EXCLUSIVE: Meet the Bag That Is Launching Hedi Slimane’s Celine Reboot

PARIS — When Hedi Slimane joined Celine in February, the first thing he did was design a new bag.
It was a smart move, considering accessories make up an estimated 65 percent of the brand’s revenues and its owner, French luxury titan Bernard Arnault, had touted the arrival of the “global superstar” designer as heralding a doubling or tripling of Celine’s turnover within five years.
Fortunately, creating accessories is an exercise Slimane relishes. The designer, who previously drove skyrocketing sales at Saint Laurent and Dior Homme, named his debut Celine creation the 16, after the location of the brand’s headquarters and atelier in a 17th-century mansion at 16 Rue Vivienne here.
Marking the house’s first official comment on the Slimane era, Séverine Merle, chief executive officer of Celine, discussed the linchpin launch exclusively with WWD. “The 16 handbag is the ultimate symbol of Hedi Slimane’s vision for Celine: it emphasizes our knowledge of incredible craftsmanship,” she said.
The French house, which has shut down its e-commerce site in the countdown to Slimane’s debut show on Sept. 28, plans to unveil a redesigned platform in early October carrying a capsule of Slimane’s new collection for women and men, alongside a selection of current season merchandise,

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Looking Back to Predict Slimane’s Céline

Hedi Slimane is teetering on the edge of “living legend” status in fashion, but his history as a designer is antithetical as can be to the tenure of the similarly revered and widely adored Phoebe Philo at Céline.
Given this, it’s no wonder in the days since LVMH revealed, first with WWD, that Slimane would be taking over Céline from Philo after she’d been nearly a decade at the creative helm, that speculation has been rife as to what shoppers and fans of the brand can expect.
Philo not only infused Céline with prestige, marketability and pushed it toward 1 billion euros in sales after a relatively fallow period following Michael Kors’ 2004 departure, she gave the house an entirely new aesthetic not focused on a male ideal of womanly beauty — always luxe and design-forward, but accessible, comfortable and very wearable, nary a stiletto in sight.
The latter of these descriptors is not something Slimane is known for — be it men’s wear or women’s wear, which he took his first and commercially successful shot at when he returned to Yves Saint Laurent in 2013 for a three-year stint.
That could change. Slimane is known for his ability to blow up a brand

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