Saint Laurent is without doubt the most divisive house around at the moment. To some Hedi Slimane is to be admired. He's sticking two fingers up at the fashion system isn't he? Refusing people seats at the show, sitting experienced journalists behind 17 year old aspiring guitarists and all that. Plus those clothes, they're all about channelling the original Saint Laurent, Yves, with his love for youth, aren't they? No, others would say. Under Slimane, Saint Laurent's become about cold hard product, easy clothes, copied from vintage pieces for shoppers with more money than sense who can't be bothered to spend hours trudging through second-hand stores and certainly don't have any of the authentic attitude of the original wearers. The argument became even more heated at the S/S 15 show, which was even more formulaic than ever - Slimane's closest ode to the clothes of years gone by, copied and reproduced stitch by stitch. Want a sequinned waistcoat from the seventies? Why eBay? Just chuck a couple of grand in the SL coffers. Why travel to South America for a battered baja hoody when you can get a identical one with a Saint Laurent label down Sloane Street? And why support African craft by buying an authentic moxy crochet blanket when you can snap up a bejewelled one re-imagined for the man who has everything?
Yet again Slimane showed his collection on obscure skinny, scrawny teens plucked from various bands or DJ sets. There's a certain irony to seeing poetic creative kids, who proclaim to be artists, clad in thousand pound clothes - especially when they're based on the kind of ponchos and kaftans sold second hand at festivals. Who's paying for this struggling drummer's garb? Mummy and daddy? Either way, like it or not this stuff - apart from the odd handbag or gold plated accessory - isn't going to be worn by cool rock kids, unless it's gifted by Hedi personally, but will be snapped up by an older, monied consumer who may not fit into the catwalk skinnies or groupie baby dolls but will feel right at home in a showy, spangly blazer or a leather biker. So what will that crowd make of this collection? Well they'll probably see it in a similar way as Slimane himself must do, as pure product. After all, Saint Laurent sells.
But is that enough? For Slimane and his Kering bosses, clearly yes. But it's not enough when showing under the name of a visionary innovator like Saint Laurent. These pieces may feel right right now, but the original YSL was about thinking about the future, and tirelessly moving fashion forward while also riffing on the mood of the times. And lastly, by taking adored retro styles, copying them and putting them in a high fashion context, Slimane removes the crucial appeal of vintage - stories. The beauty of an old slip dress or a glam rock blazer isn't just its cut or surface detail but the story behind it - the person that wore it, the carefree attitude it encapsulated. A box fresh new version, overpriced and under-designed is the antithesis of that. Fashion without fantasy or narrative - well that's just clothes. And these aren't even unique or original ones.