would organically become the collection itself.”