PARIS, France — "La Collection de Paris," Hedi Slimane's 23rd collection for Saint Laurent, was also the second part of his offering for Autumn/Winter 2016, the first being the clothes he showed in LA a month ago.
From the looks of the pictures at least, that was a leap forward for Slimane in his forensic exhumation of Yves Saint Laurent's career in fashion, probably because the mid 1970s were such a benchmark moment for YSL himself.
What Slimane showed in Paris on Monday night was another leap forward. Into exactly what was never directly stated, but No-Shit Sherlock scrutinised the invitation — where the small print read "La Maison Yves Saint Laurent vous prie d'assister a la collection XXIII" — and remembered that, when Slimane launched the retitled "Saint Laurent" to cries of heresy, the implication was that the full moniker belonged to haute couture.
And there were other clues. An e-mailed statement informed us that the venue, Hôtel de Sénecterre at 24, rue de l'Universite, was chosen by Slimane to be "the new couture house" in January 2013 and then painstakingly renovated over the past 18 months. That had to be art from his own collection on the walls. Brilliant though Garth Weiser may be, he is still way under the radar of anyone but the most contemporary art world cognoscenti.
We were also told there would be no music for the presentation, an utterly radical departure from the designer's ready-to-wear, where the soundtrack, specially composed by some pillar of the Soundcloud community, was inevitably a highlight.
But, as carefully curated as that aural contribution always was, Slimane could match it on Monday night with the voice of Bénédicte de Ginestous announcing the number of each outfit as she did for all YSL's couture shows between 1977 and 2002. And the male voice that announced the start of the show was apparently that of Pierre Berge, YSL's other half.
Then there were the clothes themselves, "made at the reinstated couture ateliers in Paris and Angers." They were maximal exercises in minimal form, the sculpted swoop of classic couture shapes meshed with abbreviated dresses, the fabrics a parade of pave-ed shine and lurex glitter. Le Smoking Classique asserted itself in a cropped jacket over a black sequinned jumpsuit.
Slimane reconstituted the fabulous fur chubbies of YSL legend. One example in retina-searing vermilion sported a huge heart — Yves' own icon — across its back, and it was as fabulous as the originals.
Didier Malige's slicked-back hair and Aaron de Mey's lubricious red lips made their own contribution to recreating history, duplicating the glossily decadent YSL prototype established by Helmut Newton's photographs for Vogue Paris in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Grommetted jackets and bustiers in black leather insinuated the requisite level of fetishistic obsession into the mix.
But Slimane's saving grace is obsession. We're mired in a world where irony and cynicism dictate the dialogues of popular culture, so there's a peculiar kind of clarity to be extracted from the creative vision of someone who is as simultaneously driven and secure as he is. He really doesn't give a shit about the things he doesn't have to give a shit about. And it's that steeliness which has made him the only healthy heir to the notoriously neurosthaenic Yves.
So were we witnessing the public debut of Slimane's own couture collection? As much as the event — and event it surely was — was cloaked in YSL mystique, an essential ambiguity still prevailed. Like it or not, this legend is still in the making.