I was reading Hapsical blog on the ‘The Beauty of Yves Saint Laurent‘, in which he proposes a reason for Hedi’s free reign on the ready to wear part of the brand; that the beauty division is lucrative enough that whatever comes down the LA-influenced runway is not as important to profits. For example, of the the Touche Éclat pen-format concealer ‘one is sold every 10 seconds.‘ And that if the two crossed over, unlikely as YSL beauty is run by L’Oréal, his position would surely be in jeopardy. I thought it was a interesting view and explaination to take on the new Saint Laurent brand.
In contrast, my twitter feed became a ranting post, harsher than Horyn, on the day of AW13 Saint Laurent womenswear, some comments unexplained so I thought I would explain them here. Yes, I am late to the discussion but I must ask: What the f**k is Hedi Slimane doing to Yves Saint Laurent, its brand and legacy?
When I first saw the 70s inspired garb of his SS13 debut, at first I hated it (This post is not that objective). Not entirely because of the clothes, as they were all nice and ultimately wearable, but because of what they meant and what I expected. I understand that the 70’s was Yves’ heyday, and the pussy bows, Le Smoking suits and bohemian dresses represented that but it felt very throwaway, very easy; nothing came to light that was unique or magnificent, two of the many characteristics that the brand is known for. Also, I was expecting something grand, not in price but in design and that never came too. Though, I think looking at both of the AW13 collections and mulling it over in my mind has given me a clearer perspective of what Mr. Slimane may be trying to do with YSL.
I think he might be doing what Yves Saint Laurent did in the 1960’s, by popularising former era’s fashion characteristics and bringing what he sees on the street, in his lifestyle and the world to the runway. AW13 was California Grunge. It could have been Paris/London grunge. It was 90’s grunge, through and through. The ripped red and black oversized knits and jeans tight as can be were for the boys with babydoll dresses no longer than thigh length and hard leather for girls. Androgyny was present as both collections seemed to have items, and models, pulled out of each other for greater effect. Tim Blanks already pulled out the ‘Slim Man’ pun to express the men’s collection, but here for greater effect ‘SLIM MAN(E)’.
By including these elements in the collection, he is doing both, though yet still, the trend he pawns off does the two things on its own: being of the present while from the past. Other designers, like Marc Jacobs (for Marc Jacobs), manage to twist old eras and bring them to, either by way of fabric, inspiration or vibe. His aesthetic just feels lazy, and uses YSL’s design spirit as an excuse to flaunt it.
I have to give him credit for what no brand in Paris is doing; trying to portray what real people wear onto the runway. Some said that he dictates cool in the collections, but honestly, Hedi is just an inner outsider entranced enough by the indie bands and girl guitarists to make a collection based on their style. His designs, models, show music and setting are all of exacting standards to reflect his influences and what he sees on the street. Why not? I have wanted a leather biker jacket for years.
That is probably why he moved the design studio to LA, to give Saint Laurent a fresh look and fresh faces. The problem is the people he sees on the street, summed up succinctly by Mr.T again, ‘can already shop this look for zilch down the funky end of any L.A. boulevard.’ What he did at Dior Homme was so successful because it was like what was on the street but a game-changing interpretation. He essentially caused a shift in modern menswear as his ‘cool’ was flattering and a new, or long forgotten, aesthetic was character-based making clothes multi-faceted and aspirational, leading profits to exponentially rise. Fashion changes and has changed so much that what he came up with at Dior Homme, character driven fashion, is now at most high street brands e.g Rihanna for River Island. Memes such as “All Saints Laurent”, “You Should Leave” and “Is this Topshop?” came after the show, on twitter and at the Grand Palais. I don’t think he realises that his aesthetic, in 6 years, has become commonplace and needs invigoration to become relevant to high-fashion again.
Or he knows what sells, and Hedi is giving the people what they want. I suppose Pierre Bergé is cryptically insinuating this, saying recently,”I adored it; it’s exactly what needed to be done.”
Hedi does ‘cool’ best. He cuts the clothes to perfection, with quite a lot of minute detail to give the correct fit like just-right ruffles on babydoll dresses and heavy embellishment on boots, which sums up the point of the new YSL. Many will buy the collection because of its simplicity and ease to wear, but will have to pay a high price to buy into Hedi’s World. The ‘cool’ factor doesn’t go unnoticed by trend driven male customers who want the look but can’t be bothered to scour through thrift shops to find it. And so Saint Laurent is there for, ironically, their indie needs and the collections will therefore, be financially successful despite the thousands for leather jackets and jeans. It adds to the variables of profitability and desirability as the look already seems ‘in the know’ and the price tag reaffirms the preconception.**
I have now learnt we should not expect or look for innovation or new excitement in Hedi’s shows. The music will be great and the front row attendees too but it is all an image. And what is fashion without personality? Or escapism? Hedi channels style and characteristics but not the feeling of youth. The collections look like an underground street trend roundup, all pictures without personality or credit to the individual innovators of the fashion that he profits from. Yes they walk in the shows although this a one-off payment for six months of sales all due to their ingenuity. It feels as if Hedi has no ideas of his own so he has to steal other people’s.
Raf Simons, who from 1995-2005, in the first 10 years of his brand, was heavily inspired by Antwerp youth; casting them in outdoor shows and shooting magazine editorials featuring them. Raf Simons (yes, him again) has always had a worldly perspective sewn into his collections. They, more so in that period, were emotionally charged and provoked feeling, from the raw but refined shows and clothes. SSo2 ‘’Woe Onto Those Who Spit On The Fear Generation…The Wind Will Blow It Back” was a great example, containing a high fashion reworking of the total elements: war, pain, suffering, rebellion, happiness, going on at that time. Watching it online even, I feel the emotion through the importance of the subjects he tackles. Mr. Simons changed his course after 2005, making more traditional clothes, most noticeably in the sea change of AW09, realising that he needs to change to stay subversive, and his aesthetic becoming ever-present in others.
What is done at Saint Laurent (Paris?) will work well for the CEO and customers, but I don’t think the collections will ever satisfy a intellectual fashion interpretation until reinvention is developed in Hedi’s repertoire. ***
*I think the skinny ‘men’ that were featured created a greater furore than the clothes themselves, most emaciated and obviously not able to afford the £2575 leather jackets that Hedi designs. It opened a discussion of men’s body issues as most men don’t look like this:
This guy most probably shouldn’t be on the runway as models are ‘supposed’ to represent the healthiest representation of a collection that a customer should emulate. But in Hedi’s view this guy does, as he represents the influences that informed the designs, being as band member from LA/London/Paris. Some may argue that real people (street) casting are better for shows, as they show the garments on the better-looking public, rather than the best-looking professionals. They are right, but it has to be done right. Maison Martin Margiela’s AW13 menswear offering was a perfect example of the use of street cast models, of all styles, ages and ethnicities, to enhance a show (I spotted Kindness in there).
**The oxymoron of fashion is present here still, in me too, as I detest what he has done but swoon over the effortless shirts and shoes that would fit into my closet so well and complement my body, quickly shutting SSENSE down as I want to hate the items but I can’t. Saint Laurent is now a guilty online pleasure for me.
***At this rate, it won’t.