Above all, Hedi Slimane is a prolific and profound documenter of youth culture. From London’s 00s indie scene to LA’s neo-psych scene and a new Parisian bourgeoisie, the French designer has consistently tapped into the zeitgeist and tuned his vision accordingly. Right now, a youthquake is taking place across our screens, feeds and streams, as kids around the world turn to TikTok for entertainment and escapism: like it or not, digital stages are becoming as visceral and influential as the physical. Slimane’s SS21 Celine Homme collection saw the designer tap into this online phenomenon.
The concept for the collection first took form in December 2019 – long before co-vid flipped the world on its axis – when Slimane photographed social media star, Noen Eubanks, in London, beginning his Portrait of a Teen Idol photography series. From this trigger, the SS21 collection found its roots, being designed entirely in Saint Tropez in parallel to the house’s Winter collection – giving an idea of Slimane’s extensive process.
And then everything changed. Or seemingly. For Slimane, his vision was only confirmed by the global pandemic that took hold. As people shuttered themselves away at home, the world’s youth turned to their phones for creative expression, and Slimane’s SS21 inspiration was given heightened poignancy. “Confined youth staved off boredom by dancing, affirming their creative flair, convictions and culture,” said Slimane in the SS21 release, describing his muse. Just like subcultures before, e-boys and girls have taken the concept of being a relatable outcast and filtered it through their own platform, creating influential digital personas from the comfort of their own bedroom. Where goths had the Batcave, e-boys have Twitch.
Titled The Dancing Kid, Slimane describes this season as “a ‘documentary’ collection,” and “a candid portrait of a generation that took advantage of the confinement and isolation to assert itself and emancipate itself creatively. Spontaneously inventing an initiatory language anchored in dance and teen romance.”
In a season where runway shows were halted, Slimane provided his own show-stopper moment: live-streamed yesterday from the Circuit Du Castellet racing track, near Marseille, across Instagram, YouTube and, of course, TikTok. Soundtracked by a pulsing fifteen-minute edit of They Call me Tiago (Her name was Margo) by 22-year-old Canadian TikTok rapper Tiagz, boys hit the track with enough attitude to burst through the forth wall of their iPhone screens.
Having observed a new genre of wearing defined by floppy-haired e-boys dressing their own pop culture stereotype, Slimane implemented this aesthetic with his own high-octane energy. Here, glistening racing helmets met trucker caps and beanie hats, 80s windbreakers slouched across shoulders and tiger-print sequinned trackies shimmered in the afternoon sun. Celine bumbags were worn across bodies alongside padlock necklaces, stripy undershirts, tie-dye tees and grungy cardigans. Combining loose sweats with looser plaid shirts, we couldn’t help think of Royal Trux frontwoman Jennifer Herrema.
Matching the codes of this nascent TikTok generation with his own, Slimane signatures were given a twist: perfecto jackets built with zip-off sleeves, distressed sweatpants with blown-out knees, tailored dinner jackets crafted in vivid animal prints and camo jackets adorned with colourful DIY patches. Elsewhere, leather jackets hand-embroidered with ‘The Dancing Kid’ nodded to the “ribbons of LED lights that invariably decorate teenage bedrooms the world over. It is also – since going out is off the table – a metaphor for reclaiming the night in ‘kit’ form (since the night and, by extension, concerts and festivals are the confinement’s collateral casualties).”
Like any good youth culture movement, there will be those who don’t get this one. Or who brush it aside as a fad. But take note from history, if a whole generation are embracing something and crafting their own music, visuals and language through it, something special is bubbling. It’s your choice whether you tune in or not.
GALLERYCatwalk looks from this show