Some of us will never know what it’s like to be preceded by areputation for utter cool. God, it must be great to have done whateverit was you did that got you to earn that status, and to have been dulyrecognized for such. But (in the cry-me-a-river category) it must alsocarry a downside: the constant pressure to live up to advance billing.
HediSlimane’s much-anticipated debut at Saint Laurent had all the markingsof a cool fest: first, the migration of his design studio to L.A.; thetweaking of house name and logo, and then, in the lead-up to his show onMonday night, the endless chirping about whom would sit where, whicheditors-in-chief had been scuttled to the second row and on and on. Atthe show, designers including Alber Elbaz, Marc Jacobs, Riccardo Tisciand Vivienne Westwood turned out to lend support while Old Guard YSLloyalists Pierre Bergé and Betty Catroux sat across the runway from thelikes of Kate Moss and Jessica Chastain. This occurred in an intimateGrande Palais salon, its walls covered in black tenting, the ceilingblack as well until the overture of sorts when an intense light show gotstarted and two rows of ceiling panels retracted to reveal additionallighting and sound equipment that was then lowered over the runway.
Coolfest alert? Did Slimane offer a new, stunning prescription for edgychic funneled through the Saint Laurent lexicon? Not even close. Rather,he filtered sweet homage through an L.A., rock-loving lens (orpossibly, a pitch to dress some of Rachel Zoe’s skinniest clients). Itwas interesting to the point of odd. First look out: small black jacket;skinny black pants; white frilled shirt; big, soft bow at the neck;bigger-brimmed fedora. This was followed by countless variations of thesame — the fabrics changing from wool to leather to glitz to pinstripesand from cotton to silk and back — and of a second theme, Saint Laurentflou, every look under major chapeau shade. On one level it charmed, butwhat to make of it all? Perhaps that within his two primary points,Slimane incorporated house codes to be developed in future forays:Tailoring. Smoking. Gypsy tiers. Languid evenings. Saharienne. Animalspots. Chubby. Demonstrative jewelry. The only thing missing throughoutwas color, and that appeared sparingly in his evening finale.
Costumeythough it was — and this was a costume parade, delivered either withreverence unblemished by irony or with a sense of irony too highlydeveloped for all but the most anthropologically astute to get — therewas considerable takeaway. Given the proverbial “broken-down” treatment,the clothes were good: slick, sexy pants, jackets and shirts, which ontheir own won’t scream retro and, to a lesser degree, gowns that womenwill want to wear. Often. Which means herein could be the buildingblocks for the kind of business YSL has in mind. According to sources,the company aspires to 1 billion euros in sales by the end of thisdecade.
Slimane’s part in achieving that goal speaks to the roleof the creative director in today’s brand-oriented reality. At a majorluxury house intent upon exploding its global market share, is it moreimportant for the designer-creative director to advance fashion, tooffer new prescriptions, to challenge, or to make understandably stylishclothes with which there may already be a familiarity factor? Thoughthe two can coexist, they’re not the most naturally simpaticocompanions. At Saint Laurent, Slimane owns complete oversight of allthings creative, from advertising to store design to the dimensions ofthe shoebox. Perhaps upcoming on his to-do list will be finding aseamless fusion of fashion, comfort and risk.
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