You have to hand it to Hedi Slimane. He sure knows how to rattle an entire industry’s gilded cage. Did anyone really expect to see that going into tonight’s Saint Laurent show? I’ll bet you your little sparkly leggings they didn’t and I heard a few playing guess-what-Hedi-is-doing while pushing their way through the throng of photographers there for Madame Deneuve and Madame only. As if this was YSL business as usual – if we are to interpret Slimane’s new direction (or is it One Direction) for the house that Yves built Madame Deneuve would be asked to stay at home with a cup of cocoa while the kids went out to play.
Which is fine, really, because there’s nothing that fashion needs more right now than a real anarchist injecting it with a strong dose of punk sense and sensibility. Slimane has all the hallmarks to be that person but tonight’s collection lacked in ideology and conviction. Tonight he was a rebel without a cause but maybe we’re to take this offering as a plaid-clad middle finger to anyone going into a show these days with a pre-prepared list of boxes to tick: fabric innovation, clever knits, mid-century mash-ups, a story. Point taken but that may be overanalysing something very simple: if this was a collection presented by Topshop disappointment would still linger in the hot air of the Grand Palais. And what was with that temperature anyway? Were we to feel we were in a basement with Kurt and the guys?
No matter what you thought of the designer’s debut collection last season it made a statement and it offered customers a number of options that, Hedi knew and they knew (no matter if the fashion press did), they wanted – great tailoring, cool blazers and blouses, trousers that elongated their legs till Kingdom come. There was nothing for them here tonight – well, maybe a leather jacket and a mannish wool coat but they can get those elsewhere. Which, again, is fine. Slimane and Saint Laurent clearly want to attract a younger crowd but does that crowd, apart from LA kids with Hollywood bank accounts, have the cash to pay Saint Laurent prices for a plaid shirt? And sure, many can laugh at the LA clichés but this does not do justice to a LA sensibility that obsesses over fabrics and cuts as much as anyone in a Parisian atelier. It is certain that on closer inspection those short short dresses will reveal themselves to be expertly made and very possibly the commercial collection that will hit the stores will be full of other pieces not shown tonight. ‘California grunge’, Slimane’s inspiration meant short baby doll and floral dresses, some with a Claudine collar, worn belted with either those aforementioned plaid shirts or fuzzy cardis, one with stars, or sparkly short jackets with fishnets and buckled flat biker boots. A tight leather skirt was not even on the funny side of bad and as for the sequin-encrusted tights and bodies that were last seen on Britney in Toxic…. And yet, when a plaid shirt over ripped skinny leathers and a grey blazer came out it almost brought back how plain cool a Hedi Slimane collection can be. That was one cool girl and who wouldn’t want to be her?
In the end, we can read this as a post-postmodernist nihilistic statement that nothing is new, only the way we choose to relive the past. But that is hardly life affirming. Or we can choose to see it as just clothes and move on because there’s more. The rest is just noise.