Hedi Slimane, who since 2018 has been the creative, artistic, and image director of Celine, is a bit like the Boris Karloff-meets-Greta Garbo of greater Los Angeles. Once in a while, an online fashion forum might light up with rumors that he was spotted browsing vintage T-shirts at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, or guests at an art world dinner party will obsess over an alleged visit to Frieze Los Angeles. The only real clue as to what Slimane is up to? Hedi Slimane Diary, the compendium of portraiture he’s maintained on his website for over a decade. The Diary has the kind of cult following more typical of a zine or a mixtape, showing moody kids with rough around the edge features, with occasional appearances by the likes of Debbie Harry. (For this one-time Tumblr teen, shredding and pinning her thrift store t-shirts in the mall tundra that is suburbia, it was the Bible.)
Now the model Kaia Gerber, a Malibu native and close friend to Slimane, has joined the legion of Diary subjects. Recently, he stopped by her family house, wearing a leather jacket, scarf, and black jeans. “Something I love about him is that he’s like me,” Gerber says in an interview. “He has a uniform and he just wears that.” He had Gerber and her brother, Presley, with whom she’s never been photographed, sit down, and snapped the photos here. “It was kind of a spur of the moment, Do you want to do this?” Well, sure! “To have someone in your home—Hedi’s probably one of the only people I would want to do that with.”
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He put on some great music, of course—Electric Mud, by Muddy Waters, which Gerber has been listening to basically on repeat since—and it was “very easy hair and makeup,” she says. “He’s such a genius. He knows what he wants. We can do so much in a day. And we’ll take a long break in the middle of the day. It truly does not feel like work.”
What makes the Diary images so unique as an artistic project is that most fashion or fashion-adjacent images are about conjuring a fantasy or playing pretend. Slimane’s images are about the life he and his inner circle are actually living. Gerber says the two talked about “creating that form of intimacy that I think has to be present in order to create images like this. I think the reason that he has shot so many incredibly iconic people is he really creates that feeling of intimacy that’s really hard to get when you’re, you know, surrounded by a bunch of people.” She laughs. “That’s a really beautiful environment to be around,” she adds, which is why the pictures feel so nonchalant. Even Gerber and Slimane’s dogs hung out. (The name of Slimane’s dog is Elvis. And it has beautiful hair. “I’m like, of course your dog would have beautiful hair!”)
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Gerber also wonders if the power of Slimane’s photography is that he is designing the clothes and taking the photographs, which is rarely (if ever) the case in fashion. “His attention to detail is something I have never seen before,” Gerber says. “Every bracelet, every earring—he has such an eye. He does not forget anything.” So he’s making minute adjustments to hair and jewelry as you’re shooting? Yes: “He’s a perfectionist in the highest form.”
The photos also have an unrushed, distinctly Californian feel. Nowadays, anyone carping that L.A. isn’t a fashion town is just missing the point (and not just because Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, with its sweaty suits and proto-influencers doing nude yoga and Malibu hippie housewife, is the best fashion movie I’ve ever seen). “Normally when we shoot it’s in the south of France,” Gerber says. “To see him in my home city was very cool.” He knows Malibu like the back of his hand, she adds. “That’s what’s insane. Like the smoothie shop where my brother had his first job, he totally knew.”
Slimane sees Los Angeles, and particularly Gerber’s native Malibu, as a style subculture, which he’s infused into the clothes, almost like gestures that only natives will recognize as local, but that may now appear in the wardrobes of any cool person in Seoul or Tokyo or London or New York. “I’ll go somewhere else and I’ll notice the influence maybe that I didn’t realize before,” Gerber says. His presence around town has become kind of mythic. “He had always, I think, been drawn to the surf culture, and you see that so much in his collections, in his clothes. There was kind of like, the legend of Hedi, like he’s somewhere around Malibu and he might cast you. There are people at my high school that were being photographed by him in a very similar way, just in their [own] clothes, capturing that culture.” Even if Malibu isn’t namechecked as a fashion capital, its style influence has been enormous under Slimane’s rein at Celine. “It’s not appreciated in that way. And I think Hedi really made that a fashion thing, like a cultural moment.”
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Sometimes, Gerber will look through his shows and think, “That’s so cool, I wonder where that’s from! And then I’m like, Wait! That’s something that kids at my school were wearing! But the way he does it makes you look at it in a completely different way and appreciate it.”
The two became friends about two years ago, around the time the pandemic lurched the fashion world to a halt and Slimane entered a creative golden age with his fashion films. You might say TikTok revolutionized Celine’s menswear and Gerber did the same for the womenswear; walking in the shows and fronting a number of the brand’s campaigns, she is both the face of Celine and a member of the Slimane inner circle. Now Gerber wears Celine almost daily, but she recalls thinking early on, “Oh my God, what do I wear to meet the coolest person with the coolest style?!” (She’s not alone: countless fashion designers, from Nicolas Ghesquière to Jonathan Anderson, have raved to me about just how cool Slimane is.) “I think it’s because simplicity and just being cool is one of the hardest things to do,” Gerber reflects. “And he just has it, down to a T.”
“He also does the best of everything,” she continues.” “He’ll take something and turn it into truly the best it could be.” The perfect blue jeans, the perfect leather jacket. “He’s always been really good at elevating things. Maybe that’s the French part of him.”
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“I really love that you only need that one jean–it’s your jean. Or that one jacket. I have this Celine leather blazer that, if you’ve seen a picture of me in the last year, I’m probably wearing it. That’s how I like to wear my clothes. If I find something I like, I’m going to wear it all the time. And I think that’s why I love Hedi so much. He really makes those pieces where you can do that.”
His attention to detail is something I have never seen before. Every bracelet, every earring—he has such an eye. He does not forget anything.
But what do these two lithe fashion fanatics actually talk about? “He’s so knowledgeable about music, about films. He really is an artist in the truest sense of the word, where he’s pulling inspiration from everywhere—images and architecture and furniture. He is so well versed. He’s quite an intimidating person at first because he is who he is, but truly, he’s such a kind, amazing, really smart person. Mostly, it’s just me asking him questions because I just wanna know everything about how his mind works.”
The specificity of Slimane’s taste, its infamously exacting nature, has made an impression on Gerber, too. “It’s very rare that a person [thinking], ‘Oh, I like that,’ is asking themselves, why do I like that? I think he is someone who knows that answer. And a lot of us can’t answer that question. I think through working with him, I’ve learned actually what it is I like about things and why I like them and why I’m drawn to things.” Far out.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.