Symphonie Fantastique

Hedi Slimane’s FW24 Celine collection is a desert psych symphony
Fashion | 21 May 2024

Helicopters whirl above the Mojave desert, delivering a Celine jukebox onto the wild expanse. A coin goes in and the machine flicks to Hector Berlioz’s 1830 composition Symphonie Fantastique. The vinyl moves into place and the needle drops. As violins stir, a procession of blacked-out vintage Cadillacs roll down the vast highway road. In the back of one, a young man sits wearing a black tailored suit, his sunglasses hiding his eyes as much as his wide-brimmed hat. Everything happens in black and white. And then the colour hits. In the Mojave, backdropped by the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Hedi Slimane set his FW24 Celine menswear collection film.

Symphonie Fantastique is key, and soundtracks the film. The stirring piece was cited by Leonard Bernstein as the first psychedelic symphony ever composed; a century before the artists of Laurel Canyon began manipulating time, space and sound. The collection’s accompanying notes state that Slimane discovered the composition at the age of eleven and has been obsessed with Berlioz ever since. Through opium poisoning, hallucinations, witches and satanic dances, Symphonie Fantastique tells of the self-destructive passion of a gifted artist, reflecting the composer’s own passionate infatuation with Irish actress Harriet Smithson. It’s a trip akin to Morrison, Crosby, Zappa.

Californian Teen Cowboy. The name of Slimane’s ongoing exploration of West Coast culture, history, style and sensibility, further explored here: the film’s interior shots were filmed at LA’s iconic Troubadour club, which has hosted the likes of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Tom Waits and The Strokes; while footage of Californian rodeo cowboy Brayden Liberio (wearing his own clothes) riding his horse Frijole are interspersed throughout.

The collection sees Slimane return to his synonymous tailoring, specifically the ‘I’ line silhouette that characterised 60s Anglomania. Through these slim outlines, paths are drawn across centuries of storytellers, lovers, dreamers, poets and musicians. Frock coats and maestro capes, three-buttoned suits and hand-embroidered waistcoats. Sequinned coats shimmer in the desert sun (couture pieces make up 12 of the 43 looks) alongside pussybow shirts and leather perfectos. Midcentury shapes blend seamlessly with faux-fur coats, embellished biker jackets and Oppenheimer-esque suiting. Slimane’s alchemical sartorial lexicon is as layered as Berlioz’s compositions, building meaning through authenticity and context – one leather jacket is never quite the same as another, each holds its own power.

Shots of train tracks and mountain ranges filter in and out, alongside the Cadillacs and cowboy. The open road stretches across the cinematic video throughout. There’s an inherent romance in this imagery of frontiers, desertscapes and travel, one that Slimane has not only tapped into, but tuned.

As the sun sets on the Mojave desert, Berlioz’s symphony crescendos, and the Celine jukebox sparks into flames.

GALLERYCatwalk images from Celine MENS-FALL-WINTER-24