On January 28, 2001, a rising Tunisian-Italian designer named Hedi Slimane showed his first collection for Dior Homme. Staged at the Galerie de Botanique in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, the event effectively rebranded the fashion houses’s men’s line, and caused a seismic shift in the typically staid world of men’s fashion. At a time when baggy tailoring was the prevailing aesthetic in men’s wear, a relative newcomer made a case for a precisely crafted razor-slim silhouette. The Times’s fashion critic at the time, Cathy Horyn, singled it out as “the most anticipated show of the fall 2001 men’s season.” Tomorrow, some 17 years later, Slimane will make another buzzy debut, unveiling his first collection for Celine as the French brand’s artistic, creative and image director, a role created specifically for him. Since his arrival at Celine in January — where he took over from Phoebe Philo, who announced her departure last year — Slimane has been remaking the house in his own image. When the brand introduces men’s wear for the first time this season, with couture to follow next January, Slimane will showcase not only his sprawling powers of imagination but also what he is capable of when starting from a blank slate.
The fall 2001 Dior Homme collection epitomized the fastidious detail and dark sensuality that would become hallmarks of Slimane’s aesthetic. To the sounds of a melancholic track by the French musician Benjamin Diamond, Slimane sent out a mix of street-cast and professional models walking in a lightning-fast stride with their hair blown back as if by a wind. Trousers with sequins sewed inside pleats were paired with open-collared shirts unbuttoned to the navel, while exquisitely tailored suits came in luxurious, light-catching fabrics. Yves Saint Laurent, Slimane’s mentor — who sat in the front row with his business and life partner, Pierre Bergé — led a standing ovation at the end of the show.
In his seven years at Dior Homme, Slimane established himself as a provocateur, as well as one of the most influential men’s wear designers of the 21st century. He staged fashion shows that resembled stadium events, dressed extremely slim androgynous models in designs that referenced the subcultures that fascinated him (such as the electronic underground in Berlin and London’s indie scene) and redefining conventional notions of masculine beauty in the process. He would go on to become the creative director at Saint Laurent, from 2012 to 2016, where his singular vision would propel the brand beyond a billion euros in sales during the final year of his tenure. His roots, though, are to be found in his first collection for Dior Homme. Here, some of his friends and collaborators reflect on that breakout show.