A household name in the fashion industry, French fashion house CELINE has been making the rounds in the world of K-pop. Whether it is on their album teasers, concept photos, or off-duty outfits, groups like NCT Dream, Stray Kids and The Boyz all have sported CELINE attire. For their fashion shows, the French fashion house has previously invited—virtually and physically—a select group of K-pop idols that includes Brand Ambassador Lisa, NCT’s Taeyong and WinWin, GOT7’s JB, SF9’s Taeyang, NU’EST’s Minhyun, Seventeen’s Mingyu, SHINEE’s Key, Dawn, The Boyz‘s Juyeon, and VICTON‘s Byungchan. This sudden rise of brand visibility only leaves fans wondering: why is everyone in K-pop wearing CELINE?
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When Did It Begin?
The monumental change in the fashion house can be marked by the onboarding of Hedi Slimane as Artistic Director of CELINE in 2018. Slimane has since revamped the brand by adopting new aesthetics, collaborators, and a global strategy that’s strikingly different from what CELINE was known for.
Formerly a family business, CELINE used to be recognized for the contemporary minimalism that Phoebe Philo exploited during the decade she served as Creative Director. However, with Slimane’s arrival, the fashion brand has undergone major transformations. An expert in renovating brands—fashion followers remember the overhaul Saint Laurent went through with Slimane at its head—the 53 year-old designer was quick to announce a new direction for CELINE. Starting with the introduction of an accent-less logo, and following with the debut of a menswear collection, Slimane has used the power of social media and Gen Z to reintroduce the French brand to the world.
Born and raised in Paris, Hedi Slimane is a seasoned figure in the fashion industry. After making a name for himself through a project with Louis Vuitton, the École du Louvre alum was appointed Creative Director of Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche—YSL’s menswear line—in 1997. Onwards, he revolutionized fashion with his skinny silhouettes, grunge-inspired looks, rock aesthetics, and a deep understanding of fan culture. Before joining CELINE, he had already experienced being at the front of big fashion houses like Dior Homme and Saint Laurent—stylized as Yves Saint Laurent before he embarked on a rebrand.
Slimane & Music
A consummate lover of music, Slimane has also carved out a place in photography and has fostered a creative relationship with big names like Pete Doherty, Lady Gaga, and Mick Jagger. On the very rare occasions he has spoken to the media, Slimane has addressed the importance of music in his artistic vision. “Everything I do in an artistic sense is a pretext for music, which is the only real and authentic medium that I indirectly use to convey emotions or to create a chronicle of my time,” he told Vogue Spain in 2017. Talking to Vogue Paris years later, he also reflected on supporting artists and picking promising musicians to collaborate with. “Today, mainstream culture, promoted by social-media algorithms that favor numbers, leaves no chance for alternative voices. Sadly, the press does not make the effort to validate anything obscure. If I can do it through fashion or photography, I am happy to commit and help as much as I can,” he said.
Although K-pop could hardly be considered “alternative” in this day and time, back in the first half of the 2010s, it was just starting to gain the kind of global exposure it enjoys today. Hedi, a visionary, foresaw the phenomenon and made sure to turn Big Bang’s G-Dragon and Taeyang into regular front-row guests to his shows. The popular Kwon Ji Yong—G-Dragon’s real name—never missed a chance to express his admiration for Slimane’s work and soon became one of Saint Laurent’s most loyal celebrity followers.
CELINE & the Idols
By Slimane’s hand, CELINE has, more recently, centered its attention on idols dominating the K-pop scene. Just like the Creative Director made G-Dragon the only Asian celebrity invited to Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter 2015 fashion show and gave him preferential access to the pieces of his collections, years later he also made BLACKPINK’ s Lisa “the first Asian performer,” to be handpicked for CELINE’s “Essentiels” campaign. The Thai superstar later went on to become CELINE’s first official ambassador under Slimane’s reign.
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Regarding her appointment, Lisa told Vogue UK, “He [Slimane] creates this rare, incredible, and desirable world through his vision. I’m always inspired by his work. It’s truly an honor and pleasure to be able to work with Slimane as CELINE’s first ambassador.” She has since made headlines sitting front row at the brand’s shows, wearing their pieces on magazine covers, and even making her runway debut with CELINE.
Within K-pop, stars such as NCT 127 and their leader Taeyong have made headlines, sporting the luxury brand on magazine covers and editorials. Fans may have also noticed CELINE’s “THE DANCING KID” collection in many groups’ promotional content. This includes NCT Dream’s “Hot Sauce,” The Boyz’s “Drink It” music video and “Thrill-ing” concept photos, and Stray Kids’ teasers for “NOEASY.” Likewise, idols like NCT’s Taeyong, Victon’s Byungchan, The Boyz’s Eric, and Kim Woo Seok have featured pieces from the French brand on Instagram.
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Among the stars, some of the most common items are the CELINE t-shirts, sweatshirts, and bucket hats. Similarly, on Instagram, the CELINE High Sneaker CT-03 and matching sweatshirt and track pant sets are popular statement pieces.
CELINE BUCKET HAT IN DENIM – $455
CELINE by Hedi Slimane
Despite his current success at CELINE, Slimane’s debut show was received with mixed reviews. Drastically shifting the creative direction caused part of the fashion house’s loyal following to move onto other brands. However, Slimane’s distinctive style and vision attracted brand new customers, carving out a place in the global market for the revamped French Maison. After four years at its helm, CELINE is thriving internationally; in particular, on the Chinese mainland, where their sales soared even during the pandemic. With Asia as a pivotal region to achieve the “clear mission” of improving the brand’s financial performance within the first five years, Slimane has dived into menswear, opened up to e-commerce in the Asian continent—for the first time—and enlisted the help of popular figures among the Gen Z.
Though fashion lovers across the globe were skeptical at first, Slimane’s strategy is clearly working. LVMH—CELINE’s parent company—wrote in their 2021 Q1 press release, “CELINE had great success with the creations of Hedi Slimane.” Looking toward the future, it seems that CELINE’s monumental success is not stopping anytime soon. With its Generation Z targeted clothing and army of influential ambassadors, CELINE is likely to remain a household name.
Want to read more about fashion brands? Find out how Dior made its way to South Koreans’ hearts here.
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