Fashion loves an oxymoron, and Hedi Slimane serves one up on a platter. He radiates cool mystique, but it’s grounded in one of the most overt tenants of high-profile commerce: razzle-dazzle marketing.

 

Slimane doesn’t even pretend to push boundaries of design in his work for Saint Laurent; he doesn’t have to. He pushes buttons instead, with his shameless, literal appropriations.

 

His spring collection was different from past outings, sort of, with its focus on dresses, little nighttime nothings — a fairly literal description, coverage-wise — of laces, metallics and other fabrics of titillation. Courtney Love was in the house; why else all those cute, cheesy tiaras that someone might have pulled off the shelf at Party City? But really, Slimane’s primary source of appropriation was the everyday wardrobe. Everyday as in a trenchcoat over jeans. No frills, no distortions. Well, the mini slipdress as daytime staple was a distortion, but utilized to parade countless outerwear pieces.

 

Oversize denim jacket. Shrunken motorcycle jacket. Elegant (in another context) smoking. Shaggy dog sweater. Glam fur chubbie. Au sauvage fur vest. Printed varsity jacket. And on and on. The most outré item: A patchwork denim cape.

 

Such is the stuff of the Saint Laurent phenomenon: Essentials elevated in quality if not always in look — an Army camouflage shirt only scales up so far — that have flown out of stores since Slimane’s arrival. What was missing? Significant evening. Here, Slimane dove in after dark, and not only with the abbreviated underpinnings. He also showed drapey bias gowns that harkened back to early John Galliano that harkened back to the Thirties. Some — mostly the ones that weren’t deliberately ill-fitting — were quite lovely. Lovely enough that, minus the tiara and disaffected pout, women could wear them out and look beautiful. Slimane even provided a half how-to; for his finale of almost all-black gowns, the girls lost the headgear but kept the pouts. Voila! Runway to reality!