Standing at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue, it’s hard not to notice The Wiltern, with its emblematic terra cotta façade. It’s even harder not to feel towered by it — especially on a day like tonight.
The 12-story cloud-scratcher is poised serenely, fenced off and patrolled by security guards, and a crowd has gathered just outside of it. What’s the fuss about, you ask? Just look at the brightly lit marquee over the entrance, and you’ll see it spelled out in black letters: CELINE.
The news has been circulating for a while. Celine announced it was planning to present its Winter ’23 collection in Southern California, following the footsteps of other luxury giants like Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Dior and Louis Vuitton, which took over the Salk’s Institute in San Diego. If these shows prove anything, it’s this: There’s a heightened interest in our state, and it’s continuing to come at us very fast.
But is it really a surprise that Hedi Slimane, Celine’s creative, artistic, and image director, picked Los Angeles? Not really. Hailing from France, Slimane — a photographer-turned-designer — has always had a connection to this part of the state, and a strong one at that. Slimane lived in Los Angeles for close to a decade; the city played the secondary role of muse and model in much of Slimane’s work, in photography and beyond. Even though Slimane sold his house in 2018, it’s clear that the City of Angels still maintains a grip on his imagination. Because here he is in Los Angeles again, making fashion headlines.
The Wiltern seems like the perfect fit for the event. For close to a century, the building has been a neighborhood cornerstone, its name a portmanteau of Wilshire and Western, the two streets it straddles. Opened as a movie theater, the building was almost under the threat of demolition in the late ‘70s — almost. Conservationists put their feet down, and the Wiltern was saved. Since then, the green terra-cotta gem has been functioning as a performance venue, and over the course of its long life, it has hosted the likes of Prince, Frank Ocean, Nina Simone, The Rolling Stones, The Strokes, and Patti Smith, to name a few.
In short, not only is the building emblematic of the city, it’s also such an important place for music in Los Angeles — and music has always been integral to Slimane’s work. So, yes, The Wiltern is an appropriate backdrop. With its etched gold “sunburst” ceiling and lavish interior, its auditorium begs for a good show. And by the looks of it, this will be one for the books.