The Allure of Old Céline

In the past year, LVMH’s Céline has become Celine, a change that has left the fashion industry reeling — and that’s putting it mildly.

It began with the December 2017 announcement of the departure of Céline’s Creative Director, Phoebe Philo. Philo, beloved by “Philophiles” for her minimalist aesthetic, impeccable tailoring and unique ability to make women feel both beautiful and intelligent, is nothing short of a cult figure. So when the news that Hedi Slimane — the former Creative Director of YSL — would helm Céline, the backlash was instantaneous. After all, Slimane’s reputation for producing commercially successful, rocker-chic designs couldn’t have been more at odds with Philo’s penchant for powerful feminine elegance.

Next came the “rebrand”; just ahead of the fashion house’s SS19 collection (Slimane’s debut), it was announced, via a freshly-scrubbed Instagram account, that the accent over the “e” would be dropped — goodbye, Céline; hello, Celine. Then, the collection: Savagely reviewed by most critics, it was essentially YSL 2.0; amidst teeny-tiny dresses, chunky biker boots and cropped leather jackets, Philo’s Céline was nowhere to be found. Uproar ensued.

It was in this polarized climate that @oldceline, a viral Instagram account, took form. Established by Gabrielle Boucinha, a Toronto-based Philophile and graphic designer, the account is essentially a visual love letter to Philo’s tenure at Céline. Posts are a colorful and bold mix of previous collections and archived campaign shots, including Juergen Teller’s iconic images of Joan Didion, offering a strong contrast to @celine’s current feed of waif-like men and women shot in black-and-white. But even more importantly, @oldceline — unlike the “new,” superficially glossy @celine — is rooted in substantive emotion. It’s respectful, it’s nostalgic and it’s reflective.

Quickly, the fashion world and beyond took notice; since its inception in September 2018, @oldceline has racked up more than 200,000 followers. Furthermore, it is regularly tagged by some of the industry’s most respected Influencers, including Ramya Giangola Pernille Teisbaek (@pernilleteisbaek) and Camille Charriere (@camillecharriere) in lieu of Celine’s official brand Instagram. And this buzz isn’t limited to likes and follows, either: a recent Business of Fashion article noted that luxury resale meccas like The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective saw a sales spike in Philo’s Céline items in October 2018, underscoring the financial implications of the “old Céline” movement.

So while it is clear that LVMH may control Celine’s commercial direction, it’s even more apparent that in today’s digital age, it is the consumer who determines how a brand is emotionally perceived. Those of true influence understand just how powerful of a currency that is — and authentically tap into it.