Hedi Slimane is not one for subtlety. His appointment at French luxury house Celine (previously spelt Céline), was officiated by a series of monumental changes. The overhaul saw the entire wipeout of the maison’s past on Instagram and the subsequent introduction of its accent aigu-absent logo. When Slimane presented his inaugural Spring ’19 collection, his visual vocabulary was a clear departure from Phoebe Philo’s decade-old template of dress code for the contemporary woman. In place of Philo’s decidedly clean, sophisticated lines walked a black parade of Slimane’s signatures — thigh-skimming hemlines on the womenswear end and a debut menswear lineup underscored by tapered silhouettes.
The designer’s next stop, the last nail in the coffin for old Céline, was its retail boutiques across the globe. Earlier this year, the brand unveiled its sprawling 5,000-square-foot (465 sqm) flagship on Madison Avenue in New York and along with it the facelift due for Celine’s boutiques across the globe. An extension of Slimane’s signature palette, the store’s interior lean towards an industrial austerity — grey basalt floors are punctuated by textured marble walls, natural stones and reclaimed wood.
Within each store sit Slimane’s personal touches — a mélange of his furniture designs sits amongst vintage wooden furnishing and original artworks. Under Slimane’s reign, the function of the stereotypical retail store transcends its primary purpose, doubling up as a curatorial space for art. In the shifting face of the retail landscape, when racks of ready-to-wear separates are not sufficiently enticing to draw the crowds, Slimane’s proposition might do just the trick.
Beyond the overhaul of store interiors, the brand also has its sight set on expanding its network of stores. “Celine has a great distribution network and high-quality visibility but no large stores. We need to open flagships in major cities, larger stores that can accommodate menswear and newly expanded women’s collections,” said the brand’s CEO Séverine Merline in an interview with the Women’s Wear Daily.
Here, we delve into the intersection of art and fashion at Celine in a conversation with two artists, Shawn Kuruneru and Oscar Tuazon, whose works reside within the house’s Paris Grenelle boutique.
On the walls hang Shawn Kuruneru's multi-panelled ink paintings.
KAMES NARAYANAN: When you were first approached to collaborate on this project, what was your initial reaction?
OSCAR TUAZON: I love Hedi because he loves artists. In all his work there is a deep respect for the creative process, so I knew that he was making a unique space for artworks to occupy and to coexist within the reality of the retail experience. My first thought was that I wanted to do something that could stand within but apart from that, a moment of quiet that could transport you somewhere else for a split second.
SHAWN KURUNERU: I was very curious.
KN: What was the experience that you were hoping to create within the store with your work?
OT: A tactile experience. I like the idea that a luxury clothing store is a place that you experience with your fingers, by touching things. There is a prudish prohibition against touching artworks, so I wanted to make something at hand level that you might brush your fingers along as you walk past, something that rewards the sensuous pleasure of touch.
SK: At a distance you can see that my painting is made up of big, bold shapes and as you walk closer the detail in the raw canvas, layers of ink and brush marks become more apparent. The surface, material, and mark-making in the painting has an energy and movement that shifts as you walk around the space. I like what David Salle said, "Painting does many things at once. One of the things painting does is that it makes the room look better."
KN: What would you say are the parallels that you can draw between your work as an artist and Celine as a brand?
OT: I like the clothes, and I guess I identify with the romance of performance as a lifestyle. So I wanted to make something like a stage where you could imagine a hologram mannequin dancing in Celine.
SK: Poetic forms of visual communication that are epic and intimate.
KN: What inspired your art work that resides within the Celine store?
OT: My studio is in a storage container. A handful of them actually, that I move with me for shows and the various projects I’m working on. Now the time has come, the time to move. I need to keep moving, I have no place to stay; I have no home. I think a lot of people feel that way, and maybe this idea of a fixed address is less important than the ability to adapt, to move between spaces, to be working in multiple places simultaneously. I thought the shipping container might be an appropriate contemporary icon.
SK: The painting in the Celine store is part of an ongoing series I began in 2015. The conversation continues to expand.
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