Last year was full of proclamations about what 2022 would bring, most of which didn’t amount to much. First came the predictions of “indie sleaze”, then the prediction of “Bush era redux” and the continued relevance of the Y2K fad… The truth is that there are so many things going on at once that it’s impossible to tell if anything is really “happening” anymore what else, especially considering that TikTok trends often function as self-fulfilling prophecies. If you say “2000s exhausted English woman aesthetic” is going to happen, you’d better believe that, due to the mimetic nature of the platform’s algorithm, at least three other people are going to jump on the bandwagon. (And, yes, the “2000s exhausted English woman aesthetic” is a true TikTok trend.)
But if anyone can sort through the tea leaves of nostalgia, it’s Hedi Slimane. The designer, who has led Celine since 2018, is a master at isolating the smallest, most specific moments and expanding them into something that feels big and undeniable, from Malibu smoothie looks in the bourgeois style of the early 1980s “lunch with grand-mère” that he explored during his first seasons at Celine. I’m still reeling with joy the TikTok collection he made in 2020before anyone in mainstream fashion realized that this postmodernism-on-Adderall combination of eras and silhouettes was a particular style.
Most recently, he participated in the documentary adaptation of Lizzie Goodman’s 2017 oral history of early 2000s indie rock in New York. Meet Me In The Bathroom (after The Strokes song, of course). Given Slimane’s involvement with indie rock at the time, when he was running menswear at Dior, it seems natural. Both indie rock and Slimane’s Dior Homme were exercises in nostalgia, groups of young people squinting at 30-year-old album covers for clues on how to wear jeans and play guitar. provocative spirit of New York punk of the 70s, when something dangerous and underground seemed inevitable. And when Slimane announced that he would be unveiling his Winter 2023 collection at the Wiltern in Los Angeles (where he had his studio during his years reinventing Saint Laurent from 2012 to 2016), and that The Strokes, Iggy Pop and Interpol would be performing, it actually felt touching While the hunger for Cobrasnake photographs and low-rise denim seems as manufactured as anything else, Slimane’s intentions made me wonder if there might be something real to it all. Maybe it’s not “happening”—and I don’t see smudged eyeliner and 2005 Mary-Kate Olsen outfit recreations like I don’t see anything else—but, hey, why would we want it to?
Slimane’s collections, as I mentioned, have become so documentary that they tend to bring a sense of joy where his previous shows brought a cool menace. He smiled when he saw that first model come out in his fedora and his sunglasses with the big bag in the crook of his arm; even the way his fist was clenched was pure Rodeo Drive paparazzi cosplay. Or the brunette kitten in a big black faux fur coat and denim cut-offs and knee-high motorcycle boots; even Kate Moss’ fashion faux pas, it seems, are worth celebrating.
Of course, underneath all this feeling it’s perfect blazers, beautiful suits, great jeans and really sick boots, all classics made with meticulous quality, which is why Celine de Slimane was such a hit. The end of the show was a series of about a dozen strappy dresses, with beads and sequins that transcended the journey of nostalgia in a sublime message of pure glamour, of side-eyed romanticism with lots of glitter under lots of lights. There are few fashion statements that have a single interpretation anymore, but the fact that gold sequins that rub against the skin are primarily sexy is one of them.
Anyone looking for the Meet Me In The Bathroom fashion inspiration documentary will be very disappointed. The amazing thing about seeing The Moldy Peaches and James Murphy and even The Strokes, whose music was pure style, is how styleless they seem. The eyeliner is a bit smudged; Karen O is in outfits that look homemade, and several were made by his self-taught client, Christian Joy. Their clothes look their own, something they pull off day after day, even week after week, in the same few combinations. Looking cool and fighting to get a record deal, and once the deal came through, throwing yourself on stage night after night and killing it, went hand in hand. Everything and everyone seems to smell bad; the Lower East Side still feels gritty.
Sure, The Strokes weren’t punks (even when they were throwing things in the “Last Nite” video, they looked like a couple of rich kids with bad attitudes who met in boarding school, which indeed they did), but they had a denture that now seems remote to them. You wouldn’t catch those five in custom Gucci dresses for the Grammys.
I think what Slimane is after is the nostalgia of when things felt real. In a conversation between Goodman and Slimane, the designer talks about how “September 2001 changed everything: the dynamic, our belief that everything was possible. From that moment of mourning and despair, I lost faith in a certain digital utopia that was in the heart of the creative energy and sound of Europe at the time. I went back to analog in both photography and design, and DIY, and developed a style around it.”
The music did the same. As both Goodman’s book and documentary make clear, the emergence of the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV On the Radio came at a convenient time for the music industry, which was caught in the saccharine grip of the manufactured pop craze of Britney Spears and N*Sync, and a band like The Strokes showed that rock and roll was still alive. (Rock bands were as manufactured as pop groups quickly, and a new garage band with the title “The” seemed to hit MTV every morning, and Urban Outfitters, which was founded by a longtime Republican donorhe was making a bundle selling pre-distressed Ramones T-shirts at the height of George W. Bush’s second term.)
Clothing followed suit, going from the aloof, sophisticated minimalism of the late 90s, which frankly felt better for an over-40 customer, to a new, sexy, modern, impossible-to-wear-unless-you-were-super-young-and-want-to anyone who objected to seeing your hip bones or the top of your ass. In a moment of emotional vacancy after 9/11, it was a way to make the balm of consumerism feel decadently rebellious. But we also longed then, as now, for anything that felt real, trustworthy, reliable, even in its undoing.
It was also a time when, while attitude was everything, attitude seemed to have depth. Even Mary-Kate Olsen strutting that big bag like trash armor seemed like a whole lifestyle philosophy; don’t look at me, but please look at me. It was also the last time a creative person could be kind of parochial, even those who eventually sold out or became famous: one of my favorite details in Goodman’s book is that David Sitek, one of the founders of TV on the Radio, he sold his art on the street in Soho before the band became famous. Can you believe that? Now, anyone who thinks they have a talent for painting is going to rush to create some kind of persona on Instagram. There is a drive to ascend to the bigger arena as quickly as possible. I guess it was a transformation driven by social media; how do you know something is worth doing if it doesn’t make you at least momentarily notorious?
That period was perhaps the last time art could be made for art’s sake. Is that crazy to say? Can be. But it looks like what Slimane is hoping for with his fedoras and skinny jeans, and his studious approach to giving us the music along with the clothes. That’s another thing that drove me crazy about the “indie sleaze” dialogue, and what Slimane reassured me about: At the center of all this badass clothing and photography is the center. music. And if you go back and listen to The White Stripes, and Interpol and The Strokes, the music is wrong. amazing! Music is the feeling and creates the attitude, which is why maybe all these other trends in fashion and culture feel so empty. What is in their hearts besides copying something until something else appears? Yes, The Strokes and The White Stripes were all copycats, doing their best impersonations of Television and the Velvet Underground, but these references were unearthed at a time when they felt vital or newly relevant. Is there a reason to reference in culture now other than the sheer novelty of the reference?
That kind of mimesis is a fascinating phenomenon (and something Slimane himself knows, as TikTok’s fashion anthologist), and we have to face the fact that it’s mostly how fashion and culture works these days. But there’s nothing wrong with feeling a little pang of nostalgia for what came before every now and then.
Celine de Slimane is probably the most personal thing he’s ever done, which is remarkable for someone as private as him. (My phone lit up this weekend with a text from fashionable friends when Wiz Khalifa posted a photo of the rapper with Slimane; most of us haven’t seen a photo of him in years.) Her cuteness shines through the clothes, and the As layers of chain necklaces, thin scarves worn as ties, even the deliberate lack of spirit of the women in those fantastic dresses, have a lived-in feel that a lot of fashion today lacks, often by design. It feels human, fleshy, full of earned attitude. It’s not conceptual fashion or that deep. But they are clothes from a time when carrying your purse a certain way, or wearing sunglasses inside, or choosing not to wash your hair or jeans, said everything you cared about in the world.
Rachel Tashjian is the fashion news director at Harper’s Bazaar, working on print and digital platforms. Before, she was GQwas the first fashion critic and worked as deputy editor of GARAGE and as a writer in Vanity Fair. He has written for publications including Book forum e Artforumand is the creator of the invitation-only Opulent Tips newsletter.