Metal-Obsessed Artist Banks Violette on Dressing CELINE’s Teddy Boys

On the surface, reclusive artist Banks Violette and CELINE seer Hedi Slimane don’t seem to have much in common. While Slimane is famously obsessed with scrawny cigarette-smoking rockstars and California’s seedy nightlife, much of Violette’s work hinges upon a fascination with metal music and musings on mortality, an aesthetic described by critic Francesca Gavin as New Gothic.

Violette and Slimane are actually longtime friends, though. In fact, the latter having photographed the former several times for various photographic exhibitions. Do these guys actually have anything in common?

Again, at first blush, their output seems only to speak to the men’s differences. While Slimane’s beatific runway shows are modeled by his “Boy Dolls,” for instance, Violette invites Sunn O))) to soundtrack his exhibits and names artworks after idols like Motörhead and doom drone pioneers Earth.

But once you look a little closer at their shared themes, you begin to understand why Slimane admires Violette and vice versa.

For instance, the pair are bonded by their anti-establishmentarian attitudes: Slimane dropped the Yves, remember, during his tenure at Saint Laurent and famously remade CELINE as he saw fit — he is the house’s artistic, creative, and image director, after all.

Violette, meanwhile, vacated Manhattan after a successful run in the mid-aughts art world, decamping in the early ’10s for a comparatively quiet life in his upstate hometown, Ithaca.

Furthermore, both Violette and Slimane deal in the kind of radically earnest artistic expressions that may alienate this new generation of creative cynics.

“Everything I try to do is rooted to some idea of absolute sincerity,” Violette once said and, frankly, it sounds like something that could’ve come from Slimane himself. The man has made a career of mining nothing but his own interests, after all. Come to think of it, so has Violette.

Despite some shared respect, Violette and Slimane haven’t officially partnered on anything aside from those aforementioned photos. That all changes with CELINE’s Fall/Winter 2022 collection, wherein Slimane reinterprets three Violette works — No Title (Horse/Inverted) and No Title (Horse) from 2021 and Violette’s inimitable Untitled (Flag) from 2006 — atop hoodies and leather varsity jackets, available now on CELINE’s website and at its flagship stores

We chatted over email with Violette to get a little insight into the new CELINE creations and briefly explore his discreet friendship with Slimane.

You’ve known Hedi Slimane for nearly two decades now. How does it feel to now be directly involved in his fashion output?

I’m very pleased to have the chance to work with Hedi directly. His work has been something I’ve always admired so it was a pleasure to be involved.

How often do you keep in touch with Hedi?

We don’t keep in touch, which is kinda par for the course for me. I know I disappear frequently.

Both you and Hedi have deep ties to music. Do you ever trade bands or playlists à la the tape traders of yore? Has Hedi ever introduced you to a new favorite artist or vice versa?

No, we’ve never traded music, though I’m sure we probably have some overlap in musical taste(s). I’ve got a photograph in my living room taken by Hedi of [The Clash bassist] Paul Simonon’s bass guitar — I think that’s proof positive we at least agree on one band, though he might not be a fan of some of the weirder noise, metal, and dirge-y stuff I enjoy.

How were your pieces selected for the latest CELINE collection? Were works from two entirely different decades intentionally selected?

The choices were made by Hedi. I saw the general direction he seemed to be leaning, as far as themes and images were concerned, so I made two new drawings that I thought kinda reflected his thinking, but the image selection was ultimately his and his alone.

CELINE’s FW22 press release describes your work as “quintessential of the early 2000’s.” Do you feel like your art has a direct connection to that specific era or aesthetic?

No, I don’t think there’s any specific connection to that period of time, aside from that’s when I was most active. The ideas I’m interested in, I’d like to believe, are just as relevant (if not more) today than they were in the early 2000’s.

Especially if you’re looking at the overall “American-ness” of the images Hedi choice to use for his collection, I think the conflicted toxicity/ugly romanticism/void state of those images are a little more urgent in the present (at least American) context than they were in, say, 2005.

What’s your relationship with the luxury realm that Hedi operates within?

Personally, I don’t buy luxury brands but that’s not due to any hostility towards the idea though I admire the creativity and the level of craft involved in the production.

But, what I primarily respond to, is how fashion can pick apart and reassemble itself, especially in Hedi’s instance.

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